NDP health critic holding out hope pharmacare bill could be tabled in next five days

By Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — With the House of Commons set to rise for the holidays at the end of this week, time is quickly running out for the Liberal government to introduce pharmacare legislation before the end of the year.

But NDP health critic Don Davies says he’s still holding out hope that a bill could be tabled in the next few days.

The Liberals and NDP signed a supply-and-confidence deal last year that sees the opposition party support the minority government on key votes in exchange for progress on New Democrat priorities.

The deal states that pharmacare legislation must be passed by the end of the year, but negotiations have dragged on so long that that is no longer possible.

Still, Davies said on Sunday that the parties are in almost daily contact.

“We’re still hoping that we can introduce legislation before the House rises,” he said. “We’re close enough to be able to envision that.”

If it doesn’t happen, Davies said the NDP is prepared to give the government more time to come to an agreement on the wording of the bill.

On Monday, Davies seemed even more amenable to making concessions on the deadline.

“We think what’s more important is that we get such a fundamentally important advance in our public health-care system correct, rather than meet an artificial deadline,” he said at a press conference.

The NDP rejected the first draft of the Liberals’ legislation this fall. Davies and the New Democrats’ leader, Jagmeet Singh, said at the time they would only agree to legislation that lays the groundwork for a universal, single-payer pharmacare program.

That red line was reinforced in October at the NDP policy convention in Hamilton.

There, party members voted in favour of a non-binding emergency motion instructing the party to withdraw its support if the Liberals do not commit to “a universal, comprehensive and entirely public pharmacare program.”

Health Minister Mark Holland wouldn’t commit to tabling the legislation by the end of the week, but said he expected to have more information “in a very short period of time.”

When asked whether that information would come in the next four or five days, he laughed.

“Certainly we’ll be saying something in the next four days,” he said, but his tone suggested it might not be exactly what Davies is hoping to hear before the holidays.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2023.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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