Premier Smith taking her time to consider federal health funding proposal despite pressures
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she will reflect on the federal government’s proposed health-care funding deal, even though the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is stressing urgency for premiers to make a decision.
The premiers have been asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for more health-care funding as the system is under much strain nationwide.
“We’ve all started to give up hope that things can change. Signing these agreements and moving to action that signals we can hope again,” said Dr. Alika Lafontaine with the CMA.
In early January, Smith announced she would be moving ahead with provincial health care reform even without federal funding, stating that Trudeau was not offering enough.
On Tuesday, Smith said she’s pleased with what Alberta’s already done to help its health-care system.
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“I think in my province people are already beginning to see the impacts of health reforms,” she said, adding that the province’s COVID backlog has been cleared. She also mentioned the province’s changes to EMS services, which include adding more ambulances to the rotation.
After meeting with other premiers and the prime minister this week, Smith is calling the proposal “a start” and will be taking the matter to her team.
Health policy expert Lorian Hardcastle says she is interested in how this plays out, as each province’s proposal includes cash for one-on-one deals, negotiated individually and tailored to the region’s specific needs.
“Certainly, different provinces have very different relationships with the federal government,” she said, adding that some provinces are further along with negotiations with the feds than others.
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Trudeau has said he wants these deals finalized soon, but Smith, and other premiers, want more money.
Smith also wants a deal that recognizes provincial jurisdiction over health and expressed concern over federal overreach.
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Hardcastle said that’s the premier is remaining resolute in her usual political stance.
“It’s not a legal fact that the federal government providing funds is in fact an intrusion into areas of jurisdiction,” she said.
“I think it’s fair to say that when Smith talks about the federal government’s limiting innovation and delivery, that that may be referring to privatization. And that’s another issue that will continue to play out between the federal government and the provinces in the coming years, is how much privatization the federal government is willing to tolerate before it used its enforcement powers under the Canada Health Act.”
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