‘We need a couple days to digest’: Moe cautious in reaction to federal health-care proposals

All 13 of Canada's premiers were in Ottawa on Tuesday to discuss more funding for health care with the Prime Minister. Global National

All 13 of Canada’s premiers were in Ottawa on Tuesday to discuss more funding for health care with the Prime Minister.

The talks focused on Canada’s ailing health-care system, which is currently plagued with a number of systemic problems stemming largely from a nationwide shortage of health workers, a troubling reality that has left millions of Canadians without timely access to life-saving health services.

The federal government is offering the provinces and territories a health funding deal worth $196.1 billion over 10 years, including $46.2 billion in new money.

But the premiers say the plan appears to offer less money than they were looking for, especially in the first year of the proposed deal.

“I think we need a couple days to digest what was presented here today and what impact it would have to our provincially respective health-care systems,” said Sask. Premier Scott Moe.

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The first measure is an immediate, unconditional $2 billion top-up to the annual Canada Health Transfer (CHT) to the provinces to address immediate pressures in the health-care system. This money is meant to relieve significant strains being experienced in pediatric hospitals and emergency rooms, and long wait times for surgeries.

In addition to these funding pledges, Ottawa says it will also invest $2.5 billion over 10 years to support Indigenous health priorities to enhance culturally safe and equal health services.

“My initial understanding of that particular fund was that would be federally delivered and so it wouldn’t have really much of an impact on any of the provincially delivered health-care systems that we operate here,” said Moe.

Click to play video: 'Provincial premiers, including Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, meet with Trudeau to address Canada’s health-care system'
Provincial premiers, including Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, meet with Trudeau to address Canada’s health-care system

The federal government is also proposing a change to the CHT formula, which currently has health funding to the provinces increasing to match the rate of GDP growth or three per cent every year, whichever is greater.

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The Liberals are offering to increase that three-per-cent escalator to five per cent for the next five years, which will be provided through annual top-up payments.

The last top-up payment would then be rolled into the base amount of the annual CHT at the end of the five years to ensure a permanent funding increase.

The federal government estimates this measure would provide an additional $17.3 billion over 10 years in new support.

Prior to the meeting, Moe said this investment would ensure the stability of programs in the province, noting that all provinces have increased their investments in mental health and addiction treatment beds.

In addition, Ottawa is proposing to spend another $1.7 billion over five years to support hourly wage increases for personal support workers and related professions while different levels of governments work on recruitment and retention of health workers.

They will also spend $150 million over five years for the Territorial Health Investment Fund in recognition of medical travel and the cost of delivering health care in the territories.

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As part of these agreements, provincial and territorial governments will be asked to develop action plans that will describe how funds will be spent, including how this compares to existing spending. They will have to detail how progress will be measured.

“We should come back with responses to where we are going with this funding and what ultimately we could utilize it for and what type of a difference it may or may not make,” Moe said.

The premiers say they plan to reconvene in a few days before they gather together for a meeting of the Council of the Federation to decide how to respond to the deal.

— With files from Global News’ Brody Langager and Teresa Wright

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