Manitoba health minister slams 'shameful' health funding deal

Manitoba’s health minister is calling the federal government’s signing of bilateral health-funding deals with select provinces “shameful” and a threat to universal Canadian health care.

Kelvin Goertzen critcizes federal government for health-care funding deals with N.S., N.B., N.L.

Kelvin Goertzen, Manitoba's health minister, says provinces are obliged to protect health care services for Canadians, but bilateral agreements on funding with individual provinces turn citizens into bargaining chips. (CBC)

Manitoba's health minister is calling the federal government's signing of bilateral health-funding deals with select provinces "shameful" and a threat to universal Canadian health care.

Kelvin Goertzen made the comments in a written statement following Friday's development that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have joined New Brunswick in making bilateral deals with the federal government on health care transfers.

"These deals represent massive cuts to federal health funding that will hurt mental health, home care and hospitals and will impact every Canadian," Goertzen's statement said.

 "No matter how it is packaged, we are witnessing the erosion of the federal share of health funding. This will put additional strain on the provinces and territories and threatens national universal health care," said Goertzen.

The Nova Scotia government said Friday the province will receive $287.8 million in new funding through the agreement. Of that, $157 million will go toward home care and $130.8 million will go toward mental health services.

This amounts to the same portion that province would have received from the federal government if the proposal at Monday's health accord talks had been accepted.

Those talks ended without any deal being inked.

At the time, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Health Minister Jane Philpott made a hard offer of a 3.5 per cent annual increase in health transfers and $11.5 billion over 10 years for mental health and home care services.

On Thursday, New Brunswick signed a bilateral deal.The province will get $125.1 million for home care and $104.3 million for mental health over 10 years, lining up with Ottawa's desire to direct money at those priorities.

Base funding will increase at three per cent, or at the rate of growth of nominal GDP.

Like in the New Brunswick agreement, the Nova Scotia deal includes a clause that would allow the province to get better financial terms if any other province or territory gets a better deal from the federal government.

Goertzen suggested the government appears to be playing divide and conquer with health care.

"The federal government is taking a unilateral approach to health funding and attempting to divide provinces while using Canadians as bargaining chips. That is shameful," he said.

He called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet with provincial first ministers to come to a national health care agreement.