Health transfer money to be in spotlight as Moe hosts Western premiers in Regina Friday

Canada's Western premiers are meeting in Regina on Friday and federal health transfers are expected to be the top item on the agenda.

Canada Health Transfer top agenda item for in-person meeting

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe will chair the Western Premiers' Meetings in Regina on Friday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Canada's Western premiers are meeting in Regina on Friday and federal health transfers are expected to be the top item on the list.

The meeting of provincial and territorial leaders from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories,Yukon, and Nunavut was virtual in 2021.

As host, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe will chair the meeting. A spokesperson for the premier said the "Canada Health Transfer (CHT) funding negotiations and next steps" leads the agenda.

Canada's premiers met virtually in February and one theme emerged. Coming through the pandemic the provinces are all looking for more health transfer payments from the federal government.

"Provinces and territories are at the frontlines of health care, and premiers understand the challenges facing our systems, including shortages of health-care professionals, surgical backlogs, wait times and hospitals that are at capacity," said B.C. Premier John Horgan in February.

"A new vision for health care, supported by a significant, long-term increase in federal funding, is needed to ensure we emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic and ready to respond to the needs of our citizens."

The premiers are asking the federal government to increase its share of costs through the Canada Health Transfer to 35 per cent from 22 per cent.

The request has been a couple of years in the making. At the 2021 virtual premiers' conference, the group called for the 13 per cent increase in the transfer share. The increase would amount to $28 billion in new annual money.

Following the 2021 meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "we will be there to increase those transfers. But that conversation needs to happen once we are through this pandemic."

When asked about the health transfers in April, Trudeau said the provinces would see "more money from the federal government" and pointed to $2 billion handed out in March to alleviate surgical backlogs.

"We've seen in the past that just more money into health care, even from the federal governments, doesn't necessarily lead to the right outcomes or better outcomes for Canadians," Trudeau said.

A few days later Premier Scott Moe said the current state of the transfer was "putting health care Canadians deserve at risk."

"It's past time the Prime Minister took serious action to address the unanimous concern of Canada's premiers and work toward increasing the federal government's share of the CHT to 35 per cent," Moe tweeted.

Trudeau was in Saskatoon on Wednesday where he announced $32 million from the federal government to improve long-term care for seniors in Saskatchewan.

According to a Saskatchewan government spokesperson, the other issues that will be discussed at the premiers' meeting include the economy and labour market, supply chains, trade and infrastructure, energy security and sustainable development.

With files from CBC News