January 8, 2017 12:14 pm

Health negotiations suggest Liberals ‘prefer concrete to people’: Quebec minister

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette joins Vassy Kapelos on federal provincial health negotiations saying the federal government made the wrong decisions by investing more money in concrete and infrastructure then on people and health care.

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Ottawa’s attempt to get the provinces to sign a health care deal with strings attached was belittling and patronizing, said Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette, suggesting the Liberals care more about infrastructure than citizens’ health.

“We didn’t leave money on the table, they left the table,” Barrette said in an interview on The West Block.

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“Actually, they’re patronizing provinces and territories, and I don’t think that’s the way to go in this federation.”

Late last month, provincial and territorial ministers took a hard pass on the Liberal government’s health-care funding deal, leaving billions of dollars on the table – but now, most of the provincial ministers want another shot at Ottawa.

READ MORE: Provinces unimpressed by Trudeau government over health care funding

The crux of last month’s offer was $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, on top of a 3.5 per cent annual increase in health transfers.

“It’s not for them to tell us exactly how to spend money,” Barrette said. “It is a constitutional responsibility that goes to the provinces and territories, not to the federal government.”

Since that deal died, three Atlantic Provinces have reached bilateral deals with Ottawa. The remaining 10 provinces and territories now are asking to meet face to face with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

READ MORE: Provinces push Justin Trudeau for face to face sitdown on health care

Those 10 provinces and territories are “still solidly together” in negotiations with the federal government, Barrette said.

Ottawa has told the provinces it is doing the best it can under the current fiscal situation, saying the funds it has offered is all there is.

“Deficits are the result of their decisions,” Barrette said. “Are they saying they politically preferred concrete over people? Because that’s the way it sounds.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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