Emergency Pharmacare Resolution Takes Center Stage at NDP Convention Amid Ongoing Dental Plan Concerns

Emergency Pharmacare Resolution Takes Center Stage at NDP Convention Amid Ongoing Dental Plan Concerns
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday, Sept.27, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

An emergency resolution focused on the introduction of a comprehensive and public pharmacare program is poised to dominate discussions at next week’s NDP policy convention. The motion, championed by grassroots NDP activists and an organization known as Stand Strong For Pharmacare, seeks to emphasize pharmacare as an essential component of the NDP’s supply-and-confidence deal with the Liberal government.

This movement, led in part by Carleton University IT instructor James Brunet, has gained momentum after NDP health critic Don Davies disclosed the party’s rejection of the Liberal government’s initial pharmacare bill draft. “It doesn’t meet the New Democrats’ red lines at this point,” Davies articulated, emphasizing that the NDP seeks a pharmacare model fully funded and managed through a public single-payer system.

Adding to the weight of the convention’s agenda, concerns regarding the federal government’s new dental insurance plan have also emerged. Advocates warn that the eligibility criteria, especially for people with disabilities, might be problematic. With a launch anticipated this fall, the dental plan intends to offer benefits to children under 18, seniors, and those with disabilities. The Liberals have pledged dental coverage to households earning under $90,000 annually by 2024’s close.

A group of grassroots NDP activists are planning to push the federal party to make pharmacare a make-or-break element of the supply and confidence deal with the Liberals at the New Democrat’s convention next week. New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh makes his way to the podium for a news conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

A significant concern among disability advocates is the method of determining eligibility. Rabia Khedr, Disability Without Poverty national director, stated, “The list of people who access the tax credit is not the best list for them to work from,” alluding to the challenges faced, especially by those with low incomes, in accessing the disability tax credit. A University of Calgary study in 2018 found that only 40% of qualifying adults could obtain the credit, indicating potential barriers in the system.

Health Minister Mark Holland refrained from delving into eligibility details but expressed aspirations for a frictionless approach. “Where something is medically necessary for somebody’s oral health… there’s flexibility within the system to make sure that people get the care that they need,” Holland commented.

The convention’s overarching sentiment appears to be one of determination to ensure that both the pharmacare and dental plans come to fruition. Jennifer Howard, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s chief of staff, anticipates “lots of conversations about the supply-and-confidence agreement” and believes concerns about the Liberals’ commitment to the pharmacare foundation will be vigorously debated.

Notably, this emergency resolution comes after the conventional deadline in August, given that details about the pharmacare legislation negotiations have only just surfaced. The convention’s policy development committee will determine the viability of this emergency proposal, with discussions likely culminating on the convention’s last day.