The NDP have rejected the first draft of the Liberal government’s upcoming pharmacare legislation. The deadline for the legislation is set to end by the end of the year – an agreed upon timeframe to secure the supply-and-confidence agreement between the two parties. 

“We’ve seen a first draft and we made it very clear that the first draft was insufficient for our support. So the government has taken that back and is working on some amendments,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh at a press conference in Toronto.

The Canada Pharmacare Act must be passed before the end of 2023 as per the deal negotiated between the NDP and Liberals. 

With Parliament off this week, only four more weeks remain for the Trudeau government to table a bill that will meet the approval of the NDP and have it passed by said deadline. 

Despite the fact that the two parties aren’t seeing eye-to-eye at the moment, Singh remains hopeful that the Canada Pharmacare Act will come to fruition in time, calling it “absolutely possible.”

“Right now, the sticking point is the Liberals want to bring in legislation that appeases the big pharmaceutical industry. We don’t care about them. We don’t want to appease them. We want to make sure Canadians can afford their medication. That’s our priority,” said Singh.

Singh said that the current Liberal draft of the bill left the door open for “some sort of a mixed public-private” system that would provide “huge profits” for the pharmaceutical industry. 

Members of the NDP are seeking for a single-payer universal pharmacare program only. 

Last month, during the NDP policy convention, members called for the party to withdraw from its supply-and-confidence pact with the Liberals, should they not comply with their legislative framework, under an emergency resolution at the convention.  

Health Minister Mark Holland said that the parties will continue their discussion on “what exactly is the right path forward” to ensure proper access to medication for every Canadian. 

However, he acknowledged that the implementation of this legislation is a “vastly complex question.”

“I think that we’ve been having good conversations with the New Democrats,” said Holland. “There are a lot of points of contention and we are in a fiscal frame … that we have to be very cognizant of.”

The cost of the universal drug plan desired by the New Democrats would cost the federal and provincial government $11.2 billion in its first year and $13.4 billion in five years, according to a recent report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. However, it could provide long term economic savings. 

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to release her fall economic statement soon, which she has said will be rooted in “a responsible fiscal plan that allows us to invest in what Canadians need right now.” 

Freeland’s coming statement is only adding pressure to reality of a pharmacare bill being tabled under the given timeline. 

While Singh said he doesn’t expect the potential pharmacare estimates to be included in Freeland’s economic statement, he said it won’t change his party’s stance on withdrawing from their coalition with the Liberals if the end of the year deadline is not met. 

“The Liberals are on the side of big pharmaceuticals, we’re on the side of families, working people, seniors, people that need medication and we believe it should be universal, public and affordable. Our plan would bring down the price for everybody and we’re going to keep on fighting,” said Singh.

“So we’re not going to back down, we’re going to keep the pressure going. We believe that we are in the right,” he added.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Holland’s office said that the negotiations are “ongoing and progressing constructively,” stating that his relationship with NDP health critic Don Davies remains a “very good working relationship.”

“The Minister looks forward to continued conversations with the NDP as well as all parliamentarians and stakeholders to develop a universal pharmacare plan that Canadians can be proud of,” said spokesman Christopher Aoun in a written statement, according to the National Post