20040902 Regarding Pharmacare
A letter to Murray Campbell, Globe columnist, about National Pharmacare. Since the Globe appears unlikely to publish it, I include it here.

Regarding your column on the Globe And Mail website on 2 September 2004:

Too often, we hear pundits who decry the lack of action on whatever their cause-du-jour is. I fear you are falling into what I describe as the Kyoto Syndrome (the false logic: we must do something about the environment; Kyoto is "something"; therefore we must implement Kyoto). Not that environmental protection, nor "fixing" medicare, are bad things, but doing "something" merely because it is "something to do" most often increases problems rather than solves them.

I find the federal government most prudent to reject the National Pharmacare Program as proposed by the premiers out of hand. The nature of the proposal was very much as a political ploy designed to put pressure on Ottawa through the summer; the premiers rarely bother to even pretend otherwise. This alone is a good reason to discard the idea.

However, the financial reasons are far stronger a reason to reject this proposal. I have seen numbers indicating that it could cost the federal government up to $11 billion per year to satisfy this program, far in excess of the (I believe) $8 billion Mr. Martin has promised to spend.

Perhaps there is a way for Ottawa to call the Premiers' bluff. I propose that Ottawa offer to split the costs of such a program with the promises, where any excesses in costs beyond the $8 billion Mr. Martin has offered in new money be deducted from the existing transfer payments to the provinces. This adds the $8 billion to the provinces' budgets, while keeping Ottawa's commitments under control.

The premiers should take a long look in the mirror before accusing Ottawa of being uncooperative. Blatantly playing this kind of political brinkmanship does nothing towards reaching a mutually acceptable solution.

David Mackintosh

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