Nova Scotia

McNeil strikes optimistic tone after PM, premiers discuss health funding

Premier Stephen McNeil said there was an acknowledgement from Ottawa that it needs to come up with more money.

Meeting included talk about increased federal health transfers, COVID-19 vaccine

Premier Stephen McNeil says the federal government recognizes it needs to play a bigger role in financing health-care delivery. (CBC)

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says he's "cautiously optimistic" that the federal government is ready to contribute more money toward the cost of health care.

Speaking to reporters following a meeting with fellow premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, McNeil said there was an acknowledgement from Ottawa that it needs to come up with more money.

Right now, the federal government pays about 22 per cent of the cost of health-care delivery; premiers want that increased to 35 per cent.

"There's still a lot of work to do, but the acknowledgement was a positive one," McNeil said. "Now the conversation will be ongoing about where that will happen."

McNeil said it's important for those conversations to involve all provinces and territories, as opposed to Ottawa negotiating bilateral agreements with each government. That's what happened in 2016, when Nova Scotia got an additional $288 million targeted for home care and mental health.

Priorities include drug costs, mental health

The premier said he isn't opposed to targeted funding increases, but he said those conversations have to include everyone.

"Everyone is pointing to the pandemic. Obviously it's created great pressures on the fiscal capacity of provinces to deliver [services], but let's not kid ourselves — this conversation about the delivery of health care was here long before the pandemic," he said.

Priorities for Nova Scotia include looking at the cost of drugs, mental health and long-term care. The premier said he wants to talk more about a universal pharmacare program. 

Thursday's meeting also included information about the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, which will begin arriving in Nova Scotia next week. McNeil said officials in Nova Scotia will have a better sense in the coming weeks of how the rollout will look into the new year, including how much will arrive each week.

The federal government will pay for the vaccine to arrive in the province, while the provincial government will foot the bill for distribution.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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