Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is making a public plea to the provinces to take Ottawa up on its offer to spend more on mental health — even as federal officials were burning up the phone lines behind the scenes to negotiate funding deals with individual provinces.
In Calgary to talk to business people, Trudeau urged mental health advocates to pressure their provincial governments to work with Ottawa on mental health.
He says the money is desperately needed, and workforces would see a boost in employee productivity as a result of fresh spending.
"This is something that we are very, very serious about moving forward on. We've put historic amounts of money on the table. And we certainly hope that the provinces are going to realize that it's time to invest," Trudeau said.
On Monday, provinces and territories rejected a federal offer that would have poured an additional $25 billion over the next five years into health care.
A chunk of that was tagged specifically for mental health and home care.
While that offer is now off the table and the federal government has given up hope of striking a national deal on health funding, it is continuing to negotiate with individual provinces and territories — as many as five or six of which appear to be having second thoughts about walking away Monday from the federal offer.
Federal officials say the phone lines have been burning up since Monday as the reality sinks in that Finance Minister Bill Morneau wasn't bluffing when he made the offer and advised provincial and territorial health and finance ministers that was as good as it was going to get.
The offer included boosting health transfer payments to provinces by 3.5 per cent a year, plus another $11.5 billion over 10 years for home care, mental health services and innovation.
Almost immediately after that offer was supposedly unanimously rejected, New Brunswick signalled that it was offside and would try to negotiate a bilateral deal with the federal government.
And now federal officials confirm as many as six provincial and territorial governments are contemplating doing the same.
While a national deal would have been the most straightforward way to ensure additional health funding would be included in Morneau's second budget early in the new year, officials say there's still potential for that to happen, there's no path forward at the moment.
The country's leading mental health advocates say only seven per cent of the country's health dollars go towards mental health.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada says the lack of attention to mental health issues costs the country about $50-billion a year in lost productivity.