Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane joined her colleagues across Canada on Friday in reiterating the call for increased federal funding for healthcare in the provinces and territories.
Some Canadian premiers first asked the federal government in 2020 to increase its annual transfer payments to up its share of healthcare spending in provinces and territories to 35 percent.
Meeting this week by videoconference, Canada’s premiers again focused on the issue, stressing that the Covid-19 pandemic has made the need for healthcare funding even more pressing.
“The pandemic has further broadened gaps within the healthcare system while increasing the need for mental health supports. We are also left with a backlog of surgeries and appointments that we need to proceed with,” Cochrane said in a statement to Cabin Radio. “The pandemic continues to highlight the need to invest more in healthcare on a longer-term basis.”
According to Cochrane, healthcare spending accounts for one third of the NWT’s budget. She added the territories have higher per capita healthcare costs compared to the provinces due to smaller populations being spread out over large geographic areas.
“We need flexible, adequate, predictable healthcare funding to meet the unique need of each province and territory,” Cochrane continued.
BC Premier John Horgan, chair of the Council of the Federation – made up of all 13 of Canada’s premiers – said on Friday that provinces and territories are best placed to determine healthcare spending needs, which can vary from region to region.
Horgan noted provincial and territorial leaders have been successful in working together to secure individual childcare agreements with the federal government. He hopes they can do the same for public healthcare, which he described as being “as Canadian as hockey.”
“Healthcare is precious to us all, but it needs to be nurtured,” he said. “It needs an influx of cash from Ottawa.”
Premiers pointed to a newly released report on national healthcare they commissioned from Leger, which they said shows the majority of Canadians agree increased funding and resources are needed to help alleviate the strain Covid-19 has put on provincial and territorial healthcare systems.
According to that survey, 78 percent of respondents said they believe the pandemic has had a large negative impact on healthcare, 87 percent agreed an immediate increase in healthcare funding is needed, and 78 percent agreed federal funding must be sustained over time for long-term improvements.
The study cautions, however, that the results should be interpreted with caution due to the small sample size. It states it is based on a “representative sample” of 2,614 Canadians, including 140 people from across all three territories.
The premiers are hoping to negotiate an agreement with the federal government on sustainable healthcare funding early this year.