Northern premiers sign federal health deal offering half of what they wanted

Territorial premiers have officially given their blessing for a federal health-care plan that will see a small boost to health funding for the North, but which falls short of what premiers had been asking for.

Northern premiers accept proposal, but write to Trudeau calling for feds to reconsider their ask

Men in suits at a table, Nunavut flag.
Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok and Minister Lorne Kusugak, in foreground, meet with Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc and federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos in Iqaluit Wednesday evening. (P.J. Akeeagok/Twitter)

Territorial premiers have officially given their blessing for a federal health-care plan that will see a small boost to health funding for the North, but which falls short of what premiers had been asking for.

The plan in question, announced last week, is supposed to inject billions into provincial health-care systems. The amount coming North, however, is far less than what Northern premiers wanted to see, according to Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok; and a disappointment, according to N.W.T. Health Minister Julie Green.

Territorial Health Investment Fund

  • $10 million per year for N.W.T. (a $2.9-million increase)
  • $10 million per year for the Yukon (a $3.6-million increase)
  • $15 million per year for Nunavut (a $1.5-million increase)

In a statement Thursday, Akeeagok called for a bigger federal investment in the Territorial Health Investment Fund, which helps pay for medical travel and also gives territories a bit of money to try out new health care initiatives.

He said the federal government's renewal of that fund, which puts aside $175 million for all three territories over five years (at $35 million a year), comes in at less than half of what premiers had requested.

"Together with the Northwest Territories and Yukon, our government has written to Prime Minister Trudeau, calling on the federal government to reconsider a proposal the territories presented in November," Akeeagok wrote.

That proposal would have set the fund at $75 million a year. Half that money would go to Nunavut, because of the unique challenges it faces with health care.

What the deal means

The numbers are still emerging on how much the deal will put in each territory's pockets, but Green said roughly $12 million in new funding should be coming to the N.W.T.

"We expressed our disappointment ... [It] doesn't represent a very significant portion of our budget," said Green, whose department is worth about $600 million in the territorial budget currently before the Legislative Assembly.

"But we, as a territory, have decided to stay on board … and accept this deal."

Julie Green, the N.W.T. health minister, in a file photo. (Emma Grunwald/ CBC)

Aside from the Territorial Health Investment Fund, the deal puts more money into the Canada Health Transfer for emergency services. Green said the N.W.T. would be getting an immediate $2-million top-up to that fund, though it isn't clear yet what the other territories will get.

That health transfer, which the N.W.T. got about $53 million from in 2022-23, will also increase by 10 per cent this year, and will keep increasing in the coming years.

Territories will also get money through so-called tailored bilateral agreements, which cover four priorities: family health services, health workers and backlogs, mental health and substance abuse, and modernizing health care systems.

Green said that bilateral funding — amounting to about $7 million for the N.W.T. — would help the N.W.T. expand the family medicine residency program, which currently only takes in two students per year.

"What we're trying to do, more than invent new things, is make sure what we've got is running well," she said.

As for the Yukon, Premier Ranj Pillai said the territory plans to sign an agreement with the federal government for the funding and then work out the details. The Yukon also expects to get just over $7 million in bilateral funding, and Pillai said the federal priorities for that funding match the Yukon's own priorities.

"We're happy with what we're seeing," Pillai said.

It's no secret that Canada's health-care system needs some help. But the federal government says it has a plan to help prop it up and Canadian premiers are on board. They've accepted a proposal to inject more than 46-billion dollars into provincial and territorial health-care systems over the next ten years. Now each province and territory will hold bilateral meetings to finalize funding agreements. Julie Green is the Minister of Health and Social Services


April Hudson


April Hudson is a digital journalist with CBC News in Yellowknife. After a career in print journalism in the N.W.T. and Alberta, she joined CBC North in 2021. You can reach her at

With files from Meredith Deen