Executive Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress Siobhán Vipond speaking on Parliament Hill after the announcement of the national pharmacare bill on Thursday, February 29.
Executive Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress Siobhán Vipond speaking on Parliament Hill after the announcement of the national pharmacare bill on Thursday, February 29. Credit: CPAC Credit: CPAC

Labour leaders joined with the NDP on Parliament Hill on Thursday, February 29 to celebrate the introduction of the historic Pharmacare Act in the House of Commons.

“It has taken thousands and thousands of our activists. Of workers who have rallied. They have written letters to their MPs, they have met with their MPs to say that pharmacare needs to happen,” said Siobhán Vipond, executive vice president of the Canadian Labour Congress on Thursday. “We’ve been pushing for this for a very long time because we’ve heard from too many workers what it means when they don’t have access to their medications and that can change.”

The bill introduced in the House of Commons would see contraception for women and gender diverse people covered for up to $200 a year and insulin covered for those living with diabetes for up to $1,500 a year.

In their press release announcing the legislation, the Liberal government called this a “first phase,” implying that these medications would just be the first in an expanded national pharmacare plan. They also state that this will be a single-payer program, much like the existing public healthcare system.

“Each and every Canadian should have access to the prescription drugs they need. That’s why we’re working with our partners towards the first phase of national universal pharmacare. This important next step will provide universal access to contraception and diabetes medication that will be transformational in improving health outcomes in Canada,” reads a statement from Mark Holland, Canada’s Minister of Health.

Pharmacare bill a key priority for NDP

A national pharmacare bill had been a long time priority for the federal NDP.

The NDP have been in a confidence and supply agreement with the minority Liberal government where the Liberals have promised to deliver key legislation for the NDP in return for that party’s support in the House of Commons.

In addition to this pharmacare bill, the NDP have also secured anti-scab legislation and a national dental care plan through this agreement.

READ MORE: Anti-scab legislation introduced in win for unions and NDP

“Everyone should have access to the medication they need with their health card, not their credit card. But nearly one in four Canadians have reported splitting pills, skipping doses, or deciding not to renew or fill their prescriptions due to high costs. That’s why the NDP was committed to delivering universal pharmacare for Canadians,” said NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

Singh highlighted that the Liberal had years to introduce a pharmacare plan, but did not until their supply confidence agreement with his party forced them to.

“The Liberals had promised pharmacare for over three decades, but they always caved into the demands and the interests of big pharma and insurance companies who care more about their own profits than Canadians’ health. Clearly, the Liberals were never going to act unless we forced them to do it,” Singh said. “And Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives would cut this crucial health care coverage for Canadians to help their big business buddies—that’s what they do, Conservatives cut.” 

Vipond of the CLC acknowledged that this pharmacare bill was made possible by years of work from union leaders and activists and that this first phase truly was just the beginning.

“We will be continuing to help push this further so that it grows because this is a good thing for Canadians,” she said. “We are here because of the work that advocates and unions have been doing for decades and because the NDP listened.”

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Nick Seebruch

Nick Seebruch has been the editor of rabble.ca since April 2022. He believes that fearless independent journalism is key for the survival of a healthy democracy. An OCNA award-winning journalist, for...