Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that he would sit down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday to discuss private health care ahead of next week’s summit with premiers.
Trudeau is expected to meet with provincial and territorial leaders in Ottawa next Tuesday to discuss a new health-care funding deal.
“The deal will be a failure if it doesn’t include major commitments to hire more health-care workers,” Singh said Monday, adding that the funding should be kept within the public system.
The last time Trudeau and Singh met one-on-one, as outlined in the confidence-and-supply agreement between the Liberals and the NDP, was in December.
Singh said now is the time for the Liberal government to make clear that funding private health-care facilities will not improve the shortage of health-care workers Canada is facing.
On Monday, legislators’ first day back at the House of Commons after a winter break, the NDP requested an emergency debate on the privatization of health care. The request was denied.
During the first question period of the year, Trudeau said his government will continue to ensure the provinces and territories abide by the Canada Health Act.
“We know that even as we negotiate with the provinces to ensure that we’re delivering more family doctors, better mental-health supports, moving forward on backlogs, supporting Canadians who need emergency care, we will ensure the Canada Health Act is fully respected,” Trudeau said.
“In the past, this government has pulled back money from provinces that haven’t respected it. We will continue to do that.”
Singh said that while health care falls under provincial jurisdiction, he believes the federal government could be using the Canada Health Act more aggressively to challenge for-profit care.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government announced earlier this month that it’s moving some procedures to publicly funded, private facilities to address a growing surgery wait-list, which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan have already made similar moves.
“We think the federal government should be making it very clear that the solution to the current health-care crisis will not come from a privatization, for-profit delivery of care. It’ll only come by making sure we hire, recruit, retain and respect health care,” Singh said.
“Health care is already dramatically understaffed, and for-profit facilities will poach doctors and nurses — cannibalizing hospitals, forcing people to wait longer in pain and racked with anxiety.”
The New Democrats say they’re also concerned that private facilities will upsell patients for brands and services not covered by the province, and tack on extra fees and services.
Singh spent some of Parliament’s winter break holding roundtable discussions on health care in British Columbia to discuss emergency room overcrowding and worker shortages.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.
New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh listens to a question during an availability on Parliament Hill, Jan. 19, 2023, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld