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March 19, 2019

The federal budget inches Canada towards pharmacare, but proposals are minimal

Federal Budget
Media Release

The federal budget inches Canada towards pharmacare, but proposals are minimal

March 19, 2019 (OTTAWA, ON) – This year’s federal budget includes commitments that inch Canada closer to the long-awaited implementation of a national pharmacare program for everyone. While optimistic, Canada’s nurses want to see clearer commitments to support the creation and implementation of such a program.

“Budget 2019 is a first step toward national pharmacare, and only that,” said Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU). “With a federal election fast approaching, nurses believe clearer commitments are needed from the government to meaningfully bring Canada closer to pharmacare.”

The 2019 federal budget announced $35 million over four years starting in 2019-2020 for the establishment of a Canadian Drug Agency Transition Office. A further $500 million over two years starting in 2022-2023 was announced to help improve access to high-cost drugs for rare diseases.

“The pharmacare measures in Budget 2019 are the bare minimum,” said Silas. “We were hoping to see bolder commitments to assemble the building blocks of national pharmacare, including implementing the Advisory Council’s interim report recommendations: the creation of a national drug agency with a clear mandate to draw up a national formulary and funding for drug data and IT systems to track the spectrum of prescribing practices.”

An Environics public opinion poll from this January found that 88% of Canadians agree it is better to have a single pharmacare program for everyone, rather than to have a patchwork plan. The poll, commissioned by the CFNU, also found that 85% believe it is worth investing public money for universal pharmacare.

“Pharmacare is a grassroots issue for frontline nurses, because we see the consequences of the current inefficient public-private system: sicker Canadians and wasted health care dollars,” said Silas. “We needed more from the federal government in Budget 2019 to be confident that Canada is on a solid trajectory towards pharmacare.”

It is well established by numerous expert studies, including from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, that universal pharmacare would result in significant system-wide savings of up to $11 billion annually, while addressing a widespread lack of access.

“Canada’s nurses will continue to watch the federal government closely to make sure we stay the course supported overwhelmingly by the evidence,” said Silas.


The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing nearly 200,000 nurses and student nurses, and advocating on key health priorities and federal engagement in the future of public health care.

For more information, please contact:
Lauren Snowball, CFNU Communications Officer, 613-868-5702,