Mr. Speaker, I am here today to speak about Bill C-398, which would have reformed Canada's access to medicines regime in order to provide lower-cost medicines to thousands of people around the world with life-threatening illnesses and diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.
I spent 18 months consulting all the concerned parties. I spoke with brand name drug manufacturers who were against the previous bill, but were in favour of this new bill being referred to committee. I met with a generic drug maker who has already used Canada's access to medicines regime. He explained to me why the current regime was not working. I also met with representatives of a large network of civil society organizations that supported the bill.
My colleague opposite did not make as much of an effort.
In fact, it was only in the days before the vote that he spoke to the brand name pharmaceuticals and he did so only after the same pharmaceuticals had written to us to say that they were ready to see Bill C-398 go to committee. Why? Because the people on the other side of the House did not really care about the bill. They had decided from the start that they were going to oppose it for partisan reasons. If it meant doing away with the truth, they did not care.
Let me give just a few examples.
The Conservatives argued that the bill would weaken the safeguards, ensuring that medicines would not be not diverted. This is simply false. All the safeguards adopted by Parliament when it first created CAMR unanimously in 2004 remain. None of them were changed.
They said that it would remove measures to ensure the quality of medicines being supplied. That is false again. There was absolutely no change to the requirement for Health Canada to review all drugs exported.
The Conservatives argued it would violate Canada's obligation under the World Trade Organization's treaty on intellectual property rights. Again, that is not true. Experts have testified that Bill C-398 would be fully compliant with WTO rules.
Then the Conservatives said that it could jeopardize negotiations for a free trade agreement with Europe. Oops, the E.U. has similar regulations.
In fact, all these so-called arguments are just excuses for the Conservatives to oppose the bill. That is why they came up with something else every time their arguments were refuted.
When they ran out of solid arguments, the Conservatives started talking about what the government has done to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa. I suspect that my colleague opposite will do the same in a few moments.
It is good to combat AIDS in Africa, but why could we not also adopt a measure at no cost to the taxpayer that would get the most out of the money allocated to humanitarian aid, save lives and even create jobs in Canada?
A few days before the vote, we actually had enough support for the bill to go to committee, including from Conservative MPs, but the government decided it would not let this happen. It put partisanship before a life-saving measure. It circulated lies about the bill. It pressured its MPs not to vote for what they believed was right and it ended up disappointing thousands of Canadians. Now the government can wear it.