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UPDATE: Barlow in Halifax as health ministers meet on 2014 Health Accord

A Nova Scotia provincial government media release states, “Nova Scotia’s Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald will host Health Ministers from across the Provinces and Territories (today) at the Lord Nelson Hotel, 1595 South Park Street, Halifax. Topics on the agenda include the 2014 Health Accord, mental health and healthy living. There will be a news conference at 3 p.m. Nov. 24 following the meeting. …The meetings will be followed by a meeting of Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health on Nov. 25.”

Tonight, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be the keynote speaker at a town hall meeting in Halifax on public health care, which will also provide an opportunity for people to speak to their priorities for this round of federal/ provincial/ territorial negotiations. Tomorrow, Barlow will speak at a noon-time rally that will be held in Victoria Park (corner of Spring Garden Rd. and South Park St. near to where the ministers are meeting) to demonstrate to them that public health care remains a high priority for Canadians. For more details on these events and more, please see Halifax-based Council of Canadians health care campaigner Adrienne Silnicki’s blog at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=11868 and http://canadians.org/events/Maude_Barlow.html.

The Globe and Mail reports, “Provincial and territorial ministers begin a two-day summit (today) and will be joined by Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq this evening. ….Altogether, they’ll formally spend all of one hour discussing the need for a new deal to replace the Canada Health Transfer, which funnels billions into provincial coffers each year and expires in 2014. The new accord is instead expected to dominate informal discussion as provinces aim to avoid bitter divides that have popped up in earlier health talks.”

“Some provinces said it’s too soon to talk about the length or cash attached to a deal, though some want another long-term pact. …Ontario and Manitoba want another 10-year deal, while others aren’t so sure. British Columbia and the Northwest Territories want a formula that encourages and rewards healthy lifestyles. Saskatchewan has cut its surgery waiting lists by turning to private, for-profit clinics to provide services covered by medicare and wants the federal government to reward performance. Alberta wants a federal focus on primary care, continuing care and mental health… Quebec will push to maintain or increase total transfers, but believes further privatization should be off the table. The four Atlantic provinces, Yukon and Nunavut are treading carefully, hesitant to speak out so early…”

Yesterday, Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson wrote, “The Prime Minister will not seek a new, grand bargain on health care with the provinces and territories. Nor does he plan to cut 13 separate deals. Instead, a third option is likely to emerge. When the federal, provincial and territorial health ministers meet in Halifax on Thursday, we’ll see the outlines of that option begin to take shape. …Mr. Harper has promised to continue increasing funding at that rate until 2016, but the Conservatives are sending out strong signals that they expect to bend the funding curve down after that. …And Mr. Harper does want to see some kind of measuring stick used to judge progress in improving service while lowering costs.”

“The current thinking (by the Harper government) is to invite each province to declare what matters to them: Is this province more interested in primary care reform – that is, getting family physicians to work in teams rather than separately? Does that province want to focus instead on bringing down prescription-drug costs? Or is this territory more concerned with child and maternal health? The purpose of the Halifax meetings is to begin that consultation. In the end, there might be a suite of options for provinces to choose from, with different reporting mechanism for each option.”

“The premiers (will next) pick up health-accord talks during meetings in Victoria in January.”