The premiers of Ontario and Quebec are calling on Ottawa to increase health transfers to the provinces, saying that sustainable, long-term funding is required on top of existing federal COVID-19 relief to address health-care issues that predate the pandemic.
Ontario's Doug Ford and Francois Legault of Quebec announced the request Wednesday after meeting in Mississauga, Ont., to discuss economic recovery and health preparedness.
The two premiers said they have not set a percentage or dollar amount for the support they're seeking from the federal government, noting they first must consult with the other provincial and territorial leaders on the matter.
But they said they believe a significant increase in the Canada Health Transfer is needed to tackle existing pressures on their respective health-care systems, which have now been exacerbated as a result of the global health crisis.
"It's not a new problem but it's a problem that is increasing every year and increasing because of the expenses related to COVID-19," Legault said in a news conference following the inaugural summit between the two provinces.
"But because of the aging population, because of new drugs, new technology, we need more help from the federal government."
Ford said there is an "endless list of areas in health care that we need to put more funds towards," including a backlog of surgeries that will require the province's doctors to work overtime.
Ottawa is slated to dole out nearly $42 billion to the provinces and territories under the Canada Health Transfer in 2020-2021, which Legault said amounts to roughly 21 per cent of health-care costs.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government will be there to support the provinces on health care, but did not commit to specific relief.
Speaking in Toronto on Wednesday, Trudeau said he would discuss any next steps with the provincial leaders.
The Quebec and Ontario premiers also said Wednesday they agreed to press Trudeau for funding on other issues affecting economic recovery, such as infrastructure and transit.
Ford and Legault said they also plan to work together to reduce barriers to international trade, and promote products made in Quebec and Ontario.
Both provinces' ministers of health, finance and infrastructure also participated in the summit, along with other officials.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 9, 2020.
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press