Duclos defends work with provinces on health care as premiers’ meeting continues

Duclos defends work with provinces on health care as premiers' meeting continues
Premiers mingle during a photo op while at the summer meeting of the Canada's Premiers at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, Monday, July 11, 2022. Canada's premiers are meeting again today in Victoria after a day of talks dominated by health care. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA — Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says the federal government has been working with provinces to restore the country’s ailing health systems throughout the pandemic, despite claims to the contrary from Canada’s premiers.

The comments come as premiers prepare to meet for a second day of talks in Victoria that have been dominated by the health-care crisis across the country.

B.C. Premier John Horgan, who chairs and hosts the council, says the health-care system needs to be reimagined with a plan for sustainable human resources and stable federal funding.

He says it’s been eight months since the federal government promised to sit down with the premiers to come up with a strategy to restore the health-care system and that meeting is overdue.

Duclos says the federal government recognizes all provincial health systems are in crisis, mainly driven by a shortage of health workers.

He says he’s been working steadily with his provincial counterparts on the issue, while also transferring billions of dollars to provinces to shore up the system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the premiers called on the federal government to boost its share of health-care funding to 35 per cent from the existing 22 per cent amid staffing shortages.

Duclos did not offer a timeline for the federal government to engage in those negotiations.

Affordability issues and economic recovery are among the other topics on the table during the Council of the Federation’s summer meetings, which wrap up today.

Horgan says the premiers are also sharing ideas for combating inflation and skyrocketing costs of living, and they hope to see significant federal support in that arena as well.

“The ideas in Quebec are as valid there as they are in British Columbia,” Horgan said Monday.

While some of the causes are global, like the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian aggression in Ukraine, the impacts are local and require sustained intervention, he said.

“These are seismic issues that are rocking the international economy and we’re not immune to that. But collectively, working together to find best practices — what can we do in our respective jurisdictions — and most importantly how can we collaborate with the federal government on meeting these challenges.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2022.

— With files from Laura Osman in Ottawa

The Canadian Press

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