B.C. premier does not rule out side talks with PM at national health gathering

OTTAWA — British Columbia Premier David Eby says he's optimistic about next week's meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other premiers about health-care funding.

Eby said Wednesday getting the premiers and Trudeau together in Ottawa leads him to believe a deal to increase core transfer dollars from the federal government to provinces and territories is within reach.

The premiers want Ottawa to cover 35 per cent of health-care costs, up from the current 22 per cent.

Trudeau has said the funding will come with strings attached, including sharing health data and outcomes for a national database.

Eby and several B.C. cabinet ministers were in Ottawa Wednesday, where they discussed public safety, bail reform, climate change and housing issues with Trudeau and members of his cabinet.

Eby met with Trudeau for 45 minutes where he said the prime minister was able to hear directly about B.C.'s concerns.

Next week's health-care meeting was one of the primary issues, but providing more trained RCMP officers for rural B.C. communities was also a topic of discussion, said Eby.

Trudeau did not provide any financial details connected to next week's health funding talks other than say Ottawa will present a "clear and understandable proposal for the premiers," said Eby, who will travel to Toronto Thursday to meet with Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

The B.C. premier said the primary goal at next week's talks remains making progress on an improved national health funding transfer agreement, but he did not rule out the possibility of the province engaging in separate talks with Trudeau about health care.

"We'll be talking about core funding for provinces, but with the ability for provinces to have discussions with the federal government about key areas of provincial priority," said Eby at a news conference in Ottawa. "I am convinced that B.C.'s priorities are not necessarily the same as Quebec's or Nova Scotia's or Newfoundland's."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023.

The Canadian Press