All of Canada’s provincial and territorial leaders came together today to call on the federal government to increase the amount of the Canada Health Transfer to meet continually rising costs.
Quebec Premier Marcel Legault led the joint press conference that involved all premiers and territorial leaders.
Legault said if the federal government doesn’t increase the amount it sends to the provinces and territories to cover health care, yearly deficits in the millions of dollars will result as governments struggle to fund services.
Legault said an increase is “essential.”
“The risk is that provinces and territories won’t be able to pay for all the services people need,” Legault said.
The current breakdown of health care spending sees provinces and territories fund 78 per cent of costs to the federal government’s 22 per cent.
Yearly, service delivery costs rise five per cent, Legault said, but transfer payments only increase by three per cent, leaving provincial and territorial budgets to make up the difference. This means year over year, the federal contribution actually declines.
Despite decreasing support, costs continue to rise, the leaders said. In Ontario alone, between 2017 and 2021, the costs to fund hospitals, OHIP, drug programs, long-term care and community care grew $13.2 billion.
The leaders called on the federal government to increase transfer payments to 35 per cent from 22 per cent and lessen the burden on the provinces and territories, as well as build in a yearly “accelerator” of five per cent to cover cost increases.
BC Premier John Horgan said Canada has re-evaluated how it funds the public health care system several times, most recently in 2002 with the Romanow Report.
“We’re at another critical pivot point for the future of our health-care system,” Horgan said.
The costs of COVID-19 have made the urgent need more pronounced, the leaders said. Not just in terms of current costs. The leaders said the costs of the long-term health impacts for those who contracted COVID-19 remain unknown, the waitlist for backlogged surgeries continues to grow, and the country’s aging population will only consume more and more health care dollars as they age.
It could take more than three years to clear the backlog of elective surgeries in Ontario, the province said in a news release, but only if hospitals work at 110- to 120 per cent above normal surgical operations.
Ontario has said dealing with the backlog in surgeries caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will cost approximately $287 million this year and up to $300 million next year.
Premier Doug Ford said provincial and territorial health-care systems are “stretched to the limit.” He called for a “Team Canada” approach to tackling the problem.
Highlighting what he said is the disparity between what the provinces and territories pay and what the federal government provides, Ford said Ontario spends $76,000 a year for each person in long-term care, but under its latest funding proposal, the federal government proposes to provide just $2,500 per person.
“Just imagine what we could do together if the federal government stepped up as a true funding partner,” Ford said. “We could build (long-term care) beds faster; we could train an army of nurses and PSWs that much sooner.
“Canadians can’t keep waiting for better health care.”
For Ontario, a Canada Health Transfer of 35 per cent would translate into more than $10 billion in additional health care funds.
Health care spending accounts for 42 per cent of the provincial budget, Ontario has said.