Premier responds to Federal Government healthcare funding offer

After the federal government presented a new healthcare funding offer that would see an increase of $196 billion to the provinces and territories over the next ten years, the Premier of Saskatchewan has called the offer disappointing.

“The federal government has had years to respond to the unanimous request from all provinces and territories to become a full funding partner. Yesterday’s long-awaited meeting confirmed they have no interest in doing so,” said Premier Scott Moe. “The details of the offer amount to a two per cent increase and falls short in outlining a path forward for long-term, sustainable funding that all Premiers have been calling for.”

The increase would see the federal government’s share of health care costs rise from 22 per cent to 24 per cent next year, far short of the 35 per cent the provinces and territories were demanding.

“Our goal remains to provide the best possible health care services to the people of Saskatchewan, in spite of the federal government’s lack of commitment to provide its share of health care funding,” Moe said.

About one-quarter of the $196 billion is money not previously promised through existing healthcare transfer formulas and deals. The new money will mainly be divided between bigger increases to the annual Canada Health Transfer — an additional $17 billion over ten years, over and above the previously planned increases — and $25 billion for targeted funding for family doctors, mental health, surgical backlogs and health data systems.

There will also be an immediate one-time $2 billion top-up to this year’s Canada Health Transfer to help provinces ease the intense pressure on emergency rooms and children’s hospitals.

Provinces can also get $1.7 billion over five years to increase wages for personal support workers in long-term care and home care.

A separate $2-billion fund will be offered for Indigenous healthcare needs through an agreement with Indigenous leaders.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laid out the proposal to the premiers at a meeting Tuesday near Parliament Hill that lasted about two hours.

“This is a massive investment in not just the presence of health care, but the future of health care,” Trudeau said.”

Trudeau left little room for negotiation. While the targeted funding for priorities will be delivered through the one-on-one negotiated deals with each province, those negotiations will only be about the conditions to which provinces will agree to access the funds, not how much they’ll get.

Trudeau said the government would be flexible to help the provinces meet their circumstances but that the provinces would have to show how the money would be spent and how they’ll show progress in the priority areas.

He said he has “high expectations, but also reasonable expectations” that those negotiations will take “weeks, not months.”

The offer was met with a heavy dose of disappointment, not just from Premier Moe but also reluctant acceptance by the country’s premiers, who learned of the proposal during a long-awaited first ministers’ meeting in Ottawa.

Moe said while the proposal was disappointing, they will continue to move ahead with previously planned initiatives.

“It will not deter our government from moving ahead with our ambitious health human resources plan to add over 1,000 new health care workers, as well as making important investments in mental health and addictions, reducing surgical wait times, building and renovating health facilities and many other health care priorities.”

Moe added that Saskatchewan would be evaluating the proposal and having further discussions.

The Council of the Federation is expected to meet again in the coming days.

-with files from The Canadian Press

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