Manitoba

Despite provinces 'being picked off,' Manitoba not in talks for health funding deal, Pallister says

With the deadline looming for health transfers and other provinces and territories signing separate deals, Premier Brian Pallister says there have been no discussions between Manitoba and Ottawa.

Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Alberta are the only provinces that have not signed with feds

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says Manitoba and the federal government are not in talks for a health funding deal. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

With the deadline looming for health transfers and other provinces and territories signing separate deals, Premier Brian Pallister says there have been no discussions between Manitoba and Ottawa.

"If there was to be one I would be satisfied that we have at least had one but frankly there has not been one," Pallister said on CBC's The House on Saturday.

The province didn't sign onto the health care accord after federal-provincial negotiations last December.

In January, Saskatchewan and the federal government reached a health-care deal, following separate deals with Nunavut, Yukon, the Northwest Territories, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

British Columbia signed a deal in February.

Ontario, Quebec and Alberta are the only other provinces left who have not signed on to an agreement.

"Despite the fact that my colleagues are being picked off one at a time with this federal approach, none of them has expressed support for the concepts that are being advanced by the federal government," Pallister said.

"None of them have said this is a good idea for sustaining health care going forward."

Despite striking deals with Ottawa, Saskatchewan and the territories added their signatures to a strongly worded statement sent by holdout provinces to the prime minister in January.

"The reality is the health care costs are going to rise, every single study has said so, and we need to have a national dialogue around how we deal with health care support and funding," Pallister said.

"It should be a partnership, that's how it was designed in the first place. I haven't seen evidence that the federal government understands the need for that partnership."

The federal government initially pledged $11.5 billion to boost targeted spending on home care and mental health. The deal also included a Canada Health Transfer spending increase at 3.5 per cent each year over the next five years — at a value of roughly $20 billion — but the provinces turned it down.

The deal was taken off the table, meaning the key federal transfer will revert to three per cent a year as of April 1 if provinces don't make a separate deal.

When Pallister was asked if Manitoba was prepared to stay at three per cent rather than make a separate deal, he responded that it is not sustainable and it "would be totally unfair to hit a province like Manitoba out of spite."

"It's entirely up to the federal government. The approach that's been taken … has been my way or the highway from the beginning. I will not agree with that approach," he said.

"I have been very impressed and I am very hopeful of a strong relationship with the federal government on a number of files but this is certainly not one of them."

now