'Not a great day': Federal health deal falls short of Quebec's needs, Gaétan Barrette says

Quebec's new health-care funding deal with Ottawa is bad news for the province's aging population, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette is warning.

Quebec accepts $2.5 billion from Ottawa over 10 years, after months of wrangling

Quebec's Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said the new deal with Ottawa will lead to reduced health care services for the province's aging population. (CBC)

Quebec's new health-care funding deal with Ottawa is bad news for the province's aging population, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette is warning.

The deal with the federal government comes after months of bargaining, which turned acrimonious at times as Quebec sought to maintain federal health transfers at the levels they've been at for more than a decade.   

In the end, Quebec's Finance Ministry said the province will receive $2.5 billion over 10 years, in addition to the three per cent annual increase it was already scheduled to receive.

Taken together, the deal means Quebec will see annual increases of around 4.2 per cent, though the details will only be finalized when the federal budget is tabled later this month.  

Quebec had been among a handful of provinces holding out for increases in the annual health transfer of between 5.2 and six per cent.

But that common front collapsed, as Ottawa forged ahead with its strategy of striking individual deals with each province.

"This is not a great day for Canadians. This is not a great day for Quebecers. This is not a record year as Prime Minister Trudeau," Barrette said.

Barrette said the deal is "significantly less" than what Quebec needs to maintain health services at their current level.

Given the increasing needs of the province's aging population, Barrette said the deal doesn't add up.

Premier Philippe Couillard said Quebec is getting less money than it hoped from Ottawa for health care, however, under the deal announced Friday, it maintains its right to decide how that money is spent. (Radio-Canada)

"What it means in this era where the population is aging is that we will not have the means to develop what is needed to provide services," he said.

"It means for the next 10 years we will have to make choices."

Prognosis not all grim 

Without the support of other provinces, Quebec was forced to accept less than what it was hoping for, Premier Philippe Couillard said.

"This agreement, like any agreement, is not ideal," he told reporters in the Saguenay. "We were advocating for the transfers to be maintained at a higher level."

But Couillard added that the deal upholds the so-called asymmetric federalism that was enshrined in the 2004 health accord. In other words, Ottawa will have little say in how Quebec decides to spend its annual allotment of health care funding. 

Moreover, said Couillard, the deal will extend the asymmetric clause, giving the province more leeway in how it spends federal social infrastructure funds as well.  

The premier presented these as major concessions by Ottawa that made the long and often tense negotiations with the federal government worthwhile.

"It's good news for patients," Couillard said. "And I want to be very clear: I would not have left a single dollar on the table for our patients' care."

The new funding will allow the province to continue developing home care, mental health and front-line services, Couillard said.

'A net loss for Quebec', PQ says

Parti Québécois finance critic Nicolas Marceau argued that the gains touted by Couillard are nothing new and only maintain the status quo.

The annual increase is well below the six per cent Quebec was after, Marceau said.

"It's the status quo on one side and a lower rate of growth on the other side, so it's a net loss for Quebec."

More details about the funding will be contained in the federal budget, expected to be tabled March 22.  

Ottawa also announced Friday that it had reached deals with Ontario and Alberta. British Columbia settled last month.

Manitoba is now the lone province without a deal in place.