New Brunswick secures $230M more for health care from Ottawa over 10 years
Funding will allow 'transformative' investments in home care and mental-health care, federal government says
New Brunswick has secured $230 million more for health care from the federal government over the next decade, Premier Brian Gallant announced today.
The bilateral deal — the first reached since talks between federal and provincial governments broke down earlier this week — includes funding for home care and mental health, he said at a news conference in Fredericton.
It represents an estimated annual increase of 4.1 per cent — "the middle ground" between the 3.5 per cent that the federal government had been offering and the provinces' counter-offer of 5.2 per cent.
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"Today's agreement ensures that we can receive funding for home care and mental health this spring that might otherwise have been delayed or lost," said Gallant.
The signed health accord also includes a clause that if any other province or territory reaches a better deal, New Brunswick could choose to adopt those terms, he said.
NB chooses to accept reduction of fed funding from 23,3% to 20% but also rely on other provinces to fight for a better offer. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash">#cdnpoli</a>—@drgbarrette
"NB chooses to accept reduction of fed funding from 23,3% to 20% but also rely on other provinces to fight for a better offer," Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette promptly posted on Twitter.
Earlier at the news conference, Gallant lashed out at Barrette, saying he was "flabbergasted" by his criticism of New Brunswick in the media.
"I can just not even imagine the ramifications of one of my colleagues or myself telling [Quebec] how to do health care and telling them how to navigate the federal government," said Gallant.
"I couldn't even fathom it."
Fewer seniors in hospital, shorter waits
Under the deal, the annual Canada Health Transfer payments to the province will increase by three per cent per year or the rate of national GDP growth — whichever is higher.
It's estimated to be worth $1.2 billion over the 10 years, providing more long-term certainty for budget planning for the province's aging population than the five-year deal previously proposed.
It will provide $125.1 million for better home care, including addressing critical home care infrastructure requirements, and $104.3 million in support of mental-health initiatives.
As a result of the "transformative investments," the number of patients in hospital who could be better cared for at home or in the community is expected to be reduced, and the wait times for mental-health services for children and youth are expected to be "shortened considerably," according to a statement by Health Canada.
"I want to thank Premier Gallant and our provincial counterparts in New Brunswick for their vision and leadership," Philpott said in the statement.
The two governments will continue to work over the coming weeks to develop performance indicators and mechanisms for annual reporting to citizens, as well as a detailed plan on how the funds will be spent, the statement said.
Funding will be made available as of April 1.
Talks deemed failure
Earlier this week, Gallant announced negotiations were already underway for a bilateral health funding deal between New Brunswick and Ottawa after the broader federal-provincial discussions collapsed on Monday.
"We're in talks," Gallant said in a year-end interview Tuesday with CBC News.
"There's nothing official yet, but talks are going well. We are hopeful that we will get a deal that will represent our realities here in New Brunswick."
Federal health and finance ministers failed to reach an agreement with their provincial and territorial counterparts because Ottawa wanted to tie home-care and mental-health money to specific targets.
Ottawa was offering a 3.5 per cent general increase each year for five years as well as additional money for those two areas, but it wanted the provinces to agree to report to the federal government on how the additional money was spent.
The provinces refused to sign on to that condition and asked for a meeting of premiers with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
New Brunswick had suggested a last-minute compromise to tie some of the home-care money to the size of provinces' aging populations and some of the mental-health money to the size of their youth populations, but the proposal was rejected.
Gallant said on Thursday he wasn't sure whether everyone "actually read the proposal."
Finance Minister Bill Morneau declared the talks a failure, and said the offer of home-care and mental-health money was no longer on the table and that the Canada Health Transfer spending increase will revert to three per cent a year as of April 1.
With files from Jacques Poitras