Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted a town hall at Dalhousie University on Thursday, where students enrolled in medical programs from various post-secondary institutions got the chance to ask him questions.
Prior to the Q&A, Trudeau announced that the four Atlantic Provinces and Ontario have reached healthcare agreements with the federal government and work is now underway to finalize them.
While taking questions the Prime Minister a third-year Dalhousie medical student raised his growing concerns with conversations surrounding a two-tiered healthcare system and their possible implementation in Canada. He asked in the event a province is pursuing a two-tier system what tools does the federal government have to fight back.
“As a federal government, we will always stand up to defend the Canada Health Act (CHA) and that will include what we have done and will continue to do which is withhold or pullback funds if provinces aren’t living up to the CHA,” said Prime Minister Trudeau. “I refuse to accept the argument that the only way we can improve the system is with a two-tier or private system, it might help a few but it won’t help the average Canadian,”.
The PM was also questioned on if his government was open to legalizing harder drugs, and although Trudeau said they are not actively pursuing it, he pointed to the recent decision in British Columbia, where in collaboration with the federal government some harder drugs were decriminalized. Though Trudeau noted that was made possible as BC has some of the most advanced substance abuse wraparound services in the country.
When asked about the financial burdens placed on international students pursuing education in medical fields and if there were any plans to support them Trudeau indicated that although he recognizes the high tuition costs international students pay the federal government will continue to prioritize funding support for Canadian students. He reasoned that Canadian students pay taxes that go towards subsidizing education and as Canadians, they are more likely to stay and work domestically.
On the issue of pharmacare the Prime Minister said the government continues to work towards lowering the costs of medication through things like bulk purchasing and investments in the pharmaceutical industry, but ultimately he says the provinces will be taking the lead on implementing their pharmacare funding models.
The overall atmosphere of the town hall was friendly, and the Prime Minister stayed behind to take photos with those in attendance for some time.
The full town hall is available to watch online via CPAC.