British Columbia will receive $733 million over the next five years for seniors under an agreement signed Monday (Feb. 12) by B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and his federal counterpart Mark Holland.
The agreement is the first of the so-called Aging with Dignity agreements between Victoria and Ottawa as part of the broader health care agreement reached by the federal government with the provinces and territories in early 2023.
The overall agreement budgets $200 billion over 10 years for aspects of health care. Monday’s agreement between Victoria and Ottawa builds on an October 2023 agreement worth $1.2 billion with about $750 million going toward nurses and another $246 million going toward mental and addictions.
Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu, a registered nurse and parliamentary secretary for seniors’ services and federal Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed (Vancouver-Granville) joined Dix and Holland at the signing ceremony at a care home in Vancouver.
Dix said the money will help the province get on with improvements to seniors care. B.C.’s population is growing thanks to immigration, but also aging thanks to a combination of low fertility (meaning fewer children) and rising life expectancy.
According to the 2021 census, those 65-plus accounted for 20.3 per cent of the provincial population, with that share expected to only go up in the coming years. Seniors already outnumber children in B.C.
“This (rising life expectancy) is of course not a bad thing,” Dix said. “It’s a great thing. But we understand that the variety of care required, the variety of supports required in the community and then in long-term care increases when that happens,” he said.
Dix said the agreement has components. Roughly half the money will go toward improving home and community care. An existing agreement with Ottawa has helped B.C. increase the number of people receiving home support to 139,000 from 124,000, Dix said.
The second component is to improve staffing and overall standards in long-term care.
Holland said the expansion of home and community services will make it easier for people to age as home as long as possible before transitioning into long-term care.
“After a life-time of hard work and contributing to society, it’s essential that we are there for our seniors to make that they have the quality of life and the quality of care they so richly deserve,” Holland said.
Sandhu echoed this point.
“Today’s funding announcement sends a hopeful and positive message to seniors as well as to care providers,” Sandhu said. “You helped shape our province and our country and your governments of all levels are here to support you.”
The agreements comes with targets, on which B.C. will have to report annually.