Provincial government misses the point

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Unlike Health Minister Susan Sullivan’s days in the classroom when a person received a grade on their ability to learn and successfully advanced to the next grade, she has personally failed miserably with her interpretation of the recent Supreme Court of Appeals decision regarding the Council of Independent Community Pharmacy Owners (CICPO).

Her recent statements in The Telegram on May 18, indicating that the government still achieved their objectives even though they lost the appeal is astounding. In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeal struck down two regulations of the Pharmacy Act that were hastily inserted by the provincial cabinet in July 2011 to impede private businesses.

It sounds similar to the senseless expropriation of the Grand Falls paper mill that has left taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars. This government has a team of lawyers and unlimited finances to ensure legislation is fair, democratic and legal. Unfortunately for Minister Sullivan’s and Kathy Dunderdale’s government, the Appeals Court struck down their unnecessary changes to the regulations of the Pharmacy Act and awarded costs to CICPO for both the trial and Appeal Court cases.

Courts rarely rule against laws enacted by government and strike down those laws unless they are deemed unnecessary or inappropriate use of government’s power as legislators.

Justice Malcolm Rowe wrote in the Court of Appeal decision that the government overstepped its authority by instituting artificial barriers in trying to prevent businesses from opting out of a government-sponsored plan after they followed the established guidelines. Minister Sullivan’s implication in her Telegram statement that independent pharmacy owners are putting clients of the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Plan at risk only further exemplifies her ignorance as the minister of Health and Community Services.

The Court of Appeal unanimously stated that government is responsible for administering the drug plan to

eligible clients in Newfoundland and Labrador. Independent pharmacies are not responsible for the administration of a public plan! Does the public expect private businesses to participate in a government-sponsored plan that will eventually result in bankruptcy for the pharmacy?

Independent pharmacies are private businesses that require a profit to survive and, with the current pharmacy model dictated by the provincial government, local pharmacies will not survive. CICPO engaged Wade Locke to produce a study of independent pharmacies in our province and he produced the first work of its kind in Canada titled: “More than a Dispensary — An Alternative Business Model for Independent Community Pharmacies in Newfoundland and Labrador.” As their go-to economist for important major economic policies by the provincial government, Locke gave the following statement, “Independent pharmacies will go the way of the dodo bird if not rectified immediately.”

Why will Premier Dunderdale’s

Progressive Conservative party not acknowledge the different pharmacy models that exist in Newfoundland and Labrador?

• Large multinationals have lobbied government to maintain current policies that weaken their competition — the independents of Newfoundland and Labrador.

• The government has become too arrogant and ignorant to deal with the concerns of legitimate local business owners.

• Their disdain for independent pharmacy owners is personal, since the CICPO was the most vocal and active of any group opposing the present government in the 2011 election.

• Our current government representatives feel threatened by the superior policy and research abilities presented by CICPO.

How can this government continue to ignore local businesses and promote the multinational conglomerates

who must satisfy their shareholders throughout Canada and the United States to the detriment of Newfoundland and Labrador entrepreneurs?

It is time for the minister of health to review her own report card and listen to the compelling arguments brought before cabinet regarding independent pharmacies. It is never too late to begin meaningful and legitimate negotiations with CICPO — the proper representatives of independent pharmacies. Protect the delivery of optimum health care services in our rural communities and inner city neighbourhoods.

Now is the time for cabinet to show true leadership and integrity by committing to a new independent pharmacy policy that can be heralded throughout the country as progressive and innovative.

 

Todd Squires is a business owner in St. Mary’s.

Organizations: Council of Independent Community Pharmacy Owners, Appeals Court, Supreme Court Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Plan Community Services Independent Community Pharmacies

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Grand Falls, Canada United States

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