Grassroots Liberals pressuring Trudeau government to be more progressive

HALIFAX — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is being pushed by backbenchers and grassroots Liberals to take a more progressive stance on issues such as pharmacare, prostitution and illegal drugs.

The pressure came Friday during the first full day of the Liberals’ national convention and it was motivated, at least in part, by a determination not to be outflanked by the NDP in the battle for progressive voters in next year’s federal election.

At the same time, however, Trudeau’s ministers were applying some pressure of their own —urging party faithful to get out and sell the government’s support for the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in the face of opposition from environmentalists, some Indigenous groups and British Columbia’s NDP government.

One resolution, proposed by the national caucus, calls for the country’s universal health-care system to be expanded to include coverage of prescription drugs, echoing a call by the Commons health committee last week.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s most recent federal budget announced the creation of an advisory committee, headed by former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins, to study the implementation of national pharmacare.

But Oakville MP John Oliver, a member of the health committee, warned that the fight for pharmacare is not a done deal and he urged delegates to support the resolution to send a message to the Prime Minister’s Office.