What Jim Flaherty said

After the Liberals and Conservatives exchanged campaign promises in April, Jim Flaherty was interviewed by Kathleen Petty on CBC radio’s The House. Here is my transcript of the portion of that conversation that dealt with health care transfers and the six percent increase.

Petty. Now let’s talk about health care because Stephen Harper, this week, along with the Liberals and we know the NDP as well, have all agreed to maintain health care transfers to the provinces to six percent as the escalator year-over-year after 2014, which is when the accord expires. But it’s not found in the platform, it’s not found in the budget, except as an assumption in 2015-16 that says that it’s subject to discussion or review, so I’m not quite sure how this is all being costed out.

Flaherty. Well, it is, I can assure you that the six percent increase is built into the fiscal track. That is, we go forward when we budget and make certain assumptions. We have assumed six percent on an ongoing basis for the Canada Health Transfer and we’re committed to that.

Petty. For how many years?

Flaherty. Well, until 2014 and then thereafter. Now, we have to negotiate…

Petty. But what’s thereafter? That’s the part I’m asking.

Flaherty. Thereafter’s at least two years…

Pause. So there’s the caveat to the six percent promise, right? Well, there might’ve been the caveat, except for the fact that the interview wasn’t over and Mr. Flaherty wasn’t done explaining himself.

… Now, but we will move out—we do five years at a time in the fiscal track, so in the next budget we’ll be out another year. We need to negotiate with the provinces to say how long an agreement do you want? A five-year agreement? A ten-year agreement? A two-year agreement? There will be different views, I expect, among the provinces. But our assumption is six percent.

Petty. So that is to say that really all that the Conservative party is committing to is to extend that six percent escalator into 15-16, but there’s no commitment to do it beyond that.

Flaherty. Well, we’ll see how long the agreement would be. We will keep it at six percent for whatever the duration of the agreement is. What you asked me was how long would the agreement be. Well, I don’t know, we’ll have to talk to all the provinces about that. It could be two years, five years, whatever. Whatever it is, six percent.

Petty. For however many years it ends up being?

Flaherty. Yes, that’s right, Kathleen.