Federal Budget commits to National Pharmacare Plan

Federal Budget commits to National Pharmacare Plan but shifts away from housing for the most marginalized

March 19, 2019


OTTAWA – The government’s new budget commits to a bold vision in some critical areas for people living in poverty in Canada – but misses the mark by extending housing dollars to promote homeownership for the middle class, when so many people in Canada are homeless and living in unaffordable, inadequate housing.

Canada Without Poverty (CWP), a leading voice in the anti-poverty movement, welcomes the introduction of a variety of policy initiatives for people in poverty, including increased access to high-speed internet, lower interest rates for Canada Student Loans, and enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan.

A central focus of the government’s budget is a commitment to a National Pharmacare Plan. The government’s budget relies on the release of the report of the Advisory Council on National Pharmacare coming later this year but promises a Canadian Drug Agency, and a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases.

Although Canada has the tenth largest Gross Domestic Product in the world, we are one of the only countries with national medicare but lacking pharmacare.

“The commitment to a National Pharmacare Plan in the Budget is a critical step forward for the one in ten people in Canada who cannot afford necessary medication,” said CWP’s Policy Director and Human Rights Lawyer, Michèle Biss. “That being said, there is an urgency to address unaffordability of necessary pharmaceuticals, especially for seniors and persons with disabilities, that we don’t see reflected in this budget. And moving forward, it is absolutely critical that this strategy reflect a plan that is truly universal for all people in Canada.”

The focus on the middle class and homeownership is out of step with where the most urgent needs lie – addressing homelessness for the more than 235,000 in Canada and lack of affordable, adequate housing for millions.

In November 2017, the government launched the National Housing Strategy, recognizing the right to housing of all people in Canada for the first time – and committed a significant budget to the strategy. However, programs within the strategy like the Canada Housing Benefit, will not roll out until 2020.

“It’s appropriate that the housing chapter was listed under the section ‘Investing in the Middle Class’. The measures in this budget fall short of meeting the needs of people in poverty, especially young people, many of whom are not in a position to purchase a home, and instead would benefit from access to decent affordable rental accommodation with long-term security of tenure.”” said CWP’s Executive Director, Leilani Farha.

“However, we are encouraged to see action to enhance tax compliance in the real estate sector in this budget. As housing is increasingly used as a financial instrument and a speculative commodity, we are encouraged to see measures to recognize the harm this causes to the most marginalized in the country.”

While Budget 2019 mentions the National Housing Strategy Legislation, no further commitment was made as to when this critical legislation for the right to housing will be tabled. United Nations authorities have repeatedly called on governments in Canada to connect laws, policies, and programs to international human rights obligations, particularly for marginalized groups.  We expect the National Housing Strategy to pick up this recommendation.

“There is a glaring absence of mention of Canada’s international human rights obligations in this budget – particularly related to women, Indigenous persons, and seniors. Additionally, critical policies to address inequality, including universal childcare and significant investment in the right to food are missing from this budget,” said Ms. Biss.

Last August, the government committed to a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy, which included a poverty advisory council and a new official poverty line through the Market Basket Measure, currently being updated by Statistics Canada. These measures were not included in the Budget 2019 document, but according to sources will be funded through Employment and Social Development Canada and Statistic Canada’s budget.


About Canada Without Poverty

Canada Without Poverty (CWP) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, and charitable organization dedicated to ending poverty in Canada. The organization was created in 1971 as an outcome of the Poor People’s Conference, a national gathering of low-income individuals, under the name National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO). For over 40 years, CWP has been championing the rights of individuals experiencing poverty and marginalization through research, awareness-building campaigns, public policy development, and educational programming. See more at: www.cwp-csp.ca.

For more information or interview requests, please contact:

Michèle Biss

Canada Without Poverty – Policy Director and Human Rights Lawyer

Phone: 613-697-8743 Email: [email protected]