A former trustee for the Hanover School Division is running as the Liberal candidate in Steinbach in the upcoming provincial election.
Cyndy Friesen, who has lived in Steinbach for 31 years, served as school trustee from 2006 to 2018. She also ran for Steinbach City Council in the 2018 election and ran as the Liberal candidate in Fort Rouge in the 2019 provincial election. Friesen spent many years working for CN Rail and says she is a strong advocate for the vulnerable and marginalized.
Friesen says even though she has been getting encouragement for two years already to run in the upcoming election, she really had no intentions. But Friesen says life experiences in the last few months have caused her to change her mind.
Friesen explains that since February she has spent nearly 100 days in five different hospitals in our province. Those hospitals include ones in Steinbach and Selkirk, as well as Victoria General Hospital, St. Boniface and the I.H. Asper Institute. Friesen says her mother, son and herself all underwent major surgeries, which contributed to all of her time spent in hospital.
"I've witnessed firsthand how broken our health system really is," says Friesen.
Without getting into specifics on the type of surgery she underwent, Friesen says she was placed on a two-year waiting list, with the procedure scheduled for 2025. However, as a result of a cancellation, she had the surgery this past June and is now on the road to recovery.
Friesen says she understands the unfortunate situation that is facing so many Manitobans, including the countless hours spent in urgent care and the long waits for tests, appointments and to see specialists. Friesen admits this is one reason why she is running.
One of Friesen's priorities is to address the doctor shortage in Steinbach. She says for decades both PC and NDP governments have ignored warnings that Manitoba is not training enough doctors to keep up with growth and our aging population. Friesen says Southern Health has reported that in Steinbach there are between 6,000 and 10,000 residents without a family doctor. With Steinbach being one of the fastest growing cities in Manitoba, Friesen says a lack of vision and foresight is a big reason for the doctor shortage.
Friesen says during her time spent in hospitals over the last half year, she heard from one doctor who told her that due to an overflow in the emergency department, they were mandated to release the healthiest of the sickest patients in order to accommodate a patient from the ER.
"They went on to say that they trained as a doctor to help people get better and not send them home when they still require hospitalization and care," she adds.
Not only is there a doctor shortage, but Friesen says more nurses are needed in Steinbach as well. She says part of the problem started in 2019 when the province forced Red River College to cut 75 seats from its nursing program. However, even when it was announced earlier this year that 44 nurses recruited from the Philippines would be working in Southern Health, not one of those was assigned to Steinbach.
Another priority for Friesen is to address the issue of drugs, addictions and mental health. She feels a wrap-around service is needed to help those dealing with mental health and addictions. According to Friesen, there are currently seven RAAM (Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine) clinics in our province. She notes somehow Steinbach is not on that list. Nor, was Steinbach included in a recent provincial announcement for additional treatment spots in rural Manitoba.
"As an MLA, I would be a strong voice advocating for more services and health care providers that are needed right here in our community," she adds.
As a former school trustee, Friesen says she was disappointed to hear that the Hanover School Division was forced to cut teaching positions for the upcoming year, as the result of provincial funding not keeping up with inflation and there being no consideration of anticipated growth.
"The only thing more expensive than investing in education is not investing in education," says Friesen.
However, she does welcome the recent announcement of a new Kindergarten to grade four school in Steinbach.
"I advocated for this school at least 10 years ago," she notes. "And although long overdue, I am pleased that it's finally happening."
Meanwhile, Friesen says she is confident that people in Steinbach want change. And she wants to be that credible option.
"People know me in the community, they know I'm a hard worker, I'm committed and when I commit to something, I'm committed 100 per cent," adds Friesen. "So, I'm not taking this lightly."
In recognition of Manitoba turning 150 years old in 2020, a list of 150 Manitobans was unveiled, who stand out for their role in making Manitoba what it is today. Friesen was named to that list. She says as an MLA, she would roll up her sleeves and work hard for the community.
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