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Jagmeet Singh calls Legault government conservative, says province not investing enough in health care

New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh speaks with reporters before Question Period, in Ottawa, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh speaks with reporters before Question Period, in Ottawa, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
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While praising the pharmacare program that the New Democratic Party (NDP) was able to conclude with the Liberals, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called the Legault government conservative and criticized it for not investing enough in health care.

In a press scrum in the foyer of the House of Commons on Monday, Singh said he wasn't surprised that Quebec and Alberta didn't want to join the federal pharmacare program, which for now will cover diabetes and contraceptive drugs.

"I'm not surprised by the Conservative governments that have cut investments in health care. These are the same premiers that, when you look at their province, they made massive cuts that hurt workers and patients," he said.

"It's up to the Conservative premiers to explain why they won't accept funding to help people in their province [who] need help because they can't afford to buy diabetes medication," he added.

The NDP leader added that the Quebec government is "not investing enough in health care, and that's why [there are] crises in many hospitals."

Singh said he wanted to work and negotiate with the provinces to ensure that people have access to contraceptive and diabetes drugs. "It's going to save a lot of money for people, but it's also going to save lives because we know there are many Canadians across the country who can't afford to buy the drugs they need," he said Monday.

Quebec, which has its own drug plan covering part of the costs, wants the federal government to let it manage health care.

"The Quebec government has repeatedly pointed out that health is an exclusive Quebec jurisdiction. If the Government of Canada goes ahead with this drug insurance project, the Government of Quebec will demand the right to opt out with full compensation," the Quebec health minister's office said in an email.

The minister's office argued that the province's drug plan has existed since 1997 and is a mixed plan "that works" and that Ottawa's intervention "risks compromising it."

"The Government of Canada should let the provinces look after their own jurisdictions and play its part in adequately funding health care by increasing health transfers," the firm said.

According to Singh, the New Democrats had to "fight very hard" to get an agreement on contraceptive drugs and diabetes. He said that if Canadians want to extend the program to other drugs, the NDP is the only party willing to do so.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Feb. 26, 2024. 

The Canadian Press health content receives funding through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. The Canadian Press is solely responsible for editorial choices. 

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