With childcare program Trudeau finds a model to influence provincial politics

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OTTAWA – If you had asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year if the federal government could have a stronger hand in provincial health issues, he says his answer might have been different.

The delivery of health care is squarely the responsibility of provincial and territorial governments, and federal attempts to influence spending and policy have met with resistance.

But the success of Trudeau’s child care program gave the federal government a way to shape provincial politics out of Ottawa and he said it was a vehicle he could use again.

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“We just had an exceptional example of the federal government getting involved in an area that, quite frankly, has traditionally been a provincial jurisdiction and that has made a huge difference for Canadians,” Trudeau said in an interview. in an end-of-year roundtable with The Canadian Press.

Trudeau’s Liberals have so far reached 11 agreements with provinces and territories to provide $ 10 a day child care to Canadian families.

Agreements vary widely from province to province – a strategy that allows the federal government to move its agenda forward while maintaining the autonomy and regional differences of its provincial counterparts.

Basically, the government put the money on the table and invited the provinces to come and negotiate for their part.

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The method won him the cooperation of even the United Conservatives of Jason Kenney in Alberta, who were loath to give up the opportunity to bring taxpayers’ money back to the province.

When asked if the same model could apply to the federal government’s health care goals, Trudeau’s response was emphatic.

“I think it’s a model that we can replicate for a number of things when the base is: it matters to Canadians,” he said.

There is no doubt that the fractured nature of Canada’s 13 individual health systems has hampered the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Trudeau was clear that the federal government lacks great expertise in health care delivery and no desire to offer lessons to the provinces, he said there are places his government can play. a leadership role.

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On Monday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam made a passionate appeal to provinces and territories to harmonize their health data, for example.

Data collection is so stilted in Canada that to this day it is still sometimes difficult to know how many vaccines have been given to Canadians in particular age groups.

Canada is flying completely blind when it comes to whether certain racial or socio-economic groups have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 or have fallen through the cracks of the vaccine rollout in Canada.

This is because provinces collect and share this information differently, often in ways that are inconsistent or incomplete.

“This fragmentation, alongside outdated technology, has particularly pronounced consequences during health emergencies when access to data for real-time decision-making is paramount,” Tam wrote in his annual report, released Monday.

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The long-standing problem that has made it nearly impossible to get an accurate picture of the performance of Canada’s health systems as a whole.

There were several attempts to remedy the problem, but each time it fell apart.

Renewed efforts are now underway in light of the gaps highlighted by the pandemic, but the prime minister said the federal government may have a bigger role to play this time around.

The Canadian Medical Association has called on the federal government to take similar action when it comes to creating a pan-Canadian health human resource strategy.

Without one, it is difficult to know whether Canada has enough doctors, nurses and other health professionals to meet the country’s needs.

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“We don’t have up-to-date or solid data on health care providers in Canada, and this is something we have asked the federal government to support,” said Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the ‘AMC in an October Interview. “It’s hard to know how to solve a problem when we haven’t totally defined the problem in a lot of detail. “

The child care model may also meet the government’s needs when it comes to keeping election promises related to long-term care, another provincial service that was previously untouchable to federal governments.

CSA Group, formerly the Canadian Standards Association, and the Health Standards Organization are already working to develop national standards for care and infection prevention in long-term care.

The government promised to enshrine these standards in federal law, but that would require provincial buy-in.

The Prime Minister may be inviting the provinces to the table again to feast on federal funds, but depending on the government’s new strategy, they may have to give a little back.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 18, 2021.

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