Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Quebec Premier François Legault emerged from a bilateral summit Wednesday to pronounce that the two Laurentian provinces are closer than ever and have a common cause in asking the federal government to give the provinces more money for health care.
The two premiers announced they agree the Canada Health Transfer needs to be increased — but they said they would have to consult with the rest of the provinces before saying by how much.
The desire for a greater federal role in health-care funding is nothing new. The Council of the Federation — the body of provincial premiers that Legault will soon chair — has had a long-standing request for the federal government to increase the annual escalator of 5.2 per cent, up from a three-year moving average of nominal GDP growth or 3 per cent.
But as Legault pointed out, the two provinces have a lot in common: a need for stable health-care funding, a context of large deficits and increasing costs, and a need to relaunch the provincial economies from the ravages of COVID-19.
"So in conclusion, after this summit, Ontario and Quebec governments are closer than ever, Doug and I are closer than ever — (he'll) probably become Habs fan very soon," said Legault.
The premiers said the request for a CHT boost isn't related to COVID-19, but the long-term structural problems of health-care costs rising faster than provinces are able to pay for.
At the press conference at a hotel in Mississauga, the two premiers took questions from the media on a variety of subjects, mostly related to COVID-19.
Reporting of COVID-19 cases in schools, but not workplaces
Ford was asked why the province is letting the school boards take the lead in reporting COVID-19 cases in schools — and he replied that's not the case, as the province will be reporting school cases starting in a week or two.
"A matter of fact, I think it's so important that we report every single case, as we did with long-term care, we will do the same in schools," said Ford.
Later on, Ford was asked why the province doesn't make the locations of workplace outbreaks public.
"I don't believe that targeting companies," he replied, adding that when there is a "massive outbreak" the media will cover it. "We're there to support the companies — that's one of the reasons we were here today, focusing on economic development, getting people back on their feet, focusing on infrastructure and transit that we're in desperate need of, and of course, nothing happens on the economy unless we have a healthy economy."
Rolling back in restrictions
Both premiers were asked if they would consider tightening restrictions on bars and banquet halls, as British Columbia has done.
Ford said he would listen to his experts — but also said, "We aren't there, I don't think we're even close to being there yet."
"If everyone focuses on the guidelines and protocols, then we shouldn't have a problem. Because once it gets in the community, that when it really affects the schools, and so I'm concerned about it, keeping an eye on it," he said.
For his part, Legault said most of his province's outbreaks weren't connected to bars and private parties are a bigger concern.
Ford was asked specifically if he'd order bars to close at midnight, as Toronto Mayor John Tory has requested. Ford said Tory should do it himself, suggesting he (or more accurately, the city's Medical Officer of Health) should issue an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Meanwhile, Ford said the federal government has to fix its "broken" quarantine system, saying police have only laid two charges amid hundreds of violations of the Quarantine Act. "The system is broken," he said.