B.C. premier wants meeting with Trudeau on health care, won’t accept spending caps

The Liberal government’s pledge to maintain the health-care spending escalator unilaterally set by the former Harper government is unacceptable, B.C. Premier Christy Clark says, demanding that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau come up with more money.

“It’s urgent that we sort this problem out. Nobody is really interested in the targets that Stephen Harper set for the increase. We’d like to see more money go into health care to support B.C., especially for seniors in our province,” she said in an interview with host Chris Hall for CBC Radio’s The House.

‘My goodness, health care needs an injection of funds.’
– B.C. Premier Christy Clark

Health Minister Jane Philpott said Thursday that Harper’s plan would be implemented next year when the funding escalator for the Canada health transfer is legislated to take effect. Funding increases will either match the rate of GDP growth or three per cent a year — whichever is greater — an end to the six per cent annual escalator implemented under the last Liberal government.

“Three per cent is a reasonable escalator for next year,” Philpott told reporters. “Three per cent is actually significantly higher than the growth in health spending across the country, which averages anywhere from zero to two per cent.”

Clark said the federal government has abdicated its role as a true financial partner in the delivery of care.

“My goodness, health care really needs an injection of funds from the federal government. In some provinces, they fund less than 20 per cent of the cost of health care and the rest falls on provincial taxpayers. It’s a long way from the original promise that national medicare came with from the federal government,” she said.

(The federal government paid half of all health-care costs incurred by the provinces until Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made a funding change in 1977.)

Clark wants Trudeau at the table

Clark said premiers will not sit down to discuss Trudeau’s much-wanted national climate change plan unless they first get a meeting on health-care spending.

“Our position as premiers has been — let’s get the health meeting out of the way first, because the budget is getting written now.”

That position was enunciated in a letter written to the prime minister, and obtained by CBC News. The premiers say if a meeting on health care is not possible by mid-December, they want the prime minister to commit to extending increased health-care transfers for at least another year.

“In the spirit of collaboration and to reflect the importance of this issue, we believe that this meeting should be confirmed prior to the first ministers meeting on climate change and clean growth,” Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski wrote on the premiers’ behalf earlier this month.

Philpott will convene a meeting with her provincial and territorial counterparts in October, but Clark said that is not the arena for hashing out new funding agreements because Philpott simply does not have the authority to commit more money.

“I know from experience, the only time that those kind of issues get solved is when the prime minister himself sits down at the table,” she said. “This won’t be solved at the health ministers’ table. We’d like the prime minister to step in. Let’s all roll up our sleeves, let’s get this done.”

Listen to CBC Radio’s The House at 9 a.m. (9:30 NT) on Saturdays.

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