Surrey Board of Trade Says House of Commons’ Support for Universal Pharmacare is Great News for Business – Especially in Light of COVID-19 Economic and Health Impacts

On Friday, March 13, 2020, the House of Commons unanimously passed an NDP motion on universal public, single-payer pharmacare. The motion passed just before the Canadian Parliament was suspended until April 20th due to COVID-19 concerns.

“This is a historic win for businesses across the country,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade. “The Surrey Board of Trade has advocated for a single-payer universal pharmacare program since 2016.  We recognize that pharmacare will be good for business by reducing the costs that companies face in providing drug coverage for their employees.”

“The burden of Canada’s incomplete and inefficient system of public drug coverage falls heavily on businesses, especially small and medium sized enterprises who are the backbone of Canada’s economy. With rising costs of medications, many businesses are seeing their bottom line erode and some find they simply cannot afford to provide insurance plans for their employees.”

“In 2019, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that universal, public pharmacare would reduce employer-sponsored drug costs in Canada by over $10 billion per year. These are substantial savings for the business community.  These resources could to be used for research and development, growth, and innovation. This is especially important in light of the COVID-19 situation that we are facing today.”

Heavy burden on business
Drug coverage in Canada is provided through an incomplete patchwork of private and public programs that vary across provinces. This fragmented system limits people’s access to medicines, diminishes our drug purchasing power, duplicates administrative costs, and isolates pharmaceutical management from the management of medical and hospital care. It is needlessly costing Canadian businesses billions of dollars every year.

Prescription drugs are the largest and fastest growing component of extended health benefits in Canada. Business owners should not be responsible for managing access to these life-saving medications. No comparable country with universal health care requires individual employers to do so. The average business owner who provides drug coverage will save over $750 annually per employee with a universal pharmacare program. Research indicates that if implemented by 2027, businesses and employees will see their prescription drug costs reduced by $16.6 billion annually in Canada.

The Opposition Motion:
That the House: (a) acknowledge the government’s intention to introduce and implement national pharmacare; (b) call on the government to implement the full recommendations of the final report of the Hoskins Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, commencing with the immediate initiation of multilateral negotiations with the provinces and territories to establish a new, dedicated fiscal transfer to support universal, single-payer, public pharmacare that will be long term, predictable, fair and acceptable to provinces and territories;(c) urge the government to reject the U.S.-style private patchwork approach to drug coverage, which protects the profits of big pharmaceutical and insurance companies, but costs more to Canadians; and (d) recognize that investing in national pharmacare would help stimulate the economy while making life more affordable for everyone and strengthening our health care system.

Although the NDP’s motion isn’t binding, it is another important step towards universal, public pharmacare. Last month the NDP also introduced a private member’s bill that would establish the framework for this new program.

More information on Surrey Board of Trade’s Policy here


Anita Huberman, 604-634-0342,