MONCTON (GNB) – The premiers of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Ontario have called upon the federal government to take urgent action to ensure the viability and sustainability of health-care services across Canada.

Premier Blaine Higgs hosted a meeting today with Premier Doug Ford of Ontario Premier Tim Houston of Nova Scotia and Premier Dennis King of Prince Edward Island.

The four premiers said that health-care systems across the country continue to experience significant pressures, which they said has been strained by years of chronic under-funding by the federal government. They said a program that began as a 50/50 funding partnership between federal and provincial governments now receives only 22 per cent of its funding from the federal government.

The premiers said they recognize that the current health-care system is under considerable strain and money alone is not the solution. Innovative approaches in technology, health human resources and intergovernmental collaboration will be required.

Additionally, the premiers agreed that a strengthened pan-Canadian approach is required to prioritize the country’s need for medications to address supply issues.

The premiers said this shortfall in federal funding means billions of dollars that could otherwise help provinces hire more health-care workers, build more hospitals, and clear the list of people waiting months or years for surgeries. That is why they support the position advanced by the Council of the Federation, calling on the federal government to increase its funding to at least 35 per cent of total health-care costs to respond to current challenges, with an annual escalator to ensure funding stays at that level over the long term.

The four premiers also discussed enhancing Canada’s energy security through the development of new zero and low-emission energy sources and technologies; recruiting and retaining immigrants to help address Canada’s growing labour shortage; and reducing barriers for internationally trained workers in the health-care sector.

The premiers discussed the skills shortage which is impacting employers in all sectors of the economy. They said enhanced support for immigration will be an important element of closing the skills gap and ensuring Canada has the workers it needs as the economy grows. The premiers called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to work with them to give provinces and territories more flexibility over the types and number of workers needed to address their unique labour market challenges.

They said the skills shortage is most acutely felt in the health-care sector, where there is an urgent need to recruit and train a new generation of doctors, nurses and other medical specialists. Making it easier for internationally trained doctors, nurses and other health professionals to become licensed in Canada would help address shortages in the short term. The four premiers pledged to work together, and with regulatory bodies, to improve access to jobs for these health-care professionals.

They also discussed the potential of Canada’s energy sector to provide secure and responsibly produced energy for Canadians as well as for the country’s neighbours and allies. They said the Atlantic region has the potential to supply renewable energy through wind and tidal power as well as with small-scale nuclear reactors and green hydrogen developments in partnership with Ontario.

The premiers urged the federal government to work with them to realize the country’s energy potential and to ensure that deadlines for climate policies are realistic and recognize the leadership of provinces that have already made major investments to support clean energy, economic growth, and job creation. They said they will continue to work together to promote the development of these new energy sources to ensure that Canadians continue to have access to affordable and sustainable energy supplies.