In the 2020 election the BC NDP promised to make contraception free for all British Columbians.
As a cisgender male, free or near-free condoms are widely available, vasectomies are covered by MSP, however for women, trans-men and gender diverse people, getting prescription contraception requires a visit to a medical practitioner and the ability to purchase the prescription.
In addition to making this a 2020 campaign promise, Premier John Horgan made it a priority of the Minister of Health in his mandate letter.
They have now tabled two provincial budgets and this 2020 election promise remains unfulfilled.
On International Women’s Day I asked the Minister of Health, Hon. Adrian Dix why this hasn’t been done yet.
The United Nations has named contraception a basic human right, but in British Columbia, contraception is a privilege unafforded to many. An intrauterine device costs between $75 and $380. Oral contraceptive pills can cost $20 a month or $240 annually. A hormone injection can cost $180 per year.
While cisgender men like myself can get a lifetime supply of free or near-free contraception, and vasectomies are covered by MSP, other British Columbians must find a walk-in clinic, deal with doctors who may be poorly informed about reproductive health and shell out hundreds of dollars, all to access a human right. These barriers fall disproportionately on women, trans men and gender-diverse people.
In 2020, this government promised to deliver free prescription contraception to all British Columbians if re-elected. They were re-elected, and they were given a majority, and yet we’ve seen two provincial budgets passed and no free prescription contraception for British Columbians.
To the Premier, why has this government not fulfilled the 2020 election promise for free prescription contraception for all British Columbians?
Hon. A. Dix:
I think this is a policy…. I’m delighted to see members of the opposition support it. This is a policy that the government believes in, that we intend to implement in the time of this government. We made the commitment, and we’re going to follow through on that commitment.
Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.
During the election, the Premier was quick to tweet about the commitment that was made — to accept, I think, the fact that they’d made the commitment for free prescription contraception — and happy to talk about it during the election, to provide it in the mandate letter of the Minister of Health. To provide free contraception to all British Columbians — that’s a commitment that the Minister of Health must follow through on. Two budgets: we still see this commitment remain unfulfilled.
Now we hear this minister, standing up in the House, saying that it’s going to be done over the lifetime of this parliament. That’s four years. That’s several hundred dollars later. We’ve heard the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General stand up in this House today, talking about making life more affordable for British Columbians. For some British Columbians, they’re making life more affordable.
The fact of the matter is that the costs are going up for British Columbians. The economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women and gender-diverse people. These impacts have been compounded for disabled people and people of colour. Amidst all of this, the most impacted — women, trans men and gender-diverse people — continue to have to shell out hundreds of dollars annually to fulfil a basic right. We’ve just heard from the minister that they can expect, potentially, hundreds more.
My question again is to the Premier. This Premier has the majority government that he so wanted, but he can’t seem to fulfil this basic promise. It’s yet another example of the Minister of Health not delivering on equity, as was the commitment of this government. Will this government fulfil its promise of free prescription contraception for all British Columbians by the end of 2022?
Hon. A. Dix:
I’m very surprised that — it’s been a little bit — the member forgets the achievements that were achieved by this government and his party under the confidence and supply agreement. He will know that we took action in 2019 to reduce, for those least able to afford it, PharmaCare premiums. We eliminated those. We worked together on that $105 million commitment that went directly to the pockets of those who needed it most. The elimination of deductibles. There was a deductible, by the way, of $750 if you earned $28,000 after taxes every year. We eliminated it, and we did so together.
I think it’s a serious debate, and I know that the member wants to take part in that serious debate. We’ve made a commitment on this as well. We have delivered on making PharmaCare more affordable, particularly for those who can least afford it, and we will deliver on this.