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Federal Cabinet Ministers Meet in Montreal 

The federal cabinet meets in Montreal to plot out its strategy for the upcoming session, and P.E.I. politicians spar over the departure of Health PEI’s CEO. On that, and more, here is your Syntax Weekly Health Round-Up.

On the Hill

  • The House of Commons is on its holiday break until January 29, 2024.

Around Government 

  • Federal cabinet ministers spent time this week in Montreal where they held their pre-session cabinet retreat. Occuring several times a year, cabinet retreats offer ministers the opportunity to hear from experts in a variety of fields, political party operatives, and senior political staff as they debate policy, legislation, and communications initiatives that position the government for success. Going into 2024, the Liberals are focused on rebranding themselves as champions for the middle class (and those working hard to join it), with plans to focus squarely on pocketbook issues of inflation, the housing crisis, and preparing Canada for the potential of another Donald Trump presidency.
  • At the federal cabinet retreat, ministers also discussed a number of policy issues on the radar of government, including the upcoming deadline for the government’s response on the potential expansion of medical assistance in dying to patients with severe mental illnesses. Health Minister Mark Holland is said to have shared with his cabinet colleagues the concern of some provinces and territories regarding such a move. The federal government intends to wait for a report from the joint committee of parliamentarians on the subject to come forward with specific recommendations before making any commitments, but the looming deadline means decisions will have to be made swiftly.
  • Health Minister Mark Holland and Mental Health Minister Ya’ara Saks marked the occasion of the annual Bell Let’s Talk Day and its associated campaign to raise awareness and promote open conversations about mental health and well-being, and to raise awareness of the new 9-8-8 Suicide Crisis Helpline launched in late 2023.
  • Minister Holland announced $17.1 million in funding through the Dementia Strategic Fund and Dementia Community Investment to support 32 projects that raise awareness of and destigmatize dementia, and promote healthy behaviours that reduce risk, help prevent dementia, and delay the onset or progression of dementia.

Around the Dominion

  • The Government of P.E.I. found itself in a tough spot with the pending resignation of Health PEI CEO Michael Gardam. In an appearance before the P.E.I. legislature's health committee, Gardam shared his serious concerns regarding the fragility of P.E.I.’s healthcare system with the planned opening of a medical school at UPEI in the coming years. Specifically, Gardam is concerned what impact that will have on staffing levels across the province as resources will be required to train new medical students, and that is likely to cause a drain on the Island’s already limited supply of doctors and health professionals.
  • The Government of Nova Scotia announced that eligible families who have a child with autism can apply for up to $3,000 in one-time funding to cover the costs of equipment, supplies, and other expenses through the new Autism Family Support Fund. The fund is available to lower-income families with an autistic child 16 years of age or younger. The income threshold for a family of three is $51,029, and $58,310 for a family of four.
  • In Ontario, the government announced nearly $3 million in funding to increase access to pediatric services in the Thunder Bay and North Bay regions. This is part of the government’s previously announced $330-million annual funding boost to pediatric services in communities across the province. The $3 million announced this week is intended to increase access to children’s rehabilitation services, increase access to mental health care, and support access to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care for underserved communities by expanding midwifery programs. The government also announced that under it’s $330-million annual boost to pediatric services, it is investing an additional $44.6 million per year to connect children and youth to mental health services across the province. The funding will increase access to community-based intensive services for complex mental health needs, expand One Stop Talk, add 2,200 clinical training spots at Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO), and help establish quality guidelines and standards for live-in treatment programming.
  • The Government of Alberta celebrated a $77-million investment by Shoppers Drug Mart to expand pharmacy care clinics across the province. The investment in the pharmacy care clinics is meant to offer Albertans convenient and easily accessible care in their community.
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