NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh stands in front of his caucus as he speaks to reporters after the weekly caucus meeting in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. New Democrat MPs will gather in Ottawa today for a two-day planning session to prepare the re-opening of the House of Commons next week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

NDP to put forward private member’s bill on making national pharmacare a reality

It will be modelled after the Canada Health Act

The New Democrats are planning to bring forward legislation to implement a national, universal pharmacare program.

NDP House Leader Peter Julian is set to table a private member’s bill at his first opportunity after Parliament resumes next week.

It will be modelled after the Canada Health Act, which is the legislative framework underpinning universal health care.

The New Democrats and Liberals both promised some kind of pharmacare program during the fall federal election campaign, but differ on the details.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he’s heard platitudes from the Liberals about the importance of a national drug plan, but he says Canadians struggling with drug costs cannot afford to wait.

“We’ve heard Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal government use a lot of pretty words about the importance of national pharmacare, but we’ve not seen concrete action,” Singh told reporters Thursday.

“Our health-care system needs this desperately.”

Singh said he has sent letters to Trudeau and to the other opposition party leaders asking for their support and offering a full briefing on the proposed legislation.

Opposition MPs, as well as backbenchers in the government caucus, can introduce legislation through private member’s bills, but without government backing they have a smaller chance of making it through the multiples stages of debate and rounds of voting to become law.

In December, provincial and territorial premiers expressed hesitation about a national drug program, with some saying they would rather see increased funding to address things like hospital overcrowding and growing wait times.

The premiers told Ottawa they want to be given the ability to opt out if the federal government does go ahead with a national drug plan.

Singh said he understands the premiers might be cynical about working with Ottawa on health care after changes to the provincial funding formula implemented in 2017 led to reduced annual increases to the provinces’ health transfers.

The former Conservative government created the new funding formula for federal health transfers, which saw annual increases of six per cent that had been in place since 2004-05 reduced to three per cent increases every year.

During the 2015 federal election, the Trudeau Liberals promised to collaborate with provinces to negotiate a new health accord, but the final deal retained the three per cent cap. The Liberals also added $11 billion in funding over 10 years earmarked for home care, palliative care and mental health services.

Singh said he believes he can get provincial buy-in to a pharmacare program by reversing the formula that reduced the health-transfer increases — which he refers to as cuts — and beef up health funding to the provinces in addition to funding national pharmacare.

“The first step, I believe, to gain the confidence and to be able to undo some of that cynicism, is to end those cuts … reinvest in health care, show the provinces that we’re serious about health care, increase the investments in transfers to health care in general and then propose a national, universal program,” Singh said.

He remained vague about how much more money the provinces should get, saying only that an evaluation would be needed on how much they need.

With federal money on the table and more money for other services, Singh said he believes provinces will be convinced to pony up their share to help make a national drug plan a reality.

Trudeau has pledged to move forward with a “national, universal pharmacare plan.” He reiterated that promise in a speech he delivered to his caucus Thursday, but he gave no specifics on what it would include and when enabling legislation might be introduced.

In his mandate letter to Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Trudeau said he expects her to “continue” to implement pharmacare, including establishing a Canada Drug Agency and a national drug formulary to help make purchasing medication more efficient and affordable for all Canadians.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

ndpPolitics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Young Abbotsford cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

Parents upset as Abbotsford School District maximizes class sizes for financial reasons

Classes and cohorts shuffled after division eliminated at King Traditional elementary school

B.C. families financially affected by pandemic eligible for grocery gift cards

Program open to struggling families in Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley communities

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Vancouver Island for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

COLUMN: We don’t need an election. But it’s 2020, so we’ll probably get one anyways.

There are only selfish reasons for the NDP to trigger an election this fall

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

VIDEO: Shots fired outside Langley gas station that was scene of 2018 homicide

No reports of injuries in Saturday evening incident

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Air quality advisory ends for the Lower Mainland

It had been in effect since Sept. 8

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Most Read