House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

May 5th, 1998 / 10:15 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 71 could be made an order for return, the return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed. .[Text]

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

With respect to the report of the Legislative Review Advisory Group, Department of Citizenship and Immigration, released January 6, 1998, could the Minister please provide: ( a ) the names of all individuals, groups, associations, inside and outside of government, that were consulted in the preparation of this report; and ( b ) the names of the individuals, groups and associations, and their addresses, that comprised the 500 written submissions received.

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I ask the government when it will call Question No. 21 which we tabled on October 22, 1997.

The parliamentary secretary tells us the government is continuing to make inquiries, but it has not yet given us an answer.

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will look seriously into the whereabouts of the response to Question No. 21.

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

John Cummins Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, on October 28, 1997 I asked Question No. 33. There seems to be a reluctance to answer the question. The question has to do with the Oak Bay Marine Group and the Sport Fishing Institute, two organizations very near and dear to the fisheries minister's heart. I was told on April 29 that the response was with the House leader's office. I was informed he had it on March 26 and on April 16 as well.

I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could look in his desk to find that response this morning.

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I regret to say that I do not have the response in my desk, but again I will look into it.

Mr. Speaker, you will have noted that in the last several days we have in fact replied to a considerable number of questions.

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

John Cummins Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, on December 2, 1997 I asked Question No. 56, which at one point I was told was with the House leader's office.

The parliamentary secretary pointed out at one point, quite inaccurately, that roughly 800 questions had been received to that point, which was a great exaggeration. He said that he had answered half of them. If he had I guess I would be finished.

On many occasions he has told me that I could expect an answer in a timely fashion. The parliamentary secretary is beginning to remind me of Bill Clinton. Clinton said that Monica Lewinski was going to—

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

That is a point of order and I think the hon. member is straying far off the point. I think the parliamentary secretary has got the point. He has indicated already that he is working on answers to the hon. member's questions and I am sure he will continue to do so.

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary wish to address this question also?

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, again I have noted Question No. 56 and I will make a point of consulting with the member to hear the end of the story.

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Yes, I think that is appropriate.

Is it agreed that all remaining questions stand?

Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supply
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

moved:

That this House urge the government to press for the invitation of representatives of the Hepatitis C Society of Canada to the upcoming meeting of federal, provincial and territorial Health Ministers in order to provide advice on how to address the financial needs of all those who contracted Hepatitis C from the federally-regulated blood system.

Mr. Speaker, it is an unexpected and an unanticipated honour for me to be the lead speaker in this important debate, but an honour nonetheless. I will be sharing my time with our leader, the member for Halifax.

We in this Chamber have been at this issue now for more than a month, 39 days to be precise, and all of us on this side of the House have been trying to ensure that social justice be provided to all hepatitis C victims on this sad and tragic issue.

A week ago today we voted on a motion that would have extended some measure of justice, dignity and compassion to all who contracted hepatitis C regardless of the date they became infected.

The government refused and in the ensuing vote the government position was upheld narrowly. The federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health stood shoulder to shoulder behind the agreement they had made in Toronto. The agreement was that governments would compensate only some of those infected with hepatitis C through tainted blood.

The Prime Minister insisted that last week's motion to extend compassion to those on the outside looking in on the agreement be treated as a motion of confidence in the government. It worked to some extent. The government won that confidence vote by 155 to 140. It won the confidence vote in the House of Commons, but in the process it lost the confidence of the nation.

The federal Minister of Health said that the file on compensation was closed, but this file would not stay closed because this deal would not and could not survive public scrutiny. It would not stay closed because it is a deal that draws a line in the sand and says that if a person became infected with hepatitis C after January 1, 1986 they will receive compensation, but if they were infected before December 31, 1985, the governments are sorry but they are unable to extend benefits.

We have listened day after day to the Minister of Health as he has tried to justify this sordid deal. When he talked about the class action suit Canadians contrasted those words with the classless inaction they were witnessing from this government.

The most moving moment in my short tenure as a member of parliament occurred after the vote last week when victims of hepatitis C and their family members stood in the visitors' gallery to applaud opposition members for their support even though that support fell slightly short.

What governments have been trying to do for the past 39 days against tens of thousands of Canadians is not the Canadian way. When calamity or disaster strikes it is not the Canadian way to draw a line in the sand. When the flood in Quebec's Saguenay region occurred two years ago relief went out to all, not only to some who were affected. It was the same last year with the Red River flood in Manitoba. When the ice storm struck eastern Ontario and Quebec this past January provisions were made in the emergency relief program to ensure that small farmers working off the farm were also protected. That is the Canadian way.

Why did our health minister think he could get away with something so thoroughly un-Canadian as this hepatitis C deal? I believe part of the answer lies in the current lack of resources extended to our provincial and territorial governments for the provision of health care by the federal government.

Five years after medicare was introduced at the national level, a gift from the Government of Saskatchewan introduced by Tommy Douglas and Woodrow Lloyd, the Pearson government made it attractive and saleable to the other provinces by providing 50:50 funding, 50-cent dollars. The federal government would match every 50 cents put up by the provincial and territorial governments. Today those 50-cent dollars have been whittled down to less than 13 cents.

I believe Saskatchewan is the only province that has backfilled every penny of health care money which the federal government has taken out in recent years. It has not been easy for Saskatchewan to continue with the important health funding that is necessary in an era of transition. Thanks to this government pharmaceutical costs have been going through the roof. The Saskatchewan government and other governments have been managing as best they can.

Tommy Douglas is recognized as the father of medicare in Canada. As I said a minute ago, medicare was Saskatchewan's gift to Canada. Tommy had a great way with people and with words, as those who had the privilege to know him will attest. One of his phrases goes like this: “When someone tells you that it's not the money, it's the principle, you can be almost certain it's the money”. That is what we have been witnessing in the House over the past 39 days. This has not been about principle, it has been about getting away with it as cheaply as possible and not doing the right thing, not doing the Canadian thing.

The original deal pleased no one because the victims were not present to make their case or to counter misinformation at the negotiating table. No one knows the hepatitis C issue better than those who live with the disease. They must be at the table for the next round, as this motion indicates.

Canadians expect us to act in the best interests of the victims of this blood tragedy. Let the victims now have their say on how to address their financial needs.

We do not often have a second chance either in life or in this House. In this Chamber we tend to deal with a topic and move on. However, this is one time that Canadians, by their words and actions, have forced all governments to revisit an important issue.

We should celebrate this opportunity to do the right thing, finally, for all the victims of hepatitis C. Let us celebrate the fact that we have been given a second chance to make amends and offer compensation fully and fairly. That is the Canadian way.

We have been given a second chance to do the right thing. This file is open once again. Let us not blow it this time. We call on all members of the House of every political stripe to support this motion.