Despite sharing nationwide concerns about healthcare staffing shortages and long wait times, residents of Canada’s three territories have very different priorities for healthcare funding, according to a Léger survey released Feb. 2.

The results of the survey show widespread dissatisfaction with healthcare services across the country, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nationwide, 78 per cent of respondents felt wait times had increased over the past five years, while 90 per cent felt they had increased as a result of the pandemic.

Eighty-seven per cent agreed that an immediate increase in funding was needed to ease the burden on the health system caused by the pandemic.

There was also broad agreement that provincial and territorial governments were in a better position to allocate healthcare funds than the federal government. The least support on that question came from Ontario, at 56 per cent.

Despite widespread concerns about wait times and staffing shortages, the results suggest that residents of the territories are less concerned about the state of their healthcare systems than residents of the provinces. Across all respondents, healthcare ranked second behind only cost of living/affordability as the most important issue facing Canadians; more than a quarter of respondents listed it as a top priority. By contrast, residents of the territories ranked it sixth overall, lower than every province in the country.

Forty-seven per cent of respondents in the territories felt the quality of healthcare had gotten worse over the past five years, with 77 per cent responding that the pandemic has had a significant negative impact on services.

At 50 per cent, territorial respondents were more likely than those from the provinces to say expanding mental health and addiction supports would be a priority if more funding came in. They were also more likely to see the hiring of new doctors and nurses as a priority — 78 per cent. By contrast, residents of the territories were less likely than average to see both a reduction in emergency wait times and improvements to long-term care homes as priorities for new funding.

Those in the territories were also significantly more likely to believe that federal funding should be sustained over the long term — 88 per cent of territorial residents agreed with that statement.

More than 2,600 respondents across all the provinces and territories, including 140 respondents from the three territories, were engaged in the online survey in both official languages. Responses from the territories were recorded together as one data set.

The survey was commissioned by the Council of the Federation, a council made up of the Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial premiers designed to improve relations between their respective jurisdictions and with the federal government.

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