Prime Ministers accept federal proposal for financing the health system

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson answers a question as Canada's Prime Ministers hold a health care news briefing in Ottawa on Tuesday, February 7, 2023.  (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - photo credit)

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson answers a question as Canada’s Prime Ministers hold a health care news briefing in Ottawa on Tuesday, February 7, 2023. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press – photo credit)

Canada’s prime ministers have accepted Ottawa’s proposal to inject billions of dollars into provincial health systems.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Canadian prime ministers last week to unveil a plan to send some $46.2 billion in new funds to provinces and territories over 10 years to help a faltering health care system support.

The prime ministers met on Monday to discuss the proposal. Ottawa will now hold bilateral meetings with individual provinces to finalize funding agreements.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson – the current chair of the Council of the Federation, the group representing the Premiers – told CBC News Network Power & Politics that the Prime Ministers were “united” in their decision to accept Ottawa’s proposal.

However, Stefanson warned that the cash injection is not a long-term solution.

“We’ve accepted that for now,” she told guest host David Cochrane. “But we recognize that this is not a long-term solution to the healthcare funding needed in our country.”

CLOCK | Premiers accept federal health proposal

Health Secretary Jean-Yves Duclos and Secretary of State for Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc welcomed the Prime Ministers’ decision.

‚ÄúCanadians have long been proud of our public and universal healthcare system. We have an opportunity to continue our collaboration and improve the experience of those working in it and those who care for them,” they said in a joint statement.

Ottawa’s proposal includes an increase in the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) and new money for four priority areas: family health services, health workers and residues, mental health and substance use, and a “modernized health care system.”

To access the expanded CHT, provinces must first commit to improving the way health data is “collected, shared, used, and reported to Canadians to encourage greater transparency of outcomes and to address emergencies in the community.” in the public health sphere,” the government told reporters in a background document provided.

Funding for the common priorities will also depend on provinces and territories developing “action plans” detailing how these funds will be spent and how progress will be measured.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Ottawa’s proposal calls for a five percent annual increase in CHT for the next five years. After that, the CHT escalator increases by three percent every year.

That falls far short of what the prime ministers had called for: a $28 billion annual increase in CHT.

During a press conference last week, Trudeau was asked several times if he would be willing to offer more money or if this proposal was his final offer.

“That’s the offer we put on the table,” he said. “These are the billions of dollars that are there for the provinces, and we look forward to working with them to bring not only that money, but those health care improvements to citizens across the country.”

CLOCK | NS Premier says it’s time to move forward with health financing deal

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said he didn’t think Ottawa would offer anything further and it was time to move forward with the agreement.

“We know the reality. The money that’s there is there, so there’s no point in dragging your feet. We’re only interested in moving forward,” Houston said in a separate interview Power & Politics.

Stefanson said she was concerned about the timeline, noting that there was no guarantee the funding would continue to flow after 10 years. Houston suggested tackling the time frame later.

“We don’t want to see that decline, and I’m sure the federal government doesn’t want to see that either,” Houston said. “When the time comes, we have to take care of it.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford suggested to his peers at Monday’s meeting that they ask Trudeau to extend those deals beyond the 10 years.

In a statement, his office said the recommendations would enable sustainable funding that is “data-driven based on performance.” Ford met with Duclos and LeBlanc last week, and the statement from his office on Monday said he was “confident” that Ottawa would accept his proposal.

Ottawa prepares for the spring budget

Ottawa intends to sign one-to-one agreements with each province and territory to tailor the agreement to their individual needs. Duclos and LeBlanc have already met with officials from the Ontario, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador governments to begin work on those agreements.

LeBlanc said they will be in British Columbia on Tuesday, followed by stops in the Territories and the Prairies before the end of the week.

The federal liberals want the main features of the agreements before the next budget, which is expected sometime in March or early April.


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