There are 20 sitting days left in the House of Commons before the holiday break, meaning a deadline is fast approaching for a key part of the Liberal-NDP supply and confidence deal: the adoption and tabling of a law on drug insurance.
“I absolutely think it is possible to introduce legislation. Whether or not we can get through all the steps, I mean, that’s another question,” Health Minister Mark Holland said at an event in Winnipeg.
Despite the tight schedule, Holland says he remains “confident” in the relationship with the NDP.
“I understand… the desire to venture into hypotheses, but I look at how a lot of progress has been made and the conversations have been productive and I’m confident about that,” Holland said.
As proof, he pointed out last week that the Liberals introduced a bill to ban replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces that are subject to pressure tactics, also known as the law anti-scabs. This is a position the NDP has long held and is part of the supply and confidence agreement.
In Toronto, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party had seen a draft bill on pharmacare but rejected it.
“The liberals therefore want to leave the door open to a form of public-private diversity where the pharmaceutical industries continue to make enormous profits. The pharmaceutical industry doesn’t like the idea of a universal public drug plan that covers everyone,” Singh told reporters.
“So the Liberals want to continue to appease these wealthy sectors, and we want to make sure people get fairness. This is the sticking point.
In fashion now
The introduction and adoption of pharmacare legislation constitutes one of the main pillars of the supply and confidence agreement between the Liberals and the NDP.
As part of the deal, the Liberals will advance some key NDP priorities in exchange for supporting confidence votes in the minority Parliament until the fall of 2025, when new elections must be held by the law.
At their policy convention last month, NDP delegates voted to make this pharmacare provision a deciding point in the supply and confidence deal.
The last scheduled sitting day for the House of Commons is December 15, but it is not unusual for Parliament to rise a day or two earlier.
When asked if he would withdraw from the supply and confidence agreement if the pharmacare law was not pa*sed by the end of the year, Singh replied that he focused on the present.
“We’re not going to look to the future, we’re going to focus on the present moment. We are in the same position as before and we are going to use the power we have to fight to get help to Canadians,” he responded.
The supply and confidence agreement stipulates that the Liberals will introduce and pa*s the Canada Pharmacare Act by the end of 2023, then direct the National Medicines Agency to develop a list of essential drugs and a bulk purchasing plan between now and the end of the deal, which runs through 2025.
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