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Layton to announce national drug program

This Magazine Staff

According to, New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton will be in Vancouver today to announce his plans for a universal prescription drug plan for Canadians who pay more than $1,500 in drug costs each year.
The announcement came about a week after a study by Wyatt Health ranked Canada 17th out of 18 OECD countries studied in terms of of public funding of pharmaceuticals. According to the study, Ottawa forks over about 45 percent for prescription drugs, which is just slightly higher than the United States’ contribution (about 40 percent), who came in dead last.
I could say, at least we’re still ahead of the U.S., but second-last is an embarrassment. Lack of access to necessary prescriptions drugs is an obvious problem in Canada, especially in the Atlantic provinces who notoriously lag behind the rest of the country.
So, good on you, Jack Layton, for pledging to do something about the sorry state of drug coverage in Canada, but you better come up with a more solid plan, because your announcement came over a week after Liberal party leader Stéphane Dion announced his $900 million plan to bring universal drug coverage to Canada. (Dion also had the sense to make this promise in Halifax, not British Columbia, which has a relatively solid drug plan. While you’re at it Layton, why not promise GST cuts to Albertans?)

Regardless, a good plan is a good plan, especially when paired with Layton’s $1 billion pledge to help solve the doctor crisis in Canada (opening up more spots in medical schools and offering to forgive student debt for any doctor to spends his first ten years out of school in family medicine), but I can’t help but wave the red flag yet again: Where are you boys getting this money from?
With the U.S.’s economy in shambles, gas prices higher than ever and every Canadian talking about a possible recession, it’s almost (almost) understandable that so many Canadians are voting Conservative: he may have scrapped the national daycare program, toted ideas about privatized medicine and handed out truckloads of corporate tax cuts, but he hasn’t totally screwed us. Yet.
While both Dion and Layton have got some awesome ideas, they’re still both recovering from financial mismanagements of days past. Has anyone forgotten about the sponsorship scandal? I think not. And my parents, like many middle-class Ontarians, still haven’t forgiven the NDP for the Rae Days of the early 1990s.
Personally, I would love to see boatloads of money poured into health care, social programs, education, the arts, the works, but I’m a Toronto journalism student. I’m predisposed to see things a certain way. Layton, Dion, May: you’re going to have to put forth a much more solid economic plan to win over my parents.

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