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

West Kootenay snowpack nearing record levels

High snowpack can mean a greater risk of flooding in spring, say forecasters

VIDEO: Kootenay Patricks, Montreal Canadiens play to the crowd in Nelson

The charity game was a spectacle from puck drop

Two-vehicle collision near Castlegar sends two to hospital

The incident took place Wednesday evening near the Brilliant Bridge in Ootischenia

PLACE NAMES: Shenango Canyon, Sheep Creek City, Beaverville

John G. Devlin envisioned a city on his mining claim, but it didn’t work out

Security video captures Castlegar porch pirate

Man stole package from front of house in December

VIDEO: Mass coronavirus quarantines seen in China won’t happen in Canada, authorities say

‘If a case comes here, and it is probably … it will still be business as normal’

Province’s oldest practising lawyer shares advice at her 100th birthday party

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

B.C. comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

Mayors call for ‘calmness’ as highway rockslide cuts Tofino, Ucluelet off from supplies

Ministry of transportation expects to open road for “essential travel only” from noon-8 p.m. Friday.

Owner surrenders dog suffering from days-old gunshot wound to B.C. SPCA

The dog was also found to be emaciated and suffering from a flea infestation

B.C. man dies after police called for ‘firearms injury’ in rural Alberta

Victim is 30-year-old Greater Victoria man, say police

Most Read