Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government will keep its spending focus on emergency aid and won’t talk about hiking long-term health-care funding until after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

He says Ottawa needs to keep supporting those hit hard financially by the pandemic, having sent billions in aid to businesses and individuals, as well as to provinces.

Speaking at a midday press conference, Trudeau said that short-term outlook can’t yet give way to longer-term concerns about the effect COVID-19 is having on the Canada’s provincially run health-care systems.

On Thursday, the country’s premiers reiterated their demand for a handsome increase in the unconditional transfer payments the federal government sends provinces and territories each year for health care.

But Trudeau held firm on Friday, telling reporters he wouldn’t yet negotiate on long-term health care funding.

“As we get through this pandemic, and once we’re on the other side, it is obvious that there will be a need for greater financing of health care in this country, including through the Canada Health Transfer,” Trudeau said.

“As I’ve said to premiers, we will be there to increase those transfers. But that conversation needs to happen once we are through this pandemic because right now, the supports we’re giving to Canadians are the ones that are needed to get through this pandemic.”

The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care, under an arrangement that sees the amount rise by at least three per cent each year.

Premiers argue that amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent, which would mean Ottawa would have to add $28 billion this year to cover just over one-third of national costs, and about $4 billion annually thereafter.

Quebec Premier François Legault, chair of the premiers’ council, stressed Thursday that the pandemic-related expenses Ottawa has incurred are one-time costs.

One they roll off, he argued, federal finances could recover over time and end in far better shape over the long run than provinces mired in debt.

In late November, Finance Department officials tried to estimate how much more provinces had spent on health care during the pandemic in a briefing note to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.

The figures in the back of the briefing note, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, suggested the pandemic had by the fall added hundreds of millions in costs for some provinces, subject to a giant asterisk.

Officials cautioned that information on the short-term impacts of the pandemic on health-care spending was “scarce.”

The briefing pointed to a study by the Conference Board of Canada that estimated health care costs due to COVID-19 were in a range of $20.1 billion and $26.9 billion in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

“Longer-term cost projections vary greatly and will depend largely on the evolution of the pandemic and vaccine development and administration,” officials wrote.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cathy Grace, principal of Parkside Centennial, and Susan Cairns, executive director of the Langley School District Foundation, show off a treat donated to the staff with the school mascot. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)
PHOTOS: Leadership program members deliver cake and snacks to Parkside Elementary

$1,250 was raised by the four group members who wanted to help feed hungry students

Peterson, owner of Velocity Cycling in Walnut Grove, said it’s still hard to get enough bikes and parts, more than a year into the pandemic-inspired cycling boom. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Langley bike shops still swamped by would-be riders

It can be months to order a simple new bicycle due to COVID-19

Legion branch 265 president Doug Hadley shows off the green space where food service can continue via outdoor dining. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)
Aldergrove legion branch #265 preparing to open patio dining on back lawn

Branch president Doug Hadley said COVID-19 restriction have hurt clientele

.
LETTER: Glaciers disappearing faster than in previous decades, Langley student writes

Grade 7 students at Gordon Greenwood Elementary were tasked with writing about climate change.

Pilots from the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley were unable to take part in the actual Vimy Ridge centennial tribute in France in 2017, and similarly they were grounded today – the 103rd anniversary of the battle. This time due to weather conditions. (Canadian Museum of Flight/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Vimy Ridge flyby tribute just not in the cards?

This time, for a different reason, Canadian Museum of Flight pilots couldn’t take to the air – again

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
1 taken to hospital after plane crash at Metro Vancouver airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage, says freelancer

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Most Read