The House

Liberals undecided on what pharmacare strategy should look like

When asked about the cost, eligibility requirements and implementation of pharmacare, Bill Morneau told The House he didn't have answers yet.
Minister of Finance Bill Morneau told The House he wasn't able to provide more details on what a national pharmacare plan would look like. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Though the creation of a pharmacare advisory committee was announced in the new budget, Canada's finance minister says the government is not clear on what the final outcome will be.

When asked about the cost, eligibility requirements and implementation of pharmacare, Bill Morneau told The House he didn't know yet.

"If we had the answers we would have come forward with the answers now."

On Wednesday, Morneau told the Economic Club of Canada the national program will be designed to fill gaps, while being "fiscally responsible."

But details have been scarce, beyond Morneau's insistence the plan will be "driven by the advice we get" during consultations.

Eric Hoskins, Ontario's former Liberal health minister, will chair a council that will meet with stakeholders and make recommendations to government on how to proceed with a national plan.

The minister strongly denied rumours that he'd hinted the system would be means tested.

Implementing a national pharmacare plan could cost upwards of $20 billion, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

Morneau said those estimates likely didn't take into account all the various options, and he won't speculate on the costs of the plan until he's more familiar with what the options might be.

The first step, he said, is to look at the current system to deduct what the targets should be moving forward.

"What I can't say yet is how best we'll do that," he added. "It wouldn't be appropriate for me to rule out anything at this stage."

Bill Morneau's latest budget is as much about what's IN IT... As it is about what's NOT in it. What's in: $21.5 billion in new spending over 6 years, including $1.4 billion for First Nations Child and Family Services, and 5 weeks of extra leave for two-parent families. What's out: no plan to return to balance - and $18.1B projected deficit, no details on pay equity legislation or about Pharmacare, and barely any mention of the uncertainty surrounding NAFTA, and the level of competitiveness versus the United States. Finance Minister, Bill Morneau joins us.