Prime Minister Danielle Smith announced on Tuesday that she would press ahead with healthcare reform with or without financial support from the federal government, as the two policy bodies are at odds over funding terms.
Prime Ministers across the country have been demanding more money from the federal government for health care through Canada Health Transfer for over a year. While the government has increased funding by nine percent, the provincial coalition is demanding more.
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“I can’t stop reforming because the federal government doesn’t want to work with us,” Smith said during a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday.
The amount of funding each province receives is tied to the economy, and as Alberta’s economy grows, so does public healthcare, said Steven Staples, national director for policy and advocacy for the Canadian Health Coalition in Toronto.
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As long as provinces comply with federal health regulations, they will see the funds pour in year after year.
According to the federal government’s website, Alberta is set to receive $7.7 billion in healthcare funding from the Fed in 2023-24, on current unapproved terms.
“Provinces have a lot of leeway to make changes in their health care systems, but they need to stay on track with Canada’s Health Care Act and our national health insurance system if they are to receive federal funding.”
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Staples said he believes the coalition of prime ministers that includes Alberta is starting to break up at the edges.
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“It will be very difficult for the Prime Ministers to join forces now to demand more money from Prime Minister Trudeau as we begin to loosen up on the fringes,” he said.
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Nova Scotia agreed to accept the federal terms in December, while Alberta is still asking for more money on top of the 9 percent already planned for this year, plus different terms than originally proposed.
In a statement to Global News, a spokesman for the federal secretary of health said the federal government is “ready to invest in funding through tailored agreements with provinces and territories that will allow us to better serve Canadians.”
“We are committed to working with other levels of government and all parties to advance public health priorities and our overall commitments to improve and protect public health in Canada. We will do this by focusing on the ends before we focus on the means because as we can now see the old way of doing things is not working.
“As our government continues to have frank and difficult discussions with our provincial and territorial partners, we also commit to respecting their jurisdiction.”
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Smith acknowledged that health care reform is a top priority for Alberta residents and the Alberta government, and that the provincial government plans to invest $600 million in health care this year and next.
There are small, incremental changes that don’t cost much that the province is introducing to advance healthcare, Smith said. For example, repairing the HVAC system at Camrose Hospital so operating theaters can reopen.
Smith said she has also asked Alberta’s technology and innovation minister to create an infrastructure for a healthcare spending account.
“(It) would put more dollars into the system, more money into the hands of individual patients so they could pay for all the things that the healthcare system doesn’t currently cover,” Smith said.
Further movement in healthcare reform is expected in the coming weeks.
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