Rapid Recap: Ontario Signs $3.1 Billion Health Care Agreement with the Federal Government
February 9, 2024- Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed an agreement earlier today that details how the province will spend $3.1 billion over three years to invest in Ontario’s health care system. Ontario and the federal government reached an agreement in principle last year following a national health funding summit when the federal government committed to increasing the Canada Health Transfer.
Ontario is the fifth province to sign a deal with the federal government following agreements with Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. As part of the deal, the provincial government will create new primary health care teams, open up an additional 700 spots in medical education programs, and improve its tracking and reporting of health system data. Under this agreement, Ontario will continue to deliver on Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care, the province’s new health system strategy, outlining the government’s vision and direction for the next several years.
Ontario has over 1.3 million people who are not connected to primary care and the agreement will help to bolster Ontario’s health system as the province faces a severe shortage of health care workers and lengthy wait times at hospital emergency rooms.
The new federal funding for primary health teams is in addition to the $110 million in funding announced by Ontario’s Minister of Health Sylvia Jones last week that will add 400 health professions in 78 new or expanded primary care teams across the province.
As part of the agreement, Ontario also commits to:
- Enrollment in health care education programs will be expanded by over 700 spots – including over 70 in Northern Ontario.
- Federal funding to support Ontario’s plan to give health care professionals who are licensed elsewhere in Canada the automatic right to practice in Ontario.
- Targeted funding to boost youth mental health services and substance abuse services in rural, remote and Indigenous communities.
- Funding for Ontario’s Support for Indian Residential Schools Burials Funding program, which provides culturally safe mental health supports to Survivors of residential schools, families and communities.
- A commitment to modernize the collection of medical data which should reduce paperwork and improve the system for Ontario patients.
It is not particularly surprising that the agreement focused on the universality of public health care, with the federal Minister of Health questioned several times in the past few months about Ontario’s approach to move certain procedures out of hospital. Both the Ontario and federal government are aligned on the need to respect the Canada Health Act.
As part of the bilateral agreements, provinces and territories will need to develop action plans that outline how funds will be spent and how progress will be measured to demonstrate to Canadians that improvements are moving forward in Canada’s health care system.
The government is also working with provinces and territories to implement a second bilateral agreement focused on helping Canadians age with dignity close to home, with access to home care or care in a safe long-term care facility.