TORONTO – Ottawa knows health costs are ballooning, yet it is trying to sell provinces and territories on $60 billion less over the next decade, Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette said Tuesday as he and his counterparts began tense talks with the federal minister.
“It says to Canadians ‘We will not provide care up to the level of $60 billion,’ — that’s what’s at stake,” Barrette said outside a meeting room at a downtown hotel. “It is about Canadians and care to Canadians … knowing that the needs are growing as we speak.”
Discussions are underway between Health Minister Jane Philpott and provincial and territorial ministers, but they do not see eye-to-eye on the proposed rate of increase on health transfers.
The federal Liberals are looking to slash the current rate of increase to three per cent from six per cent, starting in April.
The transfer tiff has also resulted in a standoff between the regional ministers and the federal government over $3 billion in proposed federal funds for home care, including palliative care.
During a very frank news conference Monday, Philpott laid out her demands, including calls for more innovative ideas and accountability measures, as the price for making a pitch to the federal finance minister for more money.
“I need to hear how they want to do that before I can consider where there can be further investments,” she said.
“If we are going to make more investments, they need to go to health.”
Barrette said Tuesday that Philpott’s remarks were unfair.
“We have done that and I will speak for Quebec and in Quebec, we have done more than that because we entered in this transformation process before the Liberals got elected,” he said.
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins also disagreed with the suggestion the provinces and territories haven’t done their homework.
“We have done our part,” Hoskins said.
In fact, he said, the provinces and territories have provided the federal government with “significant detail” on shared priorities including home care, mental health and access to medications.
“With regards … to the amount of funding that is required to sustain the current system, we all know that it is well in excess of the three-per-cent that the federal government is suggesting and there are numerous independent third-party reports that speak to that.”
A reduction in the rate of increase of the Canada Health Transfer will mean a $1-billion shortfall nationally in 2017-2018, Hoskins said.
A six-per-cent annual increase has been in place since the last health accord was negotiated in 2004.
The provinces and territories have asked the Trudeau government to reconsider its plans or to postpone imposing a new transfer rate pending a meeting between the premiers and the prime minister.
A first ministers’ meeting is scheduled for Dec. 8-9, but the discussion is to focus on another current irritant in the relationship between Ottawa and the provinces and territories — the environment.
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