House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Health
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I must make it clear to everyone that it is very important for the government to take steps to ensure that in the event of a crisis the necessary drugs will be available to Canadians. This is what the minister has done.

Today it is clear that the drugs required are available in sufficient quantity in Canada, thanks to the actions of the Minister of Health.

Health
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, the president of Apotex himself says he asked the departmental employee who contacted him whether he had the go ahead from the Commissioner of Patents to proceed with the order. Clearly that was never obtained.

How can the minister plead that he made an error in good faith when this was instead a deliberate, wilful and fully informed action that was against the law?

Health
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

They acted in good faith, Mr. Speaker.

Patent Legislation
Oral Question Period

October 25th, 2001 / 2:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the right hon. Prime Minister.

The NDP begs to differ with the spirit of question period. The Minister of Health is not the problem. He will move on to another political disaster sooner or later. The problem is the law and it needs to be changed.

We have seen the moral inadequacy of the law, not just in respect of what happened in Canada but in respect of what happened earlier with the availability of AIDS drugs in Africa.

Would the Prime Minister commit to the House today to review Canada's commitment to these kinds of laws because they are proving inadequate in emergencies and other kinds of situations?

Patent Legislation
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I realize that the hon. member has been in a disastrous situation for the last 20 years being a member of the NDP.

I just want to say that at this time the laws are in place. The minister needed that. There is a possibility under the law to have an exemption that was not asked for and should have been, but it is provided in the law so that if there is an emergency, we can turn to somebody else to get the pills.

It was done exactly that way in good faith by the Department of Health.

Patent Legislation
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I remember being on the same side of the House with the Prime Minister when he was criticizing the very law he just defended.

Could the Prime Minister tell us why his Minister for International Trade, in respect of talks having to do with the trade related intellectual property rights talks, is siding with the United States when the big multinational drug companies are trying to stop the easy flow of generic drugs into developing countries? Why are we doing that when we have just experienced how difficult those patent laws can be for public health?

Patent Legislation
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. Canada is playing a leading role on TRIPS discussions we are having at the WTO. We have been working very hard at clarifying some elements in the existing TRIPS to allow for good flexibility in terms of emergencies like HIV-AIDS, TB and malaria to actually accommodate these countries in the existing agreements. We hope that in Doha we will be able to have that in the draft ministerial statement.

Health
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has a personal history with Apotex. In 1984 he was its legal counsel. In 1994 when he was the Attorney General of Canada, he intervened in a lawsuit involving Apotex. In 1997 his conscience twinged and he had a little chat with the ethics commissioner. What was that about? It was about Apotex.

Now the same company gives up $1.5 million after what, a late night meeting with a Health Canada order clerk?

Is the minister the only one left who does not understand that there is an apparent conflict of interest in his dealings with Apotex?

Health
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, my law firm acted for generic drug companies including Apotex from time to time just as it acted for brand name companies from time to time.

The member knows I was not involved in the decision to purchase from Apotex in this case. If this member has a specific allegation to make about me and conflict of interest in this case, let him make it. If not, let him stand down.

Health
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning the Minister of Health told me to shut up. I will not shut up.

The evidence is piling up. It is now clear that the Minister of Health has, in the past, had a sometimes close relationship with Apotex.

This morning I asked the minister if he had informed the Prime Minister about his previous connection with Apotex but he refused to reply. Instead, he panicked.

Could the Prime Minister tell us whether he was advised by his minister that the latter's relationship with Apotex might create the perception of conflict of interest, even before the Minister of Health broke the Patent Act?

Health
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I wish the member would take my advice. If he has some allegation to make about me and my conduct, I wish he would make it specifically here or outside the House. If he does not have an allegation to make then he ought to remain quiet.

Health
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately the health minister, who is a former minister of justice, seems to have trouble respecting the rule of law or any rules. He violated Canada's law by ordering an illegal supply of drugs. He also violated a mandatory directive which controls government spending. His illegal order grossly exceeded even the approved limit allowed if there is a pressing emergency.

How can Canadians trust a lawbreaker to protect them?

Health
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, I did not order these drugs. It was done by officials acting in good faith. As to what Canadians ought to have confidence in, Canadians will look at this spectacle on the opposite side of the House and wonder just what they are thinking over there.

Canadians want to know that we are concerned with protecting their health and getting on hand medications we may need in times of emergency. From that perspective I wonder just what the opposition is talking about.

Health
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday it was that minister who stood behind a microphone and said “I am in charge”. Now he is saying “I did not even know what was going on”. Which one is it?

Health
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, Health Canada will always be there acting aggressively to make sure the health of Canadians is protected. Unlike the other side of the House, which is interested in scoring cheap, partisan points, we are focusing on what truly matters to Canadians.