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House of Commons Hansard #89 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was debate.

Topics

CubaOral Question Period

April 21st, 1998 / 2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, we join in welcoming the new member as he takes his seat. We just hope he will not take it literally.

If the Prime Minister is going to Cuba he should be going for the right reasons. He should be going for human rights reasons, not for a holiday.

According to Amnesty International political opponents of the Castro dictatorship are routinely tortured. Last year, for example, two dissidents were placed in a small storage cabinet by police and gassed with noxious fumes for over an hour just because they criticized the government.

When the Prime Minister is in Cuba will he publicly raise these human rights issues?

CubaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, of course we will raise the question of human rights and policy rights because we believe in a policy of engagement of dialogue and of conviction.

Isolation leads nowhere but if we are engaging with them in discussions and offering help as Canada has been able and willing to do, the people of Cuba and the president of Cuba will certainly be happy to have a dialogue. I am sure that it will create some positive results just as the Pope's visit did a few weeks ago.

CubaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I remind the Prime Minister that he is not quite the pope yet.

That was a pretty weak and fuzzy answer from the Prime Minister on his reasons for going to Cuba.

If he is really going to Cuba on a human rights mission what concrete measures will he be asking for? Will he be asking for freedom of speech? Will he be asking for freedom of political association? Will he be asking for freedom of religion? What concrete human rights measures will he be asking for?

CubaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we have had a dialogue with Cuba for some time. The minister of foreign affairs was there last year. We have developed a program of 14 points.

Among the points is the strengthening of an ombudsman in the national assembly in Cuba who looks at the political rights and civil rights of citizens. It is a positive engagement. In Chile over the weekend most of the leaders of the Americas were very pleased that the Canadian Prime Minister was willing and eager to go.

CubaOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, a communist ombudsman is a contradiction in terms.

When the Pope went to Cuba earlier this year he was able to free some political prisoners because he talked publicly and openly and concretely about human rights abuses in that country. He brought up the subject publicly for all Cubans to hear. He was less concerned about embarrassing Castro than he was about freedom and human rights.

Will we see the Prime Minister on television, not glad handing with Castro to satisfy the anti-American component of his own caucus, but publicly raising human rights abuses in this harsh political dictatorship?

CubaOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we have supported a resolution at the UN asking the government of Cuba to protect the human rights of its people. We have been acting publicly on human rights with Cuba for a long time and everybody knows that the Prime Minister of Canada is not a very shy person.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the health minister is trying to compare the hepatitis C tragedy with another major tragedy in Canada by saying who would pay for breast implants. The answer of course is that the companies which made those breast implants will pay for them. There are ongoing lawsuits. We do not want to hear this foolish, feeble argument any longer.

Will the health minister admit publicly that this was a major public tragedy in Canada caused by the federal regulators who distributed poisonous blood?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the member cannot escape the larger point. Whether it is breast implants, whether it is pharmaceutical products that caused death or other damage, the broader question is at what point does the state have a responsibility to pay cash compensation to those who are injured because of risks inherent in medical procedures or medical devices. That is a very large question.

The ministers of health of Canada, all of them from all governments of all stripes, in a very unusual move were unanimous in saying that in this particular tragedy in the years 1986 to 1990 when something could have been done, that is the period when compensation should be paid.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister says when should the government pay. The answer is when the government is responsible.

We have here a minister who is hanging on to this legal argument as though it were a thread, and that is all he has. The truth of the matter is insurance pays for medical mishaps, but this was no accident. There was incompetence and negligence on behalf of the federal regulators.

Will the minister just acknowledge that this was not a medical accident?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the member belittles the legal analysis and then he proceeds to create it by talking about negligence and fault.

The member illustrates the difficulty of the question because if in fact governments are going to pay for that for which they are responsible through fault, then indeed the ministers of health are right in saying the period 1986 to 1990 is the period during which compensation should be offered.

Before that hepatitis non-A, non-B, which is what it was called, was a known risk in the blood system but the authorities agree that it was not until the early part of 1986 that Canada should have put the test—

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. leader of the Bloc Quebecois.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the Minister of Health to show greater compassion and to compensate all individuals infected with hepatitis C, and not just those infected between 1986 and 1990. Unfortunately, the minister did not follow up on my request. Therefore, my question today is for the Prime Minister.

Since the government is looking at a surplus of several billions of dollars for 1997-98, does the Prime Minister not think that it gives him more flexibility to show compassion and to compensate all victims infected with hepatitis C?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that we have been discussing for a long time in this House. The federal government and all the provincial health ministers, including the one from Quebec, came to the conclusion that, in terms of public interest, the period selected was the one for which the public sector had a responsibility. All the governments in Canada collectively decided to compensate victims, as advocated in the proposal that was approved by all health ministers.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are not criticizing the agreement reached with the provincial governments. Provincial governments will be responsible for health care services to these victims, and they have done more than their fair share, given the cuts made to transfer payments by the federal government.

A while ago, the government did not hesitate to compensate all those infected with the HIV virus as a result of blood transfusions. Now, it refuses to do the same for those infected with hepatitis C. Is it not eminently unfair and arbitrary to act like this? Is it because the number of HIV victims is much lower than the number of people infected with hepatitis C?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has fully explained this matter on a number of occasions.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

This government obviously has a problem. It cannot get its priorities straight and is short on compassion.

How can the Prime Minister justify his government's decision to hand out millennium scholarships that nobody wants, and to buy used submarines, just to keep the military happy, but not to compensate all hepatitis C victims? What sort of priorities are these, Prime Minister?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the 100,000 Canadians who, starting in the year 2000, will receive millennium scholarships to pursue their education and attend university will know that the Canadian government has very good priorities.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

My dear colleagues, I would remind you that you must always address the chair.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, will the Prime Minister admit that he has the means to compensate all hepatitis C victims, since the billions he has cut the provinces are now in his pockets?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, our priorities in this matter are shared by Quebec's Minister of Health and the Government of Quebec. We shared the position expressed in the agreement. We agreed with all ministers, all provincial, territorial and federal governments that, for us, the priority is to maintain the public health system in Canada, and therefore to compensate only those who contracted the illness during the period between 1986 and 1990, during which time the governments were responsible.

BankingOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister talked tough yesterday about bank mergers. “Just watch us” sounded like the minister might even consider for once putting public interests ahead of corporate interests.

But Liberal commitments are a bit like a mirage in the desert. As you get closer they vanish. Commitments to revisit NAFTA, vanished; to abolish the GST, vanished; to introduce national child care, vanished; to repeal drug patent legislation, vanished.

Why should we believe this finance minister when he says he is tough enough to take on the megabanks?

BankingOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, commitments to invest in research and development, done; commitments to reduce unemployment, done; commitments to increase the child tax benefit, done; commitments to eliminate the deficit, done; commitments to put this country on the path to fiscal and human prosperity, done.

BankingOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the nature of the debate has to understood.

The Minister of Finance says that he does not intend to be told what to do by the banks. He says: “Just watch us”. Canadians have just watched this government once already, with the GST. And what happened? The GST is still with us, and one minister had to resign.

Does the Minister of Finance intend to resign if the mergers go ahead the way the banks want them to?

BankingOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is pretty clear that the leader of the NDP does not like Canadian banks. That is very clear.

I would like to ask a question. It occurred to me the other day, when the NDP government in British Columbia was the only government, either provincial or federal, to reduce the taxes imposed on the banks in its last budget, the question which crossed my mind was, is the NDP government in British Columbia of the same party that the one the leader heads?

BankingOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance said “the decision on the bank mergers will be made by this government, by this Parliament and by the Canadian people”. It seems to the Canadian people that the Liberal lobbyists and the Liberal sheep over there will decide this issue.

If the minister is truly sincere, will he ask the finance committee to begin immediate hearings right now to give Canadians the access they deserve?