NDP needs to check facts: Graham

Health Minister Doug Graham is frustrated with questions from NDP Opposition MLAs when they don't have their facts straight, he says.

Health Minister Doug Graham is frustrated with questions from NDP Opposition MLAs when they don’t have their facts straight, he says.

The issue came up last week when MLA Jan Stick asked the government what it is doing to improve outdated pharmacy legislation.

The next day, Graham said that Stick had made statements that were “blatantly inaccurate and in some cases completely false.”

He did not, either when the questions were first asked or at that time, explain which statements he believed to be untrue or attempt to correct the record.

In an interview, Graham said that there were three inaccurate statements in Stick’s line of questioning.

Stick said that Yukon is the only jurisdiction where physicians are allowed to own a portion of a pharmacy.

Graham said this is incorrect.

In at least six jurisdictions, physicians are allowed to operate pharmacies under certain conditions, usually in rural settings, he said.

Stick got that information from a March 2013 briefing note prepared either for the deputy minister of Health or Graham himself (the document contains conflicting information).

“The Opposition critic just swallowed (the information in the briefing note) hook, line and sinker, and she didn’t do any checking on her own.”

Stick was also wrong when she said that Yukon physicians are entitled to pharmacy licences, said Graham. In fact, while they may apply for a licence, it is not a given, he said.

And Stick accused the government of supporting the outdated legislation, which Graham said is factually incorrect, given that the government has been working on updating it for years, and in fact amended the act more than once in recent years.

He didn’t correct Stick at the time because wanted to make sure he had his facts straight first, he said.

The NDP says it does make best efforts to check the facts in their questions, but they have been shut out from access to government officials.

“In rare occasions, a minister will put us in contact with an official to address a constituent’s specific issue,” said Francois Picard, the NDP’s chief of staff, in an email. “When it comes to policy or legislation, though, opposition parties are directed to deal with issues at a ministerial level and officials are directed not to speak with us directly.”

In the legislature this week, Graham again said that factual inaccuracies were slipping into questions from the NDP.

“In the preamble to the question, I know the member opposite had at least two errors in facts, so I’m not interested in responding to the question when it’s preceded by non-factual – in my opinion – information,” he said in response to a question from MLA Lois Moorcroft.

He did not point out what the inaccuracies were, or attempt to correct the record.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com