B.C. Premier-elect John Horgan listens during a post-election news conference, in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. Premier-elect John Horgan listens during a post-election news conference, in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Premiers’ demands for long-term health funding increase takes back seat to pandemic

The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care

A first ministers meeting today that was supposed to be devoted to long-term, federal health care funding seems destined to be hijacked by a more urgent priority: surviving the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premiers asked for the meeting in September and wanted it focused exclusively on their unanimous demand that Ottawa add at least $28 billion a year to its annual health transfer payment to provinces and territories.

But while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s willing to discuss the issue, he has been clear that getting through the pandemic is more pressing, as far as he’s concerned.

As host of the daylong meeting, he’s scheduled the first half to focus on the rollout of vaccines to inoculate Canadians against COVID-19, the first of which is slated to begin delivery next week.

The second half of the meeting, to be conducted via teleconference, will be devoted to health care funding and improving health care in general.

On Wednesday, premiers were scaling back expectations, saying it will take multiple meetings to come to any resolution on health transfers.

Ontario’s Doug Ford is hoping to persuade Trudeau to commit to a resolution in time for increased funding to be included in the next federal budget.

The premiers’ demand for more health care cash comes as the federal government is facing an unprecedented deficit approaching $400 billion, with more billions yet to be doled out to help Canadians weather the pandemic and the shattered economy to eventually bounce back.

So premiers can hardly be surprised that Trudeau doesn’t seem in any rush to deal with their decades-long complaint that Ottawa is not paying its fair share of annual health care costs.

The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care, under an arrangement that sees the transfer increase by at least three per cent each year.

But the premiers contend that amounts to only 22 per cent of the actual cost of delivering health care and doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about six per cent.

They want Ottawa to increase its share to 35 per cent and maintain it at that level, which would mean an added $28 billion this year, rising by roughly another $4 billion in each subsequent year.

In calculating the federal share, the premiers include only the cash transfers they get from Ottawa. They do not include the billions in tax transfers they also get — essentially tax room vacated by the feds so that provinces and territories can increase their taxes to help pay for health care.

In a 2008 report, the auditor general of Canada pegged the value of the tax transfer for health care at $12.6 billion.

Nor do the premiers include any of the money the federal government has transferred to them specifically to combat the COVID-19 health crisis.

On top of the annual transfer this year, the federal government has given the provinces an extra $19 billion to help them cope with the fallout from the pandemic, including more than $10 billion specifically for pandemic-related health-care costs.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland promised $1 billion more for long-term care homes, which have been hardest hit by the pandemic, in her fiscal update last month.

The federal government has also spent billions purchasing personal protective equipment, rapid testing kits and lining up purchases of potential vaccine candidates.

Trudeau has noted repeatedly that Ottawa has footed the bill for 80 per cent of all the money spent by governments in Canada to fight COVID-19.

But the premiers say all that extra money is one-off; what they need is an increase in annual health transfers to ensure stable, predictable, long-term funding.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusHealthcare

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation guardian took this photo of dozens of vehicles parked along a forest service road in the Kennedy watershed. (Submitted photo)
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District looks at enforcement of illegal camping

ACRD currently does not have an existing bylaw service to tackle the issue

Randy Brown, owner of Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue, has five trailers and a motorhome at the back of his property that he is renting to people who had been previously homeless. He wants to put 15 trailers on his property, hooked up to city sewer and water and BC Hydro. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Building owner digs in heels, refuses to remove illegal trailers from property

Port Alberni council gives owner two-week reprieve on remediation orders

A photo of the excavated area at McLean Mill at the end of the rail line, taken on Dec. 16, 2020. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
No environmental risk from oil spill at McLean Mill, says consultant

Terrawest Environmental concludes ‘end of spill’ report at national historic site

Melissa Martin from the Rollin Art Centre holds two paintings from the Rollin Art Centre’s permanent collection: an original portrait painted by the late Robert Aller, and a mixed media piece called ‘House’ from Peggy Larson that was part of Aller’s private collection. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Rollin Art Centre puts permanent collection on display

Works from Robert Aller, Arthur Lismer, Norval Morrisseau to be featured

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. finds its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Two toucans sit on tree at an unidentified zoo. (Pixabay.com)
BC SPCA calls for ban on exotic animal trade after 50 parrots, toucans pass through YVR

One toucan was found dead and several others were without food

Smaller egg farmers find themselves in a David and Goliath situation when it comes to major producers and chain-grocery store shelf space. (Citizen file)
Vancouver Island egg producer cries foul over ‘Island’ label

Egg farmer frustrated with regulations allowing mainland-laid eggs to be labelled ‘Island’

Police and fire crews at work at a fire scene at Mount Prevost School (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Classes cancelled by fire at a Duncan-area school for the second time this week

Fire this morning at Duncan area middle school follows Monday blaze at nearby elementary

Nanaimo RCMP seek public assistance after numerous tire slashings between Jan. 12-14. (News Bulletin file)
Police seek public’s help after ‘tire slashing spree’ in central Nanaimo

Ten reports of slashed tires in the last three days, say Nanaimo RCMP

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials says it will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Letisha Reimer died Nov. 1, 2016 after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
No evidence that killer was in ‘psychotic state’ during Abbotsford school stabbing: Crown

Second day of closing arguments at ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing for Gabriel Klein

Most Read