New Brunswick

New Brunswick slammed as 'grinch that stole' a national health accord

New Brunswick is being both criticized and lauded for reaching its own agreement on health care funding with the federal government.

Canadian Health Coalition 'discouraged' by bilateral deal, but Canadian Medical Association 'pleased'

The Canadian Health Coalition wants the federal, provincial and territorial governments to return to the table and work out a national health accord, says national co-ordinator Adrienne Silnicki. (Twitter/Adrienne Silnicki)

New Brunswick is being both criticized and lauded for reaching its own agreement on health care funding with the federal government.

The Canadian Health Coalition dubbed the province "the grinch that stole a national health accord," after Premier Brian Gallant announced the deal on Thursday.

"By negotiating their own bilateral agreement, N.B. may have weakened the ability of other provinces to negotiate a stronger health accord," Adrienne Silnicki, national co-ordinator of the public advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and improvement of medicare, said in a statement.

"Provinces like Ontario require a 5.2% [Canadian Health Transfer payment] to continue offering their current basket of health care services," said Silnicki.

"All of us are at risk of seeing our public health care system significantly weakened if these types of bilateral arrangements continue."

The New Brunswick deal —  the first reached since talks between federal and provincial governments broke down earlier this week — includes $230 million in additional funding for home care and mental-health care over the next 10 years.

Premier Brian Gallant says the bilateral 10-year deal is estimated to be worth $1.2 billion. (CBC)
Under the deal, the annual Canada Health Transfer payments to the province will increase by three per cent per year or at the rate of national GDP growth, whichever is higher.

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, Gallant said during a news conference in Fredericton.

"It's exactly what we needed and exactly what we wanted," he said.

$659 million in losses alleged

The Canadian Health Coalition, however, contends New Brunswick will lose about $659 million with this bilateral agreement, compared to if the province had negotiated with the other premiers to keep the current six per cent transfer until 2024.

The coalition "continues to call for the federal, provincial and territorial governments to return to the Health Accord negotiation table and work out a deal that is in the best interest of all Canadians," the statement said.

The Canadian Medical Association, which represents physicians across the country, meanwhile, is applauding the New Brunswick agreement, which it says will "address the urgent needs of the aging population" in the province by investing in "key programs."

"We hope today's bilateral agreement will open the door to further discussions among other provincial and territorial governments, and to finding common ground that benefits Canadian patients," association president Dr. Granger Avery said in a statement.

More bilateral deals being discussed

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said it won't surprise her if there are further bilateral agreements announced soon. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott told CBC Power & Politics guest host Terry Milewski she will not be surprised if other bilateral agreements reached.

"I believe there are quite a few discussions going on" between the federal government and other provinces and territories, she said.

I think we'll be hearing more good news on that in … the days and weeks to come.- Jane Philpott, federal health minister

"I've certainly had a couple of conversations with my counterparts and I believe [Finance] Minister [Bill] Morneau has had other conversations as well."

Philpott said she hopes to see deals signed "sooner rather than later."

"There are people who are waiting now for access to care so, the sooner we can come to those agreements, the more assurance we can have that those resources will flow to provinces and territories — ideally with our spring budget — and I think we'll be hearing more good news on that in … the days and weeks to come," she said.

'It will not surprise me if there are further bilateral agreements,' says federal Health Minister Jane Philpott. 8:36