HALIFAX, August 1st, 2002 – As Premiers, our first priority is improving health services for Canadians wherever they live and regardless of their circumstances.
Today, all Premiers are calling on the federal government to join with provinces and territories in a new funding partnership for health care that meets all Canadians’ needs now and in the future. A First Ministers’ Conference must be held before the next federal budget to discuss how we can build on the progress made by provinces and territories in a new cooperative relationship that will revitalize and sustain health care for all Canadians.
At the provincial/territorial level, each of us has been working to improve health services for our own citizens through innovations and reforms.
At the inter-provincial/territorial level, following our meeting in Victoria last year, we agreed to lead in restructuring a sustainable health care system. We resolved to work collaboratively on common challenges such as health human resources, pharmaceutical management, continuing care, and other important areas.
We followed up with a special meeting dedicated to health care in Vancouver* in January specifically to advance our common efforts on behalf of Canadians. That progress has been substantial. A common drug approval process is being implemented. Generic drug approvals are being streamlined. Health care sites of excellence are being identified in areas such as pediatric cardiac surgery, gamma knife neurosurgery, poison drug information services, brain repair and bone and joint surgery. A nursing strategy report will be considered by Health Ministers in September. A multi-faceted home and community care framework for each province/territory to use in improving planning and delivery of services is underway. A coordinated framework to help manage the challenges genetics will increasingly impose for all our health care systems is being developed.
All provinces and territories have indicated their commitment to health care with substantial budget increases that continue to outpace revenue generated from economic growth. Provincial/territorial health care spending has grown by an average of $4.25 billion per year over the past five years alone. This amounts to an average increase of more than $560 for each Canadian.
The fact remains this is simply not sustainable. We need the federal government to assume its fair share of responsibility by joining with us in a new funding partnership that will allow us to make the improvements necessary to sustain heath care.
The ability of provinces and territories to meet the health care needs of Canadians is at risk due to the fiscal imbalance existing in Canada. A report by the Conference Board of Canada on Canada’s fiscal imbalance released today clearly states: “The federal government’s fiscal prospects are in sharp contrast with those for the provincial/territorial governments.” It goes on to point out that while federal government surpluses are projected to rise steadily over the next two decades reaching $85.5 billion, the provinces and territories will collectively be in a deficit position throughout the forecast period.
Given the existing and growing federal surplus, Premiers reiterated their call on the Prime Minister to join with them in following through on his commitment to achieve adequate and sustainable fiscal arrangements over the immediate to medium term, including:
• Immediate removal of the Equalization ceiling;
• Immediate work on the development of a strengthened and fairer Equalization program formula, including as one possible alternative, a ten-province standard that recognizes the volatility around resource revenues, and comprehensive revenue coverage;
• Restoration of federal health funding through the CHST to at least 18% and introduction of an appropriate escalator; and
• Work on other measures, including tax point transfers as one possible alternative to the current CHST transfer.
Premiers are asking the federal government to fulfill its constitutional, fiduciary and treaty obligations with respect to Aboriginal people, and actively address disparities in providing health services to Aboriginal people.
This fall, the Premiers’ Council on Canadian Health Awareness will help inform the public about these facts and challenges and the steps we are taking to address them.
It is important that everyone understands that the failure of the federal government to properly fund this top priority with the tax dollars it receives from Canadians is jeopardizing the long-term sustainability and quality of health care.
All provinces and territories are committed to continue to help financially sustain our health care systems and bring about the innovations and reforms necessary to improve services for people. As Premiers, we are committed to continuing our work together inter-provincially/territorially to bring about collective improvements in health care services.
When it comes to health care we are doing our share. Now it is time for the federal government to join us in our call for a new health care funding partnership on behalf of all Canadians.
It is critical that we get together as First Ministers before the next federal budget to demonstrate to Canadians our commitment to build this new funding partnership in order to correct the current fiscal imbalance. It is also important that the meeting is structured to allow debate on other matters critical to federal-provincial-territorial interests.
* Quebec will contribute to these initiatives by sharing information and best practices.