OTTAWA – Health Minister Jane Philpott confirmed Friday that Ottawa has reached health agreements with Quebec, Ontario and Alberta – a dramatic turnaround after months of negotiations and threats of walkouts at meetings last year.
Philpott confirmed the deals in the House of Commons with a wide grin and high-fives with her fellow cabinet ministers.
Ottawa is providing Alberta over 700 million for home care and 580 million for mental health care and supports. The condition with the funding, as always, is that the money be spent in these specified areas.
“We have agreed on these priority areas for investment and we are making new investments in these areas. In the bilateral agreements the provinces and territories have agreed to develop a plan has to how the money will be spent, ” Philpott told reporters.
“We are looking forward to discussions with the provinces and territories on what national standards Canadians can expect and how we can see how the money is spent and in fact that we track that these areas are better every year.”
Philpott has advocated for targeted money in home care and mental health in order to ensure the areas are treated as priorities.
At a meeting of health and finance ministers last December, provinces and territories rejected a federal offer of $11 billion over 10 years for home care and mental health, as well as $544 million over five years for prescription drug and innovation initiatives.
At that time, Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette threatened to walk away from the negotiating table if the federal government didn’t put up more money.
Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa accused the federal government of shutting down the December talks in favour of a unilateral approach.
The main point of contention was the Liberal government’s plan to limit annual health transfers to three per cent – half the six per cent increase set out in the last long-term agreement with the provinces.
Philpott insisted, however, that the federal government had put substantial offers on the table that she believed would change the face of health care in Canada.
Also Friday, Philpott announced Ottawa will provide the Alberta government with $6 million to help it respond to the opioid crisis.
“We agreed to provide them emergency resources to respond the opioid crisis. They are currently developing a plan to respond, said Philpott.
Philpott says Alberta, like B.C has been disproportionately affected by overdose death. B.C. is also getting emergency funding.
With files from Andy Blatchford in Ottawa and Allison Jones in Toronto