April 29, 2020
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The Right Honourable Prime Minister Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Dear Prime Minister,
Since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, Canada and the rest of the world have been responding to what will surely be remembered as the biggest health, social and economic crisis of our time.
The federal government has indeed stepped up to implement significant emergency support measures for individuals and businesses. As this crisis continues, however, we urge you to address one of the most glaring and pressing issues facing Canadians: the lack of access to prescription medication.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 8 million Canadians did not have prescription drug coverage and an estimated 3 million Canadians did not take medicines prescribed by their doctors because they couldn’t afford them. In a matter of weeks, millions of Canadians have been laid off with few of them having any health care benefits to carry them through this crisis.
Simply put, the COVID-19 crisis has made the problem worse and millions of Canadians cannot afford the medications that they need. The lack of access to prescription drugs during this crisis is an additional health emergency.
Unifor is calling on the federal government to take the following emergency measures to ensure that Canadians have access to prescription drugs immediately:
1) Move to fully implement national universal pharmacare immediately. In the meantime, implement the emergency measures outlined below.
2) Provide immediate federal funding and coordinate with the provinces to ensure that all laid-off workers become eligible for coverage under existing provincial drug plans.
3) Require that any company or organization receiving federal funds through the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) must maintain existing drug coverage for employees who are on the payroll.
This government has talked about its commitment to universal pharmacare and the importance of drug coverage in our health care system. It is time for the government to fulfill this promise and ensure that Canadians have access to medications during this most crucial time.
Millions of people are struggling with the choice between putting food on the table, keeping a roof over their head, and paying for the drugs they need to stay healthy. These are choices that no one should be forced to make.