rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Liberals could have changed the channel and helped Canadians with a pharmacare program

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

When Canadians heard Monday there was to be a big announcement on pharmacare yesterday, many of us concluded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's shell-shocked strategic brain trust was finally ready to start acting like a Natural Governing Party again, instead of like lemmings racing for a cliff.

It would have been a brilliant strategy to announce a full pharmacare program -- the full-meal deal with no bones tossed to Big Pharma or Big Insurance, which have been begging for a fill-in-the-gaps approach that would keep their expensive and unfair but highly profitable stopgaps in place.

It would have shifted the nation's attention immediately away from the hostile media frenzy the protracted gong show before the House of Commons justice committee has become and turned it toward a popular and much-needed national program on which a party and a prime minister could easily peg a successful re-election campaign.

It would have reminded voters that for all their flaws the Liberals were still basically a progressive political party willing occasionally to do things that are actually in the interests of Canadians, such as creating a national prescription drug plan that would save lives, ensure no one had to choose between life-saving medicine or feeding their kids, and stop the waste of multi-billions of tax dollars to boot.

It would have forced the Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer and in thrall to their cruel utopian market ideology to attack a program that plainly would benefit every single one of us unless we happened to be a Big Pharma or Big Insurance executive. Yes, even screwball market perfectionists would benefit if they had the misfortune to get sick and needed to set aside their ideological pipe dreams to survive.

Instead, we got … recommendations.

Which means, of course, more time for Big Business, their ideological think-tanks and the Conservatives to cook up ways to sabotage this still unrealized national good.

Progressive groups did their best with the interim report of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, which recommended creation of a national pharmaceutical drug agency, a comprehensive evidence-based formulary, and suggested core principles for national pharmacare. Several good-hearted organizations put out news releases calling the development "promising."

But Canadians don't need promises. They need pharmacare. And they need it now.

And so do the Liberals, oddly enough. Desperately so, right now, one would think.

But I guess the party of Justin Trudeau has discovered, as the old stories go, that once you've sold your soul, it's very hard to get it back.

It doesn't have to be too late for Canadians to get a national pharmacare program. The Conservatives will do everything in their power to stop it, of course. The New Democrats are unlikely to get a chance to implement it this time around. But the Liberals still have the power to make it happen.

But the only way to make it happen is to make it happen.

For the moment, however, the race to the cliff apparently continues.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

Help make rabble sustainable. Please consider supporting our work with a monthly donation. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.