A $600 million cheque for health care is on its way to B.C. this year, but Ottawa and Victoria are still deciding on how to spend some of it.
That was one of the messages delivered by Premier David Eby during a news conference Tuesday morning with the federal health minister Jean-Yves Duclos and federal minister of intergovernmental affairs, infrastructure and communities Dominic LeBlanc.
The federal delegation arrived Monday in Victoria from Canada’s east coast after the provincial and territorial leaders had agreed to accept a new health care-funding proposal from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The deal adds up to an additional $46 billion from Ottawa over a decade. It includes additional money through the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) and bilateral deals, subject to conditions on how the money is spent and data reporting.
The money from the federal government is less than what provincial and territorial leaders had initially asked for, but Eby praised the deal Monday, saying it reverses years of declining support.
“It offers stability over the long term and provides reassurance to British Columbians that we can work together to improve our public healthcare system including immigration pathways for healthcare workers and national credential recognition,” he said.
The feds will make annual increases to the CHT of at least five per cent for the next five years and additional money for bilateral deals. Over the next five years, B.C.’s amount varies between $300 and $500 million.
Officials on both sides are currently working on where to spend the bilateral money, Eby said.
“We haven’t pre-determined any areas, but we are broadly supportive of the buckets that the federal government have set out, around mental health and addiction, around home-care, around long-term care,” he said. He added that the focus lies on areas that promise to relieve pressure on hospitals.
Duclos identified four areas of priorities for improvements: family medicine, mental health, reducing back logs and a more modern environment for health care workers.
Eby and his federal visitors also discussed other B.C. infrastructure needs, including the George Massey Tunnel in the Lower Mainland, the Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plan in Richmond and the Belleville Terminal in Victoria.
LeBlanc said Ottawa wants to partner with those projects, adding Ottawa want to help improve Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, calling it a national issue. The federal government is prepared to help in providing housing and social services.
Black Press Media has asked for a more detailed break-down of the $600 million figure for this year.