In an election where all parties will be talking about health care, the NDP is promising a broader range of health services.
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh campaigned in Nanaimo for a second-straight day Tuesday, meeting with voters specifically to talk about health-care challenges and solutions.
Singh spotlighted commitments that an NDP government would implement pharmacare in its first year in office and then move to “head-to-toe” expansion of universal health services to include dental, vision, hearing and mental health care, for example.
“When someone you know, your loved ones or yourself needs health care, it’s the most important thing in their life…” said Singh. “This is not just about saving budgets for families, it’s also saving lives for families and so this is so important for us and we’re really committed to doing it.”
He and Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidate Bob Chamberlin met this morning with three local residents who have experienced challenges with affordability or accessibility of health care. One had had to cut back on her food budget to pay back credit card debt after a $3,000 dental bill and another worried that she wouldn’t be able to spend time with her grandchildren because she couldn’t afford a needed $300 vaccination.
Singh said the universal prescription drug plan would cost $9 billion and the money would come from a variety of sources including re-prioritizing, closing tax loopholes and bringing in a new tax on Canadians with more than $20 million in net wealth.
The NDP leader said the pharmacare commitment is achievable and could build on existing mechanisms such as the medicine prices review board.
“We would just expand their role and set up a system where we negotiate with the buying power of 37 million Canadians, get better prices and deliver better health care for people,” Singh said.
Chamberlin said the plan is sound.
“To save Canadians $500 on average every year is something that voters are responding to,” he said. “It’s very exciting to know that we’ve got this vision and we can build on it, to meet all the needs from head to toe.”
The federal Liberals budgeted this past winter for the creation of a national drug agency to cut medication costs and an expert panel recommended in late spring that the federal government institute universal prescription drug coverage.
“We might hear from the Liberals that they’re going to promise to do it and I say to Canadians, ‘how can you believe them now?’” Singh said.
Chamberlin said the Conservatives’ promise to increase health transfers to provinces is “not going to cut it.”
“Three per cent is not even going to meet the inflation rate and the skyrocketing costs of medications, so it’s status quo,” he said.
The federal election is Oct. 21. Candidates include Chamberlin, incumbent Green Party MP Paul Manly, John Hirst of the Conservative Party of Canada, Michelle Corfield of the Liberals and Jennifer Clarke representing the People’s Party of Canada.