Quebec Premier Francois Legault says he is “more optimistic” about reaching a health-care funding deal with Ottawa after his meeting Tuesday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
As pediatric hospitals and emergency rooms across the country buckle under severe strain, Legault said he sensed a “desire to advance on the file” from Trudeau.
“I am more optimistic today than before,” Legault told reporters following the meeting at a coffee shop in Old Montreal. Trudeau did not take questions.
Provinces and territories have demanded an increase to the Canada Health Transfer – the main source of federal funds to provincial health systems – but Trudeau has said that will happen only if the provinces agree to reform and improve those systems. Provinces and territories want to see Ottawa cover 35 per cent of health-care costs across the country, up from the current 22 per cent.
Legault said Trudeau has been hesitant to convene a meeting with premiers on the subject of health care out of fear that the discussions would not end positively.
“I understand he doesn’t want a failure,” Legault said. “I think we are heading in the right direction.”
The two leaders had planned a one-on-one last week, but bad weather pushed the meeting to Tuesday. Legault said they discussed several other topics, including immigration and the French language.
The premier said Trudeau understands the importance of protecting the French language, especially in Montreal.
Legault added that Trudeau was also open to transferring more asylum seekers from Quebec to other parts of the country. About 36,000 people crossed irregularly into Quebec this year to seek refugee status, Legault said, adding that Ottawa must do more to help house, educate and care for these people while they wait for their applications to be processed.
Despite the positive spin he put on the talks, Legault admitted he received no firm commitments from Trudeau on the most contentious files – immigration and health care.
“There are a lot of good intentions, but we are waiting for action,” Legault said.