Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to this issue. I am going to cover the issue of confidence and exactly why this government is incorrect on this issue. I am going to refer to another issue which happened in this House almost two years ago today.
The issue we have before us today is actually one of integrity, fairness and leadership. I was raised to believe that you had to pay for your mistakes and be responsible for your actions. I think such is the case for the federal government on this issue.
The issue of compensating people who have contracted the hepatitis C virus because of receiving tainted blood, further as a result of government actions, must be dealt with in a fair and just manner.
It is ironic that today we are dealing with a health minister who has failed to answer the call of the victims of hepatitis C. Two years ago that same health minister was the justice minister who was asked to come into the House on the call of some other victims. That is when the Reform Party tabled a national victims bill of rights. Of course we all know what happened to that.
That same minister stood and said “Yes, we all care about victims. We are really concerned about victims and we will do something about this. We will develop a national victims bill of rights”. Today what do we have? Nothing, zero, nil. Just a bunch of rhetoric. It is ironic that it comes from the same individual who is now the health minister.
Today we have no victims rights and we have no hepatitis victims getting compensation. Is that familiar or what? We are looking at the same instance where the heat was on the government by victims of crime all across the country. It bent, took it into the House of Commons and said something would be done. The heat went off and it was dropped. It is so typical. Canadians often wonder why they lose confidence in the people sent to Ottawa. This is exactly why.
I will read something that is very interesting about the issue of confidence. Two years ago, when I dug back into the Hansard debates, I asked a question of the very same minister who was then the justice minister on a supply day, which is rather ironic, as it is today:
Earlier today the justice minister said he was willing to support the Reform Party's efforts to develop a national victims bill of rights.
He also indicated there would be a free vote on that issue today at 6:30 p.m. Could he confirm it?
The minister's response was:
The answer of course is that when there are resolutions, as there are today involving victims rights, members of this party vote as they see fit. I already told the House this morning that I am going to be voting in favour of the resolution because I share the objectives expressed by the hon. member. I expect that other members of the government side will vote as they see fit.
This is the identical issue. It is about rights. It is a supply day. It is about confidence in a vote, and yet two years ago the same minister stood in the House and said that was no problem. Today, when faced with an even more compassionate issue as far as victims who are in varying need of health care, of compensation, the government says it is not an issue of confidence.
It is an issue of confidence and therefore we must vote together on it. I just do not understand what is with this government. It does not make sense.
Let me ask my colleagues and those watching today whether this is the expectations they have of a minister and a government. Is this what they are wanting, a flip flop as they see fit? I think not.
I guess one of these days this will come back to haunt the government. The government cannot keep changing the rules as it sees fit.
Let us talk for a moment about the practicality of the government and the minister not compensating those who have contracted hepatitis C. The first issue I think about is the multimillions of dollars that will be spent by those already victimized trying to receive compensation given to others in identical circumstances.
What kind of logic is there in this? These people are already victims. Now the government is demanding that these people get the same compensation given others by an arbitrary cut-off line. They will have to go to court and fight. Many of them cannot afford the bills.
Who gets something out of this? The lawyers will get wealthy, I am sure, all across this land. But what about the victims? It does not make sense. I would like to see members on the other side justify this in those terms. Many victims of crime call that revictimization, and I would agree with them.
Let us talk about another issue. Justice Krever spent four years looking into this issue and spent millions of dollars trying to find a fair and reasonable answer to the issue. His recommendation after four long years, which I presume the government would like to accept, is to compensate those infected with hepatitis C; not those over 40, not school children, not women, but all those who have hepatitis C. That is as simple and as clear as a bell. Does this make sense? Of course it does. Then why is there an arbitrary decision to cut a line and say that some will and some will not? Does that make sense?
Let us talk about something even closer to home for many of us. The government over the last number of years is well known to have blown multimillions of dollars out the door, billions of dollars in fact. It calls this an issue of money. The government asks if it goes down the line and compensates everybody, can it afford it.
Let us look at some other things the government says it can afford. $1.4 million over three years to the Czech municipal authorities is okay but compensating those prior to 1986 is not. $473,000 to look at an overhaul of the Czechoslovakia judicial reform is okay but compensating hepatitis C victims is not. $500,000 to reintegrate Malian soldiers back into their society is okay but compensating hepatitis C victims prior to 1986 is not. $14 million to provide Canadian built locomotives to Senegal is okay but compensating victims of hepatitis C prior to 1986 is not.
I really think the average taxpayer or the average person looks at issues like this and asks “Why is that okay but compensating those prior to 1986 is not? What kind of rationale could a government come up with to justify that?” Is it fair to Canadians? I think not.
$450,000 to establish a Lebanese parliamentary institute is okay, yet the government does not have the courage of its convictions to treat its own Canadian citizens fairly. It is quite shameful actually.
The government has compensated all AIDS tainted blood victims. The government has compensated the east coast fishermen for the loss of their fishery. In opposition the Liberal politicians before us pressured the Conservatives to compensate all thalidomide victims. Now they exclude, arbitrarily I might add, all hepatitis C victims prior to 1986.
I understand my time is up, but I do have an amendment to the motion. I move:
That the motion be amended by inserting after the word “House” the word “strongly”.