‘We don’t take a back seat to anybody’
Rookie Health Minister Robert Henderson says P.E.I.’s needs and success stories are being heard at federal-provincial meetings
P.E.I. Health Minister Robert Henderson says Canada’s smallest province isn’t taking a back seat at the federal-provincial health ministers meetings this week in Vancouver.
Henderson was sworn in as P.E.I.’s Minister of Health and Wellness just two weeks ago after a mini cabinet shuffle that saw him launched from the backbench into the province’s biggest budget portfolio.
Although this makes him the rookie among health ministers at the federalprovincial-territorial meetings in Vancouver, Henderson says he has been vocal at the negotiation table, ensuring both P.E.I.’s needs and success stories are heard.
“In Prince Edward Island, we really don’t take a back seat to anybody,” Henderson said.
“I don’t really feel intimidated by any of it and, in fact, a number of provinces are coming to me, asking how we are achieving certain goals.”
He noted P.E.I. is in the enviable position of having just four to five per cent of the population without a family doctor, while the national average is at 15 per cent.
Provinces have also been interested in learning more about P.E.I.’s generic drug program, which has led to millions in savings within the Island’s health budget, freeing up money for new programs, such as the new catastrophic drug program.
But Prince Edward Island is hoping to negotiate more money from Ottawa for health care.
“It’s very hard to achieve different outcomes, especially as a small jurisdiction like Prince Edward Island, when we’re asked to add drugs to the formulary, drugs for rare diseases, newborn screening — all of those are add-ons and we have a rather tight fiscal situation,” Henderson said.
“We don’t have a lot of room to manoeuvre, so if that could be at least reflected in the way the federal government looks at trying to achieve some of these health outcomes, that they can take into account some of the smaller jurisdictions.”
The provinces are looking for a federal commitment of 25 per cent funding for health care across the country, but Henderson noted the language coming from the federal ministry seemed to suggest the feds are looking at certain targeted areas to achieve specific outcomes.
Henderson says he is encouraged the federal minister is willing to discuss funding with the provinces but hopes outcome improvements are tied to increases in funding.
“If they’re putting a target on that, there has to be money that comes with that. It just can’t be the province of P.E.I. reassigning dollars that we currently have to something else because we have a number of challenges as it is to get to some of the standards,” Henderson said.
“We want to take into account some sense of flexibility in the way we fund things … and the minister seemed to be very receptive to understanding those challenges.”
Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, left, and Prince Edward Island Health Minister Robert Henderson stand together during a news conference after the first day of a meeting of provincial and territorial health ministers in Vancouver, B.C.