Canada’s premiers push for more federal health funding

By Astrid Agbayani and Cormac Mac Sweeney

Canada’s premiers want a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to tackle healthcare funding.

At a virtual news conference Friday, the provinces’ leaders urged the prime minister to make time in weeks ahead. According to the premiers, it’s been two years since they’ve given a proposal for renewed healthcare funding that could improve the system across the country.

Manitoba premier Heather Stefanson says it’s time the federal government increase its share in funding the healthcare system through the Canada Health Care Transfer.

“The federal share of health care expenses is now down to just 22 per cent. We need to address the declining federal share to restore and maintain it at 35 per cent of the ever rising costs,” Stefanson said.

An increase from 22 per cent to 35 per cent means about an additional $28 billion of annual funding from the federal government.

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Ontario’s Doug Ford says it’s about long term stability.

“How can we plan for proper health care for our backlog surgeries for the next 10-15 years,” Ford said.

An obstacle to the negotiations seems to be the Trudeau government’s demand that new funding should be tied to specific targeted goals. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the federal government is committed to improving the system.

“Yes, that does mean some more investment, but it also means a focus on being sure we get the results that Canadians quite rightly expect of us,” Freeland said.

But premiers like Ford are rejecting the idea of tying the money to any specific goals.

“We need the flexibility to transfer from maybe one area to the other. All provinces aren’t equal when it comes to what they need in their health care,” Ford said.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc says there has been more progress in the discussions despite public perception.

“Very encouraging discussions. We have made clear and the prime minister has made clear, and the finance minister, that we’re prepared to increase federal support for public health care,” LeBlanc said.

“So I think we’re in a place where we can continue to do the important work Canadians expect of us. And I’m not pessimistic at all about the results of our collective efforts.”

The renewed call for increased funding comes as children’s hospitals across the country reach breaking points, with spiking demand delaying and cancelling surgeries and appointments, as well as leading to a staffing crisis.

Hospitals have faced increase pressure amid a wave of young patients with COVID-19, the flu, and RSV.

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