House of Commons Hansard #53 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was summits.

Topics

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I would also like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the Gallery of the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering winner Gilles Brassard.

Also with us are the 2010 winners of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Steacie Fellowships and the 2009 Howard Alper, Brockhouse, Polyani and André Hamer Prizes.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I invite all members to a reception in room 216-N following question period today.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

June 1st, 2010 / 3 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Given the fact that the NDP is at the far end of the chamber, I know sometimes it is difficult for you to hear. However, very clearly, during an exchange in question period, when the member for Outremont asked the Minister of the Environment a question, he was heard to yell, at least twice, “liar”.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, that type of language is unparliamentary and is not allowed. Because of your distance from the NDP, if you wanted to consult with our chamber's top cop, the Sergeant-at-Arms, he was sitting right there. I am sure he heard what was said and he can authenticate that the member for Outremont should stand in his place and apologize sincerely to the Minister of the Environment and to the government for using such unparliamentary language.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Although I recognized the hon. government House leader because he was rising on a point of order, I did hear words that sounded like that. I have checked and, indeed, those were the words.

I therefore ask that the hon. member for Outremont withdraw his words immediately.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, you do not have to confirm with the Sergeant-at-Arms on this one. I confirm what I said. I was one of the ministers he had the nerve to stand in the House and say that voted in favour of changing our environmental assessments. That is a lie. However, since I am not allowed to call him a liar, I withdraw.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Outremont must withdraw the words immediately, otherwise he will be asked to leave.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the words immediately.

I withdraw the words, but I will repeat them outside of this chamber, because what I said is true: he misled the House.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 Summits
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Before the question period, the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca had the floor. I believe there are 11 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.

I therefore call upon the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 Summits
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, before question period, I said that the government could adopt our plan, a plan that could save the lives of 344,000 women every year who die of largely preventable or treatable causes. Every year eight million children die as a result of preventable or treatable causes.

The key to saving these lives is investing in primary health care, such as providing access to health care workers, basic medications, diagnostics, clean potable water, sanitation, power and a full range of family planning options, including abortion in those countries where it is legal.

The government talks about having a plan, but no one in the country has seen it. The absence of a plan is a worry to all of us. Instead of articulating to the Canadian public and the world about what it is going to do during this moment in time to mobilize the most powerful nations in the world to help those least privileged, the government is saying nothing. It has actually turned on the abortion debate and has used it to obscure the fact that it does not have a plan.

We have given the government a plan and it is a plan that would be supported by many members of the G8. Our country has a chance to do something, yet the government is simply sitting on its hands.

Evidence of the government's mismanagement of this issue is the cost of the G8 and G20 summits of some $1.2 billion. To put that into perspective, the G20 summit in London, England cost $30 million. In 2009 the G20 summit in Pittsburgh cost $18 million for security. Yet these summits are going to cost Canadians $1.2 billion.

To make it even more graphic, and I hope Canadians are listening to this, the cost of the summits in tax dollars will be $75 million an hour. The entire security costs of both Pittsburgh and London were less than the amount of money the government will spend in an hour. That is an enormous and shocking revelation. It is a complete waste of taxpayer money and an indication of utter mismanagement on the part of the Conservative government.

To make matters worse, $50 million has been splashed around in the riding of the Minister of Industry. This money is being used not only for issues relating to what will be going on in Huntsville, but for new roads, trees and other amenities, which have nothing to do with security, nothing to do with putting on this summit.

Most Canadians are aghast at the fact that the government has chosen not to put any plans forward with respect to the environment. Most Canadians would be shocked to learn that this is the first G8 summit in history where environment ministers have not met in advance to deal with environmental challenges. Nothing has come from the government in this area, perhaps because it has no plan to deal with climate change and the other great challenges we face.

Time and time again, whether it was at the CITES meeting that was held earlier this year, or whether it was at other UN conventions, the government has mentioned no plan to implement what will work. Environment Day is on June 5, but the government has no plan.

In the time I have left I want to reiterate that if the government wants to save the lives of 344,000 women a year who die from five preventable causes, obstructed labour, hemorrhage, eclampsia, sepsis, which is a consequence of septic abortions, it has to invest in primary health care. The way to make this operational is to partner with the World Food Program or partner with UNICEF.

I visited a Médecins sans frontières feeding centre in Mali, the epicentre of a famine that put millions of people's lives at risk. What if the government were to partner with UNICEF and the World Food Program and modify those feeding centres so people could access primary health care, a health care worker, medications, diagnostics, potable water, sanitation? If we did that, we would save millions of people's lives.

The government could also use micronutrients, one of our leading discoveries. Twenty milligrams of zinc twice a week can actually reduce mortality from diarrhea and pneumonia by 50%. That is absolutely shocking.

I encourage the government to take a look at the findings that were released in Vancouver three weeks ago at the Pediatric Academic Societies' meeting. I spoke at that meeting, which hosted 6,000 of the top pediatricians in the world.

At that time, a plan that could save millions of lives was released. They asked why Canada was missing in action in these areas. Why was it not helping to operationalize the research to go from bench to bedside? If we get our known research and operationalize that to bedside, we can save lives. We have this huge array of research at our disposal. For a long time we have known what to do, but we have not done it.

Why is the government not taking this enormous opportunity, this moment in time, to save the lives of nine million people a year? Why is it not using that to articulate and mobilize a plan with our G8 partners to implement that which works? It is quite easy to do.

The other thing is on the issue of HIV-AIDS, which receives short shrift from the government. I remind our viewers that the government has taken the Insite supervised injection program in Vancouver to court to stop what a lower court said, which is Insite saves lives. As a medical therapeutic intervention, it can be used to save lives.

What is the government doing? The government is not embracing the medical science. It is taking this to court to prevent people from accessing a life-saving intervention. That is absolutely bizarre. I have never heard of a government saying to its citizens that it is going to take people to court to prevent them from having life-saving interventions.

Another program coming out of St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver is the seek and treat program for HIV-AIDS. Dr. Julio Montaner, Dr. Kerr, Dr. Tyndall and others have done groundbreaking work, which I hope will one day receive a Nobel Prize. The program has the financial support of the province of British Columbia. I strongly encourage the federal government, rather than sticking its head in the sand, to embrace this solution.

The members of the team at St. Paul's, once they find out people are HIV positive, they give them antiretroviral medications. That plummets the number of viral particles to such a low level that a person cannot spread the virus. This means if we cover enough people, we will decrease the number of people who are HIV positive. This is better than a vaccine. If we are able to cover between 75% or more of the population, the number of people who are HIV positive will start to decline. If we only have 50% coverage, the numbers of HIV positive people will continue to increase at a rate of 10% per year.

Because of Dr. Montaner's work, we are stopping the transmission of the virus and decreasing the population of HIV positive people. We are a long way off from a vaccine, but this works now. This would stop a virus that kills 2.2 million people a year worldwide.

This has been so effective in our province of British Columbia. Not a single baby, for example, has been born HIV positive. Although the number of women who are HIV positive and pregnant increased, not a single child born was HIV positive. Without treating the mother, the rate of transmission is 40%. If we treat the mother, the chances of a baby being born HIV positive drops down to less than 2%.

This is remarkable work. It is called the HAART, Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy, and it has been so effective in stopping babies from being born HIV positive.

However, do we see any support from the federal government? No. Why is the government not doing this? Why is it not adopting the science rather than following the ideology? Why does it not adopt and embrace that which works, and has been proven to work, to save lives? Why does it not do what is compassionate? From an economic perspective, every $1 invested in primary care, we invest $4 in savings in health care and we reduce social costs by $20 per $1 invested.

If the government is not willing to work on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, then for heaven's sake, it should listen to its economics. An investment in primary health care will save lives, reduce costs, and improve the ability of countries to get on their feet. The cold, hard reality is that the federal government has shut the door, turned its back, and ignored those interventions that could work.

It has been suggested that the government will pursue a call for more studies at the G8. This means that it is going to wait while millions of people die. It should be investing in the primary health care interventions that can work. All it needs to do is bring together the G8 countries and ensure that each G8 country takes a leadership role in one of the inputs needed in primary care.

For example, Canada can take the role in providing adequate nutrition including micronutrients. The United States can do the work of training primary health care professionals. The French can take on providing a full array of family planning options, including access to abortion services in those countries where it is safe.

In closing, I want to talk briefly about the abortion issue. I think that all of us respect the fact that we have different views on this matter. This is a personal matter and a moral matter for individuals. However, I cannot for the life of me understand why on earth the government is depriving women in countries abroad from being able to have access to the same rights as women do in Canada.

Why on earth would it prevent women living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where 70% of the women in some villages have been raped, from being able to have safe abortions if that is what they want? As I said earlier in my speech, some of these women are raped at gunpoint. They are raped by soldiers. Some of them are young girls. They are being raped and they get pregnant.

These very young girls get pregnant and if they carry the baby to term and have that child in the areas where they are unable to access adequate medical care, they deliver the baby without care. As a result, they either suffer traumatic injuries to their internal organs or die. That is the reality. All of the counselling services in the world is not going to change that. They do not have access to the primary care services that people need. As a result, they are left with some very stark choices.

I see that my time is up. I would just plead with the government. We have given it a plan. It has a plan. If it adopts the plan that is based on science and facts, it will be able to save nine million lives a year.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 Summits
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, before we were interrupted by question period, the hon. member from the Liberal Party was speaking about maternal health. He went on for quite a while about maternal health. I would like him to give me his opinion on why the Prime Minister of Canada would stick his nose in the maternal health of other countries. Is it because of some ideological idea that he has?

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 Summits
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, we were very happy that the Prime Minister announced that maternal and child health would be on the agenda at the G8 summit, but he has also said that he “would not reopen the debate” by depriving women and saying that Canada would not fund access to safe abortions in those countries where it is legal.

That is exactly what the Prime Minister is doing. He has opened up the debate. I did not originally think that he was doing this for political gain, but I now have to think that he is doing this for political gain in order to shore up his base in some quarters in Canada. I think that is unfortunate. The Prime Minister is using the lives of women abroad who do not have access to the basic services we have here.

He is playing Russian roulette with their lives. By depriving them and trying to force the G8 to not deal with access to a full array of family planning options, he is going to be responsible for the deaths of 344,000 women every year. There is also the fact that when a woman dies, half of her children under five also perish. It is a death sentence for her and also a death sentence for half of her children.

I would ask the Prime Minister to look into his heart and ask himself this question. What part of pro-life is that? What part of pro-life is allowing 344,000 women to die every single year from preventable causes? What part of pro-life is having those women's children also perish?

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 Summits
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to clarify, out of respect for you and your authority, that I unequivocally withdrew the word I used regarding the Minister of the Environment and I invite him to join me at any time in the hallway to discuss this in front of the microphones.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 Summits
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for Outremont.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 Summits
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his presentation today. I know he spoke yesterday as well about electronic health records.

We are talking about $1 billion here for security for this summit. Clearly, this member is very supportive of the idea of getting services right to the people without having the big conferences that cost $1 billion in security alone.

I would like to ask the member what he thinks of the idea of having future conferences on a military base, like the one in his own riding of Esquimalt, saving the cost of all the security and using the money for electronic health records or other types of medical research that he has talked about many times in this House?