The NDP pharmacare plan is "one big thing"? It does not seem that big. After all there is already a plan that involves the province paying after 3 per cent of income is spent and also the 15 dollar cap for seniors for individual prescriptions so the addition of universality for the 15 dollar cap will be a substantial cost but not that huge. The plan makes more sense than the Sask. Party plan with means tests and limited coverage. This article marks the 15 as the dispensing fee! That seems very high to me for a dispensing fee.
The Sask Party claims it is the party of fiscal responsibility when the NDP has had 14 consecutive balanced budgets!
Sask. Party having its way
So far avoiding mistakes of 2003
Saturday, October 13, 2007
SASKATOON -- We didn't know it at the time, but the Saskatchewan election campaign was already over at this point in the campaign four years ago.
Former Saskatchewan Party leader Elwin Hermanson's suggestion three days into the 2003 election that he might consider selling Saskatchewan's Crown corporations if the asking price was right proved to be the political equivalent of hara-kiri.
Evidently, Saskatchewan Party strategists have been determined not to make the same mistake this time around. Both the Saskatchewan Party and the Liberals made Day Two of the campaign about moderation and accountability:
- At a Nutana-riding pharmacy in this city, Saskatchewan Party leader Brad Wall unveiled Friday his party's version of a prescription drug plan -- a plan that caps seniors' prescription drugs at the $15 pharmacists' dispensing fee, except for the wealthiest five per cent with an annual income more than $64,043. Wall's plan also caps prescriptions for all children 14 years and under in the province at $15 and will add an additional $40 million annually to expand the Saskatchewan Prescription Drug Plan formulary to include more drugs.
- David Karwacki and the Liberals on Friday introduced their plan for transparency and accountability that, if elected, would expand the Provincial Auditor powers to examine MLAs' budgets. Karwacki also called for the mandatory disclosure of all MLAs' benefits. During the official launch of the Liberal campaign at his constituency office Thursday, Karwacki said he would put a lid on the MLAs' cookie jar and smash it.
- NDP leader Lorne Calvert's first day in Regina saw the NDP commit to the recommendations of former legislative secretary and now Post-Secondary Minister Warren McCall to reduce university tuition by $1,000 and continue a tuition freeze. Calvert also found himself warding off criticism that his own prescription drug plan is unaffordable while criticizing Wall's drug plan promise for its means testing.
Interestingly, Saskatchewan Party strategists didn't bristle at Calvert's comments Friday. In fact, they almost seemed to welcome them and that might have something to do with what they learned during the 2003 campaign and in the four years since.
First, by rolling out a pocketbook promise a day -- a la Stephen Harper's successful 2005-06 campaign -- the Saskatchewan Party is setting its own agenda so far, which hasn't stopped reporters from posing hypothetical questions on privatizing the Crown corporations, questions that had also been posed to Hermanson by this point in the campaign four years ago.
When asked by a reporter Friday what was the biggest mistake the Saskatchewan Party made in its 10 years, Wall quickly cited not being clear enough on Crown corporations and not respecting the Saskatchewan voter's strong desire to keep them public.
Of course, this didn't stop Calvert from suggesting in Moose Jaw on Friday that even though Wall has vowed the Saskatchewan Party will not privatize the Crowns, there's nothing stopping him from changing his mind if he gets into power. Nor will the Saskatchewan Party's early flurry of announcements stop reporters from posing the privatization question some time during the remaining 25 days of this campaign. But so far, the 2007 campaign hasn't been about what the Saskatchewan Party doesn't want to talk about.
The Day Two issue was clearly about the contrast in the prescription drug programs and the Saskatchewan Party claims this is exactly where it wants to fight this campaign.
At Calvert's election announcement Wednesday night, the buzz among New Democrats was that voters' minds would be made up in the first few days of the campaign. We now know that the NDP has big hopes for its universal drug plan, a promise designed to solidify the vote.
However, Wall said Friday the difference between Calvert's drug plan and his own may "already be the turning point" -- and one that has turned it in his party's favour. Voters have a clear choice between the NDP's costly and unnecessary plan and the Saskatchewan Party's targeted, moderate and costed-out approach, Wall contended.
One Saskatchewan Party insider privately acknowledged Friday the party's smaller-announcement approach -- including its alternative prescription drug plan policy that was actually reported last spring -- has come from policy pre-election focus groups.
"Somewhat to our surprise, we found out this is not what people want," the insider said. "If you have too big a promise, people get suspicious that you are just trying to buy them off.
"That was '80s politics. There was a real suspicion of 'one big thing.' I was really surprised (the NDP) went with 'one big thing.' "
The Saskatchewan Party says it is now the party of fiscal responsibility -- perhaps stretching it a bit given the NDP's record of 14 consecutive balanced budgets. However, the Sask. Party does seem to be in better shape than it was at this point in the campaign four years ago.