Former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow calls them tepid.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is saying no means no.
There is likely more frustration at Victoria’s Premiers’ meeting this week than among the coaching staff of the wilting Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Premiers first arrived after discovering the Federal government had unilaterally decided on what the funding side of the next health care accord would look like.
Past the expiry of the present accord there would be three more years of six per cent increases and then health care funding would be pegged to growth in the Canadian economy. There would be a floor of 3 per cent.
More distressing to most provinces was the decision to base funding on the head count of each province. There was no weighting of funding to recognize the Eastern provinces have much older populations than the West – and therefore higher health costs.
The BC government put together a chart on what this means. Alberta would be the big winner, receiving $1.02 billion more in health transfers each year. Ontario would lose $365 million in transfers, although the highest per capita loss would be Newfoundland and Labrador. Aside from Alberta and the Northwest Territories, every other jurisdiction would lose on the deal.
Facing such an unreasonable prospect, the provinces are hardly running to the barricades, as Romanow expected. Instead the Premiers have established two committees. The first, headed up by Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, will look at the financial implications of the changes and assess what the impact will be on provincial health systems. The second committee, led by Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall and PEI’s Robert Ghiz, will look at the issue of “innovation” to improve health care delivery.
The Premiers have likely considered they have time on their side – and the prospect of another Federal election before funding levels start to slide below six per cent. They believe that these committees can make a compelling case that will win over public support and force the hand of Flaherty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Instead of discussing quality issues, the second committee is likely to stir public opposition by looking at a range of issues intended primarily to save money. According to the Toronto Star, the mandate of the “innovation” committee includes “ways to make the scope of practice for health care providers more cost-effective, manage health resource costs and develop clinical practice guidelines that apply for all Canadians.”
While the Premiers ignore the issue of quality, the “innovation” committee’s job appears to be about demonstrating to Stephen Harper that the provinces are pulling their weight when it comes to cost control.
Don’t be surprised if Wall and Ghiz also take a privatized focus to the idea of “innovation” to try to curry favour with Harper.