Trudeau promises national prescription drug plan if re-elected

HAMILTON — A re-elected Liberal government would introduce a national pharmacare program, Justin Trudeau promised Monday — though he wouldn’t say how much it would cost or when it would happen.

Speaking in Hamilton, Trudeau said a Liberal government would invest $6 billion as a “down payment” towards implementing pharmacare, ensuring universal family doctor access, and improving mental health services and palliative care.

The Liberal plan involves implementing a national list of drugs to be covered by the program and establishing the Canada Drug Agency to make the purchasing of medication more efficient and affordable for all Canadians.

The promise largely follows the recommendations of a blue-chip panel led by former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins that laid out a path to establishing a national pharmacare system over the next decade.

However, Trudeau did not say what the final bill will be, when he expected to have it in place, or how he expected to reach an agreement with provincial premiers with whom he is often at odds.

Yet both the Liberal and NDP promises are contingent on negotiations with the provinces, which are directly in charge of delivering health care to Canadians.

Trudeau acknowledged the fact Monday even as he sought to attack the Conservatives by repeatedly asking who Canadians wanted to negotiate with Ontario Premier Doug Ford: Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer or himself.

“Who do you want standing up for you?” Trudeau asked during the campaign event, which started with a full attack on Ford’s record in office. “Who do you want negotiating with Doug Ford when it comes to your health care.