Territories could receive extra money for health care

Premiers agree per capita funding not enough for northern regions



Canada’s three territories will get 0.5 per cent of any new money the federal government dedicates to health care if Prime Minister Jean Chrétien accepts a proposal drafted by the provincial and territorial premiers last week.

The money would be in addition to the federal government’s current per capita arrangement.

“What my colleagues agreed to is that the three northern territories have special challenges in terms of funding on health on a per capita basis,” Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik said in an interview after a premiers’ conference in Toronto Jan. 23.

“My colleagues were agreeable to providing the northern territories with 0.5 per cent of any new money for health on top of the per capita arrangement. So if we were to get $5 billion, we’d get $25 million on top of the arrangement we have now.”

The provincial and territorial premiers are asking the prime minister for an increase in health funding worth a little more than $5 billion, or less than half of the federal government’s surplus of $11 million.

“Health is the number one issue for Canadians and we’re trying to fix that. We’re offering to do that within the federal budgetary requirements,” Okalik said.

They would also like the money dedicated to health care to be doled out in a separate fund, called the Canada Health Transfer. Right now, health care funding is lumped in with all social funding in the Canada Health and Social Transfer.

“We agree that that arrangement should be changed so it’s not just one big pot that the federal government can hide behind. It should be itemized just like our budgets and departments are,” Okalik said.

And in the related area of accountability, the premiers are asking that the federal government open its books — particularly in the area of aboriginal health.

“We are accountable to our residents in Nunavut and our budgets are scrutinized and are open to everybody. What we are offering the federal government is that the same should apply to them,” Okalik said.

The premiers will take their proposed accord to the first minister’s conference with the prime minister on Feb. 3 in Ottawa.

Okalik said it took some time to reach a consensus but he was pleased with the results. “It took some discussions to arrive at our agreement. So we had some good frantic discussions and I’m very pleased with the outcome.”

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