Liberals need to stop making Canadians wait for the medicines they need

The pandemic is showing what is already true: that depending on employers to cover Canadians’ pharmaceutical costs does not work.

CNC Editorial Team

In a country of 38 million, only 15 million Canadians now have full-time employment, Statistics Canada reported on Friday. Over 1.5 million are looking for work and almost 3.5 million Canadians are working part-time.

Yet after decades of reports and promises, most Canadians’ access to the medicines they need is still tied to employer-paid drug plans, excluding millions of Canadians.

The pandemic is showing what is already true: that depending on employers to cover Canadians’ pharmaceutical costs does not work.

Canada needs pharmacare even more urgently now than before COVID-19 started razing our country. 

With COVID-19 cases spiking throughout the country and no end in sight to shutdowns, job losses are mounting. And for some, it’s much more than a loss of income – it’s a lost access to the medicines that stabilize their lives. 

This week the Liberal government had a chance to protect Canadians’ access to their medications. In her Fall Economic Statement, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland committed billions in cash transfusions to businesses until this crisis is over. She committed to another $100 billion in post-COVID recovery investment.

Yet Freeland made no mention of pharamacare – despite Liberals committing to pharmacare in last year’s election and again in this year’s throne speech. 

This latest disappointment comes despite a report,  late last year, from former Liberal health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins, that said universal pharmacare is possible and needed – urgently.

If the Trudeau government won’t act now, when Canadians' access to drug plans is being eroded, it’s a worrying signal the Liberals have no intention to make pharmacare more than a promise.

Last March, an NDP motion to move forward with pharmacare passed in the Commons with Liberal support. Now NDP MP Peter Julian has tabled Bill C-213, which would establish a universal pharmacare plan for Canadians. Julian’s bill is currently in second reading and could pass early next year.

But to pass C-213 and put in place a legally-binding plan to implement pharmacare, Liberals need to vote with the New Democrat MPs. Unfortunately, there’s no indication they will, despite promises.

Meanwhile, the millions of Canadians without a drug plan wait and make painful choices.

It is well past time for Liberals to show their support for Peter Julian’s Bill C-213 – and legally commit Canada’s government to delivering a national, universal pharmacare program.

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