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PM Trudeau presents premiers $196B health-care funding deal, including $46B in new funding

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OTTAWA – The federal government is pledging to increase health funding to Canada’s provinces and territories by $196.1 billion over the next 10 years, in a long-awaited deal aimed at addressing Canada’s crumbling health-care systems with $46.2 billion in new funding.This new cross-Canada offer includes both increases to the amount budgeted to flow through the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) as well as federal plans to sign bilateral deals with each province and territory that are mindful of each system’s unique circumstances.

This funding influx is coming with an expectation that in order to access new federal dollars, provincial and territorial governments have to maintain their current health spending levels and commit to new transparency and accountability requirements around how health information is collected, shared, used, and reported to Canadians.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau— accompanied by a handful of ministers—spent two hours on Tuesday afternoon presenting this proposal to his provincial and territorial counterparts at the first in-person meeting of all First Ministers since the COVID-19 pandemic. Early indications are, the offer hasn’t satisfied provinces’ demands.

While Trudeau is billing the Liberals’ commitment as “a major federal investment in health care,” early indications are, the offer hasn’t satisfied provinces’ demands.

Here’s what the federal government has put on the table:

  •  An immediate national and “unconditional” $2-billion top-up to the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) to address urgent pressures being experienced at pediatric hospitals, emergency rooms and surgical centres;
  •  A five-per-cent increase to the CHT over the next five years provided through the annual top-up, to be rolled into the CHT base after five years to ensure a permanent increase that would provide an estimated $17.3 billion over 10 years;
  •  $25 billion over 10 years for decade-long bilateral deals with each province and territory tailored to their health-care needs, but connected to shared priorities such as family health access, investing in mental health and substance abuse services; and modernizing the health information system;
  •  $1.7 billion over five years to support hourly wage increases for personal support workers and related professions as levels of government work together on retaining, recruiting, and recognizing the credentials of health-care workers;
  •  $150 million over five years for the Territorial Health Investment Fund to help cover medical travel and the cost of health care delivery in the North; and
  •  $2 billion over 10 years aimed at addressing the access challenges uniquely faced by Indigenous people.

“These additional federal investments will be contingent on continued health care investments by provinces and territories,” said Trudeau’s office in a statement unveiling the details.

While the prime minister met the premiers behind closed doors, federal officials provided reporters a technical briefing on the plan.

Ahead of the meeting, Trudeau said that while Canadians are proud of the universal public health-care system, it hasn’t been delivering up to the level expected.

From staffing shortages and a cold-weather surge of illnesses compounding extended wait times in emergency rooms, to hundreds of thousands of surgeries and medical procedures backlogged due in part to COVID-19 cancellations, there have been steady calls from those in the sector for urgent action as Canada’s population continues to grow and age.

“The pandemic reminded each and every one of us just how important our health is. It also put enormous pressure on our health-care systems and on our health-care workers, and it made us take a hard look at the long-standing issues facing our healthcare,” said Trudeau during a post-meeting press conference.

“As leaders, we’ve come together to deliver tangible actions and outcomes today, while building a more modern system to ensure results for all Canadians for the future,” he said, with a backdrop of empty beds at an Ottawa hospital.

OFFER LESS THAN PREMIERS CALLED FOR

Prior to the details being revealed, there were indications that some provinces, such as Ontario, were ready to sign on the dotted line in short order, while other provinces, such as Quebec, may want more time before agreeing to any new accord, depending on how they feel about federal conditions being imposed on how the new money will be spent.

Largely, the sense of optimism coming from premiers over the fact that the two sides finally were able to meet to discuss how to address Canada’s strained health-care systems seemed to dissipate somewhat after the meeting, with Ontario Premier Doug Ford calling it a “starting point,” and a “down payment.”

“There wasn’t a lot in a way of new funding that is a part of this package,” said Chair of the Council of the Federation and Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson during a post-meeting press conference. “I think we were a little disappointed at that.”

The premiers’ longstanding ask has been for the federal government to increase the share of Canada’s health-care costs that they cover, from the current 22 per cent to 35 per cent. This deal does not satisfy this demand.

Seeing the CHT increased by the amount premiers’ had called for would mean the federal government would have to send out an additional $28 billion to the provinces annually. Based on the new funding put on the table on Tuesday, what Trudeau has offered instead works out to on average less than $5 billion in new funding a year.

According to federal figures, in 2023-24 the federal government will provide $49.4 billion to provinces and territories under the CHT, with this longstanding predictable pool of funding projected to grow by 61 per cent over the next 10 years.

“It’s significantly less than what we were looking for,” Stefanson said, going on to tell CTV News Channel’s Power Play host Vassy Kapelos on Tuesday’s show that there was little time for deliberation after Trudeau’s presentation and that there are “lots of unanswered questions.”

NO DEALS TODAY, NEXT STEP? ‘ACTION PLANS’

Neither Trudeau nor the premiers planned to walk out of today’s “working meeting” with deals in hand.

The next step for provincial and territorial governments will be to develop “action plans” describing how they plan to use the funding and measure improvements to their systems.

Among the metrics the federal government says it will be looking at to assess whether tangible progress comes from these funding arrangements:

  •  The net new family physicians, nurses, and nurse practitioners in each province and territory;
  •  The percentage of Canadians who have access to a family health team or family doctor;
  •  The size of the COVID-19 surgery backlog;
  •  The median wait times for community mental health and substance abuse services; and
  •  The percentage of Canadians who can access their health records electronically.

The federal government made a point on Tuesday of stating that the bilateral agreements have to respect each government’s jurisdiction and uphold the Canada Health Act to protect Canadians’ “access to health care that is based on need and not ability to pay.”

Recently, in an effort to address their over-capacity operating rooms and winding wait lists, some provinces have announced plans to allow more private clinics to offer certain procedures. This has revitalized a debate over privatization and whether what some provinces are doing goes against the longstanding requirement to provide reasonable access to publicly-funded health services.

In order to maintain eligibility for their full Canada Health Transfer, provinces are required to uphold the Act’s criteria and ensure there is no extra billing and user chargers for insured health services.

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, calls were made on Parliament Hill by front-line health-care worker unions, advocates, and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to insist not a single new federal dollar flows to a for-profit provider.

In a statement reacting to the details of the multibillion-dollar federal proposal, Singh called it “the bare minimum.”

With both federal and provincial governments working on drafting their 2023 budgets, the expectation is the bilateral details will need to be worked out in time for the funding to be accounted for in the upcoming fiscal plans.

“In the coming weeks—not months—we will conclude bilateral agreements, begin flowing more money, and Canadians will start seeing real results,” Trudeau said.

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Dynamo find a way to overshadow Whitecaps’ comeback with late goals

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VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Whitecaps demonstrated how good they can be, but also showed they still need to be better in a 4-3 loss to the Houston Dynamo in a Major League Soccer match Saturday night that snapped their six-game unbeaten streak.

Striker Fafa Picault scored twice and assisted on a goal by defender Ranko Veselinovic as the Whitecaps battled back from a 2-0, first-half deficit to take a 3-2 lead. The Dynamo then stunned the crowd of 24,114 at BC Place Stadium by scoring twice in nine minutes for the road win.

“It’s tough when you concede two goals like that,” said Veselinovic. “They were all good goals, but we need to do better as a team not to allow them to arrive at those spots so easy.”

Houston’s Griffin Dorsey scored his second goal of the night with a shot through traffic in the 87th minute. The Dynamo’s Brad Smith tied the match 3-3 with a blast that went past Vancouver goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka’s hand in the 78th minute.

“We couldn’t finish,” said Veselinovic. “I’m happy how we responded in the second half. It’s just we lack in some games this season the maturity to close out games.”

Adding to the loss, Vancouver all-star striker Ryan Gauld left the game in the 24th minute with a right knee injury.

Head coach Vanni Sartini said he didn’t know if the injury will prevent Gauld from playing in Wednesday’s MLS all-star game.

Picault’s first goal came on a header in the 48th minute. He gave Vancouver a 3-2 lead in the 66th minute when he directed in a pass from defender Sam Adekugbe. Picault has scored eight times across all competitions, and it was his third consecutive game with a goal.

Veselinovic tied the match in the 54th minute, heading in a ball sent into the box by Picault.

The Whitecaps (11-8-5) lost for the first time in six MLS games (4-1-1) and seven (5-1-1) across all competitions.

Midfielder Coco Carrasquilla also scored for the Dynamo (10-7-7) who have just one loss in their last 10 matches (5-1-4).

The loss drops Vancouver into fifth place in the MLS Western Conference with 38 points while Houston climbed into sixth with 37.

Carrasquilla put Houston ahead in the 29th minute. Ibrahim Aliyu made a couple nice moves around the Whitecap defenders then fed the ball to Carrasquilla in front of the net. His shot went off Veselinovic and past goalkeeper Takaoka.

Dorsey took advantage of a broken play to put Houston up 2-0 in the 36th minute. A shot deflected off Vancouver defender Bjorn Utvik and rolled to Dorsey, who scored on a long shot that curved inside the right post.

Sartini liked the fight his team showed to get back into the game but wasn’t happy with the finish.

“It’s been an unfortunate night,” he said. “I think this game will bring us even closer (together) as a team.

“There’s a lot of positives that we can take from tonight.”

Before the game the Whitecaps announced Quinn Thompson had been named the team’s technical director. Reporting to sporting director Axel Schuster, Thompson will oversee roster construction and salary budget, player relations, plus player recruitment strategy along with senior director of analytics, insights, and research Dr. Johann Windt.

Thompson, a 28-year-old native of Vancouver, is the youngest technical director in the league.

Gauld injured himself battling for the ball in the 24th minute. He was sprawled on the field for several minutes then left the pitch under his own steam, returned to play briefly but was replaced a few minutes later by Brian Raposo.

NOTES

Vancouver had a shot on goal four minutes into the game. The Dynamo didn’t allow a shot in goal in a 1-0 win over San Jose on Wednesday. … The Whitecaps and Dynamo play again Sept. 18 in Houston. … Vancouver’s last loss was 2-0 in Portland on June 22. … The Whitecaps play seven of their final 11 league games at home. … Not dressed for the Whitecaps were defenders Tristan Blackmon (groin) and Mathias Laborda (ankle) plus goalkeeper Joe Bendik (back). … The Whitecaps celebrated their 11th anniversary Pride Match with a ’Caps & Queens Drag Happy Hour outside of BC Place before the game.

UP NEXT

The Whitecaps next MLS game is at home against LAFC on Aug. 24. They play Wrexham, the Welsh football club jointly owned by Vancouver native Ryan Reynolds, in a friendly at BC Place Stadium on July 27, then face LAFC in a Leagues Cup match July 30 on the road. The Whitecaps host Tijuana in another Leagues Cup match Aug. 3. Houston hosts the Mexican side Atlas FC July 27, then Real Salt Lake Aug. 5 in Leagues Cup matches before playing Toronto FC Aug. 24 at home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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The biggest of stories came to the small city of Butler. Here’s how its newspaper met the moment

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BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — When gunshots echoed at the Trump rally where she was working, Butler Eagle reporter Irina Bucur dropped to the ground just like everyone else. She was terrified.

She hardly froze, though.

Bucur tried to text her assignment editor, through spotty cell service, to tell him what was going on. She took mental notes of what the people in front and behind her were saying. She used her phone to take video of the scene. All before she felt safe standing up again.

When the world’s biggest story came to the small western Pennsylvania hamlet of Butler a week ago, it didn’t just draw media from everywhere else. Journalists at the Eagle, the community’s resource since 1870 and one that struggles to survive just like thousands of local newspapers across the country, had to make sense of chaos in their backyard — and the global scrutiny that followed.

Photographer Morgan Phillips, who stood on a riser in the middle of a field with Trump’s audience that Saturday evening, kept on her feet and kept working, documenting history. After Secret Service officers hustled the former president into a waiting car, the people around her turned to shout vitriol at the journalists.

A few days later, Phillips’ eyes welled with tears recounting the day.

“I just felt really hated,” said Phillips, who like Bucur is 25. “And I never expected that.”

Mobilizing in the most harrowing of situations

“I’m very proud of my newsroom,” said Donna Sybert, the Eagle’s managing editor.

Having put a coverage plan in place, she had escaped for a fishing trip nearby with her family. A colleague, Jamie Kelly, called to tell her something had gone terribly wrong and Sybert rushed back to the newsroom, helping to update the Eagle’s website until 2 a.m. Sunday.

Bucur’s assignment had been to talk to community members attending the rally, along with those who set up a lemonade stand on the hot day and people who parked cars. She’d done her reporting and settled in to text updates of what Trump was saying for the website.

The shooting changed everything. Bucur tried to interview as many people as she could. Slightly dazed after authorities cleared the grounds, she forgot where she had parked. That gave her more time for reporting.

“Going into reporter mode allowed me to distract myself from the situation a little bit,” Bucur said. “Once I got up, I wasn’t thinking at all. I was just thinking I needed to interview people and get the story out because I was on deadline.”

She and colleagues Steve Ferris and Paula Grubbs were asked to collect their reporting and impressions for a story in the Eagle’s special, eight-page wraparound printed edition on Monday.

“The first few gunshots rang out like fireworks,” they wrote. “But when they continued, people in the crowd at the Butler Farm Show venue dropped to the ground: a mother and father told their children to crouch down. A young man hunched over in the grass. Behind him, a woman started to pray.”

The special edition clearly resonated in Butler and beyond. Extra copies are being offered for sale for $5 in the Eagle’s lobby. That’s already a bargain. On eBay, Sybert said, she’s seen them going for up to $125.

A small newspaper struggling to endure

Beyond its status as a local newspaper, the Eagle is an endangered species.

It has resisted ownership by a large chain, which have often stripped news outlets bare. The Eagle has been owned by the same family since 1903; its patriarch, Vernon Wise, is now 95. Fifth-generation family member Jamie Wise Lanier drove up from Cincinnati this week to congratulate the staff on a job well done, general manager Tammy Schuey said.

Six editions are printed each week, and a digital site has a paywall that was lowered for some of the shooting stories. The Eagle’s circulation is 18,000, Schuey said, with about 3,000 of that digital.

The United States has lost one-third of its newspapers since 2005 as the Internet chews away at once-robust advertising revenue. An average of 2.5 newspapers closed each week in 2023, according to a study by Northwestern University. The majority were in small communities like Butler.

The Eagle abandoned a newsroom across town in 2019, consolidating space in the building where its printing press is housed. It has diversified, starting a billboard company and taking on extra printing jobs. It even stores the remnants of a long-shuttered local circus and allows residents to visit.

The Eagle has about 30 employees, although it’s now short two reporters and a photographer. Cabinets housing old photographs lie among the clutter of desks in the newsroom, with a whiteboard that lists which staff members will be on weekend call.

Its staff is a mix of young people like Bucur and Phillips, who tend to move on to larger institutions, and those who put down roots in Butler. Sybert has worked at the Eagle since 1982. Schuey was initially hired in 1991 to teach composing room employees how to use Macs.

“This is a challenging business,” Schuey said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Local understanding makes a huge difference

When a big story comes to town, with the national and international journalists that follow it, local news outlets are still a precious and valued resource.

The Eagle knows the terrain. It knows the local officials. Smart national reporters who “parachute” into a small community that suddenly makes news know to seek out local journalists. Several have reached out to the Eagle, Schuey said.

Familiarity helps in other ways. Bucur found people at the rally who were suspicious of national reporters but answered questions from her, and the same is true for some authorities. She has tapped her network of Facebook friends for reporting help.

Such foundational trust is common. Many people in small towns have more faith in their community newspapers, said Rick Edmonds, the media business analyst at the Poynter Institute.

“It’s just nice to support the locals,” said Jeff Ruhaak, a trucking company supervisor who paused during a meal at the Monroe Hotel to discuss the Eagle’s coverage. “I think they did a pretty good job covering it for their size.”

The Eagle has another advantage as well: It isn’t going anywhere when the national reporters leave. The story won’t end. Hurt people need to recover and investigations will determine who is responsible for a would-be assassin being able to get a shot at Trump.

In short: responsible journalism as civic leadership in harrowing moments.

“Our community went through a traumatic experience,” Schuey said. “I was there. We have some healing to do, and I think the newspaper is a critical piece in helping guide the community through this.”

So, too, must people at the Eagle heal, as Phillips’ raw emotions attest. Management is trying to give staff members some days off, perhaps with the help of journalists in surrounding communities.

Bucur said she would hate to see Butler turned into a political prop, with the assassination being used as some sort of rallying cry. The divisiveness of national politics had already seeped into local meetings and staff members have felt the tension.

Sybert and Schuey look at each other to try and remember what was the biggest story that Butler Eagle journalists have worked on. Was it a tornado that killed nine back in the 1980s? Some particularly bad traffic accident? Trump paid an uneventful campaign visit in 2020. But there’s no question what tops the list now.

Despite the stress of the assassination attempt, covering it has been a personal revelation for the soft-spoken Bucur, who grew up 30 miles (48.2 kilometers) south in Pittsburgh and studied psychology in college. Her plans changed when she took a communications course and loved it.

“This,” she said, “was a moment I told myself that I think I’m cut out for journalism.”

___

David Bauder writes about media for the AP. Follow him at http://twitter.com/dbauder.



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Dynamo finds a way to beat, frustrate Whitecaps with late comeback

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VANCOUVER – After battling back from a two-goal deficit in the first half, the Vancouver Whitecaps allowed goals nine minutes apart late in the second half in a wild 4-3 setback to the Houston Dynamo in a Major League Soccer match Saturday night that snapped their six-game unbeaten streak.

Striker Fafa Picault scored twice and assisted on a goal by defender Ranko Veselinovic for the Whitecaps.

Houston’s Griffin Dorsey scored his second goal of the night with a shot through traffic in the 87th minute. The Dynamo’s Brad Smith tied the match 3-3 with a blast that went past Vancouver goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka’s hand in the 78th minute.

Vancouver all-star striker Ryan Gauld left the game in the 24th minute with a right knee injury.

Picault’s first goal came on a header in the 48th minute. He gave Vancouver a 3-2 lead when he directed in a pass from defender Sam Adekugbe. Picault has scored eight times across all competitions and it was his third consecutive game with a goal.

Veselinovic tied the match in the 54th minute, heading in a ball sent into the box by Picault.

A crowd of 24,114 at BC Place Stadium saw the Whitecaps (11-8-5) lose for the first time in six MLS games (4-1-1) and seven (5-1-1) across all competitions.

Midfielder Coco Carrasquilla and defender Griffin Dorsey also scored for the Dynamo (10-7-7) who have just one loss in their last 10 matches (5-1-4).

The loss drops Vancouver into fifth place in the MLS Western Conference with 38 points while Houston climbed into sixth with 37.

Carrasquilla put Houston ahead in the 29th minute. Ibrahim Aliyu made a couple nice moves around the Whitecap defenders then fed the ball to Carrasquilla in front of the net. His shot went off Veselinovic and past goalkeeper Takaoka.

Dorsey took advantage of a broken play to put Houston up 2-0 in the 36th minute. A shot deflected off Vancouver defender Bjorn Utvik and rolled to Dorsey, who scored on a long shot that curved inside the right post.

Before the game the Whitecaps announced Quinn Thompson had been named the team’s technical director. Reporting to sporting director Axel Schuster, Thompson will oversee roster construction and salary budget, player relations, plus player recruitment strategy along with senior director of analytics, insights, and research Dr. Johann Windt.

Thompson, a 28-year-old native of Vancouver, is the youngest technical director in the league.

Brian White had a good scoring chance in the fourth minute directing a pass from Gauld just wide of the net. White argued he was fouled on the play but there was no call.

The Whitecaps got a nice defensive play in the 18th minute from Veselinovic when he made a diving block on midfielder Amine Bassi’s shot on a dangerous looking play.

Gauld injured himself battling for the ball in the 24th minute. He was sprawled on the field for several minutes then left the pitch under his own steam, returned to play briefly but was replaced a few minutes later by Brian Raposo.

NOTES

Vancouver had a shot on goal four minutes into the game. The Dynamo didn’t allow a shot in goal in a 1-0 win over San Jose on Wednesday night. … The Whitecaps and Dynamo play again Sept. 18 in Houston. … Vancouver’s last loss was 2-0 in Portland on June 22. … The Whitecaps play seven of their final 11 league games at home. … Not dressed for the Whitecaps were defenders Tristan Blackmon (groin) and Mathias Laborda (ankle) plus goalkeeper Joe Bendik (back). … The Whitecaps celebrated their 11th anniversary Pride Match with a ’Caps & Queens Drag Happy Hour outside of BC Place before the game.

UP NEXT

The Whitecaps next MLS game is at home against LAFC on Aug. 24. They play Wrexham, the Welsh football club jointly owned by Vancouver native Ryan Reynolds, in a friendly at BC Place Stadium on July 27, then face LAFC in a Leagues Cup match July 30 on the road. The Whitecaps host Tijuana in another Leagues Cup match Aug. 3. Houston hosts the Mexican side Atlas FC July 27, then Real Salt Lake Aug. 5 in Leagues Cup matches before playing Toronto FC Aug. 24 at home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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