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February 27 2024

Calgary & Edmonton Chambers ask province to explore pharmacare

Pharmacist in white shirt reaching for box

Calgary, February 27, 2024 – The Calgary and Edmonton Chambers of Commerce jointly call on the provincial government to discuss the viability of a federal pharmacare plan in Alberta. With the ongoing labour shortage and need to attract talent, and the cost to employers for providing health-related benefits, along with the financial benefit of pooling resources across provinces, a national pharmacare program, if developed well, could benefit Alberta’s economy. While more details are required to better understand the implications and potential benefits of a national program, we encourage the Alberta government to evaluate its feasibility and work with the federal government to explore whether it meets the needs of Albertans.

“Given the persistent labour shortage in Alberta, we need every advantage to remain a magnet for talent,” explains Deborah Yedlin, President and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. “Ensuring Alberta is an attractive place for people to move remains critical for the success of businesses, and we cannot limit our ability to attract and retain the labour force we need.”

“Alberta’s economic success hinges on the well-being of our workforce,” says Doug Griffiths, President and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. “If people –including staff, entrepreneurs, and consumers – are not well supported, our economy can’t fire on all cylinders. We’ve learned this in spades over the past few years.”

Labour shortage – 28.3 per cent of Alberta businesses remain concerned by labour-related obstacles. This is the largest concern, after rising costs. Building on Alberta’s success of attracting 184,000 people to the province over the past year, we must ensure our province remains a competitive and attractive place for people to work, start a business, and build a life.

Employer paid premiums – With 15 to 30 per cent of employer payroll costs related to providing employee benefits, we encourage both federal and provincial governments to strongly consider the potential cost implications for businesses.

Productivity cost – Lost productivity is hampering our economic growth. On average, Albertan businesses lose 10 days per worker per year to illness, resulting in significantly impacted productivity. With the ability to increase the well-being of the workforce, and therefore productivity, employers will benefit from more stable and reliable staff.

Fiscal responsibility – Given the disproportionately large share of taxes Albertans pay federally, Albertans should have the opportunity to partake in the benefits associated with their higher tax burden.

We strongly encourage the provincial government to consider the merits of a federal pharmacare program, including through a business lens. We suggest ongoing consultation with businesses and entrepreneurs to understand the implications of existing cost structures, the impact to companies, and the importance of being able to attract talent.


The Calgary Chamber of Commerce exists to help businesses reach their potential. As the convenor and catalyst for a vibrant, inclusive and prosperous business community, the Chamber works to build strength and resilience among its members and position Calgary as a magnet for talent, diversification and opportunity. As an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 1891, we build on our history to serve and advocate for businesses of all sizes, in all sectors across the city.

About the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce

The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce is the official voice of business in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. With over 1,900 member companies that employ more than 100,000 people, we are one of the largest and longest standing chambers in Canada and among the most influential business organizations in the country. For over 130 years, we’ve contributed to ambitious, foundational projects that have helped build Edmonton into the city it is today. The Chamber supports business success through providing thought leadership on issues, delivering professional development, and networking for businesses, and advocating for conditions that keep businesses competitive.

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