'No progress' made in health-care funding talks, premiers say

Canada's premiers say "no progress" has been in health-care funding discussions with Ottawa as meetings between federal and provincial health ministers wrapped up Tuesday.

Premiers are calling for a meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau to talk about health transfers

A composite of Jean-Yves Duclos and Adrian Dix at news conferences.
Federal Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos and Adrian Dix, British Columbia Minister of Health are co-charing the first face-to-face meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health since 2018. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press, Michael McArthur/CBC)

Canada's premiers say "no progress" has been made in health-care funding discussions with Ottawa as meetings between federal and provincial health ministers wrapped up Tuesday.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos was in Vancouver for two days of discussions with his provincial and territorial counterparts as provinces and territories continued their push for more federal cash for health services.

But before the meetings could conclude, premiers released a media statement saying that "no progress" had been made and repeated their request for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"Canadians should be able to receive high quality, health services now and for the future. It is time for the prime minister to honour his commitment and come to the table," Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said in the statement.

The provinces and territories have been united in calling on the federal government to boost its share of health-care costs from 22 per cent to 35 per cent. They also want a first ministers' meeting to discuss the Canada Health Transfer (CHT).

Speaking to reporters following Tuesday's meetings, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the ministers had planned a joint press conference with Duclos, but Duclos backed out following the premiers' statement.

"That's entirely fair of the federal government to do," Dix said. "But I think it's disappointing. I'm not sure it sends the best message."

Ottawa blames premiers for halting progress

While the funding question loomed large over the meetings, health ministers discussed other issues — including support for health-care workers, long-term care and home care, mental health and addiction, and health data and virtual care.

The ministers were supposed to produce an action plan to move forward on these issues. Duclos said the premiers squashed any progress by focusing on the funding issue.

"My colleague health ministers received marching orders from their premiers to stop making progress on things that can make a meaningful, immediate impact on lives of millions of health workers and patients across Canada," Duclos said. "That is wrong."

Dulcos did address the funding question on Monday. He said Ottawa is ready to commit to an increase in funding for the provinces and territories, but they must commit to expanding the use of common key health indicators and to building a "world-class" health data system for the country.

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'The federal government will be stepping up with more money for health care' — Trudeau

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As the second day of meetings between the federal government and provincial health leaders ended, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed the federal government will expand health transfers to provinces.

At an unrelated press conference earlier Tuesday, Trudeau suggested the provinces have been slow to improve health services.

"If provinces continue to not improve their health-care delivery services, it's no surprise Canadians are getting more and more frustrated," he said.

"It's not just about money. It's about creating a stronger, more robust health-care system across the country."

Dix said the provinces and territories are committed to improving health services but need more resources to do so.

"When people ask, 'Where is the money going? Is it going to go to health care?' You bet it's going to go to health care," Dix said.

"Provincial jurisdictions are fundamentally changing and investing more in our health-care system and to succeed in the long run, we need partners in the federal government to join us."


Darren Major

CBC Journalist

Darren Major is a senior writer for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He can be reached via email darren.major@cbc.ca or by tweeting him @DMajJourno.

With files from The Canadian Press


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