House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

7:05 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe
New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak in support of the amendments to the conditional sentencing regime contained in Bill C-10, the safe streets and communities act. We will have another go at convincing the opposition to stand up for law-abiding Canadians.

Canadians support the government's commitment to make our streets and communities safer, which includes ensuring that house arrest is not a sentencing option for serious and violent crimes. The safety and well-being of Canadians is fundamental.

The government has been forthright about its estimated federal costs of the impact of Bill C-10. As the Ministers of Justice and Public Safety said during their October 6, 2011 appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the costs to the federal government to implement Bill C-10 will be $78.6 million over five years. These costs relate to the reforms on child sexual offences and on serious drug offences. They also confirmed that there are no federal costs associated with Bill C-10's proposed conditional sentencing reforms.

To understand this, one need only look to the actual criteria governing when a conditional sentence is available. Bill C-10 spells out clearly that identified offences will not be eligible for conditional sentences rather than leaving it to the interpretation as to whether an offence is ineligible because it is a serious personal injury offence.

Bill C-10 would not change the criteria that say that a conditional sentence is only possible if the sentencing court is of the opinion that a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years is warranted. As we all know, federal correctional responsibility only relates to sentences that are two years or longer. Therefore, it should be clear to the members that Bill C-10' conditional sentence reforms do not apply to federal sentences of imprisonment.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer's analysis of the amendments to the availability of conditional sentences contained in Bill C-10 raises many questions about how he arrived at his cost estimates and the basis for making many of his assumptions.

For instance, one of the most troubling assumptions made in the Parliamentary Budget Officer's analysis is that the proposed amendments to the availability of conditional sentences will result in less individuals pleading guilty. This consideration is not applicable to conditional sentences because there is no certainty that house arrest will be given for a particular offence, only that it is never available if the offence in question is punishable by a mandatory minimum penalty of imprisonment.

Guilty pleas are often the result of plea bargaining, which will continue to be available in appropriate cases. The incentive to plead guilty should be the same after these amendments come into force as it was before. There has been no change.

Another puzzling assumption in the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report is that it estimates that about 4,500 offenders would have to serve a prison sentence because they will no longer be eligible for house arrest once Bill C-10 comes into force. However, the analysis does not differentiate whether the offence was prosecuted by indictment or by summary conviction. I would remind all members that offences prosecuted by summary conviction and that do not carry a mandatory minimum penalty will still be eligible for house arrest.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer's report also assumes that offenders who receive a conditional sentence of imprisonment successfully complete their sentence. However, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics has noted that up to 37% of conditional sentences are breached, which represents additional costs as a result of subsequent court appearances.

Consequently, the Parliamentary Budget Officer underestimates the current costs related to conditional sentences and consequently overestimates the cost impact of the proposed amendments. That is a total misdirection on his part. In my view, the estimates are very problematic.

Canadians have given the government a strong mandate to bring forward these reforms and that is what Bill C-10 delivers.

April 23rd, 2012 / 7:10 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the parliamentary secretary that the methodology in the report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer was excellent and peer reviewed by seven independent academics. Therefore, if the Conservatives do not like the methodology for ideological reasons that is too bad.

The government says that there will be no cost to the federal government. The Parliamentary Budget Officer comes up with a figure of $8 million. Most of the costs would go to the provinces of some $148 million. Those are the kinds of numbers we are talking about for a very small portion of Bill C-10.

The Conservatives talked about saving money by closing down prisons last week. They said that they will save $124 million. However, what they do not mention is that last year they increased the costs of Correctional Service Canada by $575 million with just one piece of legislation, the so-called two-for-one bill, which increased those costs.

Again we see the public being misled by a failure to disclose the full figures and a trashing of the Parliamentary Budget Officer when he does independent peer reviewed studies and makes them available to Parliament.

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the government has been clear about the objectives of Bill C-10. It responds to the strong mandate that Canadians gave the government to ensure that serious crimes, including violent crimes, result in appropriate sentences that appropriately reflect the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. It realizes Canadians' expectations that those who commit serious and violent offences will never get to serve their sentences in the comfort of their homes.

As I said earlier, the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report relies on puzzling assumptions to estimate federal costs for Bill C-10's conditional sentence reforms when the government has stated that there are none.

The report also seems to ignore the cost of crime to victims. In 2008 crime in Canada cost an estimated $99 billion, the majority of which, $82.5 billion or 83%, was borne by the victims. Victim costs include a range of damages, such as stolen property, pain and suffering, loss of income and health services.

The government has clearly acknowledged that implementation of Bill C-10 will have federal cost implications, but only with respect to the child sexual offences and serious drug offences. This is a cost for which the government is fully prepared because the cost of doing nothing far exceeds the cost of fighting crime. Something had to be done, and it was.

I would note that parliamentarians heard from many witnesses who appeared on Bill C-10, before both the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, who supported the restrictions to the availability of conditional sentences.

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, for several years Canada has been facing drug shortages. This is a worldwide situation and it has worsened in the last 10 years. We now know that some drugs are produced only by certain multinational pharmaceutical companies and there are fewer and fewer suppliers, particularly for generic drugs.

When a company stops producing a drug it is disastrous. As we saw in the case of Sandoz, no notice was given to inform Canadians of a possible disruption in production.

The provinces, doctors, pharmacists and nurses are all aware of the situation, which is causing more and more problems. That same goes for the federal government. And yet nothing has changed at Health Canada. No long-term plan has been made to deal with these repeated shortages.

On March 7, when we were in the middle of the shortage and surgeries were being postponed in Quebec, I asked the Minister of Health of Canada why she had no plan to guarantee drug quality and avoid future shortfalls. The Minister of Health replied that it was the responsibility of the provinces, the industry and even health professionals to remedy the situation.

How can a responsible government claim that it has no role to play in an issue as crucial as the approval and supply of drugs?

Do I have to point out that we are talking about essential, life-saving products?

Contrary to what the minister thinks, Canada can and must play a leading role. The United States, New Zealand, Sweden and France, to name only a few countries, have all enacted legislation to prevent shortages of essential drugs.

Last week, pharmacists and doctors in Quebec released a report about supply disruptions. After months of studies, the experts concluded that the federal government, the provinces and the industry had to take action to address the crisis. Some recommendations are direct echoes of the motion that was introduced in this House by the NDP and unanimously adopted.

Among other things, that report said that Canada should adopt a national vision and an action plan for access to essential drugs, which would be developed by the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health. The committee of experts also recommends that Health Canada adapt its regulations to prevent future shortages, in particular by requiring suppliers to give notice of supply disruptions. That is exactly what the motion proposed by the NDP says.

The federal government must create better regulations and show some leadership by immediately beginning a dialogue with the provinces in order to improve access to essential medicines. Quebec's health minister, Mr. Bolduc, with whom I had the opportunity to discuss this issue two weeks ago, also said that the federal government must play a role in this area. He is prepared to work with the government to prevent future shortages.

If we want to ensure the efficiency of the entire supply chain, all levels of government must work together and in partnership with the industry and health care professionals. The provinces alone cannot solve the problem, because approval is the federal government's responsibility. Other people are saying that the solution should be global. Once again, this kind of international co-operation comes under federal jurisdiction.

For the past three years, pharmacists, anesthesiologists and doctors have all been sounding the alarm and calling on the federal government to intervene. Why does the government refuse to act? Why have all of the potential solutions proposed by expert panels been so easily dismissed by the federal government?

Will the government finally agree to work with the provinces, the industry and health professionals in order to come up with solutions to this crisis, or will it continue to blame everyone else and shirk its responsibilities?

7:15 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, there has never been any doubt about the quality of medicinal drugs produced in our country. That includes the drugs manufactured at the plant in Boucherville.

Health Canada regulates the quality, safety and effectiveness of drugs manufactured in Canada as well as those manufactured elsewhere and sold in this country.

As we have said all along, this shortage results from decisions by the provinces and territories to sole source drug contracts. If there is only one supplier of a drug and that supplier stops production for any reason, then there could be a shortage.

A drug supply system that is built on purchases from a single supplier will leave customers vulnerable if there is an interruption in production. To avoid future shortfalls, many changes will need to be made to the drug supply system. That will require the participation of all the players if we are to reduce the number of shortages and to reduce the impact on patients.

For its part, Health Canada as the regulator is able to use a variety of tools to minimize the impact of shortages felt by Canadians and their health care practitioners. This includes expediting reviews of submissions for new products to replace those in short supply and to fast-track submissions to use new production facilities.

Health Canada is working around the clock to address the issue by identifying new suppliers for the provinces and territories and fast-tracking approvals. In fact, the department has approved 18 replacement drugs and more than 120 drugs through the special access program.

Health Canada is facilitating communications with provincial and territorial governments and is working with international colleagues. In addition, the Public Health Agency of Canada has offered the provinces and territories access to products held in the national emergency stockpile system to offset the drug shortages.

Finding long-term solutions to address drug shortages has been one of the Minister of Health's top priorities. Health Canada is working with industry and stakeholders to ensure they are getting the information they need about potential or actual shortages. Accurate information will allow doctors and patients to adjust treatments.

Industry has responded to the Minister of Health's call for public notification of shortages. Rx&D and the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association have each contributed $100,000 to the start-up of a national one-stop website for notification of drug shortages.

This site, drugshortages.ca, is up and running. Industry can now go to this one site to provide accurate and timely information about drug shortages for health care professionals and all Canadians. This will go a long way to improve transparency and to get health professionals the information they need to manage drug shortages.

When supplies are interrupted, hospitals, clinics and health professionals implement strategies to ensure the most efficient use of existing supplies and to minimize impacts on patients. They keep patients advised of the supply situation in each facility and community and adjust treatment schedules and procedures if needed.

Our government is very much aware of the concern Canadians are feeling because of the threat of shortages of medicinal drugs and medications. Health Canada is encouraging industry and the provinces and territories to continue to collaborate on measures beyond information sharing in order to create stability in their supply chains and prevent drug shortages from occurring.

We are taking steps to mitigate the impact of the drug shortage circumstances and we will continue to work with industry, provinces and territories and health care professionals to put the needs of Canadians first.

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it quite ironic that the hon. member for Simcoe—Grey is responding when she is the one who told the Standing Committee on Health that the federal government had no role to play in the matter of drug shortages. I think that diminishes the credibility of her testimony today.

If it is true that the federal government accelerated drug approvals to deal with the shortage of generic drugs resulting from the production shutdown at the Sandoz factory, then it was a temporary measure that came too late. Is it not true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?

Canada needs to have a strategy, a long-term plan for anticipating, identifying and managing drug shortages. This has to come from the federal government and must be done in concert with the provinces and territories.

The pharmaceutical industry cannot and must not regulate itself. We have to ensure that the drug producers adopt best practices for managing production and supply. For example, a number of countries, including France and the United States, require manufacturers to provide a notice for the end of production. Also, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration plays a coordination role. The Drug Shortages program helped prevent 38 drug shortages in 2010 and 195 in 2011.

It is thus possible to better manage shortages and to prevent them, and that is what we are asking the federal government to do. We are asking it to take concrete measures to prevent shortages in the future.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, while there is a new twist of potential drug shortages due to recent events, the threat of shortages is not new. Nor is it limited to Canada. Drug shortages are a challenge globally and Canada is not immune. It is a situation the Minister of Health has been working to rectify in a number of ways and has made it her top priority.

Health Canada is working with governments around the world to draw on experiences and identify opportunities for meaningful action to reduce the impact of drug shortages and prevent them from reoccurring in Canada. We are also working with provincial and territorial governments, health care professionals and industry to see that Canadians are better informed about the shortages so they have time to plan and change treatments, if necessary.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:25 p.m.)