Ottawa to provide $2B over 10 years for ‘Indigenous health priorities’

Indigenous health

The federal government announced Tuesday that it will “work with Indigenous partners” to provide $2 billion over 10 years for “Indigenous health priorities.”

The money, the government said, is to “address the unique challenges Indigenous Peoples face when it comes to fair and equitable access to quality and culturally safe health care services.”

The announcement comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrapped up a meeting Tuesday afternoon with premiers and territorial leaders in Ottawa about an increase in health spending.

A number of First Nations leaders spoke out about not being invited to sit at the table to talk about their priorities.

Ahead of the first ministers meeting, Alison Linklater, grand chief of the Mushkegowuk Council in northern Ontario, said their voices needed to be heard.

“You know not being at these meetings and not having our voice heard in regards to health care is very disappointing,” she said. “They don’t know what we live, they don’t know what we go through to access health care.

“Even in our remote communities. How can they say they can advocate for us and say what’s best for us is totally way off base.”

According to the Manitoba Métis Federation, the money is a good start.

“We expect that this will see the Red River Métis finally included within federal healthcare jurisdiction, so we can get the support we need to expand on our programs to deliver healthcare services to our villages and families that have struggled to secure quality, long-term and culturally-appropriate healthcare.”

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami told APTN News that it wasn’t ready to comment because the organization hadn’t seen the details of the announcement yet.

The Assembly of First Nations didn’t respond at the time this story was published.

Meeting with the prime minister over healthcare

The provinces budgeted about $204 billion for health care in this fiscal year and the Canada Health Transfer was set at $45 billion, or about 22 per cent of that. The premiers want the federal share to increase to 35 per cent, which amounts to another $26 billion in this year alone.

Instead, Ottawa put together a 10-year, $196.1 billion deal, of which $46.2 billion is new funding.

Here’s what the Liberals are offering:

The federal government plans to table legislation before the end of March to dole out $2 billion to provinces to address immediate health-care needs like surgical backlogs. There are no strings attached to the money. Ottawa offered the same amount last year during the Omicron wave of COVID-19.

At the moment, the main source of federal cash for health care comes from the Canada Health Transfer (CHT), which is the biggest pot of money the federal government gives to provinces and territories.

It’s calculated based on a minimum yearly increase of three per cent or the three-year moving average of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) – whichever is higher.

Ottawa has now offered to step up the minimum yearly increase to five per cent for the next five years.

The total amount after the five years will serve as the new baseline moving toward.

The move is expected to give provinces an extra $17.3 billion over 10 years in new support. The federal Finance Department anticipates the CHT to grow by 33 per cent over the next five years, and 61 per cent over the next 10 years.

Subhead: It all hinges on better data

The increase in the CHT is contingent on an agreement to share comparable data and digitize the health information of Canadians so it can be more easily accessed and shared between hospitals, clinics and jurisdictions.

Ottawa has also put $25 billion on the table for tailored one-on-one deals with each province to make progress on four major issues: family health services, health worker shortages and backlogs, mental health and substance use, and health-care modernization.

The deals will be highly flexible for each province, but they will have to show their work to get the money.

The government says it wants to see a plan from each province and targeted results they hope to accomplish. The provincial and territorial governments will then need to report on their progress.

Trudeau said he’ll give provinces $1.7 billion over five years to increase the pay for personal support workers, who provide the majority of bedside care in long-term care and homecare settings.

No targets have been set yet for how high those wages should be. In the last election, the Liberals pledged to increase personal support worker pay to a minimum of $25 per hour.

Subhead: Other spending

There will be $505 million over five years for the Canadian Institute for Health Information Canada Health Infoway, and other federal data agencies to develop new health data indicators, as well as create a “Centre of Excellence” on health worker data, and support other efforts to modernize health data systems.

And, $150 million over five years for the Territorial Health Investment Fund for medical travel and to deliver health care in the territories.

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