Alberta willing to accept strings attached to federal health-care funding

Alberta's health minister said she is willing to go it alone in working with the federal government on health-care funding if it means getting more for the province.

Provinces say more funding needed as feds drop transfer increases from 6 per cent to 3 per cent

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says the provinces and territories need more help in federal health-care funding. (CBC)

Alberta's health minister said she is willing to go it alone in working with the federal government on health-care funding, if it means getting more for the province.

Sarah Hoffman made her remarks as the provinces and territories met with their federal counterpart in talks on Tuesday in Toronto.

"I understand that some of my colleagues may not want strings attached and some might be more open to that. And certainly at the end of the day, I want to get resources to Albertans and I am willing to enter into a variety of conversations to make that happen," Hoffman said.

"I will take strings if it gets more resources to Albertans."

A standoff of sorts emerged over the federal government's plan to cut annual health transfer funding increases from six per cent to three per cent starting next year.

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott remained firm about the change, saying it still means funding increases.

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said the single "concrete" takeaway from the meeting is that the federal government is cutting health-care funding by $60 billion over 10 years.

"We are being asked to do more with less," he said. "And on top of that, we are being told what to do."

Hoffman says 80 per cent of Alberta's health-care funding comes from provincial dollars and the regions need more help.

Regions need more help

"Specifically in Alberta we talked about home care, long-term care, mental health. Certainly those are topics of significant interest to the federal government and we need to focus funds on those areas and we need more funds to health care in general across Canada," Hoffman said.

Ottawa has proposed more than $3 billion over four years in funding for home care.

Philpott said the overall discussions arrived at some common ground.

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott says there was some common ground in the talks, including focusing on mental health as a priority. (CBC)

"I did hear some acknowledgement around the table around the importance of focusing investments in health, around the areas on which we have already agreed where the health system needs reform. There is more work to do," Philpott said.

She added mental health is a priority.

"I think there are some fantastic ideas out there amongst experts around how we can do better in delivery access to mental health care," Philpott said.

Mental health a priority

"I have certainly encouraged the provinces and territories to come to me and say what they would like to do in the area of improving access to mental health care and we are open to hearing those ideas," she added. 

"We believe that we have a responsibility, if we are going to talk about new investments, to have some understanding of what Canadians can expect for those investments."

Indigenous health, the planned legalization of marijuana and the opioid overdose crisis were also on the agenda.

With files from Dave Gilson and Kathleen Harris