PM mandates Health Minister Duclos to advance pharmacare
Prime Minister Trudeau has responded to calls for progress on the long-promised national, universal single-payer public drug coverage by including pharmacare in Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos’ mandate letter.
The Health Minister’s mandate letter, published on December 16, 2021, instructs the Health Minister to:
“Continue engaging with willing provinces and territories towards national universal pharmacare, while proceeding with a national strategy on high-cost drugs for rare diseases and advancing the establishment of the Canada Drug Agency.”
Minister Duclos has many other tasks, not the least of which is helping to protect Canadians from COVID-19. Movement on pharmacare will require significant political pressure to move it up the list of policy priorities.
The Liberals have been coming under intense criticism from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and public health care advocates. Pharmacare was absent from November’s Throne Speech, and financing was overlooked in the Economic and Fiscal Update 2021, despite a request from the Canadian Health Coalition and twenty other organizations and experts.
With the inclusion of pharmacare in Minister Jean-Yves Duclos’ mandate letter, there is a path forward for further discussions between advocates and the government, likely to the chagrin of the “Big Pharma” lobby which has opposed pharmacare strenuously.
The Prime Minister called for action on other Canadian Health Coalition priorities, including increased investments in primary care and hiring health care staff, national standards and a Safe Long-Term Care Act, and international efforts to ensure that people worldwide have access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
What are mandate letters?
According to the Prime Minister’s website, mandate letters outline the objectives that each minister will work to accomplish, as well as the pressing challenges they will address in their role. In recent years mandate letters have been made publicly available and posted on government websites (both federal and provincial). When combined with the Speech from the Throne, mandate letters for ministers provide an extra level of detail in the government’s intentions for the new Parliament.
(Cover: 2020 Remembrance Day ceremony in Quebec with Jean Yves Duclos. Via Shutterstock)