Following failed vote NUPGE again calls for action on pharmacare

NUPGE says defeat of Bill C-213, the Canada Pharmacare Act, must not be the end for pharmacare. Federal legislation to enact universal public pharmacare is needed now! 

Ottawa (25 Feb. 2021) -- The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is calling on the federal government to table government legislation similar to Bill C-213, the Canada Pharmacare Act. Bill C-213 was an NDP private members’ bill which provided a solid framework for universal public pharmacare but was defeated by Liberal, Conservative and Bloc MPs.

"We are deeply disappointed that the Liberal government chose to put partisan politics above their commitment to deliver a national pharmacare program," said Larry, Brown, NUPGE President. 

"Despite the Prime Minister assertion that his government will deliver national pharmacare for Canadians. He and a majority of the Liberal caucus joined the Conservatives and Bloc to defeat the bill. The Prime Minister now, to meet his own promise to Canadians, must table its own universal pharmacare legislation.

Pharmacare legislation must be a priority

NUPGE believes there is a need to have a federal framework in place for pharmacare, as a precursor to negotiating with the provincial and territorial governments. This framework within which the federal government would then negotiate with provinces for implementation of universal public pharmacare, including respecting the principles of the Canada Health Act as a condition of getting federal funding. 

Government must act to meet advisory council timelines

Acting expeditiously may still allow this government to meet the clear timelines outlined by the panel they commissioned to advise them on pharmacare, the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. The blueprint outlined by the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare stated that legislation needed to be concluded by the end of 2021, followed by implementation of full pharmacare in 2022. 

The pandemic has left Canadians vulnerable, pharmacare would help

For too long, Canada has been an outlier, as the only country with universal health care that does not include prescription drug coverage. The pandemic has only increased the need for pharmacare as millions of Canadians were plunged into unemployment and precarity, losing their private prescription drug benefits which are tied to employment. Under our current system, losing a job often means losing prescription drug coverage just when you need it most.

The cost of not having pharmacare is to high

The cost of not having pharmacare is payed by patients who go without the medication they need at a cost to their well-being. It is also payed by our public health are system, which is forced to deal with patients whose conditions become critical or chronic because they cannot access prescription drugs. As it is, Canadians pay the third highest price in the world, on average, for prescription drugs. Implementing pharmacare would allow for negotiations to lower costs within a national framework, and has been estimated to save from $4-$11 billion dollars annually.

The evidence and promises demand action

Beyond the inflated costs, the needless suffering and death caused by our current ad hoc system has been criticized for decades. The Hall Commission, National Forum on Health and the Romanow Commission are just a few of the government commissions which have recommended universal public pharmacare.  The last election saw 3 of the 4 national federal parties promise pharmacare in their platforms, including the governing Liberals. The Liberal-controlled parliamentary health committee recommended pharmacare and Justin Trudeau has tasked his health ministers with implementing pharmacare as part of their ministerial mandate.

Act on Pharmacare for Canadians; which side is the government on?

"The vote by the Liberal and Conservative MPs against Bill C-213 must not be allowed to be the last word on pharmacare from this government, "said Brown. "It is within the power of this government to implement universal public pharmacare and to fulfill their promise to Canadians."

"All credible research and recommendations point to the need for universal public pharmacare," said Brown. 

Financial projections by the Parliamentary Budget Officer and others, point to vast annual savings once we implement pharmacare. Effectively, it is only private insurers, big pharma and those who support their interests who are opposed to pharmacare. Canadians overwhelmingly want pharmacare as borne out by numerous polls. What is urgently missing and needed is action from this Prime Minister and this government.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE