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Increase in health transfers | Ottawa refuses to open its game before the meeting with the provinces



(Ottawa) A few days before the First Ministers’ meeting on the increase in health transfers, the Trudeau government is keeping its cards closest to it regarding the financial effort it is prepared to make to restore the network health on track.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has summoned his provincial counterparts to a working meeting on February 7, but the federal envoys have so far refrained from revealing the amount that Ottawa is ready to put on the table to consolidate the health networks. in the country.

While there is still optimism about the possibility of reaching a long-term agreement in the coming weeks, everything indicates that Justin Trudeau will wait until next Tuesday, the day of the meeting, to give the financial details to the provincial premiers. .

“We have absolutely no details about federal intentions,” said a provincial source in an exasperated tone.

“We barely know where the first ministers’ meeting will take place. It is obviously a tactic of negotiations on the part of the federal government, ”added this provincial source, well aware of the file. This source requested anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly about the details of the meeting.

“The Prime Minister is now expected to release the details of the deal he has in mind only when he meets with the premiers. »

For several months, the provinces have united to demand a substantial increase in health transfers of $28 billion per year. According to provincial calculations, this would allow Ottawa to pay 35% of health care costs in the country, compared to 22% today.

Justin Trudeau has already made it known that he does not intend to accede to this request, going so far as to point out that the provinces have, in the immediate future, sufficient financial capacity to invest more in the short term in the health network if they wish.

In addition, the federal government disputes the provinces’ method of calculation and maintains that it already pays 35% of the costs if we take into account the tax points transferred to them in the 1970s.

Federal sources joined by The Press also refused to give even an order of magnitude of the financial effort that Ottawa is ready to make. Obviously, this strategy aims to ensure that the federal government will not lend itself to criticism from the premiers before the meeting is held.

“We have an order of magnitude in mind,” said a federal source, refusing in the same breath to give more details.

That said, the agreement that Ottawa wishes to conclude will be for a period of 10 years. This agreement may be reassessed after five years to take demographic changes into account and to adjust the amounts if necessary.

At the same time, Ottawa intends to sign bilateral agreements with each of the provinces to take their needs into account. They could thus use this money for their respective health care priorities, such as mental health, primary care, or even tackle the surgical waiting list more quickly.

Thursday evening Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland met her provincial counterparts in Toronto for a “working dinner.” It was impossible to know if she intended to specify the additional investments that Ottawa intended to make in health during this meeting.

According to information obtained by The Pressthe Trudeau government is hopeful of quickly concluding bilateral agreements with certain provinces, as it had done in the case of the national child care program.

British Columbia could be the first to enter into such an agreement. The premier of this province, David Eby, was also passing through Ottawa on Wednesday. He had a meeting with Justin Trudeau.

In a press briefing, Mr. Eby said that Mr. Trudeau had not provided him with financial details on health funding during the 45-minute meeting. “He said he would present a very clear and understandable proposal for the prime ministers”.

Federal mandarins also expect Ontario Premier Doug Ford to sign an agreement with Ottawa as quickly. “We should reach an agreement soon after” on February 7, Ford said on Wednesday. “We can’t keep dragging this out when we all feel pressure on health care.”

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