What the premiers think about a national pharmacare plan
OTTAWA -- A national pharmacare plan has been promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and is expected to be mentioned in Thursday's throne speech, but getting the bill passed with a minority may not be the Liberals' biggest hurdle.
It's a pledge that the NDP and Greens also campaigned on and are likely to help pass should the Liberals want to act swiftly, though if the latest declaration from Canada's premiers is any indication, implementing a nation-wide plan could be met with challenges.
The premiers met in Mississauga, Ont. on Monday and wrapped the meeting with a unified call for the federal government to increase funding by 5.2 per cent to the Canada Health Transfer. They also discussed national pharmacare and emphasized that, should the federal Liberals forge ahead with their election promise, provinces should be allowed to opt-out.
As they stated in their joint communique: "Any program must be developed in partnership with provinces and territories."
In the Liberal's 2019 election platform, pharmacare was one of the biggest commitments left un-costed. This pledge was wrapped into a $6-billion commitment for several public health initiatives, such as ensuring access to family doctors; setting standards for mental health services; and making home care and palliative care more available.
Other estimates project that a national pharmacare plan could cost more than $15 billion.
The premiers were asked about their positions on a national pharmacare plan at the meeting's closing press conference. Here's what those who responded had to say:
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister: "If you can't sustain healthcare and all the multitude of services that we offer, effectively, then we will have lineups grow as they have grown over the last number of years right across the country in every category… if you can't get that right, don’t start with another program, get that right, start by getting that right, because there are too many people across this country waiting far too long to get care."
British Columbia Premier John Horgan: "British Columbia has a comprehensive pharmacare program already…. We would welcome dialogue with the federal government on standards across the country… We were welcoming a discussion about a national pharmacare plan but those of us who already have significant plans would prefer that we first and foremost get back to a more equitable distribution of resources to deliver healthcare broadly."
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe: "We have a very similar, what we view as a comprehensive program, similar to British Columbia's, but if the federal government does want to engage on an additional effort on pharmacare, that's fine, it needs to be fair for all Canadians and it needs to be funded by the federal government."
Quebec Premier Francois Legault: "In Quebec we already have a pharmacare program so that's why I was happy that we all agree to ask for an opting-out clause to the federal government."
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney: Speaking in French, Kenney said his position is the same as Quebec's.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball: "This will get more expensive, drugs and diseases are becoming more complicated, more complex… If indeed we go down this road it has to be long-term, it has to be sustainable. The last thing we want to see is a program that comes in and is eroded… We could put a big focus on wait times, and we could reduce our wait times, but if when they leave that physician's office, or leave that health practitioner's office and they need medication and they can't afford it then, then what was the point of reducing the waitlist?"