ire | The Star

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is promising to help control the cost of living with free prescription birth control.

There is no price tag yet for the June 2 election pledge, but Horwath estimates it could save Ontarians without employee health benefits about $360 annually as rapidly rising inflation takes a bigger chunk out of household budgets.

“You’re paying your student loans off, you’re paying high rent, you’re trying to make ends meet in the ever-increasing cost of everyday life in this province and on top of it, you’re paying $30 a month for your contraception,” she told a news conference Thursday.

While vasectomies are covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, other contraceptives such as birth control pills, IUDs, implants, shots, patches and the Plan B emergency contraceptive are not. That is unfair, Horwath said.

“OHIP should be covering this,” she said.

Dr. Hava Starkman, a resident in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Toronto, applauded the pledge at a campaign-style appearance with Horwath in Toronto.

“We know that cost is the single largest barrier to contraception access in Ontario,” said Starkman, who is part of the Cover Contraception group that has been pressing for OHIP coverage. She predicted that free contraceptives would provide “significant savings in downstream medical costs” by preventing unwanted pregnancies.

“Access to timely, affordable contraception is a pillar of reproductive human rights,” she added. “Inaction further marginalizes our most vulnerable populations.”

Horwath said the NDP would reveal the cost of this promise in the coming weeks.

Despite concerns about soaring inflation, the party is not changing its plan to raise Ontario’s minimum wage from the current $15 an hour to $16 by October, and to $20 by 2026.

“It’s something we’re keeping an eye on,” Horwath said in response to a question from the Star.

“If we need to make adjustments, we will certainly be doing the consultation necessary to give a heads up to the folks who are going to be required to pay those higher wages,” she added. “We won’t spring anything on them unexpected.”

No matter which party is elected June 2, Ontario’s minimum wage is expected to increase.

It will rise to $15.50 in October with annual increases tied to inflation if Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives return to power. The Liberals have promised $16 an hour by next January.

About 700,000 Ontarians earn the minimum wage.

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