Premiers commit to meeting on health care crisis but the need for urgent action remains

July 12, 2023

WINNIPEG–Canadian Labour Congress President Bea Bruske expressed disappointment that Canada’s premiers didn’t make more progress at their annual meeting on the urgent action needed to address Canada’s health care crisis.

“People are still facing long waits for care and Emergency Room closures while health workers are still experiencing difficult working conditions and unsustainable hours. Five months after a new funding agreement between federal and provincial governments, too little progress has been made,” declared Bruske. “We are facing a pan-Canadian health care crisis. It is disappointing the premiers failed to make more progress on coordinated action to better retain and recruit health care workers and strengthen our public health care system.”

Bruske added that workers were also hoping premiers would put their ideologies aside to come together with a commitment to work with labour, alongside business and the federal government, on an industrial strategy that will ensure Canada’s economy can keep pace as the world moves ahead on the global energy-employment transition.

“While we welcome the premiers’ commitment on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the need for new training supports, we are concerned that some provinces oppose the federal government’s Sustainable Jobs Act,” warned Bruske. “We urge all premiers to come to the table and work with us, the federal government, and business to make sure Canada’s industrial strategy puts good, sustainable union jobs at its heart. That’s how we’ll build thriving and prosperous communities, in every province and every region, for generations to come.”

Workers and families are also looking to the premiers to get to work with other levels of government to help bring down the cost of living.

“Family budgets are overstretched as people struggle to pay for family essentials like food and medicines, while high interest rates drive up housing costs. But governments can do something to help,” explained Bruske. “Governments can come together to deliver more affordable housing, implement publicly funded and publicly delivered pharmacare, and provide targeted support for low-income families. This could really help families get by.”

Bruske added that Canada’s unions welcomed the premiers’ commitment to work with the federal government on Employment Insurance reforms, a critical support that isn’t there for many workers just when they need it most.

“Even after paying into the EI system for years, only 2 in 5 unemployed people now qualify for benefits. It’s clear that EI just isn’t up to the job of backstopping workers in a crisis,” warned Bruske. “With signs of an economic downturn and growing job losses, urgently implementing long overdue reforms of our Employment Insurance program must be a top priority.”

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