Improving health care is not just a matter of money and transfers from Ottawa to the provinces, provincial leaders said at the annual premiers conference Tuesday.
The federal government could help by streamlining recruitment of workers from abroad, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith told reporters in Winnipeg.
“They are principally responsible when it comes to immigration and bringing people into the country, which is why they play a crucial role in that,” she said.
“We’ve all been able to negotiate some arrangements that have allowed for us to be able to bring in new professionals. We’ve got (a memorandum of understanding) with the Philippines, for instance.”
Smith added Ottawa could also help ensure that health-care workers can move seamlessly between provinces.
Health care is one of the main topics at the three-day meeting this week.
The premiers also met with health worker representatives.
The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions put forward several recommendations to the premiers to boost health care, including minimum nurse-to-patient ratios and setting limits on safe hours of continuous work.
British Columbia Premier David Eby said his province’s biggest challenge is a lack of health-care workers.
“How do we use the immigration system to support the health care that British Columbians need? How do we use the federal government’s national authority to set standards around the mobility of health-care workers?” he said.
“There are lots of important pieces of work to do. We’ve had a good discussion around the table about that.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he and his counterparts discussed the provincial nominee program, which aims to attract skilled workers from abroad to various parts of the country.
Ford said his government wants to collaborate with the federal government on bringing in workers from many different fields.
“We’re in desperate need of people right across the province. I think you’re hearing that from every single premier,” he said.
“We need more people, and isn’t that a great thing? Isn’t it a great thing that our economy is still strong even as we see the interest rates going up?”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 11, 2023.