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Without the agreement with the NDP, the Liberal government would have to come to an agreement piecemeal with an opposition party to pass its budget.

  • Louis Blouin (View profile)Louis Blouin
  • Christian Noël (View profile)Christian Noël

< p class="text-medium leading-6 text-gray600 light:text-gray600 dark:text-gray400">Speech synthesis, based on artificial intelligence, makes it possible to generate spoken text from written text.

As the March 1 deadline approaches, negotiations on drug insurance are becoming more complicated between the Liberals and the New Democrats. Radio-Canada has learned that Jagmeet Singh's party intends to make life difficult for the government in the House of Commons.

On the other end of the line, the frustration is evident in the voice of a senior NDP source: We are tired of the stupidity.

Negotiations around a national framework on drug insurance is stalling. Our source says the New Democratic Party (NDP) has not received a counter-offer from the government since December.

Impatience is felt, especially since the original deadline, scheduled for December 2023, was postponed to March 1, 2024. The Liberals promised it, they signed the agreement. Now, they have to deliver the goods, exasperates a New Democrat elected official.

We need a final version of the bill ready for March 1, adds another NDP source.

Loading in progressA debt of $21,000 for giving birth without health insurance in Quebec

ELSEWHERE ON INFO: A debt of $21,000 for giving birth without health insurance in Quebec

Liberals should not take the NDP for granted, adds a source familiar with the negotiations. The warning echoes that made by Jagmeet Singh earlier this week in Parliament.

If the agreement is broken, all the conditions of the agreement are therefore broken.

A quote from Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP, on February 5

The state of the negotiations is considered so serious that party employees have been advised, during a meeting last Tuesday, to prepare for a scenario where the NDP would withdraw from the agreement with the Liberals.

For this article, Radio-Canada spoke with four New Democratic sources and one Liberal source who preferred to remain anonymous, given the sensitivity of the current negotiations.

The New Democratic leadership chooses to increase the pressure and moves from words to action. According to our information, Jagmeet Singh's party will slow down the adoption of a key bill in the Commons: that of the implementation of last fall's economic statement.

The government needs the NDP vote to pass a time allocation motion that would speed up its adoption, which the Conservative Party is dragging out.

However, there will be no help from the NDP as long as the talks on drug insurance do not move forward. The party could also be less ready to help the Liberals in parliamentary committee in the face of political maneuvering by other parties.

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As part of this agreement, the Liberals, among other things, launched a new dental care program for low-income Canadians.

In March 2022, Liberals and New Democrats reached an agreement aimed at ensuring the stability of the government until 2025 in the context of a minority Parliament.

As part of this agreement, the government committed to adopting a Canada Pharmacare Act by the end of 2023. This deadline was finally pushed back to March 1.

Negotiations are continuing, but they are becoming more complex. New Democrats insist that the drug insurance plan be entirely public and universal, instead of a panoply of different public and private insurance coverage.

They would also like to obtain universal and public coverage of certain medications before the final implementation of the system, which could take a few more years.

The NDP recognizes that this was not included in the initial agreement between the two parties.

On the government's side, we remain confident of reaching a agreement, even if a liberal source acknowledges that the negotiations are more laborious than expected.

It’s clear that we are not always on the same wavelength, confirms a liberal source familiar with the state of the negotiations. But we are ready to have difficult discussions.

As a government, we has different responsibilities [from those of] the opposition. We must ensure that the expenses incurred are reasonable, especially in the current economic climate.

A quote from A Liberal source

According to the Hoskins report on drug insurance, commissioned by the Liberals and published in 2019, the net additional public cost for covering essential medicines would be around $3.5 billion per year.

It's a big difference in money, says this liberal, who suggests that the office of the Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, is exerting some pressure to limit new spending in the spring budget.

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In its last budget, tabled last March, the Trudeau government projected that the deficit should stand at $40.1 billion.

We have a balance to manage. The cost of this measure would be very significant, he indicates.

However, it is important to note that the agreement between the Liberals and the NDP does not contain any financial commitment regarding drug insurance: rather it concerns the establishment of a national framework which would make it possible to begin discussions with the provinces.

Despite the fact that the NDP shows signs of annoyance in public, the Liberals assure that behind the scenes, negotiations are frequent and cordial.

Health Minister Mark Holland and his New Democrat colleague Don Davies speak several times a week, confides this liberal source.

The first minister and the NDP leader met earlier this week.

If Jagmeet Singh feels the need to step on the accelerator and putting public pressure on Justin Trudeau is partly because he himself faces internal pressure from his own caucus.

Some NDP MPs feel threatened by their conservative opponents in various regions of the country. They fear that their association with the Liberals will become a burden that could harm their chances of re-election.

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is himself under pressure from within his party.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">These MPs feel that they need a major victory on drug insurance in order to be able to continue to justify this agreement to their constituents.

It's of capital importance for seniors in my riding, says an NDP elected official. It represents a significant part of their monthly budget. We must push the liberals to the end.

The bill is the creation of drug insurance in order to establish the framework for the talks that Ottawa will have to have with the provinces. It's important because it lays the foundations for future negotiations, says a source within the NDP.

At their last convention, members New Democrats had sent a clear signal to their leader by adopting a unanimous resolution.

This resolution stipulates that maintaining the agreement with the Liberals is conditional on the tabling of a bill that clearly commits to implementing a universal, comprehensive and entirely public drug insurance program.

However, this resolution was not binding.

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