Canada’s premiers map out demands ahead of next week’s speech from the throne

Canada’s premiers are meeting in Ottawa today to map out their demands ahead of next week’s throne speech from the federal government, including a push for more money to cover ballooning health-care costs.

Quebec Premier François Legault, incoming chair of the Council of the Federation, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney will meet in person, with others joining virtually.

Ford’s office said Ontario is asking the federal government to cover 35 per cent of total health-care costs through the Canada Health Transfer, up from the current 22 per cent that’s covered.

Other priorities are for stricter enforcement of rules on COVID-19 travel restrictions at borders and enhanced testing.

“Premier Ford is in Ottawa to join his fellow Premiers ahead of the throne speech to press the federal government on critical priorities for the people of Ontario, including strengthening frontline health care, helping people and businesses get back on their feet, and moving shovel-ready infrastructure projects forward,” said his spokesperson Ivana Yelich in an email.

Ford and Legault met in Mississauga, Ont., last week to discuss economic recovery and health preparedness as cases of COVID-19 rise across the country.

The federal government is providing $19 billion to the provinces to help ease the financial burden of the pandemic, including about $10 billion for health-related expenses.

But Ford and Legault said extra long-term funding is needed to address critical health-care issues that pre-date the pandemic, such as the increasing costs of new technologies, drugs and an aging population.

The federal government will transfer almost $42 billion to provinces and territories for health care this fiscal year, under an arrangement that increases the transfer by at least three per cent each year.

Legault has said that the federal contribution is well below the 50 per cent share originally agreed upon decades ago.

Before the premiers’ meeting, Ford is sitting down with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the city’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches.

The provincial government has imposed stricter rules on gatherings in Ottawa, Toronto and Peel region after the number of COVID-19 infections spiked in what are being dubbed “hot spots.”

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