Jane Philpott, Canada's new health minister, says she intends to reach out to the provinces and territories as early as this week to begin the lengthy process of establishing a new federal-provincial health accord.
Here are five things to know about the agreement:
1. What is a health accord?
The accord is an arrangement between the federal government and the provinces and territories. It is an action plan backed by billions of federal dollars designed to establish shared goals. Canada currently lacks a health accord.
2. What happened to the last health accord?
The former Conservative government allowed a 10-year, $41-billion health accord established in 2004 under former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin to expire. The lack of an agreement has left the provinces to carve out their own plans.
3. Why do the Liberals want to establish a new health accord?
In a recent interview with The Canadian Press, Philpott said the Liberal government views the accord as a high priority because other aspects of her party's platform will depend on developing a strong relationship with the provinces and territories. The Grits have vowed to launch a new era of federal-provincial relations, especially on the health front.
4. What is the first step in reaching a new agreement?
The Liberals have promised to start by negotiating a new health accord and a long-term agreement on funding. Philpott says she will be starting this dialogue as soon as this week ahead of a health ministers meeting in January, which she plans to attend.
5. What challenges are ahead?
Provinces and territories will be keen to see the federal government restore the escalator — a six-per-cent annual increase in health care transfers to the provinces — to previous increases, which promises to pose a huge budgetary conundrum for the federal government. As the Liberals work to get the provinces and territories on side with the accord, the government will also have to address the escalator issue.