Canada’s western premiers are meeting in Regina on Friday and they are demanding “sustainable” health-care funding from the federal government.
The annual meeting of provincial and territorial leaders from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut was virtual in 2021.
At a media availability Friday morning, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and British Columbia Premier John Horgan focused on federal health transfers.
Premiers from across Canada have been lobbying the federal government to increase its share of health transfer to 35 per cent, or $28 billion annually, from 22 per cent.
Horgan said delivering on health care is “pressing and urgent.”
“Never have we been at such a critical point,” Horgan said.
Moe and Horgan said pressures of the pandemic and subsequent increases in surgical and diagnostic wait times have increased the urgency for Ottawa to pay a higher share of health costs.
“This is not your regularly scheduled programming. This has been building over decades,” Horgan said.
Horgan mentioned previous comments by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on a willingness to discuss the funding agreement.
Following the premiers’ meetings in 2021 Trudeau said, “we will be there to increase those transfers. But that conversation needs to happen once we are through this pandemic.”
Horgan said even though the pandemic continues, “it’s time now to have that conversation.”
He said federal ministers have been discussing the issue with premiers and mentioned that the provincial and territorial leaders have “been trying to do shuttle diplomacy.”
“Is it just about the money? Yes, because it translates to services for people,” Horgan said.
“We need to get on this as quickly as possible.”
Moe said the provinces are working to make the federal government, “a fair and full funding partner in health-care delivery services across the nation.”
Horgan said he has been “testing” the health system due to his own cancer diagnosis and treatment over the past year.
Moe and Horgan said the health transfer may sound like “accounting practices,” but that it is crucial to health care in the country.
“To be in the birthplace of medicare, to talk about the future, is absolutely appropriate. There is nothing more Canadian than public health care.” Horgan said.
Horgan and Moe are the longest-serving provincial premiers in Canada.
Horgan said he has been at the first ministers’ table for five years and “the number one issue has been health care and the delivery of services.”
Moe said recent announcements from the federal government, like $2 billion toward surgical waits, are welcome and that three- to five-year funding agreements are “appreciated,” but fall short of the ask from the premiers.
Moe said short term deals do not provide the cost certainty of increasing the transfer.
“[Canadians] want sustainability in their health-care services,” Moe said.
Moe said he is “confident” that the federal government will move forward with this discussion, but added he is frustrated and angered by the delay and lack of commitment.
Horgan said a good time for Trudeau and the federal government to come to the table would be the council of federations meeting of all Canadian premiers from July 10 to12 in Victoria.
The western premiers will be holding a media availability at 2:55 p.m. CST.
Other issues that will be discussed at Friday’s meeting include the economy and labour market, supply chains, trade and infrastructure, energy security and sustainable development.
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