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Liberal-NDP deal could be broken next week

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick The Canadian Press NDP leader Jagmeet Singh at a press conference in Ottawa on February 13

Nine days before the deadline to present a universal drug insurance program, New Democratic leader Jagmeet Singh is once again threatening to tear up his agreement with the Liberals.

“If you miss the March 1st deadline, then you will have broken our agreement. […] You will no longer be able to count on our support for any bills or votes in the future,” said Mr. Singh when challenging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a press briefing in Toronto.

The agreement reached between the two parties allows the minority Liberals to keep power until 2025, with the systematic support of Mr. Singh's troops in key votes. In exchange, the Liberals committed to carrying out a series of measures, such as launching a dental care program and establishing a universal drug insurance plan.

Jagmeet Singh is not, however, proposing to bring down the minority government in the event that the trust agreement ends.

“We are not going to move forward on a vote of confidence or a vote on the budget. The original agreement ensured our support, and that will no longer be the case. We will return to a minority government framework where each vote will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” he explained.

Pierre Poilievre's Conservatives still lead in voting intentions (41%), far ahead of the Liberals (27%) and the NDP (20%).

An agreement that is slow to come to fruition

After months of negotiations, an agreement on the conditions of the plan demanded by the NDP is slow to materialize. “We negotiated all weekend and we had positive discussions, but we are still not [at a final agreement],” Mr. Singh said on Wednesday.

Last fall, New Democratic delegates were already threatening to withdraw from the agreement with the Liberals. The initial agreement called for the adoption of a drug insurance law by the end of 2023, but the NDP ultimately agreed to push back the deadline to March 1, 2024.

As part of the negotiations, the NDP is also asking that contraception — including the morning-after pill — and diabetes medications be covered by the federal government. The New Democratic leader has often shared his concerns about the decline in access to abortion in the United States and “the erosion of women's right to choose.”

“There’s not much time left. Justin Trudeau has until March 1 to come to a solution. What we are asking for is clear: coverage for contraceptives and diabetic medications and a bill for the establishment of universal and public drug insurance,” reiterated Mr. Singh.

The main obstacle in the negotiations appears to be the NDP's insistence on implementing a universal single-payer system, which was the model recommended by the Advisory Council of Canada in 2019.

This fall, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that such a plan would cost the federal and provincial governments an additional $11.2 billion in the first year of the program, and $13.4 billion during the fourth year.

Federal Health Minister Mark Holland has repeatedly spoken about the need for the government to be fiscally prudent.

Asked what would happen to such a program in Quebec, Mr. Singh did not specify the terms and conditions that could apply to the province. “We must work with all the provinces, but in particular with Quebec, because it already has a program. It’s going to take work, but it’s something we can do,” he assures.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116