Skip to content

Here's how politicians and advocates are reacting to Ottawa's new pharmacare bill

OTTAWA — The Liberal government tabled a bill Thursday that paves the way for a universal drug program.
The Liberal government tabled a bill Thursday that paves the way for a universal drug program. A person holds a pharmacare sign at a health-care rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

OTTAWA — The Liberal government tabled a bill Thursday that paves the way for a universal drug program. 

The bill allows the federal government to negotiate with provinces and territories to cover birth control, along with diabetes drugs and supplies, for anyone with a health card.

Pharmacare is a central pillar of the political pact between the NDP and the Liberals, meaning the bill also secures NDP support in the House of Commons.

Here's some of the reaction.

"Making sure that contraception is covered by pharmacare, by supports across the country, is really, really important. So we’re moving forward on that because it’s about giving families choices and the power to control their own future regardless of their income levels, as well as moving forward on support for people facing challenges with diabetes."

"We know there’s far too many people who find themselves in worse and worse situations because they can't quite afford to take the medications they need that prevent their diabetes from switching to a different type or getting worse."

— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau


"This is historic. This is the dream of our party since the conception of our party. We have taken that first big step of a national universal pharmacare today. And I also want to be very clear. This is not by coincidence that after 30 years of broken promises, the Liberals promised this 30 years ago, that it’s happening by coincidence now. It is happening not by coincidence, it is happening because New Democrats fought and we forced the government to do this."

"We know that by having access to medication it’s going to save people money, it’s going to help our health-care system so people don’t get more sick, it’s going to save money for provinces, it’s going to save money for the federal government. It’s a win for everyone."

— NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh


“The federal government is showing up. They're going to pay for some drugs for British Columbians that cost them money, that if they can't afford them that compromise their health. I welcome it. I think it's great."

"Obviously, we're already paying for birth control for British Columbians. This is something the feds are proposing to include in their program. So how that's going to work and how we're going to make sure that British Colombians are treated fairly, compared with a province that's not already paying for birth control is the question we're going to have to address.” 

— British Columbia Premier David Eby


"I was very clear with the minister when we spoke that I'm not writing off anything, but I'm also not buying into something where I don't know exactly what's there. And the assessment truly has to happen."

"As you know, in our first term of government, we did make some fairly substantial expansions on the diabetes care in particular, as it relates to pediatric and young people. I want to make sure that those very valuable programs can continue in Ontario." 

— Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones


"A universal and public approach to pharmacare is an approach that puts people over profits. Shortfalls in prescription drug coverage result in daily deaths and illness among people with treatable conditions — a grim fact we learned in CFNU's 2018 study, Body Count. If implemented correctly, the foundation laid today will save countless lives." 

— Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU)


The proposed pharmacare plan would "spend billions of dollars unnecessarily on drugs for people who already have coverage. It will replace what is working with a government program that will become more burdensome and expensive over time. And it will put at risk the workplace benefit plans that 27 million Canadians count on, making life less affordable for millions of families." 

— Stephen Frank, president and CEO of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association 


"We are very pleased with the government's commitment to prioritize improved access to diabetes medications and devices. This monumental step demonstrates a genuine dedication from our political leaders to enhance the well-being of the over four million individuals living with diabetes in Canada." 

— Diabetes Canada 


"The New Democrats have been very clear about their intent with this legislation: they see it as a Trojan horse to implement a federal monopoly on drug insurance."

"Unfortunately, as can be seen in every province, government-run prescription insurance plans cover only a fraction of what private plans do. There's a very decent chance that this federal pharmacare plan could lower coverage quality for the millions of Canadians who rely on private insurance plans for their prescription medication." 

— Emmanuelle Faubert, Montreal Economic Institute economist


"Heart & Stroke is asking the federal government to work quickly to expand the program in a fiscally prudent way by adding to it a list of essential medicines, including prescription drugs for heart conditions and stroke, as recommended in the government’s 2019 Hoskins Report on pharmacare. More than 600 people in Canada die every year from ischemic heart disease because they can’t afford their medication." 

— Heart & Stroke Foundation


"Today we're celebrating a major win for people power against corporate greed. For too long, wealthy corporations have stood in the way of progress on a public pharmacare plan. But today, patients have finally prevailed. Now, the government must rapidly fund, implement, and expand the program, to fully meet the needs of Canadians and bring drug prices down." 

— Christina Warner, Council of Canadians executive director


"Considering that nearly four out of five Canadians have quality drug coverage, today's Pharmacare Act, as proposed, is disappointing. The Smart Health Benefits Coalition believes that action to meet the challenges of access and affordability for those Canadians without adequate and affordable coverage would be faster, more impactful and a lower cost if the government prioritized filling gaps in coverage and helping uninsured or underinsured Canadians with their out-of-pocket expenses."

— Smart Health Benefits Coalition

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2024.

The Canadian Press