Feds, provinces reportedly close to health-care deal to expand funding

By Michael Ranger

More help could be on the way for provinces who have been struggling to deal with overcrowding in hospitals and long wait times.

Ottawa is apparently inching closer to making a deal with provincial governments for expanded funding to help deal with the ailing healthcare system.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos confirmed Friday there has been significant progress in the talks about a long-term health funding deal with the provinces.

“I’m personally very optimistic and I’m looking forward to significant and positive developments in the weeks ahead,” he says.

He says discussions continue collaboratively and the side have five shared priorities, including supporting health workers, reducing backlogs, and modernizing the system.

Government sources have told multiple media outlets the Trudeau government is now considering a hybrid solution that could involve more stable flow of ongoing funding through Canada Health Transfer payments. The deal would also include several bilateral agreements with provinces who are willing to expand funding for mental health and long-term care.

Provinces were initially hesitant to accept Ottawa’s demand that spending be targeted and tracked for achievable goals, but it appears there is now flexibility from some provincial leaders. Ontario, among other provinces, has previously accused the federal government of being unwilling to budge on a new deal.

As of now, the federal government covers 22 per cent of provincial and territorial healthcare costs. The premiers have said they would like to see that bumped up to 35 per cent, meaning a new deal could see ottawa transfer $70 billion over the next decade.


No timeline has been set for putting together any new deal and a first ministers meeting would need to be held before an agreement is finalized.

Federal sources tell the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail the sides could meet in the next couple of weeks, in the days following next week’s federal cabinet retreat.

The reports of a potential agreement comes as public and political pressures increase over the state of healthcare across the country. Provinces have been dealing with overflowing emergency rooms, a lack of beds in children’s hospitals, and significant staffing issues.

On Thursday, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh suggested his party’s ongoing deal with the Trudeau Liberals could hinge on Ottawa reaching a new health-care deal with the provinces.

The NDP signed a confidence-and-supply agreement with the Liberals last March, in which the NDP agreed to support the minority government in key votes until 2025.

In exchange, the Liberals would advance some shared priorities, including passing pharmacare legislation by the end of this year.

Premier Doug Ford announced on Thursday that his government will be introducing legislation next month that will allow health-care workers enlisted in other provinces and territories to immediately “start working and caring for people in Ontario.”

According to a Ministry of Health release, the province will also — on a short-term basis — allow health-care professionals, including nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, and others, to work outside of their regular responsibilities or settings, as long as they have the knowledge skill and judgement to do so.”

Ontario’s healthcare system has faced immense pressure with the emergence of COVID-19, followed by a surge of other seasonal viruses that hit children especially hard.

With files from CityNews reporters Cormac Mac Sweeney and Kevin Misener

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