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House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was justice.

Topics

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Edmonton North.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government used to use a high sounding phrase, that is it talked about universality. The Prime Minister used to say that he did not think it was right to have a two tier system in the country, but it has all changed now.

He has told the health minister that there is just not enough room in the lifeboats for everybody with hepatitis C. Only some of those who were infected will get any sort of compensation. The rest of them will suffer with nothing.

Why does the Prime Minister think there should be a two tier system in this instance?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, what all the governments of Canada have done, all governments of all political affiliation, is apply a single principle. That single principle is that public intervention to offer assistance is appropriate when it can be identified that at a point during the chronology something could have been done by those responsible to change the outcome.

The hon. member should think through the implications for the publicly funded health care system if we are to adopt the principle that everyone who is harmed, regardless of any circumstance, will be compensated.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think it might be wise for the health minister to think through the implications for the victims who are suffering today.

For those who were infected it does not matter whether they were infected in 1985 or 1986. All they know is that they have the disease and that they are suffering. What difference does that make? It is still wrong. These people are still suffering.

The Prime Minister is morally responsible because it was a government regulated blood system that wrongfully infected all these people, regardless of when it happened.

Why is the Prime Minister allowing his health minister to have a two tier system set up for this problem?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member ignores distinctions that do not suit her purpose. She is slipping away from the difficult dilemma in confronting the difficult principle that has to be brought to bear in cases like this one.

For those before 1986 thank God we have a health system in the country that will care for them and a standard of excellence to look after them in their illness. Thank God they will be treated. Thank God they will be the beneficiaries of excellent research in the country.

For those before 1986 we have a medicare and a health care system to look after them in their illness. For those after 1986, in the period to 1990, we are acknowledging that—

Budget Of Quebec Finance MinisterOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Bernard Landry tabled his budget, a budget that came very close to being balanced but that was very tight, a budget that had no real room to manoeuvre because of the huge cuts imposed by Ottawa on the provinces in the areas of health, welfare and post-secondary education.

Is the Prime Minister not embarrassed that the federal government is literally swimming in money, when the provincial governments are too strapped to ensure adequate delivery of the front-line services for which they are responsible?

Budget Of Quebec Finance MinisterOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, there are several provincial governments in Canada. The great majority of them are able to balance their books. They were treated exactly the same as Quebec, but if Quebec had started a little earlier, it would have made it on time.

Budget Of Quebec Finance MinisterOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

The Prime Minister is perfectly right. If the Liberals had not left a deficit of $6 billion and had started to work on it earlier, we would now have a budget surplus.

But the Prime Minister should remember that all the provinces feel the way Quebec does about transfer payments.

Does the Prime Minister not find it abhorrent that the federal government overestimated its deficit by $17 billion, and that it is still going ahead and cutting billions from provincial budgets, all the while creating new programs in jurisdictions where it has no business, just for the visibility?

Budget Of Quebec Finance MinisterOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should perhaps ask the PQ government whether it created a Quebec blood agency just for the visibility, thus creating duplication in an area affecting the health of Quebeckers.

I think that we have done our job well here in Ottawa. We have balanced our books. If Quebec has taken a few years longer to do so, it is because Mr. Parizeau wanted to spend the money before the 1995 referendum.

Budget Of Quebec Finance MinisterOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, if there is a financial problem in Quebec, it is because Minister Bourbeau, a former Liberal finance minister, left the largest deficit in the history of our province. This is the reality.

The government can make all sorts of excuses, but one fact remains: the federal government is literally rolling in dough, while provincial governments, including those that have balanced their budgets, have difficulties making ends meet.

Does the Prime Minister agree that it is unusual and unhealthy to have in Canada a government—

Budget Of Quebec Finance MinisterOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. The Minister of Finance.

Budget Of Quebec Finance MinisterOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member must know that the federal government achieved, with the help of Canadians from across the country, an incredible fiscal turnaround.

However, we still have a debt of $583 billion. We have a debt-GDP ratio of 70%, compared to the provincial average of 30%. We spend 30 cents of every dollar in interest, compared to the provincial average of 14 cents.

That being said, I am very pleased—

Budget Of Quebec Finance MinisterOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the minister. The hon. member for Roberval.

Budget Of Quebec Finance MinisterOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, we can certainly listen to the finance minister's explanations. However, we cannot help but wonder about a federal government that spends in order to increase its visibility, while the provinces are having a hard time providing the basics to people.

Budget Of Quebec Finance MinisterOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, since we took office, the value of tax points, for Quebec alone, increased by $2.1 billion, while equalization payments went up by $1 billion.

Lower interest rates in Quebec have also resulted in a windfall of more than $1.4 billion over the past three years.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

April 1st, 1998 / 2:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the health minister admitted to excluding 60,000 hepatitis C victims from compensation. That is like turning your back on every man, woman and child in Antigonish and Moose Jaw because it would cost money.

What will it take for the Minister of Health to finally admit that his decision to exclude so many victims was not based on compassion or humanity? Why will he not admit this policy was worked out with a calculator?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, thank goodness we live in a country in which the people who are infected, no matter when they were infected, have a wonderful health care system to rely upon.

For those who were infected during the period 1986 to 1990 all governments have come to grips with the question of when government should compensate those who are harmed by the system.

The hon. member knows that every day in every health care facility there are procedures carried out that involve risk. Is she saying that the public health care system should compensate everybody?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, even Liberal caucus members are now indicating they cannot live with the package. They know that it is not fair or just.

Since the leaders in waiting have botched this compensation package, will the current Prime Minister now do the only just thing and implement Justice Krever's recommendation to compensate all victims with hepatitis C?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I just said that it is a difficult decision. The minister is explaining the situation very well.

We were not the government when that problem occurred. It was before us but We take the responsibility that faces the government.

I say to the leader of the NDP that the two provincial governments that belong to the same party are in complete agreement with what the Minister of Health has done.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health is caught between a rock and a hard place. The hard place is sitting right over there. He is called the Minister of Finance.

The government found $700 million for the botched Pearson airport deal and $500 million for the botched helicopter deal.

Why can this minister not stand in cabinet and come up with some money for these innocent victims, the 40,000 innocent victims of hepatitis C? Why can he not get some answers out of his own government and go in there and fight for these people?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the member should know that the governments of Canada are putting together $1.1 billion in compensation for 22,000 people infected between 1986 and 1990.

The member should also know that those who are responsible for the health care system both federally and provincially spent months considering this very difficult decision.

The conclusion to which we came was that we would not put the public health care system at risk by putting in place a system that compensates everyone for every harm regardless.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, the minister has the power to act unilaterally but he will not.

This question is for the Prime Minister. Last night the Liberal caucus exercised some power over the backbenchers when they voted on behalf of one of our motions. Now we are finding there are some cracks in the armour in the backbenches on this issue. Some of his own members are asking for a compensation package that includes all victims.

Will the Prime Minister now listen to his own caucus and do the right thing by exercising his moral leadership on this question? Would the Prime Minister please get up and explain?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member should know is that this decision was a government decision. It was a decision made by 13 governments.

It is a very unusual situation in Canada when our bipartisan intergovernmental bases come to one conclusion, and it is the responsible one.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister keeps saying that this decision was made by 13 governments. It is still a wrong decision.

In 1977 Josephine Mahoney was infected with hepatitis C. Her life in tatters, just two years ago she received a fair and just compensation plan from her government. Luckily for her she does not live in Canada. She lives in Ireland.

Why has the Irish government looked after every single victim of hepatitis C when this Prime Minister is abandoning fully 50% of our victims?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member as a physician should know that across this country every day in clinics, in hospitals and in offices medical procedures are undertaken that involve risk.

Is the hon. member suggesting that anyone who is harmed, regardless of fault, as a result of the health care system should be compensated? That is the principle at issue here. Thirteen governments have made their decision and I say it is the right one.