Sun. Oct 24th, 2021

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says that his approach to improving Canadian health care rests upon increasing health transfers to the provinces  — though the bulk of the promised money won’t arrive until after 2024-25.

Asked at the French-language leaders’ debate Wednesday about what he would do to better protect seniors who have lost their autonomy and require better care, O’Toole said that while he is promising specific investments for seniors’ homes, his party’s focus for health care was to provide more funding to the provinces, with no strings attached.

“We’ll have a clear approach when it comes to Canadians’ and Quebecers’ health for our seniors. We will increase the health transfer in a stable, predictable and unconditional way,” he said.

“It’s going to go up by about $60 billion. We’re going to work together on our public and universal health care system.”

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That $60 billion won’t be instantaneous, though. According to a costing plan released by the Conservatives just prior to the debate, only $3.6 billion will be spent by 2025-26, meaning the bulk of the funding wouldn’t be transferred until the latter half of the decade and would depend on a Conservative re-election.

O’Toole elaborated on his plan during a scrum after the debate, saying this represented a stable six-per cent increase over time, so the dollar amount of the federal government’s contributions would increase every year.

However, the costing document shows that under the existing formula for the Canada Health Transfer, which is based on economic growth, the annual payments would already increase by almost six per cent for the next two to three years.

Officials said the Conservative plan would guarantee that would continue over the long term, whereas the current formula guarantees a minimum of just three per cent annual increases.

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Much of the back-and-forth Wednesday revolved around health care and how to pay for it. Moderator Patrice Roy pushed the politicians to spell out how much money they would give the provinces for health care, and whether they would hand over the extra $28 billion in annual funding requested by premiers.

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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau pledged an added $25 billion, but “not unconditionally,” while O’Toole reiterated his plan to boost health transfers “without conditions because it is a matter of respect” — a word he used repeatedly when referring to Quebec.

“I trust the government of Quebec. Why does Mr. Trudeau always interfere in provincial jurisdiction?” O’Toole asked.

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Trudeau parried that the Tory leader is “not standing up against a two-tier system.”

Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet reiterated the $28-billion demand, arguing that other parties, “claim that the federal government knows more about that than the provincial governments.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he was open to the idea and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul underscored the need for “fundamental reform” of Canadian health care.

— with files from the Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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