Health Minister Jane Philpott drew a proverbial line in the sand Monday as she warned her restive provincial and territorial counterparts agitating for more federal money that all such funding must be earmarked for health care.
“I’m fixated on delivering better health for Canadians,” Philpott said during a matter-of-fact news conference in Toronto, where the provinces and territories are also gathered in advance of meetings with her on Tuesday.
“I have a responsibility as the health minister for Canada to invest in health, to help improve health systems … but when we are going to my finance minister to ask for more money, I need to be able to tell that finance minister it is going to be used for health.”
Philpott’s remarks set the stage for a confrontation Tuesday with provincial and territorial health ministers, who are united against her government’s efforts to slash in half the amount by which federal health payments are set to increase next year.
Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette, among the most outspoken provincial ministers on the issue of federal transfer payments, said cutting that annual increase to three per cent from six per cent will mean diminished services for patients.
The financial squabble is expected to dominate discussions with Philpott on Tuesday.
“I am very comfortable in my position,” Barrette said outside Monday’s meeting room at a downtown Toronto hotel.
“The reason I am very comfortable in my position is that it reflects everybody’s position. Some might not want to have the same way of communicating but at the end of the day, what I am expressing is basically what is the position of everybody.”
The conversation with Philpott on Tuesday will be very clear and direct, he added.
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins, himself a Liberal and host of this week’s meeting, struck a more diplomatic tone, but made it clear the province is not happy.
“We have a very strong, collaborative relationship with the federal government, myself and Jane Philpott … but what is true is that provinces and territories now pay for approximately 80 per cent of health services delivered in this country,” he said.