Western Premiers Demand Sustainable health Funding

REGINA - Canada's western premiers meeting in Regina are demanding "sustainable" health-care funding from the federal government.

The annual meeting of provincial and territorial leaders from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Yukon was in-person, after being virtual in 2021.

At a media availability, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and British Columbia Premier John Horgan focused on federal health transfers.

Premiers from across Canada have been lobbying the federal government to increase its share of health transfer to 35 per cent, or $28 billion annually, from 22 per cent. Horgan said delivering on health care is "pressing and urgent. Never have we been at such a critical point," Horgan said.

Moe and Horgan said pressures of the pandemic and subsequent increases in surgical and diagnostic wait times have increased the urgency for Ottawa to pay a higher share of health costs. "This is not your regularly scheduled programming. This has been building over decades," Horgan said.

Horgan mentioned previous comments by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on a willingness to discuss the funding agreement. After last year's premiers' meetings in 2021 Trudeau said, "we will be there to increase those transfers. But that conversation needs to happen once we are through this pandemic". Horgan said even though the pandemic continues, "it's time now to have that conversation."

Moe said the provinces are working to make the federal government, "a fair and full funding partner in health-care delivery services across the nation". Moe said recent announcements from the federal government, including $2 billion toward surgical waits, are welcome and that three- to five-year funding agreements are "appreciated," but fall short of the ask from the premiers.

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