Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey is part of the group of Canadian premiers calling on the federal government to come to the table to deal with a health-care system in crisis.
Canada's premiers are meeting in Victoria, B.C. this week to push Ottawa to increase its share of health-care funding from 22 per cent to 35 per cent, and maintain that increase into the future.
The numbers have been a hot topic over the two days of meetings as premiers demand a conversation with federal government representatives to come up with a new agreement on health-care funding.
"The health-care system needs the federal government at the table talking to the provinces to be able to reimagine this," Furey told reporters Tuesday.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine the health-care system. And the fact that they're not here is hurtful to Canadians."
Provinces and territories across Canada have been dealing with a health-care crunch in recent weeks.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, emergency rooms have been closed across the province — sometimes for week-long stretches — due to staffing shortages, a lack of doctor recruitment and a pandemic-fuelled surgical backlog.
About 125,000 people are without a family doctor in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to the province's medical association.
During an interview with CBC's Power & Politics Monday, federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc called the 22-per-cent share a "fake figure."
"They use this fake figure of 22 per cent because they deliberately refuse to acknowledge that $20 billion was generated last year by provinces and territories in tax points that the government of Canada withdrew from, and they than took up immediately to generate revenue for themselves," LeBlanc said Monday.
"So their 22 per cent figure isn't real. But what we have said is that we are prepared to make additional investments in the health-care system."
Asked about LeBlanc's comments Tuesday, Furey said the numbers shouldn't be the main focus of conversation as the country deals with a health-care system in need.
"What's not fake is the fact that the Canadian health-care system is in crisis…. It's not fake when I have to go in and tell a patient they can't have surgery. That's not fake," Furey, who is also a part-time orthopedic surgeon, said Tuesday.
"The political rhetoric of 22 versus 35 and who's responsible, Canadians don't care. What they do want is they want a Canadian-level — one that we're all proud of — standard of care delivered across the country.... That means that all levels of government need to be at the table."