House of Commons Hansard #96 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was drugs.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Drug Shortages
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, if we look at the situation in France and the United States, pharmaceutical companies have a legal obligation to clearly report any time there is a shortage of pharmaceutical products. It is mandatory, not voluntary. If there is a drug shortage, companies must clearly report it to governments.

In my opinion, this problem is not uniquely Canadian. It does not stop at any borders; it is a global problem. That is one more reason for this government to fulfill its responsibilities. Indeed, it will be the government that goes before the World Health Assembly to work with the UN and the international institutions in order to really try to understand this problem.

I am not saying that it is a simple problem; not at all. What I am saying is that, so far, the federal government has adopted the position that this does not come under its jurisdiction. I hope I have clearly demonstrated that, from a legal standpoint, from a constitutional standpoint, this is a shared jurisdiction and the federal government does have considerable responsibilities here.

Opposition Motion—Drug Shortages
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, I have to let her know that we will need to interrupt her at 15 minutes after the hour.

The hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.

Opposition Motion—Drug Shortages
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in the House in support of the motion tabled by my colleague, the member of Parliament for Vancouver East. I commend her for bringing forward this motion, the only action that has come forward in response to the complete inaction by the government. I also commend her for bringing forward the emergency debate in the House, which gave elected members an opportunity to express their concerns and propose constructive action.

The supply of drugs is indeed a critical issue. I found it profoundly disturbing during the emergency debate to have our federal Minister of Health continually refer to “clients”. This is not an issue of pharmaceutical companies and supply to clients and continuing the supply and profitability of the pharmaceutical industry. This is an issue of patient care. I found the whole approach taken by the senior official in the Government of Canada, who is supposed to be upholding the protection of health care for Canadians, absolutely astounding.

The Conservative government desires to be government but it denies or ignores its duty to govern. We have seen this in environment and we now see it in health care. Canadians have been clear that it has long been the number one issue for Canadians. People are concerned about the continuance of quality public health care. Now we have, yet again, another crisis.

Was it earlier this week or last week that we had the crisis of OxyContin? Again, the federal government said it was nothing to do with the federal government and there was nothing the federal government had to do. As my colleague in the House stated, we continually hear denial from the federal government, that it is a provincial issue. We had one of the representatives of the Conservative Party again remonstrating, suggesting that it is absolutely not an area of federal jurisdiction.

I concur with my colleague who spoke before me that one of the most obvious sources is the Canada Health Act. I would like to bring to the attention of the House that it is not the only federal statute which prescribes a duty and a power for the federal government to intervene in the protection of Canadians' health. As the hon. member mentioned, section 3 of the Canada Health Act very clearly states:

It is hereby declared that the primary objective of Canadian health care policy is to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.

Clearly, this is exactly the situation we have come into. We have a one-source supply. Regardless of whose fault it was or who signed up to provide the drugs, this is the scenario. The Government of Canada's mandate under the statute is to ensure this law is abided by and enforced. So if there is a scenario where provinces are inappropriately relying on unreliable suppliers of drugs, it is the federal government's obligation to intervene and work co-operatively with the provinces.

There is a second statute that lays out the responsibilities and mandate of the Minister of Health. As a lawyer, the first thing I do in determining whether there is a federal mandate is go to the law. I would encourage the government to actually looking at the mandate for the portfolios it delivers. In this case, that is the Department of Health Act. This is similar to the Minister of the Environment whose mandate is under the Department of the Environment Act and so on. What does the Department of Health Act say? It very clearly states:

The Minister’s powers, duties and functions relating to health include the following matters:... the promotion and preservation of the physical, mental and social well-being of the people of Canada... the protection of the people of Canada against risks to health and the spreading of diseases... cooperation with provincial authorities with a view to the coordination of efforts made or proposed for reserving and improving public health.

Very clearly, additional power is given to intervene. Section 11 of that act states:

The Governor in Council may make regulations to give effect to and carry out the objects of this Act.

There are very clear regulatory powers to ensure that Canadians across this country have equal, fair access to quality health care for an affordable cost.

I have heard from constituents. I have also heard from constituents who are oncologists and they are gravely concerned at the inaction of the government in this crisis. These oncologists have to make a choice between reducing their patients' pain or conserving medicines that might be more critically needed. It is an absolutely reprehensible scenario and the government should be stepping in.

I give full credit to the Alberta minister of health who has stepped up to the plate and said that he will lead the charge and try to find the drugs that are necessary for Canadians. Kudos for him stepping in and doing that. He has admitted that he is looking far afield and it may be difficult. He is projecting a long-term shortage and has stated that we are in a critical scenario. This is all the more reason for the government to step up to the plate and take the action specifically laid out in the motion put forward by my colleague from Vancouver East.

I would like to close with some of the statements from the doctors in my riding, who are calling on the government to take action on ensuring that the approval of alternative drugs is expedited. The Auditor General of Canada has indicated there is a problem in this area. That is a measure that is included in our motion. We call on the government to step up to the plate and take action on what the Auditor General has recommended.

On behalf of the people of Canada, could the government please be seized of its mandated responsibilities and take action on this critical matter facing the people of Canada?

Opposition Motion—Drug Shortages
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

It being 5:15 p.m., and today being the last allotted day for the supply period ending March 26, 2012, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Opposition Motion—Drug Shortages
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion—Drug Shortages
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Opposition Motion—Drug Shortages
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion—Drug Shortages
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion—Drug Shortages
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion—Drug Shortages
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #162

Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the amendment carried.

The next question is on the main motion, as amended.

Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, I believe you would find unanimous consent to apply the results from the previous vote to the current motion, with Conservatives voting yes.

Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.