Western Canadian premiers are meeting in Regina on Friday and federal health transfers are expected to be first on the list.
The meeting of provincial and territorial leaders from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut was virtual in 2021.
As host, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe will chair the meeting. A spokesperson for the prime minister said “negotiations on Canada Health Transfer (CHT) funding and next steps” were on the agenda.
Canada’s prime ministers met virtually in February and a theme emerged. Coming out of the pandemic, the provinces are all asking for more health transfer payments from the federal government.
“Provinces and territories are on the front lines of health care, and Premiers understand the challenges facing our systems, including shortages of health professionals, backlogs of surgeries, wait times and hospitals operating at full capacity,” B.C. Premier John Horgan said in February.
“A new vision for health care, supported by a significant, long-term increase in federal funding, is needed to ensure that we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger and ready to meet the needs of our citizens.
Premiers are calling on the federal government to increase its cost share through the Canada Health Transfer from 22% to 35%.
The application has been a few years in the making. At the 2021 virtual Prime Ministers’ Conference, the group called for a 13% increase in the transfer share. The increase would amount to $28 billion in new annual funds.
Following the 2021 meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said“We’ll be there to increase those transfers. But that conversation needs to happen once we get through this pandemic.”
Asked about health transfers in April, Trudeau said the provinces would see “more money from the federal government” and pointed out $2 billion distributed in March to reduce surgical backlogs.
“We’ve seen in the past that just more money in health care, even from federal governments, doesn’t necessarily lead to the right or better outcomes for Canadians,” Trudeau said.
Days later, Premier Scott Moe said the current state of transfer “puts the health care Canadians deserve at risk.”
“It is long overdue for the Prime Minister to take serious action to address the unanimous concern of Canada’s Prime Ministers and work to increase the federal government’s share of the CHT to 35%,” Moe tweeted.
All Premiers are united in their call for an immediate, long-term federal commitment to increase the CHT from 22% to 35%, ensuring the sustainability of Canada’s health care systems.
Trudeau was in Saskatoon on Wednesday where he announced $32 million federal government to improve long-term care for seniors in Saskatchewan.
According to a Saskatchewan government spokesperson, other issues to be discussed at the first ministers’ meeting include the economy and labor market, supply chains, trade and infrastructure, energy security and Sustainable development.