Yukon News

Yukon government focusing on medical travel in health-care talks with Ottawa

Maura Forrest Friday December 30, 2016

Joel Krahn/Yukon News

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Funding for medical travel is one of the main priorities during health-care talks with the federal government, says Yukon Premier Sandy Silver.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver says medical travel funding is a top priority for the territory during health-care talks with the federal government.

He said the Yukon is negotiating directly with Ottawa after the provinces and territories rejected a deal from the federal government during health-care meetings earlier this month. But the territory has not yet signed its own deal with the feds.

“Each province and territory has specific concerns that are important to their jurisdictions,” he told the News this week. “And in the Yukon it’s medical travel. Any opportunity that we have, we’re throwing that at Ottawa.”

Medical travel funding from the federal government has declined in recent years. Between 2004 and 2014, the Yukon received $1.6 million annually from Ottawa to support the cost of transporting patients out of the territory when they need specialized care. That money came through a series of territorial health funding agreements that were negotiated every few years.

But when the latest three-year agreement was announced in 2014, the funding for medical travel was set to decline year after year. In 2014-15, the Yukon received $1.2 million. That amount dropped to $800,000 in 2015-16 and $600,000 in 2016-17.

Overall, the Yukon government spent $12.7 million on medical travel in 2015-16.

“Honestly, (the federal funding) does not cover our medical travel costs,” said Health and Social Services spokesperson Pat Living.

That three-year agreement is set to expire in March, and a new agreement has yet to be negotiated.

The News has recently reported on complaints from a number of Yukoners who say the medical travel program doesn’t cover enough of their costs when they fly to Vancouver or other cities for medical care.

“Medical travel is really important for us,” Silver said. “And what we’ve seen over the years is that amount of money from Ottawa decreasing. We want to see it increase or at least stabilize. And we want to see a longer-term commitment.”

The existing territorial health investment fund also included money for chronic disease management and mental health care.

The specific needs of the territories have not received much attention during the ongoing federal health-care negotiations. The talks have been dominated by disagreement between Ottawa and the provinces over how much the health-care transfer payment should increase from year to year.

The health transfer has been rising by six per cent a year since 2005, but in April, that is set to drop to three per cent or the rate of nominal GDP, whichever is higher.

During meetings on Dec. 19, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott and Finance Minister Bill Morneau offered a sweeter deal to their provincial and territorial counterparts, including an annual increase of 3.5 per cent. They also offered $11 billion over 10 years for mental health and home care.

But the deal was roundly rejected by the provinces and territories, who were calling for a yearly increase of 5.2 per cent.

Shortly after the talks ended, New Brunswick broke ranks and signed a health-care deal with Ottawa, to widespread criticism from other provinces. Reports suggest that several other jurisdictions are now negotiating with the federal government individually.

Silver said the Yukon is in talks with Ottawa, though he insisted the territory is “still united with the other provinces and territories.”

But he said the annual increase — whether it’s 3.5 or 5.2 per cent — doesn’t matter as much to the Yukon. That’s because the health transfer is allocated on a per-capita basis. Because the Yukon has such a small population compared to the provinces, the difference between a couple of percentage points doesn’t add up to much.

“The differential between that low number and that high number for Yukon, it’s like a million dollars,” Silver said. “It’s not a lot of money. For Quebec, it’s billions of dollars.”

He said the Yukon is much more interested in targeted funding through a new territorial health agreement, which would include money for medical travel. He also said the territory could use the extra cash promised for home care and mental health.

But he added that the territory can’t ignore the demands the provinces are making, especially B.C. and Alberta, because it depends on them to support the Yukon’s medical travel program.

“They spend millions of dollars of their health-care money for Yukoners,” he said. “They sure as hell do take care of us. And they don’t have to, right? So this is a balance, it’s delicate and we have to be very mindful of what’s happening in Alberta and B.C.”

Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell told the News this week that the Yukon government “should definitely continue talks with the federal government, because mental health and home care are huge issues in the Yukon.”

The Yukon is slated to receive $38 million through the Canada health transfer in 2017-18. The total transfer payment from Ottawa will be $972 million, up from $946 million in 2016-17.

With files from the Canadian Press

Contact Maura Forrest at

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12 Comments

Snowflake wrote:
2:34pm Thursday January 5, 2017

Where is Larry Bagnell? Please stand up! and say something or we are giving up on you..

Dave wrote:
9:15pm Tuesday January 3, 2017

Negativity! Thats a laugh as negativity, name calling, and personal insults is all I’ve heard from Liberal and NDP commentators over the last few years concerning the Yukon Party. Now that the Liberals are in power their supporters suddenly want everyone to play nice or they will start using thier usual go to words such as bullying,etc. It’s not so fun anymore when your party is on the receiving end instead of being the ones dishing it out is it?

Yukoner 71 wrote:
4:36pm Tuesday January 3, 2017

Louise, when its the Liberals in office we’re all supposed to be supportive and stay positive with tater tots ‘sunny ways’. When it was the Yukon Party/ Conservatives in power “Pasloski For Pharmacist” was perfectly alright, and it was ok for people to express support for a woman who vandalized Leefs campaign signs and then to ridicule him to no end when he took action on it.  The lefts usual short term memory and double standards are unsurprising, I for one won’t be showing any support for Sandy Silver and his carbon (income redistribution tax) tax party in 2017 or any other year.

AMAZING!!! wrote:
4:26pm Tuesday January 3, 2017

@ Louise Drysett; Well put!  Nothing worse than a ADULT Bully!  I think most people focus to much on the one little negative point or aspect.  There can be a HUGE plus of some type and people will always get hung up on the one bad thing.  Why is that?  We wonder why there are so many bullies in school, well it’s clear your a product of your environment, having said that there must be a lot of ADULT BULLIES out there. 

Sandy keep to your promises and you should do fine, never mind the negativity.  YP left a HUGE mess to clean up, you have your work cut out for you.  It’s clear Yukon wanted change now help them with that buddy.  By the way I did not vote for you but I can see your one for change and I think you will do fine. 

If all you people who say this or that, try bring some positive change or choice with your negative comments.  In fact bring two while your at it.  The negative stuff seems to fall out so easily, try bringing some positive remarks or choices as well.  I dare you.

Louise Drysett wrote:
11:59am Tuesday January 3, 2017

Why is it that people don’t give anyone a chance? Its mostly negative feedback, or bully like comments from grown adults? The worst bullying is Adult bullies. Why not give Mr Silver a chance, he is just one person in the big picture? Would you do any better? Often it is embarrassing that it is grown adults leaving these comments. It is a New Year, make a difference in this world. Try to be nice,  life would be so much better if there was a bit more kindness. Go out there and be kind to someone right now, stop judging, do your part to make the world a better place for all of us. We are so lucky with our health care in the Yukon, with everything in this wonderful Territory. Look at the good!!! Afterall it is all about choices, you get to decide each and every day if you want to look at the positive or the negative, give that some thought when your feet hit the floor in the morning.  When you choose positive you will have a spring in your step every day, its work, but worth it. I am going to do my part go spread some kindness, I hope you do the same.

ralpH wrote:
12:02pm Monday January 2, 2017

Mr Silver needs to clean up the mess that is Yukon’s health care system. The waste and duplication is rampant. I personally would not be recultant to a 20 dollar visitation fee. Those that cannot afford it can get it waived providing that they are there legitimately. Way to much waste and way too top heavy. As usual Silver wants this to go away by throwing more money at it. Isn’t almost 40 percent of all Yukon Government spending enough!!

Hugh Mungus wrote:
11:51am Monday January 2, 2017

Nile.  I guess reading comprehension isn’t your strong suit eh?  Silver and 11 other premiers rejected Ottawa’s ‘table scraps’ and are going to negotiate a better deal.

Your blind hatred for the Libs isn’t very becoming.

Lost in the Yukon wrote:
5:57pm Sunday January 1, 2017

Sunny Ways Silver is quickly turning into puff pastry. Many questioned his leadership skills but wanted the Pharmacist gone so badly they went for the nice smile. I’d rather see Hanson whose is about as cuddly as a hedge hog but at least has a rock solid command of the issues and priorities for the Yukon. Sunny Ways Silver is a lightweight.

Groucho d'North wrote:
1:35pm Sunday January 1, 2017

Until such time the Prime Minister begins to focus on the needs of Canadians and their health and employment requirements over his global ass-kissing with taxpayer money, don’t expect things to improve. It appears the Tater-tot desires a seat at the UN table more than fulfilling the commitments in his Oath of Office.

Nile wrote:
5:31pm Friday December 30, 2016

So basically Sandy will be happy with whatever table scraps his lords in Ottawa give him. Not a strong showing so far for the Libs.

Solution is apoarent wrote:
5:11pm Friday December 30, 2016

Mr silver, how much are we paying each MLA, for mileage, travel time, meals and accomodation, to travel to Whitehorse for one day sitting of the Legislature?  That isn’t funded directly from Ottawa, yet you’ll find the cash for it, won’t you? So how about paying sick Yukoners at the same rate, from whatever pot you take your travel money from?  So far, this is just smoke and mirrors, blame someone else bafflegab. I’m disappointed

Snowflake wrote:
3:22pm Friday December 30, 2016

If the Feds can handout $140,000.00 for a one day celebration in Whitehorse for new years eve. I am sure they can do the same for medical travel funds for all Yukon People. Many will agree that a persons life is more important then this celebration. Happy New Year to all.

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