Pharmacare talks with Liberals ‘not looking very promising’: NDP

Talks between the Liberals and the NDP for framework legislation on pharmaceutical care “don’t look very promising at this point,” according to a lead negotiator of the confidence and supply agreement between the parties.

The March 1 deadline for the federal government to introduce framework legislation on pharmaceutical care as part of its confidence and supply agreement with the NDP is fast approaching.

The pact sees the NDP support the Liberals until 2025 in exchange for progress on key priorities, including pharmaceutical care.

Anne McGrath, who recently left her position as NDP national director to become “principal secretary” to leader Jagmeet Singh, said in a radio interview on The Vassy Kapelos Show on Wednesday that while she still believes it is “entirely possible” , the Liberals present a proposed plan in the next two weeks, “it is also very possible that it will not be acceptable.”

If the latter is the case, McGrath said, his advice would be for the NDP to “take the position that the Liberals have walked away” from the confidence and supply agreement, and the agreement would come to an end.

However, he added that he believes it would be “really unfortunate” if the parties scrapped the pact now.

“I’ve been feeling pretty confident and optimistic about all the things we were able to achieve, the things we were able to push the Liberal government to do in the deal, and I want to get those things done,” she said. “But I don’t think we should be willing to accept really weakened commitments; I think we really need to, as the agreement says, move forward.”

The Liberals and NDP had originally set a deadline to pass the framework legislation at the end of last year, but in the fall decided to push the deadline to introduce that legislation to March 1.

“There were some negotiations that were getting closer, right up until Christmas, so we agreed to an extension to see if we could get to the finish line,” McGrath said. “And I’m not sure if there’s a commitment from the Liberals to actually do what’s required.”

McGrath said what the Liberals proposed to the NDP in the fall was “unacceptable” and they haven’t seen any bills since the new year.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux estimates that the total cost of a universal, single-payer pharmaceutical care program would be about $11 billion a year.

And while Health Minister Mark Holland has warned that the federal government “cannot afford for this to be a hugely expensive program,” McGrath said she is “baffled” that price is the main element. deterrent to liberals.

“And I think it’s disingenuous to talk about these big numbers, when they know, and we know, and I think you probably know, that that’s not what we’ve been talking about at this early stage,” he said. “We want the legislative framework and some initial steps.”

Last week, Singh warned that he would put the prime minister “on notice” about the issue, adding that there will be “repercussions” if the Liberals do not bring forward sufficient framework legislation on pharmaceutical care by next month.

He also noted that he will consider a missed deadline to mean the Liberals have “walked away” from their confidence and supply agreement.

Then on Tuesday, he doubled down, saying he told the prime minister and the Liberals that they “can’t keep fooling Canadians” and that he hopes to see legislation that “lays the foundation” for a universal single-payer system. .

“I feel like they may be losing a sense of urgency in this,” McGrath said, adding there is certainly a sense of urgency on the part of the NDP, which has already extended the deadline to introduce framework legislation “in good faith.”

Holland, in an interview with Kapelos broadcast Sunday on CTV’s Question Period, said the Liberals are not “pulling the fire alarm” on their deal with the NDP, and that he has “full confidence” they will meet the deadline. from March 1st.

However, when asked if the framework will be for a single-payer system, Holland did not specify, saying only that it is not “ideologically tied to any particular option.”

Meanwhile, NDP health critic Don Davies told reporters Tuesday that his party has “drawn a red line” and insisted that a single-payer system is “the cornerstone” of the program, adding that any legislation presented must, at the very least, “move towards that”.

Davies specifically pointed to diabetes medications and contraceptives as two categories that he believes getting coverage under a single-payer model is “eminently feasible.”

And McGrath told Kapelos that a universal single-payer system “was always the intention” in the NDP’s deal with the Liberals.

“I don’t know, potentially they were more concerned about political survival at the time or whatever,” he said. “I don’t know what it was, but somehow it seems to have occurred to them that this means actually doing something about it.”

“Our position on this has been pretty clear from the beginning,” he added.

With files from The Vassy Kapelos Show producer Noah Wachter, CTV News’ Rachel Hanes and’s Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter Rachel Aiello.

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