Dippers Care about PharmaCare

2 minute read

In Hamilton, delegates at the New Democratic convention met in-person for the first time in five years. There were approximately a thousand delegates in attendance to watch NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh deliver his keynote address. Following the speech, Singh faced a mandatory leadership review. 

Many observers were interested to see how Singh would fare, given that the vote represented the first referendum on his leadership since the negotiation of the confidence-and-supply agreement. This arrangement formally outlined the conditions that would need to be met for the NDP to support the Liberals until the fall of 2025.

While Singh and his MPs can point to tangible legislative success from the agreement, it does tie the NDP to an increasingly unpopular government. On October 12th, Abacus Data found that the Conservatives continue to lead the Liberals by 13 points nationally. This is raising concerns within the NDP membership – elements of which were on display during the convention. 

Declining Support 

Singh passed his leadership review with 81 per cent of votes cast. While that is still a solid level of support, it is a decline from years past. In 2021, before the confidence-and-supply agreement, Singh had 87 per cent of party support. In 2018, he came in at nearly 91 per cent. The ten-point differential could reflect a growing internal fatigue with the confidence-and-supply agreement. 

Singh tried to address that unease in his key-note speech by acknowledging his own frustration with the deal, while at the same time emphasizing that the CPC and Liberals could not be trusted with the nation’s foremost issues. 

Pharmacare is Make-or-Break

The confidence-and-supply agreement was also called into question by an emergency resolution on pharmacare that came from delegates on the floor of the convention. It called on party leadership to make it explicitly clear that a universal, single-payer pharmacare program is the only acceptable outcome for New Democrats. 

Leading up to the meeting, Health critic Don Davies criticized the first draft of the Liberals’ pharmacare legislation calling it not comprehensive. The resolution declared that if the Liberals were to renege on introducing a universal, single-payer pharmacare program, the NDP should pull their support for the government. 

The resolution passed. 

The NDP’s national director, Anne McGrath, welcomed the resolution — thanking the membership for providing Singh with a “lot of bargaining power.” Time will tell whether this power will translate into policy. So far, the Liberals haven’t shown any signs that they are willing to bend.

This is likely because they don’t yet believe that the NDP is really willing to bring down the government and go to the polls over pharmacare. Despite the talk of it being the party’s “red line,” Jagmeet Singh would not commit to pulling the plug when he spoke to reporters last week.

In order for pharmacare to join dental care on the list of NDP victories, the party will either have to clarify its messaging or Jagmeet Singh will have to work on his poker face.

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