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Poilievre says Conservatives would uphold federal-provincial health-care funding deals


Pierre Poilievre says he would uphold the 10-year deals Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is looking to ink with provinces and territories that would inject $46.2 billion in new funding into Canada's strained health-care systems, if the Conservatives form the next government.

Poilievre said Wednesday that while Trudeau has announced an inadequate amount of new funding to improve the state of Canadian healthcare, based on premiers' initial reactions, "obviously a future Conservative government led by myself will keep in place these additional sums and honour the commitments made."

On Tuesday, Trudeau pitched the premiers a plan that would see federal health funding increase by $196.1 billion over 10 years, in exchange for provinces and territories meeting metrics to improve care.

The offer includes both increases to the amount budgeted to flow through the Canada Health Transfer (CHT), as well as federal plans to sign bilateral deals that are mindful of each province and territory’s unique circumstances.

While Trudeau is touting the Liberals' commitment as "a major federal investment in health care," early indications suggest the offer doesn’t satisfy provinces' demands.

Poilievre told reporters on his way into a Conservative caucus meeting on Wednesday morning, it's regrettable that Trudeau didn't come to the table with more new funding. Though, the Conservative leader said he will "honour" any deal that's finalized, agreeing with the Liberals' approach of looking to advance shared goals with the new money.

Metrics the federal government hopes it can use to assess any tangible progress from these funding arrangements include the net-new family physicians in each province and territory, the size of surgical backlogs, and the median wait times for access to mental health services.

Poilievre wasn't clear on whether he'd offer up more money, but vowed that a Conservative government would not cut health-care funding.

"A Conservative government will unleash the productive forces of our economy so there is more money available to support health care. We will cut the waste and mismanagement in the federal government… So that more of your tax dollar goes to the emergency room, and to treating your family," he said.

This commitment from the Conservative leader offers some certainty that any new spending plans to improve staffing, tackle surgical backlogs, and speed up access to emergency and mental health care, can count on funding whether the Liberals or Conservatives win the next federal election.

Ahead of this commitment, the NDP had accused Poilievre of being “absent, silent and missing” from the conversation around the future of health care in Canada.

During a press conference on Wednesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that if he were prime minister, he'd meet with every premier to talk about rebuilding the health-care system.

Reacting to the Conservative leader's remarks on his way into question period—where health-care spending was a hot topic—Trudeau accused Poilievre of slamming the plan that the prime minister said will improve care for Canadians.

"I haven't heard from any Canadians anywhere in the country who feel like there isn't a need to improve their health-care systems… and I know awful lot of premiers are very eager to roll up their sleeves and get to work," Trudeau said. "Conversations are beginning in the coming days to be able to deliver this money as quickly as possible to make sure that there are concrete improvements." 

Premiers are still digesting the prime minister’s pitch, but with plans to have the agreements solidified ahead of the next federal budget, Trudeau has said the federal government is looking to finalize negotiations with the provinces and territories in the next few weeks.

Some premiers left Tuesday’s meeting viewing the Liberal offer as a starting point, while others viewed it as more of a take-it-or-leave-it proposal.

"We're going to sit down today and review it, and discuss it with the rest of the premiers. I'm confident we'll get the T's crossed, the I's dotted," said Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Wednesday. "We're grateful for the offer… but we want sustainability. We need certainty, moving forward… And I'm confident we'll work collaboratively together with the federal government, and I look forward to getting the deal done."

Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones will be meeting with federal officials Thursday to discuss the details of the new health-care funding deal. As CTV News Toronto has reported, the premier’s office said Ontario is being offered $776 million in immediate, emergency top-up funding and another $8.4 billion in health-care money over the next decade. The government, however, is not speaking about how it hopes to use the new funds.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King stuck around to meet with Trudeau on Wednesday. Coming out of that sit-down, King told reporters that he thinks a "significant" amount of money is being offered, but it's nothing new for premiers to push for more from the federal government.

"He who has the gold makes the rules. So I don't know if this is a negotiation. I think it's, we had put forward what we thought was a fair deal. The federal government has come back. At the end of the day the federal government are the ones who say, 'this is the federal money, this is what you have.' So I'm prepared to take that money and put it to good use," King said. "But as I say, I don't think it ends here. I think we need to continue to look for more opportunities to partner with the federal government when it comes to the delivery of health care."

On his way into a federal Liberal caucus meeting on Wednesday morning, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said that Trudeau asked him to write to his provincial and territorial counterparts to outline the path ahead for negotiating the proposed bilateral deals tailored to each health-care system’s needs.

Duclos said he'll be doing that "very soon" so that "action plans" the federal government wants to see from the premiers can be finalized, and the $25 billion in earmarked funding can start to flow.

"As we heard yesterday, I think all premiers have indicated that they feel that this is a path forward. It's a big step made yesterday. And now, we need to talk about the way by which those dollars will bring results to patients and workers in Canada. And the good news is that lots of the work… the actual policy that is needed to generate those results, lots of the work on that has been done over the last year with my colleague health ministers," Duclos said. 




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