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Trudeau Showed No Empathy For Cancer Patient's Story, Pallister Claims

Emma Paling
·Reporter, HuffPost Canada
·4 min read
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dismissed the story of a cancer patient who waited to see a doctor and a specialist, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister claimed Thursday. (Photo: HuffPost Canada Composite/Canadian Press Images)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dismissed the story of a cancer patient who waited to see a doctor and a specialist, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister claimed Thursday. (Photo: HuffPost Canada Composite/Canadian Press Images)

“I’m not your banker.”

That’s how Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau callously responded after the premier told him about one woman’s lengthy wait for a cancer diagnosis.

After multiple waits to see health professionals and get a test result, a specialist told the woman, “it’s too bad we couldn’t have caught this sooner,” Pallister said Thursday at a joint news conference with other provincial leaders.

Pallister said health-care wait times like that woman experienced aren’t Trudeau’s fault, “except if he ignores the problem, and then it becomes his fault.”

He said, “Canadians don’t need a banker, we need a partner.”

Earlier:

Pallister teamed up with other premiers to again call on Ottawa to bolster federal health-care transfer payments in its upcoming budget. He said the exchange with Trudeau about the cancer patient happened about five years ago after he had just been sworn-in as premier.

A spokesperson for Trudeau told HuffPost Canada, “we don’t know what the Premier is talking about.”

“Every single step of the way, the Prime Minister & the federal government have worked collaboratively with premiers to have Canadians’ backs through this crisis,” press secretary Alex Wellstead said by email. “That continues to be our number one focus.”

... Thinking with your head, in the absence of your empathy, is a danger. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister

Pallister said he couldn’t understand why the prime minister wouldn’t want to partner with premiers to increase health-care funding.

“I think it comes down to: thinking with your head, in the absence of your empathy, is a danger,” Pallister said.

“I don’t know why any prime minister would not understand the importance and urgency of dealing with this issue.”

The premiers say provinces and territories are covering 78 per cent of health-care costs and this proportion will only increase without action. They want the federal government to commit to paying 35 cents of every dollar spent on health care, which would require $28 billion in new spending this year.

Provincial leaders also want the feds to increase its health transfer to provinces and territories by five per cent annually.

Premiers listen during a virtual news conference Thursday. (Photo: Premier of Ontario/YouTube)
Premiers listen during a virtual news conference Thursday. (Photo: Premier of Ontario/YouTube)

“It’s urgent to act to increase the funding for health services by increasing federal transfers in health care,” Quebec Premier François Legault told reporters, saying this was a unanimous plea by all premiers.

Legault said premiers had already met with opposition leaders in Ottawa, and the NDP and Bloc Québécois were ready to support their demand for $28 billion. The Conservatives support the principle of increasing transfers unconditionally, he said, but haven’t settled on what the dollar amount should be.

The premiers highlighted many reasons the funding is needed — to support an aging population, to catch up on surgery backlogs created because of COVID-19 and to address wait times that existed before the pandemic.

“An aging population isn’t the only challenge we’re facing,” New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said. “There are so many others, including the increasing demand for mental health care. Just recently, a 16-year-old girl in our province took her own life after she was unable to access the services that she needed.”

At a virtual first ministers’ meeting in December, Trudeau conceded annual federal funding for health care should increase, but said that was an issue to discuss after the COVID-19 pandemic. The prime minister has also noted the federal government has accounted for roughly $8 in every $10 of aid throughout the health crisis.

Vaccine procurement an ‘embarrassment’

The premiers also piled on Trudeau over Canada’s vaccination campaign, which has been slow compared to other countries’. Just over 2.1 million doses have been administered to Canadians, while 51 million have been given to their American neighbours.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Canada is falling too far behind.

“I think it is an embarrassment. It is unacceptable. And it is costing lives,” he said.

The premiers of Saskatchewan and Manitoba said their governments haven’t been able to procure their own vaccines.

“Manitoba has a stack of rejection letters from major pharmaceutical companies because, of course, the federal government’s orders take precedence over our own,” Pallister said.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Trudeau’s government has done “a disappointing job at best.”

With files from Althia Raj

This story has been updated with comment from the prime minister’s office.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost Canada and has been updated.