A Moncton newspaper has determined that the federal government has threatened fines against New Brunswick if the province continues its principled refusal to pay for abortions at Henry Morgentaler’s private abortuary in Fredericton.

Canadian Press reported on August 7 that Federal Health Minister Allan Rock had threatened to fine the province, a fact revealed after the Moncton Times and Transcript obtained documents under the Access to Information Act.

The paper found a memo prepared for Rock prior to a telephone conversation with N.B. Health and Wellness Minister Dennis Furlong which says, “Unless New Brunswick agrees to change its policy, the province is vulnerable to mandatory dollar-for-dollar penalties¼ and to discretionary penalties for a violation of the comprehensiveness and-or accessibility criteria.”

It advises Rock, “During your conversation with Minister Furlong, you should emphasize that Health Canada has a Canada Health Act concern with New Brunswick’s policy, that as federal minister you have a responsibility to ensure that provinces and territories comply with the requirements of the act, and that you would prefer to resolve this issue through negotiation rather than the application of penalties.”

The Jan. 8, 2001, memorandum was signed by Deputy Minister Ian Green. It has been reported that during their phone conversation, the health ministers agreed to a meeting between their respective governments to address New Brunswick’s refusal to include the Morgentaler abortuary under the province’s health insurance plan.

Earlier this year, the federal government began pressuring five provinces to fully fund abortion at private abortuaries.