Manitoba

Premiers' calls for increased health transfers 'ignored' in throne speech: Pallister

"There's a fundamental imbalance in the current health funding arrangement. The status quo is not sustainable," the Manitoba premier said Thursday, in response to Wednesday's speech from the throne.

'Invest in people. But invest with a focus,' Manitoba premier says in response to federal government agenda

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister responded on Thursday to the Liberal government's speech from the throne. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba's Brian Pallister says calls from Canada's premiers for increased federal funding for health care were "ignored" in the Liberal government's throne speech Wednesday

"There's a fundamental imbalance in the current health funding arrangement. The status quo is not sustainable," the Manitoba premier said Thursday.

"The federal government, which used to be a 50 per cent partner, now funds about 20 per cent of all health-care costs. And without any changes, that divide's going to continue to grow, and the need for quality, accessible, sustainable health care is going to increase."

Pallister spoke to media at a news conference Thursday in response to Wednesday's speech from the throne in Ottawa.

He accused the Liberal government of failing to address last week's call from himself and other premiers for a $28-billion boost in health-care funding.

"Every premier across the country, coast to coast to coast, has identified this as the No. 1 priority, and yesterday it was ignored."

Pallister was one of four Canadian premiers who visited Ottawa in person last week after the country's premiers unanimously agreed to call on the federal government to cover 35 per cent of provincial health costs — up from the current 22 per cent — in light of what they described as an "absolutely critical" situation.

Currently, provinces spend $188 billion on health care, with the federal government covering $42 billion.

"Some may say our efforts failed. I would say the battle may be over, but the war will go on," Pallister said Thursday.

"The struggle for health care will continue and Manitoba will continue to lead the way in standing up for available health care."

'Not a time for profligacy'

Pallister said the premiers' Ottawa visit yielded "very productive" conversations with the Liberal government on paid sick leave. However, that subject wasn't raised Wednesday.

"I didn't hear any reference to that in the speech. I was disappointed about that," Pallister said.

The premier criticized the federal government for what he described as "the temptations to be all things to all people." He cautioned Ottawa against short-sighted spending in response to low interest rates.

"I would hope they would understand this is also not a time for profligacy," or reckless use of resources, he said.

"Now's the time to invest in people. But invest with a focus.

"Invest on the fundamentals. Invest on eliminating trade barriers across our country so we can create jobs together as a family. Invest in infrastructure, shovel-ready and shovel-worthy projects so we can build something together."

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