House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am really surprised at the comments that were just made about a more therapeutic approach to drugs and marijuana and about this idea that decriminalization is a much more sensible approach.

The fact is that the way the government has approached this whole issue of drugs is rather pathetic. Having been the vice-chair of that committee and knowing what happened, I know that the real problem in this country is that there is no national drug strategy out there.

Also, there is the issue that when we talk about decriminalization of marijuana, the government says we are going to have maximum penalties for grow ops. Maximum penalties for grow ops are useless: the current penalties today are not being used. Judges and lawyers across this land are getting people off for any amount of grow ops. It happens in my community every day.

How can the member justify that this whole issue of decriminalization in legislation is great and therapeutic when the whole darn issue of drugs among the Liberal government is a mess?

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the legislation being promoted now will be very satisfying in terms of actually providing that the people pushing the drugs, the people growing the drugs, are the people we actually want to punish.

The hon. member should know that yesterday morning I was in Vancouver's downtown east side; it is unbelievably sad. I want to tell the member some facts that he maybe does not understand. At Women's Own Detox in downtown Toronto, 85% of the clients are incest victims. When we look at a lot of the problems of addiction, we see that these are people who were abused themselves. These are people who therefore did not have respect for authority and did not have any understanding of their lives or of their parents.

I think we must begin with those kinds of facts. We must begin with the fact that in some places home is not a safe place before we begin to make policies that actually may make us feel good in terms of criminalization but actually are not dealing with the individual Canadians who are really in trouble. We have to do everything we can to turn their lives around.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for the consent of the House to share my time with my hon. colleague from Drummond. Each of us would have 10 minutes to speak.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve does not have to ask for the consent of the House to share his time. If that is what he wants to do, he only has to mention it.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will therefore share my time with the hon. member for Drummond.

There is something of a paradox with the throne speech. With the House not sitting since November, we are finally able to see where the government is going.

I was very glad to have the opportunity earlier today to put questions to the health minister, to whom I wish good luck in his new duties.

We now realize that the Liberal government wants to use the health issue to do some “nation building” and to become more centralizing than ever. What the federal government has put forward is quite a paradox.

Following a suggestion made by the Bloc Quebecois and supported by the NDP, the Standing Committee on Health travelled throughout Canada these last few months to consider the issue of drug costs.

We found out that there is a huge problem with on-line drugstores. U.S. citizens are buying drugs in Canada.The problem is particularly serious in Manitoba.

Consequently, there are Americans who manage to buy drugs without a prescription. Without a prescription, people can buy drugs, which are exported under mechanisms established by online drugstores.

The federal government wants to establish a Canadian public health agency, although it is not responsible for public health. It did not, however, intervene to counter Internet or online drugstores, which threaten our drug supply in Canada and Quebec.

For example, I was talking to one of my friends who works for the Centre québécois de coordination sur le sida or CQCS. She told me that pharmaceutical companies—such as Pfizer, to name just one—threatened to impose drug quotas, because obviously they are unhappy that Canada is selling drugs to the United States, when the Americans sell those same drugs for more money.

On the one hand, the government did not intervene with regard to Internet drug sales although it is responsible for drug exports, but it is proposing to intervene in areas not under its jurisdiction by establishing a Canadian public health agency and a Canada health council.

Earlier, I was listening to the Minister of Health say that this was not something we should be concerned about. I want to voice my disagreement. Drug costs will be the number one issue facing Quebeckers and Canadians over the next few years.

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Speech From The Throne

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

And patents.

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Speech From The Throne

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

And we will have to think about the Patent Act. My colleague from Burnaby—Douglas is saying, “And patents”.

I strongly support a review. of patents. This does not mean, as some neo-Bolsheviks are proposing, eliminating all forms of intellectual property. I do not believe that this is the direction we will go in. Intellectual property must continue to exist.

However, I am not afraid to recognize in this House that innovative pharmaceutical companies have abused patents and obtained a new patent from the commissioner of patents, despite the fact that there have been very few therapeutic innovations. This is extremely worrying.

All these mechanisms must be reviewed and, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I moved four motions. I would be quite disappointed if hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas has not read them. I will review them for him.

Here is the first proposal from the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve: review the role of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board. Does anyone really think that the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board has no control whatsoever over the price of generic drugs, which cost 30% more in Canada than in the United States?

I would remind the member for Burnaby—Douglas, who is approaching his fifties, that the second proposal from the Bloc Quebecois is to tighten the rules with regard to drug advertising. He himself wisely warned the Standing Committee on Health about this. He brought the journal of the Canadian Cancer Society and eloquently demonstrated to us that even though it is prohibited under the Food and Drugs Act, there is advertising that refers specifically to various drugs or pathologies.

There is a third proposal. Yes, we want to have better control over generic drug prices and we want to look at advertising, but the most important proposal—a stroke of genius on my part—is that we must ensure that clinical monographs submitted by pharmaceutical companies deal with products that are truly innovative.

It is unacceptable that companies use patents to extend their intellectual property rights. That does not mean, as some members suggest, that intellectual property should not exist. If marketing a new drug costs $800 million or $900 million, it is normal that companies get a return on their investment.

What is not normal though, and the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board looked at this reality, is that a company can apply for two, three or four patents for the same drug, when there is absolutely no difference from a therapeutic point of view. This is what we should look at. The Bloc Quebecois proposed that Health Canada be provided with new tools to conduct more in-depth studies of the clinical monographs that are submitted. I hope I will have the support of the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

When a patent is issued, it is very important to ensure that the period of time will not be unduly extended and that Canadians will not be prevented from having access to a cheaper drug.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

What does the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques think of this?

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Speech From The Throne

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas is asking, through the Chair, a question that is almost a subtle one. He is asking what the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques think of this.

First, I believe this House will want to pay tribute to the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who is such a hard worker. He is a social democrat who believes in the redistribution of wealth.

I agree, however, with the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas that there must be debate within political parties. It is normal and I understand that. I remember the NDP's debate on Bill C-20. Perhaps the member for Burnaby—Douglas will want to speak to us about that, as he was the only one to vote in favour of the rights of Quebec in that file.

So debate within political parties is normal. I would point out that debate within our party is vigorous. We understand that the best way to counteract one idea, in a democracy, is to come up with a better one. I have great hopes that the proposals I made to the Standing Committee on Health may one day be received with enthusiasm by all members of this House.

The question of drug costs is extremely important, and the Bloc Quebecois will continue to address it very specifically.

I would like to address the matter of parental leave. It will represent a test of the truth for the Quebec Liberal caucus. On the one hand, since 1997 and even before, the previous government, the Parti Quebecois government—one of the best to have ever sat on the government side—was prepared to improve the parental leave program so that working parents could be away from their job for one year at 70% of salary.

The federal government refused to make the necessary funds available from the EI fund. Now the appeal court is supporting this, by finding that the amendments proposed to the Employment Insurance Act in 1942 did not allow it to be amended to include parental leave.

I hope that the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry will join with the Bloc Quebecois in recognizing in this House that funds must be transferred to Quebec in order to set up an improved parental leave program. It is a matter of justice and social progress. This has dragged on and on. A good thing that the Bloc Quebecois has been here to defend the interests of Quebec.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue of social justice is very important. The member will know that Bill C-204, which was my private member's bill, was adopted by the government to extend parental leave to a full year. I am quite proud of that and I know all Canadians are pleased with it.

There was a line in the throne speech about the health and well-being of seniors, and the member talked about jurisdictional boundaries. I wanted to advise the member that I have been working on a seniors' poverty initiative, which includes matters such as introducing a guaranteed annual income for seniors, establishing provincial, territorial and regional poverty lines, eliminating mandatory retirement at age 65, increasing the caregiver tax credit, extending employment insurance benefits to caregivers, doubling the medical expense supplement, providing the opportunity for Canada pension plan continuity for caregivers, regulating the nursing home industry, as well as dealing with affordable housing and pharmacare.

Seniors' poverty is more acute than it has ever been. There is provincial jurisdiction. Would the member agree that we should collaborate, all parties with all levels of government, to ensure that we address the significant issue of seniors' poverty?

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois calls for the Quebec appeal court's judgment to be respected in its entirety.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

1:50 p.m.

Beauharnois—Salaberry
Québec

Liberal

Serge Marcil Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the passionate speech made by the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, who always speaks with a great deal of passion.

I would like to make two comments. First, in 1997, the current health minister, then the Minister of Human Resources Development, came up with a very generous proposal that he submitted to Minister Marois at the time. Unfortunately, the then finance minister, Mr. Landry, turned it down, because the Government of Quebec did not have the money to provide all the matching dollars required for the program.

I think it is important to point that out. We often tend to blame the federal government. I can tell the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve that the Liberal members from Quebec will work hard to settle the issue of parental leave.

Second—

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve.

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Speech From The Throne

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, the proposal was $300 million short. It is unbelievable to hear something like that from a former member of the National Assembly.

I hope that the Liberal caucus will put the decision of the Court of Appeal of Quebec on its agenda and examine it. They have no business interfering in the area of parental leave. What they should do is hand us the money we all have been demanding since 1997, including the intergovernmental affairs minister and former law professor, Benoît Pelletier. This is not a partisan issue. The only ones turning this debate into a partisan issue are the members of the Liberal caucus. Thank God the Bloc Quebecois is here to watch over the House.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve and I know that he does a good job for his constituents.

I would like to ask my friend a question. He talked about the importance of changing the Patent Act to put an end to abuses by large pharmaceutical companies. However, when my colleague, the member for Windsor West, tried to convince the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology to make these changes, it was the member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, the Bloc Quebecois industry critic, who blocked these efforts. He said that changes to the Patent Act were not needed, that there was no problem.

I have to ask my friend and colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve this question. Who is speaking for the Bloc Quebecois? Is it the industry critic, who deals with issues related to pharmaceutical companies, or is it the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve?