When Canadians heard Monday there was to be a big announcement on pharmacare yesterday, many of us concluded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's shell-shocked strategic brain trust was finally ready to start acting like a Natural Governing Party again, instead of like lemmings racing for a cliff.
It would have been a brilliant strategy to announce a full pharmacare program -- the full-meal deal with no bones tossed to Big Pharma or Big Insurance, which have been begging for a fill-in-the-gaps approach that would keep their expensive and unfair but highly profitable stopgaps in place.
It would have shifted the nation's attention immediately away from the hostile media frenzy the protracted gong show before the House of Commons justice committee has become and turned it toward a popular and much-needed national program on which a party and a prime minister could easily peg a successful re-election campaign.
It would have reminded voters that for all their flaws the Liberals were still basically a progressive political party willing occasionally to do things that are actually in the interests of Canadians, such as creating a national prescription drug plan that would save lives, ensure no one had to choose between life-saving medicine or feeding their kids, and stop the waste of multi-billions of tax dollars to boot.
It would have forced the Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer and in thrall to their cruel utopian market ideology to attack a program that plainly would benefit every single one of us unless we happened to be a Big Pharma or Big Insurance executive. Yes, even screwball market perfectionists would benefit if they had the misfortune to get sick and needed to set aside their ideological pipe dreams to survive.
Instead, we got … recommendations.
Which means, of course, more time for Big Business, their ideological think-tanks and the Conservatives to cook up ways to sabotage this still unrealized national good.
Progressive groups did their best with the interim report of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, which recommended creation of a national pharmaceutical drug agency, a comprehensive evidence-based formulary, and suggested core principles for national pharmacare. Several good-hearted organizations put out news releases calling the development "promising."
But Canadians don't need promises. They need pharmacare. And they need it now.
And so do the Liberals, oddly enough. Desperately so, right now, one would think.
But I guess the party of Justin Trudeau has discovered, as the old stories go, that once you've sold your soul, it's very hard to get it back.
It doesn't have to be too late for Canadians to get a national pharmacare program. The Conservatives will do everything in their power to stop it, of course. The New Democrats are unlikely to get a chance to implement it this time around. But the Liberals still have the power to make it happen.
But the only way to make it happen is to make it happen.
For the moment, however, the race to the cliff apparently continues.
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
Photo: David J. Climenhaga
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