Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s premiers have agreed to meet next month to address requests to increase long-term funding for provincial health care systems, sources tell Global News.
News of the meeting comes amid a call between the First Ministers Thursday evening, in which the prime minister also told premiers that the federal government was ready to assist provinces now dealing with new lockdown measures amid a record-breaking second wave of the novel coronavirus.
Several provinces — such as Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec — have either implemented new restrictions in several areas or have locked down the entire province as COVID-19 cases continue in an upward trend.
In a tweet Thursday evening, Trudeau said that both he and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc spoke with the premiers and asked what support they needed to protect people in each province and territory.
The sources said that though the prime minister agreed to assist provinces with their pandemic measures, he reminded premiers that federal resources were not unlimited.
News of the call between the First Ministers comes almost two weeks after premiers called on Trudeau to set a meeting among them to address previous demands for at least $28 billion more each year for health care funding.
Trudeau had initially agreed in September to hold a virtual meeting between him and the premiers the subject, with LeBlanc later telling Global News that the federal government was prepared to discuss additional health care funding for provinces which saw those same systems hit hard by the spread of the pandemic.
The federal government has already allocated an extra $19 billion to provinces, which includes $10 billion earmarked specifically for pandemic-related health care costs.
Another $42 billion was also allocated for provinces to use on health care this year, which includes an arrangement to see the annual transfer increase by at least three per cent every year.
Premiers have since said that the transfer only amounts to 22 per cent of the cost of delivering health care, and doesn’t keep up with a yearly cost increase of around six per cent.
Premiers Doug Ford, Francois Legault, Jason Kenney and Brian Pallister initially made the demands on behalf of all premiers during a press conference in Ottawa ahead of the government’s throne speech in September, with the provincial leaders calling for another $10 billion for infrastructure on top of the $28 billion for health care.
— With file from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun and The Canadian Press