Canadian health care is facing a “national crisis” that requires federal action to solve, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says.
“The Red Cross being called into children’s hospitals in Ottawa, trailers being set up because of the overflow in children’s hospitals in Alberta, children dying because of the flu in B.C. It is clear that this is a national crisis and it cannot be solved at the provincial level,” Singh said in an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson.
“One of the major concerns is human health-care resource shortage — the worker shortage, health-care worker shortage — that can’t be solved by provinces who are trying to recruit from one province, creating a shortage in the province they recruit from. That’s not a solution.”
He said the NDP isn’t ruling out pulling its support from the governance deal that’s keeping the Liberal Party in power. But for now, his party is going to focus on trying to “force this government to act” as doctors warn that children’s hospitals are under severe strain.
“There may come a time when it becomes clear to us that the Liberal government is just not willing to do what’s needed to help people — and we reserve the right to withhold our support,” Singh said.
Stephenson had asked whether the NDP would withhold support if the federal government doesn’t provide more health funding to the provinces, which are urging more cash amid growing strains.
Premiers demand ‘urgent’ meeting with Trudeau on health funding
Premiers demand ‘urgent’ meeting with Trudeau on health funding
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the supply and confidence agreement with the NDP on March 22, telling reporters it would be in place until 2025 — though either party can back out at any time.
Under the deal, the NDP has agreed to support the Liberals in confidence votes for that period of time in exchange for progress on specific files.
Singh told Stephenson he understands the “ramifications” of withholding his support — a decision that would cause the government to fall and likely trigger another federal election.
“But right now, our focus is on fighting and not giving up on people,” he said.
Speaking Friday, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland acknowledged that Canadians are feeling “frustrated and frightened” by the situation in hospitals.
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Pressures such as overcrowded emergency departments and family doctor shortages are leading to strained health-care systems across the country. Hospital ERs are facing patient surges from three different, rapidly spreading illnesses — the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19.
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Premiers have been demanding a $28-billion increase to the Canada Health Transfer, which they say will bring the federal contribution toward health costs from 22 per cent currently to 35 per cent.
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Speaking in a joint press conference on Friday, the premiers called for an “urgent” meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “hammer out a deal” on health-care funding before the spring federal budget.
But Freeland said Friday that federal and provincial governments need to find solutions, rather than focus on dollars.
“We understand that Canadians are really worried and frustrated and frightened, actually, in many parts of the country about the state of the health-care system, and we know that we need to work together to make it better,” Freeland told reporters during an event in Toronto Friday.
“Yes, that does mean some more investment, but it also means a focus on being sure we get the results that Canadians quite rightly expect of us from those investments alone.”
NDP has ‘a problem’ supporting gun bill changes: Singh
The NDP also does not support the Liberals’ proposed amendment to Bill C-21, the planned gun reform law, Singh said in his interview with Stephenson.
The Liberal amendment has been facing questions about how far it will expand the scope of weapons that are prohibited in Canada. The move prompted blowback from numerous hunters, including Montreal Canadiens star Carey Price, who called the proposed legislation “unjust.”
“We don’t want to see any laws that breach the treaty rights of Indigenous communities, those treaty and inherent rights to be able to hunt and to provide for their families and live a traditional lifestyle,” Singh said.
“So those are concerns we’ve raised as well as we understand the needs of hunters and farmers to be able to continue to do what they do …. and so we’ve raised concerns about the amendment, but we’re united as a party.”
Ottawa is ‘fine-tuning’ list of banned ‘assault-style’ guns amid criticism, Trudeau says
The NDP supports the bill overall, Singh said, but his party would have a problem supporting the proposed amendment to the bill — one he said “will be fixed.”
“Once it’s fixed, we’ll take a look at it,” he said.
Walking into a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Trudeau confirmed he has no plans to drop his legislative push to enshrine a legal definition for “assault-style” firearms — a term that isn’t currently defined in Canadian law, despite being regularly used by Liberal politicians.
Automatic assault weapons are already prohibited in Canada.
“The definition is something that we are very much committed to. But the actual list that goes with it, that’s something that we’re consulting on right now,” Trudeau told reporters.
“Because we understand that there are concerns by hunters and farmers that we’re going after their shotguns and rifles. We are not. And that’s what we’re going to make sure with fine-tuning of the legislation.”
Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois MPs requested an “urgent meeting” of the House of Commons public safety committee last week to hear testimony from witnesses specifically on the amendment.
A meeting to discuss that request is expected within days.
— With files from Motorcycle accident toronto today’ Amanda Connolly
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