Volume 96, Issue 75
Thursday, February 12, 2003

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Provinces still hungry for funding
Health care needs revamp

By Samantha Wright
Gazette Writer

They got $27 billion and they still want more.

In the wake of the Romanow Report, the federal and provincial governments finally struck a health care deal at the First Ministers Meeting last Wednesday.

Over the next five years, the federal government has agreed to $27 billion in additional funding for health care.

The funding will go towards reforming the troubled Canadian health care system, but some Western professors said the provincial premiers are still far from satisfied.

In fact, the territorial leaders refused to sign, saying the accord does not meet the needs of their predominantly aboriginal population, confirmed Jacquetta Newman, a professor of political science at King's College.

"This is how we make social policy," Newman said "It is a struggle between provincial and federal governments, [with the] territories as the poor cousin."

"The federal government never tends to be reasonable, but they were being relatively fair in this case," said Paul Barker, a professor of political science at Brescia University College.

"In the long run, [the federal government] may have lost a lot of influence by backing down, but it was a good idea for the health care system's present needs," Barker said, in reference to the conditions the federal government wanted to attach to the money.

"Health care is a provincial responsibility, but the federal government also has a major funding role," said Sid Noel, Western professor of political science.

Barker said he is not in favour of the federal government telling the provinces how to run their health systems.

The issue underwent a lot of debate, Noel said, adding this is a part of the normal bargaining process.

"One wouldn't expect provincial governments to say any amount of money is enough," Noel said.

Although each of the stockholders have their hands on some of the different strings attached to this deal, the additional funding will at least get the ball rolling towards better health care services, the professors all agreed.

"Whether the strings [attached by the federal government] have room for effect is yet to be seen," Noel said.

–with files from Liz Donaldson

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2002 THE GAZETTE