NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair went to a Liberal-held riding on Friday to announce that he plans to work with the provinces on delivering universal prescription drug coverage — but the party is not classifying the promise as a national pharmacare plan.
Speaking in Regina, Mr. Mulcair promised $2.6-billion over for four years with the goal of achieving universal access for Canadians.
The NDP says it will also aim for a 30-per-cent average reduction in the cost of prescription drugs through bulk purchasing programs.
"With a national plan, we can drive down the cost of prescription drugs for Canadians and we can save provinces as much as $3-billion annually," Mr. Mulcair said.
"I am a former provincial cabinet minister and I know, I'm confident that this kind of support will help the provinces, and the provinces will welcome the direct aid that I am talking about."
Provincial health ministers have been pressuring Ottawa to introduce a full-fledged national pharmacare program.
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins, a family doctor, held a round table on the issue in June with provincial and territorial ministers, as well as with academics and other experts.
Mr. Mulcair, who has rolled out a series of multibillion-dollar health-care announcements this week, held Friday's event in the riding of Regina-Wascana.
It has been held by Liberal Ralph Goodale since 1993 and is one of two Prairie seats retained by the Grits in 2011.
The NDP did not manage to win a seat in Saskatchewan in the last election.
"I've made clear my vision for better health care for all Canadians," Mr. Mulcair told the crowd, which include former veteran NDP MP Lorne Nystrom.
Mr. Nystrom, who served in the Commons for 32 years, said he believes that the party will benefit from changes to riding boundaries, which split previously mixed ridings into separate urban and rural constituencies.
"The last campaign, we had 33 per cent of the vote in the province and the Liberals had about 10 per cent," Mr. Nystrom said Friday.
"They got one seat and we got none and the Conservatives got 13 because of the way the boundaries were drawn … now, with the new drawing of the boundaries, if we transfer that vote to the new boundaries, we would have three seats just based on status quo."