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Conservative Premiers Gang up on Ottawa over health care

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he and his colleagues at today’s Ottawa news conference were speaking for all Canadian Premiers, but the inescapable fact was that the four premiers at the table were all Conservative—three big “C” and one-Legault of Quebec—small ”c.”

The four Premiers, Ford, Legault, Palliser of Manitoba and Kenny of Alberta, issued a demand that Ottawa increase its share of healthcare spending from 21 percent to 35 percent—a demand that would cost Ottawa $70 Billion. In addition, Legault, a former sovereigntist, added the demand that the provinces be allowed to spend the extra money as they see fit—with no federal interference. When the federal Medicare plan was launched in the 1960’s the costs were shared on a 50-50 basis between the provinces and Ottawa. Ford summed up the position of the four premiers:

In an apparent reference to rumours that the Trudeau Government was looking to introduce new spending ventures like  guaranteed basic income and aggressive green energy programs, Premier Palliser said “you don’t decorate an upstairs room when the foundation is crumbling.” The united front by the four premiers, representing 75 percent of the Canadian population, is a significant departure in federal-provincial relations. Federal-provincial conferences occurred regularly in the Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney eras as they worked to patriate the Canadian Constitution and to find a formula to induce Quebec to sign on. But once those efforts ended subsequent Prime Ministers saw such conferences as divisive, and formal meetings tapered off.

The show of unity by the premiers could only be interpreted as an effort to dissuade the Trudeau government from any new spending experiments, unless the health care cost-sharing imbalance is first addressed.

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