2023 budget: Pharmacare bill left out

Ottawa –

Jagmeet Singh took a victory lap at his New Democratic Caucus Wednesday with a speech praising his party’s victory in the recent federal budget.

But the NDP leader’s speech and spending plan for 2023-24 conspicuously lacked a reference to one of his party’s biggest priorities: medicines.

The Confidence and Supply Agreement requires the government to introduce legislation on the Pharmacare Framework by the end of the calendar year in exchange for the NDP’s support for a major vote in the House of Representatives.

Both parties say it’s unclear when the program will be operational and when Canadians can start saving money when filling prescriptions, even if the bill is introduced by December. It is said that it is still on the way to becoming a reality.

Asked on Wednesday why the budget included several other NDP priorities and not pharmaceuticals, Singh said: “The only thing we could force the government to do is negotiate.” Stated.

The NDP is still claiming victory after the government announced on Tuesday that it had pledged to pour billions into new dental care programs and put in place anti-scab laws by the end of the year.

But while political pundits and Conservatives call it an NDP-inspired budget, the New Democrats say, if that’s true, funding for pharmaceuticals should have been part of it.

“Liberals don’t seem to be so committed,” Singh said Wednesday, noting that when the deal was first struck, the NDP struggled to persuade liberals to commit more than introducing a legislative framework. added.

David Tabaknick, a professor of political science at Nipissing College, says Pharmacare remains one of the only wedge issues that continue to divide the two parties.

“NDP and liberal are all in one except the name. I don’t know what colors red and orange are, but that’s what we’re going for.”

The Liberal Party campaigned in its 2019 election manifesto with a promise to implement nationwide universal pharmaceutical care. A similar commitment appears in the Royal Speech and the Power of Attorney to the Federal Minister of Health.

A panel of experts appointed by the Liberal Party found in 2019 that Canada should create a universal single-payer public pharmacy system to replace the current patchwork of prescription drug schemes. Recommended.

A commission led by former Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins reported that such a plan could save Canadians an estimated $5 billion each year.

“The huge increase in spending, in part due to the pandemic, really put it off the table,” said Lydia Miljan, a professor of political science at the University of Windsor.

She pointed out that the government expects a deficit of $40 billion in the next fiscal year.

“They don’t have the money, and … they’ll have to negotiate with the state like childcare. These aren’t one-off requests for funding. It’s hard to sell locally.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continued to sidestep the topic on Wednesday, saying his government would work with other jurisdictions to reduce drug prices for Canadians.

A year after the deal between liberals and the NDP, which was originally set to extend until 2025, Pharmacare has become the carrot that liberals hang on to keep support for the new Democrats, experts say. looks like.

They question if the liberals would actually pass the bill, even if it did.

“I think everyone sees writing on the wall with this,” Miljan said.

David McGrain, a professor of political science at the University of Saskatchewan, said the Liberal government is not going to give the NDP everything it wants. impression of being controlled.

“The liberals are very slow to get into pharmcare,” McGrain said. “They are doing as little as possible, but enough to fulfill the contract.”

Furthermore, liberals may want to keep future policies in their pockets for use in future election campaigns, he noted.

Pharmacare may not be the “centerpiece” of the next liberal campaign, but he said, “Why don’t we run another election and say, ‘Push Pharmacare forward’?

“Once the deal with Pharmacare goes through, I will not be able to run in the next election.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 29, 2023.

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