Will Trudeau ignore health care at First Ministers' Meeting?

"Our members remember what happened when health care funding was cut in 1995 during a previous Liberal reign. In many ways, we are still recovering from it. Now would be a good time for the Prime Minister, as well as the Premiers, to listen to the voices of front-line health care professionals." —  Larry Brown, NUPGE President

Ottawa (09 Dec. 2016) — Prime Minister Trudeau has confirmed that he will be meeting with the provincial and territorial premiers to discuss a number of key issues facing the country. He will also meet with First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders. In a statement from the Prime Minister's office, a major topic on the agenda is the Liberal government's efforts to work on a "pan-Canadian" plan for clean growth and climate change. 

The Premiers have something else on their minds. 

Climate change and health care to fight it out on First Ministers' Meeting agenda

This meeting comes just under the wire of a mid-December deadline the leaders had set back in September. In a letter sent to the Prime Minister, written on behalf of all the premiers, urged the PM  to convene a meeting to "solely dedicated to long-term health care financing." 

News reports say the leaders remain frustrated by the governments' refusal to discuss an extension to the Canada Health Transfer and that the government plans to proceed with a transfer that was decreased from 6 per cent to 3 per cent of GDP by the Harper government. When the premiers met in Yukon in July, the Prime Minister attempted to join them in what appeared to be a photo opportunity. The Premiers were blunt in telling the PMO that unless he was coming to negotiate funding, he could stay home. 

The signal the Premiers will be sending at this upcoming meeting is that there is a need to increase the federal funding to health care without strings attached to specific initiatives such as home care. The premiers believe that they have a bit of leverage for their discussions with the government, given how keen Trudeau is to come to an agreement on the climate change framework and plan of action. 

NUPGE makes recommendations on health and mental health care

Health care was a major topic at the Convention of the National Union of Public and General Employees in June. Delegates from across the country debated resolutions urging the government to increase and secure funding for the future, to move away from privatizing public services, and to expand on the health care services provided, including mental health services. Members adopted 2 policy papers on health care and mental health care that carried solid recommendations for provincial, territorial, and federal levels of government. 

"Our members remember what happened when heatlh care funding was cut in 1995 during a previous Liberal reign," said Larry Brown, NUPGE President. "The demand on provinces to provide health care continued unabated. Provinces confronted with serious shortfalls in funding responded by laying off health professionals and cutting health services. Canadians quickly started to feel the brunt of the cuts: wait-lists lengthened, hospital beds grew scarce, and many health professionals sought other opportunities."

Poll after poll, Canadians remain committed to public health 

"We have provided the Premiers and Health Ministers with our research and recommendations on how to improve the areas of most concern," said Brown. "It would be a good time for the Prime Minister, as well as the Premiers, to listen to the voices of front-line health care professionals. Many of them have dedicated their lives to serving our communities and improving the state of health care."

"Canadians remain deeply committed to their national public health care program. Polls have shown consistently that people want an improved and expanded system of health care," Brown said. "The Liberal government and the provincial and territorial leaders must come to this meeting prepared to negotiate a new Health Accord that will serve all Canadians, now, and in the future."

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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