Introducing universal pharmacare would cost $26.7 billion in the first year, the federal Greenssaid Wednesday as they released a costed platform.
The pledge to ensure all Canadians have access to medication is the biggest new spending item in the Green plan, which represents the first federal party to release a platform with price tags for its pledges as reviewed by the parliamentary budget officer.
The platform shows that by fiscal year 2024-25, the Greens’ pharmacare plan would cost $31.3 billion, but by then their proposed budget has the provinces contributing $17 billion.
The Liberals and NDP have also pledged a national pharmacare program.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has said he would spend $10 billion a year to ensure that all necessary medication and medical devices are free at the point of care starting in 2020. When Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made a pharmacare pledge this week, he wouldn’t say how much it would cost or when it would take full effect.
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Trudeau has said he would be guided by a panel led by former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins, who pegged the cost at $15.3 billion each year by 2027, when the program would be fully operational.
Green Leader Elizabeth May said she didn’t expect the price tag to total $27 billion.
“The big ticket items — pharmacare — turns out to be a cost,” she said. “But it’s essential. We have to do it.”
When the parliamentary budget office came back with that unexpected tally, the party had to adjust its budget, May said, including taxing financial transactions at 0.5 per cent instead of 0.2 per cent.
According to the costing, that tax would bring in $18 billion a year by fiscal year 2024-25. Other new sources of revenue are largely aimed at businesses and wealthy Canadians, including increasing the corporate tax rate from 15 per cent to 21 per cent for $16 billion in revenue, closing a capital gains loophole to raise $15 billion and applying a one-per cent tax on wealth above $20 million for about $7 billion.
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Other big-ticket spending promises include eliminating post-secondary tuition and forgiving student debt for about $16 billion in the first year but levelling out to about $9.5 billion annually starting in year three, $5 billion for universal child care, and $9.6 billion to allocate one per cent of the GST to housing and other municipal infrastructure.
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The Greens propose to balance the budget in 2024-25, though May said if economic circumstances demand increased spending, they would respond to that.
“We’ve never been slavishly addicted to balanced budgets,” she said. “We completely agree that if you need to spend to stimulate the economy, that’s an appropriate thing to do.”