WINNIPEG – Tensions between the Manitoba government and Ottawa appear to be nearing a boiling point over Premier Brian Pallister’s refusal to sign a deal on health care funding.
Global News has obtained a letter that suggests the federal government is prepared to pull funding for a $60 million National Research Council facility to be built in Winnipeg.
The letter, written by a senior civil servant in Intergovernmental Affairs for the Pallister government, is addressed to the office of federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
It suggests the federal government is trying linking the negotiations over a health care deal with “security Canada’s unrelated prior funding committment of $60 million to the National Research Council Factory of the Future.”
The civil servant also alleges Ottawa is insisting Manitoba agree to sign a national climate change agreement before any health care deal is finalized. Pallister walked away from the table on that deal back in December.
The letter calls the federal government’s stance as “unacceptable” and “more than unfortunate.”
The National Research Council project was announced two years ago and would support the tech and aerospace industries in Manitoba.
The letter, addressed formally to Morneau’s Chief of Staff, suggests the two sides resume negotiations on the health deal alone “without delay”. It suggests they were nearing completion but indicates Manitoba is also looking for $5 million in urgent support to combat an opiod drug crisis. Premier Pallister had previously requested millions of new dollars to fight kidney disease.
The letter also asks for the feds to confirm it will honour its funding committment. Funding for the NRC facility could expire within weeks if the federal government does not agree to extend its committment into the next fiscal year.
Manitoba is the last province without a formal deal on health care transfer funding.