Ontario and all Atlantic provinces have reached agreements-in-principle on the health-care funding offer made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government at the first ministers’ meeting in Ottawa earlier this month.
In a town hall at Dalhousie University in Halifax on Thursday afternoon, Trudeau confirmed that Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick have reached agreements-in-principle with Ottawa.
At the first ministers’ meeting, the premiers agreed to accept the federal government’s offer of more than $46 billion in new health-care money for the provinces and territories over the next ten years. The funding boost will see the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) increase by five per cent annually and will target other specific areas of the health system.
The federal government said that $25 billion of that new money would be targeted at improving four priority areas: family health services, health workers and backlogs, mental health and substance use and a “modernized health system.”
Since the announcement, the federal and provincial governments have held bilateral meetings to finalize individual funding agreements to target those specific areas in each province.
Ontario was the first province to announce an agreement Thursday morning. Provincial Health Minister Sylvia Jones confirmed the agreement in a tweet: “This additional funding will bolster Ontario’s investments in health care as we implement our plan for connected and convenient care.”
Speaking at the town hall, Trudeau said that while the federal government is not going to micromanage provincial health-care systems, it does want to ensure a standard of care.
“Our job is to make sure Canadians are getting the right services, the right health care, across the country. And the way to do that is to really focus on outcomes,” he said.
Trudeau said that means empowering provinces to tackle the challenges in their respective jurisdictions however they see fit, while keeping them accountable to the taxpayer.
“What we’re asking is for provinces is to set those targets that they want and then to hit those targets, make them publicly accessible so that they are accountable not to us, but to their residents, to their citizens.”
I want to thank the federal government for agreeing to Premier @fordnation‘s request to build in reviews to ensure sustainability and certainty.
This additional funding will help us connect people to convenient care closer to home.
See my full statement below⬇️ pic .twitter.com/m5mYRSo5jF
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson is the current head of the Council of the Federation, which represents the premiers. She told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics last week that the premiers were “united” in their decision to accept the federal government’s proposal.
She cautioned that cash injection is not a long-term fix.
“We’ve accepted this for now,” she told guest host David Cochrane. “But we do recognize that this is not a long-term solution to the health-care funding that is needed within our country.”
The flow of funding will also hinge on “action plans” developed by the provinces and territories which detail how the funds will be used and progress will be measured.
In addition to this new cash for the provinces and territories, the federal government is promising more money for Indigenous health, an area that is largely under federal jurisdiction.
Trudeau’s plan calls for an additional $2 billion over 10 years for an “Indigenous-specific funding stream” to address what the government called “unique challenges” that “Indigenous peoples face when it comes to fair and equitable access to quality and culturally safe health care services.”