Finance ministers push Morneau for stabilization, health-care money

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OTTAWA — The country’s finance ministers are meeting in Ottawa today, with more federal help for resource-dependent provinces such as Alberta on the agenda.

All provinces say a federal program that cushions provincial budgets from sudden shocks needs to be more generous.

The fiscal-stabilization program is easier to change than the more complex equalization program, and amendments could be worth billions to provinces whose finances have been hit by low oil prices.

They want the program revised to eliminate a $60-per-person cap on payments and to allow retroactive payments that could be worth billions to Alberta in particular.

Unlike equalization payments, fiscal-stabilization money comes straight from federal revenues, which made it easy for provincial premiers to agree earlier this month that expanding the program is a top priority.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau will also face calls for more transfers of federal money for health care.