Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was in Halifax on Monday promising $6 billion in new health-care spending if re-elected to be used to hire thousands of doctors and reduce wait times.

Trudeau’s health-care announcement comes in the wake of Nova Scotia’s recent election that saw the Progressive Conservatives topple the incumbent Liberal government by betting big on health care. Aware of this, Trudeau was quick to use the promise of expanded health-care funding to draw a distinction between himself and Erin O’Toole’s Conservative Party.

“We’ve transferred billions of dollars over the last few months to the provinces in order to help with the pandemic, and I fully agree with provinces that we have to increase health transfers,” Trudeau said. The $6 billion will be used “to reduce the backlog that has accumulated both during this pandemic and was already accumulating before,” he said.

The Liberals are promising the money would also be used to expand virtual health care, and promote health professionals going to remote and rural areas by forgiving more student loans. Right now, there are nearly five million Canadians without a family doctor, and 3.2 per cent of Canadians were waiting for treatment in 2020, the Liberals say.

Of the money promised Monday, $3.2 billion over four years would be used to hire 7,500 doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners. Over that same period, the Liberals are also promising $400 million more for virtual care.

The Liberal Party also says additional money could be available for digital infrastructure, and that the added virtual care funding is in addition to the approximate $240 million Ottawa announced during the pandemic.

“This announcement doubles down on the Liberal Party’s commitment to public universal health care at the same time we’ve seen Erin O’Toole double down on his belief in the private for-profit system,” Trudeau said.

The NDP, meanwhile, is criticizing the Liberals for recycling an old promise, given that a $6-billion commitment for health spending is included in the Liberal’s 2019 platform.

“Justin Trudeau says the right thing about access to doctors, but his record shows that he has no intention of following through,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement. “People who don’t have access to doctors can’t afford Justin Trudeau’s empty promises anymore.”

Of the money promised Monday, $3.2 billion over four years would be used to hire 7,500 doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners. #Elxn44 #cdnpoli #Liberals #Election2021

In 2019, the Liberal Party promised, if elected, it would ensure every Canadian would have access to a family doctor, mental health services, and that it would implement a universal pharmacare program.

Ahead of the 2019 election, Trudeau’s government acknowledged Canada is the only country in the world that provides universal health care, but not universal coverage for prescription drugs.

Before that election, a report was drafted by Health Canada recommending principles to guide a national pharmacare plan, create a new drug agency, and develop a national strategy for expensive drugs for rare diseases, among others.

The Conservative Party did not immediately return a request for comment.

John Woodside / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer

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The PM has made many "promises" since first being elected in 2015. What most voters have come to understand over the course of the liberal (Trudeau and co.) time in office is that they never seem to come to fruition. How can anyone today believe a word uttered by this administration? This particular promise is a repeat which shows real distain for the public.

Regarding Jagmeet Singh's statement, “Justin Trudeau says the right thing about access to doctors, but his record shows that he has no intention of following through.”

Considering that we went into pandemic lockdown less than five months after the last election, I think most Canadians would understand that dealing with this once a century event required the Feds to spend that $6 billion (and more) on other health related matters. Deal with the emergency first, fix the system later.

This election is all about who gets to shore up the system once the pandemic recedes. On the whole, this government has done a good job of dealing with the pandemic, and while the NDP have been effective in swaying the Libs to make their programs more progressive, but Mr Singh's habit of claiming full credit for progressive initiatives made by the government is less than honest.

We've all heard it before. But the way the NDP on provincial levels waste health care dollars with poor, ineffective and politically driven public policy. I know someone who is a director in the Ministry for Mental Health and Addictions. She's completely frustrated with Horgan's narrow-minded and short sightedness on what needs to be done to truly address the issues. They are completely focused on "beds" (the most expensive service to offer) and completely ignore the suite of options that must be made available to make serious inroads. I watched the BC NDP destroy home care in this province. The federal NDP's miopic focus on getting rid of for profit long term care and only have not for profit home care flies in the face of research. This is not the burning issue. It's not an either or. It's about paying home care workers and aids decent salaries; hiring more RN's and setting national standards for care that are actually implemented. As a friend of mine who is an internationally recognized gerontologist says, "not for profits aren't great and for profits are worse."