Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney, right, talks with Premier of British Columbia John Horgan during a meeting of the Council of the Federation which comprises all 13 provincial and territorial Premiers in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, December 2, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Premiers ask for more health funding, express hesitation on pharmacare

The federal election campaign laid bare some regional division

Canada’s provincial and territorial leaders agreed Monday to press the federal government for higher increases to health-care funding, but most expressed hesitation about a national pharmacare program.

The premiers also emerged from a meeting in Mississauga, Ont., with a call to Ottawa to strengthen a program that provides a financial top-up to provincial governments suffering economic downturns — a key request of Alberta.

The first ministers arrived at a consensus on four priority areas of economic competitiveness, the Fiscal Stabilization Program, health-care and infrastructure funding, and northern priorities.

They’ll look to raise the issues with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau early in the new year, at their first joint meeting with him since a federal election that exposed regional divisions and reduced Trudeau’s Liberals to a minority government.

A spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said she is “open and keen” to discuss those issues.

The premiers reiterated their call for a 5.2-per-cent increase in annual health-care transfer payments from the federal government, but called for federal transfers to come with opt-outs “with full financial compensation.”

Several premiers said now may not be the right time for a national pharmacare program — a promise the Liberals made during the federal election and that will require discussion with the provinces — with funding needed to address hospital overcrowding and growing wait times.

“If you can’t sustain health care, all the multitude of services that we offer effectively, then you will have lineups grow, as they have grown over the last number of years right across the country in every category,” said Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.

“If you can’t get that right, don’t start with another program…. Don’t start broadening health care when you can’t get it right now.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan said many provinces already have significant pharmacare plans, so the priority should be a “more equitable distribution of resources to deliver health care.”

But Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball, who has been supportive of national pharmacare, said in aging provinces such as his own, diseases are becoming more complex and drugs are becoming more expensive.

“Whatever the commitment is, it has to be long-term, it has to be the responsibility of the federal government, but I do believe that no matter where I go, Canadians want to entertain and want us to explore the options around a national pharmacare program,” he said.

The premiers agreed that the Fiscal Stabilization Program should be more responsive to economic downturns, such as removing a per capita cap, lowering a non-resource revenue threshold and making changes to retroactive payments.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has called for the cap to be removed, as the money his province has received is barely scratching the surface of the financial impact of low oil prices. He thanked his fellow premiers Monday for making fiscal stabilization amendments a priority.

“This was a tremendous moment of solidarity,” he said. “I’ve been trying to convey to Albertans that we are not alone, or isolated in the federation, that there are provincial and territorial governments who get what we’re going through and who understand our ask for a fair deal in the Canadian federation.”

They also talked about developing resources responsibly and getting them to all markets, but the somewhat vaguely worded communique does not specifically reference pipelines, an area of disagreement among the premiers.

ALSO READ: Edmonton mayor says he can help Trudeau deal with angry western premiers

ALSO READ: Kenney announces ‘Fair Deal Panel’ to advance Alberta’s interests

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UFV to launch Peace and Reconciliation Centre in Abbotsford

Online event on Sept. 24 features keynote speaker Bob Rae and Steven Point

UFV wrestler Jason Bains receives four-year suspension for using banned substance

Surrey native tests positive for oral steroid Turinabol, silver national medal removed for violation

Fraser Valley foursome to hike 70km over mountains in memory of friend

Friends from Abbotsford and Langley to hike from Hope to Tulameen for Brook Morrison

PBR Canada cancels Abbotsford event

COVID-19 concerns end multi-year run for event at Abbotsford Centre

‘Not criminally responsible’ hearing slated for man convicted of Abbotsford school stabbing

Gabriel Klein was found guilty in March of killing Letisha Reimer, 13, in 2016

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

PHOTOS: One injured in shooting on South Surrey-Langley border

Shots reported near 194 Street and 34 Avenue, burned-out vehicle found in 18100-block of 12 Avenue

Report raises questions about COVID outbreak that killed 25 seniors at Langley Lodge

CEO defends leaked document that’s igniting queries about BC’s most deadly COVID outbreak

PHOTO: RCMP escort beaver across busy Chilliwack road

Motorists had to exercise patience as the slow-moving creature crossed several lanes of traffic

B.C.’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan: Top 5 things you need to know

Jobs training, tax incentives for employers to hire staff and more

March to protect old growth, stop industrial logging coming to B.C. Legislature

Organizers say they want to give frontline communities a bigger say in nearby logging

Most Read