PEI

Health accord is 'the best deal we can get for today' says P.E.I. premier

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan is defending the province's decision to sign on to Ottawa's health-care deal, despite previously vowing to hold out in an alliance with Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

'There's a road ahead … we're not done yet' says MacLauchlan

'We're all still friends on this,' says Premier Wade MacLauchlan of P.E.I.'s decision to leave a group of six holdout provinces sign on to Ottawa's health-care deal. (CBC)

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan is defending the province's decision to sign on to Ottawa's health-care deal, despite previously vowing to hold out in an alliance with Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

The deal, confirmed by the federal and provincial governments Tuesday, will provide P.E.I. with $24.6 million for home care and $20.5 million for mental health initiatives over 10 years.

"We're all still friends on this," MacLauchlan told CBC News: Compass anchor Bruce Rainnie Tuesday. "We've all been testing the capacity, and the will, of the federal government in this partnership."

MacLauchlan is not worried the holdout provinces will hold P.E.I.'s decision to sign the agreement against the him.

"I'm very confident about how Prince Edward Island is perceived by the other partners in Confederation," he said. 

Me-too clause

P.E.I.'s agreement with Ottawa includes the so-called "me-too clause" under which if another province subsequently strikes a better deal, Ottawa will automatically provide the same deal to provinces that have already signed.

"Believe me, we've tested how far we can get with that," MacLauchlan said, smiling. 

"I'd say it's the best deal we can get for today."

The federal government's first offer had included a 3.5 per cent escalator and targeted money over a 10 years.

P.E.I. will use that 3.5 per cent escalator for two years, then revert back to the current formula set up by the Harper government. That formula sets the escalator at three per cent but allows it to increase if GDP growth rises above that figure.

'Not done yet'

"I think the important part has been to understand, together with the federal government, that there's a road ahead … we're not done yet," MacLauchlan said.

Counselling for youth with mental health challenges will be a funding priority, said MacLauchlan.

The Trudeau government had hoped to reach a health-care accord with all provinces in December, but talks bogged down over the cut to the annual health funding increase. The provinces that have not signed the accord are still calling for a meeting with the prime minister to settle the dispute.

'He's essentially buckled under': Opposition

P.E.I.'s Official Opposition welcomed the news of additional funding for home care and mental health services, but suggested MacLauchlan achieved nothing by holding out more than a month before striking a deal with Ottawa.

"We have a premier that marched up to Ottawa, he was going to do great things, he was going to be the shepherd and lead all the other provinces and get a great deal," said Opposition health critic James Aylward.

"Well, he's come back a month after he made those statements and he's essentially buckled under, and Islanders are going to get less health care because we're getting less money."

With files from CBC News: Compass

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