Trudeau reviews cabinet with major changes in environment, defense and health portfolios

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Posted on Tuesday, October 26, 2021 5:37 a.m. EDT

Last updated Tuesday, October 26, 2021 at 6:35 p.m. EDT

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s newly appointed cabinet includes a new cabinet post to deliver on campaign promises on mental health and addictions.

Carolyn Bennett, who recently served as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, has been selected for the Mental Health and Addictions portfolio.

The role is separate from the rest of the health portfolio, which will be headed by former Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos.

“A lot of people, I think, saw that mental health has become a parallel pandemic and that we actually need to really dive in and make sure there is a mental health strategy in all departments, but also with the provinces. and the territories. “Bennett said at a press conference on Tuesday.

The Liberal agenda promised a new federal transfer of $ 4.5 billion over five years to provinces and territories to provide accessible and free mental health services.

Mental health advocates, including the Canadian Mental Health Association, applauded the Cabinet’s added focus on improving mental health care in Canada.

“Right now we have a unique opportunity to address the long-standing gaps in our mental health system: from lack of timely access and culturally appropriate care to gaps in care in remote areas and communities. patchwork programs, ”Margaret Eaton, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association, wrote in a statement.

Rates of depression and anxiety rose across the board during the pandemic, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and isolation measures took a heavy toll on those already living with mental illness or problematic substance use of substances before COVID-19.

“This appointment is a critical step as we work to improve the mental health and addiction health of all Canadians,” said Michel Rodrigue, Chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Bennett will also be responsible for developing a strategy to end the opioid crisis.

In addition, the promises include a review of other government policies from a mental health perspective.

Trudeau is committed to reviewing access to the disability tax credit, as well as other federal benefits and programs, to ensure that mental health issues are a qualification. He also promised to include mental health as a specific component of occupational health and safety under the Canada Labor Code.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the new post is important “now more than ever” because of the pandemic and its effects on mental well-being.

Conservative MP Todd Doherty tweeted that adding the cabinet position is not a “quick fix.”

“We need urgent, concrete action,” Doherty wrote, calling on the new minister to create a national suicide prevention hotline and stable funding for provincial mental health and mental health organizations at the based.

Prior to his election in 1997, Bennett, who will also be Associate Minister of Health, was a family physician and Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto.

She received the first Champion of Mental Health award from the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health in 2003.

Meanwhile, Duclos, who succeeds Patty Hajdu as health minister, will have to negotiate with provinces and territories that have asked the federal government to accept a larger share of the cost of delivering health care.

Hajdu has become the face of the federal government’s response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Canada enters the next phase of recovery from a pandemic, the federal government will need to work closely with Premiers to reach a new health care transfer agreement.

The pandemic has put strain on already strained provincial health systems, leaving intensive care and emergency rooms overcrowded and health workers exhausted.

Premiers are calling for a meeting with Trudeau to ask the federal government to immediately increase its share of health care costs from 22 to 35 percent – an increase of about $ 28 billion this year.

They are also calling for minimum funding increases of five percent per year, arguing that the current plan of three percent spending increases means that transfers do not keep up with annual cost increases.

Duclos was professor and director of the economics department at Université Laval before his election in 2015.

He is also responsible for the Public Health Agency of Canada and will work closely with the Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, as Canada crosses the fourth wave of the pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 26, 2021.

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