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Health

NWT MP explains why he voted against pharmacare bill


NWT MP Michael McLeod joined all but two Liberal colleagues in defeating an NDP-led bill to introduce a national pharmacare program supported by the territorial government.

Earlier this week, health minister Julie Green told the NWT legislature her government backed the proposal – Bill C-213 – which would have given Canadians universal public access to prescribed medication with expenses covered by the government.

She called the bill a “game changer” in the way it could have helped around half of the NWT’s residents acquire coverage for medication, saying the proposed legislation would “take in a lot of people who are currently left out.”

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However, the bill was defeated in the House of Commons by 297 votes to 32.

The bill, introduced by the NDP’s Peter Julian, received NDP and Green backing but was opposed by all but two Liberals, all but one of the Conservative caucus, and the Bloc Québécois.

Asked by Cabin Radio why he chose not to support the bill despite the territorial government’s interest, McLeod said by email he did not believe Julian’s bill approached the issue in the correct manner.

“I am committed to the implementation of a national universal pharmacare system that ensures all Canadians have access to the prescriptions they need. While I believe Bill C-213 also shares this commitment, I voted against it on the grounds that the process it proposed would not have assisted in making this goal a reality,” McLeod wrote.

“Achieving the goal of pharmacare requires working with the territorial, provincial, and Indigenous governments, not unilaterally imposing criteria as Bill C-213 sought to do. If we are going to transform a complex patchwork of drug coverage into national pharmacare, we must do it in collaboration with other levels of government, relying on the considerable expertise that jurisdictions have in this area.”

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McLeod said the Liberal minority government was trying instead to build a “collective commitment to national pharmacare,” though some critics have argued such a commitment will be hard to engineer among ideologically opposed provincial premiers.

Julian, on Twitter, said the Liberals’ decision to almost unanimously oppose his bill was a betrayal of a 2019 election promise. “Instead of helping people and their families,” Julian wrote, the Liberals “chose the side of Big Pharma.”

Rejection of the bill also drew criticism from Dr Courtney Howard, the Yellowknife physician who recently ran for the federal Green Party leadership.

“Saving lives requires teamwork,” Howard tweeted. “Looking forward to hearing the new plan, with timelines.”

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