06.21.2011 06:38 AM

What an Ontario PC government will mean

Higher drug prices, among other things.

…this column is a look back at the battle of 2010 for the hearts and minds of voters on a controversial government proposal — and the corporate interests that tried to counter it: The generic drugs law brought in by the Liberals just over a year ago aimed to curb excessively high bills for medicine in Ontario pharmacies — and sparked an unprecedented campaign-style conflict. The lessons learned will be studied by both the Tories and Liberals in the coming campaign.

When the chain drug stores and independent pharmacists banded together for a no-holds barred fight against the government, they went to Crestview Strategies Inc., a consulting firm well known for its focus on opinion research — and opinion change.

Crestview’s founder, Mark Spiro, is now the campaign manager for the provincial Tories. A Crestview partner, Chad Rogers, is the PCs’ volunteer campaign secretary overseeing research, messaging and advertising. Neither would agree to be interviewed for this column, citing their corporate policy that prevents them from confirming or discussing any work they do for clients.

Further glimpses into that firm’s approach, and the Ontario PC’s priorities, here and here:  “Rothmans also hired Crestview Public Affairs, a lobby company founded in 2004 by Mark Spiro, a Conservative insider and former campaign manager for Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.  Around the time the health minister told her provincial counterparts she was quashing the new labelling initiative, Crestview Public Affairs made a flurry of new registrations on tobacco-related topics.”

3 Comments

  1. golfrgrl says:

    Interesting that no one ever seems to talk about this “third party PC front.” Bet they spent big bucks on that nasty little campaign outside the writ period. Whenever the Tories or big business friends go into attack mode that’s ok, but god forbid anyone go after them. They whine, complain, get Christina Blizzard going on it and claim it’s illegal…..

    In their little world it’s fine for corporate interests to get politically active in order to support their agenda, but god forbid unions take an active role….

  2. Transplanted Doerite says:

    Gord, you are a very knowledgeable person from what I can tell by reading your comments on this venerable place. But you don’t have a clue what you are talking about in this case. Or maybe you do, but just can’t articulate it.

    What precisely is your problem with legislation that seeks to force generic manufacturers and their friends the chains to compete on price for payers and taxpayers?

    You mention de-regulation as the answer, but re-regulation of what? Price controls on generic drugs? They are not regulated. They are commodity items. As a Conservative, I would at least expect you to know that. As commodity items, you’d expect intense price competition, like there is for other commodity items. But there isn’t.

    The Liberal government in Ontario felt compelled to pass legislation to force generic manufacturers to compete on price because they were not doing so. The Competition Bureau came as close to saying that they were colluding as you’d expect a public body like that to come. It seems reasonable to me, especially in the absence of other options.

    • Transplanted Doerite says:

      Thanks Gord,

      Well I can agree with you about some of that, e.g. price ceiling being a floor under which the generic manufacturers don’t often set foot.

      But I confess that I didn’t understand your point about foreign competition. In fact, I hadn’t realized there was any prohibition against it. From what legal authority does it arise? Where can I find it? (I can tell you that the CGPA doesn’t exactly encourage it that’s for sure).

      I don’t think it’s really true this thing about scripts being a “loss leader.” In fact, I think it’s a common myth. I would say read the Competition Bureau’s two main reports on generics to see profit margins and then look art CIHI data on utilization to see the truth. But if it’s really true, why were your Tory friends working so hard on behalf of Shoppers to combat the move to 25%? All of that blood spilled over a loss leader? I doubt it.

      Anyway, good debate. Have Mathews and Libs put the savings they are getting from generics back into new medicines or health care generally? If they have, then I think they have a good story to tell; if not, it’s more difficult.

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