While waiting for re-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to appoint a cabinet and resume governing, premiers across the country talked “tactics” Thursday for reversing the slide in federal support for health care that is starting to buckle under pressure from mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.
B.C. Premier John Horgan chaired the Council of the Federation’s regular meeting Sept. 23, without the prime minister who dissolved parliament for a snap election in the midst of a worsening COVID-19 pandemic. Horgan said premiers all agree that the federal government has to return to at least 35 per cent funding for health care, where it once provided half of the funding for the most expensive ministry of any province.
Alberta has asked for federal help to airlift severely ill COVID-19 patients to other hospitals, as it deals with the worst pandemic pressures on hospitals. B.C. has declined to take patients from Alberta, as it battles a wave of infections in the Northern Health region that has forced the relocation of critically ill people to hospitals in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
Horgan said he spoke with Quebec Premier Francois Legault at the meeting about offering financial bonuses to attract and retain nurses. Federal assistance is needed to avoid even more competition between provinces for critical skilled health care staff, and to attract nurses and other specialists from other countries, he said.
“There is a crisis,” Horgan said. “I’m not denying that.”
Asked about a few businesses not enforcing B.C.’s vaccine mandate for restaurants, pubs and other non-essential indoor spaces, Horgan said businesses should consider that more than three million B.C. residents now have vaccine cards, and that’s a big market share that wants protection from greater risk of COVID-19 exposure.
“We’ve always said we don’t want to use a heavy hand here,” Horgan said.