OTTAWA, ON (Dec. 14, 2017): With an inexorable demographic crunch coming for provincial and territorial budgets, those gathered at this week’s finance ministers' meeting should have focused on Canada’s aging population and its dramatic effects on the future of health care, Munk Senior Fellow Sean Speer stated today.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute's latest study, Running out of Time: Demographic Pressures and the Future of Canadian Health Care, powerfully illustrates the potential long-term consequences of Canada's aging demographics on health-care consumption and governments’ ability to pay for health services. The findings are notable. Every province will face considerable demographic pressures. Newfoundland and Labrador's challenges are the most significant. Alberta's are the most muted. But none are immune.

"This past week's meeting was another missed opportunity - another case of neglecting the arithmetic of Canada's aging demographics and what it will mean for health care and provincial and territorial budgets," stated Speer. "The only question is whether or not policy-makers do something about it before it's too late.

Key recommendations in MLI's latest study include:

  • Ottawa and the provinces and territories working together to enable greater scope for private involvement in the financing and delivery of health care. This could enable greater health care competition, reduce budgetary pressure on provincial and territorial governments, free up public resources to expand coverage for low-income citizens, and provide greater freedom and choice for patients.

  • The federal government considering policy options to increase awareness and usage of Health Savings Accounts, including expanding tax preferences or using matching public funds, in order to help people prepare for future health care consumption – particularly services and treatments outside of public insurance.

  • The federal government launching a modern Rowell-Sirois Commission with the purpose of rethinking and modernizing fiscal federalism. The goal should be to match revenue and expenditure responsibilities among the different levels of government as well as enhance political accountability and exclusivity in our federalism.

"These are debates we ought to be having. We cannot afford to wait much longer. The 2016 Census showed that seniors outnumbered children for the first time in Canada's history," stated Speer. "It's up to our policymakers to recognize the stakes and respond with proportionate solutions."

For more information media are invited to contact:

Cole Hogan
Communications Manager
613.482.8327 x105


Sean Speer is a Munk Senior Fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

Brian Ferguson is currently Professor in the Department of Economics at University of Guelph and Faculty Associate of the Canadian Centre for Health Economics.

Ariel Freeman-Fawcett is currently working as a policy analyst at the Ontario Ministry of Finance.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute is the only non-partisan, independent national public policy think tank in Ottawa focusing on the full range of issues that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.