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Canada’s Governments Close to Investing Tens of Billions in Healthcare

The Canadian federal governments and the provincial counterparts are on the cusp of achieving a healthcare deal, reports the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail reports that the federal government is inching toward a 10-year healthcare deal with the 13 provinces using independent bilateral agreements. These healthcare deals come after the country's healthcare system has been battered due to the pandemic, decades of healthcare stagnation, and lack of reform.


Before this news, Canada's federal and provincial governments were fighting tooth and nail for their demands for healthcare funding. While the provincial governments demanded an increase in healthcare funding, the federal government stood firm in its commitment to only increase healthcare funding on conditions. The federal government demands that for any funding outflows to provinces, the provinces must commit to common healthcare priorities such as long-term care, mental health and addiction prevention, primary care, reducing ER wait times, and virtual health care. 


Furthermore, The Toronto Star reports that funding will come in two forms: (1) an increase in funding for healthcare specifically and (2) healthcare funding targeted to priorities set by the federal government. 


It comes after the Prime Minister of Canada hinted a few days earlier on announcing "positive steps forward very soon" regarding healthcare. The announcement is a pre-collection to a first ministers meeting of the premiers and the Prime Minister sometime in the next few weeks before any finalized agreement is made. 


Premiers from across the country have given in to Ottawa's demands. The premiers of the country's two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec, have made it apparent that they are willing to accept the federal government's conditions. The premiers of Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, Labrador, and British Columbia have all expressed that they are "on the same page" with the federal government's priorities. Furthermore, Ontario's premier, Doug Ford, says the provinces "have to work together and stay united," signalling a front between the provinces against the federal government. Whether this should be interpreted as cooperation against or with the federal government is yet to be clarified. 


Moreover, the federal health minister, Jean-Yves Duclos, has commented on the multi-billion dollar agreement with the provinces. For example, details about a deal with the country's largest province, Ontario, have indicated that $70 billion would be allocated to the provinces for healthcare priorities over ten years. When including all other provinces, this healthcare investment is over $100 billion (perhaps closer to $200 billion) over ten years. 


More details regarding when the agreements would fall into place have been revealed by Premier Blaine Higgs, the premier of the province of New Brunswick. He states that a deal is likely to be struck in February, ahead of federal and provincial spring budgets in March and April. According to Premier Higgs, the federal government and provinces want enough time between the healthcare deal and the budgets to make sure the governments can include the new funding for the next fiscal year. 


More details to come when Parliament returns as the Federal Cabinet is currently in a 3-day retreat to discuss policy priorities for the upcoming year, the GlobeandMail reports. 


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