Premiers meet in Victoria to present united demand for more money for health care

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Canada’s prime ministers are in Victoria, British Columbia today for two days of meetings where they are pushing their demand for increased funding for health care from the federal government.

“It’s not something we take for granted, it’s not something we see as a temporary measure. We need to rethink public health care in Canada,” said the premier of Colombia. Briton, John Horgan, president this year of the Council of the Federation. , Victoria told Monday.

Horgan said provincial governments don’t have enough money to hire enough workers to ensure their health systems will continue to function well into the future.

The prime minister said provinces must ensure they have the funding to train “the next generation of health care workers to ease the burden of those we have celebrated during the pandemic…”

“It’s just not good enough to show our gratitude,” he added. “We now have to show that we are committed to these workers, we are committed to these patients and that is what these discussions are about this afternoon and tomorrow.”

The Council of the Federation, the association of Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial premiers, wants the federal government to increase its share of health care funding from the current level of 22% to 35% and maintain funding at this new level . in the future.

Horgan said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised premiers that once the pandemic public health emergency is over, the two sides would meet to determine the future of health care funding in Canada. No such meeting has been scheduled, he added.

“We are now eight months into the turning point, in my view, of the pandemic, although we still have challenges ahead,” he said. “But we should definitely be able to sit down and find a way forward with public health care.”

argue about money

The office of federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said it has invested more than $72 billion in health care since the start of the pandemic, including $2 billion to help provinces address surgical backlogs. .

Horgan said while the money was welcome, it was a one-time disbursement and did not allow provincial governments to make long-term staffing plans.

His office also said it was committed to bilateral agreements with the provinces that would mean $3 billion for long-term care, $3 billion for mental health services and $3 billion for Home Care.

“We have clearly demonstrated that we are ready to do our part to ensure the sustainability and accessibility of the publicly funded universal health care system that we all cherish as Canadians,” Duclos’ office said in a statement. Press.

“Canadians are not interested in a sterile budget debate. Canadians are interested in results: they want care and that is what we want to focus on.”

Horgan said while federal and provincial governments may continue to bicker over money, Canadians simply want a public health care system that works.

“What Canadians want us to do is sit down like adults and figure out how we will resurrect publicly funded health care,” Horgan said.

Plan for the long term

In 1977, the way the federal government funds health care was changed. Direct federal funding for some health services was reduced, and provinces were allowed to levy more income and corporate taxes to fund health services directly.

The federal government says that when these tax points are taken into account, the federal government actually covered 27.9% of health care costs in Canada in 2021-22.

When the money Ottawa spends on bilateral agreements for long-term care, home care, mental health, and some other services is integrated, the share of health spending covered by the federal government in 2021-22 s is closer to 38.5%, a federal official said.

A federal government official speaking on the background told CBC News that the premiers’ demand for a $28 billion annual increase to the Canada Health Transfer – with no discussion of where the money will be used – will not fly with Ottawa.

Horgan said the premiers have submitted specific requests to the federal government outlining the issues. He said they cannot take steps to improve health services until they have an idea of ​​how they will be funded in the long term.

“We can’t figure out what we’re going to do with the money we don’t have,” Horgan said. “We’re working to build our budgets across the country to meet patient expectations, to meet our citizens’ expectations, and we can go much further if we had a partner who shouldered half the load.”

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the provinces are looking for an “equitable funding partner within the federal government”. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

Canada’s nursing leaders say they told first ministers that patients and nurses are suffering from a “serious staffing crisis” that threatens the sustainability of public health care.

In a statement to the media, Canadian Nurses Federation president Linda Silas said the system was “on the brink of disaster.”

Silas said nurses are “struggling with extreme staffing shortages, forced overtime and canceled vacations, with no end in sight.”

Silas said that while provincial commitments to strengthen health care are welcome, “no province or territory can solve this problem alone” and federal funding will be essential.

Essential long-term funding: Horgan

The federal government’s decision to fund specific health programs, such as long-term care and home care, has upset some provinces. They say the federal government should just give the money to the provinces and let them decide where it should be spent, rather than earmarking the funding for specific programs.

“We are asking for provincial autonomy within the limits of what the Constitution provides,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said last week.

Horgan said targeted funding for specific initiatives does not help provinces plan for the long term or deliver health care services in the short term.

CBC News: The House11:49Premiers meet for review of Canada’s health care system

British Columbia Premier John Horgan, chair of next week’s First Ministers’ Meeting, speaks with guest host Tom Parry to discuss the push for increased federal funding for health care and his own decision to leave politics.

“One-time funding doesn’t help us build the system. It doesn’t help us put a human resources strategy in place,” Horgan told CBC Radio. The House in an interview aired on Saturday.

“Instead, we find ourselves, in certain circumstances, poaching each other. The highest bidder gets the most nurses. This is not how Canada should operate. This is now how we want it to work.”

Horgan said Monday that if the federal government increased its share of health care funding, it would allow provincial governments to bolster staffing and make poaching staff from other jurisdictions a thing of the past.

Economic growth and energy security

Horgan said the premiers will also discuss the economic recovery and the cost of living crisis. Last week, Moe suggested the conversation would focus on the rising cost of energy and how western provinces can, with the help of the federal government, begin to address this problem.

Moe said he would ask the federal government to take a “very serious look at policy developments” that he says impede energy production. He said Ottawa had not done enough to engage with the United States to resolve issues such as the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline was supposed to deliver Canadian oil to U.S. refineries, but was canceled last year by President Joe Biden, who made stopping the project a key campaign promise.

Moe said his plan for Canada’s and North America’s energy security “includes an east-west corridor” for energy. Quebec Premier Francois Legault has previously said his government would not tolerate a pipeline crossing his province.

Legault has said in the past that his government would tolerate a gas pipeline running through the province – but his government last year canceled a liquefied natural gas project and the pipeline that would have powered it due to environmental concerns.

Horgan said while energy is an important topic, so is the wave of labor shortages affecting businesses across the country.

“Employers don’t find people,” he said. “They can’t find baristas, they can’t find welders, they can’t find nurse practitioners. Wherever you look at the economy, we’re understaffed.

“That means we have to focus on how we are going to develop the national economy province by province… and that is of course what we will be discussing over the next few days.”

Following the July 11-12 First Ministers’ Meetings – which are being held in person for the first time since 2019 – the First Ministers will speak to the media and answer questions at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria.

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