Canada’s northern territories reach new health funding deal with Ottawa

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The governments of Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon will get some small extra amounts of money for home care and mental health over the next 10 years, following an agreement Jan. 16 with Ottawa on health care funding.

It’s part of a deal under which the federal government will give the three territories a total of $36.1 million for health care over 10 years, starting April 1, 2017.

Home care providers like Cambridge Bay's Kitikmeot Health Centre will benefit from new money from Ottawa in 2017-18. (Nunatsiaq News file photo)
Home care providers like Cambridge Bay’s Kitikmeot Health Centre will benefit from new money from Ottawa in 2017-18. (Nunatsiaq News file photo)

Under the deal, Nunavut will get about $500,000 a year more for mental health and about $600,000 a year more for home care.

That compares with the Nunavut government’s planned total spending of about $354 million on health, within a $1.7 billion budget.

But Premier Peter Taptuna welcomed the extra amounts anyway.

“This additional funding for home care and mental health initiatives is welcome in Nunavut and supports the overall wellness and needs of our residents,” Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna said in a joint release issued late Jan. 16.

It’s not clear if the amounts for the territories were calculated on a per capita basis—so many dollars per person, based on territorial population—or whether the territories’ higher operating costs were taken into account.

The money also has strings attached to it. Under the three agreements, each of the territories must submit a plan on how they will spend the money and “develop performance indicators and mechanisms for annual reporting to citizens” over and above existing programs.

Under the agreement, the territories will get the following amounts, spread over 10 years, for home care:

• $7.4 million for the Northwest Territories;

• $6.1 million for Nunavut; and,

• $6.2 million for Yukon.

And the the territories will get the following amounts, spread over 10 years, for mental health:

• $6.1 million for the Northwest Territories;

• $5.1 million for Nunavut; and,

• $5.2 million for Yukon.

The agreement follows a controversial meeting this past Dec. 19 between the federal, provincial and territorial governments on renewing the 2004 Canada Health Transfer, under which Ottawa has transferred billions of dollars a year into provincial coffers to help pay for health care.

Between 2004 and 2016, the CHT increased by about 6 percent a year. But at the December meeting, the Liberal government offered increases of only 3.5 per cent a year over 10 years, topped up by targeted payments for home care and mental health.

The Liberal offer is similar to what Stephen Harper’s Conservative government had been proposing.

Many provinces rejected that deal, but New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia broke from the pack to sign their own agreements, followed this week by the three territories.

Unlike the provinces, territorial governments do not get separate CHT payments. Their health care funding flows through their Territorial Formula Financing agreements, which covers almost all territorial government operating expenses.

It’s not immediately clear how the 3.5 percent cap on federal health care contribution might affect Nunavut’s TFF contributions.