Flaherty betrayed Ontario, broke promise on health transfers: health minister

TORONTO – The federal Conservatives have betrayed Canada’s most populous province by breaking their promise over health-care funding, Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews charged Tuesday.

The Harper Tories promised all provinces a six per cent increase in health transfers, but they’re only giving Ontario 3.4 per cent in 2014-15, she said.

That means Ontario is out $300 million, while Alberta is getting about $1 billion more — a 38 per cent increase, Matthews said.

“I think it’s outrageous,” she said during a visit to a Toronto eye surgery clinic.

“I think it’s bad policy. We count on that money. We had counted on that money to continue to improve access to care in this province.”

She said it’s a devastating blow to Ontario, which is grappling with rising health-care costs as its population ages.

The $300 million that Ottawa is shortchanging Ontario is more than the province’s increase in home care and other services for seniors this year, she said.

“It’s less money to reduce wait times, it’s less money to hire nurses, it’s less time to provide Ontario families and particularly Ontario seniors with the care that they need,” Matthew said.

The governing Liberals have made an effort to cut costs, but it appears the Harper Tories are balancing their budget on the backs of Ontario patients, she said.

Ontario, which is facing a nearly $12-billion deficit, is the only province that will see fewer federal dollars next year, with total transfer payments shrinking by $641 million to $19.1 billion.

A spokesman for Flaherty said Monday that the sums went down because Ontario’s economy did better.

The province allocates about $49 billion a year on health care, the highest area of spending in its $127.6-billion budget.

Matthews said costs have risen by six to seven per cent annually in recent years, but the government has managed to hold it at 2.1 per cent this year.