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Politics Politics Briefing: Pharmacare could be an election issue

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons, Monday June 17, 2019 in Ottawa.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Hello,

Expect to hear a lot about the price of pharmaceuticals this fall.

The Liberal government unveiled new changes to drug-price regulations this morning, in an announcement that they said would “lay the foundation for Pharmacare.”

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Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor told The Globe that getting the price of medication under control is the first step toward having the government cover pharmaceutical expenses, in the same way that medicare covers most of Canadians’ other medical expenses.

The regulator can control the price of drugs by setting the maximum price that manufacturers can charge for it. The reforms announced today are designed to lower that ceiling by changing which countries Canada compares its prices to – for instance, no longer comparing its prices to the United States, which has the highest prices – and making manufacturers disclose the actual prices their products sell for, not just the “sticker price.”

A government-commissioned panel led by former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins recommended in June that Canada move to a universal, single-payer model for prescriptions.

The NDP says that, if elected, they would introduce universal pharmacare. The Green Party has also made the same promise.

The Conservative Party says that it is “considering targeted, affordable, common-sense ways to help Canadians better afford their medications,” but would not say what they plan to do until the election campaign starts.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

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The Canadian and U.S. governments have upgraded their travel advisories to Hong Kong, warning visitors to exercise a high degree of caution because of the ongoing protests. Rolling demonstrations started earlier this summer because the island nation’s government introduced a bill that could see those accused of crimes extradited to China, where they would face a very different justice system. Even though the bill was pulled, the protests have continued as other political grievances boil to the surface.

A Canadian citizen is free in Lebanon after being held by the Syrian government since late last year. Kristian Lee Baxter, 44, reportedly wandered into Syria in search of adventure. The Canadian government advises against travel into the country because of the presence of criminals, terrorists and other armed groups.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner says the public hearings that have become the norm for new nominees to the top court should be expanded to judges on appeals courts, too. “Why? Because people need and deserve the information. There is no reason we should not give it to them. We have nothing to hide,” he told The Globe.

We now know where Canada’s ambassador to Washington is going: David MacNaughton is set to become the president of Palantir Technologies’ Canadian operations this fall. Palantir builds data-mining software used by banks, intelligence agencies and other clients.

The Liberals are about to nominate a local tech entrepreneur, Taleeb Noormohamed, to run against Jody Wilson-Raybould in her Vancouver riding this fall.

More than half of Canadians surveyed by Nanos Research say they do not want premiers getting involved in the federal election.

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A Saskatchewan judge says the Liberal government’s reforms related to sexual-assault trials are unconstitutional because they reduce the ability of a defendant to challenge the testimony of their accuser.

And two journalists in Canada and China are facing unusually long delays to get accredited to work in each other’s country. “Our national interest favours mirroring. If China is not delivering service, why should we?” immigration lawyer Richard Kurland told The Globe.

Denise Balkissoon (The Globe and Mail) on expanding the franchise: “Both Austria and Scotland have lowered their voting age to 16, likely reasoning that those old enough to drive, work and pay taxes are also old enough to have a political voice. The younger you are, the longer you’ll have to live with the future currently being created."

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on David MacNaughton’s legacy as ambassador: “[NAFTA] certainly was the most important thing that Mr. Trudeau’s government has had to get through since it came to power. And on this, it proved adept at playing a cool hand. Mr. MacNaughton didn’t call all the shots on that, but his calm character was at the centre of it.”

Andrew Potter (The Globe and Mail) on political polarity: “As any number of pundits have pointed out, if conservatives have so much faith in markets, why are they opposed to market solutions to climate change? The answer, of course, is that they don’t really believe in markets. They believe in opposing whatever the left favours. When the left was anti-market, the right loved markets. If the left has now discovered the virtues of markets, then it is up to the right to resist it.”

Danielle Smith (Edmonton Journal) on treating addiction: “It’s time we stop looking at safe consumption sites as the answer. Keeping a person alive just to get their next fix is an embarrassing stop-gap measure for governments too cheap to pay for treatment.”

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Chris Selley (National Post) on the new election debate model, same as the old election debate model: “In the meantime, if it’s unclear to you how this process is even different than what it replaces, let alone better, welcome aboard. [Jennifer] McGuire is editor-in-chief of CBC News, an organization that doesn’t exactly exude innovation and compelling programming. More to the point, she was chair of the previous consortium!”

Elizabeth Renzetti (The Globe and Mail) on Monica Lewinsky: “For too long, women – especially the ones branded troublesome, difficult or libertine – were written out of their own stories. History isn’t just written by the victors; it’s also written by the gatekeepers, who have an interest in maintaining particular power structures. You know, the ones that have been in place for millennia, allowing some to yell from the ramparts and locking others in the basement.”

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