Federal health accord dangerous for Manitoba, premier says

Brian Pallister vows to hold out on signing national deal


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Premier Brian Pallister declared Thursday morning he can "go forever" without signing a health-care deal with Ottawa.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/06/2017 (2050 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Premier Brian Pallister declared Thursday morning he can “go forever” without signing a health-care deal with Ottawa.

Manitoba remains the lone holdout on signing the federal health accord.

A feisty Pallister said the deal should not be called an accord because no negotiations have taken place.

JOHN WOODS / CANADIAN PRESS FILES 'For me to sign on to a health-care deal that's dangerous for Manitoba would be wrong,' Premier Brian Pallister said.

“I’m not signing on to it because it’s dangerous for health care, dangerous for Manitobans,” the premier told reporters. “We can go forever because it’s a bad deal, a dangerous deal.”  

Health Minister Jane Philpott was not available Thursday to discuss what — if anything — is happening with the negotiations. But federal officials said that what Pallister is putting at risk is the province’s share of $11 billion over the next 10 years for mental health care and home care.

That money is not targetted to specifics, said a senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There’s a wide range of services that can be offered” at Manitoba’s discretion.

“Regardless of him signing, there will still be three per cent a year” in increased federal health transfers.

Philpott’s press secetary, Andrew MacKendrick, issued a brief statement which did not specifically address the state of negotiations between Ottawa and Manitoba: “We have made an historic $11 billion offer to the provinces and territories to provide better health care for all Canadians and we have been able to reach agreements with all 12 other jurisdictions. It is our hope that we will be able to reach agreement with Manitoba to ensure Manitobans see the benefits of these investments in home care and mental health.”

Earlier this spring, Pallister said he was prepared to sign on to the accord if Ottawa gave Manitoba additional money for indigenous health care — particularly to combat diabetes and kidney disease — and if the federal government guaranteed it would proceed with the factory of the future research facility in Winnipeg. Pallister later said he also wanted additional federal money to deal with the opioid crisis.

Any province that does not sign on stands to lose additional funding for mental health and for home care above the three per cent in health transfers Ottawa is willing to pay.

Under the previous federal government, Ottawa paid 25 per cent of health-care costs and the provinces covered 75 per cent — now the feds are covering 19 per cent in Manitoba and that number is on its way down to 15 per cent, Pallister said.

“For me to sign on to a health-care deal that’s dangerous for Manitoba would be wrong,” Pallister said.

NDP health critic Matt Wiebe said that the premier is playing political games while his chance to negotiate a better deal for Manitoba is “long gone.”

“This is the most infammatory language we’ve heard from the premier on this yet,” Wiebe said in an interview. “There’s a lot at stake here.”

Wiebe said Pallister keeps setting goalposts, then moving them.

Ottawa is not meeting its health care obligations, Wiebe said, but nevertheless, Pallister needs to get a deal done. “There are really issues here — mental health, home care — that Manitobans need.”

Throughout estimates hearings with Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen, Wiebe said, he tried to determine at what point Manitoba will lose its first year of shared federal funding for mental health and home care, but couldn’t get a clear answer.

The issue came up at the end of Pallister’s news conference on Manitoba remaining a holdout on a proposed national carbon-pricing plan. Pallister did not take any further questions.





Updated on Thursday, June 29, 2017 6:31 PM CDT: Full write through

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