Canadian premiers and territorial leaders were at the Fort Garry hotel Tuesday, kicking off the second day of an all-premiers meeting in Winnipeg.
Part of the agenda throughout the three-day conference includes discussions on health care and strategies to utilize a $46-billion funding investment from the federal government. As leaders gathered at the hotel, health care and labour unions convened at a nearby block.
For union leaders, the message was inherently one that was against the privatization of health care.
“The premiers need to know that we demand to see their action plans. We demand to see the relief that we need to help both patients and health-care workers,” said Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.
“Action to has to start with respecting health-care workers and working unions to improve the conditions. And that has to start with recruiting, retaining and keeping … health-care workers in all of our systems across the country.”
Brukse also called for introducing a publicly funded, universally delivered pharmacare program.
“Keep it public,” said Bruske.
Steven Staples, national director of the Canadian Health Coalition, said it’s important for leaders to find solutions for problems faced by the country’s health care system.
“We’ve been trying to get the (premiers) to invest in our public health care system… we’re all concerned about wait times (and) access,” said Staples.
With a multi-billion-dollar investment in the air, provinces and territories are expected to submit plans and ways to meet certain targets. Quebec remains the only province not to have accepted the funding offer.
Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson said she supported the conditions attached to the federal funding. She said actions need to be taken that could spill into long term plans.
“We want better staffing (And we want long-term plans,” said Jackson. “We want less lip service than we are getting.”
After the day’s meetings, Manitoba premier Heather Stefanson spoke to reporters and said another all-premiers meeting will take place later this year to discuss healthcare. She also added that the province was well on its way to addressing its own health care concerns.
“In Manitoba, we have a $200 million investment… to attract 20,000 new health care workers to the province. We are well over halfway there,” said Stefanson.
“We need a break”
Aside from health care, other topics are also being broached at the conference. For Alberta’s Danielle Smith, one of the priorities is to get Alberta and other Atlantic provinces some relief from carbon taxes and clean fuel standards.
Smith also noted the need for her province to break from inflation.
“We need a break,” said the Alberta premier. “We have called for the federal government to stop continuing to put additional costs on our consumers.”
For the premier, that translates to an “end to the retail carbon tax.”
Ontario premier Doug Ford has mentioned infrastructure as a topic of concern for the central province. That, he said, would mean asking the federal government for money and a quicker push to get permits on the Ring of Fire mining projects.
Additionally, Ford also brought up affordability and the need for Ottawa to help more people out.
“I would love to see the federal government produce their fair share. Give people a break,” said Ford. “We need to put more money into people’s pocket, instead of the government’s pockets.”
More information about what was discussed will be available once meetings wrap up on June 12.
— with files from Global’s Katherine Dornian and Iris Dyck
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.