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Parliament’s budget watchdog says federal funding for health care for First Nations and Inuit has shot up faster over the last few years than provincial spending on services for the general population.

Generally, growth in provincial and territorial health-care spending jumps during good economic times as treasuries pull in more revenues and give governments more space to spend, as the parliamentary budget office notes.

But budget officer Yves Giroux’s report says the growth rates in spending seen since the Liberals’ first, full fiscal year in power seems driven more by policy decisions than economic growth.

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After adjusting for inflation, Giroux’s office estimates federal spending on health care for First Nations and Inuit increased annually by an average of almost nine per cent between 2011 and 2019.

Over the same period, provincial and territorial health spending for the general population increased by an average of 2.1 per cent, the report says.

Giroux’s report doesn’t calculate any gaps in spending between First Nations and Inuit health and the non-Indigenous population, nor between regions of the countries because of a host of caveats in how funding is tracked and calculated.

Looking ahead, Giroux’s report notes that the growth in spending will, in five years, bring overall spending on First Nations and Inuit health to levels seen in the last fiscal year when the government pumped in additional funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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