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Prime Minister’s remarks on the federal plan to strengthen public health care

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It’s great to be here today at the University of Ottawa Medical School, talking with future medical workers.

This afternoon, I worked with all 13 of Canada’s premiers to tackle one of the most important issues to Canadians: Strengthening publicly funded universal health care across this country.

For generations, public health care has been a core part of what it means to be Canadian.

It’s built on a promise that no matter where you live, or what you earn, you will always be able to get the medical care you need.

But right now, our health care system isn’t living up to that promise.

Emergency room wait times have become dangerously long.

Community hospitals and clinics are cutting hours because of worker shortages.

Millions of Canadians don’t have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, leaving them to navigate the health care system alone.

People are waiting too long for essential surgeries.

And we are seeing a growing need for mental health care, especially among young people.

Canadians deserve better.

Our country is a world leader in health research.

Canada is where open heart surgery was pioneered, where insulin was formulated, and where discoveries are routinely made in the fight against cancer. 

We have world class health care, but we need a system that works well so that everyone can access that care.

The pandemic reminded each and every one of us just how important our health is.

It also put enormous pressure on our health systems and our health care workers.

And it made us take a hard look at the long-standing issues facing our health care.

As leaders, we’ve come together to deliver tangible actions and outcomes today, while building a more modern system to ensure results for all Canadians for the future.

The provincial and territorial governments deliver health care with support from federal funding, which ensures that our collective commitment to the Canada Health Act is upheld.

In fact, it’s written right into the Canada Health Act that, as governments, we need to “protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.”

To help ensure that, we are announcing that the federal government will be providing $198 billion in additional federal health funding over the next decade.

This includes planned increases to the Canada Health Transfer, and new funding of $48 billion over the next ten years.

Obviously, this is a major federal investment in healthcare.

But we all know that money alone is not the answer.

Each province and territory is facing different challenges, that’s why we’re focused on negotiating 13 distinct bilateral agreements that will respond to varying situations across the country.

This will make sure that real improvements are made and accounted for, particularly in four priority areas:   

  • Primary care
  • Health care workers
  • Mental health
  • Health information and data

First, primary care; making sure Canadians have access to family doctors and nurse practitioners.

It’s about having someone you trust, who knows you, your kids, your parents, or grandparents, and who will make sure that everyone gets the right care and finds the right specialists.

A family health team is there to be your entry point into the health care system, so it doesn’t have to be the emergency room.

The second priority is to help the people at the heart of our health care system, and to reduce backlogs.

Doctors, nurses, paramedics, personal support workers and all health care workers have been going above and beyond for Canadians through the past gruelling years.

They were the heroes of the pandemic.

And they’re still under a lot of pressure today.

When they don't have what they need to do their job, everyone suffers - including patients waiting for appointments or operations on ever-growing waiting lists.  

We need a strong, well-resourced public health system where the workloads are sustainable. A system where workers have the support they need to stay on the job, and where people don’t burn out.

We have learned all too well that working conditions dictate the kind of care that Canadians receive.

Third, we need to make sure Canadians can get the mental health care they need.  

One in three Canadians are struggling.

The good news is that more and more people are bravely putting up their hands and asking for help.

But we need a system that can respond and help people, when and where they need it.

And that includes helping those living with substance use and addictions challenges.

The fourth priority is information.

It’s about building a 21st century health system that is connected and where we all have electronic access to our medical information.  

A system where that data can be communicated to our health care providers, whether it’s our pharmacist or our specialist, so that we can receive appropriate, quality care.

Each of the thirteen bilateral agreements will be focused on delivering results for Canadians.

To make sure that you’re getting your hip replacement faster so you can have your quality of life back sooner.

To ensure that if you need to take your child to the emergency room, you will see someone quickly.

To make sure that if an elderly loved one contracts a preventable and treatable disease, their family doctor will be able to see them before the condition becomes more serious.   

Bilateral agreements will be tailored and flexible to the needs of each province and territory.

But one thing will be consistent: each will need to provide transparent information so that your health care system is accountable and you can be sure real improvements are being made.

What gets measured, gets done.

No matter your income or where you live, you deserve access to the best possible care, from coast to coast to coast, whether you live somewhere remote, rural, or urban.

Indigenous peoples have their own unique health needs.

They continue to face gaps in care, at all levels, which are especially felt by those who require wrap-around services.

Every Indigenous person deserves equal access and quality healthcare, free from racism and discrimination.

As part of the bilateral agreements, we will work with Indigenous leadership to address these issues and make sure there are measurable results.

And we are providing $2 billion over ten years to an Indigenous Health Equity Fund to support First Nation, Inuit, and Metis partners in closing health care gaps.

Health care has always been a priority for our government.

Since 2015, we have made major, historic investments to support Indigenous health.

In 2017, we signed health accords with all provinces and territories to improve mental health and addictions care, as well as home and community care, for all Canadians.

During the pandemic, we invested billions of dollars to make sure that our system withstood an historic public health crisis, and provided, for example, free tests and vaccines.

We all witnessed the tragedies in our long-term care facilities, and took action by providing major funding, and developing national standards to protect seniors.

And last year we launched the Canada Dental Benefit, which sends money directly to families in need, so that children under the age of 12 can receive dental care.

And we're moving forward to ensure that seniors, people under 18 and people with disabilities will have support for their dental care by the end of this year.

Our government believes that caring for Canadians is a fundamental responsibility.

On that note, I would like to take a moment to applaud the heroic dedication of our health care workers. Thank you.

The last few years have not been easy, but you continue to be there, working overtime, taking good care of us and our loved ones.

Our government wants to ease the pressures on workers in all provinces and territories territory by making it easier for people to work across the country.  

We’ll be asking provinces and territories to recognize credentials Canada wide, so that our well-trained health care professionals can work wherever there is need.

And to improve how we recognize foreign credentials, so that skilled people who come to Canada can more easily contribute and reduce pressure on overworked staff.

Personal support workers take close care of people and deserve to be fairly paid. That’s why today, we are investing $1.7 billion towards the goal of $25 an hour for their important work.

But most importantly, in order to support Canadian health care workers, we’re taking steps to keep our public system strong.

This is a big country, built on big, progressive ideas.

Few are more central to who we are as Canadians than the promise of universal, publicly funded healthcare.

We all pay our fair share, knowing that, unlike a lot of places, we don’t have to make the choice between paying the mortgage or getting a much-needed surgery.

And we like to know that our neighbour doesn’t have to make that choice either, no matter their circumstances.

So, when it comes to health care, we need to make sure to look out for everyone, and leave out no one.

We’re taking action today, so Canadians can continue to have trust in our public system.

We know that cuts and austerity won’t make us stronger, and won’t help Canadians thrive.

We’re investing in the well-being of Canadians, and in a strong social safety net, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the smart thing to do.

Canadians deserve to know that every new dollar being announced today is exactly that: a new dollar that will go towards the improvements in health care that Canadians need.

Because when people are healthy, when people don’t have to go into unnecessary debt, when people can get timely access to health care before complications arise, it all makes our economy stronger.

We've just been through some tough years.

People are exhausted, they are worried, and they need to be able to count on the health care system that has made them so proud to be Canadian and is one of the reasons so many people have chosen to come to Canada. 

Now is the time to step up ‒ to meet this moment.

To do what it takes to reinforce the defining Canadian institution that is universal public health care.

I have high expectations, but also reasonable expectations, that in the coming weeks, not months, we will conclude bilateral agreements, begin flowing more money, and Canadians will start seeing real results.

Let’s get this done.

Let’s give Canadians the health care that they expect, and that they deserve.