Healthcare and education were the focus of Premier Wab Kinew's inaugural State of the Province address, presented to a crowd of over 500 at a Brandon Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday. 

"I want to thank the Brandon Chamber of Commerce for pulling the event together," said the Kinew "I really appreciate everybody coming out from not just Brandon, but southwestern Manitoba and some folks from the Pembina Valley region and the Parkland region as well too. So, it's nice to see everybody."

When it comes to healthcare, the Premier noted there a lot of private nursing agencies currently operating in Manitoba and a plan is needed to bring back the nurses who have left the public health care system because of, according to Kinew, concerns around work/life balance, issues in the workplace and more flexibility.

"I think we need to find a way to get those nurses back working on the front lines of the public health care system. One, it's important for us to have those folks working in our hospitals and health centers. And then two, we also want to ensure that standards around patient care, safety and health for the workers themselves. 

I touched a bit on an RFP (request for proposals) process the government is putting out," he added. " Our province has something like 75 nursing agencies working in Manitoba, whereas the province of B.C., much larger population-wise, about four times the size, they only have about 19 nursing agencies there. So, there is a need for us to kind of try and bring nurses back into the public system and at the same time, we need to keep the hospitals and health centers open. We can't do it by a mandate. We have to do it by improving the working conditions in the public system."

As for post-secondary education in Manitoba, the Premier stated there was a criticism that last year, under the previous (Progressive Conservative) government, that some of the universities inside the perimeter of Winnipeg were getting preferential treatment. 

"They were getting bigger percentage increases in terms of funding," he said. 

In response, Manitoba's new NDP government announced more than $7 million in funding for Brandon University and $2 million for Assiniboine Community College. 

"So that the post-secondary institutions that do trades programs, nursing programs, university programs in the Westman region, as well as the satellite campuses, they're going to get support," said Kinew. "So, we're taking steps to kind of make sure that there's fairness in post-secondary funding regionally."

The Premier feels that announcement was well received.

"I think people really value those investments in those regional post-secondary universities and, at the end of the day, this is an investment in the future of our province. So, it's really important we get it right in terms of the regional balance for those sorts of investments."

Additionally, during a question-and-answer period, the Premier zeroed-in on economic issues around trade to the United States and the need to get more people working in the trades. 

Listen below to Candace Derksen's full interview with Premier Kinew for this week's Premier Report which airs on CFAM 950, AM1250 and CJRB 1220 at 12:30 p.m. every Friday that the Manitoba Legislature is in session.