THUNDER BAY – Liberal MPPs have been targeted by the pharmacy lobby over the past two weeks.
MPPs are getting telephone calls from their constituents over the campaign. Thunder Bay Atikokan MP Bill Mauro has shared a copy of an open letter from David Levac to Jürgen Schreiber the President & Chief Executive Officer of Shopper’s Drug Mart.
MPP Mauro says that the contents of the letter accurately reflect what has been happening in his constituency office as well.
Here is the text of the letter:
Dear Mr. Schreiber,
I am writing to express my strong objection to the tactics that you and your industry are using to mislead and misdirect patients, seniors and others in my constituency in opposition to the government’s proposals to cut the cost of generic drugs by 50%.
This big-money, dirty-tricks campaign is an offensive attempt to manipulate people in my community in attempt to preserve your profit margins at the inflated expense of those paying for needed medicines.
Over the last number of weeks, thousands of my constituents have been bothered at home with telemarketers calling to say they represent Ontario pharmacists concerned with the government’s proposed drug reforms. These callers present themselves as worried about local impacts and then pose a series of questions in what I believe is known in the US campaign industry as a ‘push poll’.
In truth, these calls appear to originate from a call centre somewhere far outside of my community. After the questions that are intended to distort the policy proposals are posed, the telemarketer then transfers the constituent to my office without warning or permission.
I have had multiple complaints about these calls. Many people – and seniors in particular – object to being involuntarily conscripted in your big-money lobbying effort. Perhaps this kind of stunt proves effective in the nasty negative campaigns waged from Washington, but my constituents find the campaign misleading, manipulative and exploitative.
I have met with my local pharmacists, and we had a frank, honest and respectful conversation. In the end they agreed to tone down their efforts to encourage the public to oppose the proposed changes to the drug system. However, despite these assurances, the phone calls have continued if not intensified. This can only lead me to believe that it is not my local pharmacies but your organization that is spearheading this campaign.
I take no issue with your freedom to oppose government reforms. By all means, please register your concerns with me and I will pledge to weigh your arguments honestly and thoroughly. But keep in my mind that your tactics are alienating my constituents and interfering with the ability of my office staff to work on behalf of the people in my community. Every single day, my staff and I work hard to help the people in my riding resolve issues that have nothing to do with Ontario’s drug system. Whether they need assistance finding a local employment centre or have questions about finding a doctor in the community, I pride myself on being there to help. But because your manufactured call-centre campaign has been jamming my office phones, many of my constituents are having trouble getting through to my office to get the assistance they require.
Although you may protest the suggestion, it is plainly obvious that the sort of money spent on this lobby campaign could not be afforded by pharmacists in my riding. I suspect that Shoppers is footing the bill in whole or in part and is therefore directly responsible for interfering with the needs of people in my community. As such, I would ask three things of you.
First, please cease this manipulative campaign immediately. It is alienating my constituents and interfering with the ability to address legitimate local needs of everyday people.
Second, please have the decency to acknowledge that you and other big pharmacy interests are funding this centrally-coordinated campaign.
Third, please assure my constituents that the contact resources for this campaign are not generated from the list of Optimum card holders. Bewildered constituents have been hearing this rumour and I can guarantee you that, if true, they will regard this as an abuse of their privacy.
I would close by saying that I believe strongly in supporting the role of pharmacists in our community. They provide services that are valued greatly and I think the government’s efforts to boost funding for rural pharmacy, to increase dispensing fees and compensate for additional patient services reflects this commitment to the profession.
I should be equally clear in saying that your tactics display a deep disrespect for the people you claim to defend and have won you few converts. People in my riding object to your blatant attempts to manipulate their opinion and to interfere with local matters. More than once, I have been told this merely reinforces their view that big pharmacy is behaving like a bully and that the government should stand its ground.
I look forward to your prompt reply.
Dave Levac, MPP