Federal NDP pushing for national pharmacare program

NDP wants pharmacare

Earlier this week in Parliament, the NDP introduced the Canada Pharmacare Act.

This (proposed) legislation establishes a framework for universal, comprehensive and public pharmacare across Canada. It is not the first time we’ve tried to expand our health care system to include pharmacare, nor is it the first time I’ve written about pharmacare, but I’m hoping my next column on the topic is to discuss how it is making a difference across the country.

For more than 25 years, the Liberals have promised pharmacare, but they have yet to deliver on the promise. In fact, just the opposite. (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau teamed up with Conservatives to defeat the NDP’s Canada Pharmacare Act bill last year. But we said we wouldn’t stop, and we’re trying harder than ever.

It is well past the time for Canada to add medicine to Medicare. It is one issue that unites us. On nearly every doorstep, and in each conversation I have across our region, folks want pharmacare and 87% of Canadians support implementing a national pharmacare program to provide equal access to prescription drugs for everyone in Canada (Environics 2023). Our new bill does just that.

It's based on the principles of the Canada Health Act and follows the recommendations of the government’s own Hoskins’ report. No one should have to face the impossible choice between paying rent or filling a prescription, but that's the reality for millions of Canadians who pay the third highest prices for medication in the world.

After decades of delay, Canadians can’t afford to wait any longer. The opportunity is here.

New Democrats have already used our power to force the Liberal government to do something it didn’t want to do – agree to pass legislation for universal pharmacare by the end of the year.

Knowing the Liberals history of caving to Big Pharma and big insurance companies, we wanted to introduce our version of a Canada Pharmacare Act today, to be transparent with Canadians about our expectations. It is crucial the legislation is clear that the system will be universal and entirely public, so no one will have to pay out of pocket for their medication.

Ultimately, pharmacare will save Canadians $500 a year on average, and will save our public health care system $1,488 per patient per year.

So why are the Liberals dragging their feet? They delayed price reform of patented medication four times when it could have saved billions of dollars for Canadians. They watered down their initial reform from an estimated savings for Canadians of $13 billion to $3 billion.

Last November, after his department was lobbied 126 times by Big Pharma, the health minister interfered to suspend this watered-down reform, which caused the resignation of three members of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board.

This has to end, Canadians want a national pharmacare plan. They were promised a national pharmacare plan and they voted for a national pharmacare plan. Instead of defending the interests of Big Pharma and the insurance industry, we need to stand up for people.

Since the last election in 2021, the NDP has leveraged our support to force the government to help Canadians where they need it most. From delivering dental care for children, doubling the GST rebate and securing significant investments in childcare, we’re pushing hard. No one should go without the medicine they need because they can't afford it.

In the last year, I and the 24 other NDP Members of Parliament used our power to deliver the biggest expansion of health care in a generation—6.5 million Canadians will gain access to dental care.

The last time the NDP held the balance of power in two consecutive governments, it secured our Medicare system, Old Age Security and the Canadian Pension Plan. Now, we’re going to push until we pass the Canada Pharmacare Act.

Richard Cannings is the NDP MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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