New details emerge ahead of Trudeau-premiers’ health-care meeting

As preparations are underway for the anticipated health-care “working meeting” between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s premiers on Tuesday, new details are emerging about what some provinces are expecting.

Trudeau is expected to come into the afternoon meeting with a detailed two-hour presentation of what the federal government is ready to put on the table, though he’s already signalled he doesn’t expect to leave with signed agreements.

Overall, the gathering between federal, provincial and territorial governments will be focused on discussing long-term funding deals that will see billions of additional dollars put into health-care systems across the country, in exchange for improved care.

But how this will look in each case is expected to vary.

In Ontario, for example, senior provincial government sources tell CTV News they are working towards a bilateral deal that would see Canada’s most populous province receive $73 billion over 10 years. Of this, approximately $30 billion would be new money, equating to approximately $3 billion in increased funding annually.

The sources CTV News spoke with indicated that Ontario views this proposal positively, and while they aren’t coming to Ottawa ready to sign, they don’t want a long delay before coming to an agreement.

This push is motivated by what the sources said was regret around being the last holdout province to sign a bilateral child-care deal, in hopes of getting more out of the federal government.

Not all provinces appear to be coming to the table as ready and eager to accept a deal in short order, however. According to provincial sources there is some expectation that Saskatchewan and Quebec are gearing up for a fight, seeking to get more out of the federal government before signing on the dotted line.

CTV News is also hearing from sources that there is some pressure on the Ontario government to try to push for more out of the gate, specifically from Saskatchewan. Though, while Ontario Premier Doug Ford has recently spoken about how the premiers need to “stay united,” pressure from Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe doesn’t appear to be swaying him, according to sources.

Premiers are gathering in the nation’s capital on Monday evening, for a meeting ahead of their sit-down with Trudeau, and Chair of the Council of the Federation and Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson has scheduled a pre-First Ministers Meeting media availability on Tuesday morning.

In a statement issued a week ago, Stefanson said that a federal proposal had not yet been received by the premiers, and that the meeting would “mark the beginning of the direct… dialogue and follow-up required to achieve the significant investment and outcomes expected by all Canadians on this fundamental priority.”


Tuesday’s meeting to discuss reaching cross-Canada health-care funding deals comes as hospitals and health-care facilities appear to be in crisis mode, and after premiers began indicating their willingness to agree to funding with strings attached.

For some time the premiers have been putting pressure on the federal government to increase the amount of money Ottawa provides through the federal-provincial funding arrangement known as the Canada Health Transfer (CHT).

These calls have been met by Trudeau acknowledging that, while systems across the country are “strained, if not broken,” any influx in funding has to come with provinces and territories agreeing to be accountable for delivering improved systems and access in return.

This year Canada is expected to send the provinces $45.2 billion through the CHT, increasing on average five per cent annually since 2017, as The Canadian Press has reported.

The longstanding ask of the premiers is to see the amount Ottawa covers under the CHT increase from 22 per cent to 35 per cent.

Though, some provincial leaders have already signalled to CTV News that they aren’t expecting to see that request met, as doing so would cost the federal government an estimated additional $28 billion a year.  


As the situation stands, it appears that the federal government is looking at reaching both a nationwide agreement — perhaps on data and health information sharing — as well as signing long-term bilateral deals on a province-by-province basis that include specific metrics relevant to each system’s needs, rather than just dumping new funding solely into the CHT.

The shared priorities that both the federal government and premiers have been discussing include:

  • Timely access to family health teams;
  • Reducing backlogs in surgeries and diagnostics;
  • Retaining, recruiting, and recognizing the credentials of health-care workers;
  • Investing in mental health; and
  • Modernizing the health information system so medical records can be shared with various providers, electronically.

“We don’t think applying a one-size-fits-all across the country is the best way to do it. But, there will be elements of what we’re working on that will be an agreement with the entire country,” Trudeau told reporters during a press conference during a pre-Parliament retreat in Hamilton, Ont., on Jan. 25. 

During the same retreat, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told reporters that the federal government is aiming to have these deals inked ahead of the 2023 federal budget, typically tabled in the spring.


As Trudeau and all his provincial and territorial counterparts meet for the first time in person since the COVID-19 pandemic, front-line health-care workers and advocates are planning to rally on Parliament Hill to demand Canada’s universal public system is protected.

With the federal-provincial funding dispute stretching on while Canadians face long emergency room wait times and an extensive backlog of surgeries and medical procedures, some provinces have announced plans to forge ahead with initiatives to address their specific health-care systems’ needs, including plans to allow more private clinics to offer certain procedures.

This has revived the privatization debate and raised questions over whether what some provinces are doing contravenes the Canada Health Act, which ensures all eligible residents have reasonable access to publicly-funded health services. In order to maintain eligibility for their full Canada Health Transfer, provinces are required to uphold the Act’s criteria and ensure there is no extra-billing and user chargers for insured health services.

Largely, federal officials asked about privatization creep concerns have said they take their responsibility to uphold the Canada Health Act seriously, but that they are confident premiers intend to uphold the universal health-care system.

Though, as Canadian Health Coalition spokesperson Pauline Worsfold told reporters on Monday, these assurances aren’t enough.

“Prime Minister Trudeau must insist that premiers guarantee each dollar transferred from the federal government is used for health care, not for tax cuts or wasteful rebates. Second, we want to stop public health care dollars going to private for-profit clinics operating outside the Medicare system,” said Worsfold, a registered nurse in Edmonton, Alta.

“Stakes for Canadian Medicare could not be higher. There is a crisis in our hospitals that I witness every day when I go to work,” Worsfold said. “Front-line workers are burnt out, feel overwhelmed and underappreciated, and patient care is suffering. They all want to see action by all political parties at every level of government.”

The health-care worker unions and public health care advocates behind the rally are also calling for action on the long-promised national pharmacare program.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has also been putting pressure on the Liberals to ensure that the universal public system will be upheld and that the federal pharmacare plan will be launched this year.

During a press conference backed by leaders who represent thousands of health-care workers, Singh restated these calls Monday, calling for Canada’s health-care systems to be rebuilt.

“Right now we’re up against a health-care crisis. We’re saying that the public money that we use at the federal level should not be going to for-profit care. And while there’s a negotiation happening right now, the prime minister has an opportunity to say ‘we will not be spending public money to invest in for-profit delivery of care,'” Singh said. 

With files from CTV News Chief Political Correspondent Vassy Kapelos and Senior Political Correspondent for CTV News Channel Mike Le Couteur 

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