Manitoba

Ottawa brought an ultimatum not a deal, Manitoba health minister says

A deal on health-care funding is off the table after the provincial health ministers came together to reject a deal from Ottawa.

‘Prime minister is going to have to hear that message from Canadians,’ Kelvin Goertzen says

Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen, centre-left, Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette, centre right, and other provincial health ministers angrily rejected an earlier proposal by the federal government, saying the offer was ridiculous. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

A deal on health-care funding is off the table after the provincial health ministers came together to reject a deal from Ottawa.

Monday's meeting wasn't a negotiation, it was an ultimatum, said Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen. With provinces representing different political parties standing together, he says "the prime minister is going to have to hear that message from Canadians."

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau previously told the provinces that he was willing to grow the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) by 3.5 per cent each year over the next five years, at a value of roughly $20 billion. The federal government also pledged $11.5 billion to boost targeted spending on home care and mental health.

The provinces and territories have had six per cent year-over-year growth in transfers since the last health accord in 2004. Former finance minister Jim Flaherty unilaterally changed funding increases to either match the rate of GDP growth or three per cent a year — whichever is greater.

With the rejection of the latest offer by the provinces, that key federal transfer will revert to three per cent a year as of April 1, 2017.

"[The deal] would have meant that Manitoba, over a 10-year period, would have lost $2.2 billion," Goertzen said on CBC's Power and Politics.

He said that while home care and mental health are concerns in Manitoba, health-care spending choices should be left up to the provinces themselves.

"There are challenges of finances of health care across Canada so there is commonality in that. But the delivery of health care and the challenge of health care aren't exactly the same in every province," Goertzen said.

"So we obviously would like to see a real funding partner but ensure that we have the ability to make sure the priorities in each province are met to best meet those needs in each province."

The conversations aren't over, Goertzen assured, adding that the provinces have been asking for a first ministers' meeting on health care spending with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

However, time has become more of a factor with the April deadline looming. Goertzen said when it comes to funding that will impact the future, the decision shouldn't be rushed before Christmas.

"[When] it's going to impact future generations you want to ensure the decision you're making is based on evidence and a long-term approach," he said. 

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