By: Jordan Benadiba, Account Supervisor, Health & Wellness Team
Since the election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2015, Canadians have witnessed a significant shift in the way the federal government has approached and engaged in healthcare at a national level. 2017 marks a year with significant developments ahead and with many already underway. As part of a two-part series, GCI’s Health & Wellness Practice focuses in on some key issues we expect to dominate the healthcare landscape in 2017.
In this post, we focus on the federal government’s Health Accord negotiations with the provinces and its approach to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal Canadians.
Finalizing Health Accord Negotiations
To date, Health Minister Jane Philpott has negotiated healthcare deals with all Canadian provinces and territories, with the exception of Manitoba. The deals end the six per cent annual increases in the Canadian Health Transfer or CHT – the funding that the federal government transfers to the provinces and territories for healthcare. The new CHT will rise by three per cent annually or by a three year average of nominal GDP growth, depending on which is higher. Additionally, the Liberals are providing increased funding for homecare and mental health, equal to $11 billion over the course of ten years as highlighted in the budget.
Given that all other provinces have negotiated agreements with the federal government, why does Manitoba remain the lone holdout? In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has requested additional funding to improve health outcomes for Indigenous peoples in Manitoba and to fight kidney disease arising from diabetes. According to Diabetes Canada, 37 per cent of Manitobans will have diabetes by 2027. As tensions grow between Manitoba and the federal government, how and when an agreement will shape out remains to be seen.
During the 2015 election, Liberals advocated for a reset in the relationship between the federal government and Indigenous communities. The Liberal’s called for a nation-to-nation approach and promised to expand investment in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, with increased funding and services, as well as an inquiry for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. As a result, Indigenous Canadians strongly supported the Liberal Party at the ballot box.
According to the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, Aboriginal communities in Canada face numerous urgent health issues. Aboriginal peoples experience disproportionately higher rates of tuberculosis and type 2 diabetes. Further, Aboriginal youth suicide rates continue well over the national average as do instances of violence against Aboriginal women. Key areas of concern include: access to medical care for First Nations children; access to healthy affordable food; improved access to primary medical care; suicide prevention and mental health, particularly amongst youth; and ending long-term drinking water advisories on reserves.
In the 2017 budget, the federal government committed $828.2 million over five years starting in 2017-2018 to improve health outcomes for First Nations and Inuit. While the federal government has stated its commitment to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal peoples, the Canadian media, stakeholders and the public-at-large will undoubtedly be watching to see if it can truly move the needle and make real progress. If it can’t, the Liberals risk losing a key support base.
Stay tuned, for next week as our series turns to the opioid crisis and what’s being done to address it, as well as the upcoming legalization of marijuana.