Health Coalition members demand progress on pharmacare in Fiscal Update and Budget 2022

Canadian Health Coalition members, along twenty allied organizations and public health care experts, have written to Prime Minister Trudeau and his key ministers, including Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, seeking urgent financing for a universal, single-payer public pharmacare program in the upcoming Fiscal Update and Budget 2022. Find the letter below:

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Freeland, Minister Duclos and Minister Fortier:

In a few weeks’ time, we will have reached the first major milestone of the federal government’s Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare’s recommendations timeline. According to the Advisory Council’s recommendations, by January 1, 2022, universal coverage for a list of essential medicines should be in place as the first part of a national, universal, single-payer, public pharmacare program.

In pronouncements subsequent to the report’s release, the Liberal government committed to being guided by its Advisory Council’s recommendations, and through Throne Speeches and Ministerial mandate letters your government promised to implement this vitally important program.

Rather than marking a milestone in which we can all take pride and celebrate, January 1, 2022, will be marked by yet another year gone by during which millions of Canadians have been unable to access the medicines they need. We are nowhere near reaching the first milestone of essential medicines coverage, keeping a full, comprehensive national formulary that much further out of reach.

The Economic and Fiscal Update and Budget 2022 are opportunities to demonstrate in a concrete way that the Liberal government will keep its promise on pharmacare. Canadians hope to see a firm financial commitment of – at a minimum – $3.5 billion towards essential medicines coverage as recommended by the Advisory Council.

Anything less risks confirming concerns expressed by a growing number of Canadians who have come to question the Liberal government’s commitment to follow the Advisory Council’s recommendations. Establishing the Canadian Drug Agency Transition Office and funding a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases, while important, is insufficient progress to assuage these concerns.

We applauded your government’s bold vision and commitments to usher in a universal early-learning and child care program. It demonstrated unequivocally that the federal government can indeed move ahead on implementing a national program in the absence of a consensus among the provinces and territories. And it demonstrates yet again that if the necessary funding is brought to the table, universal programs can be implemented under the leadership of the federal government.

Failing to implement a national, universal, single-payer, public pharmacare program deprives millions of people in Canada of equal access to their needed medications. We know that low-income and racialized people in Canada feel this impact the most. Canada is the sole outlier on this issue among countries that have a universal public health care system, and implementing such a program would lead to $5 billion a year in savings for prescription drug spending.

As organizations that have advocated for many years on this issue, we urge you to renew Canadians’ confidence that your government will fulfil its commitment on pharmacare.

We look forward to seeing bold action toward implementing a national, universal, single-payer, public pharmacare program in the Economic and Fiscal Update and in the 2022 Federal Budget.


Pauline Worsfold, RN, Chairperson, Canadian Health Coalition

Beatrice Bruske, President, Canadian Labour Congress

Jerry Dias, President, Unifor

Linda Silas, President, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions

Mark Hancock, National President, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Christina Warner, Co-Executive Director, Council of Canadians

Larry Brown, President, The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)

Ken Neumann, National Director for Canada, USW

Dr. Melanie Bechard, Chair, Canadian Doctors for Medicare

Anita Patil Huberman, President & CEO, Surrey Board of Trade

Diane Wood, President, BC Federation of Retired Union Members (BC FORUM)

Bill Chedore, National President, Congress of Union Retirees of Canada

Jen Hassum, Executive Director, Broadbent Institute

Scott Wolfe, Executive Director, Canadian Association of Community Health Centres

Sandra Azocar, Executive Director, Friends of Medicare (Alberta)

Thomas Linner, Provincial Director, Manitoba Health Coalition

Juliet Bushi, Provincial Director, Saskatchewan Health Coalition

Sophie Verdon, Director, Coalition solidarité santé (Québec)

Joel Lexchin, Professor Emeritus, York University

Marc-André Gagnon, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University

Steve Morgan, PhD, Professor, School of Population and Public Health Founder, Pharmacare 2020 University of British Columbia