I am proud to rise in support of this motion, and I’m proud to be part of a caucus that is leading the push to create a universal, comprehensive pharmacare system in Ontario.
I sat in this House yesterday during question period, and our leader asked a question of the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health responded, “This shouldn’t be about which program is of greater benefit.” Now, I ask you, Speaker, if that’s not what it is about, then why are we here?
I come from a research background, and one of the things that drives me as an MPP is to make sure that the policy decisions that are made in this place are evidence-based, that they respond to the actual needs of the people we represent and that our decisions are informed by the knowledge and the expertise that people who are working in the field bring to our debates—people like Dr. Steve Morgan, who spoke, along with our leader, when the NDP announced our plan. Dr. Steve Morgan said that the NDP plan “is a truly practical way to begin to develop a universal pharmacare program.”
Canadian Doctors for Medicare said, “Doctors across Canada who have been advocating for the addition of a universal public pharmacare program to Canada’s health care system are applauding the Ontario New Democrats’ (ONDP) plan to create such a program in Ontario.”
Speaker, the evidence tells us that there are 2.2 million people in this province without any access to drug coverage. There are one in four Ontarians who can’t afford to take the medications they need because they don’t have the money to do it. Many of these people are children, but even more are seniors or working-age adults.
I want to share with you two stories of constituents from my riding of London West who are among those one in four Ontarians who would benefit directly from the NDP motion that we’re debating today.
Larry is diabetic; he’s insulin-dependent. He lives on a fixed income of $2,100 a month. He is currently a recipient of the Ontario drug plan, but his annual deductible is still over $3,000 a year because his grandson lives in the home and is employed, and Trillium requires him to take into account his grandson’s income.
Another story of a constituent: Nancy and Bill. Nancy was spending hundreds of dollars a week on medication and supplements for Bill, but when she tried to apply for financial assistance to help with this burden, she was told that they would first have to use the financial hardship clause to unlock their pension and exhaust all of their pension funds before they would qualify for drug assistance. Bill is now in long-term care. Nancy has had to move into social housing because all of their savings went to his medical costs. Speaker, these are people who would be helped by the motion that the NDP is putting forward today.
As critic for advanced education, I have often raised concerns about the huge debts that young people are carrying after they graduate from university—as much as $28,000. When these young people graduate, many are faced with the termination of the university health coverage that they had when they were at school, or they have aged out of the benefit plans that their parents might have had, if they were lucky enough to have them. This is a steep cliff for these young people to go over, from coverage to no coverage. We should be doing whatever we can to help them. This plan would do that.