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Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association
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Behind the Scenes at the Council of the Federation

So what’s it like up close to the nation’s leaders, or I should say, the nation’s leaders minus the Prime Minister? It is a bit like a tea party without Dad, or an orchestra without a conductor. The Council of the Federation consists of all of Canada’s Premiers, who have agreed to meet under this banner twice a year to discuss matters of common interest. They have agreed to take turns hosting the event, and this time it was the turn of Darrell Dexter, Premier of Nova Scotia.

The Premiers are clearly committed and earnest in their endeavors to do the best job possible. But, just as clearly, their priorities relate to the issues back home. So we have the Redford (AB)/Clark (BC) spat over pipeline revenues, royalties and taxes that appeared to result in BC quitting any talks on a national energy strategy. McGuinty (ON) made his own statement independent of the main health care agenda but calling for more collaboration on physician compensation. Charest (QB) was quick to distance himself from ideas relating to drug purchasing.

Energy tended to dominate discussion and one of the things you learn quickly at these meetings is that the daily news cycle is a big influence on events. Health care was on the agenda Thursday morning and so it became clear pretty quickly that any corresponding media coverage was going to happen Thursday evening, with perhaps some carry over into Friday morning, but energy was more likely to be the big story, and even that was going to be overshadowed by the Olympics.

The main event for us was the discussion on the Report from the Working Group on Innovation in Health Care. This had an hour on the agenda. The big news was a commitment to pick three to five generic drugs for a national competitive bidding process, i.e., bulk purchasing. Which three to five you ask? “We don’t know,” was Brad Wall’s reply to that question from a reporter at the news conference. (We responded to the report immediately.)

Less newsworthy but equally important was a commitment to boost the Pan-Canadian Bulk Purchasing Alliance for brand drugs. Other items in the report were support for team-based care and clinical practice guidelines. Specific examples were cited of team-based care, most of which include pharmacists in the team. The clinical practice guidelines recommended were for cardiovascular disease and diabetic foot ulcers.

There were two main networking events: a reception on the opening day and a dinner on the Thursday evening. This allowed some one-on-one time with Premiers. We spoke with Redford (AB), Wall (SK), Ghiz (PEI), Alward (NB) and McGuinty (ON). A personal highlight was some time with Darrell Pasloski, who is Premier of the Yukon and I believe is the first pharmacist to be a Premier. The event also provided an opportunity for us to have time with the Deputy Ministers of Health from SK, PEI and NS.

Everyone spoke in very positive terms about an expanded scope of practice for pharmacists, and most also recognized that the recent changes to generic prices have had a negative impact on the profession. Everyone involved in advocacy on behalf of pharmacists should take credit for this – 10 years ago they would have known nothing about the profession.

Behind the scenes at these meetings the health care organizations work closely together. The days are long, from breakfast meetings to share strategy to debriefings over dinner on what we’d heard collectively. The President and staff from CPhA worked with the Presidents and staff from Canadian Medical Association (CMA), Canadian Nurses Association (CAN), Health Action Lobby (HEAL) and Canadian Healthcare Association (CHA). These events provide useful opportunities for elected Presidents to get to know each other.

Thanks for joining us,
Jeff Poston,
Executive Director