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Archive for November, 2010

Buffalo Bills – Worst Team in Sports? Hardly!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 @ 05:11 PM

As a season’s tickets holder for this storied franchise, I have to take exception to Toronto Star Sports Editor Chris Zelkovich’s early November piece asking the question of the Bills as – “The Worst Team in Pro Sports?”

I say hardly!

This is an NFL season of many, many stories about previously good teams having dreadful outings.  Look at Dallas! Look at Minnesota! Look at Cincinnati!  My goodness, look at Detroit!

The east division of the American Conference of the NFL is a tough one. New England and Indianapolis are two of the best teams in the NFL and Miami is surely a contender.  They have stable and well known rosters.  Buffalo is a young team with some veterans who make plays on the field as well as any of the teams above.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is the 4th leading passer in the NFL. Roscoe Parrish has come into his own after former coaches for the Bills used him improperly in the past.  C.J. Spiller is exciting, young and has a winning spirit.  George Wilson is as effective as any defenseman in the league.  ‘The Pos’ is equally as effective a linebacker as any NFLer and both offensive and defensive lines are good.

So what’s the problem?  Nothing!  We’re conditioned as fans to have winners and when winners don’t win – fans react!

I think Zelkovich is a bit of a dramatist!

Buffalo is a great sports town and every game at Ralph Wilson stadium is an event unparalleled in the NFL.  The team had a rocky start and we’ll characterize 2010 as a growth period.

But they are not the worst team in sports.  The experiment in Toronto at Rogers Centre is an apparent failure because the fan base for the NFL in Toronto is NOT attracted to Buffalo – they are Dolphins, Raiders, Eagles, Cowboys and Jets fans more so. There are many bad, bad teams in the NFL – year over year.  Just ask any Lion’s fan!  The NFL has cult like following from its fan base.  I’m one of them and having long emotional discussions about what goes wrong comes with the territory.

I’m also a huge Leafs fan and having suffered through season after season suggesting that we shine up Stanley only to have our hearts broken – again – might make Zelkovich consider re-asking the question.

- Marc Kealey

The Aftermath of Reform

Sunday, November 21, 2010 @ 05:11 PM

Recently articles have been written about the aftermath of the drug reform legislation in Ontario and on the eve of the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy’s Annual Meeting, I wonder if  pharmacy officials attending  will address the issue of their behaviour during the legislation period.

In mid 2009, the government of Ontario made public overtures that it intended to review the Transparent Drug System for Patients Act ( legislation that was originally passed in 2006 to save costs to the public drug program in Ontario). Written in the Act in 2006 was a provision that government will review the Act every two years.  In the intervening years since the original Act was passed, Pharmacy was noticeably absent from any positive discussions with government on how it (pharmacy) could impact positively on patient care and save dollars to an ever-increasing cost for drug plans in both the public and the private sectors.

The review of 2009 was meant to assist private sector drug plans to manage cost increases on their formularies and match the savings realized in the public sector.  It should be noted that when the Transparent Drug System for Patients Act was originally passed in 2006, its jurisdiction extended to both the public and the private sectors.  However, the enforcement of the Act, at that time, never extended to the private sector.  This issue, in and of itself, created a two-tiered drug plan system where drug plan and actual drug costs in private sector plans were double digit higher than in the public system.  It was an untenable proposition from 2006 to 2009 and plan designers (among others) in the private sector appealed to government to right the legislation.

Pharmacy’s reaction to the proposed legislation in the months after 2009 was not only surprising, it was shockingly out of touch with the current economic thinking of Ontarians.  There were mass protests by pharmacy and intellectually dishonest comments made by pharmacy  officials(some suggested that stores would close, others suggested that service would be impacted and some even called the government reckless).  Pharmacists did not stand up for their profession during this time.  In fact, many protested in the face of government suggesting that the end was near.

I was a delegate at a public policy conference in the summer of 2010 in Collingwood where two bus loads of pharmacy students protested against those in attendance.  When pressed as to why they were protesting, there was a flurry of dramatic and factually incorrect comments from them. It was a shameful exercise – largely because none present had an open mind to the reasons why government needed to enact these changes –  it was, in the minds of these students apparently, only about them and their economic futures.

Pharmacy is a lucrative business.  In Canada it amounts to over $25 billion in annual sales.  Fees for pharmacy service in the public sector amount to about $700 million annually (it’s similar for private sector plans).  So what’s  the beef?

It has everything to do with how professions manage when public policy changes occur.  When I was CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists’ Association, I told pharmacists time and time again that the ONLY way to manage through the changes of the Transparent Drug System for Patients Act was to be actively and positively involved with government.  Pharmacy rebuked that exhortation and designed what they called “an opposition strategy”  (in short to use the opposition MPPs to attack the government).   Those who remember the election of 2007 know that pharmacy failed miserably in that fight.

Again, three years later, the sector is stymied as to why government distrusts pharmacy and why several stakeholder organizations, including CARP and CLIHA, have lined up against them.  And what is pharmacy’s response?  They punish their professional association (the Ontario Pharmacists’ Association- OPA).

It’s astonishing that Shopper’s Drug Mart, the apparent leader for the profession in Canada, would make public statements suggesting that it would no longer support its pharmacists who wish to belong to the OPA.  This kind of short sighted thinking fans the flames of mistrust between public policy framers and the professions with whom they aspire to collaborate on the future of the profession.

The outcomes of the drug reform measures introduced by Ontario have taken hold across Canada and helped this country come of age in world where drug costs are spiralling out of control and this has been a boon for patients.

Pharmacists need to embrace the notion that public policy is the purview of government and that people govern people!  When an entity pushes, the pushed either ignore the pusher or push back themselves.  Pharmacists as a profession need a lesson in how to manage through public policy debates in a positive manner.  Without the support of their member organizations –  like Shoppers –  they are destined for a rebuke from government!

- Marc Kealey

Marc Kealey with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty

Sunday, November 7, 2010 @ 03:11 PM

Marc Kealey and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty

At a recent event at my home with the Honourable Jim Flaherty, Federal Minister of Finance.

- Marc Kealey

Marc Kealey with MP Justin Trudeau

Thursday, November 4, 2010 @ 03:11 PM

At a recent event in Mississauga South, discussing policy issues with Federal MP Justin Trudeau.

- Marc Kealey

Ein Prosit Mr. Turner!

Thursday, November 4, 2010 @ 02:11 PM

You would probably never guess this, but every October John N. Turner officially opens Oktoberfest in Kitchener – Waterloo.  This year was one of 30 yearly treks for him I think.

I went with him this year and in the usual rock star adoration he gets from the hundreds and hundreds of people at any event he attends, he delivered opening remarks in his usual precision and histrionics.

He recounted the time, years ago when he was invited by Helmut Kohl to open Oktoberfest in Germany, he recounted the words he used then, and in perfectly pronounced German, he offered greetings to the patrons of 2010’s Oktoberfest.

I’ve traveled with Mr. Turner to many parts of Canada and throughout the world.  In every setting and at event he truly is treated like a rock star.  And like finely brewed German ale, he gets better with age!

- Marc Kealey

Nuclear Power and Partnership with India

Wednesday, November 3, 2010 @ 05:11 PM

His Excellency Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam visited Canada on a remarkable 4 day visit to Toronto and Vancouver to deliver a series of lectures on green energy and the green economy.  I was invited as a guest to a small gathering at the Albany Club in Toronto.

For those of us avid observers of politics, we know greatness is born from folklore and the test of time. But you have to step a back a bit from that kind of cynicism and ponder the greatness of President Kalam. Born in abject poverty in India, as a boy he would run outside under a street lamp to read books because he lived in a small home that had no electricity.  It was in this manner that he studied nuclear science and became one of the world’s foremost experts on the peaceful use of nuclear power.  His vision for energy use and its application globally prompted innovative thinking that could, in effect, harness the sun’s power to create energy for the world based on solar panels on the moon.  It is this kind of thinking, among his many other innovations, that have made him as powerful in the world of science as the Dalai Lama is to his faith.

Dr. Kalam is selling the concept of partnership in business with India, soon to be one of the world’s most dominant business partners.  With a hunger and need for about 30,000 megawatts of power in the coming decade, partnership is the only option for this emerging market.

Canada is a natural partner with India.  We have the Commonwealth to thank for that.

Dr. Kalam and I had a comprehensive discussion on nuclear energy.  Having been an executive at AECL at the beginning of this millennium, I know that Canada’s innovation in heavy water reactors and their ability to burn Thorium is well known to the energy starving India.  Exploiting CANDU technology in India is a role that the government of Canada can and should start to accelerate – the PM started this process at the G20 Summit.  However, at a recent event at my home with a senior Cabinet Minister in Harper’s government, I was advised that AECL will definitely be put on the blocks despite our attempts to stop that kind of madness.  Giving up on AECL, such as is being considered by the government and with no interest from an ineffective opposition on the matter in the House of Commons is one of the second greatest missed opportunities in Canada just behind the Avro Arrow.

The President was so keenly interested in the opportunity to discuss the use of Thorium and the possibility of recycling  spent nuclear fuel in reactors that he has invited me to India in 2011. I am taking him up on his offer.

I will report back on my return.

- Marc Kealey

Miami and Pittsburg – hurts so bad!!

Monday, November 1, 2010 @ 11:11 AM

I was in Miami last weekend with a couple of my pals.

We went to see the Miami Dolphins / Pittsburgh Steelers Game.  The start of the weekend could not have been more perfect.  Met at the airport in Fort Lauderdale with a stretch limo and a police escort to one of Miami’s best restaurants, we planned the next day perfectly. Ending the evening at Mango’s near Gianni Versace’s home was the quintessential Miami experience.

The next day, we headed to Sun Life Stadium in Miami, a perfect day was ordered and we had some of the best seats in the stadium.  I love football – especially the NFL. I’m a Buffalo Bills season’s ticket holder and am possibly the most forgiving fan they have – in fact my season’s ticket partner and I have the only hand knitted Bills sweaters at Ralph Wilson Stadium – but I digress.

The Dolphins and the Steelers are two of the best teams in the NFL.  The game was a good seesaw affair until the 4th quarter when behemoth QB Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers called his own number and rushed into the end zone only to be smacked by a Dolphin linebacker causing him to cough up the ball.  THAT was the start!  What happened next makes this particular play and, in effect, this game one of the more controversial ones in NFL history.

Getting a win in the NFL is a tough thing these days (unless you’re playing against Buffalo).  Parity among teams is at an all time high.  And the talent spreads to all positions on the field – including officials and electronics.  The pressure to call a game by officials has made the video replay a very important component of the game.  Help me understand this though, why would a referee make a call so blunderous as to earmark it as one of the more controversial calls in NFL history?  You’d have to be blind not to see that big Ben fumbled before the ball crossed the plane of the end zone and that a Dolphin recovered it. What’s even worse is that the referee ruled it inconclusive that Miami recovered the ball and gave the ball back to Pittsburg and they promptly scored a field goal that, in the end, gave them the game and the 2 points.

The end result was that Miami lost.

The weekend wasn’t lost though.  Miami is still an exciting town, the weather phenomenal and the scene a cut above, but boy, did I miss my Bills that weekend!

- Marc Kealey