NDP's Jagmeet Singh won't commit to unconditional health transfers for Quebec

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh promised Friday to "respond" to the Quebec government's call for bigger health transfers, but wouldn't say if that funding would come with conditions.

The premiers have called on Ottawa to boost its health care funding to the provinces by at least $28 billion a year, noting they want the federal government to increase its share of the cost of health care to 35 per cent.

Quebec Premier François Legault has also said he wants funding for his province to be unconditional because Quebec is better placed to determine its own health care priorities.

When pressed repeatedly Friday for specifics on what the promise to "respond" to Quebec's request entails, Singh refused to give details, except to say that his pharmacare plan would cost $10 billion.

Alexandre Boulerice, the party's Quebec lieutenant, later said the NDP is committing to the $28 billion.

Singh was also asked whether a New Democrat government would make the funding conditional, but he did not directly answer.

"We've got programs that we want to put in place. Quebec would always have the right to withdraw from those programs, but there are specific programs that we believe if we work together we could deliver and they would be in everyone's benefit," Singh said, citing pharmacare as an example.

The health care promise is one of the pledges highlighted in the NDP's newly released Quebec platform, which also includes recognizing Quebec's national character and cultural sovereignty.

The NDP is attempting to regain some of the ground lost in Quebec in the last election, when the party lost all but one seat in the province.

Last week, Legault presented his government's list of demands to the federal parties, with higher health transfers as one of the top priorities.

Singh said his platform is for the people of the province.

"This isn't a plan to respond to Mr. Legault," he said. "It's a plan to respond to Quebecers and our plan is to make sure Quebecers get the help they need."

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 3, 2021.

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