Health Canada Departmental Plan

2020 - 2021 Review

Key Plans

In 2020-21, among the many others detailed in this report, Health Canada plans to achieve the following key results that contribute to the health of Canadians.

Key Plans: Core Responsibility 1: Health Care Systems

  • In support of the Department’s mandate, Health Canada will conduct research, analysis and policy work on health care system issues, such as: health expenditures and funding; primary care; home care; palliative and end-of-life care; access to sexual and reproductive health services; affordability and accessibility of pharmaceuticals; impacts of health care system modernization on the health workforce; the opioid crisis in the broader context of problematic substance use; mental health and substance use integration; quality of care; systems and service delivery innovation; and health technology.
  • To protect the integrity of Canada’s publicly funded health system, Health Canada will work closely on an ongoing basis with provinces and territories to ensure compliance with requirements of the Canada Health Act.
  • To ensure that Canadians have access to appropriate and effective health services, the Department will continue to implement bilateral funding agreements signed with all 13 provinces and territories pursuant to the Common Statement of Principles on Shared Health Priorities. Action areas for 2020-21 include expanding access to community-based mental health and addictions services for children and youth and enhancing access to palliative care at home.
  • Health Canada will engage with provinces, territories and stakeholders to explore innovative approaches – including new service delivery models, digital and virtual care solutions – to help ensure that every Canadian has access to a primary care provider or team.
  • Health Canada will engage with provinces, territories and stakeholders on the implementation of national universal pharmacare, including the establishment of the Canada Drug Agency, a national formulary and a rare disease drug strategy.
  • The Department will further support implementation of medical assistance in dying (MAID) legislation in collaboration with provinces and territories, as well as meet federal commitments under the law. Activities will include responding to the recent court ruling regarding MAID framework restrictions, and ongoing implementation of the MAID Monitoring Program.
  • The Department will make important investments to support 8 pan-Canadian health organizations that directly contribute to health system improvements in key areas such as digital health, health information, drugs and technologies, mental health and addictions, cancer prevention and control, patient safety, and service delivery innovation. For example, Health Canada funding will help the Terry Fox Research Institute to establish the national Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres Network, which will unite around a shared strategy to advance precision medicine in cancer research.


Key Plans: Core Responsibility 2: Health Protection and Promotion

  • Since 2016, the opioid overdose crisis has claimed the lives of almost 14,000 Canadians, making it one of the most serious public health crises in a generation. With its partners, Health Canada will continue to take action to respond to this crisis, working with people with lived and living experience. This includes addressing system gaps by scaling up the most effective programs, such as projects that provide a safe supply of prescription opioids to protect people with substance use disorder from the risks of overdose and death.
  • The Department will work closely with Provinces and Territories, as was done through the Emergency Treatment Fund. Additional activities to reduce drug-related overdoses include: supporting the national implementation of prevention and harm reduction measures; improving access to evidence-based treatment services; improving capacity to provide analytical services and intelligence on illegal controlled substances; and supporting the new Canadian Pain Task Force in identifying best practices in the prevention and management of chronic pain.
  • To address the rapid rise in youth vaping, the Department will take measures to reduce the appeal of and access to vaping products among youth, including finalizing regulations that restrict the promotion of vaping products to youth and developing additional regulations to further reduce the appeal of these products to young Canadians.
  • Several key activities will advance Health Canada’s ambitious regulatory innovation agenda, including: modernizing clinical trial regulations; developing a new pathway for advanced therapeutic products; enabling more agile licensing tools for drugs and devices; and modernizing both food regulations and the Department’s compliance and enforcement regulatory frameworks for health products.
  • As part of the commitment to strictly regulate cannabis and keep it away from children, Health Canada will continue to administer the cannabis, hemp, research and analytical testing licensing regimes. The Department will establish service standards for issuing decisions specific to each licence type, all while promoting, monitoring and enforcing compliance with the Cannabis Act and Regulations – including for new cannabis products, promotion prohibitions, products that may be appealing to youth, and unlicensed activities.
  • Under the umbrella of its Healthy Eating Strategy, the Department will continue its work to raise awareness of Canada’s Food Guide and to introduce new restrictions on the advertising to children of foods that contribute to excess consumption of sodium, sugars and saturated fats. It will consult on sodium targets for processed foods and for foods sold in restaurants; and advance regulations to implement front-of-packaging labelling requirements for foods that are high in sodium, sugars, and/or saturated fat.
  • Health Canada will advance implementation of Canada’s Tobacco Strategy, a modernized approach for successful tobacco control with the goal of achieving the target of less than 5% tobacco use by 2035.
  • Health Canada will undertake several initiatives within the framework of its Action Plan on Medical Devices: Continuously Improving Safety, Effectiveness and Quality, including: implementing mandatory incident reporting for medical devices for hospitals; expanding the Canadian Medical Devices Sentinel Network; providing Canadians with more information on the medical devices they use; expanding the use of outside experts via Scientific Advisory Committees; and updating regulations and guidance documents.
  • In partnership with provincial and territorial jurisdictions, industry and health care representatives, the Department will continue to play a leadership role in addressing critical national drug shortages. This includes: advancing ongoing work to identify root causes; monitoring compliance with regulatory requirements for mandatory reporting of shortages; and improving strategies to mitigate their impact on Canadians and on the health care system.
  • Building on progress made to-date to address antimicrobial resistance, including the removal of growth promotion claims as well as making sure all antibiotics are available only by prescription for animals, Health Canada will: ensure that all older antimicrobials provide directions that align with prudent use principles; begin a re-evaluation of medically important antimicrobials; and work with stakeholders to facilitate access to a wider range of low risk veterinary health products.
  • The Department will also continue to implement a strengthened and more responsive compliance and enforcement program in support of the regulatory framework governing assisted human reproduction in Canada, resulting in a number of qualitative health and safety benefits.

Departmental Result 1:

Canadians have modern and sustainable health care systems. Health Canada works closely with provincial and territorial governments, domestic and international organizations, health care providers and other stakeholders to develop and implement innovative approaches that improve the efficiency and sustainability of Canadian health care systems.

Departmental Result 2:

Canadians have access to appropriate and effective health services

The federal government plays an important role in providing financial contributions to provinces and territories to support publicly funded health care services through the Canada Health Transfer (more than $40 billion for 2019-20) – and through targeted funding to support improved access to home and community care, and mental health and substance use services (Budget 2017 $11 billion over ten years).

National pharmacare:

Over the course of 2020-21, Health Canada will engage with provinces, territories and stakeholders on the implementation of national universal pharmacare, including the establishment of the Canada Drug Agency, a national formulary and a rare disease drug strategy. These efforts will be supported by funding proposed in Budget 2019, including $35 million over 4 years starting in 2019-20 for a transition office, and up to $1 billion over two years, starting in 2022-23, with up to $500 million per year ongoing, for a national strategy for high cost drugs for rare diseases.

Departmental Result 3:

Ensuring that Canadians have access to the health products they need – and can rely upon the safety, effectiveness and quality of the products they use – remains a core component of Health Canada’s mandate. Over the course of 2020-21, the Department’s efforts in this regard will concentrate on the following priority activity areas: access to drugs and devices; addressing antimicrobial resistance; regulatory oversight; as well as promoting access to new and renewed technologies.

Departmental Result 4:

Helping Canadians lead healthier lives and providing protection from unsafe consumer and commercial products and substances will remain an important focus of Health Canada’s work. Over the course of 2020-21, the Department’s efforts in this regard will concentrate on the following priority activity areas: problematic substance use; regulating cannabis; chemicals management; environmental assessment of drugs; consumer products; workplace hazardous products; and pesticide regulation.

Regulating cannabis:

The objective of the Cannabis Act is to protect the public health and public safety of Canadians, particularly youth, while providing adults with legal access to regulated cannabis and reducing illicit activities. In 2020-21, Health Canada will maintain its effective implementation of the new cannabis framework, working with provinces, territories, Indigenous governments, municipalities, non-governmental organizations, communities and other federal partners to meet its objectives.

Departmental Result 5:

Helping Canadians make healthy choices in their day-to-day lives is part of Health Canada’s Health Protection and Promotion core responsibility. Over the course of 2020-21, the Department’s efforts in this regard will concentrate on these priority activity areas: healthy eating, food packaging and labelling, tobacco and vaping products, and cannabis.

Planned Spending: Departmental Spending 2017-18 to 2022-23

The following graph presents planned (voted and statutory) spending over time.

Health Canada - Planned Spending