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NDP candidate Katrina Chen speaks as B.C. Premier John Horgan, back, listens in Vancouver, on July 4, 2019.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

B.C.'s New Democrats are promising free prescription contraception if elected, saying Sunday the move will save residents money and advance gender equality.

In announcing the campaign plank, NDP candidate Katrina Chen noted condoms can be found for little or no cost and vasectomies are covered under the B.C. medical services plan, but prescription contraception is not covered.

“This is such an important step,” said Chen. “It has been such a barrier for people to be able to have their basic reproductive health and rights.”

The party said the program to provide, for example, oral contraceptive pills or intrauterine devices, will cost the government $60 million a year.

Chen said the move to make prescription contraception free is a continuation of the effort the government made to have free menstrual products in the bathrooms of all public schools.

The NDP also plans on creating a “period poverty” task force to develop solutions for further improving access to menstrual products.

Also on Sunday, the BC Liberals promised to waive the medical exam fee for senior drivers.

Drivers at age 80, and every two years thereafter, must be assessed by their doctor and submit a medical examination report to RoadSafetyBC.

The exam fee can be as high as $200.

“Senior drivers shouldn’t take an extra financial hit for medical exams and under a BC Liberal government they won’t,” candidate Michelle Stillwell said in a statement.

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