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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh talks health care with B.C. Premier John Horgan during Island trip

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says his party — like B.C.’s premier — has been sounding alarms about needed fixes to the health-care system, starting with an increase in federal health transfers to provinces.
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Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, with NDP MP Laurel Collins, speaks at Beacon Hill Children’s Farm on Tuesday. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says his party — like B.C.’s premier — has been sounding alarms about needed fixes to the health-care system, starting with an increase in federal health transfers to provinces.

Singh, who made stops Tuesday in Nanaimo and Victoria, where he met with B.C. Premier John Horgan, says the federal government used to supply 50 per cent of health-care funding to the provinces and territories, but over the decades, that amount has dropped to 22 per cent.

“So that’s obviously had a drastic impact on provinces and territories and their ability to deliver health care. We know that’s a really big concern — we’re hearing it from people now walking around right now in Nanaimo.”

Last year, the premiers asked Ottawa for a $28-billion increase to health transfers, which would bring the federal share to 35 per cent. At the 2021 premiers’ conference, attended virtually, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the goal was to increase the transfers, but the conversation would have to happen once the pandemic was over.

In May, while attending the Western Canada provincial and territorial leaders meeting in Regina, Horgan pointed to the Council of the Federation meeting of Canada’s premiers on July 11-12 in Victoria as an ideal time to announce the funding.

Although Horgan announced last week he will step aside as leader in the fall and not seek re-election, he said he’s committed to seeing an increase in federal health transfers delivered.

Singh said the cash injection from Ottawa needs to be immediate to address a crisis in wait times for both emergency services and some elective surgeries.

“We support the call for increased funding in a stable way,” said Singh, who blames the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper for the cuts, but notes Trudeau’s Liberal government has failed to reverse them.

“At the end of the day the Liberal government and prime minister are the ones in power and if they don’t choose to right this problem, if they don’t choose to increase funding, that’s their decision.

“We’ve long said it’s the right thing to do. We would support it. In fact, we’re calling for it.”

Singh noted Horgan has done an “incredible job,” especially during a pandemic, of showing that an NDP government delivers the help people need, citing investments in health care and childcare.

“He’s really shown good governance, focus on people, focus on workers and making sure people get help,” said Singh. “And that focus and that attention to people has resulted in great electoral results.”

Singh said with a number of strong leadership contenders in caucus and in the provincial party, “I’m excited for whoever the next leader is going to be.”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com