Manitoba

Manitoba Liberals promise to opt into national pharmacare program

The Manitoba Liberals are promising to opt into a national pharmacare system in Canada if elected next Tuesday.

Liberals say Pallister won't sign onto such a program but Tories say they've been trying to get a meeting

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont promises to opt into a national pharmacare program at a press conference Wednesday outside the Manitoba Legislature. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

The Manitoba Liberals are promising to opt into a national pharmacare system in Canada if elected next Tuesday.

The Liberals say they would partner with any government that introduces such a program.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said his promise would be paid for by a federal government funding transfer, which he claimed would add no new cost to Manitoba's health care system.

Lamont claimed there would be no additional cost to Manitoba's health care system. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

He said one in 10 Manitobans can't afford to pay for their medications. "Often it means they just end up not taking them and they end up in hospital instead."

Lamont said he's concerned Brian Pallister won't opt into a national pharmacare system if re-elected as premier. He pointed to several examples where Pallister delayed signing onto a federal initiative including cannabis, and environmental and housing agreements.

"There's a pattern of obstruction on the part of this government."

Prescriptions would cost $2 - $5 under a national pharmacare program. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

"The premier's made it absolutely clear he has no interest in having a national health care system at all. That's what his grand bargain is about."

Tories want meeting with feds

The Progressive Conservatives said they have asked for a meeting with the Trudeau government to discuss the proposed pharmacare program but to no avail.

"Regrettably, the federal Liberals have chosen to play politics by refusing to meet with Manitoba and other provinces on this important health matter," said Kevin Engstrom, a campaign spokesperson.

He said the Tories want to make sure benefits under Manitoba's current universal pharmacare program, which has a deductible based on family income, won't be changed under a national program.

Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor's office said Manitoba only asked for a meeting through a letter Saskatchewan wrote that the Manitoba government signed in June. 

The minister's press secretary Alexander Cohen said the Liberals "look forward" to finalizing a date after the election.

Drugs would cost $2 - $5

Earlier this year, an advisory council appointed by the Trudeau government recommended establishing a universal pharmacare system.

The council recommended that an initial list of essential drugs be covered by 2022 for those who need them and that the list be expanded from there.

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont promises to opt into a national pharmacare program at a press conference Wednesday outside the Manitoba Legislature. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

It proposed a $2 payment for common drugs and $5 for prescriptions that are less common. The fee would be waived for people who live on social assistance or have low incomes.

The Manitoba Liberals say the province would save more than $120 million per year from bulk purchases of medication under a national pharmacare program.

The party's announcement comes a day after the NDP pledged to restore a special-drugs program that used to cover the pharmacare deductible for people with chronic and serious illnesses in Manitoba. It ended last April while the Tories were in power.

The New Democrats said they would push for a national pharmacare program and vowed to freeze the pharmacare deductible for Manitobans while expanding the use of biosimilars.

"We're glad to see the Liberals recognize the value of our longstanding commitment to push for a national pharmacare program—a promise we recommitted to yesterday. Only the NDP has the chance to form a government which can work with the federal government to get Manitobans affordable access to the drugs they need," NDP spokesperson Emily Coutts said in an email.

About the Author

​Austin Grabish landed his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. In 2019, he was on the ground in northern Manitoba covering the manhunt for B.C. fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, which attracted international attention. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

With files from The Canadian Press

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now