BC VIEWS: Health funding charade hides crisis

The Justin Trudeau government is keeping Stephen Harper's restrictions on health care funding, and pushing home care. It's the right move

Canada is back. Back, that is, to staged “negotiations” between Ottawa and the provinces that end up with policies unilaterally imposed by Ottawa.

The return of this time-worn charade was best revealed when provincial environment ministers convened recently with Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change.

As B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak and others were pulling up their chairs, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rose from his in the House of Commons and announced his escalating “carbon price” policy will be imposed on provinces if they don’t do it voluntarily. Some provincial ministers walked out.

Then it was the turn of health ministers. To avoid another ugly scene in front of TV cameras, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott let it be known well before the meeting that the free-spending Trudeau government will be keeping the Stephen Harper government’s restricted formula for health transfer payments.

Two of Harper’s many sins were refusing to conduct fake negotiations with premiers in areas of federal jurisdiction, and rolling back annual increases in health care transfers from six per cent each year to about half of that.

Harper sent his finance minister, the late Jim Flaherty, all the way out to Victoria in 2011 to break the news. The formula, in response to an extended period of low economic growth and low inflation, also ends targeted funding for selected wait-listed surgical procedures and bases transfers on population only.

When it was announced, provinces east of Saskatchewan had anxiety attacks. Manitoba’s health minister called it “un-Canadian.” Ontario’s warned that it would “destabilize the federation.”

Now, as with international climate change policy, Trudeau is carrying on with Harper’s plan.

In the 2015 federal election campaign, unions ran ads accusing Harper of a $30 billion “cut” to health care transfers. This fictitious cut is based on six per cent annual increases that were arbitrarily promised by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, and have continued up until this year. Martin called this unsustainable plan to pour in ever-increasing cash “fixing health care for a generation.”

In his 2015 campaign, Trudeau promised to put an additional $3 billion towards health care, and negotiate a new agreement with provinces. That “negotiation” is over now.

Oh, and the $3 billion is coming, but it must be spent on home care services. Philpott was under pressure in the House of Commons last week, arguing that the previous Conservative government put lots more money into health care but didn’t change the system. It needs to be “transformed,” she said.

Cue the outrage, in Quebec especially, as Ottawa tries to direct the key provincial jurisdiction of health care.

Philpott, a physician herself, is right. Dr. Granger Avery, the former Port McNeill family doctor who now heads the Canadian Medical Association, agrees.

Indeed, the CMA has long argued that Canada still has a post-war acute care model in a country dominated by chronic care patients.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake and his predecessors have argued that the federal formula should account for the share of retirees, who are by far the biggest users of health care.

Nova Scotia health minister Leo Glavine described the situation best last week.

“We have the oldest demographic in the country, but when I look at that demographic, the big cohort is 53 to 68,” Glavine said. “And it’s not just the age of the population, it’s also a cohort with an extreme number of chronic conditions.”

That’s the real issue. The back end of the baby boom, my generation, is the big end. And we haven’t taken good care of ourselves.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

“About a year after it was last used for a bottle drive, Lake Cowichan’s derelict Scout and Guide Hall came down Monday, June 6. Girl Guides have since moved into different churches and halls around the area. Town council has yet to decide what will be done with the now vacant town-owned site.” (Tyler Clarke/Lake Cowichan Gazette, June 8, 2011)
Flashback: A.B. Greenwell, Lady of the Lake, good and bad news for the Lake News

What was making headlines this week around Cowichan Lake in years gone by

Conner Gilkin, 5, shows of some of his newfound loot to buddy Jax Dul, 7, during the Lake Cowichan treasure hunt on Saturday, June 5. (Kevin Rothbauer/Gazette)
Weekly hunt has Lake Cowichan digging for treasure

Gold? Silver? Candy? Andrew Braye has stashed away a range of prizes for eager treasure hunters

A new laundromat is opening in the Peters Centre in Lake Cowichan. (file photo)
Peters Centre getting all cleaned up

Laundromat being developed at the Neva Road site

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

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

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read