David Alward rebukes Ottawa over health plan

Premier David Alward issued a rare attack against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government on Tuesday, saying the proposed health deal is unacceptable.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's health plan is 'unacceptable' to New Brunswick

Premier David Alward and Prime Minister Stephen Harper pose together in October. Alward is criticizing the Harper government over its proposed health funding deal. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Premier David Alward is blasting federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s "unilateral" proposal to curtail health transfer payments to the provinces.

The provinces were caught off guard this week when Flaherty announced a new health transfer arrangement.

Flaherty announced on Monday at a meeting in Victoria that health transfers will be tied to economic growth starting in 2017. Several provinces immediately chastised the federal government for the move.

Alward unleashed a rare attack on his federal Conservative allies on Tuesday over the federal health plan.

"It is unacceptable that the federal government came forward with a unilateral proposal, with no dialogue, no consultation," Alward said.

Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau said he hopes Alward will now work with other premiers against the new formula.

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty surprised provincial finance ministers by announcing a new health funding arrangement on Monday. (Geoff Howe/Canadian Press) (Geoff Howe/Canadian Press)
"If they all get together and push this issue, hopefully they can convince the federal government to reconsider their decisions," he said.

Alward has not been forceful with the federal government until now.

Instead, the Alward government has had a friendly relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government for the last year.

Even as other provinces were criticizing the Harper government’s crime legislation for downloading new costs, Justice Minister Marie-Claude Blais went to Ottawa to defend the Harper government.

Smaller provinces are worried the new health transfer formula will hurt them.

The proposed federal plan would have the federal government guarantee six per cent health-care funding increases until the 2016-17 fiscal year.

After then, the annual increase will be tied to nominal GDP, but is guaranteed to be at least three per cent.

Nominal GDP is the monetary value of all goods and services produced within the country annually, including inflation. If nominal GDP rises four per cent and inflation is two per cent, the economy's real GDP growth is two per cent.

The current agreement, which guarantees six per cent a year increases, expires in 2014, and the provinces wanted that to continue.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs has said in the past the New Brunswick government would like to see the Department of Health limit its increases to three per cent.