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Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks during a press conference at a Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy in Etobicoke, Ont., on Jan. 11.Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press

After all this time, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has finally applied real pressure on Justin Trudeau to make a deal on health care funding. He did it by agreeing to talk about health care.

If a few more premiers follow suit, we might have a ball game. If the premiers of British Columbia and a couple of Atlantic provinces were to echo Mr. Ford’s words, Mr. Trudeau wouldn’t have much of a choice but to grind out a deal quickly.

Until last week, the premiers had publicly stuck to a solidarity pact in which they called for the Prime Minister to meet them to discuss their demand for a massive increase in federal health care transfers – but insisting they won’t entertain any discussion of what impact it would have on actual health care, or how that impact could be measured.

It is a classic Canadian standoff at a time when Nova Scotia is experiencing emergency room tragedies, Ontario has a lack of family doctors, B.C. has had ambulance shortages, and the health care system has been lurching from crisis to crisis in pretty much every province.

But Mr. Ford broke ranks last week and broke the logjam. Or at least, he has set things moving.

The Ontario Premier said he would be willing to accept some federal conditions on additional health care transfers, notably referring to Ottawa’s call for provinces to publish more health care data. And he essentially said all the other provinces should accept that, too.

“Everyone has to be accountable,” Mr. Ford said. “I always say there’s one taxpayer, no matter if it’s municipal, federal or provincial.”

That statement wasn’t an accident, or some off-the-cuff remark where the folksy Mr. Ford accidentally strayed from the premiers’ playbook. It was planned political positioning.

Mr. Ford clearly thinks Ontarians want to see their premier trying to make a deal happen. And when the premier of Canada’s most populous province says he’s willing to talk about more than money, that means the provinces’ position has shifted.

Of course, Quebec’s François Legault isn’t going to be rushing out to say the same thing, but then he leads a province where jealously guarding jurisdiction is part of the political culture.

But if a few more premiers chime in to echo Mr. Ford’s words – especially the leader of the third-most populous province, British Columbia’s David Eby – then these talks would get moving.

The timing does matter. Canadians keep telling pollsters health care is at or near the top of their concerns, but provincial governments point the finger at the feds, and the two squabble. It is in the public’s interest to get a deal for multiyear funding done before the feds draft their spring budget.

Federal officials have been working on a proposal for provincial governments, which have complained that the feds keep talking about conditions like data but haven’t ever put a proposal in writing. But the process might move a little quicker if a few more premiers indicated they wouldn’t rule it all out before talks start.

That won’t mean a deal will be easily sealed. The provinces have been call for a whopping $28-billion a year in additional funding, which is so large it isn’t even in the ballpark of what Ottawa would consider. It is more than five times as much as the $25-billion over five years that the Liberals promised in the 2021 election campaign.

Another issue is that the feds want to separate their additional transfers into separate pots for specific things, while the provinces just want it all to go into the Canada Health Transfer.

But the two levels of government can haggle over the sums, and structure a deal so the “conditions” aren’t all that strict. And Quebec, as is the tradition, would probably get an “asymmetrical” deal with even looser strings.

If a deal really does lead to better data about health services, the public might even be able to judge for itself whether the provinces are using the money as intended, and getting results.

None of that deal-making will happen until the provinces agree to talk about it, however. When a few of them do, the pressure on Mr. Trudeau will mount.

So kudos to Mr. Ford for being the first premier to try to break the logjam. Who’s next?