The Broadbent Institute joined the Canadian Federation of Nurses' Union, Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Doctors for Medicare, Unifor, and York University, among other key stakeholders from labour, health and advocacy organizations to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, and the President of the Treasury Board of Canada, Mona Fortier for bold action towards implementing a national, universal, single-payer, public pharmacare program in the Economic and Fiscal Update and in the 2022 Federal Budget.
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Freeland, Minister Duclos and Minister Fortier:
In a few weeks’ time, we will have reached the first major milestone of the federal government’s Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare’s recommendations timeline. According to the Advisory Council’s recommendations, by January 1, 2022, universal coverage for a list of essential medicines should be in place as the first part of a national, universal, single-payer, public pharmacare program.
In pronouncements subsequent to the report’s release, the Liberal government committed to being guided by its Advisory Council’s recommendations, and through Throne Speeches and Ministerial mandate letters your government promised to implement this vitally important program.
Rather than marking a milestone in which we can all take pride and celebrate, January 1, 2022, will be marked by yet another year gone by during which millions of Canadians have been unable to access the medicines they need. We are nowhere near reaching the first milestone of essential medicines coverage, keeping a full, comprehensive national formulary that much further out of reach.
The Economic and Fiscal Update and Budget 2022 are opportunities to demonstrate in a concrete way that the Liberal government will keep its promise on pharmacare. Canadians hope to see a firm financial commitment of – at a minimum – $3.5 billion towards essential medicines coverage as recommended by the Advisory Council.
Anything less risks confirming concerns expressed by a growing number of Canadians who have come to question the Liberal government’s commitment to follow the Advisory Council’s recommendations. Establishing the Canadian Drug Agency Transition Office and funding a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases, while important, is insufficient progress to assuage these concerns.
We applauded your government’s bold vision and commitments to usher in a universal early-learning and child care program. It demonstrated unequivocally that the federal government can indeed move ahead on implementing a national program in the absence of a consensus among the provinces and territories. And it demonstrates yet again that if the necessary funding is brought to the table, universal programs can be implemented under the leadership of the federal government.
Failing to implement a national, universal, single-payer, public pharmacare program deprives millions of people in Canada of equal access to their needed medications. We know that low-income and racialized people in Canada feel this impact the most. Canada is the sole outlier on this issue among countries that have a universal public health care system, and implementing such a program would lead to $5 billion a year in savings for prescription drug spending.
As organizations that have advocated for many years on this issue, we urge you to renew Canadians’ confidence that your government will fulfil its commitment on pharmacare.
We look forward to seeing bold action toward implementing a national, universal, single-payer, public pharmacare program in the Economic and Fiscal Update and in the 2022 Federal Budget.