Ottawa mini-budget misses health-care funds: Manitoba

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MANITOBA Finance Minister Cameron Friesen’s initial response to Ottawa’s fiscal update was disappointment.

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MANITOBA Finance Minister Cameron Friesen’s initial response to Ottawa’s fiscal update was disappointment.

“It is disappointing that the federal government has again not responded to our premier’s consensus call for a Canada Health Transfer equal to 35 per cent of health-care costs,” Friesen said by email Thursday, during the last day of the fall session of the Manitoba legislature.

Premier Heather Stefanson chairs the Council of the Federation, an alliance of Canada’s premiers and territorial leaders that has called on the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to increase health transfer payments.

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“It is disappointing that the federal government has again not responded to our premier’s consensus call for a Canada Health Transfer equal to 35 per cent of health-care costs,” said Cameron Friesen, minister of finance.

Stefanson has said Ottawa initially covered 50 per cent of provinces’ health costs when Canada implemented universal coverage in the 1960s. She said the federal government now covers only 22 per cent.

The Manitoba premier and her counterparts have asked for a meeting with the prime minister, and for Ottawa to increase its share of the tab to 35 per cent.

“Clearly, the improved federal fiscal position provides an opportunity for first ministers to meet to discuss and work together on achieving more equitable health-care transfers to all provinces,” Friesen said.

The finance minister did have a few good things to say about the mini budget delivered Thursday.

“We note that the federal government has followed our lead with the Canada Growth Fund, which is on the heels of Manitoba creating a venture capital fund,” Friesen said.

In April, the Manitoba government announced its $50-million venture capital fund to partner with private investment capital to invest in several independently managed funds and increase the amounts available to be invested in Manitoba companies.

Friesen said some of the federal commitments in respect to home ownership, low-income workers and students “appear at first glance to be rather modest, and clearly more will need to be done.”

Meanwhile, the Manitoba minister had praise for new federal immigration targets announced Tuesday — 465,000 permanent residents in 2023, 485,000 in 2024, and 500,000 in 2025 — saying all provinces will benefit.

“The challenge remains on the federal side, with processing times taking too long with the application process to be effective,” Friesen said.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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