New Brunswick

New Brunswick willing to work out bilateral health-care deal with Ottawa

New Brunswick Finance Minister Cathy Rogers says the province is willing to work out its own deal with the federal government after Ottawa and the provinces failed to reach a deal on health-care funding.

Provincial Finance Minister Cathy Rogers said deal rejected by provinces was good for N.B.

New Brunswick Finance Minister Cathy Rogers says the $11.5-billion health-care deal that fell apart would have worked for the province. (CBC)

New Brunswick Finance Minister Cathy Rogers says the province is willing to work out its own deal with the federal government after Ottawa and the provinces failed to reach a deal on health-care funding. 

"The talks have ended for the moment, for today, but from our point of view ... we intend to pursue opportunities for a bilateral agreement," she told Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton on Monday.

The federal government had pledged $11.5 billion to boost targeted spending on home care and mental health. Finance Minister Bill Morneau had also promised a 3.5 per cent increase in the Canada Health Transfer each year over the next five years.

"New Brunswick was conditionally supportive of the proposal that was on the table," Rogers said.

"We share the same priorities of mental health and home care. We have an aging population. We have particular challenges in New Brunswick, like some other provinces who are small, who have a more difficult time to meet the more challenging demands of health care."

Province makes third proposal

While the provinces countered the federal proposal with a 5.2 per cent increase in the Canada Health Transfer, New Brunswick's Premier Brian Gallant tabled a third option at the meeting.

The province offered to accept the federal proposal of a 3.5 per cent increase to the Canada Health Transfer but suggested reallocating targeted spending on home care and mental health by giving every province and territory a base amount.

The rest of the money could then be redistributed on a per capita basis, said Health Minister Victor Boudreau.

"We thought that might be a way to bridge the gap," said Boudreau.

"For the time being there weren't enough provinces that thought that that was a better offer than the offer of 5.2 per cent that they had put in jointly. So it didn't quite make it into the discussion."

Close to health-care crisis

Rogers said the province wanted to target funding considering the province's aging demographics and growing needs of mental health services for younger people.

She said many provinces are facing similar demands.

While New Brunswick was not able to rally enough support for its proposal on Monday, she said the other provinces may just need more time to think about it.

"We are, I am not going to say in crisis right now, but we are soon going to be there," she said.

"And I know there are a couple of other provinces in the same boat as we are."

Rogers said New Brunswick will "be doing everything we can" to strike a bilateral deal.

In the meantime, with no agreement reached between Ottawa and the provinces, the federal government has taken its offer off the table and announced that the Canada Health Transfer spending increase will revert to three per cent a year as of April 1, 2017.

now