NDP resolution suggests Singh could kill deal with Liberals if they don’t deliver on pharmacare | CBC News

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Delegates at this weekend’s NDP policy convention could end up giving party leader Jagmeet Singh a bargaining chip as the party pushes the governing Liberals to introduce a universal single-payer pharmacare program.

A resolution up for debate at the convention in Hamilton on Saturday proposes to give Singh the party’s backing to end the confidence-and-supply agreement that allows the Liberals to pass legislation if the Trudeau government doesn’t deliver a pharmacare bill that meets their expectations.

“We want to give the caucus a vote of confidence from the membership to say these are things that we stand on. If you need to go to the mat on this, we are behind you 100 per cent,” said Mike Bleskie, a New Democrat delegate who backs the resolution.

New Democrats recently rejected the first draft of the Liberal’s pharmacare bill because the party’s health critic said the party would accept nothing less than a single-payer public system.

Bleskie said New Democrats must push for a pharmacare program that covers all Canadians and is not “means-tested” or tied to income. Don Davies, the party’s health critic, agrees.

“Their first piece of legislation simply did not commit to single-payer, and that’s unacceptable,” Davies told CBC at the convention. “We’ve expressed that to them and said it is a non-starter. I’ve said it is a red line.”

NDP willing to accept a stopgap: Davies

While New Democrats have drawn a line in the sand, Davies said the NDP is willing to compromise on the timing of the pharmacare rollout. He said the party is willing to accept an interim system that covers all essential prescriptions and expands over time.

“[Convention delegates] are sending a message to the Liberal government that they want single-payer pharmacare and they want it now,” he said. “And I think that kind of pressure helps.”

The federal NDP holds the balance of power in the House of Commons. The Liberal minority government relies on New Democrats’ votes to pass legislation through a formal agreement that both parties signed.

Under the terms of that confidence-and-supply agreement, the NDP agrees to support key government legislation in exchange for the Liberals advancing a number of NDP policy priorities.

According to the wording of that agreement, one of those policy priorities is to pass “a Canada Pharmacare Act by the end of 2023 and then [task] the National Drug Agency to develop a national formulary of essential medicines and bulk purchasing plan by the end of the agreement.”

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