Liberals keep Harper's cuts to federal health transfers

Back in 2011, the Stephen Harper Conservative government announced, without agreement of the provinces, that funding of health care transfers would be reduced by $36 billion.

Discussion of the reduced funding in 2011 that outlined health care spending up to 2024 can be found in this Globe and Mail article. The annual funding rate would be reduced from six percent annually down to three percent. The federal transfers are essential in helping poorer provinces offer health care that is consistent with the Canada Health Act and is meant to ensure the quality of care is at a reasonable level throughout Canada.
Liberal Health Minister Jane Philpott, on CTV Question Period said that the Liberals will maintain Stephen Harper's lower targets on health care transfers. Often governments will promise one thing during an election campaign but then renege on the promise after the election. This often causes considerable backlash and can hurt ratings. In this case the Liberals did not promise anything concretely during the 2015 election campaign but simply gave the impression that they might do something. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said: "We are committed to renegotiating, to re-engaging on the health care accords, on the Canada health transfer, with the provinces ... We need a federal government that is willing to sit down and work with the provinces, not dictate at the provinces but set clear targets and expectations." The statement plays on the fact that the Conservative decision to reduce funding was taken unilaterally — a move objected to by many provinces. The statement says nothing about increasing funding.
At the time that the Conservatives announced the cuts to funding, the Parliamentary Budget Office said the cuts meant that provinces "cannot meet the challenges" of an aging population and Ontario's finance minister went so far as to call it a "frontal attack on public health care." Also at the time, the Liberals complained about Harper's health cuts that they called "dictatorial." Among Liberals who made such accusations were Bob Rae, Liberal interim leader and one time New Democratic Premier of Ontario. Rae described the cuts as "dictatorial federalism." The current Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, complained that the cut backs were announced just before Christmas and were done by brute force. Goodale also used the phrase "dictatorial federalism."
Stehan Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, complained about the failure of the Conservatives to work with the provinces and territories and held the Conservatives responsible for the poor health care system. Numerous other prominent Liberals also spoke out against the cuts.
Perhaps, some day, the Liberals will actually try to increase funding and negotiate a new funding formula with the provinces. However, for now the Liberals are carrying on with the health transfer policies inherited from Harper's "dictatorial federalism" and they now support the very austerity and cutbacks that they formerly spoke out against.
The announcement that the Liberals will carry on with the cuts Harper made to health care transfers comes shortly after Environment Minister Catherine McKenna's revelation that the Liberals will not seek any stronger targets for the reduction of carbon pollution than those set out by the Harper government last year.


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