If elected, the provincial Liberals are committed to partnering with Ottawa to introduce a national Pharmacare program in Manitoba, leader Dougald Lamont says.
"Too many Manitobans and too many Canadians can't afford their medications," he told reporters Wednesday. "While there are lots of people who are extremely concerned about costs to the system, the human costs of people not being able to afford their medication are catastrophic."
Lamont said one in 10 Manitobans currently can't afford their medication, and his party would partner with any elected federal government that introduces a Pharmacare plan.
The commitment was spurred by a report released in June by the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, which called for each province to opt in, Lamont said, and because it would be funded through a federal funding transfer, it would come at no cost to the provincial health-care system.
Manitobans go to the polls Tuesday.
The Liberals, who have the support of about one in five Manitobans, according to recent polls, say the policy will result in a total savings of $121.1 million per year — an amount they estimate would save Manitoban families an average of $350.
According to the advisory council report, people receiving social assistance, government disability benefits or a federal guaranteed income supplement benefit would be exempt from co-payments. If implemented, the policy would cap spending, ensuring no person pays more than $100 per year on drugs.
Lamont was critical of the Progressive Conservatives track record on Pharmacare, saying the party has shown a "pattern of obstruction and delays" to a variety of health-related programs, and blasted leader Brian Pallister's "Grand Bargain" strategy for saving. In February, Pallister said federal funding for health care was too low, and he'd prefer provinces to be given paramount responsibility over the file.
"No federal funding, no national Pharmacare, Pallister's 'Grand Bargain' would effectively spell an end for national medicare as we know it so that provinces can pursue more private options, which the vast majority of Manitobans and Canadians cannot afford," Lamont said.
A PC party spokesman later countered Lamont's claims, and took a jab at the federal Liberals.
"We have continually made clear that we would like a meeting to discuss the proposed national Pharmacare program with the federal government," the spokesman said in an email.
"Dougald Lamont and the Manitoba Liberals claim a better partnership is needed between the federal and provincial government. We agree, and ask for their help to get the federal Liberals to the table."
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
Updated on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 at 4:02 PM CDT: Adds comment from Tories.