Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and her United Conservative Party government may look like fools for having paid $70 million up front to a Turkish drug manufacturer last December for a huge supply of children’s pain medication most of which will likely never reach Alberta.
But to reach that conclusion is to fundamentally misunderstand the purpose of the purchase by Alberta of children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen from Atabay Pharmaceuticals and Fine Chemicals Inc. of Istanbul during a national shortage of those pain medications.
The goal, it was obvious then and continues to be obvious now, was not to stock the empty shelves of Alberta pharmacies with medicine worried parents were desperate get home to their sick kids during a busy respiratory disease season.
The purpose of Ms. Smith’s “Tylenot” stunt, as it came to be known, was simply a $75-million political effort to use public funds to own the Libs. That number also includes the cost of shipping less than a third of the purchase to Alberta.
Arguably, that goal was partly achieved.
Certainly, the UCP’s “Help is on the Way” campaign suggesting Alberta was stepping up to fill a gap left by Ottawa was intended to contribute to the portrait of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a bumbling incompetent that federal and provincial Conservatives had been painting for months, presumably successfully if recent polls are to be believed. (This is not to say that Mr. Trudeau has not made his own contributions to this effort.)
“In response to the worldwide shortage of children’s pain and fever medication, Alberta’s government took immediate action to ensure a stable supply for the province,” the government’s news release chirped in March, when some of the bottles approved for sale to the public finally started showing up in Alberta, implying falsely that Ottawa was doing nothing.
But who outside a few close followers of Alberta politics now remembers that the shortage was quickly overcome through the efforts of Health Canada and, by the time some of the oddball Turkish medication had been approved for sale in Alberta, pharmacies were again stocked with familiar and popular brands like children’s Tylenol?
That probably explains why UCP insiders seem remarkably calm about the Globe and Mail’s revelation Thursday that Alberta will probably never receive about 70 per cent or 3.5 million bottles of the medicine, and that much of the supplies that did make it here are likely to gather dust in store rooms until their expiry dates come along.
“When a young child is sick, it can be difficult and stressful for parents and families, and that’s one of the reasons we acted so quickly to procure this medicine,” Ms. Smith was quoted saying in the same release. “This pain and fever medicine is being sent to pharmacies across the province so families can purchase it, and I’m so pleased Alberta parents and caregivers do not need to wait any longer.”
The rub, of course, as the Globe’s story recaps, was that the Turkish meds that made it here first were unsuitable to be administered by parents and so were restricted by Health Canada to use in hospitals. In the end, the newspaper reported, only 9,000 of the first shipment of 250,000 bottles were ever distributed to hospital pharmacies before Alberta Health Services ordered hospital staff stop using them.
By the time Health Canada approved some for sale to the public, nobody wanted the stuff because kids hated the taste, it was hard to use and, most importantly, the shelves were again full of trusted brands. It had to be kept behind the counter so that parents could be educated on how to use the low-dosage Turkish concoction.
Now Health Canada has indicated it won’t permit any more bottles of the problem medication to be imported unless there’s another shortage, which everyone agrees is unlikely.
The newspaper reported that Alberta officials have “declined to say whether the province was financially protected if the contract was not fulfilled.” Knowing the way things operate around here, it’s pretty safe to assume from that Alberta is not protected, and the money is gone forever.
You can be confident from this that the UCP’s claimed plan to be able to sell some bottles to other provinces is also kaput.
As noted, though, despite a little egg on their faces, no one in the UCP Government seems to be losing any sleep about it – presumably because they’re confident that their continuing campaign to hijack more than half of the Canada Pension Plan’s nest egg and plans to bust up AHS will make the story go away soon after Monday, when the Legislature resumes sitting.
It’s likely that there are people within the UCP Government, presumably including the Premier and her closest political advisors, who think this investment of our money was well worth it.
Of course, if necessary they’ll put on a hangdog face, blame someone at AHS, and promise to see it never happens again.
Presumably we’ll never know whether the fact it was manufactured by a company for which the mother of unsuccessful Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz served as a director and had family ownership connections had anything to do with the deal.
Go back to sleep, Alberta, the IEA is ‘no longer credible’
Readers will recall the International Energy Agency’s report last week that the planet is hurtling toward a future in which clean energy will dominate and fossil fuel use will soon peak before starting to decline.
Among other things, the IEA report published Tuesday concluded that by 2030 nearly half of the planet’s supply of electricity will come from renewable energy, solar energy will generate more electricity than the entire U.S. power system does now, and the number of electric vehicles on the world’s roads will increase tenfold
Well, don’t worry your pretty little heads about it, fellow Albertans, Premier Smith has spoken and settled the matter once and for all.
It turns out the respected international body is “no longer credible” and just makes stuff up to get what it wants. Anyway, she told a meeting at the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, she prefers to get her analysis from the private sector – you know, like fossil fuel corporations.