08/21/2017 12:14 EDT | Updated 08/21/2017 15:44 EDT

Manitoba Signs Health-Care Funding Deal With Federal Government

The province was the lone holdout.

The Canadian Press
Minister of Health Jane Philpott stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 13, 2017.

WINNIPEG — Manitoba's Progressive Conservative government ended its status as the lone holdout among the provinces when it signed a health-care funding agreement with Ottawa on Monday.

The governments signed a deal in which the province will receive an extra $400 million over the next 10 years for specific areas such as home care, mental-health services and addictions treatment.

The money is the province's share of an $11-billion, 10-year proposal developed by the federal government last fall.

Other provinces signed on in the ensuing months, but Manitoba balked and said overall federal health funding was not keeping up with demand.

"This is a great day for Canadians ... we now have a pan-Canadian agreement," federal Health Minister Jane Philpott told reporters Monday in Quebec City.

Deal will cost Manitoba $2.25 billion: Goertzen

Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the new money for specific programs is welcome, but the province will continue to fight for higher overall federal transfer payments for health care.

"Because if we don't, we are going to get to the point in this country — at some point — where the provinces are paying almost the entire cost of health care. And that will lead to a system that looks radically different from the health care system we have today, and not necessarily better."

When asked whether that might include privatized services such as MRIs, Goertzen said all provinces will have to look at "different alternatives" unless federal transfer payments keep up with rising health costs.

Under a previous 13-year arrangement that expired last year, the provinces saw health transfers grow by six per cent annually.

The increase will now be closer to three per cent. Goertzen said the difference will cost Manitoba $2.25 billion over 10 years. In June, Premier Brian Pallister called the federal offer "dangerous, reckless and risky."

This is a great day for Canadians ... we now have a pan-Canadian agreement.Health Minister Jane Philpott

Manitoba's decision to hold out appears to have won the province a bonus — a one-time, $5-million federal payment this fiscal year to fight kidney disease and address the growing use of opioids.

Now that all 10 provinces and three territories have signed on to the health-funding agreement, Philpott said the federal government will try to assess the effectiveness of how the mental-health and home-care money is spent.

"The other thing that we're going to do ... is to decide on a specific set of pan-Canadian metrics that will be meaningful and important to Canadians — that they will know that in fact things are getting better in the area of both mental health and home care," she said.

With files from Patrice Bergeron in Quebec City

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