Side deals on health funding may be reached alongside national agreement: B.C. premier

Side deals on health funding may be reached alongside national agreement: B.C. premier

Premiers have expressed optimism about finalizing an improved national health financing deal with the federal government ahead of next week’s meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

British Columbia Premier David Eby said in Ottawa on Wednesday he believes the federal government will provide provinces and territories with details of a health transfer agreement that could result in a national deal, but he is open to side talks specifically for BC

This could include discussions on mental health and addiction treatment programs, increasing the number of family doctors and expanding home care.

“We will talk about core funding for the provinces, but with the possibility for provinces to hold talks with the federal government on key areas of provincial priority,” he told a news conference in the capital.

“I am convinced that BC’s priorities are not necessarily the same as those of Quebec, Nova Scotia or Newfoundland.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford also said Wednesday he was confident the provinces could reach a health deal with the federal government after next Tuesday’s meeting with the premier.

Last month, Ford said provinces would not sign individual agreements with the federal government.

Premiers and health ministers across the country have urged Ottawa to increase its share of healthcare costs to 35 percent from the current 22 percent.

Trudeau said the funding would come with strings attached, including sharing health data and results for a national database.

Eby said the Prime Minister did not provide financial details for next week’s health financing talks during a 45-minute meeting with him on Wednesday.

“He said he would make a very clear and understandable proposal to the Prime Ministers,” Eby said.

The meeting also included a discussion of the importance of health data to ensure accountability for funding from both federal and provincial governments, Eby said.

The BC Premier is also set to meet with Ford in Toronto on Thursday.

Ford echoed Trudeau’s recent comments that no deal would be signed at the Feb. 7 meeting.

“But we should make a deal shortly after that,” Ford said in Brampton, Ontario.

“We can’t drag this out any longer if we’re all feeling the pressure on healthcare,” he said.

Ford has said he wants to use more federal funding to hire more nurses and doctors and help address the surgical backlog.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said he was looking forward to the health talks.

“We hope for good news,” he said.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he was also optimistic the provinces and federal government would come to an agreement.

He said he believes health standards should be comparable between provinces, where they learn from each other what works best.

“I think it’s important that we can agree, and I don’t think it’s difficult to agree on what those standards could be,” Higgs said at a news conference. “But I think you have to leave it up to the provinces how we get to that level of performance because it’s more sensitive to some than others.”

The federal government should not dictate to the federal states how they achieve comparable standards of care, he said.

“I think they should just say, ‘Okay. Let’s agree on access to basic services. Let’s agree on schedules that are standards across the country,” Higgs said.

Eby said he expects the federal government to make an offer to the provinces that will lead to meaningful talks about an agreement.

“British Columbians don’t want the federal and provincial governments fighting over health dollars in a bun dispute,” he said. “They want us to deliver for them.”

– With files from Dirk Meissner in Victoria, Allison Jones in Toronto and Hina Alam in Fredericton.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

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