December 4, 2023

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Trudeau says giving provinces what they want won’t improve health-care system

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says simply giving in to the provinces’ demands on health-care funding won’t guarantee improvements to Canada’s strained health system.

Ottawa and the provinces agree that the country’s health system is facing a crisis. But when health ministers met in Vancouver last month to hammer out a deal to improve health care, a disagreement over funding prevented any progress.

The provinces have been calling on the federal government to boost its share of health-care funding. But Ottawa insists it won’t offer up any cash until the provinces agree to meet certain conditions — such as increasing access to family health services.

In a year-end interview with CBC News Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton, Trudeau stood firm on the federal government’s position.

WATCH | Trudeau wants assurances that federal money will improve health services: 

‘No point putting more money into a broken system’: Trudeau on health-care funding

In a year-end interview with CBC News chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says any increase in federal health-care funding to the provinces has to come with strings attached to ensure the additional dollars go toward measurable, improved outcomes for Canadians.

“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,” Trudeau said. “There is no point putting more money into a broken system.”

The full interview will air on CBC television on Sunday at 11:30 a.m.

The impasse comes as many health-care facilities, particularly children’s hospitals, struggle with a shortage of staff and overwhelming demand due to a combination of COVID-19, influenza and respiratory infections.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said he is more confident after meeting the prime minister Tuesday that the premiers and the federal government can arrive at a health care deal for long-term increased funding. 

“I really sensed there was a desire there to move forward on that issue,” Legault said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Earlier this month, Canada’s premiers presented a united front and reiterated their demand that Trudeau sit down with them personally to hammer out an agreement on health-care costs.

Premiers also defended their refusal to accept conditions on additional federal funds and pushed back on any suggestion of throwing more of their own money into the pot, even though some provinces are posting budget surpluses — something Trudeau also pointed out in the year-end interview.

WATCH | CMA president discusses health care as feds and provinces spar over funding

Trudeau also said that if he were to offer up the funding without conditions, he’d be surrendering his only leverage to pursue improvements to Canada’s health system.

“One of the only levers I have is saying, ‘I’m not giving you this money with no conditions. I will fully participate in the funding of it, as long as those real improvements are made,'” he said.

See more of Rosemary Barton’s year-end interview with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday night on The National at 9 p.m. ET on News Network, 10 p.m. ET on CBC Television.