Calgary

Labour leaders push for national pharmacare at annual barbecue

Medication was front of mind for union leaders this Labour Day, including those attending an annual barbecue in downtown Calgary.

Premier Rachel Notely says the provinces have broached the topic with the federal government

Rachel Notley said the provinces have raised the issue of a national pharmacare program with the federal government. (CBC)

Medication was front of mind for union leaders this Labour Day, including those attending an annual barbecue in downtown Calgary.

"Unions from across the country through the Canadian Labour Congress are advocating that Canada should adopt a national pharmacare strategy, because right now there are about 3.5 million Canadians that can't afford the medicines they need," said Alexander Shevalier, the president of the Calgary and District Labour Council. 

"It might take a decade, it might take two decades, but I think it's an important issue and it's one that we should focus on."

Canada is the second most expensive country in the world to buy prescription drugs, sitting behind the U.S., according to multiple studies.

'It's not a small thing'

Canada is also the only country in the world with universal health care, but no universal drug coverage. 

Premier Rachel Notley, on hand at the annual Labour Day barbecue in Olympic Plaza, said the provinces have raised the issue with the federal government through the Council of the Federation, of which she's the chair. 

"We know that pharmaceutical treatment is a large part of our healthcare system and currently large swaths of it are privately funded, which means it's not available to everyone who needs it all the time," she said.  

"So we need to look at that, but we absolutely need the federal government to come to the table because it's not a small thing."