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Provincial health ministers call on Ottawa to fund pharmacare, advisory council promises consultations

Our handimation video and petition in support of pharmacare.

The Canadian Press reports, “Canada’s health ministers say they are moving closer to a national pharmacare program, but questions remain over who will pay for it and how broad it will be. After meeting with her provincial counterparts on Friday, federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said different models are being considered by an advisory council led by former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins, who spoke to the ministers.”

The terms of reference set by the federal government state that the advisory council will study how to “best implement national pharmacare in a manner that is affordable for Canadians and their families, employers and governments.”

In contrast, a report on pharmacare released by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health this past April recommended a universal single-payer public prescription drug plan over reforming some mixture of existing public and private workplace health insurance plans to ensure wider coverage.

The Canadian Press notes, “Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter warned that the provinces will oppose pharmacare if Ottawa requires it under the Canada Health Act but does not help pay for it.”

The Winnipeg Free Press adds, “Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services Gaétan Barrette [says] ‘We know what the devil is, and it’s funding.’ …Newfoundland and Labrador Minister of Health and Community Services John Haggie said his cash-strapped province is hoping Ottawa will be the primary funder for national pharmacare. Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen echoed that sentiment, hoping Ottawa will cough up most of the cash.”

The Globe and Mail has previously reported, “[Ontario’s Doug Ford has] resisted the federal push to consider a national pharmacare program.”

The Winnipeg Free Press highlights, “Petitpas Taylor said she heard loud and clear from the ministers: they are craving funding boosts from Ottawa, especially when it comes to a pending national pharmacare plan.”

Hoskins is expected to provide another update to the ministers on the advisory council’s work in September, while his final report to the government is due in spring 2019 just prior to the October 21, 2019 federal election.

On June 20, the Trudeau government announced the members of the advisory council chaired by Hoskins. The Toronto Star reports they are: Nadine Caron (an Indigenous surgeon from the University of British Columbia), Mia Homsy (director general of the Institute du Quebec), Camille Orridge (senior fellow at the Wellesley Institute), Diana Whalen (a former Liberal finance minister in Nova Scotia), Vincent Dumez (University of Montreal Faculty of Medicine) and John Wright (former Saskatchewan deputy minister of health).

That article highlights, “The advisory council will spend the next few months consulting with provinces, territories, Indigenous leaders, health experts and Canadians. Its final report is due next spring and will provide the government with recommendations on how to implement a national pharmacare program. …In the coming weeks, Canadians will be invited to share their views on pharmacare through an online questionnaire and through written submissions. After that, the council will meet with Canadians, health care experts, patients, stakeholders, and provincial, territorial and Indigenous leaders across Canada.”

The web-page for the National Pharmacare Online Consultation can be found here. It notes that a “Questionnaire” is “coming soon”.

The Council of Canadians supports the Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff’s call for the federal government to hold town hall meetings on the issue of moving forward on pharmacare.

For more on our pharmacare campaign, please click here.