The Premiers Super Bowl

The Premiers Super Bowl |

(Quebec) February 12 isn’t just about the Super Bowl. Another big event that has been long awaited in Canada will take place on that day unless there is a last minute change.

Posted at 5:00 am


The provinces have indeed circled Feb. 12-13 for holding a first ministers’ meeting in Ottawa to finalize a long-term health care funding deal with Justin Trudeau, La Presse learned. A Super Bowl of Canadian Politics!

There is a condition for the provinces to officially invite Justin Trudeau to this meeting. He’ll have to step up a bit on the amounts he’s willing to put on the table.

The provinces are expecting Federal Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland to provide guidance on raising the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) at a meeting with her counterparts, expected on February 2. All governments are preparing their budgets and hope to have some idea of ​​CHT growth, at least in the short term.

Optimism about the possibility of an agreement, fueled in large part by Ottawa, gives hope to the provinces.

What if the balloon was deflated? The provincial prime ministers would still maintain the meeting. They would try to increase the pressure on Justin Trudeau on this occasion.

But at the moment all signals are green. It’s hard to imagine how the federal government could have inflated expectations over the past few days without a big check to hand. However, let’s be careful before we think that all these beautiful people will dance to Rihanna at halftime.

Because the expectations are high, very high. Provinces have been asking for a $28 billion increase in CHT for more than two years to increase Ottawa’s share of healthcare funding from 22% to 35%. In addition, the federal contribution is to be indexed by 6% per year in order to keep up with the growth in healthcare expenditure.

structure of the agreement

Behind-the-scenes negotiations between the prime ministers’ offices have accelerated in recent weeks. The structure of the agreement is determined.

So the deal would include a long-term CRT increase of probably 10 years. It would stipulate that Ottawa must subsequently enter into bilateral agreements. The federal government would put additional funds into priority areas for each of the provinces, which are also likely to match the issues raised by Justin Trudeau in the last election campaign – mental health, frontline services and long-term care.

Everyone would find something there. The provinces could be happy that Ottawa does not impose any conditions on them. No national standards or “accountability” measures, just sharing their data on healthcare network performance. For his part, Justin Trudeau would be proud to fulfill his commitments.

Paved in the pond

With this improvement in federal-provincial relations, Quebecers are left wondering which fly stung Justin Trudeau enough to cause him to throw a rock into the pond in an interview with La Presse.

Mr. Trudeau is seriously considering going to the Supreme Court to further regulate provincial use of the disrespect clause.

Since the election of the CAQ, Quebec has used it twice: for the law respecting the state’s secularism and for the law respecting the official and common language of Quebec, French.

François Legault immediately accused his counterpart of wanting to “attack democracy and the entire Québec people”. But this is not a clash that could jeopardize a federal-state meeting on health. “We don’t mix up files,” says Quebec.

Session… and election

Additional funds from Ottawa would be good news for Treasury Secretary Eric Girard as he prepares his March budget… and the announcement of campaign-pledged tax cuts.

Also in March, for the time being, the government plans to hold the by-elections in Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne, a seat that has been vacant since Dominique Anglade resigned.

Expectations are modest for the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) and high for Québec solidaire (QS) given the crisis that has rocked the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ). The Liberal leader won with 36% of the vote – against 28% for QS and 18% for CAQ. This is an important opportunity for QS, which stalled in the last federal election.

In an interview with La Presse last week, co-spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois wanted to self-critically prepare the ground for his party’s National Council on February 11 and 12, at which MPs will take stock of the autumn election campaign. The exercise promises to be dangerous for him. Will the approach of a by-election in Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne prompt members to publicly moderate their criticism?

This Sunday, QS is holding a first rally in the constituency with its candidate, immigration lawyer Guillaume Cliche-Rivard, who is trying his luck again. He will hold his caucus the next day in preparation for the parliamentary session, which begins on January 31.

All other parties are meeting with their MPs this week at the start of the school year. The government has already laid down a large part of its legislative programme.

Economy and Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon will introduce a “robust” bill that will affect Hydro-Québec and the Régie de l’énergie. His environmental colleague Benoit Charette will present a new version of his bill to increase water levies, specifically to add the creation of a “Blue Fund” to protect lakes and rivers – an election promise.

Other bills tabled in the previous term are under review and will be presented by the summer, including one on policing and one on expanding access to medical assistance for dying.

Labor Minister Jean Boulet will be ready to present his legal text on the limitation and control of child labor to the National Assembly. He wants to adopt him before the summer holidays.

Health Minister Christian Dubé will introduce two bills: one to create Santé Québec – an agency that would coordinate the operation of the health network, while the ministry would focus on defining the main directions – the other to oversee private recruitment agencies.

Earlier this year, he tried to focus on “progress” in the health network, but his communications plan was hampered by the emergency room crisis at Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital.

The pressure is already on Christian Dubé for his health plan to produce results. It will likely be even more so as Ottawa ramps up its funding. Beyond the significant gain of entering into an agreement, patients need to see tangible benefits in terms of access to care.