While the jolly man in red is making his list and checking it twice, Canadian premiers have their own wish lists for Ottawa’s man in red, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Topping several of them is a boost in funding for health care, the cost of which has skyrocketed due to the pandemic.
iPolitics asked the premiers of the 13 provinces and territories what three things they’d like from Ottawa next year. Here’s what the eight who responded said.
Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford’s No. 1 wish is for a bigger Canada Health Transfer, the program that helps provinces and territories pay for the health care they provide. His office said Ottawa’s share of health funding has fallen to an average of 22 per cent of provincial costs, and the shortfall is in the “billions of dollars, (which) could be used to improve health-care services.”
Second, the province has 316,000 vacant jobs, and Ford wants the feds to make life more affordable and to let in more economic immigrants.
“Whether it’s filling up at the pump, buying groceries, or purchasing a home, the cost of living continues to go up, and people are looking to their governments to (increase) affordability,” Ford’s office said.
Last, the premier wants to continue working with Ottawa to build infrastructure, including for transit.
Premier François Legault’s first wish is also for a fatter health transfer.
“The health systems of all provinces are currently very fragile,” a spokesperson for the premier said. “We’re calling for an increase in transfers from 22 to 35 per cent, followed
by indexation of six per cent per year.” The transfers should also come “without conditions.”
Second, Legault wants “full control over immigration” that occurs under the family-reunification program, and which accounts for one quarter of all immigrants to Quebec.
And third, Ottawa “must promise not to launch, nor fund, a legal challenge against” Bill 21, which bans the wearing of religious symbols by authority figures, including police officers and teachers.
Whatever the issue, it boils down to Quebec wanting more autonomy from Ottawa, the spokesperson said.
The Northwest Territories
Closing the “very significant gaps” between Canada’s North and South is Premier Caroline Cochrane’s top priority.
“The very high cost of living, housing, and energy mean living in the North is not affordable, and NWT residents suffer from higher rates of hunger and food insecurity,” she said. They also have “fewer child-care options, (and more) homelessness and inadequate housing.”
“We often talk about building back better after a disaster,” Cochrane said. “In Canada’s North, we need to build much of our infrastructure for the first time — and do it so it can withstand the impacts of accelerating climate change.”
This leads to her second wish-list item: money to adapt to climate change in the territory, which Cochrane called “an investment in the future of the Arctic and the entire planet.”
Third, Cochrane is looking for investments to help the NWT recover socially and economically from the pandemic, including in the mining sector.
Liberal Premier Sandy Silver‘s “focus (is) on the path of reconciliation,” a spokesperson said.
To that end, she’d like more access to health services, including for mental health.
Second, money is needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change, such as for energy retrofits that cut emissions.
And third, her government wants Ottawa to invest in infrastructure that “advances the green economy, such as clean-energy solutions in the territory.”
Progressive Conservative Premier Heather Stefanson said she told Trudeau her top priorities soon after she took office on Nov. 2.
First, she wants Ottawa to support reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in the province.
Second, she needs bigger health-transfer payments to “support vital ongoing pandemic-recovery efforts, address significant surgical backlogs, and improve the sustainability of the system.”
And third, she wants changes to federal immigration policy that will help fill labour shortages in Manitoba and boost its economic recovery.
And if there’s room on the list, she’d also like Ottawa to invest with Manitoba in “essential and green infrastructure projects.”
Progressive Conservative Premier Tim Houston, who was elected this summer, said health care, particularly mental-health care, is No. 1 on his list.
“It is our intention to make Nova Scotia the first province with truly universal access to mental health care,” said Houston, and federal funds would help “expedite this.” The province also wants Ottawa to help pay for a national “9-8-8 emergency mental-health line.”
Second, with the province’s population approaching one million, Houston said he wants it to be two million by 2060 by bringing in 25,000 people a year.
“To do this, we need support from the federal government to: reduce processing times for applicants seeking permanent residency; increase our immigration allocation numbers; and (offer more training to meet) our labour-market needs,” Houston said.
Citing the recent passage of his government’s environmental legislation, Houston said his third request is that Ottawa help it “complete the Atlantic Loop and partner on more clean-energy projects.”
Newfoundland and Labrador
Health care is also at the top of Liberal Premier Andrew Furey’s list. Because its population is the oldest in Canada and has the highest mortality from cancer, respiratory disease, diabetes, and heart disease and stroke, his province spends “the most per capita on health care, with some of the poorest outcomes.”
“A strong federal partner is critical to improving health outcomes for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and ensuring long-term change,” he said.
Climate change is next, and Furey says technological investments are key to “driving clean and inclusive economic growth, and supporting the global energy transition.”
Changes to immigration policy is third on the list, since the province needs skilled workers, yet faces a “consistent population decline,” Furey said, noting the harm it does to the economy.
“Working collaboratively with the government of Canada is key to (our) continued efforts to welcome more and more newcomers to live and work in the province,” he said.
P.J. Akeeagok, who became Nunavut’s new premier on Nov. 17, said the territory has “many pressing needs, and requires urgent investment to be on par with the rest of Canada.”
He said Nunavummiut (Inuit from Nunavut) want three things that are “immediately necessary,” and which his newly formed government will advocate for in Ottawa: elder care, mental-health care, and housing.
This article was first published in the iPolitics Holiday Magazine that was printed in early December.