Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney, right, talks with Premier of British Columbia John Horgan during a meeting of the Council of the Federation which comprises all 13 provincial and territorial Premiers in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, December 2, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Premiers ask for more health funding, express hesitation on pharmacare

The federal election campaign laid bare some regional division

Canada’s provincial and territorial leaders agreed Monday to press the federal government for higher increases to health-care funding, but most expressed hesitation about a national pharmacare program.

The premiers also emerged from a meeting in Mississauga, Ont., with a call to Ottawa to strengthen a program that provides a financial top-up to provincial governments suffering economic downturns — a key request of Alberta.

The first ministers arrived at a consensus on four priority areas of economic competitiveness, the Fiscal Stabilization Program, health-care and infrastructure funding, and northern priorities.

They’ll look to raise the issues with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau early in the new year, at their first joint meeting with him since a federal election that exposed regional divisions and reduced Trudeau’s Liberals to a minority government.

A spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said she is “open and keen” to discuss those issues.

The premiers reiterated their call for a 5.2-per-cent increase in annual health-care transfer payments from the federal government, but called for federal transfers to come with opt-outs “with full financial compensation.”

Several premiers said now may not be the right time for a national pharmacare program — a promise the Liberals made during the federal election and that will require discussion with the provinces — with funding needed to address hospital overcrowding and growing wait times.

“If you can’t sustain health care, all the multitude of services that we offer effectively, then you will have lineups grow, as they have grown over the last number of years right across the country in every category,” said Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.

“If you can’t get that right, don’t start with another program…. Don’t start broadening health care when you can’t get it right now.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan said many provinces already have significant pharmacare plans, so the priority should be a “more equitable distribution of resources to deliver health care.”

But Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball, who has been supportive of national pharmacare, said in aging provinces such as his own, diseases are becoming more complex and drugs are becoming more expensive.

“Whatever the commitment is, it has to be long-term, it has to be the responsibility of the federal government, but I do believe that no matter where I go, Canadians want to entertain and want us to explore the options around a national pharmacare program,” he said.

The premiers agreed that the Fiscal Stabilization Program should be more responsive to economic downturns, such as removing a per capita cap, lowering a non-resource revenue threshold and making changes to retroactive payments.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has called for the cap to be removed, as the money his province has received is barely scratching the surface of the financial impact of low oil prices. He thanked his fellow premiers Monday for making fiscal stabilization amendments a priority.

“This was a tremendous moment of solidarity,” he said. “I’ve been trying to convey to Albertans that we are not alone, or isolated in the federation, that there are provincial and territorial governments who get what we’re going through and who understand our ask for a fair deal in the Canadian federation.”

They also talked about developing resources responsibly and getting them to all markets, but the somewhat vaguely worded communique does not specifically reference pipelines, an area of disagreement among the premiers.

ALSO READ: Edmonton mayor says he can help Trudeau deal with angry western premiers

ALSO READ: Kenney announces ‘Fair Deal Panel’ to advance Alberta’s interests

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Nelson joins protests against racism, police brutality

The protest was similar to those being held throughout Canada and the United States

Game on? Nelson sports organizations wait and see

Nelson Baseball Association has already scrapped its season

RCMP: 93% of inspected boats on Kootenay Lake don’t have safety equipment

Weekend inspections found a high number of boats that don’t comply with national regulations

Temporary rail trail detour will allow upgrade to Nelson’s water source

City will be laying a water line between Stanley Street and Mountain Station parking lot

Water quality advisory issued for Nelson

Run-off has created a high level of turbidity in the city’s drinking water

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

Help the Nelson Star continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Black Press is now accepting donations to keep its papers operating

189 homes in Grand Forks area given evacuation orders

Homes are in the Nursery, Grand Forks Airport, Gilpin Rd., Johnson Flats and Granby Rd. areas

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

COVID-19: B.C. commercial landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

Investigators probe death of CN employee at Surrey rail yard

Transportation Safety Board is investigating an ‘occurrence that took place during switching operations’

Trans Mountain starts B.C. leg of pipeline twinning project

Mostly finished in Alberta, Burnaby terminal expanding

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson says he’s heard no concerns from public

Most Read