News Canada

Premiers table health report, target feds

By Jessica Murphy, Senior Washington Correspondent

Canada's premiers pose during a photo op before a meeting at the Council of the Federation in Halifax, Nova Scotia, July 26, 2012. (Reuters/ADAM SCOTTI)

Canada's premiers pose during a photo op before a meeting at the Council of the Federation in Halifax, Nova Scotia, July 26, 2012. (Reuters/ADAM SCOTTI)

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OTTAWA - 

Atlantic premiers have accused the federal government of abdicating all responsibility for health care beyond cutting a cheque.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz unveiled the results of a six-month study into ways to improve health care across the country at the annual premiers' summit in Halifax on Thursday.

In January, the 13 premiers formed two working groups — on health-care innovation and financing — with health and finance ministers across Canada, in the absence of a federal partner.

Ghiz said the feds didn't need to be at the table when the premiers and territorial leaders gathered to talk health care — they just needed to drop the cheque in the mail.

“We don't need the federal government,” Ghiz said. “We run the health-care system.”

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter echoed Ghiz's complaints, saying “the federal government decided to absent itself” from the health-care debate.

In a statement, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq denied the feds had failed to provide leadership on the health-care file.

The spat started when the federal government — to the complete surprise of the premiers — shut the door on new health funding negotiations and unilaterally handed down a new health-transfer formula last December.

The terms will be a 6% annual increase in transfer payments until 2017 followed by annual increases tied to economic growth and inflation with a 3% minimum guaranteed.

The premiers' recommendations tabled Thursday include improving clinical guidelines for treating heart disease and diabetes and working together to help staff rural and remote regions in Canada.

“We want better care, better value, better health,” Wall said.

The premiers will also continue to look at ways to expand the provinces' bulk buying of pharmaceutical drugs and to reduce the cost of certain generic drugs.

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