Federal Fiscal Update

December 2020… The Government of Canada released a federal fiscal update on Nov. 30. It provided additional details on some of the commitments made in September’s Speech from the Throne. The deficit has moved from $343.2 billion in July to $381.6 billion and the government is planning a stimulus program worth as much as $100 billion over three years. Details of that plan are expected in the 2021 budget. Some key highlights from the fiscal update include:

  1. The government reiterated its approach on national pharmacare with the commitment to work with provinces and territories to create:
  • a new Canadian Drug Agency that would negotiate drug prices on behalf of all Canadians,
  • a national formulary to be developed by the Canadian Drug Agency,
  • a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases, with funding of $500 million per year, ongoing, starting in 2022-23.

What is new, however, is the commitment to release options for the strategy and engage with “provinces, territories, patients, industry and other interested groups to confirm the path forward” over the coming weeks.

  1. The government also reiterated its commitment to develop national standards for long term care. There is very little detail about these standards, just a paragraph that basically says they will work with the provinces and territories to develop them. They expect the standards to be a “means to address critical gaps in long-term care facilities, including raising the working conditions of lower-wage essential workers in senior care”. Hopefully, there will be more specific information in the spring 2021-22 budget.

Additional funding was announced for the long-term care space, however. This includes:

  • Up to $1 billion for a Safe Long-term Care Fund, to help provinces and territories protect people in long-term care and support infection prevention and control.
  • $6.4 million to the Canadian Foundation for Health Improvement to expand its LTC+ initiative, which allows long-term care facilities and seniors residences to register via an online portal and submit a self-assessment, making them eligible for coaching and seed funding to help address gaps.
  • $1 million to engage with third parties to help identify resources to conduct readiness assessments in long-term care facilities and facilitate training on infection prevention and control.
  • $2.4 million over three years to expand Health Canada’s capacity to support these new initiatives and undertake policy work related to commitments made in the Speech from the Throne.
  1. High-cost drugs for rare diseases strategy is moving forward with the statement that Health Canada will soon be “setting out options for this strategy and will engage with provinces, territories, patients, industry and other interested groups to confirm the path forward.”
  2. Mental health and virtual care have an additional investment of $93 million — $50 million to support distress centres and $43 million to fund the Wellness Together Canada portal.

You can find the full document here.