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Pharmacare legislation by March or NDP/Liberal pact ends: Singh

NDP leader warns he won’t extend deadline further without promise under deal holding up government
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh speaks with reporters in the Foyer of the House of Commons before Question Period, Monday, February 5, 2024 in Ottawa. Singh says if the government doesn’t make good on pharmacare legislation by March, that would kill the Liberal-NDP political pact. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh says if the government doesn’t make good on pharmacare legislation by March, that would kill the Liberal-NDP political pact.

But he’s making it clear that any collapse in the deal, which is meant to hold off a federal election until next year, would be the Liberals’ fault.

Singh has been talking tough this week about the looming deadline to table a bill, and met with the prime minister Monday to lay out his expectations.

Reporters lobbed questions at Singh today about what consequences he’s willing to bring down on the Liberals.

He says if the Liberals don’t deliver by March 1, they would be turning their back on the parties’ agreement — and he warns he won’t extend that deadline any further.

The deal originally said a bill should be passed by the end of 2023, but after months of negotiation over what it should say, the two parties punted the due date.

Singh told reporters Wednesday that the parties have fundamental differences of opinion about how pharmacare should work.

The text of the supply-and-confidence deal, which has the NDP promising to support the minority government on key votes in exchange for movement on shared priorities, only calls for “progress toward a universal national pharmacare program.”

It offers no other specifics.

The NDP is looking to see legislation that would underpin a future universal, single-payer system, and the grassroots of the party voted at a policy convention in October to settle for nothing less.

The Liberals, meanwhile, have pushed for a model that would serve people who don’t have existing insurance coverage, Singh said of the discussions.

Health Minister Mark Holland has said cost is a factor, and the government’s fiscal framework can’t absorb a massive expense.

The Liberals and the NDP originally struck their deal in 2022, months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected with a minority mandate for a second time in a row.

Since then, polls have shown the Opposition Conservatives rising in popularity across the country under the leadership of Pierre Poilievre.

That leaves the Liberals and NDP at risk of losing seats the next time Canadians go to the polls, with a federal election scheduled for fall 2025 at the latest.

Even if the deal ends in March, it doesn’t mean the NDP will bring down the government.

Singh said he told the prime minister that there would be repercussions for missing the pharmacare deadline, but wouldn’t tell reporters what they are.

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