Declaration of Voter's Rights

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Proportional Representation and Pharmacare

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t just break a promise to the Canadian people when he recently abandoned electoral reform. He also abandoned his country to a costly pharmaceutical system that favours powerful drug companies at the expense of taxpayers, an advocacy group says.

Trudeau’s "appalling" reversal on February 1 makes it nearly impossible to achieve a vastly more efficient pharmacare program, despite 90 percent of Canadians wanting such a system, says Saskatchewan Fair Vote Canada (FVSK). "The majority of Canadians expressed their desire to see a more cooperative and inclusive form of politics in the House of Commons," when they voted for electoral reform, said FVSK co-spokesperson Lee Ward. But Trudeau’s flip-flop in support of the current electoral system will inhibit the formation and enactment of policies in the public’s interest.

National pharmacare programs already exist in advanced democracies with proportional representation – a more representative system achievable through electoral reform. Thus pharmacare systems in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland control drug costs and save their taxpayers huge sums of money. In Canada, that money goes to drug companies with lobbyists in Ottawa.

"Anyone’s spending is somebody else’s income," said Bob Evans, a Professor Emeritus with the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics. "Universal pharmacare could save billions to Canadians, so there are powerful corporate interests that will do everything they can to make sure it does not happen."

An Angus Reid poll found 91 percent of Canadians support the idea of a national pharmacare program. But the national electoral system fails to represent Canadians' wishes, says the FVSK’s Nancy Carswell.

"If we had proportional representation, we could better turn this pharmacare concern into policy," Carswell adds. "Instead, we have a flip-flop. A two percent change of the vote can mean a 100 percent change in power and a counter-productive, 180-degree change in policy direction."

By contrast, proportional representation fosters political consensus-building, which in turn produces policies and laws that recognize "the rights and concerns of most Canadians," Ward says. The current systems disproportionately serves "a narrow subsection of electorally significant voters in a few key swing ridings."

Canada’s drug costs have quadrupled since the 1990s, according to study of the nation’s healthcare costs. Scandinavia’s pharmacare programs have prevented such increases, writes Anu Partanen, author of the acclaimed book The Nordic Theory of Everything.

"The most obvious advantage is that it helps the country control health-care costs by weeding out expensive yet ineffective treatments, or drugs that have a more affordable alternative," says Partanen.

Lead Now has a campaign focusing on Liberal MPs at

FVSK encourages all voters to connect with their MP and insist the government keep its electoral reform promise to make every vote count. MP contact information available at

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