17 April 2012

Drug stores, mail carriers, and Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

As your humble e-scribbler pointed out in August 2011, the province’s drug store owners lost their fight against lower drug prices for consumers in the province.

Some of them – the so-called independents – are holding a news conference at some unspecified time later this week to explain just how badly they lost.  Surprisingly, that’s exactly how they plan to explain it:
This conference will outline the catastrophic losses to independent pharmacy from both the agreement imposed by government and the changes to generic prices forced by legislation.
That line is from early on in the notice they sent to news editors for tomorrow assignments.  Only later did they mention that the agreement the provincial government announced over the weekend might affect consumers badly.

It won’t.

Government officials know it won’t.

The same crowd of drug store owners uses exactly the same prediction of imminent catastrophe for drug store owners – and maybe their customers - any time the provincial government does anything to its provincial-funded drug plans. In the later 1990s,  it was in a racket over the dispensing fee drug stores charge. 

Despite the warnings of doom from many of the same drug store owners who are taking to the ramparts this time, the drug stores are still out there.  Sure the mix of “independent” to "chains" has shifted to near parity from a 66/33 split favouring independents. But when you realise that a decade and more ago that ratio in this province was already the flip of the situation across Canada, you can see that the locals aren’t doing so badly.

Don’t forget the really important point, though:  no one in the public is complaining they can’t find a drug store.

Consumers can still get their drugs.  They or their insurance company will pay less for them now.  And for seniors on the provincial plan, they are actually going to pay less than the mandatory price a decade ago. 

For consumers, this is nothing but a gigantic win.

For the record, note the dig in the notice at the president of the association representing all pharmacists (PANL). Consumers don’t give a rat’s backside about those internal feuds among the stores, either.

For the provincial government, this is one big win against the two opposition parties both of whom went to war for the drug store owners. Neither of the opposition parties sized up the issue politically.  That much is obvious.

The fundamental shag-up here is the same one that will affect the postal workers, incidentally.  A local union leader called one of the open line shows on Monday to gripe about how automation will get him on his rounds faster and help lower operating costs for the post office, which means hopefully that the cost of postage won’t be jumping up.

The guy went on and on about the inconvenience for him personally.  He talked about the possibility that some of his colleagues will lose their jobs because the improved speed and cost-effectiveness of the machinery.

Both the drug store owners and the postal worker are talking to themselves.  The people they need to win over in order to have a political impact are consumers.  Neither the drug store owners nor the postal workers have explained why consumers should give a toss.

The way your humble e-scribbler has framed the outcomes in both cases is how consumers will hear them or have heard them.

For those who have jumped ahead a bit, you can also see why the provincial government has been steadily losing support for its plan to jack up electricity rates and double the public debt or some such combination.   Consumers just don’t see any benefit for them in it.  A great many of them are flat-out opposed to the scheme.  They simply don’t believe Jerome, or Kathy, or Ed martin when they promise the moon and the stars but can’t deliver a simple report.

For those that don’t oppose it flatly, the rest are uncertain.  They have doubts.  The opposed and the unsure constitute a majority. If NTV and Telelink can scrape together the cash for a poll, they should do one very soon.  Telelink is the only truly independent pollster in the province on this issue with a track record for accuracy.

But where you’ve got it:  three groups, and all three suffering from the beginners fault of communicating with themselves instead of the people they need to persuade.

No surprise the three of them have lost or are losing badly.