The Manitoba government is considering introducing a health-care tax that residents would have to pay based on income.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister made the announcement at a press conference Wednesday morning.
The government said health-care premiums could help Manitoba maintain its level of care in the wake of changes to the rate at which federal health transfers will go up over the next several years.
Last year, Ottawa announced the Canada Health Transfer would increase by three per cent, down from the six per cent increases the provinces had been receiving.
While initially unhappy with the change, each province eventually signed on to a federal health-care deal. Last month, Manitoba became the final province to sign on, ending a standoff with the feds over health-care funding.
The deal will see Manitoba get three per cent annual increases to the Canada Health Transfer and $399.6 million over 10 years for mental-health and home-care services.
Pallister says compared to the old model, the cash Ottawa is offering leaves Manitoba short $2 billion over 10 years, and asking Manitobans to pay premiums on health care could make up for that shortfall.
“It’s most certainly a tax increase, there’s no doubt of that, and I don’t think we should couch it in any way different from that,” Pallister said.
‘Absolutely terrible situation’: NDP
The province is asking Manitobans to weigh in on the plan for premiums through a new online survey. Also in the survey are questions about the upcoming legalization of pot.
NDP health critic Matt Wiebe called the choice the government is giving Manitobans “an absolutely terrible situation.”
He said the government’s proposal “is essentially holding a gun to the heads of Manitobans and telling them to choose which they want.”