Singh mulls ‘consequences’ if pharmacare deadline isn’t met

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh speaks at a health-care rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle © THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is again saying he could pull support for the federal government if a deal is not reached on universal pharmacare in less than a month but adds the NDP could still go “vote to vote” on supporting policies.

The New Democrats are propping up the Liberal minority government and keeping it in power until next year through their supply and confidence agreement.

As part of that deal, the Liberals agreed to pass the Canada Pharmacare Act by the end of 2023. The New Democrats extended the deadline until March 1.

Video: Health Professionals Call for Universal Pharmacare

But the NDP leader said that as of his last meeting with the prime minister, he has not gotten “clear assurances this would be resolved” by then.

“My sense is I don’t know which way it’s going,” he told reporters at a news conference in Ottawa.

If the Liberals don’t live up to their end of their bargain, Singh insists their supply and confidence agreement will be over, a threat he has made before.

“We are not in any way required to continue to provide any support if they break their side of the agreement.”

But Singh stopped short of threatening to trigger a federal election over a missed deadline.

“There’s lots of alternatives,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t find other ways to pass other bills we support.

“We’ll go vote to vote.”

On his way into question period, NDP health critic Don Davies said the reason for the holdup is that Liberals won’t “commit” to a single-payer system for pharmacare.

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“We’ve insisted that is a cornerstone of the program,” added Davies. “They’ve been resistant.”

“It’s the fairest, most efficient, and most effective way of delivering pharmaceuticals to Canadians,” he said.

Right now, drugs are funded through a patchwork of public and private plans. A single-payer system would give all Canadians access to medications, including the one in five who are uninsured or only partially covered.

It would also ensure the same prescription drugs would be available across the country.

Last week Health Minister Mark Holland said the NDP needs to appreciate the challenging financial reality the federal government finds itself in.

“We can’t afford this to be a massively expensive program. We’re not in a time where the fiscal framework can absorb massive costs. And so that absolutely is a consideration,” Holland said.

An estimate from the parliamentary budget officer pegged the cost of a single-payer pharmacare program at $38.9 billion over the next four years.

Singh said he doesn’t expect money to be flowing immediately but wants to see legislation that lays the “foundation” for a deal.

— with files from David Baxter and Mackenzie Gray 

Source: Global News