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Trudeau refuses to meet with premiers to discuss health care funding

Given the Harper government refused to negotiate a new Health Accord (with a 6 per cent escalator) and instead imposed a new funding formula that could mean more than $36 billion would not be transferred from the federal government to provincial governments over the next ten years for health care, it was welcomed when the Liberals promised to “negotiate a new Health Accord with provinces and territories” as well as a “long-term agreement on funding”.

But earlier this month the Trudeau government said it would implement the Harper government’s funding formula. Health minister Jane Philpott confirmed, “I do not intend to push for an increase in the escalator”.

Now CBC reports, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has written back to Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers, saying he will not commit to personally meet with them to discuss a new health accord before mid-December. In a letter sent to Trudeau last month, the premiers asked for a face-to-face meeting with Trudeau on health funding — adding they wanted that commitment before a planned first ministers’ meeting on climate takes place in November. But in a reply sent last week, obtained by CBC News, Trudeau said that he will instead let Health Minister Jane Philpott meet with her provincial counterparts as planned and see what happens from there.”

A federal-provincial-territorial health ministers meeting will take place in Ottawa on October 18.

The reduced annual health transfer increase is scheduled to begin on April 1, 2017.

In terms of background, the Canadian Press has explained, “The last 10-year health accord, which included an annual six-per-cent increase in health transfers to the provinces, expired in 2014. The previous Conservative government refused to renegotiate it and unilaterally declared that the six-per-cent escalator would end in 2017.” The Conservative plan was to tie health care transfers to the GDP with a minimum three per cent annual increase between 2017 and 2024.

In January 2012, then-Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page estimated that this funding formula would cost the provinces about $31 billion over a ten year period. In July 2012, the provincial premiers forecast the loss would be closer to $36 billion. In July 2015, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions estimated the loss at $43.5 billion over an eight year period.

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