Jenny Kwan, MP

Member of Parliament, Vancouver East

Public Universal Pharmacare for Canadians Now!

Can’t afford your medication? Universal public pharmacare saves money and lives.

Canadians are paying more for prescription drugs than citizens of other OECD countries, with one in eight Canadians between 55 and 64 saying they cannot afford their medicationNearly 2 million Canadians couldn’t afford to fill their prescriptions in the last year. And for many people that means more trips to the doctor or the hospital – hurting their health, and costing more in the long run. No one should have to choose between paying for their medicine, or paying for their or their families’ other basic needs.

It’s the smart thing and the right thing to do.

Canada’s public health care system is a point of national pride and, arguably, the envy of the world. It is also something New Democrats have long championed and supported. We are proud to be the founder of and tireless advocate for Medicare.

It was always the vision of Tommy Douglas, the father of Medicare, that our public health care system should include universal , comprehensive, public Pharmacare.

We have been talking about this since the 1960s and study after study shows that not only will it save lives, it will save money. A Parliamentary Budget Officer study concluded that, in 2016, Canada would have collectively saved $4 billion on prescription medication if we can universal medication coverage – and some estimates suggest that we could realize even larger savings.

Interim Report on the Implementation of National Pharmacare

On March 6, my colleague Don Davies, Member of Parliament for Vancouver Kingsway made the following statement about the interim report from the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare:

“It’s disappointing to see that the Liberals have missed an important opportunity to commit to real change in national drug coverage. Today’s report leaves the door open to a private, U.S.-style patchwork system of coverage, and it fails to recommend the system that delivers the best results for patients: a public, single-payer delivery model.

One thing that today’s report does make clear is the degree to which the current system is failing Canadians. Too many families are facing impossible choices when it comes to the prescription drugs they need – choosing between rent and an epi-pen their child needs, between saving for retirement or getting medication to manage a chronic illness.

We know that a universal, public pharmacare program will keep people healthy, save Canadians, employers and the public system money, and build on the best traditions of Medicare – where no one is left behind.

Let’s be clear: a patchwork, fill-the-gaps approach favoured by Finance Minister Morneau may help Liberal friends like big pharmaceutical and insurance corporations, but it won’t deliver efficient prescription drug coverage for every Canadian.

New Democrats will keep fighting for a universal, comprehensive, public pharmacare program that delivers the help Canadians across the country urgently need.”

The time for universal, comprehensive and public pharmacare system is NOW.

I echo what my colleague's statement about the Interim Report. We’re the only country in the world that has a universal health-care system… that doesn’t also include some form of coverage for medication. Universal, comprehensive health-care coverage for all Canadians is an investment that we need to make a top priority, and the time to do that is now. 

I will continue to champion this common-sense and overdue healthcare advancement.

I will also continue speaking up—both inside and outside the House of Commons—to urge investment across the spectrum of healthcare, including home and community care, mental health care, and palliative care.

In the meantime, please sign MP Don Davies' petition to support a pharmacare plan that leaves no one behind.