Federal, Provincial and Territorial Health Ministers’ Meeting: A Play-by-Play
Day 1: Provincial and Territorial Meeting
Day 1 of the Health Ministers’ Meeting is generally a warm-up for the main act, which happens when the federal ministers join their colleagues from provinces and territories on Day 2.
Provincial and territorial ministers met on Day 1 to showcase and discuss innovative programs being adopted across the country to address current health pressures. Ontario, for example, highlighted recent expansions to the scope of practice for pharmacists that will reduce pressure on acute and primary care. Manitoba discussed the success of numerous initiatives that have contributed to a significant reduction of waitlists for surgeries. The meeting also provided an opportunity for provincial and territorial ministers to plot their collective approach for the federal ministers during Tuesday’s meetings.
In a communique released by the provinces and territories following the conclusion of Day 1, health ministers focused much of their attention on their demand for an escalated CHT as well as call for a First Ministers’ Meeting to iron out the specifics.
“Provinces and territories are making investments that will need to be funded for many years to come. Health ministers need the federal government to commit to increasing the Canada Health Transfer (CHT). Although the Prime Minister has committed to discuss the issue with First Ministers, no date has been set for a First Ministers meeting and no discussions are underway, despite ongoing provincial and territorial efforts to engage in meaningful dialogue with the federal government about health funding.” – Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Health Communique (November 7, 2022)
Meanwhile, as provincial and territorial ministers met behind closed doors, federal minister, Jean Yves Duclos, held his own media availability where he reiterated familiar federal government messaging. Duclos again confirmed that the feds are willing to enhance their contribution to the CHT if provinces and territories “are prepared to commit to a meaningful expansion in the sharing and use of common key health indicators and to build a world-class health data system for Canada.” Perhaps hinting at the federal government’s lack of optimism for such a compromise, Duclos also said that the feds would be willing to enter into “tailor-made agreements” with provinces and territories to address mutual priorities.
Day 1 of the health ministers’ meeting concluded with the customary private dinner among all ministers, including federal Minister Duclos. To be a fly on the wall…
Day 2: Federal, Provincial and Territorial Meeting
Day 2 of the Health Ministers’ Meeting saw the provincial and territorial ministers joined by their federal colleagues, Minister of Health Jean Yves Duclos and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett. The day began with representatives of all governments displaying a sense of optimism that just perhaps all ministers would emerge from the meeting satisfied with the outcome. Ministers began the day discussing important issues such as the need for improvements to primary care, mental health and addictions supports and how to bolster Canada’s public health system.
Unfortunately, the early optimism for the day began to falter when the Council of the Federation, the collective that represents all premiers, released a statement during the meeting’s lunch break announcing that “no progress” had been achieved with the federal government relating to the province and territories demand for the CHT to be increased.
In a move that was anything but normal, provincial and territorial ministers emerged for the concluding media availability without their federal colleagues. BC Health Minister Adrian Dix informed those assembled that despite productive conversations related to health human resources and necessary improvements to health data, Minister Duclos and Bennett chose to withdraw their participation from the press conference and joint communique due to the statement released by Canada’s premiers.
Minister Duclos appeared shortly after the provincial-territorial press conference to make the federal government’s case for the breakdown of the talks, laying the blame solely in the hands of premiers.
“Unfortunately, despite yesterday’s gesture of good faith, provincial and territorial colleagues have been marching orders by their Premiers not to make further progress. As a result, the Premiers are preventing us from taking concrete and tangible steps that would make an immediate difference in the daily life of health workers and patients.” – Minister of Health Jean Yves Duclos (November 8, 2022)
With the two press conferences in the books, ministers of health from across the country headed home to continue to once again face the reality of health systems that are in dire need of support.