Survey shows that pharmacare is not a top health priority for Canadians

More than half are unfamiliar with the Federal government's plans

Survey shows that pharmacare is not a top health priority for Canadians

Pharmacare is not a top health priority for most Canadians, a new survey conducted by polling firm Leger suggests. The survey findings come to light amid ongoing negotiations between Liberals and New Democrats on the future of a national drug plan.

The survey, which gathered data from 1,622 Canadians, found that merely 18 percent of respondents considered the creation of a new, universal, single-payer drug plan as a top health-care priority. In contrast, more funding towards surgical wait times (36 percent), the construction of long-term care homes (32 percent), and the expansion of mental health services (30 percent) gained higher support.

Christian Bourque, executive vice-president at Leger, emphasized that a universal single-payer drug plan is not at the forefront of Canadians’ priorities.

The survey found that 53 percent of respondents were unfamiliar with the government's plans for pharmacare. As per the political pact between Liberals and the NDP, pharmacare legislation was promised to be passed by the end of 2023. However, disagreements on the language in the bill delayed the process, and a new March 1 deadline has been set for the Liberals to table legislation.

The main point of contention is the NDP's insistence on a universal, single-payer system, recommended by Canada’s advisory council in 2019. Federal Health Minister Mark Holland, while supporting pharmacare, has highlighted the government's need for financial prudence.

Among those surveyed, only 22 percent believed a new drug plan should replace basic drug coverage from employers. Nearly half (44 percent) supported a plan offering coverage to those without existing drug coverage, seniors, and individuals earning less than $90,000 annually.

Despite not being a top priority, there is no substantial opposition to the idea of a national drug plan. Only 17 percent of respondents stated that a new drug plan should not be a government priority.

“Once you look inside the actual Conservative voter base, only 23 percent of them say ‘I don’t want [any] part of pharmacare.’ So, if there was a form of pharmacare, I think it would be good news for a majority of Canadians,” Bourque says.

However, even if the Liberals and NDP reach an agreement on the language for a pharmacare bill, there is no guarantee of immediate implementation. The legislation is crucial to securing NDP's support and preventing an election before 2025, particularly given the recent decline in Conservative support.

The Leger poll indicates a slight dip in Conservative support, with 38 percent of decided voters favoring the Tories, down from 40 percent in late November. The Conservatives maintain a significant lead over the Liberals at 28 percent and the New Democrats at 18 percent.