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Provinces urge Ottawa to pay more for healthcare

Robert GhizCHARLOTTETOWN – Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers say there is a fiscal imbalance between Ottawa and the provinces, and it’s time the prime minister re-examined the country’s revenue-sharing arrangements. In particular, the premiers are calling for the federal government to increase its share of funding for health and infrastructure.

CBC news said PEI premier Robert Ghiz (pictured) pointed to a report by the Conference Board of Canada, which the premiers commissioned last year, showing the federal government is balancing its budget on the backs of the provinces.

While the federal government is contributing to healthcare funding, Ghiz said it simply isn’t keeping pace with changing demographics and an aging population – all of which will have an impact on the provinces.

“Under all scenarios examined by the Conference Board, the federal government continues to record growing budgetary surpluses while provincial-territorial governments will face increasing challenges to achieve fiscal balance while providing essential programs and services to Canadians,” Ghiz said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Rona Ambrose said the government is providing the provinces and territories with record funding for healthcare.

The federal government has guaranteed the provinces an annual 6-per-cent increase in healthcare funding until 2016-17. After that, increases will be tied to growth in nominal gross domestic product, a measure of GDP plus inflation – but is guaranteed to be at least 3 per cent.

The provinces want the government to increase its share funding to deal with an aging population and crumbling roads. “Premiers agreed that fiscal arrangements must be re-examined… and encouraged the prime minister to work with them on this important priority.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the federal government has made the fiscal imbalance worse. “I think it’s deteriorating and I think all the provinces are feeling that, in different ways, and we believe there needs to be an improvement of that equilibrium.”

She dismissed suggestions the Ontario government isn’t managing its finances, saying, “We have been very clear that eliminating our deficit and balancing our budget by 2017-18 has to happen. It’s as important as making the investments that are necessary.”

Wynne said while the premiers agree the federal government’s 10-year, $53-billion Building Canada Plan is a step in the right direction, Ottawa needs to do more. “Having reliable, predictable, resilient investment in infrastructure is very important for the country and every province has needs.”

The premiers said they haven’t costed out their demands yet.

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