On February 24, 2021, Parliament voted down Bill C-213, which would have enacted the Canada Pharmacare Act. The Private Member’s Bill was first introduced a year ago, re-introduced in September 2020 after Parliament’s prorogation, and defeated at Second Reading.

The Canada Pharmacare Act set out a series of criteria and conditions that would have been required before a federal cash contribution could be provided to a province for its public drug insurance plan: public administration; comprehensiveness; universality; portability; and accessibility.

These criteria were intended to align with principles of pharmacare identified in the June 2019 Final Report of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare (the Advisory Council), entitled “A Prescription for Canada: Achieving Pharmacare for All”. In part, the Final Report recommended legislation to enshrine the principles in the Canada Health Act.

During debate on the Bill, the Prime Minister and other Members of Parliament rejected the Bill’s unilateral imposition of national pharmacare on the provincial-territorial jurisdiction over healthcare.  Instead, there was a call for future collaboration that respects constitutional jurisdictions.

As we reported, the federal government had previously announced funding for the implementation of certain recommendations from the Advisory Council, including the creation of (1) the Canadian Drug Agency; (2) a national formulary; and (3) a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases. The federal government has identified national pharmacare as a continued priority in its recent Speech from the Throne on September 23, 2020.  This sentiment was repeated in the recent Debates on Bill C-213.