House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, with proportional representation, we do not have the formula down pat to say that it is the way it should go, but no one is stopped from staying on the list. People have to come from a certain region or a certain province. There are some in one province and some in another province, and we could have a list from all provinces across the country and they will report back.

We would make sure that they get an office, not like the senators who do not have an office in any region of the country. When the House of Commons closes and the Senate closes, the senators are gone. We do not see them any more. Where have the senators gone? They will try to get some money for their party so they get elected again. That is where they have gone. There is no office and no representation.

Someone who is elected by proportional representation would do his or her job for the constituency, for the province, or for the region, which should be the real thing to do, to represent the people not the party.

Opposition Motion—Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate, which serves to expand our reflections on the democratic institutions we need now and will need in the future. Everyone must recognize that there is currently a crisis in terms of traditional democratic representation, not only in Canada and Quebec, but also around the globe. This crisis in representative democracy is even more evident in Canada because of the continued existence of a completely archaic institution: the Senate.

The Bloc Québécois is not afraid of a debate on proportional representation. Everyone knows we do not have a definitive position on this, but we are very open to listening to all kinds of proposals. In a sovereign Quebec, we definitely would not have an archaic institution like the Senate. Perhaps we would have a proportional system or a house to represent the regions. It remains unknown. This allows me to take part in this debate with an open mind regarding the need to improve democratic institutions in all democratic countries.

The motion we are debating, moved by the member for Hamilton Centre, contains two elements. First of all, it talks about a referendum on the question of abolishing the Senate. Second, it proposes appointing a special committee for democratic improvement, whose mandate would be to engage with Canadians to determine what should replace the current system and to advise the government on the wording of a referendum question concerning abolition of the Senate.

We are comfortable with this motion, but on two conditions. The first is that the Senate be abolished only if voted on through a referendum and that, in Quebec, as was the case with Charlottetown in 1992, the referendum be held in accordance with Quebec's Referendum Act, which has already been used three times. This method of consulting the population has proven itself and should help avoid some of the pitfalls experienced in 1995, when the federal government decided not to respect the Referendum Act and made massive investments to support the forces on the no side.

In the debate among Quebeckers, the rules were followed and both the yes and no sides had equivalent means of expressing their points of view. I want to point out right now that we will support the NDP motion, but we must ensure that, in Quebec, the public is consulted in accordance with Quebec laws and regulations. We also agree with abolishing the Senate and with looking at a new voting system that would include elements of the proportional voting system. No other country but Israel has a truly proportional voting system. Most countries with such a voting system have elements of both representation based on ridings and representation based either on regions or on lists presented by political parties. There are a number of possible models. In Quebec during the time of René Lévesque, Robert Burns did some very important work that led to proposed reforms that, unfortunately, were never implemented.

With respect to the debate on a new form of representation in the House including elements of a proportional voting system, there is a set and established rule that Quebec's political weight cannot be less than its current political weight. That is not just one of Quebec's traditional demands. In the Charlottetown accord in 1992, all parties agreed that Quebec's representation within federal institutions should be at 25%. This is nothing new. We are opposed to Bill C-12, which would add 30 seats for the Canadian nation, because the representation of the Quebec nation within federal institutions—essentially this House of Commons—would be less than its current demographic and political weight, which is completely unacceptable for us.

The second condition is that, no matter which model is decided upon, as long as Quebeckers are part of the Canadian political landscape, their political weight within institutions, particularly the House of Commons and future political institutions—who knows, perhaps there might even be proposals to create a house of the regions—must remain as it is now, approximately 25%. That is the spirit as well the actual text of the amendment proposed by my colleague, the member for Québec, who is our democratic reform critic. We want to make it completely clear: the NDP motion will not be acceptable until it is modified by the amendment proposed by the member for Québec.

I would like to come back to the two major elements proposed by the member for Hamilton Centre. I will start with the abolition of the Senate. The Bloc Québécois has been calling for the abolition of the Senate for a very long time. The institution is completely archaic and dates to colonial times; it is a British legacy. High society has always distrusted the public. When the House of Commons was created, a counterbalance was thought to be necessary, as in London, consisting of representatives from society's elite to balance the decisions of those less thoughtful and rational than the elite. At that time, it was a question of the nobility and the upper classes. Now it is a question of Conservative organizers and friends of the regime. That is how it was with the Liberals, and that is how it is now with the Conservatives. It is an undemocratic counterbalance to the House, which is filled with democratically elected representatives of the people. It is completely archaic.

At the time, this fear of allowing the common people, the masses, to make decisions was reflected in American institutions as well. Tradition dictates that the electoral college votes according to the way the people in the various states have chosen their presidential electors. If, in the state of Massachusetts, for example, the majority of voters decide that the Democratic candidate should become president, then the presidential electors of that state will vote against the choice of the people of their state. However, there have been times when the presidential electors did not agree to vote for the candidate that had received the most support. That system was put in place after the American revolution, with the independence of the United States. It created a sort of second class. After the popular vote, there were these presidential electors who chose the president. This goes back to a time when the emerging democracy frightened the ruling elite.

The Canadian Senate is a legacy of that; it is a counterbalance. A few weeks ago, the Senate agreed to the decisions made by the House of Commons. Now, the Conservative-controlled Senate has decided to block bills adopted in the House by the majority of the members elected by the people. This is totally unacceptable. This only further proves the importance of getting rid of this archaic institution.

We have been in favour of abolishing the Senate for a very long time. However, let us not forget that the Senate is part of a constitutional agreement. We can certainly hold a consultative referendum on abolishing the Senate—and I hope the yes side wins—but there will have to be constitutional negotiations with Quebec and the provinces to determine how the Senate will be abolished and what will replace it.

The second element, a proportional voting system, or some of its aspects, will also require constitutional negotiations with Quebec and the provinces. Naturally, the special committee could make a certain number of recommendations and outline some options, but all decisions would require constitutional negotiations. As I have said from the beginning, we have one immutable condition: Quebec's political representation cannot be lowered, and Quebec must maintain its current political weight, at about 25%.

The House of Commons recognized the Quebec nation some time ago. Unfortunately, none of the federalist parties has wanted to implement measures to give tangible expression to this recognition. I introduced a bill on the application of the Charter of the French Language to the corporations and the 250,000 workers under federal jurisdiction in Quebec. We wanted Bill 101 to apply to these 250,000 workers. But once again, all the Liberals and Conservatives opposed this measure. The NDP was divided, but the majority of its members voted to not apply the Charter of the French Language to Quebec corporations under federal jurisdiction.

Although the Quebec nation has been recognized by the House, all federalist parties have always banded together to prevent this recognition from having a tangible expression. For me it is just a symbolic gesture. However, it will prove to be extremely useful when we win the referendum, which should happen soon with the election of the Parti Québécois in Quebec. Because Canada has recognized the Quebec nation, it will have no choice but to recognize Quebec's decision to embrace sovereignty. Although the recognition is symbolic, it is extremely important to Quebec and the sovereignist movement.

The federalist parties have not yet wanted to give tangible expression to the recognition of the Quebec nation. However, the political representation of Quebec regions in the House of Commons, and in any future institution, will have to be 25%. Although this does not appear in the motion, I am opening a door, I am engaging in fictional politics. The special committee could decide to establish a second chamber with different representation from, for example, the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairie provinces and British Columbia. We believe this is imperative and it must be even clearer because the House of Commons has recognized the Quebec nation.

This is an important debate. In my opinion, the Liberal member raised a very important issue. In the debates that were held in Quebec, we discussed at length the difference between members who would be elected on the basis of their ridings and those who would be elected on the basis of the lists suggested by the political parties. There are advantages and disadvantages to both systems. What would be best is a combination of the systems in which proportional representation would be used but the regions and ridings would also have a say in the choice of members.

Personally, I see a problem in having some members be accountable to their constituents on the basis of their riding and others chosen on the basis of a party list. That is why I would prefer, particularly in a sovereign Quebec, that there be both proportional representation in the National Assembly and another chamber where the regions are represented to ensure that the voices of the smallest regions are not completely drowned out by the proportional representation. We could easily have a chamber with proportional representation, like the National Assembly, and another with more regional representation but still chosen via an electoral process. Such a system would ensure that representatives of that chamber would be linked to a region—in my case it would be the Lanaudière region—a little bit like in the American system.

I would like to close by saying that, for us, the best way to guarantee higher democratic standards in Quebec would be for Quebec to become a sovereign nation with full authority. That is our first priority. The Bloc Québécois has proven time and time again that it is not here to reform Canadian institutions or to prevent reform. However, we want it to be understood that our priority is certainly not to work toward the abolition of the Senate or toward a system of proportional representation across Canada but rather to work toward Quebec sovereignty.

Opposition Motion—Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 5:15 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, March 8 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Opposition Motion—Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent to see the clock as 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion—Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is that agreed?

Opposition Motion—Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from January 31 consideration of Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House this evening to speak in support of Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.

I strongly urge all members to support the bill and the amendments put forward by my hon. colleagues from Halifax and from Windsor West, calling for a one license solution to cut the red tape currently preventing the sale of generic drugs overseas and to also restore the definition of pharmaceutical products to protect the knowledge developed by name brand drug manufacturers. Accepting these amendments will simultaneously help those in the developing world and will also protect the investment and the knowledge developed by pharmaceutical companies.

On May 14, 2004, the Martin Liberal government passed Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act (The Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa). This act established the legal framework for Canada's Access to Medicine Regime, or CAMR, which sought to balance Canada's trade and intellectual property obligations with the humanitarian objectives set out in Bill C-9 and help us honour our commitment to realize the sixth millennium development goal to combat HIV and AIDS.

Despite this act's best intentions, CAMR was unsuccessful in its objective to facilitate timely access to generic versions of patented drugs for people in the least developed or developing countries to fight HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases. This act's complexities are blamed for the daunting inability and serious obstacles to the supply of generic drugs to fight HIV-AIDS in the developing world. As a result, drugs have only been delivered to one country on one single occasion, Rwanda.

Parliamentarians have made a number of attempts to fix the obstacles preventing the shipment of generic drugs to those who need it. Now we have another opportunity to meaningfully help those in need. The opportunity is right now. We have the chance to pass Bill C-393, which will help to clear these obstacles and reduce the complexity of the current CAMR regime, so we can begin to deliver on our pledge to improve the health of the world's poorest people. It is absolutely imperative that we do so, to stop people from dying when they could be living and to alleviate suffering when they could be blessed with an extension of their lives for their own well-being and the well-being of their entire family.

The statistics are alarming. There are more than 33 million people living with HIV-AIDS globally, 22.5 million of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. Three-quarters of all AIDS related deaths since 2008 occurred in Africa. There are 2.3 million children infected with HIV. One in two children with HIV in the developing world dies before their second birthday. Less than 15% of the children who need treatment are getting it. More than half a million children die of AIDS every year. Every day 7,100 people become infected with AIDS.

Yet statistics themselves can be desensitizing, thrown around at random to make a point. I have a hard time conceptualizing what 2.3 million children infected with HIV really means, so I thought I would put this into perspective.

I recall a documentary called Paper Clips, where children in a middle school in Tennessee, attempting to grasp the enormity of just how big the number six million really was, gathered six million paper clips, one for each life. If we did the same and placed the clips in boxes of 100, just like the ones we have in our offices, the number of children with HIV in developing countries would equal the number of paper clips contained in 23,000 of these boxes.

Let me give the House another comparison. Thirty-three million people in the world are living with HIV-AIDS globally. That is the entire population of Canada. Imagine attempting to treat this many people in a meaningful way, with our hands tied because of ineffective and cumbersome legislation that we can now change.

Developing countries in Africa are already suffering from the government's withdrawal of foreign aid dollars, which in part resulted in our loss of a seat at the United Nations Security Council. We must not allow this ambivalence to prevail.

If we do not vote for this bill, we will wake tomorrow and we as a country will be no better able to help the 7,100 newly-infected people with HIV tomorrow. Nor will we be in a position to prevent another 7,100 people from becoming infected two days from now. Today we have to make a choice and there is only one right decision. I am voting for Bill C-393. I am voting for helping people in need and for doing what is right. I implore everyone in the House to do the same.

I am acutely aware of the way HIV-AIDS destroys the lives of people, having personally witnessed this epidemic while doing international aid work in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the city with the highest incidents of AIDS in Central America at the time I was there. As part of my continuing international aid work in central and South America, I have helped build schools in the hope that knowledge and health education can keep children safe and help prevent the infection of HIV.

A 2008 UN report estimated that seven million cases of AIDS could be prevented in the next decade if every child received a primary education.

I am also aware of the impact that AIDS can have through my work with Anne-Marie Zajdlik and the Masai Centre for the treatment of AIDS in Guelph while on the Bracelets of Hope Campaign, where we raised over $1 million selling red and white beaded bracelets made by the women of Lesotho in southern Africa to fund AIDS treatment centres in that country.

In discussing this bill, Dr. Zajdlik said:

In the last 5 years I have treated hundreds of HIV positive children...Despite our best attempts, many, many of these children died.

In our world of unprecedented wealth, information and technology, no child should die of a preventable disease. The life saving miracle of medicine and medical technology is part of the intellectual property of the world and should be made available to all.

Prevention has to be taken seriously. This can be achieved in several ways. Building schools, improving educational programming, increasing HIV testing and treatment sites are but some. We must also facilitate the provision of antiretroviral drugs, or ARVs, that actually prevent the transmission of AIDS from a pregnant woman to her newborn. Providing these drugs will prevent infant deaths and will save hundreds of thousands of children from suffering from HIV-AIDS.

In 2009, 370,000 children were infected with HIV during the perinatal and breast-feeding period of growth. That is 370,000 children who could have been saved through the use of ARVs and other HIV-AIDS drugs that would have prevented the transmission of this virus. That is another 370,000 children who would not have grown into adulthood with the risk of passing HIV onto others.

While resources need to be devoted to preventing HIV-AIDS, we must also acknowledge that we need to do our part to help treat HIV-AIDS in the developing world until it is eradicated. That means developing the best legislation and regulatory system possible to ensure that generic and affordable medication is available for those who need it.

According to a 2010 UN report, access to antiretroviral drugs has resulted in a gain of 14.2 million life years worldwide. In Botswana, AIDS-related deaths fell from 18,000 deaths in 2002 to 9,100 deaths in 2009 as a result of antiretroviral drug use. Accordingly the rate of children orphaned by AIDS fell by 40%. This is not only a matter of life and death; it is also an enormous moral and social issue.

The House should be grateful for the efforts of the Guelph GoGo Grandmothers who have nobly and passionately worked towards the passage of this legislation. I can feel the impact that its members have had on the House. I sincerely hope its efforts have not been in vain.

If we pass this bill and embrace this noble strategy, we can prolong lives and prevent the transmission of this insidious disease. Imagine a world without AIDS, where people could live and thrive knowing that they would live to be able to provide for their loved ones and raise their children with the knowledge that they could have a child without transmitting HIV to them, a world where their energy could be spent productively contributing to their families, communities and economies.

Wishing this to be true will not make this happen. We must be intentional in our efforts to pass legislation so it will happen. I implore the members to vote with me in favour of Bill C-393 and make it happen.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

March 3rd, 2011 / 5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this evening's debate at the report stage of Bill C-393. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Canadian Access to Medicines Regime, which was created to facilitate the development and sale of low-cost generic medicines to developing countries.

Bill C-393 was introduced in the House on May 25, 2009, by the former member for Winnipeg North so that this regime, which has been used only once so far, would be more flexible and therefore used more often. In fact, these changes were called for by the only generic pharmaceutical company to have ever used the regime. It sent a clear message that if the changes are not made, it would never use the regime again. However, we have been advised that, if Bill C-393 passes, it has promised to create and distribute a drug for the treatment of HIV infection among children in Africa.

Since we began examining the bill, the Bloc Québécois has always remained completely open and carefully studied the impact of the changes that Bill C-393 would bring to the Canadian Access to Medicines Regime. We have made it very clear from the beginning that we did not want the House of Commons to limit itself only to the study of Bill C-393. One of our biggest concerns was the importance of seeing more low-cost medicines distributed to some of the world's most needy populations.

Once again, we believe that other solutions, no doubt more consensual, could have been considered. For that to happen, Parliament would have had to clearly express its desire to reflect on this very important question without any partisan agendas. However, as he himself indicated on January 31, 2011, my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes was unable to convince the members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology to take an interest in studying the regime as a whole.

How can we balance the objectives of Bill C-393 with the concerns that have been raised, such as respect for the requirements of our participation in the World Trade Organization, the need to encourage research and innovation of pharmaceutical products and respect for the altruistic spirit of the act that created the regime in 2004—the objective of which was not to create a tool to export medication for commercial purposes? We can do so simply by more closely monitoring its application to ensure that these irritants are simple concerns and not real problems. Today, the real problem is that there are entire segments of poor societies that are struggling with infectious and communicable diseases. This has reached proportions so high that it is impossible to turn a blind eye and do nothing. Today, we have the only option before us here, which is the passing of Bill C-393.

Of course, when the bill came out of committee some amendments were needed to bring out the essence of the bill. That is why the member for Halifax moved two motions that were then amended by the member for Windsor West. As we have said before, we are in favour of their adoption.

However, a third motion was moved by the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes, which is pragmatic, something that is more than necessary in this case. Since it is impossible to eliminate all of the potential irritants of passing Bill C-393 by studying the information available, without any concrete examples, we believe that we must create some examples.

Need I remind members that one single global transaction took place through Canada's access to medicines regime? This was the sale of antiretrovirals to Rwanda by Canadian company Apotex. We must experiment and use the modified regime to prove that all of the concerns were unfounded, while assuming our responsibilities as legislators and not disregarding the concerns raised by experts. This inspired my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes to propose this sunset clause. He wants to create a sort of pilot project.

Pilot projects are strong tools to test and evaluate programs. They must not prevent decisions from being made. On the contrary, they should make decisions easier. That is why we agree that a fundamental part of the clause proposed by the Bloc Québécois is missing, which is feedback. What will we do, as parliamentarians, at the end of the pilot project?

Motion No. 3 is silent on this issue. That is why in a few moments I will be proposing a major amendment that will require hon. members to re-evaluate the plan in order, if possible, not to interrupt a plan that has contributed significantly to making a difference in getting drugs to countries that struggle, despite poverty, to bring relief to their sick.

I also propose making another major change resulting from the fact that in this matter, as in all matters brought to our attention, we have continued to listen to the people. When we were asked why we proposed a pilot project for four years, the answer was easy. It seemed and continues to seem clear to us that at the end of that period of time we would have seen concrete results from the changes made. If, at the end of four years, nothing has happened, then we will have to admit that the officials who told us that Bill C-393 would not change anything were right. However, one argument made us stop and think. What would happen to a drug being distributed at the very moment that the four years were over?

To prevent a drug from being withheld for that reason and to truly give Parliament enough time to study this new plan with access to real examples provided by the manufacturers and exporters of these new generic drugs, and, if possible, to make permanent the changes suggested by Bill C-393 before the sunset clause takes effect, we agree with the proposal made by a stakeholder we have encountered many times, to extend the trial period from four years to ten years. Therefore, there is every reason to adopt Motions No. 1 and No. 2, and Motion No. 3, as amended, in order to allow the desired changes to the plan to be made while ensuring that the plan remains consistent with the spirit of the legislation adopted in 2004.

Therefore, seconded by the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead, I move that motion No. 3 of January 31, 2010, be amended by replacing the words following “The provisions of this Act that amend the Patent Act” with the following:

“shall cease to apply on the day that is the tenth anniversary of the day on which this Act comes into force unless, before that day, the application of those provisions is subject to a comprehensive review by the standing committee designated by the House of Commons for that purpose, that committee recommends that they be maintained and the House of Commons approves that recommendation.”

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The amendment is in order.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues from the Bloc for that amendment. We see it as a friendly and constructive amendment.

Bill C-393 has been debated at great length in this House. We have heard the reasons for it. I would remind members of the House that this is an urgent call to help and that we are talking about 2.3 million children under the age of 15 who are infected right now with HIV. We can help those who are in need of help right now.

One in two children with HIV in the developing world dies before reaching his or her second birthday. Let us think about that. Many of us in this House have children. Fifty per cent of those who contract the virus die, not because they cannot be helped, but because we are not able to help them right now.

That is what the bill is about. It is about life and death, and this House can decide to help save lives. It is that simple.

When we look at the numbers, there is despair, but there is hope. The despair is what the virus does. The hope is what we can do in the House today. What I just saw from my colleagues in the Bloc, what I have heard from my colleagues in the Conservative Party who support the bill and what I heard from my colleagues in the Liberal Party show that the will is there. It is goodwill. It is about people living up to their principles. It is about people putting aside their partisan differences. It is about people listening to the people who need our help. We have heard those voices loud and clear, some of us who have been to Africa.

When I went to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I saw a warehouse for medicines that could help save children and that warehouse was half empty. They want to see a supply of medicines and by passing this legislation, as amended, we can fill that warehouse to ensure those medicines get to the people who need it.

On another visit after I went to see that warehouse in the Congo a couple of years ago, was to some of the clinics where huge progress has been made to identify the HIV-AIDS virus.

However, if they do not have the medicines to help those who have been identified, then they will perish.

We are here today to look at the bill to ensure it can be amended and improve what the House passed previously.

I want to address, very directly, the amendments. If we are not able to get the one licence solution back in, as my colleagues know, then this bill is not worthy of going ahead. We cannot pretend. If the one licence solution is not put back in, the bill will not be worth the paper it is written on, and my colleagues know that.

To those who have concerns about compliance with WTO regulations, they will know it has been analyzed by experts and it is compliant. So, that argument does not hold weight. They know there are provisions and the amendments in the bill that would ensure standards are kept. We have ensured in the bill and the amendments that have been made that there are no concerns around leakage, in other words, that drugs would go to other countries. It is very precise. These drugs would go to the countries that have been put in the legislation.

We have an opportunity to put forward an innovative solution to help the millions of children who need it. We have an opportunity to improve something that this country has innovated. We have an opportunity, which excites me, to work together as parliamentarians to do something to help save lives.

I salute the people who have worked on this. I have been blessed with the opportunity to take the bill at this point. Many people have referenced my colleague from Winnipeg who started this, but it is because of every member in this House that I stand here today able to debate this bill.

Another thing happened in this place that was unusual and was welcomed. I put aside the bill I had and because of unanimity in the House, I was allowed to pick this bill up at the stage it was at. That means each party had to oblige.

I thank every member in the House for that. If members of the NDP did not get that support, we would have been unable to debate the bill. It does not matter whether members are in favour of the bill or not. I, the NDP members and the people who have worked on the bill thank each and every member of Parliament for that.

It is important to note that what we are talking about is, yes, saving lives. However, it also addresses what is happening in the world in terms of the disease itself. As we know, it is an HIV virus, which is mutating and changing, and we need medical regimes and medicines to change along with the virus. That is happening.

However, another thing is happening. As we know, countries like India have been trying since 2000 to become compliant with the WTO. They are unable to provide the same generic regimes they had in the past, so it requires innovation. We just do not have the drugs to support the people who need them now. The bill would help deal with that challenge.

For those who wonder what the bill can do, it can show the way forward to deal with not only the changes required in the regime of medicines needed, because of the change in the virus, but it will ensure that the progress made, with over five million lives saved in the last number of years, will continue. If we do not, make absolutely no mistake about it, we will potentially be going backward. Why? Because the drugs, which have worked so successfully, have to respond to the way in which the HIV virus and others are changing and mutating.

We cannot stand still. We have to continue to move ahead, and the bill is all about that. There are no concerns about WTO compliance. There are no concerns about quality controls. There are no concerns about leakage to other jurisdictions in terms of the drugs being sent somewhere else. They are in the bill and we would have oversight.

The only challenge is for the House to pass the bill, as amended. If we can do that, if we can put aside our differences, as we have before, and let our partisan shields down and ask what is the best for the people on the receiving end of these drugs, then we can show what Parliament is about. It is about working together from time to time. We have done that on a couple of occasions.

One of the proudest moments for all of us was witnessing, for instance, the apology to first nations. I will never forget that day and I hope we can do that again with this bill.

People are watching. I want to ask all of us to acknowledge the work that has been done by activists and civil society members. The grandmothers have been tireless and vigilant and have understood the importance of Canada working in solidarity with people in other countries. It is the finest example of what Canada and other activists, particularly from the coalition for HIV-AIDS, can do.

At the end of the day, it is very simple. I ask my colleagues to support the bill, as amended, so we can do what we can to help the people who need it. That is what I hope we will do. I hope next week all my colleagues will see fit to pass the bill. I look forward to them supporting it.

Business of Supply
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to designate Tuesday, March 8 and Thursday, March 10 as allotted days.

(Bill C-61. On the Order: Governments Orders:)

March 3, 2011—Second reading of Bill C-61, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members—Minister of Foreign Affair.

Freezing Assets of Corrupt Regimes Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I believe you would find unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, Bill C-61, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Freezing Assets of Corrupt Regimes Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Does the government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?