NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Wednesday he warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a recent closed-door meeting that there will be “repercussions” if the government misses a March 1 deadline to introduce pharmaceutical care legislation. .
Singh meets occasionally with Trudeau to discuss the terms of the supply and confidence agreement between their two parties, in which the New Democrats support the government in key votes in the House of Commons in exchange for progress on policy priorities. Singh described Monday’s meeting as “tough.”
“I made it clear to the prime minister that we expect legislation and we expect the government to take steps to go further, and we expect that by March 1,” Singh told reporters in Parliament.
“I put him on notice… If not, there will be repercussions.”
Under the terms of the 2022 NDP-Liberal deal, the party hopes for legislation outlining the principles of pharmaceutical care and a plan to begin covering some drugs by 2025.
In November, the government admitted it would miss the deal’s original timeline, which called for the pharmaceutical legislation to be passed by 2024. The New Democrats said missing the deadline would cost the Liberals.
“We said since they missed the deadline, we expect more, and we will let you know in the next few days what it is,” Singh said Wednesday.
A senior NDP source who is not authorized to speak publicly told CBC in January that the NDP has asked the Liberals to fast-track coverage of several life-saving medications for conditions like diabetes while it works on pharmaceutical care legislation. .
The source said the Liberals agreed to cover fewer than five medications. Health Minister Mark Holland’s office did not confirm that report.
The NDP source said coverage is expected to begin sooner rather than later, but could not say exactly when.
On Wednesday, Singh accused the Liberals of seeking a plan that would please the pharmaceutical industry and “big insurers.”
While the agreement between the Liberals and the NDP does not define pharmaceutical care, the New Democrats have insisted on a universal system that is publicly delivered and managed, with the federal government as single payer.
The insurance industry has warned against adopting the NDP’s preferred model, saying it would disrupt workplace health insurance plans. New Democrats have not called for an end to employment insurance programs.
Holland did not immediately respond to Singh’s comments. He has said in the past that the government is operating in a “constrained fiscal environment” and that “ambition must be tempered.”
NDP health critic Don Davies said negotiations with the government have been productive.
“I think we’re actually pretty close to getting legislation that meets our needs,” Davies said.
Davies said he would meet with Holland on Friday or next week.
In 2019, a federal advisory council led by former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins urged Canada to implement universal, single-payer public pharmaceutical care.
Their report estimated that such a program would cost the federal government $3.5 billion annually if it began covering essential medications. The same report found that ensuring a more complete list of medications would cost $15.3 billion a year, but Canada would save $5 billion in prescription drug costs.
Introducing pharmaceutical care legislation would not necessarily require spending billions of dollars up front. The NDP calls for a phased approach that phases in national drug coverage.
That’s basically how Medicare was implemented across the country. In 1957, Ottawa first offered to cover hospital visits, following in the footsteps of the Saskatchewan government. Canadians still had to pay for doctor visits.
Lester Pearson’s government introduced the Health Care Act in 1966, offering to share the costs of medical services. It was not until 1972 that all provinces and territories had universal public insurance for medical services.
However, decades later, Canada is the only developed nation in the world with a publicly funded universal system that does not include prescription drugs.