Motion No. 1
That Bill C-18, in Clause 4, be amended by striking out line 7, on page 2, and substituting the following: a ) the administration of such Acts of Parliament and of orders or regulations of the Government of Canada as are not by law assigned to any other department of the Government of Canada or any minister of that Government relating in any way to the health of the people of Canada; a .1) the promotion and the preservation of the''.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to propose an amendment to clause 4 of Bill C-18, formerly Bill C-95. The amendment basically reincorporates a clause from the current Department of National Health and Welfare Act, an act that dates back to 1944 and has served Canadians well for half a century.
As the House knows, over time drafting styles of legislation change. That is why Bill C-95, as it was originally tabled, adopted a more contemporary way of describing the Minister of Health's responsibilities.
The drafters of the legislation on many occasions have argued to me and others that basically Bill C-95 as it was tabled at second reading would not have changed the responsibilities of the Minister of Health for the administration of acts of Parliament. However, others are less convinced.
First, I will establish exactly what it is that this amendment proposes to do. It would insert in subclause 4(2) after "without restricting the generality of subsection (1) the minister's powers, duties and functions relating to health include the following matters", I would be inserting "the administration of such acts of Parliament and of orders or regulations of the Government of Canada as are not by law assigned to any other department of the Government of Canada or any minister of that Government relating in any way to the health of the people of Canada".
The amendment is proposed in order to eliminate any apprehension that the government is trying to avoid being held accountable for its actions in administering legislation. A similar provision already exists in the current department of National Health and Welfare Act.
The reference to social security and the welfare of the people of Canada has been eliminated in view of the creation of the Department of Human Resources Development. This provision had been eliminated to improve the drafting of the bill. It was considered redundant because subclause 4(1) already had established the general mandate of the minister with regard to health and moreover specific legislation such as the Food and Drugs Act states that the minister is also responsible for its application.
However, many Canadians who have contacted HIV through blood transfusions have indicated that they fear that the effect of this omission will be to reduce the accountability of the minister with regard to the legislation it administers and in particular with regard to the Food and Drugs Act.
In fact, Ms. Lori Stoltz, a lawyer who represented HIV blood transfused patients at the Krever inquiry has pointed out to me that in her opinion the bill would remove responsibility from the Minister of Health.
We must be very sensitive to the concerns of people who have become ill after using a product that they had all reason to believe was absolutely safe. Rather than entering into a legal debate of whether the elimination of the previous clause would have in fact reduced the accountability of the minister, it is much more constructive, in my opinion, to take the action to alleviate their concerns.
The purpose of Bill C-18 is to confirm the creation of the Department of Health and define the mandate of the minister responsible for the department, not to limit the risk of liability of the government.
The pith and substance of the bill is contained in subclause 4(1). It provides that the Minister of Health is responsible for all matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction relating to the promotion and preservation of the health of Canadians.
The bill recognizes the crucial role played by the Department of Health in protecting the public against risks to health. This includes the evaluation of drugs and medical devices, ensuring these therapeutic products are safe for public consumption and that they do what the manufacturers claim they will do.
The disastrous situation which resulted from the transmission of HIV through the blood system must not be allowed to occur again. Our efforts to maintain a high quality, responsive and affordable health system is being strengthened by the creation of the new Department of Health and the implementing legislation for Health Canada ensures that the department's resources and activities are devoted to the policy and funding challenges facing our national health protection system.
The bill ensures that the department will continue to work closely with all health stakeholders and the people of Canada. Health Canada will provide national leadership and remain a full and active partner in all matters concerning the health of Canadians. For these reasons it is proposed to make it clear that the responsibilities of the Minister of Health include the administration of legislation that is related to health.
The amendment is put forward to reassure Canadians that where a debate existed whether the removal of certain provisions in the old act would have the effect of removing responsibility from the
minister. Rather than debate which opinion is right, the government has decided appropriately to defer to the safer position and reinsert the original wording from the National Health and Welfare Act. I am pleased to make this amendment.