Higgs says yes to Ottawa’s health funding and says it’s time to move on.
Premier Blaine Higgs says there is no longer any point in fighting the federal government over health care funding and has agreed to accept what Ottawa wants to send to New Brunswick.
That means the province will receive about $1.2 billion a year over the next decade instead of $1 billion — an increase of $200 million, Higgs told reporters.
That increase falls short of what Higgs and other prime ministers had hoped, but provinces have little leverage over turning down the offer.
The prime ministers “will accept that we have something here that is way below what we asked for, but we have to move forward,” he said.
“It is necessary to continue with this because we have been doing this for two and a half years.”
New Brunswick spends approximately $3.6 billion on health care each year. The increase in Canada’s health transfers will fund about two additional weeks of health care per year, Higgs said.
“This does not even begin to reflect the needs of the healthcare system.”
However, the limited sum also reflects that money alone does not solve problems in the system, such as a lack of staff. He said major changes were also needed.
The provinces will now seek bilateral one-to-one agreements with Ottawa, which the Trudeau government has proposed, which would include additional funding in specific areas.
Those bilateral deals would earmark money for areas each province deems a priority — but the federal government says these must include family health services, health workers and residues, mental health and drug use, and system modernization.
“I think there’s going to be a pretty easy consensus on what kind of priorities to have,” Higgs said.
“The list that was provided would certainly be one that we would all agree with, so I don’t think that’s going to be difficult at all.”
Provinces must also agree to track progress in the use of the money and the results achieved, a commitment Higgs has always been willing to make.
He expects his administration to meet with Secretary of State for Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc next week to work on those deals.
“It’s going to be very clear on what we’re landing on, how much is going where, and how we’re measuring what’s being accomplished by that, and are we getting better?” Higgs said.