Saskatchewan

Sask. Premier Moe says increase in health transfer money top priority at premiers' meetings

Next week, 13 Canadian premiers will gather in Victoria, B.C., for their annual meetings, and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the top priority is for the federal government to increase its health transfer payments.

Meetings July 11 to 12 in Victoria, B.C.

At the Western Premier's Conference in June, the top agenda item was the request for more money in health transfers from the Federal government to the provinces and territories. (Matt Duguid/CBC)

Next week, 13 Canadian premiers will gather in Victoria, B.C., for their annual meetings, and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the top priority is for the federal government to increase its health transfer payments.

"All 13 premiers have a unanimous ask, for the federal Liberal government to begin to correct a wrong of successive governments in underfunding our health transfer," Moe said Tuesday.

The Council of the Federation conference will take place July 11 and 12 in Victoria, hosted by B.C. Premier John Horgan.

Last week, Horgan announced he would be stepping down after an NDP leadership convention this fall.

While Moe and Horgan fall on different sides of the political spectrum, they are aligned on the request for more money from Ottawa for health care.

At a Western Premiers Conference in Regina in May, Horgan called the matter "pressing and urgent."

Premiers from across Canada have been lobbying the federal government to increase its share of health transfer to 35 per cent, or $28 billion annually, from 22 per cent.

"Is it just about the money? Yes, because it translates to services for people," Horgan said on May 27.

"We need to get on this as quickly as possible."

On Tuesday, Moe reiterated the need for more money.

"The 35 per cent essentially is what we're asking for the federal government to fund health care, which does correlate back to where the entire health care agreement began a number of decades ago."

Earlier this year, the federal government pledged $2 billion to address surgical wait times across Canada.

Moe also said the premiers want to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"For the prime minister to come and meet with the Council of Federation at our first minister's meeting solely focused on health care. He has said he will do that, but he seems reluctant to set a date for that meeting to actually occur."

Following the premiers' meetings in 2021, Trudeau said, "we will be there to increase those transfers. But that conversation needs to happen once we are through this pandemic."

Moe on private autonomy meetings 

While asking for the federal government to increase its share of the health transfer, Moe also talked about how the province is aiming to increase its autonomy.

He said the provincial government wants to "enhance and foster opportunity and investment" in Saskatchewan but cannot achieve that with "another entity that puts in place impediments or hindrances."

"Most certainly we're going to draw some lines in the sand and we're going to defend the opportunity to grow a stronger Saskatchewan, which we firmly believe a stronger Saskatchewan makes for a much stronger federation in Canada."

Moe recently asked Allan Kerpan — who served in Opposition with the Saskatchewan Party and was also a Reform MP — and veteran Sask. Party MLA Lyle Stewart (Thunder Creek) to lead the closed-door meetings on how the province should increase its autonomy.

"We're not consulting on whether or not the province should be exercising our full autonomy within the confines of the Constitution. That decision has been made. We are going to do that. We were down the river on that decision. But what we were doing is asking exactly how we would be able to do this."

Moe said there will be town hall events that are open to the public, but that the autonomy meetings are not designed that way and will be with "folks that MLAs know in their constituencies that have an interest in this area."

"Not all of the meetings that MLAs have in general are public. In fact, the vast majority of them are not."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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