WATCH: Trudeau threatens to reduce health transfers to Saskatchewan over private MRI services, silent on Quebec

The Conservative platform released last week showed O'Toole was prepared to allocate more CHT each year compared to the Liberals. "I trust the premiers to do what is best for patients in their province," he said.

Alex Anas Ahmed Calgary AB

A reporter challenged the campaign messaging of the Trudeau Liberals on Tuesday, who said they would claw back provincial health transfers to Saskatchewan if the private MRI services continued.

"Why would you do that?" asked the reporter. "And would that apply to provinces like Quebec where there is also private healthcare?"

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded: "Over the past number of years, every time we make a Canada Health Transfer (CHT) to the provinces, we make adjustments, and we have. There are penalties for private delivery of services that we have brought in… a number of different cases."

He professed his commitment to maintain and protect public, universal healthcare.

The Government of Canada website said the CHT is the largest major transfer to provinces and territories. "It provides long-term, predictable funding for health care, and supports the principles of the Canada Health Act which are: universality; comprehensiveness; portability; accessibility; and, public administration."

"CHT transfer payments are made on an equal per capita basis and include both cash and tax point transfers," wrote the government on its website.

Since 2012-2013, Saskatchewan has gradually increased CHT payments from $906 million in 2012-2013 to $1.33 billion in 2021-2022. All other provinces and territories also experienced gradual increases in transfer payments under Conservative and Liberal governments.

In 2014-15, provincial and territorial CHT were allocated on an equal per capita cash basis only. As announced in December 2011, total CHT cash levels are set in legislation to grow at 6 percent until 2016-17. Starting in 2017-18, total CHT cash grew in line with a three-year moving average of nominal Gross Domestic Product, with funding guaranteed to increase by at least 3 percent per year.

The Conservative platform released last week showed O'Toole was prepared to allocate more CHT each year compared to the Liberals. He pledged to bolster the annual growth rate of CHT to at least six percent from its current rate that is tied to yearly economic growth with a floor of three percent.

"Under the last Conservative government, federal transfers to the provinces grew at six percent per year," reads its platform. "Unfortunately, in 2017, the Trudeau government cut this in half, putting lives at risk." They said their platform promise would cost the federal treasury about $60 billion over the next decade.

The Conservative platform also states, "The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the cracks in our health-care system and reminded us all of the need to strengthen it. Canada's Conservatives believe that the federal government should pay its fair share."

Trudeau said the federal government doesn’t want to write provinces a blank cheque to do what they want on health care. The prime minister said transfer money must be targeted to particular outcomes.

Trudeau took the opportunity at Tuesday’s press conference to bash the Conservative Opposition, who he claimed only supported a private, for-profit healthcare system. "He will tell anyone what he intends to do with that," said Trudeau.

"He believes in a two-tier healthcare system, and he needs to come clean with Canadians why, in the depths of a pandemic, he wants to create a system that is better for wealthy people and not be there for the most vulnerable."

Trudeau spoke to the propensity of Canadians to support vulnerable demographics that he said was in contrast to the Conservative model. "That is what this government has done," said Trudeau, "and this is what a Liberal government will continue to do."

The reporter followed up with Trudeau and asked if the same standards applied to Quebec. He deflected and walked back to his earlier comment on having conversations with many provinces.

"The job of the federal government is to ensure that we are protecting a public, universal healthcare system," said Trudeau, adding again that the Conservative leader Erin O’Toole needs to clarify his stance.

"A prime minister who was serious about healthcare would not have called an election during a national health emergency," said Erin O’Toole. "And now, unbelievably, he is threatening to cut healthcare funding and close health clinics in the middle of a pandemic."

He took potshots at the prime minister, who he said was "desperate to win his majority," but was surprised to see Trudeau’s political ambitions "compromise people’s health."

O’Toole clarified that he supported the healthcare system in place, emphasizing choice in healthcare providers as a redeemable quality. "That’s why Canada’s Conservatives will make record-high transfers to the provinces to ensure every Canadian can benefit from free, high-quality healthcare."

He added that our healthcare system is the "pride of Canada" and "one of the best in the world."

O’Toole dealt Trudeau a blow to his campaign rhetoric, stating the private role of healthcare grew under his watch.

"I trust the premiers to do what is best for patients in their province," he said. "If Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Ontario or Quebec want to innovate to provide better healthcare, I support that. The more choices Canadians have in healthcare, the better."

He cited reduced wait times and freeing taxpayer dollars to reinvest in healthcare.

"My view is consistent with the belief that Ottawa shouldn’t be dictating to the provinces. It should be working with them [and] not threatening them," said O’Toole.

He concluded: "Nobody can be left behind, and all personal health decisions should be made between patients and their doctors, not insurance companies, [politicians], or anyone else."

Trudeau promised Monday to spend $3 billion more on health care to help provinces hire 7,500 new family doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners if re-elected for another term.


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