Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday December 13, 2022
Premiers demand meeting with Justin Trudeau over health-care funding
Canada’s premiers are demanding more federal money from Ottawa for health care and they want a face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make their case.
The provincial and territorial leaders appealed to Trudeau on Friday for a first ministers’ meeting early in the new year to tackle the funding crisis in a pandemic-battered system.
While the federal government is willing to increase the Canada Health Transfer — the money Ottawa sends to the provinces on a per-capita basis for health care — it has repeatedly stated any commitment would come with strings attached to ensure the additional dollars go toward measurable, improved health outcomes for Canadians instead of flowing into provinces’ general revenues.
Responding to the premiers, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos declined to say whether Trudeau would agree to convening the meeting.
“The prime minister will obviously do what he wants to do. What he has asked me to do is to work with my colleagues — health ministers — to agree on the results and (put) therefore the ends before the means,” Duclos told reporters in Ottawa.
But he said there are conditions that must be met to achieve that goal, such as supporting health-care workers and patients; investing in home care, mental health care and long-term care; and implementing a modern health data collection system.
Duclos said his provincial and territorial counterparts have agreed to those conditions “in private,” and that it is now up to “premiers to let us do our job and express publicly the type of outcomes and results that we need to achieve together.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford insisted provinces want the “flexibility to be able to move those funds around where they’re needed” since they deliver the front-line health services.
“We have no problem with accountability, transparency,” Ford said at the virtual meeting chaired by Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson.
“Well, we need a funding partner. We need that funding for long-term care, we need it for home care, we need it for mental health and addiction, we need it for HHR, health human resources, infrastructure,” he said.
Discussions on boosting health-care funding fell apart when Ottawa said it was open to the increase if provinces and territories promised to build a national data collection system and expand the use of common health indicators — measures that show how well a health-care system is performing.
The provinces said they didn’t expect those conditions to be tied to a funding boost, and never saw concrete details on what such an increase would look like.
Stefanson said Friday that Ottawa has yet to present a proposal since that meeting.
Duclos, meanwhile, continued to insist that specific outcomes from the additional money must be clearly determined before any dollar figures are discussed.
“The premiers refuse to speak about those results. Everyone else wants to, but not the premiers,” he said.
Beyond Ottawa’s insistence on tying additional money to improvements in the system, the federal-provincial impasse also hinges upon differing views on current funding.
The premiers say their jurisdictions pay 78 per cent of health-care costs, with the federal government ponying up the remaining 22 per cent. They want Ottawa’s cash contribution to jump to 35 per cent. (The Toronto Star)