Manitoba

Provinces know best, Manitoba's Health Minister says

The Liberals take it or leave it approach to a new health care spending deal “doesn’t feel like sunny days” to Manitoba’s health minister.

Kelvin Goertzen slams Ottawa's 'unilateral' approach ahead of health-care meetings

Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen says he "doesn't feel very optimistic" about the Liberal government's "unilateral" declaration Friday. (CBC)

The Liberals' take-it-or-leave-it approach to a new health-care spending deal "doesn't feel like sunny days" to Manitoba's health minister.

Ottawa has promised three per cent annual increases to health transfer payments, but Kevin Goertzen said that's a devastating drop from the six per cent annual increases the provinces and territories have been receiving since 2004.

"What the federal government is doing in this unilateral approach is taking money away from health care and ultimately that hurts those that are waiting in lines in ERs, that hurts those who are waiting for a test to come back, and it hurts those who are looking to deal with an illness," he said on CBC News Network's Power and Politics on Friday. "So we are very concerned."

The finance and health ministers from the provinces and territories are travelling to Ottawa this weekend for meetings. Earlier this week the health ministers threatened to skip Monday's discussions if they didn't see willingness from the government to explore new proposals for funding.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the government is willing to give the provinces more money than the original campaign promise of $3 billion over four years for home care and an unspecified amount for mental health.

"If we can get to an agreement that includes measurable outcomes, better home-care situations for Canadians, better mental health possibilities for Canadians, we will invest more. But if we don't, because provinces don't get on that page, we will stick to our campaign promises," he told the CBC's Chris Hall in an interview for The House airing Saturday.

Manitoba's health minister looks ahead to health meeting with feds

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'There should be a long-term discussion on this in a real way, not over crumpets and bits,' says Kelvin Goertzen. 7:14
However, Goertzen said the extra money for home care and mental health will not have a significant impact on the $2.2 billion loss over 10 years for Manitoba caused by the change in transfer funding.

"I know that there are priorities on Sussex Street in Ottawa but there are priorities on Main Street in Winnipeg and they don't always match up. We believe that the provinces understand where their priorities are best in health care," he said. "We expect the federal government to be real partners in a long-term sustainable health care funding agreement that isn't pigeon-holed on the back of a meeting in Ottawa with finance ministers on Monday."

Manitoba has the second highest total health spending per capita in 2016 of the provinces, according to a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released on Thursday.

Manitoba's total health expenditure per capita was $7,120 — up 3.9 per cent from 2015. Manitoba also spent 6.9 per cent more on physicians in 2016 than it did the year before.  

Earlier this week, Ontario proposed a new 10-year federal funding plan that would raise Ottawa's health transfers to the provinces by 5.2 per cent a year. Goertzen said that is the minimum needed to "keep the lights on."

"The federal government made a commitment in the election that they were going to be partners with Manitobans and other provinces on health care. This is not a partnership. This is a unilateral offer that takes finances off money off of the table," he said.

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