Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/3/2017 (1670 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — Funding for an advanced manufacturing facility in Winnipeg doesn't hinge on Manitoba signing on to a new national health-care deal, a federal official confirmed Wednesday.
The decision could get the negotiations on federal health transfers back on track after they fell off the rails last week with a furious Premier Brian Pallister declaring he wouldn't be intimidated into signing a deal.
Manitoba stands alone as the last province or territory not part of a new, 10-year health deal that will increase the Canada Health Transfer by three per cent a year and divide $11 billion across the country for targeted home care and mental-health programs.
Last week, Manitoba accused Ottawa of threatening to kill off the $60-million Factory of the Future facility for advanced aerospace and automotive manufacturing research unless the province dropped demands for an enhanced health agreement.
The money disappears at the end of March with the end of the fiscal year and Ottawa implied Finance Minister Bill Morneau might not roll the funding into the 2017-18 budget, which he tabled in the House of Commons Wednesday, without a health deal in place.
At a news conference in Winnipeg, Pallister acknowledged he has received verbal assurances from Ottawa that the $60-million funding commitment is no longer linked to Manitoba signing the federal-provincial health accord. But he wants that assurance in writing.
"It’s critical that we have that commitment reaffirmed and the risk of the removal of that commitment removed," the premier said. "And only then will we be able to, in good faith, resume the negotiations entering into the health accord."
Pallister said Manitoba would also be looking for additional funding for renal health programs and for addressing the opioid threat before signing a health deal.
Pallister said last Friday he would be prepared to fly to Ottawa to negotiate the health deal after the budget as long as the $60 million was in place. While it is not explicitly mentioned in Morneau's budget, a senior federal official told the Free Press, the funding carries over.
"We will not let the money lapse," the official said.
The project was first promised by the former Conservative government in June 2015, and was included by the Liberals in the 2016-17 budget. However the money wasn't spent while the National Research Council struggled to find a suitable parcel of land on which to build.
The NRC, directed by the prime minister's office, halted the land-selection process in February.
Federal officials insist no "ultimatum" was issued to Manitoba. But it was pointed out to the province's lead negotiator on the health file that Manitoba would need Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to approve reprofiling the funding into the coming fiscal year.
Manitoba’s share of the new 10-year health deal is noted in Wednesday's budget, about $180 million over the next five years. The remainder, $220 million, will be transferred between 2022 and 2027, but the documents look only at five years out.
Pallister wanted Ottawa to commit to improving health outcomes for indigenous people. The budget has $828 million over five years for just that purpose.
Manitoba is now asking for that money to be allocated by indigenous population rather than overall population, meaning the share that would go to Manitoba could be 15 per cent, rather than 3.6 per cent. There were no details available Wednesday on how that money will be allocated.
The main budget book points out several times that 12 provinces and territories have signed the deal without specifically mentioning that Manitoba has not.
Manitoba will get its three per cent increase to the Canada Health Transfer in 2017-18 regardless of whether it signs the deal. However, the rest of the country will share in the 2017-18 home care and mental-health funding immediately. Manitoba will be left out of its piece — a relatively small $10.8 million — unless it signs.
The $11-billion promise ramps up quite slowly, largely because Health Minister Jane Philpott and the provincial health ministers still have to hammer out the details on the way the money will be spent. Philpott expects to develop benchmarks for judging the effectiveness of the funds.
In 2017-18, just $300 million of the $11 billion will flow to the provinces. That rises to $850 million in 2018-19, and by 2021-22, it will be $1.5 billion.
— with files from Larry Kusch