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Minister Terry Lake Capitulates to Federal Government on Side-Deal for Health Funding

Richmond –

After months of criticizing side deals as a replacement for a national health accord, the government of British Columbia has been pressured into signing its own bilateral healthcare funding agreement with the federal government.

With public concerns mounting over the critical state of senior’s care in British Columbia, Health Minister Terry Lake acknowledged today that public pressure coming from the BC Seniors advocate contributed to the provincial government’s decision to take a ‘good enough’ approach with the federal government.

“Because of this government’s mismanagement of the Seniors’ file, the province has signed on to a humbled bilateral agreement to fund healthcare in exchange for immediate funding for an issue that was becoming a political liability for the minister,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. “For some time BCGEU members have been advocating for increased standards and more staff in home care and seniors care. Today’s funding deal clearly shows that these concerns are shared by the working people in British Columbia, because the government has chosen to announce this funding in an election year instead of years ago when it was first called for.” 

The $1.4 billion dollars announced today for increased home care and mental health initiatives comes as part of a 10-year deal that will see healthcare transfer increases from the province drop from the 6% previously negotiated under Paul Martin’s health accord to 3% increases annually. The Federal government had previously offered all the provinces an increase of 3.5% during the talks that broke down earlier. 

“Failure to reach a comprehensive health accord has meant that Ottawa has been able to divide and conquer individual provinces. With all but four provincial governments now signing side deals, there is little hope of the unified national strategy the BC’s health minister had been calling for. This lack of solidarity is now pitting provinces against each other and has squandered a once-in-a-decade opportunity to provide stable, long term funding to Canadian workers and their families.”

The BCGEU is encouraged that, as an addendum to this deal, the province will gain an additional $10 million in new funds to address the opioid overdose crisis. The union eagerly awaits further details on a $65 million federal strategy that Minister Philpott described as ‘comprehensive’ and which will include harm reduction initiatives, trauma support, and a process for evidence-based decision making on the question of prescription opioids for patients in recovery.

Smith noted that “on the funding for the opioid overdose crisis we hope that the $10 million given to the province will be swiftly moved into harm reduction initiatives such as mobile safe injection sites, appropriate training, counselling and debriefing for front line workers, as well as looking at subsidizing the cost of nasal spray naloxone.”

The BCGEU represents 72,000 workers in B.C. including over 10,000 in healthcare, community social services, and many more in mental health and addictions.