Provinces put collective push on federal government for more health funding

Provincial ministers are bracing for a battle over federal health funding, insisting they need much more money to care for Canada’s aging population.

Meeting in Toronto ahead of Tuesday’s potential showdown with federal Health Minister Jane Philpott, provincial health and finance ministers are rejecting the three per cent annual funding boost committed by the Liberals.

They say it’s not nearly enough to deal with the country’s fast-changing demographics.

“We say that that’s just not acceptable,” said Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao. “So it’s going to make for some interesting negotiations.”

Indigenous health, opioid abuse and prescription drugs are all topics for discussion, but the federal funding question is the most pressing and divisive issue on the agenda.

Provinces say health funding should be a 50-50 split with the federal government, but the provinces are now footing about 80 per cent of the bill.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa called the situation “problematic,” and urged that negotiations be escalated to the first ministers level.

“We need predictable, sustainable funding going forward,” he said. “All of us are preparing our next budgets and we need to foster ways to support our commitments as we go.”

B.C. Finance Minister Michael de Jong warned that the federal-provincial relationship is at stake.

BC and Quebec Finance ministers say more federal money is needed for healthcare1:57

“There is a partnership here. The delivery of health-care services, those principles of universality and portability that Canadians hold so dear ar the function and the result of that partnership,” he said. “But the partnership is changing, and unless the federal government is prepared to revisit a decision made by a previous federal government, that partnership will continue not only to change, but to deteriorate. And that’s bad news for all Canadians.”