Canada's premiers push for $28B top-up to annual federal health care spending
Premiers say feds now cover 22% of health care costs — they want that increased to 35%
Canada's premiers are demanding $28 billion in additional federal funding to cover their ballooning health care costs — a boost that would bring annual transfers to $70 billion.
The premiers have agreed unanimously to call on the Liberal government to address what they call an "absolutely critical" situation.
The premiers are meeting in Ottawa today to map out their demands ahead of next week's throne speech.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Quebec Premier François Legault — the incoming chair of the Council of the Federation — met in person, with other premiers joining virtually.
"It's time for the federal government to do its fair share," Legault said.
Ford said that as the demand for health care services has risen, support from the federal government has been decreasing.
"We're in desperate need of your support," he said.
The proposed increase would mean the federal government would cover 35 per cent of provinces' health care costs, up from the current 22 per cent. Right now, the provinces spend $188 billion on health care, with the federal government covering $42 billion.
"We need the support from the federal government. We're asking the fed government to support all Canadians. Be a true partner when it comes to health care," Ford said.
Pallister said Canadians are living in fear because of the consequences of federal underfunding, such as longer waits for services and diagnoses.
"Right now, millions of Canadians are waiting for an appointment for a test, for consequential treatment, for surgery. Those delays are painful. A lump that isn't diagnosed is not fun," he said.
"Every single day right now in Canada, there are people in fear directly of the consequences of delay, and their families join in that fear, and their friends join in that fear."
Pallister said it's been a longstanding problem that has gone unaddressed. He said it's time for the federal government to resume its "rightful role as a true funding partner" in order to shorten wait times and improve health care.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the government wants to work with the provinces to maintain a high-quality health care system but did not commit to any specific funding amount.
"We've said that we're happy to meet with them and we're happy to discuss that subject, and my colleague the finance minister and the prime minister will obviously reflect on those subject matters in the context of the government's fiscal capacity," he said. "But the priority that premiers attach to an accessible, high-quality health care system is one that we share."
WATCH / Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc responds to premiers
Ford and Legault met in Mississauga, Ont., last week to discuss economic recovery and health preparedness as the number of active COVID-19 cases rises in parts of the country.
"Premier Ford is in Ottawa to join his fellow Premiers ahead of the throne speech to press the federal government on critical priorities for the people of Ontario, including strengthening frontline health care, helping people and businesses get back on their feet, and moving shovel-ready infrastructure projects forward," said Ford's spokesperson Ivana Yelich in an email.
The federal government is providing $19 billion to the provinces to help ease the financial burden of the pandemic; about $10 billion of that sum is for health-related expenses.
But Ford and Legault said more long-term funding is needed to address critical health care issues that predate the pandemic, such as the increasing cost of new medical technologies and drugs and an aging population.
The federal government will transfer almost $42 billion to provinces and territories for health care this fiscal year under an agreement that mandates an an annual increase of three per cent.
Legault has said that the federal contribution is well below the 50 per cent share originally agreed upon decades ago.
Before the premiers' meeting, Ford sat down with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the city's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches.
The provincial government has imposed stricter rules on gatherings in the Ottawa, Toronto and Peel regions after their COVID-19 infections spiked.