B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix echoed the conciliatory tone of Premier David Eby today, but also called on the federal government to improve its health care offer.
Dix said the federal offer of $196-billion over 10 years to the provinces through the Canada Health Transfer and bilateral deals promises stability in the face of what would have been declining contributions from the federal government.
After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had presented the offer Tuesday, Eby called it “fiscally limited” in a response that was less critical than what was heard from some other premiers.
Under the proposed deal, B.C.’s share would be about $600 million a year.
Dix acknowledged this figure but like Eby refused to attack. Dix said the government is focused on delivering services, pointing to steps already underway, while promising to make the case for greater federal involvement.
“I’m not going to be negative about the fact that they came to the table, I’m not going to be negative about the fact that they understand that they have a significant role to play,” he said. “But they have to do better. Health care is fundamental to Canadians, he added. “(You) will see this demonstrated in the budget to come. We are massively responding to an increase in demand.”
Dix also promised that Eby would further respond when he returns to the legislature Thursday.
Dix said Ottawa’s contribution under Canada Health Transfer would go from about 23 per cent to just under 24 per cent.
“That is better than 22 per cent and better than 21 and better than 17 per cent, which is where we were going,” he said. It is positive that the federal government has recognized that its share cannot continue to go down, he added.
British Columbia, along with the rest of the provinces, had originally asked Ottawa to pump up health-care funding through the transfer by $28 billion to 35 per cent.
Both Ottawa and the provinces have also been discussing bilateral arrangements.
Official Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon said Wednesday fixing the provincial health care system is not about more money.
“It (the federal offer) represents for British Columbia about two per cent of the annual health care budget,” Falcon said. “So while any additional money will be welcomed by any provincial government, the fact of the matter is that the management of our system is the biggest problem we face.”
B.C.’s health care budget for 2021-2022 was about $26.2 billion with about $6.42 billion coming from the federal government.
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