Prime ministers tell the federal government to start funding talks on ‘crumbled’ health care

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press

Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2022 12:00 pm EDT

Last updated Tuesday, Jul 12, 2022 2:18 pm EDT

The federal government must stop “arguing” with provinces and territories over health care and sit down with them to determine how to restore Canada’s “crumpled” system, British Columbia Premier John Horgan said Tuesday.

It’s been eight months since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to meet with prime ministers to address his request for long-term, stable health care funding, and that meeting is long overdue, Horgan said at a news conference earlier in the day. last day of the Congress. Federation Council of Prime Ministers meeting in Victoria.

“That’s why we’re reinforcing unanimity today in our desire for the federal government to call a meeting … We can sit down and solve these problems for Canadians, not for the provinces and the federal government, but for Canadians,” he said. Horgan. who chairs the council.

Earlier Tuesday, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the federal government has been working with the provinces and recognizes that health systems are in crisis.

“Many workers have left the profession (…) due to the physical and mental health cost that COVID-19 brought to them and their families,” he said in an interview.

“The provinces and territories rightfully feel that crisis because they are the most directly affected by the health care crisis that we are all seeing across the country.”

Duclos said he has been working steadily with his provincial and territorial counterparts as he transfers billions of dollars to shore up the system.

“We have moved forward together in terms of policy, but also in terms of financing,” he said, adding that Ottawa has already agreed to do more in the long term.

Duclos did not offer a timetable for those negotiations. Earlier, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the talks would take place when the pandemic is over.

Premiers have asked Ottawa to increase its share of health care funding to 35 percent from what they have said amounts to 22 percent.

Horgan also referred to Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc’s comments in an interview with the CBC earlier this week, when he said the federal government would not increase its funding for health care so that provinces can reduce their costs. own expenses.

BC’s premier said it is a “dodge” and a “diversionary device” for Ottawa to suggest its funding depends on what the provinces do with the money.

“Everything goes into a pot and everything goes out for the services that Canadians need. That is our jurisdiction, that is what we are required to do and that is what we happily do,” he said.

The BC government is responsible for every dollar it spends, he added.

LeBlanc also said the premiers’ claim that the federal government pays 22 per cent of Canada’s health care costs is “false” because it does not take into account tax points transferred from Ottawa to the provinces last year. .

Currently, federal contributions to provincial health systems grow in line with a three-year moving average of nominal gross domestic product.

Based on that formula, the payment of health transfers to the provinces increased by 4.8 percent in the most recent federal budget, which is equivalent to an additional $12 billion projected over the next five years compared to estimates. pre-pandemic.

Affordability challenges and economic recovery are among the other topics on the table during the Federation Council’s two-day summer meeting.

On Monday, Horgan said the prime ministers were sharing ideas to combat rising inflation and the cost of living, and hope to see federal support in that area as well.

While some of the causes are global, including the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the impacts are local and need sustained intervention, he said.

“These are seismic issues that are shaking the international economy and we are not immune to that. But collectively, working together to find best practices, what can we do in our respective jurisdictions, and most importantly, how can we collaborate with the federal government. to meet these challenges.

— With Laura Osman Archives in Ottawa

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 12, 2022.

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