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 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

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

Ladybug Landing Child Care Centre in Salmon Arm remains open as one person who was at the facility tested positive for COVID-19. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm daycare owner upset by rumours related to positive COVID-19 test

Ladybug Landing’s Leigh-Anne Chapman impressed by response from Interior Health

Police are seeking further witnesses after an elderly woman who was struck by a vehicle in Salmon Arm succumbed to her injuries. (File Photo)
Salmon Arm pedestrian dies after being hit by truck along Highway 1

Collision took place on Jan. 15 in downtown Salmon Arm, police looking for witnesses

Responding to recent cases of COVID-19 confirmed at Shuswap schools, School District 83 Superintendent Peter Jory has asked staff and the public to be vigilant when it comes to the practice of good behaviours that help prevent the virus’ spread. (File photo)
COVID-19: North Okanagan-Shuswap school communities asked be vigilant

Superintendent Peter Jory responds to increasing COVID-19 numbers at schools.

In a Jan. 18 notice, Interior Health and Salmon Arm West Elementary confirmed a member of the school community tested positive for COVID-19 and, due to a possible transmission, advised students who ride School District 83's Monkey Bus be monitored for symptoms of the virus. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
COVID-19 case reported at Salmon Arm West Elementary

Interior Health advises students who ride Monkey Bus be monitored for symptoms

Charlotte is one of the resident pigs at Star's Piggly Wiggly's Sanctuary near Kelowna. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Kelowna-area pig sanctuary needs a new home

Star’s Piggly Wiggly’s Sanctuary is looking for properties in Vernon, Coldstream, and Enderby

(Stock photo)
EDITORIAL: COVID-19 restrictions continue to affect us all

Canada has recorded more than 700,000 confirmed cases of pandemic

A couple living at the Summerland Waterfront Resort is trying to sell their unit because of strata changes which will require them to pay significantly higher strata fees or have their unit included in the resort’s rental pool (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Couple living at Summerland resort facing increases

Permanent residents of Summerland Waterfront Resort told fees will more than double

(Big White Ski Resort)
28 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

More than 200 cases have been identified since the cluster was announced

A cow moose wanders around the Silver Star Elementary School neighbourhood Tuesday, Jan. 19. (Contributed)
Moose chases two people near North Okanagan school

Conservation and dog control attending to the situation

The sale of the Kirschner Mountain Development for $22M marks the largest in Realtor history, in the Okanagan. (Contributed)
Kelowna mountain development sold for $22M

The sale of the 640-acre Kirschner Mountain development has made the history books

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

Most Read