Last week I wrote about the recent Auditor General's (AG) report on COVID related pandemic benefit payment programs to both individuals and businesses.
In this report it was suggested that as much as $27.4 billion in benefit payments must be further investigated to determine if there was proper eligibility.
The AG mentioned that much of this situation has arisen due to the Federal Government allowing “self-attestation” from businesses and individuals as sufficient proof of eligibility to receive the benefits, despite potentially not actually meeting the eligibility criteria.
I asked the question “What are your thoughts on the government's use of an attestation in delivering timely support programs?”
Over the past week I have heard a significant amount of feedback from local citizens on this topic.
I raise this point again because the federal government is going to use attestation in the delivery of a new support program that is not pandemic related.
Recently the Trudeau Liberal Government announced the “Canada Dental Benefit” program (that was a result of its partnership with the NDP) where we once again see attestation being used as the criteria to determine eligibility.
In this program, estimated to cost between $1.3 -$1.5 billion annually, there is no direct payment to a dentist as most dental care plans require.
Instead, this program (as it is currently structured) sends funds directly to qualifying parents with children below 12.
What is interesting about this approach is how it differs from the Trudeau Liberal government approach to funding healthcare here in Canada.
As some will be aware, the federal government has a program known as the “Canada Health Transfer” (CHT) that transfers a portion of the federal taxes you send to Ottawa back to provinces and territories to help cover the costs of providing healthcare.
Currently the CHT is forecast to be roughly $45.2 Billion for the 2022/23 fiscal year.
Provinces throughout Canada, including here in B.C., are currently facing many healthcare related challenges.
Lack of staff, staff burnout, lack of capacity and poor service delivery are all challenges faced in hospitals across Canada.
The Premiers have all been united and clear that the federal government must increase the CHT to help solve these critical healthcare challenges given that healthcare is a provincially provided service.
Unfortunately for these Premiers, when it comes to healthcare, there is no attestation for an increase in the Canada Health Transfer.
Instead, as the PM stated in question period that he believes any funding increase must have strings attached, in other words not a “blank cheque”.
This 'Ottawa knows best' approach is commonly used with this Liberal government and will often include studies and consultation that ultimately means there is no immediate increase in funding for the Canada Health Transfer.
Contrast that with the Premiers, who regardless of political stripe, are all unanimous that this is a crisis situation and federal health care funding (without strings attached) must occur ASAP.
My question this week:
Do you support the Canada Health Transfer being increased immediately, or do you agree with PM Trudeau that Ottawa imposed conditions should be attached before increasing any funding?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.