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Health-care funding gets spotlight in campaign as party leaders fan across country

Last Updated Aug 19, 2021 at 1:33 pm EDT

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick, Paul Daly, Graham Hughes, Chris Young

The leaders of the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois are battling over pledges to provide extra financial help to the country’s health-care system.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he would boost federal funding for provincially run health-care systems by six per cent annually, but is leaving the door open to offering more if the national economy grows faster than expected.

Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, speaking shortly after O’Toole on Thursday morning, said the Conservative plan falls well short of what provinces need.

Blanchet said the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the ills from years of federal funding falling behind rising costs, and warned the gap will only continue to rise as the population ages with the oldest baby boomers turning 75 this year.

His party, which is only running candidates in Quebec, is telling premiers that the Bloc backs provincial calls for a far greater jump in federal health-care spending, and warned Quebec voters that neither O’Toole nor Trudeau could be trusted.

“Quebec has made seven demands before last election. Not one, not a single one of the seven demands of Quebec has been met. Not one,” he said at an event near the Gatineau hospital, across the river from Ottawa.

The country’s premiers have demanded about $28 billion more this year and $4 billion annually thereafter in health-care funding from the federal government, arguing that the current plan of three per cent jumps in spending means transfers don’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has said his government wouldn’t talk about changes in spending until after the pandemic passes.

Trudeau is scheduled to speak Thursday in Victoria, B.C., making an announcement on support for seniors, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will talk about health care as he campaigns in Edmonton.

In a release, Singh took aim at Trudeau over the Liberal government’s track record on health-care spending.

The NDP leader said the Liberals lambasted the previous Conservative government for cutting funding to provinces in 2014, only to turn around and keep funding increases at that level once in office.

“That means fewer nurses, crowded emergency rooms, and longer wait times. Justin Trudeau always says the right thing, but has no intention of doing it,” Singh said in the release.

“People can’t afford his empty promises anymore.”

April’s federal budget forecasted $43.1 billion in health-care transfers to provinces, a drop from the $45.9 billion last fiscal year after extra cash flowed to bolster systems besieged by COVID-19 cases.

At current rates, health transfers are scheduled to rise to $51.7 billion by 2026 under the five-year plan in the budget.