Trudeau holds firm on premiers' health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

·1 min read

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government will keep its spending focus on emergency aid and won't talk about long-term health-care funding until after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

He says Ottawa needs to keep supporting those hit hard financially by the pandemic, having sent billions in aid to businesses and individuals, as well as to provinces.

Speaking at a midday press conference, Trudeau says that short-term view can't yet give way to longer-term concerns about the effect COVID-19 is having on the Canada's provincially run health-care systems.

On Thursday, the country's premiers reiterated their demand for a handsome increase in the unconditional transfer payment the federal government sends provinces and territories each year for health care.

The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care, under an arrangement that sees the amount rise by at least three per cent each year.

Premiers argue that amount doesn't keep pace with the yearly cost increases of about five per cent, which would mean Ottawa would have to add $28 billion this year to cover just over one-third of national costs, and about $4 billion annually thereafter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021.

The Canadian Press