Federal finance minister hears plea for health-care cash in Manitoba

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau met with Manitoba counterpart Cameron Friesen in Winnipeg on Monday before consulting with citizens at a restaurant stop with Liberal MPs. Morneau said the provinces will get more money from Ottawa this year, although he was noncommittal about health-care funding.

Bill Morneau, Cameron Friesen meet at legislature Monday

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau on Up to Speed

7 years ago
Duration 3:12
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks with guest host Cameron MacIntosh of CBC's Up to Speed program about the Port of Churchill and other issues of concern in Manitoba.

​Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Monday that Manitoba will get more money from Ottawa this year, after meeting with Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen at the legislature on Monday.

The provinces will get more money this year from Ottawa, Morneau told reporters after consulting with Manitobans at a St. Boniface restaurant with area MP Dan Vandal and Winnipeg Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette.

"The federal transfers have increased this year, so this year federal transfers to Manitoba have gone up to $3.5 billion, and the expectation is they will continue to, so that's the numbers from the perspective of the federal government," Morneau said.

The federal government controls a series of financial handouts to the provinces, a big chunk of that being the Canada Health Transfer.

The former Conservative government made the decision to cut the rate of growth in federal health-care transfers in 2011. Funding increases went from six to three per cent over five years. Now provincial leaders are looking for a new and richer deal from the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government.

Premier Brian Pallister has been signalling for months the state of Manitoba's finances is grimmer than advertised by the previous NDP government. As Pallister concluded his first 100 days in power last week, he tightened the message and focused on federal transfers.

Premier Brian Pallister says equalization payments are going down, and he wants a bump in health-care dollars. (CBC News )
"The fiscal realities can't be ignored. We know that equalization payments will reduce for Manitoba. We know that because parts of our country that have paid into that program in the past are suffering economically, right now," Pallister said in an interview last week.

Manitoba's share of all transfers from Ottawa was approximately $3.432 billion for 2015-16. Just over $1.2 billion of that was for health care.

Pallister told reporters last week all the provinces want those numbers to improve.

Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen says he needs more federal cash to cover growing health-care costs. (Bert Savard/CBC)
"There is some discussion right now, and there will be more about where Ottawa's going to be in terms of its transfer support for health care.… We want health care that's sustainable. To do that, we have to know where our money's coming from," Pallister said.

The provincial Progressive Conservative government is planning a review of Manitoba's health-care system, initially with an eye to reduce wait times. Pallister said it will now look deeper into the system, but the province needs a signal from the federal government of how much they plan to send to the provinces.

The federal finance minister touted some Liberal government legislation, including the Canada Child Benefit and proposed changes to the Canada Pension Plan, as programs that will benefit the province.

When asked directly about provincial concerns over the Canada Health Transfer, Morneau was noncommittal, saying "that will be a continuing discussion."

Friesen was unavailable for comment.


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