Say it Louder: Premiers Calling for Support for Healthcare Delivery

3 minute read

Across the country, healthcare delivery has repeatedly come under threat as provinces grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a shortage of healthcare workers, including nurses and family doctors. This has led to ER closures, and more and more Canadians facing fewer medical options due to long wait times and surgical backlogs.

While healthcare transfers have always been a political football between the premiers and the federal government, there is growing consensus that it’s time to fix a healthcare system that appears to have reached its breaking point from coast-to-coast-to-coast. 

With that in mind, Canada’s premiers, through the Council of the Federation, launched a nationwide campaign aimed at ratcheting up the public pressure on the Trudeau government to increase the federal contribution to the Canada Health Transfer (CHT).

Through print, radio, online, and billboard ads, the campaign calls on the prime minister to provide an immediate and unconditional injection to the CHT to bring the federal share to 35%. According to a 2021 report, this would mean increasing the size of the CHT by more than $28 billion a year, plus an ongoing annual increase of 5%. 

This is a tall ask, and an injection to the tune of $28 billion is all but guaranteed to be rejected by the federal government who has argued that the provinces’ numbers simply don’t add up. Rather than meet the demands of the Council of the Federation, the federal government could instead choose to strike deals with some provinces, while leaving others out in the cold. 

For context, this isn’t the first time the provinces have asked for the CHT to be increased. In response to previous requests, Prime Minister Trudeau said that demands for more healthcare funding would have to wait until Canada was “through the worst” of the pandemic. Two and a half years into the pandemic, the premiers are still waiting. 

The premiers collectively expressed their disappointment last April when Budget 2022 failed to address the national healthcare crisis. As the Liberal government turns their attention towards crafting the next budget, this campaign will try to ensure that healthcare spending is top of mind for federal decision-makers who hope that an agreement can be struck by the end of January. 

While health care spending is clearly a point of contention between the federal government and the provinces, there are still some federal politicians who could advocate in favour of increasing the CHT.

Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos has spent much of his mandate focused on finding solutions to the problems plaguing the system and could be an important advocate at the cabinet table. Duclos has also been working to make it easier for foreign medical credentials to be recognized here. This could help upwards of 11,000 internationally trained doctors and nurses to get jobs in Canada which would be a much-needed infusion for healthcare systems throughout the country. While this is a step in the right direction, it is estimated that there are 34,400 nursing positions currently vacant.

Another helpful advocate for an increased CHT could be NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. He recently said that Justin Trudeau has maintained the cuts to the Canada Health Transfer that the Harper government put in place. He added that the NDP will continue to urge the Liberals to restore health care funding to ensure that provinces and territories have enough resources for patients – as well as more staff to address shortages.

The premiers hope that with the support of federal politicians like Singh and Duclos, along with their ad campaign, they can reach what they are calling a First Ministers’ Agreement on Sustainable Health Care Funding. 

Minister Duclos is set to meet with the provincial healthcare ministers in British Columbia in just two weeks. This meeting will set the tone for negotiations leading up to Budget 2023, and observers will be keeping a close eye on what is sure to be a tense discussion. 

While most political pundits expect the federal government to come to the table with a CHT solution, the question is will the increase be big enough to satisfy the premiers and will it have strings attached? Until there’s an answer to that question, the political pressure will continue to mount and the ads will keep running.

Missed this week’s Look Ahead?

We’ve got you covered.

Articles we think you’ll like

Subscribe to our mailing list.