Trudeau won’t force child care or pharmacare on provinces that don’t want it

Justin Trudeau says he will not create or impose national child care or pharmacare programs to fill gaps in provinces that don’t want to play ball with his government.

The prime minister, speaking days before an expected election call about challenges facing the middle class, signalled a new pharmacare program might not extend across the country initially due to provincial opposition.

He said provinces like Ontario should “show up” to meet the needs of struggling families — as he says Quebec did with its universal daycare program — and should work in “partnership” with the federal government.

But he said the federal government would not interfere in areas of provincial responsibility, not only because that’s how the federation is supposed to work, but because voters elected those provincial governments, even if they make “political decisions to not invest in vulnerable people.”

He said that’s the choice that voters in the coming federal campaign will have to reflect on.

“We can stand and try and push back, we can find other ways to support people but ultimately we do have to respect choices that people make when they elect political parties to form government. And unfortunately the choices people make really matter, as Ontarians are discovering.”

Speaking to the Star’s editorial board, Trudeau was pressed to outline what new offer he is pitching to voters to get re-elected.

He furrowed his brow and said defensively, “Your frame here is ‘well you’ve done this, this, this, but there’s more to do’. I absolutely accept that. There’s an awful lot more to do and the choice facing Canadians right now is do we continue to do these things and do more of them or do we go back to a Stephen Harper Conservative approach that didn’t work.”