Finance Minister faces accusations of conflict-of interest over pharmacare
|Toronto Star 01 Mar 2018 at 15:39|
OTTAWAâFinance Minister Bill Morneau is again fending off accusations he is in a âperceived conflict of interestâ on a politically sensitive file â the newly-promised national pharmacare program â because of his previous ties to Morneau Shepell, a pension and benefits consulting firm.
After first winning plaudits for Tuesdayâs budget announcement that the Liberal government is looking to chart the next steps towards a national drug coverage program, Morneau dialed back expectations on Wednesday .
Despite commissioning former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins to come up with recommendations, the government is looking towards a âstrategy . . . that deals with the gaps and that doesnât throw out the system we currently have,â said Morneau.
The Canadian Federation of Nurses, Canadian Doctors for Medicare and the Canadian Labour Congress wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanding Morneau be removed from the file.
They said he has already decided it will not be a universal âplanâ that covers all workers, merely a âstrategyâ to fill in the gaps for those who currently donât have coverage â to the detriment of Canadians, and the benefit of insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and, they suggested, Morneau Shepell.
They said it contradicts âoverwhelming evidenceâ on the need for a universal program and undermines the work of Hoskinsâ council before it begins.
âIt is our hope that insurance industry and pharmaceutical industry interests will not play a role in the implementation of universal public pharmacare,â the letter to Trudeau states.
By Thursday Morneau faced fury in the House of Commons from the New Democrats who say Morneau has âsabotagedâ and âvandalizedâ the plan for universal coverage endorsed at their national convention two weeks ago.
NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau said âthe dice is already stacked. The Liberals plan to go forward with a means-tested system.â
âWhy do the interests of Canadian families take a rear seat to the interests of Morneau Shepell and the super rich?â asked NDP MP Peter Julian.
Morneau dismissed his critics, and shot back it was a âbizarreâ question. He took a broader swipe at the NDP and Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre, saying if they made policy, âwe would have no expertise at all.â
Both Morneau and Health Minister Ginette Pettipas Taylor insisted the government intends to âlisten to experts.â The health minister went out of her way to say the Hoskinsâ report due in spring of 2019 will bring forward ârecommendationsâ to be considered along with a report expected soon from the Commons health committee that has studied the issue for two years.