The Liberals and NDP say they have a pharmacare deal — so what’s left on their to-do list?

26 February 2024
The Liberals and NDP say they have a pharmacare deal — so what’s left on their to-do list?

Now that the Liberals and New Democrats have announced they’ve reached a deal on pharmacare, the path is open for the parties to carry on a confidence-and-supply agreement that has helped to keep the government in power since March 2022.

The parties have reached agreements on several fronts but there are several items on the list that have yet to be completed.

The deal provides the minority Liberal government with the backing of New Democrat MPs on confidence and budgetary matters, staving off an early election. In exchange, the Liberals have agreed to move on several NDP policy priorities. Pharmacare was just one of them.

A pharmacare deal was a major NDP condition going into the confidence-and-supply agreement, which expires in June 2025.

The government missed the initial deadline for a pharmacare agreement — the end of 2023 — and set a new deadline of March 1.

In a Friday interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live airing Sunday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said weeks of talks between the two parties have produced draft legislation. He said this will set out a framework for a national pharmacare program and, in the short term, offer new coverage for contraception and diabetes treatment.

“We’ve secured something really important, I would say really historic for Canadians. We’re really excited about this,” Singh said.

Another notable aspect of the agreement was the dental-care plan unveiled in December of last year. The $13 billion national dental plan currently covers seniors aged 72 and older and will expand to all eligible, uninsured low- and middle-income Canadians by 2025.

A big win for labour

The agreement led to the introduction of 10 days of paid sick leave for all federally regulated workers; that came into effect in December 2022.

The government also introduced a bill on replacement workers, C-58, referred to by union leaders and others as “anti-scab” legislation. It’s currently at the second reading stage in the House of Commons.

The bill — a major win for the NDP and the labour movement — would make it illegal for employers in federally regulated industries to bring in replacement workers during a legal strike or lockout.

The bill also would compel unions and employers to negotiate within 15 days of a notice of strike or lockout which services would continue in the event of a dispute. If they can’t agree, the matter would be referred to the Canada Industrial Relations Board for a decision within 90 days.

The agreement also has led to legislation and new policies involving child care, reconciliationhousingtax fairness and sustainable jobs.

But there’s still more the federal government must do to meet its commitments to the NDP.

Long-term care act

One of those commitments is to introduce a Safe Long-Term Care Act, which — according to the wording of the bipartisan agreement — would “ensure that seniors are guaranteed the care they deserve, no matter where they live.”

It remains to be seen what the federal government will include in the legislation. In July 2023, an online consultation was launched to inform the development of the act; it ran until September 2023.

discussion paper, also released last year by the federal government, highlighted potential elements of a Safe Long-Term Care Act. It says it could support the “creation of a framework and action plan on long-term care” that could focus on “training and education … public awareness” and “data collection.”

The discussion paper also says a Safe Long-Term Care Act will “reflect the shared responsibility of all levels of governments with respect to the well-being of older adults and persons with disabilities” without mandating “standards or [regulating] long-term care delivery.”

Homebuyers’ bill of rights

The pharmacare deal wasn’t the only one that missed its deadline.

The Liberals and NDP vowed to implement a “Homebuyers’ Bill of Rights” by the end of 2023. The idea was first pitched in the Liberals’ 2021 election platform.

The idea is to ensure the process of buying a home is “fair, open, and transparent,” according to the platform document.

The federal government announced plans to develop the bill in the 2022 federal budget. It said it would “engage with provinces and territories over the next year to develop and implement” the bill and “bring forward a national plan to end blind bidding.”

In a blind bidding process, a prospective buyer submits an offer for a home without knowing how many other offers there are, or how much they’re worth.

The 2023 budget said the government continues to work toward a bill and promised that it will “level the playing field for young, middle class and new Canadians.”

The budget also said the bill could include measures “ensuring the legal right to a home inspection, requiring that real estate agents disclose whether they are representing both sides of a potential sale and ensuring transparency on the history of sale prices.”

Electoral reform

The confidence-and-supply agreement also commits the government to working “with Elections Canada to explore ways to expand the ability for people to vote.” That includes looking at “allowing people to vote at any polling place within their electoral district” and improving the process for mail-in ballots.

The NDP has pushed for electoral reform for a long time. On Feb. 8, the Liberals voted against Motion 86, which called on the federal government to establish a citizens’ assembly to “determine if electoral reform is recommended for Canada, and, if so, [to] recommend specific measures that would foster a healthier democracy.”

NDP MP Lisa Marie Barron sponsored the motion. The House of Commons ultimately voted it down.

Source: cbc

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