EDITORIAL: Premiers wield collective clout

B.C. was among a handful of provinces comfortable with federal plans to base health-care transfer payments.

B.C. was among a handful of provinces comfortable with federal plans to base health-care transfer payments more on the country’s gross domestic product starting in 2017-18.

No surprise there. The stance ties right in with the B.C. Liberals’ current philosophy on labour contracts and other budgetary strategies.

But at this month’s premiers conference in Victoria – since 2003 the group has been collectively known as the Council of the Federation – Premier Christy Clark expressed concern about the per-capita funding model contained in the plan. She argued rightly that the feds need to factor age trends into their calculation of transfer payments.

With seniors an increasing portion of B.C.’s population, the cost of health care has the potential to rise by more than the six-per-cent annual boost in funding the feds have scheduled for the next five years. And certainly so in the years after that, when the guaranteed part of the yearly increase drops to three per cent.

Having already chosen to avoid negotiating with the provinces on its health-care funding plan past 2014, when the current inter-governmental agreement expires, the Harper government will have to be given a good argument why it should change course. That will take sending a unified message.

The split in opinions between provinces on the Conservatives’ health funding plan showed cracks in the Council of the Federation. Some jurisdictions are in a tougher financial position and need more help paying for health-care delivery.

Clark bringing up the age factor in health-care transfer payments offered a good opportunity for the premiers to speak with a unified voice. It’s a perfect chance for the provinces to exercise the clout envisioned when the council was formed and provide taxpayers with a level of federal oversight that holds more sway than our now-toothless Senate.

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