Canadian $41 billion medicare deal reached

Sept. 16, 2004 at 12:36 PM

OTTAWA, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Canadian leaders reached agreement on a 10-year, $41 billion healthcare program after three days of negotiations, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., reported.

Prime Minister Paul Martin and the provincial premiers agreed to the deal in Ottawa, which saw significant compromise on both sides. The federal government is putting out significantly more money than it originally proposed, while the provinces backed down and accepted national standards for waiting times for medical procedures.

When the conference started, Martin was offering $12 billion over six years, while the provinces said $36 billion was needed. Martin then boosted his offer to $14.8 billion, while the premiers moved down to $20.8 billion.

Under the final deal, the federal government will ante up an additional $18 billion over six years, add $3.5 billion to provincial transfer payments over the next two years and spend $4.5 billion over six years to reduce waiting times.

"There was determination to secure a long-term deal that will stop the annual ritual of federal-provincial disputes and start the process of renewal," a beaming Martin said. The issue was one of his main campaign platforms in last spring's election campaign.

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