Universal pharmacare legislation to pass this year: health minister

Liberals to introduce own legislation rather than usher in NDP bill

Universal pharmacare legislation to pass this year: health minister

Legislation around Canada’s universal pharmacare program is coming before the end of this year, if things go as planned, according to the Ottawa health minister.

Mark Holland, who was appointed to the role late in July, said he plans to table the bill when the House of Commons returns. However, there is no more specific timeline for the tabling of the legislation.

"For my part, [conversations] are more nascent … just because of how recent I am to the role. But it certainly is our intention to proceed with legislation this fall," Holland said in a CBC report.

Passing the said legislation this year is a condition of the House of Commons supply-and-confidence agreement between the Liberals and the NDP, according to the report.

That means the government's legislation will need to pass through the House of Commons and the Senate, and then undergo two committee studies before Parliament breaks in December.

In 2021, Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, promised to push policies that will protect essential workers and their conditions, including a guaranteed liveable income and universal pharmacare.

‘Crucial that the legislation be clear’

Holland also said that the government plans to introduce its own pharmacare legislation rather than usher the New Democratic Party (NDP) bill through the House, according to the CBC report.

The NDP bill was introduced in June, with the party hoping to pressure the government to uphold that portion of the confidence-and-supply agreement.

"The goal is to pass every legislative stage before the end of the year. That's the aim here," an NDP spokesperson said, according to the CBC report.

NDP's bill was meant to lay out New Democrats' expectations for the pharmacare program, said NDP health critic Don Davies in the report.

"It is crucial that the legislation be clear that the system is universal, comprehensive and entirely public, so no one will have to pay out of pocket for their medication," Davies said in a media statement.

"Only a single-payer pharmacare system will achieve the savings, efficiencies and fairness that is the hallmark of Canadian medicare. Anything less will be unacceptable to Canadians and the NDP."

In 2019, a six-member national advisory council urged the federal government to work in partnership with provincial and territorial governments to establish a public system for prescription drug coverage, while also establishing a national formulary of prescription drugs, beginning with an essential list by Jan. 1, 2022 — with full implementation scheduled for 2027.

In 2021, the introduction of a national universal pharmacare program for Canada took a further step after Ottawa and Prince Edward Island signed an agreement.

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