OTTAWA – 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 the first opportunity after Parliament resumes next week.
It will be modeled after the Canada Health Act, which is a universal health care supportive legislative framework.
New Democrats and Liberals both pledged sort pharmacare program during the fall federal election campaign, but differ in details.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said he heard the platitudes of the Liberals on the importance of a national drug plan, but he says Canada struggled with the cost of drugs can not wait.
“We’ve heard Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal government use many words enough about the importance of a national pharmacare, but we’ve not seen real action,” Singh told reporters on Thursday.
“The health care system we need it desperately.”
Singh said he had sent a letter to Trudeau and other opposition party leaders asking for their support and offer a full briefing on the proposed legislation.
Opposition MPs and backbenchers in the government caucus, to introduce legislation through a private member’s bill, but without government support, they have less chance to make it through multiple stages of debate and rounds of voting to become law.
In December, the prime minister of provincial and territorial undecided about a national drug program, with some saying they would rather see an increase in funding to address matters such as population density and growing hospital waiting times.
The prime minister told Ottawa they want to be given the ability to opt-out of the federal government not to go ahead with a national drug plan.
Singh said he understood the prime minister may be cynical about working with Ottawa on health care after changes in provincial funding formula implemented in 2017 led to a decrease in the annual increase in health transfers to the provinces.
Former Conservative government created a new funding formula for federal health transfers, which saw an annual increase of six percent which has been in place since 2004-05 was reduced to a three percent increase each year.
During the 2015 federal election, the Liberal Trudeau promised to collaborate with the provinces to negotiate a new health agreement, but a final agreement remains three per stamp percent. Liberals also added $ 11 billion in funding over 10 years allocated to home care, palliative care, and mental health services.
Singh said he was confident he could get buy-in for the provincial pharmacare programs by flipping a formula that reduces the increased health transfers – which he described as a wound – and beef up the health funds to provinces in addition to funding a national pharmacare.
“The first step, I believe, to gain confidence and be able to cancel some cynicism it, is to put an end to the wounds … to reinvest in health care, shows the provinces that we are serious about health care, increase investment in the transfer to health care and then propose a common, universal programs nationwide, “said Singh.
He remained vague about how much money the province should get, just say that the evaluation will be needed on how much they need.
With federal money on the table and more money for other services, Singh said he was confident the province would be convinced to pony up their share to help create 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 did not give details about what will cover and when the law allows may be introduced.
In a letter to the Minister of Health mandate Patty Hajdu, Trudeau said he expects him to “continue” to implement pharmacare, including establishing Canada Drug Agency and the national drug formulary to help make drug purchases more efficient and affordable for all Canadians.
This report by The Canadian Press first published January 23, 2020.
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