Health and health care are among the top priorities of people I hear from in Vancouver Quadra, and the federal government recognizes its importance. I’m pleased to let you know that the governments of British Columbia and Canada signed a new bilateral Health Accord on Friday.
Over the next 10 years, the federal government will provide British Columbia with annual funding increases based on nominal GDP, expected to be approximately 3.5% annual increase over the next 5 years.
Two of your top health priorities will receive significant new federal funding:
- $785.7 million for better home care including addressing critical home care infrastructure need and;
- $654.7 million in support of mental health initiatives.
These targeted investments in home care and mental health care are in addition to the existing legislated commitments through the Canada Health Transfer, which will continue to grow into the future.
As a result of these investments many patients in hospital, who could be better cared for at home or in the community, will be supported to do so. Also, wait times for mental health services for children and youth will be shorter.
Often elders would prefer to stay safely in their own homes as long as they choose, but they need extra support. Having heard from many of you, I worked hard to raise awareness about this issue in Ottawa and to make it a key Liberal election platform commitment; I am proud we are now delivering on this commitment.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health says one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness or addiction problem in their lifetime. Yesterday’s funding announcement is positive for families in Vancouver and across the country, an important step in our government’s commitment to support mental health.
Fentanyl and C-37
B.C. will receive an additional $10-million plus its share of a new five-year, $65-million federal program to respond to the ongoing opioid crisis. This crisis led to the accidental overdose deaths of 914 people in BC last year, an 80% increase over 2015 largely due to the opioid fentanyl! The victims of this horrific fentanyl crisis are more than a statistic. They are human beings, whose lives are interwoven with their families and communities, and whose losses are deeply felt.
On February 14th, I rose in the House of Commons to speak on behalf of other measures our government is taking to address illegal fentanyl contamination, through Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that passed third reading in the House last week.
It is critical we ensure our drug control legislation is modern, effective and does a better job of protecting the health and safety of Canadians. C-37 is a comprehensive package to help in combatting this crisis. More work is needed, but this is an important next step along the way.
There is always more that can be done to support and improve health and health care for Canadians, but today’s funding is an important step in addressing both immediate and longer-term needs.