The Liberals and the New Democrats full-throatedly pledged to stop the Conservatives from blocking their pharmacare legislation in the House of Commons on Monday — even though the two parties have more than enough votes to bypass the Opposition.

Both NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Health Minister Mark Holland gave impassioned speeches about women's freedom and access to birth control.

They accused the Conservatives of trying to deny that access to Canadian women.

Their parties carefully negotiated the bill as part of a political pact to prevent an early election, and together planned a program that will cover select contraceptive and diabetes medications and supplies.

Conservative health critic Stephen Ellis tabled an amendment to the bill last month that, if approved by Parliament, would effectively quash the proposed law.

The program will do nothing to address the health-care crisis, he argued, and instead offers an inferior drug plan that covers less, costs more and builds up a massive new bureaucracy.

The amendment is expected to be easily defeated by government and New Democrat MPs.

"Will the government support us in stopping the Conservatives from denying nine million Canadians free birth control?" Singh asked Holland during a question period exchange Monday,

Holland responded by accusing the Conservatives of standing in the way of basic freedom for women in Canada.

@theJagmeetSingh tells Conservatives to back off as House prepares for first pharmacare vote. #CDNPoli #Pharmacare #CPC

"I will say to the Conservative Party of Canada: stop blocking this so that women can get the reproductive aids they need to have control over their reproductive futures," Holland said.

The Liberals and the NDP voted to put a five-hour time limit on debate Monday before the House votes on the bill at a later date.

The Conservatives, in a statement, said the bill shouldn't be passed without proper debate and scrutiny.

"This is yet another empty Trudeau promise, which does not in fact provide the pharmacare they claimed it would and which instead threatens the existing insurance plans that millions of Canadians have through their employers, unions, and other providers," the party statement read.

Much as the Liberals and NDP tried to conjure fears about the Tories' plans, how the official Opposition votes is not expected to alter the bill's trajectory.

The tough talk began over the weekend, when Singh penned a letter to Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre to ask him to withdraw the motion, citing the cost-of-living crisis.

"Nearly one in four Canadians have reported splitting pills, skipping doses or deciding to not fill or renew vital prescription medications due to their high costs," he wrote.

In social-media posts, Singh framed the letter as an ultimatum. "He can withdraw or we'll stop him," Singh posted on X earlier Monday.

NDP health critic Peter Julian put forward a motion in the House on Monday to call on the Conservatives to withdraw their amendment, but the Tories declined.

The Conservatives have argued the vast majority of Canadians already have some form of drug coverage and the party's statement on Monday called Singh's claims "false and ridiculous."

"If Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh are looking for someone to blame for Canadians being unable to afford medications and everyday necessities then they should look at the policies of their costly coalition which have made the cost of everything more expensive across this country."

Ellis also criticized the list of drugs that would be covered under the program, and charged the government with failing to consult with anyone except the NDP about what medications should be included.

"It is rife with older medications, with no fees for pharmacists," he said during the early stages of debate in the House last month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2024.

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