NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Wednesday he does not expect to see legislation to create a national pharmacare system in next week’s fall economic statement because negotiations with the Liberals are “ongoing.”
Singh made the remarks in Toronto, where he was outlining what he wants to see in Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s fall economic statement, which will be presented on Nov. 21.
Under the confidence-and-supply agreement between the Liberals and the NDP — which sees New Democrats support the Liberal minority government on confidence votes in exchange for progress on NDP policy priorities — the Liberal government committed to passing pharmacare legislation by the end of 2023. Parliament is only sitting for another four weeks between now and the end of the year.
“I don’t think that we are going to get to the point where we need to get on pharmacare next week, so that’s going to be an ongoing negotiation. So I’m not worried about next week in terms of pharmacare,” Singh said.
He said the NDP will keep pushing the Liberals to craft an agreement it can live with. He said New Democrats won’t accept a pharmacare plan that fails to help everyone.
Health Minister Mark Holland’s office said negotiations with the NDP are “progressing constructively” and the minister has a “good working relationship” with NDP health critic Don Davies. The statement did not commit to passing pharmacare legislation by the end of the year.
“The minister looks forward to continued conversations with the NDP as well as all parliamentarians and stakeholders to develop a universal pharmacare plan that Canadians can be proud of,” the statement said.
“Our goal remains to table our pharmacare legislation this year.”
Singh said he’s seen a draft of federal pharmacare legislation. He said his party sent it back to the Liberals because it could not agree with one of the major elements of the proposed bill.
“The Liberals want to leave the door open for some form of mixed public-private, where the pharmaceutical industries continue to make huge profits,” he said.
“We don’t care about them. We don’t want to appease them. We want to make sure Canadians can afford their medication.That’s our priority.”
Singh was asked several times if he would pull out of the confidence-and-supply agreement with the Liberals if pharmacare legislation is not passed by the end of the year. He sidestepped, saying he’s confident the NDP and Liberals can find common ground.
The NDP says it wants a public, universal, single-payer pharmacare system, rather than one that permits private medical plans with drug coverage.
Groceries and rent
Singh said he wants the economic statement to include measures to lower rents and bring down the cost of groceries.
“I want to see real investments in building affordable housing,” he said. “Places where people can afford to rent, ways to bring down the cost of rent. That’s what I want to see in this economic statement.”
Speaking in Mascouche, Que., Freeland pointed out that she and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne met with the CEOs of major grocery chains to ask them to come up with plans to stabilize prices. She added there are other ways to get prices down.
“We need to make a major change in Canadian competition law,” she said. “A very important way to bring prices down is through competition.
“We need to bring more competition into the Canadian economy, particularly in the grocery sector.”
Freeland said she and Champagne are working on that approach and are looking “forward to bringing some meaningful advances forward.”