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August 4, 2023

Canada’s nurses urge feds to lead the way out of the health care crisis in Budget 2024

Health Human Resources
Media Release

Silas: No single province or territory can steer this ship on its own. Federal leadership on a national nursing retention strategy is urgently needed to turn this ship around.

August 4, 2023 (Ottawa, ON) – Canada’s frontline nurses are calling on the federal government to build on the foundations of Budget 2023 and lead the country out of the ongoing health crisis by supporting initiatives that would bolster the nursing workforce and protect the public health care system beyond bilateral agreements.

“For a second summer in a row, emergency services are being reduced or closed in communities across the country. Patients going without care and workers going without relief cannot become our new normal,” said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU). “Every single province and territory is struggling to cope with a critical shortage of nurses. They can’t steer this ship on their own – we need the federal government to lead Canada through this crisis and implement a national nursing retention strategy.”

Without a coordinated pan-Canadian approach to address staffing shortages, the health care crisis has continued to grow unabated for years. The incredible pressures facing health care workers ramped up during the pandemic, as a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows, despite a 13% drop in surgeries performed in Canada, overtime in public hospitals increased by 15%.

Silas said the data reinforces what nurses have shared – the nursing shortage is at crisis levels, and it’s impacting patients’ access to care.

“We heard directly from Premiers when we met during the Council of the Federation in July – federal help must continue to address this crisis,” said Silas. “Budget 2024 is a critical opportunity for the federal government to build on its historic investments in our health care systems in 2023, with the targeted and strategic supports that we urgently need to address this crisis and turn this ship around.”

From tax incentives to eliminating private staffing agencies, the CFNU is proposing critical initiatives as a part of a holistic strategy building on efforts to reverse the decline of our health care systems.

In its pre-budget submission, the CFNU outlined recommendations including:

  • Tax benefits to support nurses and other health care workers;
  • Mental health programs tailored to nurses;
  • Legislated limits on consecutive hours of work for nurses;
  • Elimination of private nursing staffing agencies;
  • Next steps on workplace violence to enforce protection of nurses and health care workers;
  • A National Nursing Retention Strategy to advance proven retention, return and recruitment initiatives and ethical, expedited recruitment of IENs.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it starts with federal leadership,” said Silas. “Now is not the time to back down. With strong leadership and coordinated action on proven strategies, we can create a brighter and healthier future and bring public health care back to being the pride of Canada.”


The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing Canada’s frontline nurses in every sector of health care – from home care, to LTC, community and acute care, including nursing students – and advocating on key health priorities and federal engagement in the future of public health care.

For more information, please contact:
Adella Khan,, 613-807-2942