Quebec risks losing $900M without agreement with Ottawa on health

By Émilie Bergeron, The Canadian Press

Ottawa plans to withhold nearly $1 billion in additional federal funds intended for Quebec’s health industry for 2023 to 2024 if they don’t sign a bilateral agreement with the Canadian government by March 31.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé, mentioned this amount in a written statement Wednesday denouncing the “threat of making the amounts expire.”

After announcing Ottawa’s health investment of $46 billion over 10 years, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced that a portion of $25 billion would go through individual agreements and to enhancing the Canada Health Transfer (CHT).

The overall share for Quebec is approximately $10 billion over 10 years, including $4.8 billion from a possible bilateral agreement.

“To receive the funding planned for 2023 to 2024 under individual bilateral agreements, the provinces and territories must sign such an agreement by March 31 2024,” Ottawa wrote in its economic statement last fall.

A federal source added that the TCS bonus guarantee – an annual increase of five per cent over five years – is conditional on the expected signature.

As this deadline approaches, Federal Health Minister Mark Holland said on Tuesday that he will bring the six non-signatory provinces and territories, including Quebec, together in time for the deadline set by the Canadian government.

Besides Quebec, the other provinces who don’t have a final agreement with Ottawa have all reached agreements in principle.

“Health is a field of jurisdiction that belongs to the provinces and (…) there is no reason that justifies the federal government not disbursing the agreed amounts,” declared Dubé’s office.

It was stated that “it has happened several times in the past that a negotiation with the federal government goes beyond the framework of the financial year and that the amounts are carried over to the following year and paid retroactively.”

Holland’s office was not able to confirm the amount that Quebec may lose.

Since Tuesday, it has been argued that the height of the annual payments will be determined in the bilateral agreements themselves.

The federal government wants to obtain “action plans describing how the funds will be spent (in addition to existing expenditures) and how progress will be measured,” from the provinces, which they specified last year.

This report by La Presse Canadienne was translated by CityNews.

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