Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the party will continue to prop up the Liberal government but warns that support could be withdrawn if a national pharmacare framework isn’t unveiled by the end of this year.
Under a confidence-and-supply agreement reached last year, Mr. Singh and his MPs agreed to keep the minority Liberal government in office until June, 2025, in exchange for policy action on a list of NDP priorities.
These priorities include a new dental care program for low-income Canadians, and specific measures on housing affordability and climate change. The Liberals also promised to make “progress towards” universal national pharmacare by passing a pharmacare act before the end of 2023 and then working on a national formulary of essential medicines and bulk purchasing plan by the end of the agreement.
“We want to see national framework for pharmacare presented in Parliament and passed in Parliament by the end of the year,” Mr. Singh told reporters Thursday during a three-day caucus retreat in Ottawa before the Jan. 30 return of Parliament.
When asked whether a lack of action on pharmacare would end the NDP deal with the Liberals, Mr. Singh did not respond directly, but said: “It’s part of our agreement. So if they didn’t do that, they would be breaking the deal.”
The NDP timeline is in line with a promise the government made in its April, 2022, budget, which was tabled shortly after the Liberals and NDP announced their co-operation agreement.
The budget said Ottawa will continue its work toward a universal national pharmacare program and that this “will include tabling a Canada Pharmacare bill and working to have it passed by the end of 2023, and then tasking the Canadian Drug Agency to develop a national formulary of essential medicines and a bulk purchasing plan.”
Mr. Singh said he expects the 2023 budget, which has not yet been scheduled, to include specific progress on the NDP priorities listed in the agreement with the Liberals. The deal calls for a gradual expansion of dental care during the life of the deal. Initial steps were approved last year.
He also said the budget should include new funding for Canada’s health care system.
“We want to see investments in health care, broadly speaking,” he said. ”We’ve always said we need to do both: Defend what we have and expand it. And those are some of the things we expect to see in the budget.”
The deal between the two parties included the creation of an oversight group that monitors progress on commitments. Mr. Singh said his party is always assessing whether the Liberals are delivering on the deal.
“If, at a given moment, there comes a time where it’s clear that the government doesn’t want to put in the necessary work to help people, we always have the option to retract our support,” he said. For now, the NDP Leader plans to force the government to do “what is needed.”