MP feels national pharmacare plan is politically driven

Pharmacare politics

Last week, I talked about the ongoing partnership between the federal Liberal government and the federal NDP.

The (government) introduced a new bill it claims will create a national pharma-care program that would be managed by the federal government.

I ended my report with the following question: "Do you already have pharmacare coverage? If so, are you satisfied with your current pharmacare coverage, or do you believe a federal pharmacare plan would benefit you? Why or why not?"

I'm thankful to everyone who took the time to give detailed responses to those questions, as it helped me better understand the views of those I represent.

When I wrote the last week’s column, the details of the (proposed) plan from the Liberal/NDP partnership weren't out yet. Late last week, the government introduced Bill C-64, "An Act respecting Pharmacare", and I can now provide more information.

Most notably, the first part of the opening summary of Bill C-64 states: "This enactment sets out the principles that the Minister of Health is to consider when working towards the implementation of national universal pharmacare…"

This admission is important as it clarifies the Bill does not establish a national pharmacare plan, contrary to what has been mistakenly reported by some media outlets.

Another noteworthy aspect is: “The minister may, if the minister has entered into an agreement with a province or territory to do so, make payments to the province or territory in order to increase any existing public pharmacare coverage…”

That clause is notable as it explicitly indicates funding could be provided directly to a province to enhance an existing provincially provided pharmacare program.

For provinces such as Quebec and Alberta, which have already expressed potential interest in opting out of a federal pharmacare plan, that clause could influence their decision.

Many people are asking which drugs will be covered and how this will work.

While Bill C-64 does not specify certain drugs, it does suggest prescription drugs and related products intended for contraception or the treatment of diabetes would be the primary focus.

The proposal includes publishing a pan-Canadian strategy regarding the appropriate use of prescription drugs and related products. It also suggests creating a committee of experts to provide specific recommendations.

I find the latter point particularly interesting. The government frequently endorses pan-Canadian strategies. While these strategies often appear effective on paper, their practical application can yield different results.

For instance, the Liberals' Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change has led to a federal carbon tax being imposed on some provinces against their will.
One province is now openly opposing the federal government on this issue. Another province was exempted from the national carbon tax, resulting in lower overall costs through a ‘cap and trade’ mechanism. Additionally, a carbon tax exemption on home heating oil was recently established, predominantly benefiting Atlantic Canada.

All these decisions are politically driven. Remember, Bill C-64 was a political promise resulting from the partnership between the Liberals and NDP to support Prime Minister Trudeau in this minority Parliament.

In my opinion, Bill C-64 seems to create the illusion of establishing a national pharmacare program. It allows the Liberals and NDP to claim political cover for a promise they haven't fulfilled.

Given that healthcare, and by extension pharmacare, continue to be provincially delivered services, I am concerned this will introduce another expensive layer of bureaucracy in Ottawa, primarily for political reasons.

My question this week is as follows:

Do you support the establishment of this so-called national pharmacare program, or do you believe existing provincial programs should remain the primary service delivery system? Why or why not?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

Dan  is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active Members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and also continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern. 

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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