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Health Accord talks could begin as early as this week

Profit is Not the CureThe new Liberal health minister could begin meeting with provincial and territorial health ministers as early as next week to initiate talks on a new Canada Health Accord.

The Canadian Press reports, “Canada’s new health minister Jane Philpott says she plans to engage with provincial and territorial counterparts as soon as next week as the Liberals set the wheels in motion to establish a new health accord. …The 54-year-old physician also said she will attend a health ministers meeting scheduled for January.”

That health ministers meeting is expected to take place on January 21-22, 2016 in Vancouver.

This is all related to one of the key promises in the Liberal platform this election, “We will negotiate a new Health Accord with provinces and territories, including a long-term agreement on funding.”

In December 2011, the Harper government announced a new funding formula – not negotiated with the provinces, but rather presented in a unilateral fashion – that meant the federal government would commit to a six per cent annual increase in 2014 to 2016, but then just a minimum three per cent annual increase between 2017 and 2024. In January 2012, then-Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page said he expected this funding formula would cost the provinces about $31 billion over a ten year period. In July 2015 a report by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions found that up to $43.5 billion of health care spending could be cut over the next eight years, based on economic growth projections.

But while the implication has been that Trudeau will not cut those billions of dollars, that promise is not exactly explicit, and as the Globe and Mail has reported, “Mr. Trudeau has promised to promptly negotiate a new health financing deal, but has not made any firm financial commitments or set a deadline other than to say he will convene a first ministers conference every year.”

It is not known when that first ministers conference will happen or when a federal-provincial meeting on the health accord might happen, but it could be within the next 9-10 months (July-August 2016). One key moment on that timeline could be the Council of the Federation (the provincial-territorial leaders gathering) that will take place on July 20-22, 2016 in Whitehorse.

In the lead-up to those federal-provincial negotiations for the Canada Health Accord, the Council of Canadians will be attending a Roundtable meeting organized by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions on December 15 in Ottawa where the broader health care movement will come together to develop common demands and strategies. Our longstanding campaign demands have been for a 10-year accord annual 6 per cent increase in health care transfer payments to the provinces, at least 25 per cent federal funding of provincial health care costs, a prohibition on user fees and privatization, and a commitment to public solutions.

In terms of upcoming lobbying moments, we will be supporting the Canadian Health Coalition’s National Medicare Week in ridings across the country (November 29-December 5) and their Medicare Lobby on Parliament Hill in Ottawa (January 25-26, 2016).

For more on our health care campaign, please click here.

Photo: The Council of Canadians rallied outside the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa on September 16, 2004 when then Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin was negotiating the 2004 Canada Health Accord with provincial premiers.