A pandemic is not the right time to reverse federal health care cuts, says PM

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a pandemic is not the right time to discuss reversing on-going federal cuts to health care transfers.

The Canadian Press

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 an increase in the unconditional transfer payment the federal government sends provinces and territories each year for health care.

Medicare started as 50-50 cost shared program between the federal government and provinces, but the 1990s Chretien government dramatically and unilaterally cut federal support to medicare.

In 2005, the Martin government agreed to increase the federal Canada Health Transfer to provinces by six per cent a year, slightly more than inflation plus population growth, for ten years. When that agreement expired in 2015, the Harper Conservatives cut annual CHT increases to three per cent, a share the Trudeau Liberals have kept.

Premiers say cuts by various federal governments have resulted in provinces paying 78 per cent of medicare, while Ottawa's share has dropped to just 22 per cent. The Premiers are seeking a return to a federal share of 35 per cent.


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