The health care funding deal made between the Nova Scotia government and Ottawa is getting mixed reactions from politicians and advocacy groups.
“Stephen McNeil made a lousy deal. He signed away a lot of hope when he made his side deal yesterday,” said Jamie Baillie, leader of the provincial Progressive Conservatives, Saturday.
On Monday, Ottawa and the provinces announced they failed to make a deal on healthcare funding.
The provinces had asked for increases in health funding of 5.2 per cent a year. Ottawa was offering an increase of 3.5 per cent each year over the next five years, which would total roughly $ 20 billion.
Three provinces reach deal
New Brunswick was the first province to reach a bilateral deal with Ottawa on Thursday, which covers the next 10 years. Late Friday afternoon, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador announced they had reached similar deals.
Nova Scotia will receive an estimated average annual increase of 3.9 per cent over the life of the agreement. That number includes $ 157 million for home care and $ 130.8 million for mental health.
Baillie said he thought the McNeil government had missed an opportunity to tie healthcare funding more closely to demographics in a national health accord.
“We will do our job as the opposition to ensure that that money that’s earmarked for mental health does get to mental health. I am just very disappointed that’s coming at the expense of fair funding of our general healthcare system,” Baillie said.
“What was a bad deal last week they cannot sell to us as a good side deal this week. We are not going to get fair healthcare funding from Ottawa for ten years.”
Baillie was also critical of New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador for signing their own deals.
“For me to watch our sister Atlantic provinces, including Nova Scotia, be the first to buckle under when the pressure got going in Ottawa over healthcare funding is embarrassing. It shows we have no clout on the national stage.”
‘Half a loaf is better than none’
The seniors advocacy group CARP also says it wants to see a national healthcare program, but Nova Scotia chairperson Bill VanGorder said he’s pleased that some of the Atlantic provinces have accepted the deal.
“Half a loaf is better than none,” he said. “We need the money now. There’s urgencies right now. Yes, we should have sustained national funding, it shouldn’t matter what your postal code is as to the level of care that you get.”
“But the fact is, getting that money now is much better than having the levels of government argue over it for years to come, and have no money to spend on seniors in our province.”
VanGorder said in surveys of CARP members, home care and mental health services are top concerns for people who respond.
He said he wants to see the home care money go into programs that would give respite to caregivers who are taking care of family members. He also said mental health supports for seniors who are lonely and living alone are a priority for his organization.