Manitoba

'Cut and run': Manitoba minister pans N.B. health-care deal with federal government

New Brunswick's break from the rest of the provinces to sign a health-care deal with the feds was a mistake, says Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen. "They didn't cut and run on other provinces, they cut and run on the people of New Brunswick," Goertzen said of Premier Brian Gallant signing a $230-million health-care deal with the federal government.

New Brunswick breaks from provinces, strikes $230M deal with feds days after heated negotiations in Ottawa

Kelvin Goertzen, health minister for Manitoba, said New Brunswick made a mistake in breaking from the pack and signing its own Canada Health Transfer deal with the Trudeau government. (CBC)

New Brunswick's break from the rest of the provinces to sign a health-care deal with the feds was a mistake, says Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen.

"They didn't cut and run on other provinces, they cut and run on the people of New Brunswick," Goertzen said of Premier Brian Gallant signing a $230-million health-care deal with the federal government. 

The Atlantic province struck the deal after Canada Health Transfer funding negotiations with the Trudeau government hit an impasse Monday in Ottawa.

Provincial health ministers turned their backs on a $11.5-billion offer for mental health and home care services over the next 10 years.

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant announced Thursday the province struck its own health-care funding deal with the federal government after negotiations involving other provinces failed earlier in the week. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau pulled the deal due to disagreements with the ministers. It would've bumped the Health Care Transfer up 3.5 per cent each year for the next five years, at a value of roughly $20 billion.

New Brunswick managed to negotiate a 4.1 per cent annual increase, which falls in between the original offer and the provinces' counter-offer of 5.2 per cent.

New Brunswick may have secured funding in the short-term, Goertzen says, but it will also lose out on as much as $600 million in funding.

New Brunswick's break from the rest of the provinces to sign a health-care deal with the feds was a mistake, says Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen. 1:39

'Sunny ways'

"Here in Manitoba, if we took that same deal, it would mean we'd be short about $1 billion over the next 10 years. That would be devastating for our health-care system," he said.

Goertzen was one of the more outspoken opponents to blast the Trudeau government following the failed negotiations earlier this week.

He wants the federal government to be a long-term sustainable partner on health care and stick to the spirit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's often-cited "sunny ways" statement, made after his 2015 election victory.

"He said that we would have that real collaborative effort with provinces. That's what we went to Ottawa for. That didn't happen," Goertzen said. 

"There was a unilateral, take-it-or-leave-it deal and then the federal government walked out of the room. And that's why provinces stood together and said, 'We're going to look toward having a real unified position.'"

'Grinch that stole' health accord

The Canadian Health Coalition lobby group panned the move by New Brunswick, calling the province "the Grinch that stole a national health accord."

"By negotiating their own bilateral agreement, N.B. may have weakened the ability of other provinces to negotiate a stronger health accord," a statement from the organization released Thursday reads.

Manitoba will keep pushing back against the federal government for the sake of Manitobans, Goertzen said.

"We're going to end up at a situation some point in the future where the federal government is paying almost nothing for health care, but setting 100 per cent of the rules," Goertzen said.

"We're asking Justin Trudeau, 'Come back to the table, don't just walk away.'"

However, Health Minister Jane Philpott said there have been discussions with "counterparts" in Canada. 

"It will not surprise me if there are further bilateral agreements that are reached, sooner rather than later, we hope," she said on CBC's Power and Politics.

"I know that Canadians want to see these investments flowing." 

Philpott said she expects more "good news" on agreements in the days and weeks to come.