The prime minister and Quebec premier are sharpening their respective weapons on the eve of a possible meeting that would aim to address the issue of health transfers.
The two men will be in Djerba, Tunisia, on Saturday and Sunday for the Sommet de la Francophonie. They plan to meet to discuss various issues, including the financing of the health network.
For several years, Quebec, along with other Canadian provinces, has been advocating for a substantial increase in federal health transfers without conditions.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government said it is prepared to increase these transfers if the provinces and territories collaborate on a national health data-sharing system.
“It’s time for the federal government to increase its share of transfers,” insisted Quebec Premier François Legault on Friday upon his arrival in Djerba. “We are at 22 per cent. That means the provinces are paying 78 per cent.”
“We’re going to have a lot of money to invest in health in the coming years. We are, in Quebec, on the eve of a collective agreement negotiation as well … so we need financial assistance from Ottawa,” he pleaded.
The Legault government plans to spend billions of dollars in cheques and tax cuts to Quebecers in the coming months to help them fight the rising cost of living.
“The $400 and $600 cheques are one-time, non-recurring amounts. There, we are talking about recurring funding for health for the next few years,” Legault said in his defence in a press scrum.
“Let’s not forget that Quebec is the province where taxes are the highest, so if we want to reduce our wealth gap with the rest of Canada, we must be more competitive on the tax side,” he added.
In a separate press briefing, Trudeau said that he expected the provinces to commit to improving the health-care system.
“I’m going to share the concerns I have as a Quebecer … that we need concrete improvements in our health systems,” he said.
“We’re going to be there with more money, but it’s not just about putting more money into systems that are weakened, or in some cases, broken,” Trudeau said. “It’s about improving systems.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Nov. 18, 2022.