What to watch for as Canada’s premiers meet in Victoria

It’s been three years since what used to be a staple of the political calendar — the annual summer premiers’ gathering — was held in person.

As the Council of the Federation reconvenes, Canada’s premiers are packing a lot of familiar baggage, particularly when it comes to their demands of the federal government.

After meeting frequently — sometimes weekly or biweekly — earlier in the pandemic, the premiers now feel “ghosted” by Ottawa, B.C.

It’s unclear what might be delivered between now and Tuesday night, since only one side of the federal-provincial table is gathering in Victoria. Nevertheless, here’s what’s on premiers’ minds.

Health care

It was already the biggest expenditure in premiers’ budgets and an oft-cited top priority for voters. Then COVID-19 put unprecedented stress on health infrastructure that advocates warned wasn’t up to code even before the pandemic.

“When you look at our health-care system compared to other, comparable countries, it’s been deteriorating in terms of the quality of care and the timeliness of care over a long period of time,” Canadian Medical Association president Katharine Smart told CBC’s The Current last week. “That’s not only about dollars. That’s about failing to modernize the system.”