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UPDATE: Council of Canadians to push provincial governments on public health care

The Council of the Federation is made up of the premiers of Canada’s thirteen provinces and territories. Its main function is to provide a united front among the provincial and territorial governments when interacting with the federal government. It meets twice a year. The Council of Canadians was present at their January meeting in Victoria, and we will be visibly present again at their summer meeting – this July 25-27 in Halifax.

Where is the Harper government on federal funding of health care?
The Harper government has promised to maintain health care increases of 6 per cent for the next five years to the provinces. Their intention to drop those increases and then tie them to GDP – which is currently at 4 per cent (after the October 2015 federal election) will cost the provinces approximately $31 billion over the period of the new 10-year ‘accord’, says parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page. He also says that if the funding formula stays in place beyond 2024, the federal share of health care spending would fall from its current 20.4 per cent, to 13.8 per cent by 2052, and 11.9 per cent by 2072.

What do the provinces have to say about this?
Mark Kennedy of Postmedia News reported in January, “(This) new approach from Ottawa has left premiers scrambling with different reactions. Western premiers don’t necessarily mind Harper’s hands-off strategy, while some other premiers have voiced concerns that medicare could be headed toward a patchwork-quilt system that lacks equity between regions.”

Several CBC and Globe and Mail articles have reported:

  • “British Columbia Premier Christy Clark says announced changes to federal government health-care transfers to the provinces won’t work for British Columbia, where a rapidly growing senior population is dramatically increasing medical costs to the province. (Clark says) that provinces will need ‘an age-adjusted per capita formula implemented’ in order for the federal plan to work sufficiently.”
  • “Alberta Premier Alison Redford similarly talked about the importance of moving beyond haggling over dollars.”
  • “Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is planning to push his provincial colleagues to band together and ask Ottawa for a health care innovation fund that would provide extra money for projects to improve patient care.”
  • “Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland are arguing that Ottawa has not addressed the fact that these federal transfers cover a shrinking percentage of provincial health-care costs. …The premiers of Canada’s four Atlantic provinces (have called) on Ottawa to cover 25 per cent of all provincial health costs.”
  • “Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter believes the new funding formula will hurt smaller and less wealthy provinces such as his.”

What do we want?
The Council of Canadians believes:

  1. the Canada Health Act must be enforced to stop private health care services
  2. the federal government must commit to a 10-year health transfer plan that would see at least a six per cent increase in funding annually
  3. public health care must be broadened to include pharmacare, continuing care, dental care, mental health services and strengthen Aboriginal health
  4. there should be a single omnibus health care accord, not bilateral deals with the provinces

What can we do?
The Council of Canadians has launched a multi-year campaign to ensure that the new Canada Health Accord — which must be implemented by March 2014 — meets our demands above. Our next interventions will be June 23 (to be confirmed) for a leafleting & lobby day aimed at provincial governments in advance of the July 25-27 premiers meeting in Halifax. At the Council of Federation meeting itself, we have a number of exciting actions being planned – more details on that soon!

To see our ‘2014 Canada Health Accord’ campaign web-page, please go to http://canadians.org/healthcare/issues/accord/.