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Canada Morning Update: The costs, challenges and politics of universal pharmacare

Good morning,

These are the top stories:

The proposed universal pharmacare plan: The costs, challenges and politics

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Implementing a single-payer public pharmacare program would cost $15.3-billion on a yearly basis, according to a new report from an advisory council established by the Trudeau government. Now, the question is whether the Liberals will make this part of their election blueprint.

Here’s a brief rundown of the proposal:

  • The plan would be phased in, starting with a “carefully chosen list of essential medicines” in 2022.
  • A comprehensive master list would be in place by 2027, when the $15.3-billion cost kicks in.
  • The council says centralizing the power to negotiate prices would significantly reduce what Canada spends per capita on prescription drugs, currently among the highest in the world.
  • The drugs selected would be virtually free for all Canadians, with a co-pay of $2 per prescription (those with low incomes would be exempt).

Opposition: Private plans are on track to cover $19.8-billion come 2027, and those insurers don’t want to lose their existing business. Tory Leader Andrew Scheer is warning that the plan would lead to higher taxes.

Trade-offs: Ditching private options could mean slower access to new drugs, and maybe no access to some drugs if pharma companies choose not to do business. André Picard writes: “Canadians have to know, upfront, that putting their values into practice will come at a cost, monetary and otherwise.” (for subscribers)

The provincial sell: Even if the plan is pursued, the federal government would need to persuade provinces and territories to join. That may require measures like transfer payments and flexibility on when provinces could join.

The election factor: With the Liberals behind the Conservatives in the polls, Campbell Clark says Trudeau and co. have political incentives to embrace the ambitious universal plan. “They would be happy to force Scheer to run against a $2-per-prescription drug plan because it’s too costly,” he writes. (for subscribers)

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Jean Chrétien is floating the idea of cancelling Meng Wanzhou’s extradition proceedings

Sources say the former Liberal prime minister has discussed a proposal that would see the Justice Minister use his legal authority to stop the U.S. extradition as a way to help free two Canadians jailed in China. (for subscribers)

Chrétien, who last week offered to serve as Canada’s special envoy to assist with the cases of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, has talked with business executives about the plan that was first raised by a University of British Columbia professor.

China has said that Meng, the CFO of Huawei, would need to be returned home if Canada wants to unfreeze diplomatic relations.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning to ask for U.S. President Donald Trump’s help in putting pressure on China to free Kovrig and Spavor. The two leaders will meet at the White House next week, ahead of the G20 summit in Japan where Trudeau is hoping to sit down with Chinese President Xi Jinping. (for subscribers)

Hong Kong has shuttered government offices as protests continue over the extradition bill

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(Kin Cheung/AP)

Kin Cheung/AP

The city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam called the protests a riot, saying that violence “is not an act that shows love for Hong Kong.” But demonstrators are accusing the police of using violence that left some bloodied. Authorities used tear gas, pepper paintballs, batons and beanbag bullets to push back protesters, but the crowds show no signs of dissipating.

Some are drawing comparisons to the 2014 Umbrella Movement protest in Hong Kong, which saw protesters occupy city streets for 75 days as they demanded greater democratic freedoms.

This time, the concern is over China’s potential ability to demand the extradition of those they call criminals.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada “remains concerned about the potential effect these proposals may have on the large number of Canadian citizens in Hong Kong, on business confidence, and on Hong Kong’s international reputation.”

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

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The St. Louis Blues have won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Blues beat the Bruins 4-1 in Boston to take Game 7, capping off an incredible turnaround from their last-place standing in the NHL on New Year’s Day. The Blues won 30 of their final 49 regular-season games en route to their first final appearance since 1970.

The Blues' Alexander Steen carries the Stanley Cup after his team's win on Wednesday. (Michael Dwyer/Associated Press)

Michael Dwyer/The Associated Press

California’s governor is urging The Stronach Group to end the racing season at its track near Los Angeles after the deaths of nearly 30 horses since late December. “Enough is enough,” Gavin Newsom said. He wants independent veterinarians to investigate the health of the racehorses. The Canadian company, which has been embroiled in a family legal spat, is vowing to keep the track open. (for subscribers)

Ottawa wants an extension on the use of solitary confinement. The government is asking the Supreme Court for an extension days before the practice is set to become illegal on June 18. It wants an extension through November as it pushes forward with proposed legislation that would end administrative segregation and replace it with “structured intervention units.”

Victoria will offer free transit for anyone under the age of 18 starting this fall. The plan is designed to give youth the freedom to move while ingraining a habit that would help reduce the use of cars. It comes at a cost of $850,000, which will be replaced by new fees from parking. Kingston rolled out a similar transit program years ago.

Suspected attacks on two tankers off the coast of Iran saw oil markets erupt out of their recent slump on Thursday and kept traders gobbling up ultra-safe government bonds, gold and the Japanese yen. Brent crude surged as much 4 per cent after reports of the attacks added to the already-heightened tensions between Iran and the United States. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.57 per cent just before 5:30 a.m. ET. Germany’s DAX added 0.30 per cent and France’s CAC 40 gained 0.13 per cent. In Asia, markets ended mixed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.05 per cent. The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.05 per cent. The Canadian dollar was higher at 75.08 US cents. New York futures were modestly higher.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

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The Kevin Durant drama happened – and Canada needs to own it

Cathal Kelly: “Toronto fans booed a guy who injured himself in a sporting contest. Presumably, The Hague is gathering evidence and writs of extradition are being processed. It’s important that we stare into the face of evil and show it that any sort of booing will not be tolerated in our civil society.” Here’s what Globe readers have to say about the Durant situation.

Canada should do more to help Mexico solve its migrant crisis

Globe editorial: “The United Nations in May urged Canada to help Mexico resettle Northern Triangle migrants. This would be welcome. At the very least, Canada can contribute more money and resources to help alleviate the terrible conditions that lead people to flee the region in the first place. In 2015, Canada stepped up to help Syrians. In 2019, Canada should heed Mexico’s call.”

Trudeau is to blame for national unity crisis over pipelines

John Ibbitson: "Justin Trudeau blaming premiers for a national unity crisis that he created is pretty rich. This Prime Minister’s approach to federalism – which can be summarized as “do as I say, or else” – has premiers from the Bay of Fundy to the Rocky Mountains to the Arctic Ocean in open revolt. But rather than apologize and try to make amends, he is doubling down.” (for subscribers)

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TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON

(Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

LIVING BETTER

Why you should not let your kids stay up to watch Raptors Game 6

Kevin Siu: “If you’re a Raptors fan and a parent, you have one job tomorrow: Get your kids’ butts in bed at the regular time. We already messed up Game 5. Don’t jinx Game 6. I’m talking to you: The parents who have been dutifully sending your kids upstairs at something approximating their normal bedtimes throughout this campaign – and especially on school nights – yet recklessly let it ride on Monday.”

MOMENT IN TIME

Yukon becomes a territory

A prospector holds a pan containing gold in Yukon in 1898. (Joseph Tyrrell/Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library)

Joseph Tyrrell/Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

June 13,1898: Skookum Jim, Dawson Charlie and George Carmack made their first prospecting trip up the Yukon River in 1888. But it was not until 1896 that they discovered gold in Bonanza Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River. Word of the discovery spread, and tens of thousands of people descended on the gold fields in the next two years. The Canadian government, in an effort to assert its control over the avalanche of Americans, carved Yukon Territory off from the Northwest Territories on this day in 1898. But the Klondike Gold Rush was merely a blip in the more than 10,000 years of human habitation in the area. The first inhabitants probably travelled from Asia over a land bridge that is now covered by the Bering Strait. European explorers arrived in the 1570s searching for the Northwest Passage, and the fur trade brought more people to the mountains and high plateaus of the north. When the gold rush subsided, Yukon’s population dropped to fewer than 5,000 people. Today, Yukon is home to more than a dozen First Nations and has a population of about 35,000, most of whom live in the capital, Whitehorse, the largest city in Canada’s North. – Iain Boekhoff

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If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

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