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Yukon premier meets federal ministers over health, calls northern funding 'critical'

WHITEHORSE — Yukon's premier says federal health-care money specifically for the territories is "critical" to service delivery.
Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai sits during a media availability with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Yukonstruct building in Whitehorse, Yukon, on Feb. 13, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas

WHITEHORSE — Yukon's premier says federal health-care money specifically for the territories is "critical" to service delivery.

Premier Ranj Pillai says health-care delivery can cost three to four times as much for the territory where people often have to leave home to get specialized treatment.

"Many of the procedures that we need, some of the specialized health-care supports that we have, we're really seeking in British Columbia in some cases, and in Alberta," he said Tuesday.

"So first and foremost, there are some really significant costs."

Earlier this week Canada's premiers agreed to a deal with the federal government that will add $46.2 billion in new health-care funding over 10 years.

It includes $150 million over five years for the territorial health investment fund (THIF) to help cover medical travel and the cost of delivering health care in the territories.

Pillai said Yukon expects to sign additional agreements with Yukon First Nation governments and work on developing a First Nations Health Authority.

"And that is not the similar process that's happening in other parts of the country," he said.

"So having ... the territorial health investment fund, and some flexibility around that gives us the tools to implement a new system, but also supports the extra cost that we have to shoulder with our health-care system.

Under the new health-care deal, Yukon is expecting to receive $193 million over the decade from the Canada Health Transfer.

The federal government is also negotiating individual bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories for a share of $25 billion that is to focus on supports for families, front-line workers, mental health and modernizing the system.

Pillai met Tuesday with federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc and federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos to discuss that agreement.

He said the territory has already invested a lot in those areas and the new agreement will be a chance to invest more.

"The themes that are in place right now in the bilateral are very consistent with our priorities. So we feel good that that'll match," he said.

He said he hopes to have a final deal completed this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2023.

The Canadian Press