Canada's health care: Premier downplays dangers while critics warn of creeping privatization
On the eve of pivotal health care meetings between Canada's premiers, with critics calling on provinces to unite against Conservative cuts, B.C. premier Christy Clark and five other provincial leaders toured a new Victoria hospital wing, speaking to reporters of medical innovation and inter-provincial cooperation.
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The two-day meetings – which start today – will address some provinces' concerns about a new no-strings-attached approach announced by federal finance minister Jim Flaherty, which has come under fire for gradually gutting federal transfer payments and leaving provinces to shoulder more costs over the next several decades.
Premier Clark, who initially praised Flaherty's announcement but later expressed her own concerns, downplayed perceived divisions among Canada's premiers at a press conference at the Royal Jubilee Hospital tour, where she was joined by five other provincial premiers.
“We're all doing really interesting, innovative things that are helping us provide better service at lower cost, and meet those challenges in health care,” Clark said. “But we aren't sharing them all.
“The purpose of our meeting over these next couple of days is going to be talking about how we can share those. The Prime Minister has been pretty clear that he wants to make space for premiers to be able to step up and have more room to define how we deliver health care.”
Flaherty also announced that federal funding would be tied to economic growth starting in five years, which translates into an estimated 3.9 per cent increase in payments – however, this is a substantial drop from the previous six per cent increases, reducing Ottawa's stake in health care from 20.4 per cent today to 18.6 per cent. The move comes as the Conservatives say they must contain rising costs and empower provinces.
But critics of the federal government's surprise announcement called the formula “unilaterally imposed”.