OTTAWA — Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the provinces, territories and municipalities have now received more than $2.85 billion promised months ago for health care, transit systems and classroom ventilation.
Most of it is a $2-billion health transfer top-up the federal government pledged for provincial and territorial governments in March mainly to help relieve surgical backlogs.
Freeland says the funds can now be transferred because the budget bill that contained them passed June 23.
But the transfer also comes days after premiers were heavily critical of the federal Liberals for not shouldering enough of the weight of health-care costs.
Thursday’s transfer fulfils a Liberal election promise to give provinces and territories another $100 million to improve air quality in classrooms.
It also includes the $750-million pledged in February for municipal governments to manage plunging public transit revenues as a result of the pandemic.
The transit funding requires provinces and territories to provide matching dollars, and is also contingent on them building more homes to address rising housing costs.
The one-time top-up to health funding was promised by Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos March 25, and he and Freeland co-sponsored a bill to enable that spending the same day.
But that bill was never debated and instead the Liberals included the funding in their budget bill, which was introduced a month later.
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Duclos said in March the money was to help provinces “expedite” surgeries. Wait lists for most surgical procedures ballooned during COVID-19, as hospitals delayed non-urgent surgeries because of an influx of COVID-19 patients.
Duclos said earlier this week letters were being signed with each province to finalize the payments as the premiers met in British Columbia.
The premiers have said these one-time top-ups are not enough to repair the damage the pandemic has caused to their health-care systems, and they want the federal government to increase its share of health funding on a permanent basis.
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