Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

Federal budget 2024: CPhA welcomes news that student loan forgiveness program will include pharmacists

The 2024 federal budget was tabled on April 16. Here’s a round-up of the health-care commitments outlined in the budget that relate to our key priorities.

Student loan forgiveness

Good news! The government is expanding student loan forgiveness to pharmacists and other health providers. This is a huge advocacy win and is thanks to our tremendous partnership with CAPSI and the recent #PharmLoanForgive campaign that garnered hundreds of letters to elected officials!

Specifically, the budget announces the government’s intent to introduce amendments to the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act and the Canada Student Loans Act to permanently expand the Canada Student Loan Forgiveness Program to other health care and social services professionals working in rural and remote communities, including pharmacists.

The budget provides specific funding estimated to be $253.8 million over 4 years, starting in 2025-26, and $84.3 million ongoing.


What’s new: While the budget mostly reiterates the bulk of the recent announcement, it does provide some additional details about upcoming work with provinces and territories, and also proposes $1.5B in funding over 5 years, starting in 2024-2025, to support the launch of the new pharmacare plan. The language used in the budget remains vague and, although it does allude to single payer, the description suggests an openness to negotiation with provinces.

The budget states: “The federal government will work towards implementing coverage of these essential medications through existing provincial and territorial pharmacare programs, following negotiations. New federal funding will expand and enhance, rather than replace, existing provincial and territorial spending on public drug benefit programs. This approach ensures that the unique needs and existing coverage plans of each province and territory are considered, advancing collaborative federalism where the federal, provincial, and territorial governments work together towards a common goal.”

Foreign Credential Recognition

Budget 2024 proposes to provide $50 million over 2 years to Employment and Social Development Canada for the Foreign Credential Recognition Program starting in 2024-25. Half of this funding will support foreign credential recognition in the health sector. Similar to a recent agreement between federal, provincial and territorial health ministers to recognize foreign credentials for health-care professionals, the federal government is calling on provinces and territories to expedite removal of their barriers to foreign credential recognition.

Budget 2024 also proposes to provide $77.1 million over 4 years, starting in 2025-26, to more effectively integrate internationally educated health-care professionals into Canada’s health workforce by creating 120 specific training positions, increasing assessment capacity and providing support to navigate credential recognition systems.

Drug shortages

The budget recognizes the increased frequency and severity of drug shortages. To mitigate the effects of health product shortages and expedite emergency responses when supply chains fail, Budget 2024 proposes to provide $3.2 million over three years, starting in 2024-25, to upgrade Health Canada’s supply management capacity for drugs and medical devices.

Other health-care commitments

Mental health remains an important theme:

  • Budget 2024 proposes to provide $500 million over 5 years, starting in 2024-25, for the creation of a new Youth Mental Health Fund, which will help younger Canadians access the mental health care they need. 
  • Budget 2024 proposes to provide $4 million over 2 years, starting in 2024-25, for the Public Health Agency of Canada to continue supporting initiatives through the Mental Health of Black Canadians Fund that aim to increase health equity and address mental health and its determinants for Black Canadians.

Opioid crisis:

  • Building on historic health care investments, including in mental health and substance use, Budget 2024 proposes to provide $150 million over 3 years, starting in 2024-25, to Health Canada for an Emergency Treatment Fund, open to municipalities and Indigenous communities to help provide rapid responses to emergent, critical needs related to the opioid crisis.

Indigenous health care:

  • Budget 2024 proposes to provide $562.5 million in 2024-25 to support medically necessary services through the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program, which supports a range of benefits for First Nations and Inuit people, including mental health services, medical travel, medications and more.
  • Budget 2024 proposes to provide $630.2 million over 2 years, starting in 2024-25, to support Indigenous Peoples’ access to mental health services, including through distinctions-based mental wellness strategies.
  • Budget 2024 proposes to provide $167.6 million over 5 years, starting in 2024-25, to combat anti-Indigenous racism in health care to help ensure Indigenous Peoples are treated with the respect and safety they deserve.

Artificial intelligence in health care:

  • $200 million over 5 years, starting in 2024-25, to boost AI start-ups to bring new technologies to market and accelerate AI adoption in critical sectors, such as agriculture, clean technology, health care and manufacturing. This support will be delivered through Canada’s Regional Development Agencies.