Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/3/2018 (586 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Recently, the federal Liberals unveiled their 2018 budget.
While some items have generated a lot of discussion, it remains to be seen how much action will follow. Take the government’s Pharmacare budget announcement as an example.
The high cost of prescription drugs is a pressing issue for people in northeast Winnipeg. In February, I held a telephone town hall with the people of Elmwood-Transcona. Over 5,000 people were on the call and 35 per cent of those who participated in a straw poll said they or a family member had not filled, renewed or taken as prescribed, a prescription due to cost.
For a long time, New Democrats have proposed a national, universal Pharmacare plan that would provide drug coverage for all Canadians, paid for through the tax system according to people’s ability to pay. Another straw poll during the telephone town hall pegged support for that idea at 87 per cent.
The rest of Canada is right there alongside northeast Winnipeggers in supporting a National Pharmacare Plan. The Liberal government sees that and wants to associate itself with the idea.
They announced a new advisory council on the implementation of national Pharmacare to be led by a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister.
The curious thing was that there was no money announced to support the new council. Then, the day after the budget was released, the Finance Minister was already back-peddling on the promise.
He suggested the program might not apply to all Canadians, and that it might be a user-pay system. He said he preferred to keep the current patchwork of provincial programs in place and build the federal program to simply fill some of the gaps. People are rightly wondering why they would set up an advisory council if they already know what they want to do.
Above that, advocates for Pharmacare like the Canadian Doctors for Medicare and the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions have noted that the Finance Minister’s name-sake company, Morneau Shepell, is the largest provider of benefits consultancy services in Canada.
They have called on him to recuse himself from any discussions on the Pharmacare file to avoid any real or apparent conflicts of interest; a call I echoed in the House of Commons in the days following the budget.
What does this mean for people in Elmwood-Transcona worried about the cost of their prescription drugs? Will the Liberals cynically walk away from their promise on Pharmacare, as they did their promise on electoral reform? Or can they actually manage to get it right?
One thing I know for sure is that I do not trust they will get it right on their own. That is why I will proudly stand in the House to fight for a universal, public Pharmacare plan for the people in our community and across the country.
Elmwood-Transcona constituency report.
Daniel Blaikie is the NDP MP for Elmwood-Transcona.