As per my previous post, Premier Dalton McGuinty popped in to the Red Brick Cafe on Westmount Road for some java juice and quick turn at making a latte. It has a perfectly cozy and chilled atmosphere, a picture perfect opportunity for the Premier in the waning days of this re-election campaign. Then, from behind me, someone yelled, "Are you going to help us out at the pharmacy?"
And then everyone got kind of uncomfortable.
The heckler was Carla Bradshaw, the owner and operator of Westmount Pharmacy, and her issue was with the Liberal governments changes to prescription drug sales which was passed last summer, ending professional allowances that generic drug companies pay pharmacies in return for stocking their products. Apparently Bradshaw, who was one of the main local opponents to the change in fees last year, is still rather sore about the whole situation.
At the cafe, McGuinty ignored her, and his people quickly and quietly tried to address Bradshaw's concerns. But the media swarmed, and as McGuinty quietly took his leave, Bradshaw successfully took the spotlight. Her point: that the government's elimination of professional allowances has irreparably impacted her business, with Bradshaw saying that the effect on her bottom line is that with her current profit margin, she's basically getting paid like an employee in her own store.
Bradshaw was asked if she had planned her ambush on the Premier, and whether or not she was a supporter of any particular party. She said that her protest was not planned and that she didn't have any particular political affiliation. But a source tells me that Bradshaw donated $117.41 to the PC association in Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot in 2005. She was also heavily involved in the local campaign to protest the change in drug policy and was quoted in many newspaper articles on the subject.
As for the policy itself, a source inside the Liberal campaign told me that it's helped more than it's hindered. They said that the intention of professional allowances was to assist with the proper administration of services at the pharmacy, but instead many of the pharmacy owners were padding their own pockets with it. They also noted that $500 million has been re-invested in healthcare, and that pharmacies have been helped out with $100 million more in funds for dispensing fees. Additionally, rather than then resulting in the closure of independent pharmacies, 63 additional pharmacies have opened in the last year.
But back to the Red Brick, and after the media scrum was over Bradshaw seemed satisfied that her point of view was heard. The pity being, I guess, that a few shouted words over the espresso machine didn't produce a meaningful conversation about an important issue. But then again, this was International Coffee Day, and the Premier was on a coffee break.
One week to go till election day.