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NDP party leader announces Pharmacare program in Essex

- also discusses immigration, brownface incident, and Bill 21 -



by Sylene Argent

Surrounded by supporters last Friday morning in front of incumbent Tracey Ramsey’s campaign office in Essex, NDP party leader Jagmeet Singh announced a national Pharmacare plan as part of his party platform ahead of the October 21 election.

  Singh said the visit to Essex was to talk about something he believes is near and dear to Canadians. “We are all very proud of our healthcare system, but we know more and more it is getting harder to get the services we need. Now, here in Essex and in Windsor, it is something people talk about often, the fact that when their loved-ones are sick, they are worried about the care that they get.”

  He said Liberal and Conservative governments “have consistently chosen to help those at the very top and make their lives easier and it has made it harder for everyone else, and people have paid the price.”

  Specifically, Singh wanted to talk about the cost of medication. The Liberal government, he said, has promised a national, universal Pharmacare since 1997. “They promise it year, after year, after year. And, they keep on breaking the promise.”

  Singh said he wonders why Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau continues the tradition of broken promises. In 2015, he said Trudeau campaigned on a simple change that would drop the cost of medication up to 20-percent by changing the list of countries that Canada compares to in setting prices. Four-years later, he failed to deliver, he claimed.   

  In four years, Singh said, Trudeau has met with big pharma and insurance company lobbyists over 850 times.

  If elected, Singh said New Democrats will ensure “everyone in our country has access to the medication they need. If you need medication in our country, you should use your health card, not your credit card.”  

  Area resident Theresa Hayes shared her story of the impact of not having benefits. She said she worked at a plant for twenty-years and it closed. She lost her benefits then, and her blood pressure and anxiety meds were no longer covered. She has found part-time work since, with no benefits. She said she currently works for minimum wage and her medications cost around $300 per month. She said she has to live with her parents, and tries to contribute when she said.

  She believes the NDP Pharmacare plan will work for her and others.

  Singh said Hayes described a story that is true for so many Canadians.

  Every province, he said, spends money purchasing medication. For example, he noted, if one goes to the hospital, the majority of medication would be covered. What the NDP is proposing, is to sit with each province to note in addition to the amount it is spending, the federal government would add funding. Instead of buying meds for just those in hospital, the buying power for 37million Canadians, everyone would be covered, he said, which would include negotiating with bulk buying to lower costs.

  Singh spoke of other issues at the event. One of which included Trudeau’s brownface/blackface incident. He said he wanted to put the focus on those who are impacted. There are Canadians who saw the images of the Liberal leader “essentially mocking their reality and they are hurting.” He said that behaviour is also seeded in policies, referencing the incident earlier this year where Trudeau “mocked the indigenous community activists demanding justice for their community that was poisoned by mercury.”

  Singh claimed he has been at events where people have attacked him “with aggressive and Islamophobic slurs.” He said in those instances, some people may have said it would have been okay to mock that person, be he never did because he doesn’t believe in it.    

  Bill 21 - The Quebec ban on religious symbols, Singh said, is wrong and divisive. He said the law is currently being challenged in court and he supports the right to do so.

  He said he is hoping to use his position as someone running to be Prime Minister to say “That is not how we move forward. That is not how we build a better society. We have so many challenges we have to work on together – we need to tackle the climate crisis, we need to tackle the housing affordability crisis, the healthcare crisis…there are so many things we need to tackle. We need to do that together.”

  The immigration system, Singh added, “Has to balance the great need that we have for people to come to our country. Immigration is something that creates opportunities and spurs our economy,” he said, adding that needs to be balance with security.

  A massive failing in the past, with the Liberals and Conservatives, he said, are the wait times, which includes keeping track of the folks being processed. The lack of resources reduces the number of people that are able to do that kind of work.

  Concerning the climate, Singh said there is an emergency. The first step the NDP would do, he said, would be end all fossil-fuel subsidies. Public dollars would also be reinvested back into renewable and clean energy and it is desired to retrofit every home and building, which would create jobs and reduce emissions.

  Singh has noted that the NDP, if elected, would be interested in allowing municipalities the opportunity to decide whether or not it would want to ban handguns. He said the root cause for violence needs to be discovered. He said it is complex. He said a brighter future needs to be invested in, which includes investing in affordable housing, ensuring good jobs, and ways to get educated.  

  “It is not enough to just provide the laws that allow municipalities that choose to do so to ban handguns, but we need to move look beyond that to look at the root causes and how we can solve those as well.”

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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