OTTAWA – Although provincial governments are calling for more money to bolster their health systems in the wake of COVID-19, some are pushing against a liberal election promise to offer funds dedicated to mental health.

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Federal contributions to provincial health systems, including mental health services, are funded by Canada Health Transfer.

In the federal election campaign, the Liberals launched a relocation targeted specifically at mental health care, starting with $4.5 million over five years.


The transfer will be linked to national standards to ensure a certain level of accessible care across the country.

Two provinces on opposite ends of the political spectrum agree that a dedicated transfer is the wrong approach.

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British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix said in an interview with The that we need it.” Canadian Press.

BC currently funds its mental health services using Canada Health Transfer, and Dix said the province will have to continue to do so, even if a separate transfer is established.

That’s because it’s impossible to parse mental health funding from the rest of the health system, he says.

“Mental health is linked to physical health, and the best way to address those is to address Canada Health Transfer,” he said.

All the provinces and territories have come together and demanded the federal government immediately increase its share of overall health care costs from 22 to 35 percent – ​​an increase of about $28 billion more this year.

He has also called for a minimum funding increase of five per cent annually, arguing that the current plan to increase spending by three per cent means transfers do not keep pace with annual cost growth.

All provinces agree that the increased funding should come without conditions set by the federal government, so that each jurisdiction can target its own unique needs.

Alberta Health said, “We have different challenges and solutions, and we believe the Government of Canada will be most effective if it focuses on being a funding partner and promoting shared goals, rather than conditional funding.” Or to set priorities or specific solutions with scheduled transfers.” Steve Buick, spokesman for Minster Jason Kopping.

While both Alberta and B.C. have appointed ministerial positions to increase their focus on mental health, for example, the provinces take very different approaches to addressing it.

The new transfer is not about taking credit for mental health services, federal mental health minister Carolyn Bennett said in an interview. Rather, she said it is about developing a national strategy for mental health and introducing funds to carry it out.

“It is no longer just about hospitals and doctors, but knowing that we have to build mental health human resources, we have to create digital strategies to increase mental health literacy,” Bennett said.

One benefit of dedicated transfers would be that the federal government would be able to assess whether the funding yields results, she said.

The idea is already supported by the NDP, as long as there are good standards with funding.

NDP mental health critic Gord Johns said, “I think it’s really important to transfer money to mental health care, spend on mental health care, and make sure there’s accountability for where the money is spent. “

“We are going to put pressure on the government to fund that transfer in provinces directed at mental health, and ensure that there are standards set under the Canada Health Act and a greater accountability to ensure that mental health is in place. But money is being spent.”

Michelle Rodrigue, chairman of the Canadian Mental Health Commission, said all the stress health systems have endured under the pandemic, such as surgical backlogs, personnel shortages and acute care capacity, could fall further down the mental health priority list.

Rodrigue said Canada already spends a proportionately less total health spending on mental health than some other OECD countries.

He said that while England spends 12 percent of its health budget on mental health, Canada spends only seven percent.

“We see migration as a powerful tool to fill the long-standing gap in our nation’s patchwork of mental health services,” he said.

The federal and provincial governments have not started talks on mental health care transfer, but the premier has called for a first ministers meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be dedicated to health care funding.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 25, 2021.