Pangaea Express: Bill to Enact Pharmacare is Defeated

March 2, 2021

By Marla Weingarten

On February 24, the private members Bill C-213, An Act to enact the Canada Pharmacare Act, was defeated. This Bill, tabled last February 2020 by NDP MP, Peter Julian, had the support of all members of the NDP and Green Party, one Conservative, two Liberal and two independents MPs.

The Liberal Government that had been promising national universal pharmacare since the 2019 budget and again more recently in September 2020’s Throne speech, now appears to understand that they cannot go this route without buy-in from the provinces. While Prime Minister Trudeau spoke to his continued support for national pharmacare at the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session on February 24, 2021 he stated, “any actions must be taken with provinces and territories, and not unilaterally imposed upon the provinces and territories” and that “we will work in partnership and respect constitutional jurisdictions.”

On November 18, 2020 when Bill C-213 was read for the second time, Bloc MP Yves Perron commented, “The Government of Quebec has decided that it does not want to be part of a Canada-wide pharmacare system.” Other provinces, including Ontario had previously expressed a lack of interest in a national program. The Premiers called on the Feds to “rebalance the funding partnership” with an increase in the Canada Health Transfer. 1

It seems the Feds understand they cannot implement a national pharmacare program without the buy-in from those who will be responsible for its implementation – the provinces. This appears to be quite a change in events given just last October, Minister Hadju felt that once implemented in some provinces and territories, others would recognize the success of the national program and want to join. 2

Will the Liberals continue to work towards a national universal program for all Canadians or perhaps decide to focus their efforts on those Canadians who truly do not have any prescription drug coverage and build a system to fill in the gaps? Perhaps as well, they will direct their energy towards their strategy for rare diseases and hopefully ensure all Canadians have access to some of the life-saving drugs available in other countries.

For more information, please contact Marla Weingarten.

1 Rebalancing, the Health Care Funding Partnership, Ocotober 2020

2 Hill Times Research Federal Minister Quote