NDP and Liberals set new deadline for introduction of pharmacare bill

NDP and Liberals set new deadline for introduction of pharmacare bill
Health Minister Mark Holland arrives to a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.

The NDP and Liberals have agreed to a new March 1 deadline for the federal government to introduce pharmacare legislation in the House of Commons, as part of their supply-and-confidence deal.

The minority Liberals had promised to pass a law by the end of the year that would set the foundations for a future pharamcare program, as part of their political pact with the NDP to secure support on key votes.

But so far, the parties have not been able to come to a consensus on exactly what that framework should look like, which has stalled negotiations.

The New Democrats rejected a draft of the bill earlier this year and insisted on a universal, single-payer program.

“We know that many people are not taking the medication they need because they can’t afford to, and this is getting worse as Canadians are struggling with the high cost of living,” NDP health critic Don Davies said in a statement.

“Given that context, continuing progress towards a universal national pharmacare program is more important than ever. We must get this right.”

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Health Minister Mark Holland has repeatedly cited the need to be fiscally responsible. When asked about the status of the bill on Tuesday, Holland said it “is not an easy thing to come to terms on.”

The House of Commons is scheduled to rise for the holidays by Friday and return on Jan. 29.

Davies said earlier this week that the parties were in almost daily talks, and that tabling a bill before the break wasn’t out of the question. The new deadline allows for those negotiations to be extended for months.

Both parties said the negotiations are still constructive.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2023.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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