Canada’s Premiers Reiterate Priorities
QUÉBEC, September 24, 2020 – Canada’s Premiers held their annual meeting by teleconference1 to discuss their consensus priorities and the federal Throne Speech, along with their responses to COVID-19 and actions to support economic recovery in every province and territory.
Premiers expressed disappointment at the absence of their top priority in the federal Throne Speech: a sustainable health funding partnership through a significant increase to the Canada Health Transfer (CHT). Instead of putting forward a firm commitment to addressing the long-term sustainability of Canada’s public healthcare systems, the federal government signaled investments in new time-limited initiatives; many in areas of provincial and territorial jurisdiction, such as health, early learning and childcare, skills training, and housing.
Premiers urge the federal government to immediately address their top priority, a sustainable health funding partnership. In addition, they reiterate their proposals regarding the Fiscal Stabilization Program and infrastructure needs, as outlined on September 18, 2020:
- Rebalancing Health Care Funding: Immediate and unconditional injection to the CHT to bring the federal share from 22% to 35%, a ratio to be maintained over time with an appropriate increase to the annual escalator. Premiers continue to urge the Prime Minister to work with them to confirm a date for a First Ministers’ Meeting this fall focused exclusively on the CHT, with the goal of reaching a long-term agreement in time for the next fiscal year.
- Fiscal Stabilization Program: Improve this federal program so it can fulfill its intended purpose: to assist provinces facing significant annual declines in revenues due to extraordinary economic circumstances and The Council of the Federation has proposed concrete solutions and called on the federal government to simplify and modernize the program, as well as make it more responsive to provincial needs without compromising other transfer programs.
- Infrastructure: Increase total federal support to provinces and territories by $10 billion per year for 10 years and streamline the federal approach to infrastructure so current investments can be used without further delays to support provincial and territorial priorities.
Premiers also discussed the recent rise in COVID-19 cases across the country, and shared their approaches to ensuring public health and safety in their jurisdictions. Provinces and territories have been constantly raising their testing capacity and are expecting the new federal commitment for faster testing to translate into expedited Health Canada review and approval of new methods of testing, in line with those that have been reviewed and approved in other similar jurisdictions around the world. Collaboration among governments throughout the pandemic has been unprecedented. During this time, Premiers have spoken on an almost weekly basis and demonstrated solidarity and leadership in facing this crisis.
1BC Premier John Horgan was unable to participate in the conference call due to the provincial election.
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