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Emergency resolution on pharmacare expected at NDP convention

Health Minister Mark Holland said conversations with the NDP continue
A group of grassroots NDP activists are planning to push the federal party to make pharmacare a make-or-break element of the supply and confidence deal with the Liberals at the New Democrat’s convention next week. New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh makes his way to the podium for a news conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

A group of grassroots NDP activists is planning to push for pharmacare to be a make-or-break element of the federal party’s supply-and-confidence deal with the Liberals at a policy convention next week.

The agreement has the NDP supporting the minority Liberals on key votes in exchange for progress on shared priorities, including pharmacare.

The activists are submitting an emergency resolution to declare that the future of the deal is contingent on legislation that commits to a universal and entirely public pharmacare program, which they hope will be debated on the convention floor in Hamilton.

The group, called Stand Strong For Pharmacare, launched a website for delegates to encourage them to take a strong stance on the policy and hold the Liberals to their agreement.

“Our NDP convention resolution would make it clear that if (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau breaks his promise for universal, comprehensive, and public pharmacare, it will have consequences,” the website states.

The resolution comes after NDP health critic Don Davies revealed that the party rejected the Liberal government’s first draft of a pharmacare bill that is expected to be tabled this fall.

“It doesn’t meet the New Democrats’ red lines at this point,” Davies said in an interview this week. “We’re waiting for a next draft to come to us.”

Davies said the NDP will accept nothing less than a commitment to pharmacare paid for and administered through the public single-payer system

The group, led by James Brunet, the president of the Ottawa South provincial NDP, said members must loudly tell the party they support them in the fight for pharmacare, “even if that means risking an election.”

Health Minister Mark Holland said conversations with the NDP continue, and the situation is still fluid.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s chief of staff said she expects there will be lots of conversations about the supply-and-confidence agreement at the convention.

“I think there’s lots of concerns about the Liberals trying to get out of the agreement to sort of set the foundation for pharmacare. I think that will be debated on the floor,” Jennifer Howard said Friday.

The deadline to submit resolutions for the convention was in August, but news of the ongoing negotiations over the pharmacare legislation has only recently come to light.

Policy ideas submitted after the deadline because of urgent and unforeseen circumstances are considered an emergency resolution, and the convention’s policy development committee will decide whether it can be put forward or not.

The pharmacare resolution will likely be discussed on the last day of the NDP convention, if it makes to the debate floor.

— With files from Mickey Djuric

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press