Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 24, 2021.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh says he will not trigger an election as long as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, relieving some pressure on Liberals concerned about cooking up a budget palatable to the NDP.

Mr. Singh said Wednesday he will stand by his pledge to prop up the Liberal minority government on confidence votes, even though Liberals refused to back an NDP private member’s bill to enshrine a universal pharmacare program in legislation.

The bill was defeated by a vote of 295-32 at second reading in the House of Commons, with the Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc Québécois voting against it.

Story continues below advertisement

The federal government is expected within the next couple of months to table a budget, which would trigger an election if related legislation failed to garner support from at least one major opposition party.

“We do not think it’s the right thing to do to go to an election while we should be fighting the pandemic. We are not going to trigger an election. So that means any confidence vote,” Mr. Singh told reporters at a news conference Wednesday. “We will vote to keep the government going.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he will not trigger an election as long as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. The Canadian Press

All parties say they seek to avoid an election while the virus cuts a swath across the country. At the same time, all parties are gearing up for a possible campaign as they vet candidates and rev up fundraising efforts.

New Democrats had been hyping their proposed legislation on pharmacare – a key plank of any NDP campaign platform – in advance of Wednesday’s vote. Private member’s bills, especially those introduced by opposition parties, rarely succeed.

The NDP and Liberals both promised some kind of pharmacare program during the 2019 federal election campaign, but differ on the details.

Mr. Singh said his party’s universal prescription medication plan, laid out in the bill sponsored by NDP House Leader Peter Julian, mirrors the framework recommended by a government-commissioned report released in June, 2019.

“This is exactly what their own commission report recommends,” Mr. Singh noted.

Story continues below advertisement

The framework’s scaffolding was hammered out before the pandemic, but he said COVID-19 has exposed Canada’s dependence on big pharmaceutical companies in a way that renders action more urgent.

The proposed $15-billion-a-year program was to be modelled after the Canada Health Act, which is the legislative framework underpinning universal health care. Wednesday’s vote happened to come on the 35th anniversary of the death of former federal NDP leader and Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas, widely known as the father of state-run health care in Canada.

More than 700,000 Canadians have no prescription drug coverage, while another 3.7 million have coverage but cannot afford to pay for their prescriptions, according to a parliamentary budget office report in 2017.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is “committed to national universal pharmacare” and has worked to lower prescription drug prices. But he stressed discussions with the provinces to achieve medication for all rather than supporting a “unilaterally imposed” plan.

“No Canadian should have to choose between paying for their medication or putting food on their table,” Mr. Trudeau said during question period.

“We know there is more to do but, unlike the NDP, we will not be imposing on provincial jurisdictions rules that are not worked out with them.”

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Singh’s vow to back the government almost unconditionally puts the ball in the Prime Minister’s court.

“In a sense it forces Trudeau’s hand – that if he really wants an election now, he will have to trigger it himself. But of course, if Trudeau doesn’t want an election, then he doesn’t need to bargain really hard to survive,” said Karl Belanger, president of consulting firm Traxxion Strategies and former senior adviser to the NDP. “In the end what Jagmeet Singh is doing is really to keep Justin Trudeau in charge of his destiny when it comes to the election timing.”

A bumpy COVID-19 vaccine rollout, continuing devastation to industries such as travel and retail, and the complications attending an election amid strict lockdown rules are all reasons to think twice about sending Canadians to the polls.

“It would be a gamble for sure,” Mr. Belanger said of a potential spring election.

“As a prime minister, you should always think twice before gambling the power that you currently have, because you may end up losing everything.”

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

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 .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

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 .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies