N.B. premier joins first ministers call for increase in federal health care funding

Click to play video: 'Blaine takes part in Council of the Federation meeting'
Blaine takes part in Council of the Federation meeting
WATCH: Premier Blaine Higgs took part in a virtual Council of the Federation press conference with provincial leaders across the country asking for an increase to federal health transfer payments to meet rising challenges in providing health care. – Mar 4, 2021

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs appeared beside several of his colleagues from across the country to call on Ottawa to increase transfers for health care in this year’s budget.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault hosted the virtual press conference of the Council of the Federation on Thursday, where seven premiers appeared to appeal for changes.

“Now is the time to act and increase the Canada Health Transfer. It’s essential to do so for those that need treatment across the country,” Legault said.

Higgs told reporters afterward that the increase is essential to maintaining adequate service levels in the province.

“Every province, every provincial and territory leader is saying, ‘We do not have a sustainable system and health-care system,'” Higgs said.

“We can put it off another five or 10 years and say, ‘I wish I would have done something.’ I think one of my colleagues made that comment, that five years from now we’ll wish we had done something today.”

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Legault said that 78 per cent of health-care spending in the country is shouldered by provinces and territories, and costs continue to rise by about five per cent annually. The federal government currently adjusts transfers at a rate of three per cent a year.

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The premiers are calling for an immediate increase to 35 per cent, from the 22 per cent that federal transfers currently cover.

Click to play video: 'Canadian premiers call on feds to increase contribution to Canada Health Transfer'
Canadian premiers call on feds to increase contribution to Canada Health Transfer

Higgs maintains that the province has little fiscal capacity to pay for rising health-care costs.

“The reality is in New Brunswick, where do you have the ability to have increased revenues? Through either economic activity, that is through private sector investment, or taxes,” he said.

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After a previous first ministers meeting, Higgs told reporters that the prime minister seemed receptive to the concerns of the provinces, but wouldn’t commit to the ask for an increase.

Higgs reiterated that the federal government has previously said increases will have to wait until after the pandemic subsides.

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