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NEWS: BC, Ontario, Manitoba raise concerns about CETA and drug costs

Postmedia News reports, “Provincial governments are expressing concern about the prospect of sharply higher prescription drug prices for Canadians if the Harper government accepts European Union demands for expanded drug patent protection laws. The British Columbia, Ontario and Manitoba governments have all recently made their views public, and a source said other provinces share those concerns about the EU’s demand for measures that would benefit brand-name makers to the detriment of companies producing cheaper generic knock-offs.”

“B.C. has taken ‘a very strong position’ on the issue, (minister of jobs Pat) Bell told the B.C. legislature Monday in response to aggressive questioning from provincial New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix. …In Toronto on Tuesday, provincial Liberal Finance Minister Dwight Duncan was also pressed by the NDP about economist Don Drummond’s recent report on Ontario’s dire financial situation. …Duncan’s reply this week focused on concern about the health of the generic drug industry in relation to Canada-EU talks. …Manitoba’s NDP government, meanwhile, sent a letter to the Council of Canadians last month saying it has made clear to the Harper government that the EU’s demands are of ‘vital concern’ to the province.”

“One academic study frequently cited in provincial circles concluded last year that prescription drug payers — consumers, companies, unions and government insurers — would pay an extra $2.8 billion annually if Europe’s demands are met. Ontario, which like all provinces is struggling with aging populations and soaring health-care costs, would experience the biggest cost rise at $1.2 billion. Quebec was next at $773 million, followed by B.C. ($249 million) and Alberta ($212 million), according to the study by two academics that was funded by the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association.”

“The federal government, which last week launched a public relations offensive in favour of the proposed Canada-EU trade and investment agreement, would provide only a broad comment in reaction to the allegations. …Jason Langrish, executive director of the Canada-Europe Roundtable for Business, said it’s possible Canada will go part-way towards appeasing Brussels. ‘The EU position as conveyed to us is ‘no deal without substantial movement on these issues,’ so I’d suspect they will get something. It’s hard to say if it will be everything that they are asking for,’ Langrish said. …Veteran Canadian trade lawyer Milos Barutciski, who represents a company in the generic industry, questioned whether the Harper government would sign a deal on drug patents that would upset provincial governments and raise drug prices for seniors. …’The federal government has plenty of room to manoeuvre on this issue and does not have to give in to the European pharmaceuticals wish list,’ he said.”

For more on the Council of Canadians campaign against CETA, please go to To read Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew’s blog on questioning in provincial legislatures on this issue earlier in the week, see

We will continue to follow (and foster) provincial opposition to increased drug costs under CETA. It is important to remember that in October 2011, the Globe and Mail reported, “Some experts warn the issue could make or break the entire trade pact”,