Premiers mingle during a photo op while at the summer meeting of the Canada’s Premiers at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, on July 11, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Chad Hipolito
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said that the federal government has given more than $2 to each of the 48 Canadian provinces and territories. 85 billion promised months ago for health care, transit systems and classroom ventilation.
Most of this is a $2 billion health transfer boost that the federal government promised to provincial and territorial governments back in March, primarily to relieve backlogs in surgical procedures.
Freeland says the funds can now be transferred because the budget bill that contained them passed June 23.
But the transfer comes just days after premier were harshly critical of federal Liberals because they did not take on enough health-care expenses.
Thursday’s transfer fulfils a Liberal election promise to give provinces and territories another $100 million to improve air quality in classrooms.
It also includes the $750-million pledged in February for municipal governments to manage plunging public transit revenues as a result of the pandemic.
Transit funding is contingent upon the provinces or territories providing matching funds. It also depends on building more housing to meet rising housing costs.
The one-time top-up to health funding was promised by Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos March 25, and he and Freeland co-sponsored a bill to enable that spending the same day.
However, the bill was not debated. Instead the Liberals included funding in the budget bill that was presented a month later.
Duclos stated in March that the money was being used to “expedite” surgery for provinces. Wait lists for most surgical procedures ballooned during COVID-19, as hospitals delayed non-urgent surgeries because of an influx of COVID-19 patients.
Duclos stated earlier in the week that letters had been signed with every province to complete the payments. This was happening as the premier met in British Columbia.
The premiers claim that these temporary top-ups do not adequately repair the harm caused by the pandemic to their health care systems. They want federal funding to be increased on a regular basis.
By Sarah Ritchie