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A Conservative MP does not want the federal government to pick up the tab for Ontario's plan to cover sex-change surgery under the province's health insurance program.

Ottawa-area Tory MP Pierre Poilievre said Sunday he'll write to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty this week asking that federal health transfers to the province pay only for "vital" health-care treatments, and not sexual reassignment surgery.

Mr. Poilievre also said he'll ask the Finance Minister to withhold from federal transfer payments any money spent by the Ontario government on the sex-change program.

"I think if people want this medically unnecessary treatment, they have that right. But taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab for it," he said.

Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman was unavailable for comment yesterday.

But Ministry of Health spokeswoman Laurel Ostfield said some see sex-change as a necessary treatment for the limited number of people who qualify for the procedure.

"This sexual reassignment surgery is regarded amongst the mental health community as a necessary treatment for a very small number of individuals," she said.

"It is listed in other provinces, such as Alberta. So, if Mr. Poilievre wants to play politics with people's health, it's really rather unfortunate."

Mr. Smitherman said last week the province would soon provide coverage for sex-change surgery under its health insurance plan.

Ontario's previous Conservative government cancelled coverage of sexual reassignment surgery in 1998, leaving some people stranded midway through the process.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission ruled in 2006 that the province should pay the bill for three people whose sex-change procedures were interrupted by the cancellation. However, it did not force the province to reinstate coverage of the operations.

Those who opposed the 10-year prohibition of paying for sex-change operations said it wouldn't cost the province much to cover the procedures.

A small private hospital in Montreal, the Centre Métropolitain de Chirurgie Plastique, charges patients $17,000 for a sex-change operation

Mr. Smitherman estimated last week the government's decision would affect "between eight and 10 people in Ontario" who have undergone psychological evaluations by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.