Ignatieff pledges meeting on health care

Michael Ignatieff says a Liberal government would convene a first ministers meeting on the future of health care within 60 days of taking office.

Layton says trust on health care becoming 'more and more' of an issue

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff speaks as former prime minister Paul Martin, left, and candidate Ujjal Dosanjh look on during a B.C. campaign stop Sunday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Michael Ignatieff says a Liberal government would convene a first ministers meeting on the future of health care within 60 days of taking office.

"Mr. Harper has not had a meeting of first ministers on heatlh care in five years," Ignatieff said during a campaign stop in Vancouver Sunday.

"[Harper] has not added a new dime to the money committed by [former] prime minister [Paul] Martin ... in 2004 and so it's time to step up and show pan-Canadian leadership of the kind that I think a federal government must do and so that's what we're announcing today — a commitment to hold a first ministers meeting within the first 60 days of taking offce."

The Liberals, NDP and Conservatives have already said they would maintain the annual six-per-cent increase in health funding after the current health accord with the provinces expires in 2014.

But some provincial politicians have been pushing the leaders for more details on how they will handle health-care funding after the existing 10-year accord expires.

"We need to start the discussions about how to save and reform our health care system not in 2014, but in 2011," Ignatieff said.

"We would come to the table as a federal government with two key priorities. One of them is to reinforce and strengthen home care  ... The second commitment we have is to make sure that we all do something as a country on the escalating cost of drugs, particularly drug used outside of hospitals. We've got to get a pan-Canadian approach to that problem."

Ignatieff said the party has an "ambitious program of health care improvement and reform."

"We're a party that also made a passionate commitment to improve rural health service delivery. We don't want a country in which we fought for 60 years so that your access to health depends on what's in your wallet. We don't want it to depend on your postal code," he said.

"All of this adds up to a passionate commitment to publically funded health care and the time to lead here is now."

Ignatieff has been campaigning this weekend with former prime minister Martin, who negotiated the 2004 health accord.

NDP 'fierce' defenders of health care: Layton

NDP Leader Jack Layton also returned to the theme of health-care Sunday during a campaign stop in Halifax, saying his party has a history of being "fierce" defenders of public health care.

"I believe also that the question of who do you trust to take on the issue of health care is becoming more and more of an issue," said Layton.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper took aim at the Liberal record on health care during a campaign stop in B.C. on Saturday. 

"The Liberal party has a shameful record of deep cuts in health care," Harper said during a campaign event in Vancouver. "Conservative party has increased, will increase health care. Liberal party cut it, will cut it. Those are the facts."

Ignatieff has argued that Harper only increased health-care funding because of the federal-provincial health accord negotiated by the Liberals.

With files from The Canadian Press