‘We’re ready when Ottawa’s ready’: premiers await federal response on health care

Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok said he’s looking forward to discussing increase in federal health-care spending

From left, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey, Yukon Premier Sandy Silver and Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok speak at a news conference at the 2022 summer meeting of Canada’s premiers. (Screenshot via CPAC’s livestream of closing statements)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The federal government has yet to respond to a request from Canada’s premiers for an increase in federal spending on health-care, says Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok.

“We’re, right now, really only asking Ottawa to come to the table,” he said in an interview.

“We’re ready when Ottawa’s ready.”

Akeeagok met with Canada’s 12 other premiers July 11 and 12 in Victoria, B.C., to discuss a number of issues, including health care.

It was at this meeting the premiers, together known as the Council of the Federation, made their request that the federal government increase its share of health-care costs from 22 per cent to 35 per cent through the Canada Health Transfer.

The Canada Health Transfer is the largest federal transfer to provinces and territories and provides long-term funding for health care across the country.

The premiers’ request would require the federal government to pay an additional $27.6 billion annually, according to a February 2021 report from Canada’s provincial and territorial finance ministers.

Akeeagok said the discussion isn’t yet at a point of dividing up dollars between provinces and territories, and it’s too soon to say exactly what Nunavut would do with its share of that money.

However, the North’s unique challenge of being remote is a large part of the conversation for Nunavut.

“We’re not immune to the shortages and the impact we see in terms of health care,” Akeeagok said.

Nunavut NDP MP Lori Idlout said in an interview she supports the premiers’ call on the federal government.

“The current system is obviously not working. It hasn’t worked for many years,” she said of health care in Nunavut.

It’s important to recognize the abilities that already exist in communities and to figure out what services can be offered locally, rather than having to travel for, such as midwifery programs, she said.

Idlout used the high demand for counselling services in Nunavut as an example. She said some of the reliance on mental health professionals should instead be put on “local providers,” like elders.

There also needs to be more investment in programs that allow Inuit to join the health-care workforce in the territory, she said, whether it be for nursing or home care to look after elders.

But that’s only part of the solution, she said. Housing, especially in the context of overcrowded homes during COVID-19, is a factor also.

“Any kind of funding that ends up going to Nunavut, I think, always has to have at the core of it a form of increasing housing, addressing the old housing,” Idlout said.

“And making sure that we have more families that are able to feel safe, secure and comfortable in homes that will allow them to be healthy within each community.”

— With files from Meral Jamal


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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Naiive Idlout on

    The fact that my MP thinks it is sufficient and acceptable that I attend counselling with unqualified and uneducated people is nonsense. Will they be bound by a licensing body to practice at high standards and maintain confidentiality, something absolutely critical in small town Nunavut? No. I’m sorry, but this cultural reverence to individuals based solely on age (“Elders”) has no business in health care and professional services.

    • Posted by iThink on

      In principle the idea that we should be looking to utilize people in our communities for services like mental health counselling seems obvious. So, why do we see so little activity from Arctic College on this front? Where are the training opportunities at the local level?

      To the MLA’s who are reading this, don’t you agree it’s time to start taking serious steps to achieving our goals? Start asking these questions in the Legislature, perhaps Nunatsiaq will do its part and start asking these kinds of questions too.

      • Posted by Do it on

        iThink for MLA !

      • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

        Have you spoken first to the Preident of NAC? Or, to the Board of NAC?
        Cuz that is where your MLA will have to go.

      • Posted by iDo on

        With education basically being free to almost anywhere in the south, and classes being offered locally to a point there is a law school in Iqaluit, I think it is fair to say that no one is interested in being qualified. They have run nursing and teaching programs for years and yet no one graduates. They ran a law school years ago and not one of them is a lawyer today.
        Why bother with the stress of becoming qualified when with a grade 10 education you can mind the phones under the auspices of article 23 for $80-115k a year plus staff housing, benefits, pension and vacation?

        • Posted by iThink on

          You’re being general where I’m trying to be specific though. If the goal is more local people in mental health then there should be training available for that locally; if that is a serious goal.

          If we can’t get people in the communities interested in careers like this, that’s another challenge that I don’t know how to address. You seem to suggest it is because the bar is so low elsewhere.

          The situation you describe might be true in some contexts, I’m not sure if it is a compelling argument in this one.

    • Posted by 867 on

      Sounds like Lori has given up on educating the younger local generation. Instead of pushing for more youth to become nurses, she’s saying we’ve lost hope in councillors and health care professionals, so lets just have the GN pay some elder’s who have some sort of inherent ability to diagnose, prescribe and heal, because they are elders. Since when does your old age count as a qualification? It is one thing to respect your elders, but to think that they suddenly become health care experts when they hit 60 is absurd. I am glad she is losing hope, since many of us are too.

    • Posted by Ned Flanders on

      Totally agree. Sorry too, I’d rather see/talk to a certified professional rather than an elder (no disrespect intended), who may or may not possess “intrinsic” knowledge for counseling.

  2. Posted by Scrubs on

    So let me get this straight: the government is suggesting offloading mental health services onto elders, putting more money towards programs rarely used, and wants a general slush fund for healthcare costs.

    The biggest issues facing healthcare, if we’re realistic boil down to antiquated equipment, and manpower shortages.

    The equipment is easy- replace the ancient, broken X-ray machines, the piles of broken office equipment, and actually stock clinics.

    The manpower is going to be the hard part- you can’t offer enough money for any level of retention. Nurses will go elsewhere rather than suffer the toxic environment created not only by regional but local GN employees. Other remote stations offer competitive money, for less abuse, and less insane workloads.

    No one is going to say ‘Yeah, I have weekly bullying-induced panic attacks, do all the pharmacy ordering, half the blood draws, my job as a nurse, and am expected to be on call, but the money is great!’

  3. Posted by Huvaguuq on

    Thought this was about the Premiers and their ask of the feds. Halfway through it becomes all about the MP’s ideas!

  4. Posted by S on

    P.J. Akeeagok and Lori Idlout are very representative of the quality of politicians at all levels of government and in all jurisdictions in Canada. Very, very few are qualified for anything more than entry-level or lower management positions in any organization – whether the assessment is based on skills or more intrinsic aptitudes.

    Iqaluit, Inc.; Nunavut, Inc.; Toronto, Inc.; Ontario, Inc.; and Canada, Inc. are led by individuals who would not be running any successful organization, anywhere.


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