Health Demands 'Out of the Realm' of What Feds Would Consider: Morneau
OTTAWA - Canada's finance minister is calling provincial demands for bigger federal health transfers "out of the realm" of anything Ottawa would consider as the federation appears headed for a showdown next week over the future of health funding.
In an interview ahead of Monday's federal-provincial meeting on health financing, Bill Morneau insisted Friday that the feds won't agree to keep the annual increases in transfers -- the so-called health "escalator" -- above a three per cent floor.
The Trudeau government also won't entertain calls to raise the federal share of spending to 25 per cent of provincial health budgets, Morneau told The Canadian Press in an interview.
Instead, he said the government wants to explore ways to work with the provinces on specific investments in areas that Ottawa believes will have an measurable impact, such as home care and mental health.
Ottawa is prepared to put a "significant" amount of money towards these goals over a period longer than five years, Morneau said. Just how much, he wouldn't say -- but the provinces are definitely "outside of where we're at," he added.
"The provinces' requests are out of the realm of anything that we would consider," said Morneau, who is hosting finance ministers for a working dinner Sunday before Monday's main event, which will also include health ministers.
"We're not going to be talking about percentages -- either in the escalator ... or in terms of the broader percentages."
Clearly, a significant gap remains between the two sides heading into the next phase of the long-running efforts to reach a new health accord.
Earlier this week, several provincial health ministers expressed doubts they would even bother making the trip to Ottawa unless the federal government signalled it was willing to budge from its position.
Ottawa fully intends to allow the escalator to drop to three per cent from six, which is where it's been set since a federal-provincial deal was struck in 2004.
Starting in April, the rate is due to be three per cent, or the three-year moving average of nominal gross domestic product growth, whichever is higher. That would trim nearly $1.1 billion a year from Ottawa's combined payments to the provinces.
The provinces say it would also leave big holes in health-care budgets that they can ill afford.
"At three per cent, we're cutting health care and that can't happen," Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said in an interview Friday.
New data released this week by the Canadian Institute for Health Information says health spending by all the provinces combined grew by less than three per cent annually between 2012-13 and 2014-15. The institute also forecasts the provinces only increased total health spending by about 2. …