Health-care system 'hasn't been delivering' as it should, Trudeau says ahead of funding talks

Health-care system 'hasn't been delivering' as it should, Trudeau says ahead of funding talks
Health-care system 'hasn't been delivering' as it should, Trudeau says ahead of funding talks 7 February 2023 12:04 PM: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday he recognizes the strained health-care system needs a cash injection to help it overcome a series of challenges from staffing issues to surgery backlogs and an acute shortage of family doctors.

Trudeau will meet with Canada's premiers in Ottawa today to begin negotiations on just how big a cheque the provinces will actually get to help them prop up a faltering system.

"Canadians are proud of our universal public health-care system but we all have to recognize it hasn't been delivering at the level that Canadians would expect. That's why sitting down with the provinces, working collaboratively and investing significantly in priority areas is going to move us forward in the right way," Trudeau told reporters ahead of his "working meeting" with the premiers.

The federal government is prepared to increase the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) and sign bilateral funding agreements with each of the provinces and territories — but Ottawa wants its money targeted to key areas like primary care and mental health.

Ottawa has also demanded the provinces improve data collection to better track health-care performance and outcomes.

WATCH: Trudeau says health care is not 'delivering at the level that Canadians would expect':

Trudeau says health care is not 'delivering at the level that Canadians would expect'

2 hours ago

Duration 0:27

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discusses health care ahead of meeting with premiers.

Sources told CBC News Monday that Trudeau will present a 10-year funding plan to the premiers, with money set to flow as soon as the next federal budget — which will come sometime this spring.

'We don't want conditions'

Trudeau will present a plan but it may not be palatable to the premiers who have been clear about what they want: a multi-billion-dollar hike to the CHT each year with few strings attached.

"We don't want conditions. What we want is to be able to apply our plan. We already have a plan for health care in Quebec and we need more financing from the federal government," Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Tuesday.

But, Legault said, if Ottawa's funding demands align with the province's existing priorities — he's willing to play along.

"If we have the flexibility with the federal money to be able to finance what we want to finance, we'll be happy," he said.

The premiers want Ottawa to increase its share of health-care costs from the current 22 per cent to 35 per cent.

If enacted, that would increase the value of the CHT from $28 billion a year to $45.2 billion.

The federal Liberal government has said the 22 per cent figure doesn't reflect the whole funding picture.

In 1977, some tax points were transferred from Ottawa to the provinces, which allowed them to collect a larger share of all tax revenues to fund social programs like health care. Those tax points, Ottawa argues, should count for something.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, the current head of the Council of the Federation, the group that represents the premiers, said she's not expecting a deal to materialize today.

The premiers haven't seen any details about a potential health-care agreement — they only know what's been leaked in the press.

"Today is the first time we will, as premiers, be awarded the opportunity to see what the proposal looks like. So, we look forward to seeing that," she said. "I think we're optimistic we can work together." 

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