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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, today our thoughts are with Ms. Grégoire and the 155 other Canadians across the country who have contracted the coronavirus.
In this place, Canadians often see how our parties differ, and the differences we have. They see the questions we ask each other in question period. What Canadians often see is the variety of opinions within this House of Commons.
Today, however, we see all parties and all members of Parliament coming together with the same mission. That mission is to confront the challenge of coronavirus in Canada and to do our part to minimize the dangers of this virus going further in the public sphere.
Unanimity is rare, but it is important when we face a challenge that affects all of Canada. It is important that members come together and confirm that we will work collaboratively.
Canadians come together when there are challenges. That has always been the hallmark of our character. Today, as we know, public health officials told us that it is important for members of Parliament, like everyone else in Canada, to maintain the social distancing that is so important to assure we do not see a rapid multiplication of the virus.
Our health officers across the country, and I would like to give a shout-out to Dr. Bonnie Henry from British Columbia, have been tirelessly working to ensure Canadians understand the implications of not having that social distancing. The reality of our parliamentary life is that we travel across the country. If we did not take this hiatus, we could have members of Parliament bringing the virus back to Ottawa, or taking the virus from Ottawa to their home constituencies.
We definitely need to co-operate and follow the advice of health officials, who have made it very clear that it is vital to maintain social distancing to prevent the virus from spreading.
In the meantime, we will be where we should be. We will be in our ridings assisting our constituents, pressing to make sure those workers who have to make the difficult choice between putting food on the table or going to work, when they know they should be in self-quarantine, are taken care of. We will be making sure that we are absolutely funding and investing in a health care system that is able to meet the challenges of the virus. We also have to make sure indigenous communities are not left aside, as they have been in past pandemics, and that all the resources they need are available to them.
Our role is to be in our ridings assisting the public and ensuring that we contribute to the efforts to fight the virus.
We will do our part. Members of Parliament are speaking with one voice today to say that we will do our part.
Today we are unanimous in saying that we are going to work together. We are going to take a little break to help fight the virus.
To conclude, on behalf of the NDP caucus, I would like to thank the employees and staff, the administration on Parliament Hill, the security guards who are so brave and courageous, and the staff who maintain this infrastructure that serves Canadian democracy so well. We will miss them, but we know we will be back.
We know as well that Canadians will beat this virus. We will be able to celebrate that fact when we reconvene.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 10:22 [p.1978]
Mr. Speaker, women in Canada and around the world continue to face many barriers and challenges. I appreciate the opportunity to raise some of them here in the House today. This is, of course, in part due to the cancelling of the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
While this outbreak is having distressing impacts on people and communities around the world, like many diseases it will have a larger impact on those who are marginalized. This includes many women, particularly indigenous women and women in rural and remote communities.
This disease will also have a serious impact on unpaid and paid caregivers, health care workers who are on the front lines of this fight. Women comprise 82% of health care workers in Canada, and we need to make sure that the federal safety protocols for front-line health care workers are good enough to keep them safe and that the equipment they need is made available.
We know that our families, our communities and our country are stronger when women thrive. In Canada today, it is still all too common for women to experience discrimination and gender-based violence. We are seeing in reports that one out of two women has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
Canada and the global community have made it clear that violence and harassment in our society, including in our places of work, will not be tolerated and must end. That is why the International Labour Organization, which brings together governments, employers and workers, published a new international labour standard to combat violence and harassment for all. ILO convention 190 raises the bar, and Canada can and should be a leader as one of the first countries to ratify this agreement. It is our belief that the federal government has an important role to play in making work better, fairer and more secure for everyone.
In my community, as in many communities across Canada, there is a housing crisis. Everyone should have the right to a safe and affordable place to call home. However, for far too many women this is not a reality. Consecutive governments have neglected the housing crisis in Canada for far too long. The government makes inflated announcements, and when it comes to the actual dollars invested into housing, the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that the national housing strategy will spend 19% less on affordable housing than what was spent when the Conservatives were in power.
Housing is increasingly out of reach thanks to skyrocketing rents, demovictions and ballooning home prices. Parents lie awake at night worrying about how they can afford the family home, as costs keep going up but paycheques stagnate. Average rents rose in every single province last year, and today 1.7 million Canadian households spend more than 30% of their income on housing. This means that families in our communities are facing constant stress and impossible choices between rent or food and between living in substandard housing or relocating out of their community. Worse, they facing the real risk of homelessness, especially when they are fleeing violence.
We are seeing women who are victims of violence being turned away from shelters across Canada due to a chronic lack of resources and funding. One in five shelters reports that it has not received funding increases in 10 years or more, a situation that is unsustainable. Shelters are essentially doing the same work year after year with far less money.
Our vision of Canada is one where women's organizations have stable funding so that women can access the support and advocacy they need when they need it. The government has been promising a national action plan to end gender-based violence for many years. This plan needs to be backed by funding to ensure that shelter services and other programs are available in all regions of the country, especially areas that have traditionally been underserved. It needs to be complemented by domestic violence leave policies in workplaces and improved police training on sexual assaults, and requires universities to develop plans to end sexual violence on campuses. The government also needs to address violence against indigenous women, girls and LGBTQI2S+ people by working with indigenous peoples to implement the calls for justice from the national inquiry.
There is also an affordability crisis in child care across this country. Families are struggling to find child care spaces and are forced onto wait-lists before their children are even born. Costs are unaffordable in many cities, and parents are forced to make impossible choices between delaying their return to work or paying huge amounts for the child care they need. Every parent across Canada should be able to find child care with a licensed provider who makes a fair wage. The government needs to work with other levels of government, indigenous communities, families and child care workers to ensure that care is inclusive and responsive to the needs of all Canadian children.
So much more needs to be done to address the many systemic barriers facing women today. The New Democrats commit to breaking down those barriers and advancing gender equality. We will not stop until the job is done. We owe it to women now and to the girls growing up to make the changes they need to be safe, secure and equal in every way.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 10:31 [p.1979]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-240, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act with regard to voting age.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to introduce legislation that would extend the right to vote to all Canadians aged 16 and over. I would like to thank the hon. member for London—Fanshawe for seconding the bill.
The history of the franchise in Canada is one of constant expansion. At the time of Confederation, voting was restricted to male British subjects who were at least 21 years old and owned property. However, as our country progressed over the subsequent generations, voting rights were extended to women, Asian Canadians, indigenous people, those without property and those under 21 years of age. I believe it is time to give young people the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship as well.
Young Canadians are engaged, well-informed and passionate advocates for a better future, for their future. Many young people work and pay taxes, but they have no say in how those tax dollars are spent. This disenfranchisement is unjustified and must change.
I call on all Parliamentarians to make young people equal participants in our democracy by supporting this vital legislation.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 10:32 [p.1980]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-241, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (change of political affiliation).
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to introduce a bill that would address the issue of floor crossing, with thanks to the hon. member for London—Fanshawe.
Elections are an essential opportunity for voters to express their democratic preferences, but when parliamentarians cross the floor they unilaterally negate the will of their electors. This is a fundamental betrayal of trust.
For example, in my riding of Vancouver Kingsway, David Emerson ran as a Liberal in the 2006 election, only to immediately cross the floor to sit in the Conservative cabinet within weeks of being elected. Kingsway citizens of all persuasions were incensed. They know the only people who should have the right to determine which party represents a riding in the House of Commons are the voters themselves.
This legislation would not prevent MPs from leaving their caucus or changing their political affiliation, but it would require members who wish to join another party and sit with it to either obtain the consent of their constituents or sit as an independent until the next election.
I call on all members to support this fundamental democratic legislation and protect the basic rights of Canadian voters to choose how they wish to be represented in their House of Commons.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 10:37 [p.1980]
moved:
That the House:
(a) acknowledge the government’s intention to introduce and implement national pharmacare;
(b) call on the government to implement the full recommendations of the final report of the Hoskins Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, commencing with the immediate initiation of multilateral negotiations with the provinces and territories to establish a new, dedicated fiscal transfer to support universal, single-payer, public pharmacare that will be long term, predictable, fair and acceptable to provinces and territories;
(c) urge the government to reject the U.S.-style private patchwork approach to drug coverage, which protects the profits of big pharmaceutical and insurance companies, but costs more to Canadians; and
(d) recognize that investing in national pharmacare would help stimulate the economy while making life more affordable for everyone and strengthening our health care system.
He said: It is a great privilege and an honour for me to rise on behalf of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party caucus and on behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada and all of those Canadians from coast to coast to coast who care so deeply about our health care system.
It is timely to note at this time that Canadians find themselves in the grip of what can fairly be called a major public health crisis. The COVID-19 public health outbreak is affecting communities across our land. The one thing that Canadians feel extremely proud of and strong about at a time like this is that we have a strong public health care system that helps keep everybody across this country healthy and responds to keeping people healthy and, most importantly, regardless of anybody's ability to pay, but rather as a birthright of citizenship in this country.
That is why it gives me great pleasure to stand today and speak to an issue that represents an immediate, urgent and critically important gap that exists in our current health care system, and that is the lack of public coverage for prescribed pharmaceuticals, the medicines that Canadians need as their doctors prescribe.
I am going to cover four basic elements in my remarks today. I am going to read the motion, I am going to discuss the need, I am going to discuss the solution and I am going to talk about the responsibility that we have as legislators in this country.
First I will read the motion. New Democrats propose:
That the House:
(a) acknowledge the government’s intention to introduce and implement national pharmacare;
(b) call on the government to implement the full recommendations of the final report of the Hoskins Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, commencing with the immediate initiation of multilateral negotiations with the provinces and territories to establish a new, dedicated fiscal transfer to support universal, single-payer, public pharmacare that will be long term, predictable, fair and acceptable to provinces and territories;
(c) urge the government to reject the U.S.-style private patchwork approach to drug coverage, which protects the profits of big pharmaceutical and insurance companies, but costs more to Canadians; and
(d) recognize that investing in national pharmacare would help stimulate the economy while making life more affordable for everyone and strengthening our health care system.
I want to briefly review the need, the context in which the motion emanates, and what is really happening in all of our communities across our country.
Right now, as we gather today, one in five Canadians, that is 7.5 million people, either have no prescription drug coverage whatsoever or have such inadequate or sporadic coverage as to effectively have none at all.
Currently, each province offers different levels of drug coverage for different populations, creating significant and profound inequalities in prescription drug coverage between regions.
Canada currently does have a U.S.-style patchwork of more than 100 public and 100,000 private drug insurance plans. One in five Canadian households reports a family member who, in the past year alone, has not taken the prescribed medicine simply due to cost.
Nearly three million Canadians per year are unable to afford one or more of the prescription drugs their doctors prescribe as important and sometimes essential for their health. Of those three million Canadians who cannot afford their medications, 38% do have private insurance and 21% have public insurance, but these insurance plans are not sufficient to cover the medicine they need.
One million Canadians per year cut back on food or home heating in order to pay for their medication. One million Canadians per year borrow money to pay for prescription drugs.
Canadian adults are two to five times more likely to report skipping prescriptions because of costs than residents of comparable countries with universal pharmacare systems, like the United Kingdom. In fact, Canada is the only country with a modern economy that has universal health care coverage and does not provide some form of universal access to prescription coverage.
A recent study from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions reveals the human costs of this problem. It has found, just studying two different serious health conditions, diabetes and heart disease, that every year up to 1,000 people die, purely because they do not have access to the medicine that would save them. That means that there are thousands of Canadians, if we include all medical conditions, maybe tens of thousands of Canadians, who die unnecessarily and prematurely because this country simply does not provide them with the medicine they need.
On the other hand, despite this horrific deficit in human terms, economically, Canadians perversely consistently pay among the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs due to our fragmented patchwork of drug coverage. In fact, prescription drug spending in Canada has increased every year since the current Liberal government took power in 2015. I am going to pause, because in 2015 the Prime Minister gave a mandate letter to then-Minister of Health Jane Philpott, and in that mandate letter he specifically tasked her, as a major goal, with reducing the cost of prescription drugs in Canada. I think Canadians know anecdotally that their access to drugs has not increased in the last five years, and they know that the price of prescription drugs certainly has not gone down.
I wanted to get the scientific answer to that question, so two months ago I wrote a letter to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, CIHI, and I asked what has happened to drug prices in Canada since 2015, when the Liberals took power. What it found was shocking. It found that on absolute terms, Canada as a country has spent more money every single year on prescription drugs since the Liberals took office and, on a per capita basis, each Canadian in this country has spent more money on prescription drugs every single year since the Liberals came to power.
That mandate, which was given in 2015, to reduce prescription costs has not only gone completely unfulfilled, it has actually gotten worse. From an institutional point of view, prescription drugs represent the second-largest category of spending in Canadian health care, surpassing spending on physician services. Only what we spend on hospitals costs us more as a nation than what we spend on prescription coverage.
What happens when patients cannot afford their prescription drugs? Besides getting sicker, which I will talk about in a moment, they access provincial and territorial health systems more often as their condition deteriorates. In 2016 about 303,000 Canadians had additional doctor visits, about 93,000 sought care in emergency departments and about 26,000 were admitted to hospital after being forced to forgo prescription medication due to cost.
HealthCareCAN, the national voice of health care organizations and hospitals across Canada, estimates that between 5.4% and 6.5% of all hospital admissions in Canada are the result of cost-related non-adherence to prescription medication, resulting in costs that they estimate to be at least $1.6 billion per year.
It has been almost one year, a Parliament and a general election ago, since the Hoskins advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare issued its report. What was the conclusion of that Liberal-appointed committee, headed by a former Liberal minister of health from Ontario, a committee that crossed the country listening to consultations from every stakeholder group across the country?
What did the committee recommend this Parliament do? It said that Canada must implement universal, single-payer public pharmacare and get started on it now. Not only that, it gave us a blueprint.
The Hoskins advisory council told Parliament to work collaboratively in partnership with provincial and territorial governments to begin the implementation of national pharmacare in 2020, right now. It advised that we should have federal legislation in place by January 1, 2022, that outlines how governments will work together and share costs. It listed federal responsibilities and said that legislation must include the steps required for provincial and territorial governments to opt into national pharmacare. That is in less than two years.
The council said that Parliament must act immediately so that we offer universal coverage for at least a list of essential medicines by January 1, 2022. That is about 20 months from now. It suggested that we implement a detailed national strategy and distinct pathway for funding and access to expensive drugs for rare diseases by January 1, 2022, and said that this country needs to offer a fully comprehensive formulary, covering all medicines that Canadians need, that are cost effective and that are required to keep them healthy and covered by a public single-payer system, no later than January 1, 2022.
Liberals often accuse the NDP of being in a hurry. Let me just pause for a moment and review the history of pharmacare. It was in 1964 that the Royal Commission on Health Services, chaired by Justice Emmett Hall, who was appointed by the Conservative then prime minister John Diefenbaker, issued a report to Canadians saying that Canada needed to offer prescription drug coverage in this country. That was almost half a century ago.
It was 23 years ago, in 1997, that the Liberal Party of Canada promised Canadians in a platform, in writing, that if the Liberals were elected and given the privilege of serving as the government they would bring in public pharmacare and they would produce a timeline in that Parliament for doing so. Incidentally, the Liberal government has had at least three majority governments since then, as well as a minority. They have had 13 years of majority government and minority government to make that happen since that time, and they have failed to do so.
Is half a century for bringing necessary medicine to Canadians too much of a hurry? Is 23 years to have a political party deliver on a promise that it made to Canadians in a solemn platform, in a public way, too much of a hurry?
Almost a year has passed since the Liberal-appointed advisory committee recommended the same thing as seven different royal commissions, task forces, Senate committees and House of Commons committees of all types have recommended and come to the same conclusion on. I want to pause and emphasize that every single body that has ever looked at this question of what is the most effective, efficient and fair way to make sure that all Canadians get the medicine they need when they need it, has found that it is through a public single-payer model.
The NDP does not just talk. We act. We do not dawdle. We work, we create and we deliver. The NDP has done the work that the Liberals promised to do and have failed to do, and that the Conservatives refused to even commit to. That is, we have drafted the very first, historic, groundbreaking legislation to make pharmacare a reality in the Canada pharmacare act. We will be introducing that legislation in the House of Commons in the weeks ahead.
What would the proposed act do? It is based on the recommendations of the Hoskins advisory council, along with the other expert reports, and we have modelled it on the Canada Health Act because prescription medicine should be covered, like every other medically necessary service, through our public health care system.
Our act would enshrine the principles and national standards of pharmacare in federal legislation, separate and distinct from, but parallel with, the Canada Health Act.
That means that the federal government would take a leadership role and ensure pharmaceuticals were delivered to Canadians just as other services are delivered, with provinces respecting the principles of universality, comprehensiveness, accessibility, portability and public administration.
Like the Hoskins report, our legislation would come into force exactly when Dr. Hoskins said it should: on January 1, 2022. The bill says that the federal government should take leadership by providing a stable fiscal transfer to the provinces that agree to respect the principles of it and make sure their citizens get the drugs that are covered on a negotiated formulary at no cost, just like they do every other medically necessary service.
I want to pause a moment and go to those who cannot afford it. Study after study, from the Parliamentary Budget Officer to academics, says that we can cover every single Canadian in this country and save billions of dollars doing so. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, using conservative assumptions, said that we would save $4.2 billion every single year by bringing in public pharmacare. Academics have said that is a low estimate and it would be billions more.
Why is that? It is because by bringing pharmacare under our public health care system, we could have national bulk buying led by the federal government for 37.5 million Canadians. We could have streamlined administration. We could take those 100,000 separate private plans and fold those into a single streamlined, efficient and effective administration program in each province. We would save money from the results of cost-related non-adherence, because we know that when Canadians do not take their medications, they get sicker, and when they get sicker, they end up in the ICU.
It has been estimated that having one diabetic in the ICU for three or four days because that person did not take his or her insulin costs more money than giving that person free insulin for life. That is the kind example I am talking about, and we would save money by having universal pharmacare.
Finally, we would save money by using a disciplined, evidence-based formulary, and by having an independent body in this country that assesses medication based on science and that gets the best value for money and efficacy. That would form the basis for prescribing practices in this country, and it would better prescribing practices.
It is time to act. Canadians cannot wait any longer for this and should not have to wait any longer. This is an essential health care policy initiative. It is essential from an economic point of view. It has been found that an average Canadian family would save $500 a year with public pharmacare and that the average employer would save $600 per insured employee. I have rarely seen a public policy that has broader stakeholder agreement than public pharmacare.
Outside of the pharmaceutical companies and the insurance companies, every single stakeholder group that appeared before the Standing Committee on Health said that it supported what the New Democrats are proposing. Employers support it because they want a healthy workforce. They know that pharmaceuticals are the fastest-growing and most expensive part of their extended private health care plans, and they cannot afford it. They know it is better to have this delivered through the public health care system. That is why Canada spends less money per capita than the United States does in delivering health care, and we cover every single Canadian.
It is time to act. I no longer want to hear the Liberal government give excuses about why it cannot move faster and it is studying the situation and has work to do. I have never heard the Prime Minister or the health minister, or in fact any Liberal health minister since 2015, utter a commitment to public health care. I have heard the Liberal finance minister tell his business colleagues that he prefers a U.S.-style private-public patchwork, but there has been radio silence from the government on public pharmacare. That ends today.
I challenge my Liberal colleagues to stand in the House today and tell Canadians if they support public pharmacare or if they support a private, U.S.-style patchwork. Canadians deserve to know. After 50 years of study after study telling us that Canadians need pharmacare, the New Democrats are going to continue to fight for patients and do what we have always done, which is to create and build public health care in Canada, just like Tommy Douglas envisioned back in the 1940s.
We are going to continue working hard until every Canadian has pharmacare, dental care, eye coverage, auditory coverage and full comprehensive coverage under a public health care system.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 10:58 [p.1983]
Mr. Speaker, to be more precise, we have public health care in this country because of the work of NDP MPs in the 1960s who worked together in a Liberal minority Parliament, the Pearson government. However, I would say that this provides another historic opportunity today, in my view, because the Liberals and the New Democrats together have enough votes in the House to make that next important expansion of our public health care system, which was always envisioned.
I want to speak to whether we are moving too fast or not. I will reiterate that pharmacare was envisioned as a critical piece of our public health care system back in 1964. My colleague's own party pledged to Canadians that it would bring in public pharmacare in 1997, but here we are in 2020, and the Liberals are saying, “I think we're moving too quickly.”
The most pointed answer I could give to my hon. colleague is that this motion today simply calls on Liberal colleagues to follow the recommendations of their own Hoskins advisory council, which recommended a timeline and a provided a blueprint that requires us to work on legislation this year and commit to a public pharmacare system.
I still have not heard from my Liberal colleagues, but I will ask them every time: Do they or do they not support public pharmacare?
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 11:01 [p.1984]
Mr. Speaker, I deeply appreciate my hon. colleague's concern for those with rare diseases and I absolutely agree, as the health critic for the NDP, that we need to find a better way for families suffering across this country and individuals who have rare diseases who cannot get access.
Interestingly, the example the member points out is a family who, under the current system, under the current private-public patchwork, cannot get access to the drugs they need. This is why the NDP is proposing a solution.
In the 1960s, there was a great debate in this country over public health care, and a very common argument against public medicare was that Canadians would not be able to get the services they need. That turned out to be a hollow argument.
Would Canadians today give up their public health care system and trade it for the U.S. style, the private-public patchwork? Do they think that would be a better way to access health services? No, because in this country Canadians know that every Canadian should get access to the health care they need, regardless of their ability to pay. We say the same thing should happen with prescription medicine.
It is absurd to have a medicare system that does not cover medicine. We know that the most efficient way to deliver health care services is through the public model. Study after study proves that. It is not me saying that, but academics, stakeholders and industry groups. It is renowned around the world. This is the best way, and that is why every single country does this.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 11:03 [p.1984]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to sit with my hon. colleague on the health committee.
The member pointed out that Quebec has been a leader in this country on universal pharmacare. It is the only province right now that covers all of its citizens' pharmaceutical needs.
There are some criticisms of the model that Quebec uses, because it has a hybrid model that requires employers to cover their employees, while anybody else is covered by the public system. The health committee heard evidence that we should specifically not adopt that model for all of Canada, because Quebec has the highest per capita cost of delivering prescription drugs in the country.
Consequently, New Democrats believe it will benefit the Government of Quebec and Quebeckers to remain involved in the project we propose, considering its clear benefits to the people of Quebec, but we totally respect that it is Quebec's decision to retain its own system. It could absolutely withdraw from national pharmacare and use those funds to improve its existing system.
The NDP would like to sit down with all provinces, including Quebec, and look at how we can build a national system for delivering pharmacare, similar to the way we worked together on health care. However, it will absolutely be up to Quebec to decide if it wants to opt in or opt out, with federal compensation, because we respect Quebec's ability to do so if that is Quebec's choice.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 11:05 [p.1984]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway for the motion, which is something we have talked about in this place before. As he has said many times, after many years—decades, in fact—it is high time that we got something done on this file.
I would like him to speak a little more on something that I always find strange in this debate. A lot of members from other parties routinely stand and say they want efficiency in government and less money spent overall. We know that prescription drug coverage for provinces is one of the major cost drivers in health care. Drug coverage on a federal scale is a way to drive down those prices, which are putting upward pressure on provincial budgets. It is always mystifying to me that when we come up with an idea that would, without sacrificing services, drive down the cost of something that governments are already providing, we do not see more support on the other side of the House.
I wonder if the member could speak to that phenomenon and maybe help Canadians understand how that could be.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 11:06 [p.1984]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Elmwood—Transcona for the wonderful work he does on behalf of his constituents in the House. He is a fine parliamentarian.
It is so important to emphasize to Canadians the economic advantages of what New Democrats are proposing. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, taking 2016 as a model year, calculated the amount spent in the country during that time on all drugs that would be covered under a pharmacare system. He found that about $24 billion was spent that year. He then ran a model to find out what would have been spent if there had been a public single-payer system covering exactly the same drugs. He found that $20 billion would have been spent, and that is with conservative assumptions.
He attributed no savings to cost-related non-adherence. He attributed no savings to streamlining the administration. The savings came only through bulk buying and a more disciplined way of delivering these drugs to Canadians.
As I said in my speech earlier, that is low. There are academics who say we will save much more, between $6 billion and $8 billion to $10 billion per year. As an economic imperative, this is essentially a policy no-brainer.
I want to come back to the most important thing of all, and that is Canadian patients. We should not be content in this country when seven and a half million Canadians cannot get medicine. We cannot be okay with that. We cannot be content with that when we know there is a way to make sure all Canadians get the medications they need. This is imperative.
New Democrats are asking the government and the Liberals to act now, commit to public pharmacare and endorse the Hoskins advisory council's recommendations. Let us get to work and provide pharmacare to everybody.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 11:22 [p.1987]
Mr. Speaker, we are here 23 years after the Liberals initially promised this in their platform. They have had many years of majority government since making that promise. We just came off a Liberal majority government and the Liberals have not even had a meeting with the provinces to discuss the idea, to feel them out and see where they are with this.
If the Liberals are really serious about developing a single-payer national public comprehensive pharmacare plan, when will they call a meeting with the provinces for the express purpose of figuring out what the concerns of the provinces are so they can start to develop a plan to deal with those and make an offer that would be acceptable to the provinces to move ahead on? I do not want NDP MPs standing here 23 years from now, talking about 46 years of inaction by the Liberals. They first promised it in 1997.
When is the government going to actually convene a meeting with the provinces to talk about a national pharmacare plan? When is it going to happen?
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 11:41 [p.1990]
Mr. Speaker, according to the Hoskins report, universal single-payer public pharmacare will reduce out-of-pocket costs for families by $6.4 billion a year. That means families are saving money, families that are struggling with the high cost of housing and struggling with the high cost of child care.
Does the member opposite agree that we should be putting that money back into people's pockets and focusing on the high cost of prescription medication and the cost not only to the economy but to the day-to-day living experience of Canadians?
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 11:57 [p.1993]
Mr. Speaker, I want to correct the record. The member's Conservative colleague said that there is a small percentage of Canadians who are without coverage, who are struggling to pay for medication. It is one out of every five Canadians who is not taking their medication because they cannot afford it. That does not take into account those struggling to pay, who are paying but then going without other basic necessities.
Over the past 12 years, Canadian expenditures on drugs have outpaced all other countries, including the U.S., with 184.4% growth in total drug expenditures. Why did the Conservatives in their time in government do nothing to stop Canadians from being gouged by pharmaceutical companies?
The member opposite has a choice: Does he want to support universal single-payer pharmacare or does he want to protect big pharma? Whose side is he on?
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 12:13 [p.1995]
Madam Speaker, I want to clarify something. My colleague who introduced the motion was very specific and said that we absolutely do recognize that Quebec has its own system. If it is Quebec's will that it continue on with its own system of pharmacare, then that is its choice. We wanted to provide as much choice as possible to the people of Quebec.
In fact, even though Quebec is ahead of the curve with its public and private system, Quebeckers are among those who spend the most per capita on prescription drugs and 10% of them cannot afford the drugs they need.
Even though Quebec has this ahead-of-the-curve system, would it not be something that the Bloc Québécois could consider in terms of improving things for the people of Quebec, that they listen to what the NDP has to say, explore the national version and see if that actually helps Quebeckers in their province?
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
I would remind the member to address his remarks to the Chair. I am sure that when he uses the word “you”, he does not mean that it is up to me to decide about implementing programs or anything of the kind. I would ask the member to direct his speeches to the Chair and not to the parties directly.
Questions and comments. The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:27 [p.1997]
Madam Speaker, I think the member knows that the NDP supports the idea of increasing federal health transfers. Many Canadians, not just Quebeckers, are disappointed, not with the federal government per se, but with Liberals and Conservatives for not ensuring that the federal government pays its fair share.
Our party wants to work with Quebeckers and progressive Canadians across the country so that the federal government gives the provinces a fair amount to help them manage their provincial health care systems.
A program like the one we are discussing today has the potential to save money, something that no province can do alone. If we work together, across our great country, we can save money that we would not be able to save if every province works alone. That is the big advantage here.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:32 [p.1997]
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Victoria.
Today, I am rising in the House once again to address the issue of pharmacare. It is unfortunate, frankly, that we are still only addressing this issue through opposition day motions. It is a testament to the fact that the government has not brought anything to the House that would advance the cause of a national pharmacare program. It is something that we know we need. We have made these arguments many times before, and Canadians themselves have a real and intense sense of the need.
In a telephone town hall in my riding, we held a straw poll of the several hundred people on the call. We asked how many people, either themselves or people they knew, close friends or family members, were cutting their pills in half, choosing to go without food, struggling to pay the rent or going without their prescription drugs because they had to choose between food and rent. We asked how many were dealing with the consequences of not being able to manage their illnesses, and it was about a third of people in Elmwood—Transcona. That is consistent with national polling that says a lot of Canadians are in this boat. Why are they?
If we look at international drug pricing, we know that Canada pays among the highest prices for drugs. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, earlier in this debate, said we need to figure out why it is that Canada is paying among the highest prices in the OECD. We know why. It is because we are one of the only countries without a national pharmacare plan. It is not a puzzle or a mystery. We know exactly why. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health was talking about how they are working at the problem around the edges and wondering why they are not having any success.
We know from report after report, going back to the 1960s, that the way to make serious progress on this issue is to cut right to the heart of the matter and have a proper national, universal, single-payer public pharmacare plan. If we were to do that, we would see Canada's standing on the OECD drug price list go down significantly. It is not a mystery. The only mystery is why a party that promised this 23 years ago in its election platform, and has had a number of majority governments since, has not been able to get it done. It is charitable to call it a mystery. It is a mystery if we do not give what I think is an obvious explanation to those who are not in a charitable mood, which is that drug company and insurance lobbyists clearly have a lot of influence on the government, and that is why we are not able to make headway on this important issue.
What we hear from the Liberals is that the NDP wants to move too fast, that it is in such a hurry. When we talk about a policy proposal from the 1960s, and a Liberal promise from over 23 years ago, I hardly think that New Democrats are moving too fast. That would be like saying that somebody who took out a 25-year mortgage on their home was moving too quickly and the person should not have amortized the home over 25 years, but longer. We can do a lot in 25 years. People have died waiting for a national pharmacare plan, and I hope there will not be any more. The evidence and the research is there. We hoped we had the conditions in this Parliament to make it happen.
Earlier in the debate today, there was talk of establishing medicare across the country and how that was a function of collaboration between a Liberal minority government under Pearson at the time and the NDP in the 1960s. New Democrats had hoped that there was the willingness on the part of the Liberals to make a bold policy move. The circumstances today are the same as then, and we are willing to work with the government.
We have drafted legislation that provides a framework and put forward the motion today. The research is already out there. Not only is it out there by the Parliamentary Budget Officer and a number of civil society and academic groups that have studied the issue, but the government commissioned its own report from the last Parliament that recommended exactly what we are proposing. The research is done. The conditions in Parliament have been obtained.
If the Liberals need somebody to blame, they can tell the insurance and drug companies, “We were trying to look out for your profits, but those bloody NDPers just would not give us a break and we had to do it.” Liberals can blame us, that is fine. We do not mind looking bad in the books of insurance and pharmaceutical companies if it means getting a win for Canadians struggling to pay for their drugs. They can blame us. That is how we have gotten a lot of good stuff done in this country.
The problem is that the government does not want a deal, and it does not want to move forward. I think the frustration here is that a lot of Canadians felt if we got a Parliament that looked like this one, we could move forward on a common-sense policy proposal.
Often when we talk about helping people out, common objections that come up are what it is going to cost and where we are going to find the money. The fact of the matter is that we can afford to not only maintain the existing level of service, but expand it to everyone and save billions of dollars at the same time. The money is already being spent. In fact, we are already overspending on prescription drugs in Canada. We have the research. We thought we had the political conditions to be able to get this done.
Part of what is happening, if we look at this and the reluctance of the Liberals to use this Parliament to make significant gains, is a little like outdated conventional wisdom. This is not grandpa's Liberal Party. It has not been the same since 1993, but there is still an image in the heads of a lot of Canadians. They think back to constructive minority Liberal governments that worked with the NDP to get good things done, but today it is like putting butter on a burn. That was something that people used to do because it seemed like a good idea.
However, when we look at the evidence that we have so far in this Parliament, and from the Liberal majority governments from 1993 onward, we can see that it is becoming a dated notion. The evidence disproves the claim that Liberals are here to do real progressive work and are willing to sign on to innovative new social policies that not only save money but also expand service for Canadians. I think that is a message that Canadians should take seriously.
There was a lot of talk in the last election about what a minority Parliament could produce, and I know that for people not just in Elmwood—Transcona, but right across the country, there was a real hope that we would be able to get this kind of collaboration. This is a starting point, as I have said. We have done a lot of work in order to make it as easy as possible for the Liberal government to move ahead. It is something that we desperately want to see. It is something that, when we look at the potential benefit to Canadians in their everyday life, is huge, and it is rare that we get that kind of benefit while saving money at the same time.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, we are talking about over $4 billion a year that we are already spending that we would not have to spend. Members can look at some of the other studies. They talk about $6 billion, $8 billion or $10 billion a year that we could be spending. I think the PBO report is universally acknowledged as being quite conservative in its assumptions.
Here we are. We have the political conditions. We have the research. We can get it done. That is exactly what we need to do, and we are waiting for that to happen.
An hon. member: You have to call for split time again. They did not hear you.
Mr. Daniel Blaikie: I know.
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
The hon. member has already indicated that he was splitting his time, so I am well aware of that.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:40 [p.1999]
Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's enthusiasm to hear from the member for Victoria. I am looking forward to her speech as well. It is going to be an excellent speech, because it is a really important topic.
I am just going to wrap up by reiterating. It is rare that we have such a clear-cut public policy opportunity to save money and to expand services for people who really desperately need them. We spend so much time in politics listening to politicians say we need to cut the budget, we need to save money and we need to balance the budget. The biggest cost driver for provincial health budgets, which are paying for prescription drugs already, is prescription drugs. We can do something about that by mobilizing the purchasing power of the country and expanding the service for Canadians.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:42 [p.1999]
Madam Speaker, in response to the member's question, I will just read item (b) from the motion:
(b) call on the government to implement the full recommendations of the final report of the Hoskins Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, commencing with the immediate initiation of multilateral negotiations with the provinces and territories to establish a new, dedicated fiscal transfer to support universal, single-payer, public pharmacare....
It is right in the motion. Of course we believe that it is important to work with the provinces. It is why we put it in the motion.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:44 [p.1999]
Madam Speaker, there has been a lot of debate, discussion and research on how medication for rare diseases is a separate category and needs to be treated differently. The idea is not that a national pharmacare plan would be a panacea for every patient and for every condition. The fact of the matter is, as the member has been pointing out often in the House and not just in the debate today, people already have trouble accessing those drugs in Canada under a patchwork system. That is not a reason not to have a system that makes it a lot easier and a lot cheaper to access common drugs for most Canadians, and then work on an appropriate solution for people who are struggling to get access to medication for rare diseases.
The member sees these two things as being in fundamental opposition. I disagree. He is identifying a legitimate need that needs a policy response, but the policy response is not to negate all of the benefits of a national pharmacare plan.
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
The member for Berthier—Maskinongé has time for a brief question.
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
I must ask the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona to answer the question. When I say that we have time for a brief question, that is what I expect.
The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:47 [p.2000]
Madam Speaker, our health critic said today that it is part of our policy and it is in our platform.
We hope to have a program that works. Quebeckers can participate in the program if they wish. We are open to them joining it if they want to. We do not want to begin the process with the assumption that they will not participate. We want to convince them to join it, but we recognize that it is up to them.
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 12:47 [p.2000]
Madam Speaker, first I want to thank my hon. colleague for splitting his time and thank him for his excitement about me speaking. I am honestly in awe of his speech. He spoke eloquently and made it so clear how this is sensible and straightforward.
In Canada, we have a universal health care system and it is a source of pride for many people in our country, especially when we look south at the inequalities in the U.S. private health care system. Everyone should be able to access health care. It is not just for the people who can afford it. Health care is a fundamental human right.
However, Canada, as has been mentioned before, is the only industrialized country with a so-called universal health care system that does not include universal comprehensive public coverage for prescription medications. When it comes to medications, we are actually more similar to the U.S. than we are different. One out of every five Canadians is not taking their medication because they cannot afford it. Many Canadians are cutting their pills in half or even skipping their medication completely. Too many Canadians are ending up in the ER and in hospitals for longer stays because they cannot afford the essential prescriptions that they need. Hundreds have died prematurely every year.
Even people with private drug coverage have been seeing their employer benefits shrink, finding themselves working in more precarious jobs and feeling the squeeze on their family budget. Out of the three million Canadians who cannot afford their medication, 38% of those are on private insurance, but that private insurance does not actually cover enough of their costs and 21% have some form of public insurance that does not fully cover their costs.
Canada's currently fragmented, patchwork system of drug coverage, where each province is offering different levels of coverage with more than 100 public and more than 100,000 private drug insurance plans, is not working for Canadians. This patchwork system is also one of the main reasons why as a country we are consistently paying among the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Why is this allowed to occur when it does not make sense for Canadians?
The Liberals have been promising pharmacare for 23 years over and over again, but instead of delivering on that promise to Canadians, they have been helping deliver bigger and bigger profits to pharmaceutical and insurance companies. We recently found out that a so-called national pharmacare working group was sponsored by some of the biggest pharmaceutical and insurance companies in the world. We know that these pharmaceutical companies have been lobbying pretty effectively against single-payer pharmacare. A truly universal pharmacare system is not in the interest of these multinational corporations, but it is in the interest of hard-working Canadians. It is in the interest of small businesses and start-ups.
The federal government's own expert panel found that a universal single-payer system would save businesses over $600 per year, per employee. It would also particularly help small businesses and start-ups currently unable to afford employee drug coverage since it not only removes financial burdens from these businesses, but it also boosts productivity and results in fewer sick days.
It is in the interest of Canadians and small businesses. Health experts say that this is the way to go, but it is not in the interest of big pharmaceutical lobbyists. Who is the government going to listen to? For 23 years, over and over again, each time the Liberals say they are going to look out for Canadians, they turn around and look out for multinational pharmaceutical corporations. Last year, they promised pharmacare again, but they have taken no concrete action to make it happen.
In order to establish universal public pharmacare across Canada, Parliament must pass enabling legislation and the federal government must negotiate transfers with the provinces and territories, yet the Liberal government has remained silent on these foundational steps. Despite campaigning on pharmacare last fall, it has not committed to a truly universal single-payer system as recommended by its own Hoskins report. It also has not provided any timelines for implementation.
People are struggling now and they need action now. A resident of Victoria shared with me that he is on a disability pension and he spends about $100 a month on prescription medication. He knows he should be eating healthier food to complement his medication, but he is struggling to afford both.
This choice is all too common, choosing between essential medication and life's basic necessities. This is a choice that people should never have to make. The government has an opportunity to remedy this. The NDP is introducing this motion and, if passed, if we established a Canadian pharmacare act and provided the first steps in making universal pharmacare a reality, we could address the concerns of this resident and the many Canadians who are struggling to pay for essential medication.
Yesterday, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Once implemented, a pharmacare plan would be free for Canadians, it would make emergency wait times shorter, free up hospital beds and save the government $4.2 billion. Countries around the world are facing the possibility of having their health care systems overwhelmed. Now more than ever we need to make sure that ER wait times are shorter and that we have free hospital beds for those who really need them. We need to make sure that Canadians have access to the services that they depend on.
Canadians are struggling to access medication, and they are struggling with affordability of housing, food, dental care and child care. It is hard to make ends meet while everything is getting so expensive. This plan would save Canadians an average of $500 a year, and it would save employers $600 a year or more per insured worker.
I heard from so many of my community members who struggle to afford their medication, and I promised that I would fight for them. I promised that I would fight to take the next big step for our country with a truly universal, public, single-payer pharmacare system.
Like so many, when we are talking about health care and the cost of medication, it feels personal. My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer just over 10 years ago. At the time, the doctors told him that he had about nine months and that he should be preparing his family. At the time, he joked and said that the downside was that he had cancer so bad that they could not do anything for him. The upside was that he had cancer so bad that they could not do anything for him. Luckily they did. He was put on an experimental clinical trial with an experimental treatment of calcium flushes for the bone cancer, and he is still with us today. He still has cancer, and his medication costs have fluctuated over the years, sometimes totalling $3,000 a month. Thankfully, most of it is covered.
If members could not already tell, my dad has a dark sense of humour, like many cancer survivors. He joked with me a few months ago that, thank God he has terminal cancer so that his medication is covered. However, there is a sad seed of truth in that. Many people in our country are struggling to pay for essential medication. Nobody should have to make the choice between food and medication, between paying for their rent and keeping a roof over their head and paying for their prescriptions. We need a government that is truly committed to universal pharmacare, not one that is trying use a hodgepodge of pharmacare promises, a patchwork system and more empty words to signal to voters that they are still progressive.
Adding medication to our national health care plan cannot be another broken Liberal promise. It cannot be, “Maybe someday we'll get around to it.” This is about life and death, and we need a government that understands that. We need to think boldly again, and we need to do the hard work to continue to build a country that we can be proud of, a Canada where people have access to the services they need when they need them, where nobody is making these impossible choices, and where politicians understand that these issues are personal to so many Canadians.
To me, fighting for that Canada, it is personal. We need courageous action from our elected officials, so I urge each colleague to support the Canadian pharmacare act because it is the right thing to do for constituents. It is my hope—
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
The time is up. I did try to allow some more time and signal to the member. I know that this is quite a passionate discussion. Maybe she could add more during questions and comments.
The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 12:59 [p.2001]
Madam Speaker, rather than advice for my colleagues, I am going to offer some advice to the member and to the Liberal Party as a whole, and that is to follow through on their commitments. It has been 23 years and drug costs just in this Parliament have gone up every single year since the Liberals took office.
Over the same period, the Liberal government has met with big pharma and insurance lobbyists more than 875 times. It is clear who the government is working for and it is not everyday people.
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 13:01 [p.2002]
Madam Speaker, I think that my colleague previously spoke very well about these two different issues, one about access to specific medication for rare diseases, which needs to be addressed, and the other issue around single-payer universal health care. A year's supply of atorvastatin, a widely used cholesterol drug, costs about $143 in Canada but only—
An hon. member: There is a shortage of that drug.
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
I remind members that if there are other questions and comments, they should wait.
I would ask that the hon. member to continue briefly, so that I can try and allow another question.
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 13:01 [p.2002]
Madam Speaker, it only costs $27 in the United Kingdom and Sweden, and $15 in New Zealand, so we can see very clearly that this would save Canadians money. If colleagues just read the Hoskins report, they would see that the pharmacare strategy would save small businesses and employers money as well. This is a benefit to Canadians.
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 13:03 [p.2002]
Madam Speaker, I share the member's concern for these issues. It is true that Quebec has its own public system. If Quebec wants to, it can continue to have that system and get compensation.
Honestly, Quebeckers are paying so much in drug costs, partially because the federal government is not doing its fair share and not fulfilling its full responsibility. We want to increase health transfers. We also want to provide the option for all Canadians to experience universal single-payer pharmacare.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2020-03-12 13:30 [p.2006]
Madam Speaker, we know that the Liberals have been embarking on this process of bringing in universal pharmacare for Canadians for 23 years now. As we are still embarking on this slow journey to get there, we have a motion before us in the House. Given that we have a plan, which has been laid out by the Hoskins report that the government itself had commissioned, will the member be supporting this motion?
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2020-03-12 13:33 [p.2006]
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for New Westminster—Burnaby.
Today we are talking about an NDP motion on something we have been advocating for a very long time. It is for the government to act on bringing a universal comprehensive single-payer pharmacare system to Canadians.
This has been a long-time dream of the NDP. In fact, 53 years ago, Tommy Douglas brought to us medicare. This is what Canadians itemize as one of the single proudest moments in our Canadian history: to ensure that Canadians can see the doctors and get the medical services they need. This is unlike south of the border, where people in the United States literally cannot access the medical attention they need, and people die from that situation. We are the envy of the universe. To complete that dream of Tommy Douglas, it has always the vision of the CCF and the NDP to bring in a comprehensive universal single-payer pharmacare program.
We know that the Liberals have said they support this idea and have said so for a very long time. In fact, to be more precise, for exactly 23 years they have said that they would support it. Now we are in a situation of a minority government, so let us hope, and I hope with all of my heart, that in this Parliament we will implement a universal single-payer comprehensive pharmacare system. That is what our motion is pushing for. That is what we want to see, and I believe that is what Canadians want to see.
In fact, out of the government's own consultative process with its own council came the Hoskins report, with 60 unequivocal recommendations laying out a concise plan for achieving this goal. The report highlights a number of things that warrant attention in this House.
Just so we know, some 7.5 million Canadians do not have adequate prescription coverage. That is to say, some 7.5 million Canadians cannot get the medication they need. Sixteen per cent of the people in Canada went without medication for heart disease, for cholesterol or for hypertension because of cost.
The amount of prescription-drug spending paid out of pocket in Canada in 2016 was $7.6 billion. That is a lot of money coming out of the pockets of everyday Canadians, money that they could otherwise use to support their family if there were a universal pharmacare program. The government talks all the time about how it wants to support middle-class Canadians; implementing universal pharmacare would support every single Canadian, including middle-class Canadians.
The people who are perhaps hardest hit because they cannot access a pharmacare program are women. Fewer women have employer health benefits compared to men. Women are more likely to report noncompliance to their prescription medication because of costs, not because they do not want to comply but because they cannot afford it.
Cost-related noncompliance is a common problem among the indigenous community as well, and people between 18 and 44 years old, people with lower health status and people with lower incomes also often cannot access the medication they need because they cannot afford it.
There is no question in my mind that it is time to act. I know some members will say that we cannot proceed with this because the provinces and territories say they do not want to. One of the issues that provinces and territories have tabled and put on the record is that they need the government to ensure that the health transfer payments are kept up. If the Liberals actually wanted to do something about this and ensure that negotiations go well with provinces and territories, they would ensure that the health transfer payments are actually provided.
Instead of adopting the Harper Conservatives' cuts to the health transfer payments, the government could say, “No, we are not going to take that path. We are not going to go down the path of the Harper Conservatives. In fact, we will fully fulfill our requirements and responsibility for health care transfer payments.” When we do that, I fully expect that the provinces and territories will come to the table and earnestly negotiate with the Canadian government to put in place a universal comprehensive single-payer pharmacare program.
I will share a story with members.
During the campaign, like everyone else in the House, I went door knocking. One constituent's story has shaken me to this day. He is a senior who just recently retired. He worked hard all his life and paid his taxes and all of those things. As he aged, he became ill. He has a number of complicated health conditions, and his medication costs him about $1,000 a month. That is a lot of money for a senior on a fixed income.
He told me that he had some savings and he could pay for this medication for a few months, but of course his savings will run out, and then what will he do? I think he told me that his savings would run out by this summer. He was very worried about what would happen when that occurred, because he would not be able to get the life-saving medication that he needs. He said to me, “You have to go and fight for a universal pharmacare program, not just for me but for my friends and other people like me.”
I took his words to heart, and here we are in this debate. I ask the government to support this motion before us and then get on with it and actually fully realize this motion and put it into reality. No more excuses. No more delays. No more “I can't do this and I can't do that.” No more saying that we support it and then decades later we are still talking about it. I do not want to come back to the House to have to debate this once again. I want to see this program in place, and Canadians want to see it as well.
This program will save lives. We know that. More importantly, or perhaps of equal importance for those people who talk about money, this program will save money as well. How often do we get to do this? We can have our cake and eat it too. This is the kind of program that we are talking about. We are in a minority government situation, and it can become reality. How about we fulfill that dream? How about we end the notion that Canada is the only country in the world that has a universal medicare program without pharmacare? How about we put that to bed once and for all, forever, by implementing universal pharmacare?
The government says that it wants to act, but I do not want to hear just words any more; I want to see this action in the budget. In the upcoming 2020 budget, I want to see the government allocate resources to get this done.
The Hoskins report, which I read page by page last night to get the full scope of its recommendations, has 60 recommendations. It outlines very clearly, step by step, how we can get this done and where the savings are, so the government cannot have the excuse of not having a blueprint. The government had this work done to counsel its work, and Dr. Hoskins and the team went out there and did this work, laying out in detail, step by step, how this could be done, so no more excuses.
The constituent I met during the campaign is in desperate need for the government to act. People in our community are in desperate need for the government to act. For members of Parliament, especially on the Liberal side, this is our moment to make that difference, to realize the legacy that Tommy Douglas has left us to fully implement universal medicare and pharmacare.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties, and if you were to seek it, I think you would find that there is consent to adopt the following motion:
That, at the conclusion of today's debate on the Opposition motion in the name of the Member for Vancouver Kingsway, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Monday, March 23rd, 2020, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent to propose the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes): The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2020-03-12 13:45 [p.2008]
Madam Speaker, yes, it does bring out the Conservative side of the Liberals, because that is consistent with their action on many of their programs, not the least of which is universal pharmacare.
I would advise the member to read Dr. Hoskins' report, because that is what I did yesterday, and it answers all of these questions.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2020-03-12 13:46 [p.2008]
Madam Speaker, the Hoskins report said this:
Be bold, Canadians told us. Be brave, they appealed to us. But most of all, they reminded us to heed those uniquely Canadian values: looking out for one another, supporting neighbours and communities through tough times and treating each other with fairness.
That is the plan forward. I understand some provinces are saying that they do not have enough resources from the federal government. I would ask the Conservative members to check themselves, because it was the Harper government that cut the transfer payments to provinces and territories. Had it not done that, the provinces may well come to the table and say “Yes, we can do this.”
As for the provinces, Quebec may well want to opt out because it has a fairly robust pharmacare program. There is that opportunity, but that said, I would also ask it to think carefully before it exercised that option, because the universal pharmacare program could actually save Quebec money as well.
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
I remind the member that she must address her remarks to the Chair and not directly to members.
The hon. member for Vancouver East for a brief response.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2020-03-12 13:48 [p.2009]
Madam Speaker, that is the whole point about a national universal pharmacare program. Buying bulk would save money, and that may help Quebec as well.
Quebec could opt out if it wishes to. Having stronger negotiating power with the pharmaceuticals will make a difference in terms of costs and the price of drugs for Quebec and across the country. This is a power we can have with a national pharmacare program.
The Liberals actually engaged with pharmaceutical companies more than 700 times in talking about the companies' needs. Perhaps it is time for the government to focus on what everyday Canadians need.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, since we have just 10 minutes before the start of question period and since I will not be able to come back after that, I will limit my remarks to five minutes so my colleagues can ask questions. I think this is an extremely important conversation. I will stop talking five minutes before question period so my colleagues can ask questions.
We are facing a pandemic around the world. When we look at how our universal medicare is working, we see an illustrative example of why we are calling on Parliament today to ratify the idea of a universal, public pharmacare program. There is a clear difference between Canadian-style medicare, where we have managed to keep the risk of COVID-19 low, and public health officials across the country working hard to maintain that level, and other jurisdictions, for example the United States, where the medical system is neither universal nor publicly administered. As a result of that, it is much more costly than in the Canadian context.
In British Columbia, the B.C. NDP government, John Horgan and public health officials have been working hard to contain the virus. When we compare the infection rates of COVID-19 there to those in Washington state, right across the border, two hours from my home and from my constituency, we are seeing brush fires erupting in the area of Seattle. In Lynnwood, for example, we are progressively seeing schools closing, churches closing and not celebrating mass or communion. A series of senior centres have had to close as well. The difference is quite clear.
That is part of why, in Canada, it is so essential that we have access to the health care system at all times, without having to worry about having to pay or whether our families have the capacity to pay. It is the same principle with pharmacare. This is why this debate is so vital today.
As parliamentarians, we have had Liberal governments promising to deliver pharmacare for almost a quarter century. The choice needs to be made for a Canadian-style, universal, publicly administered pharmacare program as called for in the Hoskins report, as called for unanimously by the Standing Committee on Health, and as called for by the Standing Committee on Finance. In the report we tabled just two weeks ago, the Standing Committee on Finance called for a public, universal and national pharmacare program.
The difference between that and some kind of piecemeal, for-profit pharmacare program is quite clear. We know with piecemeal, for-profit pharmacare many people are left out, and the costs are much more expensive. The reality, as detailed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, is that Canadians as a whole would save $4 billion if we moved to universal, publicly administered pharmacare. Businesses would save about $6 billion. Provinces would save, because of the federal government's contribution.
Canadians who are struggling to pay for medication prescribed to them by their doctor would benefit enormously from pharmacare. It would protect our whole country in the event of these kinds of pandemics that can occur.
I am going to tell two stories before I sit down to allow questions.
The first is about Jim. Jim sits outside the House of Commons in -30°C weather, in blizzards and in the blazing sun because he needs to beg to pay for his medication. He gets about $800 a month on social assistance, which is enough to pay for his room and his food. He cannot work because of his disability, and because of his need for that medication to keep him alive, he needs an additional $500 per month. It breaks my heart to see him every day. I make contributions, of course, and I think a number of other members of Parliament do, but in a country as wealthy as Canada, situations like Jim's should not exist. People should not have to beg in order to pay for their medication.
Another story is of a family that lives just a couple of blocks from my home in Burnaby, B.C., just off Cumberland Street. That family is paying $1,000 a month for heart medication that keeps the father of the family alive. They are having to make the tough choice, because of the escalating rents we are seeing, of whether to keep paying for the heart medication or to pay their rent. Canadian families should not have to make that choice.
That is why we need national, universal and publicly administered pharmacare, not piecemeal, not for-profit, not much more expensive, but the kind of universal program Tommy Douglas always advocated for and that the NDP and our leader are proposing today.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, as the member knows, Quebec already has a pharmacare program in place. It could be improved by having federal contributions, but it is up to the Quebec government to decide how to administer it and how to improve the program that already exists.
However, in other parts of the country where there is no universal pharmacare, there is a real interest from the provinces. This morning I met with the Minister of Finance for the Province of Ontario, a Progressive Conservative. His primary concern is addressing the woeful cuts in health care funding, which happened under the Harper Conservatives and continue under the current government. Provinces want to see full health care funding restored. Beyond that, of course they are interested.
What government would not be interested in a program that allows people right across the country to access the medications they need, that saves businesses money, that saves society as a whole a lot of money and that allows for bulk purchasing? In New Zealand bulk purchasing led, in some cases, to the cost of pharmaceuticals being reduced by 90%. This is a win-win-win.
Yes, of course, some of the insurance companies want to maintain their profits. However, the government and Parliament should be acting in the national interest. That is why we are calling upon all parliamentarians to vote yes on this motion today.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, it goes without saying. Of course we are talking to Quebeckers about this. I spent more than 10 years of my life in Quebec. I lived in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, in the Eastern Townships, in Montreal and in the Outaouais. The current pharmacare program is good, but it should be improved. That is what Quebeckers say when we talk to them about this. Too many pharmaceuticals are not covered.
If the federal government contributed its share, then of course Quebec could decide how to spend it. That might compensate, but it would also help improve the program. This is in Quebeckers' best interest. It is in everyone's interest to have a pharmacare program so that nobody has to beg or borrow money or go without the medications they need.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, my brief answer is Tommy Douglas. He pushed the dream of national, universal, publicly administered medicare. The Conservatives at the time were raising the same concerns. There is not a single Conservative in this House today who would stand up and say they want to get rid of universal, publicly administered medicare, because even they understand the importance of having a program in place that benefits everybody.
Even the Conservatives will be convinced. If we pass the motion over the next few days, Conservatives 10 years from now will stand up and say yes to universal pharmacare, because they will see the benefits for their constituents and all Canadians.
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
Before I recognize the first statement, I want to remind members that there is quite a bit of chatter going on right now and it is very difficult to hear.
Out of respect for the members who will be making their statements, and then during questions and comments, I would ask people to keep their chatter down. It is not just here on the floor of the House of Commons, but also up in the galleries.
The hon. member for Sydney—Victoria.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 14:14 [p.2013]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to one of the finest Vancouver Kingsway citizens I have had the privilege of knowing and serving, my dear friend Mrs. Perla de Peralta. I am deeply saddened to report of Perla's untimely passing on March 8.
Perla was one of those rare persons who was universally loved, respected and cherished. She was kind, gracious and generous. She was wise, patient and considerate. She carried herself with extraordinary dignity and decency.
Perla was a pillar of our community at large and an icon of the Canadian Filipino community in particular. Her leadership of many Filipino groups, most recently the Filcanes New Era Society, spanned decades. Throughout, she demonstrated outstanding competence, integrity and energy.
“Go to your Delfin, your family, your Lord and the angels, my dear Perla.”
Perla will be deeply missed but never forgotten.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, our thoughts are also with Ms. Grégoire and all victims of the virus.
The Liberals' announcement about COVID-19 leaves workers out in the cold as usual. Staying home is not an option for people without sick leave. They may lose their pay and maybe even their jobs.
Almost 60% of Canadian workers do not qualify for employment insurance. Therefore, if we want to ensure the virus does not spread, people have to be able to stay home if they are sick and still pay their rent.
When will the government guarantee that all workers who have to self-quarantine get the financial support they need to feed their families?
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I do not think the Liberals really understand the issue.
The COVID-19 pandemic does not affect everyone equally. Many cannot call in sick and still collect a paycheque. Many of these people are women and come from marginalized groups. They work in the service industry and on the front lines.
It is in everyone's best interest that they have the ability to self-quarantine if they need to. What is taking so long? These are real people who need real solutions and the promises made will not do it for those people. Therefore, when is action going to happen?
View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
Mr. Speaker, first nations in northern Manitoba are scared of the impact of COVID-19 on their communities. People in the Island Lake region are sounding the alarm. There is no running water, overcrowded housing, no hospital and nowhere to self-isolate and get treatment. Meanwhile, the government is talking conference calls, hand sanitizer and testing tents. These are first world responses to a third world reality.
The government needs to get real about what first nations are facing on the ground. These communities need urgent infrastructure now and before the winter road season shuts down. What will the government do to take COVID-19's impact on first nations seriously now?
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
View Charlie Angus Profile
2020-03-12 14:47 [p.2019]
Mr. Speaker, if PowerPoint decks could stop a pandemic, the government could be the world champion in preventive health. I am not saying that to be flippant, but two months into this crisis, isolated first nations are waiting for the basics, like hand sanitizer, gloves and masks, let alone ventilators.
If COVID-19 hits a community like Bearskin Lake or Kashechewan, we are in a nightmare scenario because how do people self-isolate in a home of 21 people full of mould? The minister's plan is to bring in tents. In James Bay in March? That is not going to cut it.
When are we going to see a sense of urgency to protect the lives of first nation people?
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
View Jack Harris Profile
2020-03-12 15:07 [p.2023]
Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador is facing incredible financial struggles and we need the government to take real action, but it keeps failing. After the recent state of emergency in Newfoundland, New Democrats called on the government to help workers who lost up to a week's wages. The Liberals said they would help, but those workers are still waiting.
Now the government is telling Canadians it is here to help workers impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, who will lose wages that they will not be able to replace. Since the Liberals still have not delivered on the commitments they made for an eight-day state of emergency in my province, how can any Canadian believe they are going to come through this time?
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 15:30 [p.2027]
Mr. Speaker, as we have said in the House many times, we know that about seven and a half million Canadians do not have any pharmacare coverage through our medicare system. We also know that back in 1997, 23 years ago, the Liberals promised public pharmacare. The Hoskins advisory council reinforced this by, once again, showing that committing to a public pharmacare system would be the best way to deliver this essential health service.
I am wondering if the New Democrats can count on the member's positive vote in favour of this motion, so Canadians can have public pharmacare as soon as possible?
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 15:35 [p.2027]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski.
In the days before medicare, we saw our neighbours suffer because they could not afford the health care they needed. We saw people lose their homes, their farms and their businesses as they struggled to pay their medical bills. We saw illness destroy entire families. Today, decades later, as we look across the country we see the pain of inaccessible and unaffordable health care once again.
Millions of families cannot afford to take the medications they need because they have no employer-provided drug coverage. The number of uninsured people forced to skip their medications is growing as more people work on contract, are self-employed or have jobs that just do not come with health benefits. Too many seniors are putting their health at risk because they do not have job coverage and cannot afford to pay out of pocket. One in five Canadians either has no prescription drug coverage at all or has inadequate coverage for medication needs. That is 7.5 million people.
I met one gentleman in my riding of London—Fanshawe who really highlighted this issue for me. He was injured on the job. Thankfully his employer had health benefits that would cover some of his recovery. He wanted and needed to get back to work even though he was not well enough, because he knew that he was up against the clock and his employer's health benefits would soon run out. He would have to make the impossible choice of going back to work, further risking his health and the health and safety of others, or paying out of pocket with money he just did not have, throwing himself into deeper poverty.
Sadly, this story is not anything new. That is why on clinical, ethical and economic grounds universal public drug coverage has been recommended by commissions, committees and advisory councils dating as far back as the 1940s. Health policy experts are clear: A U.S.-style, private patchwork approach will cost more and deliver inferior access to prescription drugs.
It is why New Democrats have always understood that health care must be a right in Canada, not a privilege. We have been calling for universal public drug coverage since our founding convention in 1961.
Today, Canada is the only wealthy country in the world with a universal health care system that lacks universal prescription insurance coverage. We pay the third-highest prices for drugs in the world and have to deal with a patchwork of programs and coverage, if we are lucky enough to have coverage at all.
For 10 years, instead of addressing the growing costs of drug coverage, the Conservatives made the problem worse by reducing health care funding to the provinces and undermining efforts towards a national approach to pharmaceutical pricing. Now, the Liberal government has spent four years stalling, promising lower drug costs but delivering delays and more of the same piecemeal system that is failing Canadians and costing us more.
We see the direct cost of this inaction in our hospitals and our communities. With people unable to get the medicine they need, they turn to our emergency rooms. When patients cannot afford their prescription drugs, they access provincial and territorial health systems more often as their conditions deteriorate. In 2016, about 303,000 Canadians had additional doctor visits, about 93,000 sought care in the emergency department and 26,000 were admitted to hospital after being forced to forgo prescription medication due to cost.
HealthCareCAN, the national voice of health care organizations and hospitals across Canada, estimates that between 5.4% and 6.5% of hospital admissions in Canada are the result of cost-related non-adherence to prescription medication, resulting in costs of approximately $1.6 billion per year.
One in five Canadian households reports a family member who, in the past year, has not taken a prescription medication due to its cost. Nearly three million Canadians per year are unable to afford one or more of their prescription drugs. With a system that still struggles with mental health supports, we see people on the streets and in our correctional systems when what they really need is help.
In London, Victoria Hospital of the London Health Sciences Centre has a significant overcapacity problem, with more mental health patients than beds for 179 of the last 181 days. The hospital's average capacity on any given night was around 111%.
We see the desperate need for a national, single-payer, universal pharmacare program. I believe my colleagues across the way believe that we need one too. I am so glad to hear that they will be supporting our motion today.
Why would Liberals keep promising to bring forward a national pharmacare program for the last 23 years? Why would Liberals propose study after study, after commission, after advisory committee if they did not see a need for pharmacare? That is, unless they are constantly studying the program to make it look like they are considering the issue and have no intention of implementing it. This is my great fear.
Liberals have been promising pharmacare since 1997, but I wonder how long they have been making promises to big pharmaceutical and insurance companies to secure their skyrocketing profits. We know that drug costs have increased every year the Liberals have been in power since 2015, and in that same time the Liberals have met with companies from the pharmaceutical and insurance industries more than 875 times.
New Democrats have a clear plan on how to implement pharmacare. In fact, our plan is laid out by the Liberals' own Hoskins report. We are so committed to ensuring this happens that, immediately following the last election, the NDP began working to draft a framework to make a universal, comprehensive and public pharmacare program a reality. It was the first private member's bill that my colleague, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, put forward and I thank him so much for his hard work. I thank my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, for the hard work he has done on this file, not only in putting forward this motion today but for his work on the health committee in the last Parliament.
The NDP's national pharmacare act is modelled after the Canada Health Act, again as recommended in the report of former Ontario Liberal health minister Hoskins. After all the studies and commissions, if we read the report, it lays out a very clear path on how to implement pharmacare. A plan should follow the same principles that are the bedrock of our public health care system: universality, comprehensiveness, accessibility, portability and public administration.
What also comes out of the endless reports and studies is that, beyond the positive impacts on health and fighting poverty, pharmacare will save Canadians and businesses money. Universal, comprehensive and public pharmacare will reduce annual system-wide spending on prescription drugs by $5 billion through the negotiation of lower drug prices, increased generic substitution and use of biosimilars and other shifts in prescribing toward lower-cost therapies. It will stimulate our economy by reducing prescription drug costs for businesses and employees by $16.6 billion annually and reduce out-of-pocket costs for families by $6.4 billion, according to that same Hoskins report.
When we consider the average median household income in London—Fanshawe is under $60,000 a year, and $30,000 per individual per year, it is well below the Canadian and Ontario average and this would be a huge boost to people in my riding. I think of the many seniors in London—Fanshawe that I have talked to, either on their doorsteps or in my constituency office. They tell me about how the cost of everyday items continues to increase while their incomes remain the same. The cost of drugs continues to be the fastest-growing expense for people and for families. Average drug costs are increasing by 4% every year. On average, Canadian households spend $450 a year on prescription drugs and $550 on private health plan premiums, which is a combined average of $1,000. Private premiums have risen rapidly in recent years, thanks largely to escalating drug prices, and are taking a growing bite out of workers' take-home pay.
After decades of delay, we have a historic opportunity in this minority Parliament to finally deliver for Canadians. We can come together and deliver, lifting people up in a real way and at the same time creating a healthier Canada. It is time for this Parliament to have the courage to put forward this program, to strengthen our health care system, strengthen our economy and strengthen our communities.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 15:45 [p.2029]
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the member was trying to shift the responsibility from the majority Liberal governments over all of those years. They certainly had every opportunity. Even in the last session when it had a majority, it was at a snail's pace. Liberals keep saying there was all of this advancement, but I know that people in my riding, having to decide between food on their tables or the medications they need to survive, are not really appreciative of the fact that it has taken those 23 years to move this forward.
I am happy that the government has decided to support this motion. I hope Liberals continue to support the bill going forward so we can get the supports people need in London—Fanshawe and across the country.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 15:47 [p.2030]
Mr. Speaker, I have heard my colleague bring this issue up in the House today. I appreciate that he is advocating so fiercely for some of his constituents, which is wonderful to see.
As other members in the House have mentioned, bringing in a universal pharmacare program does not mean we are giving up on continuing to advance the need for specific medications for people with rare diseases. We can lift everybody up and work toward equal access, which we have do together. However, this is not about throwing one system out and replacing it with another.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 15:48 [p.2030]
Mr. Speaker, the member across the way has talked a lot about the importance of the Quebec system. The New Democrats are in full support. If Quebeckers want to negotiate higher transfer payments under the pharmacare program, they can do so. They have led the pack with respect to the provision of pharmacare.
It is important to look at our nation as a whole, look at the pharmacare program as a whole and look at what the bulk buying of those drugs can provide, not just to Quebeckers, or to Ontarians or to the people in Saskatchewan and so on, but to all Canadians. That is a really important part of the program.
View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House in support of our opposition day motion.
I want to acknowledge the important work of my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, who has worked tirelessly on this front. I want to reflect on the fact that the push for national universal pharmacare is core to who we are as New Democrats.
It is the NDP that has pushed for medicare, leaders like Tommy Douglas, other NDP leaders and activists across the country. National universal pharmacare is very much part of that legacy. It is incumbent on us as New Democrats, but also as Canadians, to see that legacy realized. It is desperately needed in Canada today.
What we are proposing is so important. On clinical, ethical and economic grounds, universal public drug coverage has been recommended by commissions, committees and advisory councils dating as far back as the 1940s. Health policy experts have made it clear that a U.S.-style, private patchwork approach will cost more and deliver inferior access to prescription drugs.
According to the Liberals' own Hoskins report, universal, comprehensive and public pharmacare will reduce annual system-wide spending on prescription drugs by $5 billion through the negotiation of lower drug prices, increased generic substitution and use of biosimilars and other shifts in prescribing toward lower-cost therapies.
Pharmacare, to put it bluntly, is an investment in our future. It will stimulate our economy by reducing prescription drug costs for businesses and employees by $16.6 billion annually and out-of-pocket costs for families by $6.4 billion, according to the Hoskins report. It will take pressure off our public health care system through improved health outcomes, as individuals no longer face cost-related barriers to treatment. This will provide long-term savings, along with greater stability and resilience to shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic.
We believe pharmacare should follow the same principles that are the bedrock of our public health care system: universality, comprehensiveness, accessibility, portability and public administration. This is core to our opposition day motion today. It is core to who we are as New Democrats. I believe it is core to the values of so many Canadians. That is why I hope the House will see fit to support this critical motion.
We currently have a Liberal government, albeit a minority Liberal government, that has all too often used the right words to speak to the priorities of Canadians. We have heard the Liberals talk about their commitment to the middle class. We have heard them talk about reconciliation. We have heard them talk about making life more affordable for Canadians. However, their actions do not follow their messages.
In fact, in many of these cases, the Liberals employ what some are now calling reconciliation washing. They employ a kind of language that makes us all feel good about what needs to be done, yet we go on to watch them do the exact opposite.
When it comes to pharmacare, they have used that word incessantly, a commitment to pharmacare. We have heard about it repeatedly in the last majority government. We heard them talk about in previous majority governments. Here we are with no national universal pharmacare plan in front of us, yet a dire need for it.
What we have also seen from the Liberals is some clear actions that serve to benefit not Canadians, but actually the wealthiest among us and particularly corporations. Big pharma is definitely part of that.
In a report that the CCPA put out in 2018, it indicated a crisis in the pharmaceutical world, but not a crisis of profitability.
In December of 2015, Forbes magazine reported net profit margins of 25.5% from major pharmaceutical companies, 24.6% for biotechnology firms and 30% for generics. Comparable rates for tobacco companies, Internet software and services, information technology and large banks were 27.2%, 25%, 23% and 22.9% respectively.
The CCPA report went on to say, “...the crisis in the pharma sector is in the escalation of prices for individual drugs, especially but not exclusively in the United States”, and that is also a reality here at home, “and the low number of new products that offer major therapeutic gains over existing medicines. The industry’s lavish profits make these deficiencies all that much harder to tolerate.”
We know that between 2006 and 2015, the 18 U.S. pharma companies listed in the S&P 500 index spent $465 billion on R and D, $261 billion on stock buy-backs and $255 billion paying out dividends. These companies are making a profit off the backs of everyday people in our communities. We know that big pharma has mobilized against the pharmacare plans that have been put forward.
I want to point to the work of the PressProgress. On March 10, it said:
The pharmaceutical and insurance industry is quietly preparing a campaign to stop a coalition of 150 Canadian organizations pushing the federal government to follow the recommendations of its own expert panel and bring in a universal, single-payer pharmacare system.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has launched an “action plan” on behalf “business stakeholders across the country,” namely “benefits providers” and “pharmaceutical companies.”
The Chamber of Commerce has the audacity to call it a “grassroots movement”, and it says that it will “advocate the preferred pharmacare model with federal, provincial/territorial and municipal leaders” and “focus on targeting key policymakers in Ottawa.”
This is a disturbing message. Canadians do not send members of Parliament here to make decisions to benefit the biggest and wealthiest corporations in our country.
Every one of us represents constituents who are struggling because they cannot afford life-saving drugs. Every one of us represents families that have to prioritize food and rent above the kind of medication they may need. Every one of us knows people who have ignored health issues and bypassed the drugs they need and have often ended up becoming much more serious.
I think of the many seniors in my riding who are struggling because they cannot afford the drugs they need. However, I am also increasingly thinking about young people, young people in my constituency who are working in jobs that a few years prior were covered with great pharmacare plans. In some cases, the jobs do not exist any longer and in some cases those pharmacare plans do not exist any longer. As more and more young people engage in precarious work, work that does not have the coverage necessary, we know the need for a national universal pharmacare plan is not theoretical. It is very much a reality and an urgent reality for so many.
These days, we need to deal with the pandemic of COVID-19, particularly in vulnerable communities like the first nations I represent. However, we also need to remind ourselves how critical it is to ensure Canadians are supported day in and day out and that they have the support so they are better prepared when a pandemic is around the corner. I think of the many people who are living with chronic illnesses right now. They are particularly worried about COVID-19. I think of people who are struggling to make ends meet, whether it is affording medicines or other essential goods. They do not know what a pandemic might mean financially to them. Let us make it easier for them.
As parliamentarians, as representatives, as people who have the power to change the lives of Canadians for the better, let us get behind a motion that pushes for universal pharmacare, that pushes Canada to do better when it comes to our health care system, which we are proud of, but it needs so much more support going forward. Let us be on the right side of history. Let us support this opposition motion and make national universal pharmacare a reality in Canada today.
View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
Mr. Speaker, we have engaged in many conversations about how important pharmacare is. This is about action.
Right now we have an opportunity to support an opposition day motion directing the government to act on its own report, the Hoskins report, and ensure there is a national universal pharmacare program. The time for talk is over. It has been over for a long time. The needs of Canadians are only growing, given our demographics and, as I pointed out, given that increasingly many people, especially many young people, are not covered for medications by their work. We know that many people are in an increasingly precarious situation.
We have a moment in time to show leadership on this front. We can support broadening health care in our country and support our constituents. Let us take this moment in time; let us not waste any more of it. Let us get behind this opposition day motion. I implore the Liberals to do that today.
View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
Mr. Speaker, we are here to show leadership for Canadians, not jurisdictions. We are here to show leadership for our constituents. I think we can all agree that many constituents are struggling because they cannot afford their drug costs. This is the way we can act going forward.
I am sure that a lot of the messages we are hearing today are reminiscent of the kind of opposition that Tommy Douglas and others faced in bringing in medicare. They stood up for Canadians in their time in the face of great opposition, and often that opposition was from monied interests that wanted to profit off sick people.
Let us learn from that moment in time and have the courage to stand up and fully realize the idea of medicare for all by bringing in national universal pharmacare and really defending constituents, the people who send us here, the people who share the heartbreaking stories of what they are facing.
We have that opportunity at this moment in time, right now. Let us be on the right side of history.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 16:14 [p.2034]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her very thoughtful and well-researched speech. I am very pleased to hear that she will be supporting our motion, and I am getting the feeling that my Liberal colleagues in the House will as well.
What is particularly gratifying is that the motion specifically calls for a commitment to deliver pharmacare through a single-payer system. Of course, there are good reasons for that. It was the recommendation of the Hoskins panel and of the Standing Committee on Health. In fact, every task force that has looked at this issue over the last 40 years has endorsed the idea of delivering pharmacare through our public system, because it is the cheapest, most effective and fairest way to do it.
I am wondering if my hon. colleague could elucidate why she believes pharmacare is best delivered through our public health care system, as opposed to through the private-public patchwork.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 16:30 [p.2036]
Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of talk today about the proper relationship between the federal government and the provinces. Health care is a shared jurisdiction and in this country we have made it work with medicare, with the federal government providing transfer payments to provinces, which then are responsible for delivering those services to their citizens. It is a cost-share and nothing obligates a province to participate. Provinces could pull out of medicare tomorrow if they wanted. Why do they do it? Because they want the federal contributions, they want good health for their citizens and they agree to abide by the principles of the Canada Health Act.
The New Democrat proposal and the Hoskins proposal is to do that very same thing with pharmacare. The federal government would provide transfer funds to the provinces, they would negotiate a shared formulary and the provinces, if they wish to participate, would provide drugs at no cost, respecting the principles of the Canada Health Act, and receive money in exchange.
Does my hon. colleague agree with the NDP that it is a viable way of delivering pharmacare into the public system, just like we deliver all other covered health services under the Canada Health Act?
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, today I will be splitting my time with the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke.
I am really happy to be here today in the House talking about something that is so important to so many Canadians across this beautiful country. I am going to ask lenience from the Chair to wish my grandson a happy fifth birthday. Today, Shoshonne will be five. I was there when he came into the world and every birthday that I am not with him I am always a little sad. I want him to know that his Chi-chia loves him very much and wishes so much that I was with him today.
One of my mentors was the late Maya Angelou and she said, “When we know better, we do better.” When I think about the discussion we are having today on a national universal pharmacare program, I cannot help but think that we have known better for a very long time in this country and it is rather devastating that we are still having this conversation. In fact, we are the only country with a universal health care program that does not have the partnership with the universal pharmacare program and that is very concerning for myself and for many of the people that I represent in North Island—Powell River.
When I look at the history of this place, universal public drug coverage has been recommended by commissions, committees and advisory councils dating as far back as the 1940s and here we are in 2020 still having this debate when people are struggling every day in this country to afford medication that they need to survive. We know that in our country, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, people are dying because they cannot afford their medication. That is the type of isolation and pain that a family has to face that I cannot imagine. I am really shocked that we are still here having this debate like it is something we should be discussing instead of something we should simply be acting on.
The Hoskins report, which the Liberal government sponsored, was very clear. I do not know what else is really needed here, but here we are having this discussion again. The Hoskins report said a universal, comprehensive, public pharmacare program would reduce annual system-wide spending on prescription drugs. It would lower drug costs. It is something that is so important. I think of the many constituents who have come to me and talked about their personal reality. When we have an opportunity to do better for Canadians, I hope that everyone in the House will support this motion so that we can take that action.
In my opinion, pharmacare should follow the same basic principles that are the bedrock of our public health care system: universality, comprehensiveness, accessibility, portability and public administration. It just makes sense.
Once implemented, a pharmacare plan would make medication free for Canadians and there are a lot of constituents who cannot imagine a world without that financial burden, without the constant stress of worrying about how they are going to pay for their loved one's medications. I talked to family groups that are collaboratively coming together every month to put down the little that they have to buy medication for somebody in their family who is struggling with health concerns.
When we look at the system, we also know that it will have an impact on our emergency wait times because people will actually be taking the medication they need so that they do not have to go to the emergency wait lines all the time. It would free up more hospital beds for those who need them. People who need medications and cannot afford them should not have to be in those beds. They should be given the medication they need and not have to access the service. They deserve a better life than that.
We also know it would save governments more than $4 billion a year. Basically, after what the Hoskins report clearly stated, this is really a choice for the government to choose a system that will put Canadians first and will make sure that the health care and the well-being of Canadians is top of front and centre, or we will continue to have a system that largely benefits big pharma and the insurance industry.
In my riding of North Island—Powell River, we have a lot of rural and remote communities and a lot of people with differing experiences. The stories that I hear from each corner of the riding always make me concerned and I carry those stories with me.
I remember one woman who talked about her health care issue. She told me her family worked together so that she could buy a van. She needed the van because she could not afford rent. Her plan was to live in the van and then she would be able to afford her medication on her very limited income. She was worried about what it would be like in the winter. She had been living in her van for months, but it was the warmer months and she did not know what would happen when it got really cold.
This is Canada and this is a decision one of the people who lives in this country has to make.
I talked to a senior woman in my riding who lives in one of the northern parts, so it is a little bit more chilly during the winter. She talked about how every January and February she turns down the heat and has to wear extra sweaters and gloves in her house because she simply cannot afford the higher cost of heat, as well as her medication at the same time.
When I think of the people who built our country, the seniors of this country, asking them to do this just does not seem right to me.
I also have a constituent in the riding who has a very serious health issue that requires him to wear compression socks and he needs medication to keep him alive. The medication costs $70 per month and at this time he is only able to afford the medication, so he cannot afford to buy the compression stockings as well. This has gone on for several months. The family is really worried that he is going to end up in a hospital. Their frustration is that for the price of some compression socks why it is that he has to potentially spend time in the hospital? Where is the help? Where is the support?
Another woman named Ann in my riding spoke to us and said that she is a diabetic. Every month, the cost for her is $174 for the medication that she requires simply to stay alive. She will be 60 years old in June and she has no plans to retire because she cannot figure out any other way to afford her medication. It concerns her that it is different in every province. When she lived in Alberta, this expense was covered, but now that she is in B.C., it is not. I have heard this from young people as well with diabetes, who talk about the different services that they get in each part of this country.
We need to start looking at this because if we are going to have a universal health care system, as well as, hopefully soon, a universal pharmacare program, it really is devastating to think that some people get treated in some provinces and territories and they do not in others. That does not seem right to me if we want a universal system.
One in five Canadian households have reported a family member who, in the past year, has not taken prescribed medication due to cost. We know that after continuous cuts by the Liberal and Conservative governments, we have seen that less and less money going to the provinces for health care. All of these things are adding up, making it harder and harder for families every single day.
Nearly three million Canadians per year are unable to afford one or more of their prescription drugs. These stats are important because we know that people are not able to afford what is going to keep them well. Think about some of the challenges. I have talked to families who have children with serious health issues. I remember one in particular whose daughter had diabetes and had a scanner in her arm, but it cost a certain amount of money. When the father of the family was hurt at work and was on a disability pension, they could not afford that anymore and they had to get it removed from her arm. I cannot imagine families having to make these kinds of decisions.
There are some fundamental issues we need to deal with in this country. We know of the three million Canadians who cannot afford their medications, with 38% having private insurance and 21% having public insurance, which does not cover enough of their costs. Almost one million Canadians per year cut back on food or heating, like the senior in my riding, in order to pay for their medication and almost one million Canadians every year are borrowing money to pay for their medication.
I am a great admirer of the greatest Canadian in our country, and that is Tommy Douglas. He had a vision. I am hoping that today we will all be brave enough to step up to support this and move farther toward that dream and that vision, because this is really a way of making sure that everybody gets the treatment that they deserve in our country. It is about looking at how to spend money more effectively. I certainly would love to see money going into somebody's medication instead of it going into a hospital bed. We do not want people who are not well to be in a hospital bed when medication would make their lives that much better. Hopefully, we will see a positive result of this.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I am the daughter of a nurse. She talked a lot about some of the challenges that people with rare diseases face in the work that she did.
I want to point out that this motion is really talking about what the Hoskins report said, and this issue was addressed in that. It is very important that, as we look forward to making sure we have a comprehensive plan, we understand that there are rare illnesses for which we need to make sure medication is accessible. I remind the member that the NDP will always fight for the people who are suffering the most, who need help the most and who are the most vulnerable, because that is the core belief of our party: No one gets left behind.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, when we look at the basis of the motion, and also the Hoskins report, one of the most important parts for me is that it takes a lot of power out of big pharma and insurance companies so we can have a better regulated system. We need to ensure accountability on the part of the people who are producing the drugs to make sure they are as safe as possible and make sure that people do not get sicker because of the medication they are taking.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, it is important that we work together with all the provinces and territories to figure out how this process will unfold. That will obviously be a mandate. We know that provinces may choose to opt out, but I certainly hope there is an understanding that the collaborative nature of this process will see costs going down dramatically. I think the Parliamentary Budget Officer was very clear about that in his report a couple of years ago.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on my party's opposition day motion on pharmacare. I have to say that my twentysomething self would be somewhat perplexed that I am actually doing this, and that is not just to think that as a gay man I might be an MP, but also that we still have not finished Tommy Douglas' dream of comprehensive public free health care.
Strangely, we have convinced ourselves we already have that. We seem, somehow, to be turning a blind eye to the gaps in that system. Tommy always thought it would be a step-by-step process, but that eventually we would get there. I think we have to ask ourselves how we have convinced ourselves for so long that pharmacare and dental care should not become part of our comprehensive public health care system.
I am very pleased to sit in an NDP caucus, led by the member for Burnaby South and by the member for Vancouver Kingsway on this important question of how to advance toward the goal that Tommy set so many years ago. It is a caucus that has put forward clear and achievable plans to fill those gaps.
When the Liberals proposed the so-called middle-class tax cut last December, we proposed in return that we limit the benefits of those cuts to those earning less than $90,000. With the savings from limiting that tax cut's benefits to the rich, we could in turn finance a dental care program for everyone earning less than $90,000 a year.
There is a practical step we could take and a way to pay for it, one that is clearly within our means and clearly doable. I am hoping, after we debate pharmacare, that we will move to that next stage of debating dental care in this Parliament.
As promised by our leader, our first private member's bill that is going to be brought before the House here will be by the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, Bill C-213. This lays out a specific plan for pharmacare, based on the principles of medicare. Once again, this is a program that is universal, comprehensive, accessible, portable and publicly administered.
My twentysomething self would also be perplexed about why we do not already have this. When Tommy Douglas set out his dream, first in the provincial campaign in 1960 in Saskatchewan, he knew it would be difficult, he knew it would be step by step. In 1962, when he tried to add doctors' visits to the existing hospital insurance plan, he had to face down a 23-day doctors' strike.
We know there will always be people who will step forward, who will say there are so many reasons why we should not take the path we know is the right path.
In 1965, B.C. joined Saskatchewan with a hospital and doctor visit insurance plan, and then in 1966, in Pearson's second minority government, we had a federal government that finally offered financial assistance to provinces that had such a universal plan. Sure enough, within 10 years, we had public health care plans established in every province across the country.
When Tommy moved to the federal level, he brought his dream with him. In 1961, he became the leader of the newly established NDP. In the first platform the NDP put forward, specifically, a proposal to have a pharmacare program on the same principles as a medicare program. Unfortunately, it has taken us a bit longer than I think Tommy thought it would to get an NDP federal government. I know that, because in his last term I had the great privilege of having Tommy as my MP.
Along the way there were other reasons to be optimistic about pharmacare. I guess I would have to admit that. First of all, as previous members have mentioned, we have had numerous commissions, advisory councils and studies dating back 60 years, probably to the first one that I saw, recommending a universal pharmacare program.
One would think we would get to this. Skipping over all that time, last June we had the Hoskins report from the Liberal government's own appointee. A Liberal from Ontario sat down and worked through all of the issues, and ended up recommending the same thing that we have all known we needed, according to the five principles of the Canada Health Act. It was something he judged we could implement by January 1, 2022.
Perhaps today's motion is the first step toward that date: January 1, 2022. I really hope it is. I am encouraged by the things I have heard from previous Liberal speakers, that they are going to support this motion. This motion commits the House to moving forward on pharmacare. It is not just an expression of opinion, as opposition day motions sometimes are. It is a commitment, if it is passed by the majority, that we will actually do something to get pharmacare in place.
I would hope that action would occur quickly. The NDP has offered that opportunity with our private member's bill.
However, we would not be disappointed if the government introduced a bill even before that and decided to move it through expeditiously as a government. I am not seeing that happen, but maybe today this opposition motion marks a change in direction toward finally getting this done.
Let me talk for a moment about why we should be doing universal pharmacare, and in doing so I could talk about savings to the health care system. The Hoskins report was very clear that overall expenditures on prescription drugs in this country would drop by about $5 billion a year. This would come from a number of sources. One is, of course, that we would get the ability to negotiate lower prices for drugs through strategies such as bulk buying of drugs, increasing generic substitutions and also eliminating administrative costs.
For those members in the House who like to go on about bureaucracy, let us look at the patchwork system we have across the country with literally more than 1,000 health care plans all being administered to accomplish the same purpose. The Hoskins report was very clear about the savings overall to the system if we adopted a universal, comprehensive and publicly delivered pharmacare program.
I could talk about the savings that would come to the health care system through better health outcomes. This goes beyond that $5 billion. What it would really mean is if we remove the barrier of cost for people to actually get the treatment they need, in terms of prescription drugs, they are going to be healthier. That would reduce the stress on our already overburdened health care system.
This would mean that we could do more with the same resources we have now if we did not have people who end up in the emergency room, in the hospital or ill because they could not afford their prescription drugs. That is an additional savings that would not show up in dollars, but it would show up in less stress on the dollars we are already devoting to our health care system.
I could also talk about savings to business. This may be a strange one for some people to think about, but there would be important savings to businesses here from adopting this kind of national comprehensive program. Right now, businesses and their employees jointly spend about $16.6 billion in expenditures on drug plans. What happens to that money? That money takes costs away from businesses and their employees and transfers it over to be shared by all of us through the taxation system.
Therefore it would reduce the burden that businesses have to carry, but also, and here is where I am going to be an advocate for small business again, a comprehensive universal plan like this would help level the playing field for employment in small business. Lots of small business owners tell me they have trouble getting the highly skilled help they need because the scale of their operation is not big enough for them to offer a good drug plan. If we have a comprehensive public plan, when it comes to hiring employees, small businesses can compete with the big companies that already have those benefit plans.
We can understand why people might prefer to work at a small business in the community they are from, but have to think about their family when it comes to drug protection. Maybe they would choose their second choice as an employer and go with a big company because of the drug plan that it offered, and the safety and security that it would appear to offer their families. There would be an important benefit for small business by this levelling of the playing field when it comes to prescription drugs.
I can also talk about equity. A good reason for a national pharmacare program that is comprehensive and universal is that the patchwork we have now means that the treatment people get in Canada depends on which province they live in, who their employers are and how big their wallets are. That is certainly something that I, as a Canadian, do not believe we aspire to in this country when it comes to the health of our citizens.
The real reason I believe we should have a public universal program for pharmacare is its impact on ordinary families. Let me take a minute to talk about what this really means in everyday situations.
One in five Canadian households reports a family member who in the past year has not taken his or her prescribed medicine due to its cost. This means more sick days in families and, in many cases, means earlier deaths in families because people were not taking their proper prescriptions.
More than three million Canadians per year report that they are unable to afford one or more of their prescription drugs, and there are the same outcomes. It is bad for families, bad for their health and bad for the health care system.
Almost a million Canadians reported that each year they cut back on food or home heating in order to pay for their medication. This is a cruel choice that we are forcing on Canadians who do not have prescription drug coverage.
Finally, Canadian adults are two to five times more likely to report skipping their prescriptions than those who live in a system which already has a comprehensive and universal public program.
Here in 2020, we are at a historic moment. The Liberals have a minority government. Universal health care came through a Liberal minority government. Well, here is another opportunity to move forward. We in the New Democratic Party have presented proposals consistent with the Hoskins report, which will help us get a detailed plan in place.
Today we have the motion from the member for Vancouver Kingsway before us, a motion that will commit us to move forward to where we all want to go in this country.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I certainly recognize that important medical research is going on across the country. What I cannot really understand from the member is why she thinks important medical advances would be excluded as a result of a national pharmacare program.
We could write the kind of formulary we want and we could put in place the procedures to decide how prescribing takes place. If a major advance were to come forward like the member is talking about, why would a national system not take advantage of that new technology? Why would it not build that into the system?
I am guessing we have a way to go yet, but there is no particular reason that those advances would not fit in a national, comprehensive and accessible pharmacare plan.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I want to start by responding to the first part of what the member said.
I do not believe the demand in this country is for some form of pharmacare. That is not what the Hoskins report called for. It called for a universal, publicly delivered, accessible, portable public program. It did not call for “some form of pharmacare” or some patchwork of it.
The member mentioned talking to the provinces. The motion calls for convening talks right away to get to work on this. Obviously we are going to talk to the provinces and obviously we are going to have to build a system across the country.
My hon. friends in the Bloc are always worried about jurisdiction and the ability to opt out of programs. There are differences in Quebec. We respect those. Those kinds of talks would have to go on in order to implement a national, universal, publicly funded, accessible and portable pharmacare system, not just “some form of pharmacare”.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, when we take a serious look at the savings to both the federal and provincial governments in all the plans that are involved, it seems hard to believe that the Quebec government would not take part in discussions about such a national plan. I do not believe that it said it would never talk about this.
I know the Bloc members are excessively concerned about jurisdiction, but I know that ordinary Quebeckers are not so concerned about jurisdiction. They are concerned about affordability and the ability of the government to deliver programs like this.
I think we could look forward to very productive talks with Quebec on a national, universal, accessible, portable pharmacare program.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 17:17 [p.2043]
Mr. Speaker, I fundamentally disagree with many points that my hon. colleague is asserting.
First, I do not know where he gets the $34-billion cost. That does not emerge from any of the studies. I sat through the two-year study at the Standing Committee on Health. We know that national pharmacare, through the public system, will save us billions of dollars. He also suggests that the system is working well while his other colleagues stand and ask question after question about how it is failing Canadians with rare diseases in this country.
I have a two-part question. If he thinks this is a purely provincial matter and the federal government has no role to play in this, is it his position that the federal government should get out of health care and leave it entirely to the provinces, or does he think that we should continue to participate and provide transfer payments? Does he not agree that if we can save $4 billion to $8 billion by reorganizing our system, would that not make more money available to help all those Canadians who are not getting access to the drugs they need for their rare disorders?
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 17:46 [p.2048]
Madam Speaker, I am really pleased to hear the remarks of my hon. colleague from the Green Party and her contributions to this important subject. I was particularly happy and thought it was really helpful in this debate when she named so many of the organizations that represent so many Canadians in various aspects of life across Canada that are in support of Canadian public pharmacare.
This is not just something that political parties are pushing here. This is something that comes from the grassroots of our communities, from doctors, health professionals, nurses, hospitals, patient groups, unions, employer groups, industry and health economists.
I wonder if my hon. colleague could elaborate on that and if she would tell the House her sense of the support that exists in her community and in stakeholder groups across this country. Does she believe that it has majority support of Canadians across our land?
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
View Heather McPherson Profile
2020-03-12 17:51 [p.2049]
Madam Speaker, I stand today to speak about my support for this motion.
I want to start with the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a timely reminder that we are all global citizens and are all connected to one another. The health of Canadians is connected to the health of people around the world. Some days we may even take our health and health care system for granted, but not today of course. The global pandemic is a stark reminder that our health is fragile and so is our health care system.
Across the planet, countries that have had the infrastructure and capacity to quickly isolate and treat patients have had the most success at flattening the curve of infection. These countries have been able to save the lives of what will probably end up being thousands if not tens of thousands of people. While Canadians are rightly proud of our national health care system, we lack the critical element that other countries possess: the ability to provide ongoing medical treatment through pharmaceuticals. As I said, we are all connected. My health affects others' health. If I cannot access the medications I need, others may suffer the consequences. Canadians understand that.
I am a new member of Parliament, and one of the members who have never run for office. It was a real privilege to knock on doors in my riding of Edmonton Strathcona to learn from my constituents. I was particularly struck by the intelligence and generosity of opinions expressed by the people of Edmonton, people who clearly understand the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots in Canada.
Edmonton Strathcona is a very diverse riding, with Canadians from every region of the world and from as wide a range of socio-economic backgrounds and situations as we would see in any major city in this country. When speaking with my constituents on their doorsteps about the NDP's priorities, I was not surprised to hear overwhelming support for our platform from those struggling to make their needs met. However, I was a bit surprised by how often my constituents who were not struggling were concerned about the very same things.
I will never forget one young man, a successful business owner living in a beautiful new infill home. He told me that his number one priority was health care for struggling Canadians. We talked for a long time about the NDP's plan for pharmacare, dental care and mental care, and he told me about his two young daughters and the children at their daycare and school. He was deeply concerned for his daughters' well-being of course, but he emphasized that their well-being was directly linked to that of their friends.
He described to me those he knew, many of them new Canadians who were not able to access the medicine that they needed. They or their children were going without necessary medications because they did not have drug coverage. He then looked me straight in the eye and said, “This is ridiculous. My child's health is in danger because these people can't pay for their drugs. You need to do something about this.” I am here hoping that I can.
Last week, Alberta was facing an economic crisis. Unemployment in Alberta has skyrocketed over the past nine months. Edmonton has the highest unemployment rate in the country. Thousands of Albertans have lost all or some of their employer-provided prescription drug coverage.
To make matters worse, Jason Kenney's United Conservative Party government just cut prescription drug coverage for thousands of seniors and their dependants, cut funding support for medical assistance devices for seniors and cut access to necessary biologics for thousands of others. In total, 46,000 Albertans have lost their health care and medication coverage or have had it drastically altered. Now these Albertans will have to pay out of their own pockets, if they can. If they cannot, they will pay with their health and possibly their lives.
One family affected by Jason Kenney's cruel cuts reached out to me recently. Helen spent 35 years in our community serving as a nurse. She had to retire before age 65 because of a brain injury. Thankfully, her husband Steve, who is over 65, had coverage for her and their son through a provincial seniors drug program. All three members of this family have health issues. When Jason Kenney kicked dependants off the seniors drug program, Helen and her son lost their coverage.
Today, this family is facing an additional $4,000 in drug costs. That is $4,000 per month. Helen and Stan are desperate for answers. Right now, they are looking into selling their home to cover the additional costs, but they do not know if that strategy will work. With unemployment so high in Alberta, housing prices in Edmonton are really declining.
This family is facing the most difficult decision of their lives. They are having to decide between their home and their health. This family and hundreds of thousands of other families across Canada live with these impossible dilemmas because Canada does not have a national universal pharmacare program.
When Jason Kenney cut this family's drug coverage, he saved the Alberta government millions of dollars, $72 million to be precise, and that is a lot of money. If we put that into context, the costs and savings hardly add up. For every tax dollar that Jason Kenney sent to foreign stockholders with his corporate tax cut, he got 1.5¢ in return from people like Helen and Stan. The cruelty is mind-boggling.
If we want to get a sense of how many Helens and Stans there are out there, we can ask a health care worker. Doctors know, and that is why they support universal pharmacare. Nurses know, and that is why they support universal pharmacare. Nearly every health care professional in our country supports universal pharmacare.
As I have mentioned in the House before, I am a cancer survivor. In fact, I have the incredibly good news to share that last week I was declared cancer-free. While I should have celebrated that news, I struggled to do so because I realized that I was lucky to access medication and the care that I needed to stand here as a cancer survivor. That is not the case for people in my province.
I had the opportunity to visit with my pharmacist the other day and discuss this issue with her. She told me that people would be shocked to learn how many people go without medicine because they cannot afford it. They stand in line with their prescriptions in hand and submit them, but when they find out how much their prescriptions cost, they leave. Those are the easy cases for her. Far more difficult for her are the ones who do not just leave, the ones who try to buy one or two pills, the ones who offer to pay for part of the cost now and some of it later, the ones who cry and the ones who beg.
She told me about one woman who, after paying for a prescription of medication her child needed, simply gathered up her child and her purse from her shopping cart and walked away, abandoning her groceries. This did not happen in a low-income area of Edmonton. This happened in the heart of Edmonton Strathcona, in an area full of lovely homes and well-educated residents.
It is not going to get better; it is only going to get worse. Last week, Alberta was facing an economic crisis. That was last week. This week, Albertans are facing economic collapse.
Tommy Douglas, the father of medicare, knew that our health care system was not complete without pharmacare. He recognized more than 40 years ago that health care is not universal if Canadians still have to pay out of pocket for their medications. In 1984, he said:
Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal of Medicare must be to keep people well rather than just patching them up when they get sick. That means clinics. That means making the hospitals available for active treatment cases only, getting chronic patients out into nursing homes, carrying on home nursing programs that are much more effective, making annual checkups and immunization available to everyone. It means expanding and improving Medicare by providing pharmacare and denticare programs. It means promoting physical fitness through sports and other activities.
The lack of pharmacare is a gaping hole in our health care system and Canadians are falling through.
For the past 23 years, the federal Liberals have made pharmacare a priority, or so they have said. It has been a cornerstone of the Liberals' platform in every election of the past two decades. The Prime Minister promised pharmacare in 2015 and 2019, and I suspect the Prime Minister will make the same promise again when the next election is called. How cynical must one be to continue to do this to Canadians? It is time to stop promising pharmacare. It is time to enact pharmacare.
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
View Heather McPherson Profile
2020-03-12 18:03 [p.2051]
Madam Speaker, I would like to echo some of the people who have already spoken in the chamber this evening. I have deep concerns about our ability to meet the needs of those with rare diseases. It is something I have met with my constituents on frequently. There are constituents I will be visiting next week when I am back home, and I want to make sure they understand how important this is to me.
That said, it is a little rich to hear from my Conservative colleagues that they are blaming the race to the bottom between the Liberals and the Conservatives on who cut more to health care. Certainly, we saw a cut to the transfer payments under Stephen Harper. What we need to do is not necessarily talk about that, but talk about how we can make our system better. Universal pharmacare is of course the best way to do that.
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
View Heather McPherson Profile
2020-03-12 18:05 [p.2051]
Madam Speaker, part of the motion the NDP has put forward would make sure that conversation takes place. Considering the high support Canadians have expressed for a universal pharmacare program, I am quite confident that it would not be difficult to convince them to encourage their provincial leaders to support such a move.
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
View Heather McPherson Profile
2020-03-12 18:06 [p.2051]
Madam Speaker, that is something we know will be the case. Having a national universal pharmacare program means we would be able to save by buying pharmaceuticals in bulk and by having a better system that works for all Canadians, not just those who can afford it. I would suggest that, yes, there would be a significant cost savings to Canadians.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, I heard the member speak a lot about what has been going on in provincial legislatures. I cannot comment on that. I have never been a member of a provincial legislature. However, I am a member of the House of Commons and I can only comment on what is here before us.
I want to ask the member a very simple yes or no question. Will he be supporting this motion?
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, I would like to hear from my Liberal colleague across the way whether she will support this motion and whether she will work to ensure that whatever system the government comes forward with, it is universal, comprehensive, accessible, portable and public. Will she commit to supporting that kind of a system?
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
View Heather McPherson Profile
2020-03-12 18:39 [p.2056]
Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to speak in the House. I am honoured to speak on behalf of my constituents in Edmonton Strathcona and on behalf of Albertans.
With each passing day, I ask myself if there is a future for my children in Alberta. For 60 years, Alberta has become gradually and increasingly dependent on a single resource sector, a single resource that has driven the economies of Alberta and Canada in times of boom, but also devastated families and communities in times of bust. It is Albertans who have always paid the price for this dependence. Now Albertans face more than just another devastating bust cycle. Albertans are facing economic collapse.
Forty years of Conservative leadership in Alberta dedicated to rip and ship has cost Albertans dearly. It has meant that the value gained from a single resource and the jobs created declined even as production grew. Now, with the global climate crisis threatening our very existence, the world no longer needs or wants this single resource, a resource that accounts for 30% of Alberta's economy today.
Last week, I asked the government what it was going to do to help ensure a future for Alberta. I noted that unemployment in Edmonton, where I live, is the highest in Canada. I asked for investment in Alberta to create jobs now and investment to help diversify our economy for the future. I asked for our government to stop misleading Albertans, to stop telling us that there was going to be some sort of renewal of oil and gas and that it was coming back to $95 a barrel. I asked why the government is failing on diversification and failing to support Alberta workers. The Prime Minister responded, saying, “That is why we have worked to build the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion”. This is not good enough. Albertans desperately need this government to work with us to diversify our economy.
Last week Canadian crude was $47 a barrel. Today it was worth less than $20 a barrel. At the moment, it is $17.58. Last week Alberta was in the midst of an economic crisis. This week we are facing economic collapse. However, we do not have to. We can build a better future for Alberta if this government decides to take action.
My riding of Edmonton Strathcona is home to The King's University, the south campus of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and the University of Alberta. There are amazing researchers, inventors and innovators from academia and industry. Since my election, I have been privileged to hear a steady stream of ready-to-implement ideas to lower our greenhouse gas emissions and build our economy. In fact, I am convinced that we have the answers we need to address climate change and diversify our economy if we have the means to implement them.
Translation of research and development into commercialization and practice has always been a challenge for science and innovation. Every great idea or advancement requires funding to come to realization. Some projects, like advanced carbon sequestration practices, do not have access to venture capital because they do not have commercial outcomes. Others, like sulphur removal technologies, may have future commercial appeal but require funding for prototype development now.
Funding for these new ideas is one way to support Alberta. The Liberal government could help Alberta right now by creating an Alberta infrastructure bank for energy and other diversification projects and by targeting investment for—
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
View Heather McPherson Profile
2020-03-12 18:46 [p.2057]
Madam Speaker, I am always happy to talk about our development efforts. Today's question was on the diversification of the economy for Alberta, but I would like to quickly point out that our official development assistance is at the lowest it has ever been and that there is much work we could do. Similar to what we see in Alberta, we have a government that is certainly speaking about the right things, with the feminist international assistance policy, and in terms of supporting Alberta, but is not actually doing the work we need to have it do.
There are things we could do in Alberta right now to help Alberta workers and I would encourage the government to move on that as soon as possible.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-11 14:19 [p.1927]
Mr. Speaker, today the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. This pandemic does not affect everyone equally. The most vulnerable people will ultimately be hit the hardest.
People without sick leave cannot afford to stay home from work. They lose their pay and maybe their jobs. A disproportionately high number of these people are women and come from marginalized groups. Many of them work in the service industry and the food service, as caregivers and front-line workers. It is in everyone's best interest that they stay home if they are sick, but they are also among the half of all Canadians who are $200 away from insolvency. A day's less pay could mean missing that month's rent or the ability to put food on the table.
Other countries are finding ways to help and take care of their people, but 45 days into this outbreak, the Liberals are still “exploring additional measures”. The Liberals need to spend less time talking about helping people and actually start helping people.
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
2020-03-11 14:32 [p.1930]
Mr. Speaker, the plan proposed by the Liberals today does nothing for the 60% of workers who do not have access to employment insurance. Those workers are faced with an impossible decision: Should they stay home from work or pay their bills?
Is the Prime Minister prepared to implement a program to help all workers stay home?
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
2020-03-11 14:33 [p.1930]
Mr. Speaker, what the Prime Minister seems to not understand is that the vast majority of Canadians will not have access to his plan, as 60% of Canadian workers have no access to employment insurance. Imagine a service worker who is stuck with the impossible decision: Do they go to work so they can pay their bills or do they stay at home and prevent the spread of a disease but risk not being able to pay the rent?
Will the Prime Minister commit today to ensure that all workers have paid sick leave?
View Leah Gazan Profile
NDP (MB)
View Leah Gazan Profile
2020-03-11 14:47 [p.1933]
Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the Minister of Indigenous Services when his government would stop breaking the law and honour the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling to immediately stop discriminating against first nations children. This was followed by 10 seconds of silence and then story time. The same silence was heard about a plan for COVID-19 on reserves.
When will the minister follow the rule of law, honour the tribunal ruling and stop discriminating against first nations children?
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
View Charlie Angus Profile
2020-03-11 14:49 [p.1933]
Really, Mr. Speaker. This past week a little child from Attawapiskat had to be flown to Kingston, because of the damage tap water is doing to her body, and a little boy in Kashechewan suffered horrific burns. The only thing the medical clinic could do was send him home. That is the face of third world health in the north.
Therefore, when the Prime Minister does not even bother to give a permanent seat to his indigenous services minister at his COVID-19 table, indigenous people know they are going to get a third world response.
Does the Prime Minister have any clue what COVID-19 is going to do when it hits the overcrowded reserves in northern Canada?
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, more than 15 months ago I asked the Prime Minister to act on rising HIV infection rates in Canada, yet the number of new cases here continues to climb, while countries where HIV testing and treatment are more accessible have seen reductions of over 30%. China is already putting self-test kits in vending machines on university campuses.
As we hope to see approval of Canadian self-test kits soon, could the Prime Minister tell us how his government plans to make sure that those kits will actually be accessible to young gay men, racialized and marginalized Canadians and indigenous communities?
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-03-11 15:13 [p.1938]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-239, an act to establish a national cycling strategy.
He said: Mr. Speaker, for years, New Democrats have been calling for a national cycling strategy to combat climate change and support community planning. Today, I am honoured to reintroduce a bill that would create a national cycling strategy in Canada.
Canadians want to do their part for the environment and keep active too. I first called for a national cycling strategy four years ago, and the Liberal government has failed to get it done. I am reintroducing this bill to help keep cyclists safe, to keep our communities healthy and to take real action to help municipalities address the threat of climate change.
Many other OECD countries have already adopted cycling strategies and have seen significant increases in cycling as a result. Cycling advocates have long called for a national cycling strategy whereby the federal government would work with indigenous communities, provinces and municipalities to increase commuter, recreational and tourism cycling across Canada.
A national cycling strategy is strongly supported by communities across Canada, including Victoria, Toronto, Ottawa, Cumberland, Port Alberni and Tofino, and organizations such as Vélo Canada Bikes and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
A national cycling strategy is a great way to help Canadian commuters make choices that are healthier and more affordable and that help our environment. If the Liberals work with us, we can promote active transportation for Canadians who want to tackle the climate crisis in their day-to-day lives.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-03-11 15:15 [p.1938]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to table e-petition 2367 on behalf of constituents from my riding of Courtenay—Alberni.
The petitioners cite that Pacific salmon are under serious threat from pathogens, pollutants, and sea lice originating from open-net fish farms; that wild salmon support first nations and indigenous cultural traditions and complex ecosystems, contributing to coastal forests, which produce the oxygen we breathe; that in spite of three legal decisions against it, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans refuses to screen for PRV and to agree to transfer farm fish known to be infected with PRV; and that Pacific salmon runs on the coast of B.C. are in a state of emergency.
The petitioners call upon the government to legislate the removal of open-net fish farms from B.C. waters by 2025; to immediately stop the transfer of PRV-infected smolts into open-net fish farms; to complete the transitioning of open-net fish farms to land-based closed containment by 2025; to dedicate funding and financing for training for fish farm workers to move to employment in land-based closed containment facilities, transitioning workers out of the aquaculture industry in regions that will not have land-based closed containment and for remote first nations communities currently dependent on revenues from the fish farm industry.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, today I am here on behalf of many constituents in my riding, largely in Powell River and the qathet Regional District, who came together there in December, when many of them signed this petition, to talk about the increased costs of gasoline in their area.
The petitioners are asking for a Competition Bureau investigation into Powell River gas prices. This is a huge issue. They are calling on the minister to direct the Competition Bureau to finally initiate an investigation into the potential price-fixing of gasoline in the Powell River area. This has been going on for many years.
This issue matters a lot to these constituents, and I hope to hear back from the minister very soon.
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-11 15:21 [p.1939]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and to present a petition on behalf of hundreds of residents of Victoria, who are concerned about fossil fuel subsidies.
We have a long way to go to meet and exceed our Paris Agreement commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30% by 2030. The science has shown that Canada is warming at twice the global average, and Canada has declared a climate emergency. Therefore, these petitioners are calling on the government to eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies in Canada.
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-11 15:22 [p.1939]
Mr. Speaker, the second petition I have today is from residents of my riding who are concerned about the climate crisis. They are calling on Parliament to take meaningful steps so that Canada can become a world leader in a clean-energy economy. The petitioners would like to see comprehensive carbon pricing that will significantly reduce emissions and help low- and middle-income Canadians by equitably returning 100% of these revenues.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-03-11 15:37 [p.1942]
Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague cited the number of trade agreements that the government has been able to negotiate, but maybe the member could speak about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and climate targets. We have not seen, and maybe he can correct me, that these have been priorities in any of the trade agreements.
Does the member not see that these should be priorities in any trade agreements moving forward?
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-11 15:38 [p.1943]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-4, the Canada–United States–Mexico agreement implementation act.
I would specifically like to thank my colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, for his work on this file. Through extensive negotiation with the government, I am so proud that my colleague secured more openness and transparency for Canada's trade process.
Too often the opposition says that the NDP does not understand trade, but this could not be further from the truth. What we do not support is the neo-liberal trade agenda. New Democrats understand the importance of our trading relationship with the U.S., our largest trading partner, and we believe that a better NAFTA could improve the welfare of all North Americans. We believe that all trade agreements must be transparent, inclusive and forward-looking. They must address important issues, like income inequality, sovereignty and climate change. Above all, they must strengthen human rights. They must be transparent and fair for everyone.
Too many trade agreements are approached with the idea of how to make the rich richer. They focus on growing the wealth and power of those who already hold a great deal of wealth and power. They do not consider bettering the lives of all Canadians.
Certainly, people in southwestern Ontario, in my riding, know all too well what Liberal- and Conservative-negotiated trade agreements have created for them and their families. We see what were once highly productive manufacturing hubs now boarded up. One only has to drive along Dundas Street in London, Ontario to know the history of these trade agreements, and what it means to workers in my riding.
The original NAFTA was negotiated by Conservatives and signed by Liberals in 1994. People were promised jobs, rising productivity and secure access to the largest market in the world. It seemed like we were on the cusp of a dream, and all we had to do was sell our soul to cash in.
What happened was far from that dream, and instead Canadian workers faced a nightmare. Canada lost over 400,000 manufacturing jobs and its textile industry. In addition, Canada paid millions of dollars in court fees and penalties when sued by corporations under the ISDS resolution mechanism.
Despite some improvements, this NAFTA continues a disturbing trend of giving more enforceable rights to corporations in trade agreements than to the real people involved and the environment. Over the last 25 years, because of NAFTA, our North American auto and manufacturing industry has become highly dependent on the integrated supply chain. In fact, automobiles and parts will often cross our borders hundreds of times before a vehicle is completed.
Since 2001, after we lost the Auto Pact, 44,000 Canadian auto jobs were lost. After this devastating announcement at GM in Oshawa a few years ago, Canadians are learning that no amount of language in free trade deals, including the new NAFTA, will stop corporations from leaving Canada and heading to Mexico, where they are taking advantage of a low-wage economy and a country that does not respect the environment.
Workers are left to fend for themselves, despite the fact that the Liberals will say that this agreement is good for the automotive sector. In fact, Liberals also ensured that GM Oshawa had no ties to Canada once they provided a multi-million dollar bailout, and let the corporation off the hook from ever paying Canadians back.
The Liberals were nowhere to be found when those GM auto workers were fighting for their jobs in Oshawa. They were certainly not on the front lines, desperately searching for answers about their future or their livelihoods.
Interestingly, the Liberals claimed they were working hard for auto workers by signing the new NAFTA last spring. They insisted that the deal was fantastic and no improvements could be made. Funnily enough, the American Democrats proved them wrong. It would seem that the Liberals were not the skilled negotiators they claimed to be.
At every step of the process, the Liberals have said the same thing, that this trade agreement is a great deal. First, they said they were happy with the original NAFTA and did not want to renegotiate. Then they said the first version of CUSMA was the best we could get, and now they say this latest version is the best that they can get. Well which one is it?
When the NDP called on the government to wait to ratify the first version of CUSMA so the Democrats in the States could improve it, Deputy Prime Minister said:
Mr. Speaker, what the NDP needs to understand is that reopening this agreement would be like opening Pandora's box ... It would be naive for the NDP to believe that Canadians would benefit from reopening this agreement.
However, the Liberals are now keen to brag about improvements made by Democrats in the United States.
Income and wealth inequality in Canada today is at a crisis level with 46% of Canadians $200 away from financial trouble. Working people, like people in London—Fanshawe, are struggling to get by and the wonders of this new NAFTA, like the old NAFTA, will not materialize for the majority of people in my riding. The fact of the matter is, neo-liberal trade agreements do not work for workers.
New Democrats have been consistent in our calls for a transparent trade process in Canada that makes the government more accountable and allows Parliament to play a greater role than that of a simple rubber stamp.
The Liberals over-promised and under-delivered on holding meaningful public consultations on this agreement.
The NDP believes that in all trade negotiations, the government should consult Canadians and their members of Parliament from all parties in a meaningful, comprehensive and public way.
I would like to address some of the concerns that I have about chapter 11, the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. We are pleased with the elimination of chapter 11, there is no doubt about that. However, it has been replaced with mandatory regulatory co-operation, and further influence has been given to corporations. While, in principle, international regulatory co-operation has the potential to raise standards, experts argue that under the new terms, corporate influence has increased at the expense of public protections, and limits government's ability to regulate in areas such as toxic chemicals, food safety, rail safety, workers' health and safety, and the environment.
This agreement would give corporations advance notice of new regulations and ensure that they are allowed a consultation process before any regulation goes through a legislative process.
Regulatory co-operation is subject to dispute resolution. This means corporations can still directly challenge government actions, which is the highest form of regulatory chill. Regulators have to vigorously defend proposed regulations and are even required to suggest alternatives that do not involve regulating. They have to provide extensive analysis, including cost benefits, to industry. This makes governments accountable to industry, not to people.
I would also like to address the gender concerns that I have in this agreement. The Liberals promised an entire chapter to promote gender equality, and this was not delivered in CUSMA. The Liberals appear to have abandoned their promise before it could take root. Their limited language regarding the importance of gender equality does not exist as there is no gender chapter.
Experts testified at the international trade committee that these agreements should not just have a gender chapter, though, but that they must also mainstream gender rights throughout the entirety of an agreement, and that gender equality does not concern only the issues of women entrepreneurs and business owners.
The only chapter that addresses the links between gender and trade in any substantive fashion is the labour chapter. Otherwise, the addition of gender equality language is more superficial than substantive. Labour rights must also address injustices to women, like pay inequity, child labour and poor working conditions. The NDP believes that for an agreement to be truly progressive when it comes to gender rights, it must address the systemic inequalities of all women. The NDP believes that both a gender analysis and a gendered impact assessment must be applied to all trade agreements.
A professor in my hometown of London, Dr. Erin Hannah, testified to the international trade committee:
Overwhelmingly we've put attention on women entrepreneurs in the gender in global trade agenda. That's important.... But the lion's share of women in the developing world work in the informal economy.
We don't have very good tools for assessing the impact of all sorts of things in the lives of women working in the informal economy, but particularly trade....[There are no] methodological tools to study the impact of proposed trade deals on women who are not in the formal economy.
That raise much bigger questions, though, about whether the objective of these initiatives is to bring women into the formal economy, to transition women out of the informal economy into the formal economy. It raises a whole host of other issues. I think it's important to think about how that would change these women's lives. We have a data problem, but we also have an ideological problem.
The NDP believes that, like other socially progressive ideals that can be brought forward in trade agreements, words are not enough. For gender, labour, indigenous, environmental or human rights to be truly advanced, there must be tools in place to achieve that progress. As Dr. Hannah rightfully pointed out, Canada has a lot to do itself on the gender agenda. We do not have pay equity. We do not have universal child care. It is clear that to move forward globally and negotiate progressive trade agreements internationally, nationally we must have domestic tools in place that work effectively.
In conclusion, I would like to talk about indigenous rights. My colleague across the way mentioned that again this deal is absent of any mention of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We believe, in the NDP, that the government must abide by article 19 of the UN declaration and obtain free, prior and informed consent of indigenous people before adopting any measures that may affect them.
As was noted by Pam Palmater at the international trade committee during the conversations about Mercosur, indigenous rights should be addressed throughout the entirety of a trade agreement, not only related to one chapter. She also noted that throughout the Pacific Alliance nations, there are large numbers of indigenous people who experience a great deal of violence from transnational corporations involved in trade. That is certainly something we see in NAFTA.
These are some of the concerns I have about the trade deal, and I appreciate the time that this House has given me to discuss them. I appreciate any questions.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-11 15:49 [p.1945]
Madam Speaker, I may not have been in the House but I was working for the NDP member of Parliament for Essex, who was the NDP critic for trade at the time. I do know what happened throughout that negotiation process. It was the Conservatives who were pushing for the deal. A lot of promises were made by the Liberal government at the time and it did not fulfill many of them.
When the minister came before committee, she talked about a gender chapter. She talked about an indigenous chapter. The government did not deliver.
At the end of the last session, the Liberal government put forward a signed deal that it wanted the House to accept, despite a lot of New Democrats saying no, that the government was not getting the best deal. We knew then that it could be better. U.S. Democrats insisted that the deal could be better and they made it better. I find it interesting that the Liberal government is now taking credit for that work.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-11 15:51 [p.1945]
Madam Speaker, New Democrats have also questioned the sovereignty challenges of other trade agreements that are going forward in non-status economies, as was quoted by the deal. It absolutely deserves a lot of attention.
In terms of the agricultural sector, many farmers are looking forward to growing our ability to access those trade agreements and I certainly support that, but it has to be fair and equitable.
I certainly do not disagree with fair trade, but I agree in the neo-Liberal agenda as it is going forward with free trade.
View Scott Duvall Profile
NDP (ON)
View Scott Duvall Profile
2020-03-11 15:52 [p.1945]
Madam Speaker, I have heard a couple of comments and questions to the member about the Liberals saying they did a great deal and that the Conservatives wanted to push them forward to accept any deal.
When the NDP called on the government to ratify the first version of CUSMA, we were asking to get a better deal. However the minister at that time said, “Mr. Speaker, what the NDP needs to understand is that reopening this agreement would be like opening Pandora's box.” And yet the Liberals are now keen to brag about improvements made by U.S. Democrats.
Why should Canadians believe the Liberals had anything to do with the changes that increased protections for workers and guard against higher drug prices?
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-11 15:53 [p.1945]
Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his work on this file as well. These trade agreements have also hurt his community in Hamilton.
It is true. The Liberals were willing to take the deal as it was before and we were constantly pushing for something better because we knew there was something better. My colleague from Elmwood—Transcona has ensured that this deal also has something better through a lot of hard work and pushing the government to go even further and better itself, not just sign off on Conservative already created trade agreements.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-03-11 16:05 [p.1947]
Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for putting an emphasis on the investor-state provisions, which we both dislike. We do not support this corporate model that ignores the rights of workers and indigenous rights.
Not having climate targets in this deal is of huge concern. I would like the member to talk about what could have been done if we had included climate targets and how trade could become a tool for reducing emissions so we can follow the IPCC report. The report identifies that we will have catastrophic changes if we do not make huge changes to our lifestyle today.
Could he also talk a bit more about how important the indigenous rights piece is? He cited the Hupacasath, and I applaud them. They have stood up for indigenous rights. He also cited how the government failed again. It failed to do adequate consultation and implement UNDRIP in this deal. There was an opportunity to do that. In fact, it was the U.S. Democrats that got us most of our gains in this deal, not the Liberal government, which is patting itself on the back. It would have settled on this agreement way before any of these changes were put forward, so we owe appreciation to the U.S. and certainly to the Hupacasath and all the other players who are standing up for really important values.
View Scott Duvall Profile
NDP (ON)
View Scott Duvall Profile
2020-03-11 16:20 [p.1950]
Madam Speaker, when the first NAFTA agreement came out under the Conservatives, 400,000 jobs were lost. I know that in the city of Hamilton, many manufacturing jobs were lost. The city was collapsing at that time.
Under the first agreement, investor-state dispute provisions were negotiated that would allow investors to sue our country. Now that this has been taken out under this agreement, does the member not feel this is a better agreement than the original one?
View Scott Duvall Profile
NDP (ON)
View Scott Duvall Profile
2020-03-11 16:37 [p.1952]
Madam Speaker, I always enjoy listening to my colleague.
He mentioned some provisions, which the government is taking credit for, about protecting women. According to sources, the renegotiated deal originally included provisions for improving conditions for working women, which included workplace harassment, pay equity and equality issues.
However, that was in the scrub phase. These provisions disappeared in the scrubbing process. How does this protect women, and what happened to these provisions?
View Scott Duvall Profile
NDP (ON)
View Scott Duvall Profile
2020-03-11 16:51 [p.1954]
Madam Speaker, in his speech earlier, the member mentioned that Conservatives are not happy with the deal, but they are going to accept it. I agree there could have been a better deal. However, there are major improvements in certain areas from the original deal, and getting rid of the investor-state provisions was a good thing. It allowed the investors to actually sue our government.
Does the member believe that this is a better deal than the original deal, or does he feel the original deal was better and we should have stayed with it?
View Scott Duvall Profile
NDP (ON)
View Scott Duvall Profile
2020-03-11 17:07 [p.1956]
Madam Speaker, Quebec is one of the biggest aluminum producers in North America and an excellent, well-paid workforce. It does not have the same protections under the aluminum strategy as it did with the steel industry. Does the member fear, because the rules are so vague in the aluminum industry, that there is going to be a massive job loss in Quebec?
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