After two days of meetings, and years of advocacy, the Canadian premiers have still not secured a meeting with the federal government on health care.
In the Council of Federation’s final press conference, chair and B.C. Premier John Horgan said the federal government is being “disingenuous” by not coming to the table.
“Everyone in this country understands we have been through an unprecedented time. In this time is when you see innovation. You don’t see that innovation by not engaging,” Horgan said.
Canada’s premiers were in Victoria B.C. for their first in-person meeting in over two years.
The focus of the meeting was to change the funding structure for health-care transfers.
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According to the provinces, the federal government currently covers 22 per cent of health-care funding. The premiers’ formal request asks Ottawa to increase the funding to 35 per cent.
In a statement, the federal Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos’ officer said the government has invested $72 billion in the health of Canadians since the start of the pandemic.
The federal government also announced a two billion dollar investment in March to support provincial and territorial partners in their effort to address surgical backlogs, a significant first step on the road to addressing the major challenges our health care system is facing.
“We have clearly demonstrated that we are willing to do our part in ensuring the sustainability and accessibility of the universal publicly funded healthcare system that we all cherish as Canadians,” the statement reads.
“Over the course of the last two years, the pandemic has also shown what we can achieve when all levels of governments work together and focus on delivering results for our fellow citizens.”
The premiers have told Ottawa they would be willing to go anywhere, at any time, to meet face to face on the issue. The federal government in response has asked the health ministers across the country to outline specific health measures needing funding and how much money is needed to fund those measures.
Horgan expressed frustration over the fact Ottawa continues to stay away from a formal meeting.
“I think it is a diversion from the federal government to say we don’t want to continue to spend money on health care because you may spend it on something else,” Horgan said.
“We want to get down with it and sit down with the federal government. That is the message to Ottawa. What we are talking about now is not asking the federal government to monitor our budgeting processes. We are not saying we do not want to be accountable. We are saying to Ottawa the system isn’t working.”
The Canadian Medical Association is appreciative of the premiers for pushing for more health care funding but says the fixes needed in the system do not all need money. CMA President Dr. Katharine Smart told Global News the provinces should focus on health-care system workforce plans and looking at payment models.
“We have been sounding the alarm bell for a long time. But we are now at the point where the system is at crisis point where people are not getting the care they need,” Smart said.
Beyond health care, the premiers focused their discussion on affordability issues and on fostering a strong post-pandemic economic recovery.
This includes strengthening supply chains, bolstering labour supply, addressing climate change and enhancing energy security.
Premiers are calling on the federal government for enhanced infrastructure funding, streamlined and timely approval processes and flexibility for provinces and territories to prioritize critical transportation infrastructure investment.
The provinces are also calling on the federal government to work with provinces and territories to expand port capacity and streamline port renewal projects.
“These are challenging times for Canadians, marked by critical environmental, economic and security concerns,” the statement from the Council of the Federation reads.
“All of this affects the cost of living. Canadians expect their governments to take constructive steps to improve affordability and position Canada for economic renewal and prosperity regardless of challenges.”