Earlier this year, the Council of Canadians sent 180 provincial and national labour unions an appeal advancing the case that universal pharmacare will lower Canadian labour costs, remove the need to negotiate drug benefits during collective bargaining, and improve the health of workers by ensuring people can get the medications they need.
As you know, the Council of Canadians’ goal was to produce a groundbreaking new report that would outline the savings a universal pharmacare program would bring for employers and businesses, along with an activist toolkit that would give people the tools they need to lobby MPs and present information to employers in support of pharmacare. Employers, whose companies would gain a significant competitive advantage with pharmacare, could persuasively lobby the federal government to implement a universal publicly-funded pharmacare program.
Our follow-up report, A Prescription for Better Medicine: How universal pharmacare would give Canada an economic advantage, a handimation video, and a grassroots lobbying toolkit for Council of Canadians chapters, union locals and other activists are ready and available online (https://canadians.org/pharmacare).
We hope you will consider downloading or linking to these tools and sending them to your members, and encouraging them to speak to their MP or employer about the benefits of universal pharmacare.
A copy of the original report, A Prescription for Better Medicine: Why Canadians need a national pharmacare program (https://canadians.org/sites/default/files/publications/report-pharmacare…) was mailed to all 338 current MPs along with a questionnaire to assess their position on the issue. Twenty-seven MPs responded, with three providing their specific reasoning on the issue.
More recently, printed copies of the toolkit were available at Canadian Labour Congress convention in Toronto to encourage our brothers and sisters to check out the toolkit and reports online and share it with their members.
A national day of action was planned for May 27 when people across the country spoke to their MPs about pharmacare. At least 15 Council of Canadians chapters will be meeting with their MP to promote pharmacare. Their main messages will be:
? We would save money. Pharmacare would save Canadians approximately $14 billion a year by reducing administration costs and giving us stronger buying power to negotiate better prices for medications.
? Everyone would be covered. Right now 10 per cent of Canadians – approximately 3.5 million people – don’t have even basic drug coverage.
? Companies would pay less. Data shows that Canadian companies spend about $200 million per week on prescription drug costs incurred by employer drug plans.
We also commissioned a poll that shows 91% of Liberal voters want the Liberals to implement pharmacare. This poll will be a useful tool in lobbying meetings.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Jane Philpott has announced there will be public consultations on proposed regulatory changes to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board. Online consultations run until June 28. Minister Philpott hopes the new regulations will be in place no later than the end of 2018.
Building on this turn of events, the Council of Canadians’ Pharmacare Toolkit can have a lasting impact through 2017 and beyond with promotion by union members.
We would welcome an invitation to submit articles about this issue in your union’s newsletter. The more ways we can find to share the facts supporting the benefits of a universal pharmacare program, the closer we will get to seeing it become a reality, as envisioned by Tommy Douglas.