'We will not be dictated to': Legault warns as Ottawa threatens Quebec over health care

The Quebec premier's strong words were in reaction to news that Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor threatened the province last summer over its tolerance of private health care services.

Federal health minister has a problem with out-of-pocket payments for medical exams

Both Quebec Premier François Legault and Health Minister Danielle McCann are warning Ottawa to butt out when it comes to access to private medical exams. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Quebec Premier François Legault told Ottawa on Wednesday to stay out of the province's business on health care.

"We will not be dictated to by the federal government," Legault told reporters in Quebec City as he entered his limousine.

The strong words were in reaction to news that Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor threatened the province last summer over its tolerance of private health-care services.

Petitpas Taylor wrote a letter to former Quebec health minister Gaétan Barrette in August, warning him that Ottawa would cut health-care transfer payments to the province if it continued to allow patients to pay out of pocket for medical exams.

The letter, obtained by The Canadian Press, said allowing patients to jump the queue in the public system and pay for private exams is "unjust" and a violation of the Canada Health Act.

Legault told reporters that Quebec has full authority over its health-care system.

"People prefer to enter the private system for certain exams — it's going to stay like that," Legault said.

"With health care, we have the jurisdiction. We will manage our health-care system the way we want. The federal government is not going to start telling us how to manage it."

Quebec's health minister also tells Ottawa to butt out

Quebec's new health minister, Danielle McCann, echoed the premier's comments.

She said Quebec's public system can't respond to current demand within prescribed wait times, so the province isn't going to limit access to private medical exams.

"For the moment, there is no way we are going to close the doors on people to access [medical exams]," McCann said.

Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor says allowing patients to jump the queue in the public system and pay for private exams is 'unjust.' (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The federal government transferred $6.2 billion to Quebec in health-care payments for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

In her letter to Barrette, Petitpas Taylor said access to medical care in Canada should be "based on health needs and not on the capacity or the will to pay."

She said Quebec's health-care system can include private providers as long as the costs are paid for by the public health insurance system.