Ottawa report casts doubt on Yukon’s health care deal

A new report from an Ottawa think-tank suggests that recent health-care deals signed by several provinces and territories, including the Yukon, will not provide enough federal funding to keep pace with increasing health-care costs.

A new report from an Ottawa think-tank suggests that recent health-care deals signed by several provinces and territories, including the Yukon, will not provide enough federal funding to keep pace with increasing health-care costs.

The study, published by the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy, finds that health spending in Ontario should increase by 4.5 to five per cent a year after 2018. But the bilateral deals signed by provinces and territories in recent weeks only offer guaranteed annual increases of three per cent to the Canada health transfer payments.

Randall Bartlett, the institute’s chief economist, said the pinch will likely be felt more in smaller jurisdictions, because Ontario has a large population and low per-capita costs.

He said the Yukon was the “third-most expensive jurisdiction for health care on a per-capita basis” after the other territories, based on 2013 data.

“What’s been proposed by the federal government is going to be insufficient in Ontario over the long term,” Bartlett said. “The same is going to be true in every other province (and territory) as well.”

Bartlett’s data, obtained from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, shows that Yukon’s health expenditures increased by an average of 7.4 per cent each year between 2010 and 2016.

Last month, the Yukon government signed a health-care deal that will see it receive $6.2 million for home care and $5.2 million for mental health initiatives over the next 10 years. The federal transfer has been cut to an annual increase of three per cent or the rate of nominal GDP growth, whichever is higher. The transfer has increased by six per cent annually for the last several years, but that deal has expired.

“If current trends continue, basically the federal portion will be increasing at half the rate of the actual (territorial) costs,” Bartlett said.

On Feb. 9, Yukon Party health critic Patti McLeod told the News she’s worried about what the deal will mean for health care in the Yukon.

“Given that it costs even more to provide services in Yukon, it puts us in an even worse situation,” she said. “I think that Yukoners aren’t going to be very happy if we’re looking at some kind of cutback in the system.”

Premier Sandy Silver has previously argued that the increase in the health transfer from Ottawa is not the Yukon’s biggest concern. That’s because the health transfer is allocated on a per-capita basis, which means a change of a few percentage points doesn’t add up to a lot of money for a small population.

To illustrate: Bartlett’s data shows that the Yukon spent $283 million on health care in 2015-16. If that amount were to rise by 7.4 per cent — the average annual increase since 2010 — that would mean an additional $21 million in spending.

Conversely, the health transfer to the Yukon rose six per cent from $35 to $37 million between 2015-16 and 2016-17 — an increase of just $2 million.

Cutting the annual increase to three per cent means an additional $1 million in 2017-18, instead of $2 million.

Silver has argued that the Yukon has more of a stake in discussions about other funding sources, like the territorial health investment fund that provides money for Yukon’s medical travel program.

But Bartlett insisted the Yukon should be paying attention to the health transfer.

“I think it’s very important, and I don’t think they’re necessarily mutually exclusive things.”

McLeod suggested the Yukon’s Liberal government should try and renegotiate its health-care deal with Ottawa, but Bartlett said the territory may have to wait and hope that the remaining hold-out provinces — Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C. — manage to negotiate a better deal.

The Yukon and the other jurisdictions are allowed to sign on to a better deal if the option arises.

In December, the federal government proposed a deal like the one the Yukon has signed to all the jurisdictions during meetings in Ottawa, but it was rejected. The provinces have demanded an annual transfer increase of 5.2 per cent.

Since then, the federal government has signed one-on-one deals with the territories and the less populous provinces.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited internet options beginning Dec. 1. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet for some available Dec. 1

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited… Continue reading

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read