Manitoba signs on to Ottawa health accord for more mental health, home care funding
Agreement reached after more than 18 months of bilateral negotiations
The Manitoba government has finally signed on to the mental health and home care portion of a 2016 health-care deal with the federal government, which will bring millions of dollars of funding to the province.
The province held out for more than 18 months, saying repeatedly that negotiations between the two levels of government were ongoing.
Premier Brian Pallister was tight-lipped on Monday about what compelled the province to now reach an agreement.
Pallister said the federal government wanted to make the announcement at a later date, but he decided to set the record straight after an article in the Winnipeg Free Press, published Monday, said the province had not signed on to the health accord by the March 31, 2019, deadline. The province had declined to answer the newspaper's questions.
The premier said his government agreed to the terms around 10 days ago.
Ottawa wanted to announce: Pallister
"The federal government likes to be involved in announcements where its money is involved," Pallister said at a news event about a reduction in ambulance fees, "but because of the rules they have around their announcements in budget time, they didn't want us to announce it."
But, Federal Health Minister, Ginette Petitpas-Taylor said news of censoring the announcement is news to her.
"I am not aware of any of that, I'm not aware of that conversation at all. What I can tell you is, the agreement was signed last week and I'm not aware of any blackout," she said.
Petitpas-Taylor said she believes the Pallister government signed onto the agreement on March 28.
Manitoba has been reluctant to sign health deals with the federal government, which it has blasted for slowing the rise in health-care transfers to the provinces.
Manitoba was the last jurisdiction to agree to the 2016 federal health-care deal when it signed a partial agreement in August 2017. Manitoba officials had objected to the deal because the increase in transfers was smaller than in previous years.
The two governments agreed in 2017 to keep talking about cash for mental health and home care programs. It took more than 18 months for the parties to reach a deal.
While there was reluctance from Manitoba to sign on, it began a point of frustration in Ottawa.
"I'm extremely disappointed that it's taken this period of time to come to negotiate a settlement. We were close to an agreement back in the summer of 2018," Petitpas-Taylor said.
"There was a lot of delays, but finally last week were able to sign the agreement."
Pallister said more details about the funding top-up will come when the federal government is ready.
As good as we could get: Pallister
"When we're able to give you the full details of the resolution of our discussion, you'll understand that our negotiations were successful to the degree they could be," he said.
The premier has criticized Ottawa for curtailing its increase in health-care transfers. He said Manitoba is losing out on $2.2 billion over the next decade now that transfer payments are rising three per cent per year instead of the six per cent increases that Manitoba was accustomed to.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew questioned why it took the government so long to sign on, considering the days of a federal Liberal government could be numbered.
"If there's a Prime Minister Andrew Scheer in a few months, I don't think he's going to be coming through with that mental health and home care money."