Thursday, November 3, 2022 – This afternoon, the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled the Liberal Government’s 2022 Fall Economic Statement entitled “Building an Economy That Works for Everyone”. Today’s statement focuses on targeted inflation relief, growing the economy and taxation systems & governance. The Liberal government has lost public sentiment in these areas in recent months due to significant global pressures and increased focus from the new Conservative Leader, Pierre Pollievre.
The Fall Economic Statement (FES) is the last major economic announcement prior to the 2023 Budget, expected in early spring. This statement is released against the backdrop of 3.75% key interest rates and 6.9% inflation rates, significantly increasing the cost of borrowing from the beginning of their mandate. The FES begins with a broader economic level-set citing economic slowdown, elevated inflation and the decrease in global demand for Canadian exports.
- Not a health and life sciences focused economic statement: The Fall Economic Statement, similar to the most recent budget, is notably not a health-focused document. There is no further detail on how the government intends to move forward with their existing health commitments. As a result, we will likely not learn of any new investments to meet existing health care commitments until Budget 2023-24, although we may learn about new health policy direction in the next several months.
- High-inflation & expected recession will impact plans: The current economic state, coupled with the omission of significant health care priorities in the FES may show a shift in federal priorities away from high-ticket health care commitments previously made by the government.
- Setting the stage for the Health Ministers Meeting: With the Health Ministers meeting in Vancouver next week on November 8th and 9th, the FES contained messaging laying out the federal government’s positions on key discussion topics. As expected, the federal government continues to lay the foundation for upholding their approach on the Canada Health Transfer and targeted investments. It is important to note the federal government receives more publicity for targeted investments, as they did in 2016-17 for Home & Community Care and Mental Health and Addictions, than with increasing the Canada Health Transfer.
- The federal government continues to reiterate that under the existing Canada Health Transfer formulary, provinces & territories continue to receive an increase in funding every year (up 9.1% over 2022-23).
- The government also took the opportunity to highlight the more positive fiscal outlook provinces and territories have, compared to previously anticipated deficits.
- This Liberal government has made significant commitments in their 2021 election platform and subsequent power-sharing deal with the NDP, however little tangible progress has been reported in this Fall Economic Statement. This leaves us to expect more substantive updates in the coming months (or the next federal budget), as stakeholders continue to raise concern regarding whether the government remains committed to previously articulated priorities. These commitments include:
- Pharmacare Act: The government has committed to passing a Pharmacare Act by the end of 2023, in order to retain power with the support of the NDP. Even with the passage of legislation (of which we do not yet know the scope and focus), the government may not need to yet commit any funding in the upcoming federal budget for the initiative.
- Drugs for Rare Diseases Strategy: The 2019 Budget committed $500 million in 2022-23 and 2023-24 for drugs for rare diseases. Despite being in the 2022-23 fiscal year, the government has not announced how they will invest the funding that was committed, and the rare drugs strategy has yet to be finalized.
- Canada Drug Agency Transition Office: While no details were contained in this Fall Economic Statement, we are anticipating an update from the government on their planned focus for a Canada Drug Agency in the coming weeks. Further funding to support the creation of the Agency (and what institutional form that agency will take) is likely to be articulated in the upcoming budget. We don’t expect to see details on the government’s commitments related to bulk purchasing and a national formulary until further details are announced regarding the Canada Drug Agency.
- Mental Health Transfer: There are no new details on the status of the government’s commitment to establish a dedicated mental health transfer to provinces and territories.
- There are a number of other health commitments that the government has not proceeded with to date that were committed to in either the 2021 election platform or Budget 2022-23, including: a pandemic review & emergency preparedness, support for Personal Support Workers, supporting measures to prevent unhealthy foods from being marketed to kids, funding to address surgical backlogs, support for Canadians that need a primary care physician, investments in virtual care, and funding for long-term care.
Health Care Commitments in the 2022 Fall Economic Statement
Some of the key health announcements from today’s Fall Economic Statement are outlined below:
Continued commitment to National Dental Care
- The government reiterates its commitment to a national dental care program. The government cites the passing of Bill C-31 and recommitting to the implementation of a comprehensive strategy by 2025.
- Implementing dental care was a time-sensitive and necessary objective to retain the support of the NDP.
Canada Health Transfers
- As per the current legislated formula, the Canada Health Transfer support is projected to grow from $45.2 billion in 2022-23 to $58.6 billion in 2027-28, in line with a three-year moving average of nominal GDP growth, with funding guaranteed to increase by at least 3 per cent per year or GDP – whichever is greater.
- In 2023-24, the Canada Health Transfer is forecast to provide $49.3 billion in support — an increase of 9.1 per cent over 2022-23.
- The government has committed to the modernization of the National Research Council’s scientific infrastructure and will help continue to propel Canadian innovation by providing $962.2 million on a cash basis over eight years, starting in 2022-23, with $121.1 million per year ongoing.
Mental Health and Addictions & Home Care & Community Care
- The government commits to continue funding the 2016-17 bilateral health accords for the remainder of the 10-year bilateral agreements between Canada and Provinces and Territories until 2026-27.
- At this point in time, there is no new funding identified.
- The government has committed to reviewing these accords in this fiscal year, as well as previously committed to a dedicated mental health transfer.
- The government announced additional funding of $1.16 billion for the 2022-2023 fiscal year to low-income renters through the Top-Up Canada Housing Benefit as a tax-free payment of $500 targeted directly to 1.8 million Canadians.
- This payment more than doubles the government’s Budget 2022 commitment, and reaches twice as many Canadians. As housing is a significant social determinant of health, investments in housing may bring downstream health benefits, especially to vulnerable populations.