Trudeau promises national prescription drug plan if reelected

HAMILTON — A re-elected Liberal government would introduce a national pharmacare program, Justin Trudeau promised Monday — though he wouldn’t say how much it would cost or when it would happen.Speaking in Hamilton, Trudeau said a Liberal government would invest $6 billion as a “down payment” towards implementing pharmacare, ensuring universal family doctor access, and improving mental health services and palliative care.The Liberal plan involves implementing a national list of drugs to be covered by the program and establishing the Canada Drug Agency to make the purchasing of medication more efficient and affordable for all Canadians.The promise largely follows the recommendations of a blue-chip panel led by former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins that laid out a path to establishing a national pharmacare system over the next decade.However, Trudeau did not say what the final bill will be, when he expected to have it in place, or how he expected to reach an agreement with provincial premiers with whom he is often at odds.Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.“We know that for people who have to take pills every day, the cost of medications represents a terrible financial barrier,” Trudeau said during an event at a health-sciences centre.“Under a re-elected Liberal government, we will work hard every day to make sure no Canadian has to choose between staying healthy and putting food on the table.”The pledge follows a similar commitment from the NDP, who are proposing to spend $10 billion a year to ensure that all necessary medication and medical devices are free at the point of care starting in 2020.Yet both the Liberal and NDP promises are contingent on negotiations with the provinces, which are directly in charge of delivering health care to Canadians.Trudeau acknowledged the fact Monday even as he sought to attack the Conservatives by repeatedly asking who Canadians wanted to negotiate with Ontario Premier Doug Ford: Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer or himself.“Who do you want standing up for you?” Trudeau asked during the campaign event, which started with a full attack on Ford’s record in office. “Who do you want negotiating with Doug Ford when it comes to your health care?”Health-care negotiations between Ottawa and the provinces have traditionally been extremely fractious, and Trudeau faced questions about why Ford would want to work with him given his clear attack on the Ontario premier.Trudeau pointed to his government having negotiated a new health accord over 2016 and 2017 as proof that a re-elected Liberal government would be able to lead a new round of such talks.At the time, Ford had not yet been elected, and there were seven Liberal premiers across the country. Right now there are two, as many Conservative premiers have recently been elected.Three years ago, provinces and territories were angry when the Liberals cut the annual increase in health-care transfers from six per cent to three per cent and instead added more money for home care and mental-health services. EDITORIAL: Jagmeet Singh puts NDP back in race LILLEY: Women aren’t buying Trudeau’s feminist act Trudeau pledges to ban all military-style assault rifles After the provinces roundly rejected the offer, the intervening months and years saw each sign onto the plan one by one. Manitoba was the last to agree to the new health accord this past April.Trudeau’s speech on Monday at McMaster University was briefly interrupted by a handful of protesters, who sought to drown out his announcement by repeatedly yelling anti-pipeline slogans. They were escorted from the room without an acknowledgment from the Liberal leader.Trudeau is spending a second straight day touring key ridings in vote-rich Ontario, which have bounced from party to party over the years and are key to the leader’s re-election hopes.After stops in Brampton and Hamilton, Trudeau is scheduled to make a whistle stop in Niagara Falls, which is left without an incumbent after the departure of longtime Conservative MP Rob Nicholson.

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