Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday the government is prepared to spend $46.2 billion to improve healthcare systems across all provinces and territories.
Trudeau met with provincial and territory leaders in Ottawa, as the leaders looked for ways to deal with Canada’s overwhelmed healthcare system.
The new fund includes $19 billion in unconditional annual payments, and $25 billion for bilateral agreements between the provinces and the feds.
The funding will span 10 years – but $2 billion is marked for immediate release to help struggling healthcare systems today.
The announcement also included a five-year 5% yearly increase to the federal government’s automatic annual Canada Health Transfer (CHT) payments. The increase amounts to roughly $17 billion.
While the CHT funds come with no conditions, the same cannot be said for the bilateral agreements between the provinces and Ottawa.
According to the report, each agreement with the province will need to be centered around four priorities set out by the federal government – improving family health services, reducing backlogs and supporting healthcare workers, improving access to mental health and substance use services, and implementing standardized health data and digital tools.
Participating provinces and territories will need to track their investments and report the results back to Ottawa.
In an interview with CBC last December, Trudeau said many provincial and territorial healthcare systems need more than money to fix.
“If I were to send people all the money they need in the provinces, there is no guarantee that […] folks would be waiting less time in the hospitals,” he said. “One of the only levers I have is saying ‘I’m not giving you this money with no conditions.’”
Some of Canada’s premiers believe the feds’ conditions are an overstep.
“We don’t want conditions,” said Quebec Premier Francois Legault. “What we want is to be able to apply our plan. We already have a plan for healthcare in Quebec.”
Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Doug Ford took issue with the amount of funding.
He said the funding was a starting point – and that he’ll have questions moving forward.
“This is the beginning,” he said. “I always look at it, you know, the glass is half full.”
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston echoed that sentiment.
Houston said he appreciated the year’s incoming funds to Nova Scotia – around $154 million – but bleakly compared the funds to Nova Scotia’s provincial budget of $6 billion.
Canada’s healthcare system has been plagued by a number of issues – including a backlog of surgeries, lack of family doctors and overwhelmed hospitals.
In August, the president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) Alika Lafontaine said the system was broken.
The CMA also released a statement, saying Canada should invest in a new system rather than pouring money into the status quo.