Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Halton.
May I thank the hon. member for Palliser for introducing a constructive and helpful motion in a non-adversarial spirit. I think the ultimate solutions to this issue will come in a spirit of co-operation that will include all members of the House. I will have something to say on the content of the resolution shortly, but let me simply say in historical retrospect a good deal of present problems stem from the way in which this issue was first handled.
I have consistently in the past as an expert witness on constitutional affairs before numbers of federal parliamentary commissions and others argued against the use, even the abusive use, of royal commissions of inquiry on issues that properly can be handled by parliament and should be handled by parliament.
It is the Mackenzie King ploy which is peculiar to Canada among all the common law countries that if you have a difficult problem you postpone the decision by setting up a royal commission, knowing that it will take a long time. This is I think one of the problems. When the Mulroney government made the decision to go to a royal commission I think it had enough facts to make a decision at that time. All the social problems were known and I think it could have been handled.
Instead we, in a very delayed way, handled in a forum not conducive to broader community solutions a problem that could have been handled otherwise. As the United States supreme court has said, only limited aspects of social and community problems are seen through the narrow windows of litigation and legal processes. I think this has been one of the problems in dealing with the hepatitis C crisis.
It is, however, one of the interesting paradoxes that the gentleman whose name has been so often cited on both sides of the House, with the impression in my mind that very few members have consulted his report and those who have may have been lost for the large continuing truths in the thicket of information that goes through so many volumes, is somewhat opposed to legalistic solutions.
He was a student of our greatest torts and delicts lawyers and Dean Cecil Wright of the University of Toronto. Wright's basic solution for problems of this sort was to take it away from lawyers, take it away from legal processes, get into the larger area of community compensation in relation to social problems.
It is interesting that the first direct application of that thinking was in automobile insurance, take it away from the torts lawyers. You get a different aspect and a different approach. Horace Krever who was my colleague for four or five years has essentially reflected that approach.
A very perceptive editorial in the Globe and Mail today makes this comment, that he does come out in a way with a non-legal solution. He looks at the issue and wants a solution that sees a problem as a community problem, not a one shot solution as such, but what do you do with people whose lives have been potentially shattered and in certain cases actually shattered. Is it not part of the community problem solving approach, the social security network, to be able to handle medical emergencies that arise, that have arisen in the past and that will surely arise again in the future in this period of new patent medicines so suddenly without full tests? Is it not better to handle it in that larger context?
I think the answer to that is yes, it is better handled in that context. I rather regret that the Mulroney government did not 10 or 12 years ago bring the parliamentary standing committee on health into the act.
The health committee in this parliament is one of our best committees. We know its members work hard, are dedicated and do not travel much. They do their work, and why not in this particular context.
One of the problems, however, in the interpretation of the Krever commission report as it has emerged has been to confine and fetter the solutions into the context of a lawyer's package, a financial legal settlement. When the issues are before the courts, a great deal of this goes toward lawyer fees. However, even outside the context of a legal settlement by lawyers before the courts, I think some questions are relevant.
It is generally assumed, by the way, that somebody is liable in this case. I am not sure as a lawyer whether this is true other than the Red Cross, but I think this is the approach that distorts a solution along the broader lines I have suggested.
The arbitrary figure that has emerged of $60,000 per person is apparently, on the statistical evidence, unnecessary in a third of the cases, somewhat arbitrary in another third but totally inadequate, clearly, in at least a third of the cases we have been seeing. It will not meet more than a fraction of the burden, the disruption and destruction of the total life picture.
I think what we are looking for is a solution within the existing social security network. People on this side of the House take great pride in it but we can recognize also the contribution from a provincial political leader of the hon. member for Palliser's party, the contribution made to a comprehensive social security network which not only includes health, medicare and pharmacare but family and disability insurance. The basis for a proper solution is available within the existing governmental services.
I think the motion from the hon. member for Palliser is constructive because in a certain way I do not think we have really heard what the hepatitis C victims really want in this particular issue. We have been told that this is the solution asked for but I would have rather thought that we would get a more nuanced approach such as I have suggested if they were consulted.
Bringing the representatives into the health ministers' meeting is not for the federal government alone to make the decision. However, I am sure the other governments would agree that bringing them in is a way to enlightenment of how the problem is viewed and to producing a compensation that is not going to be lawyers' compensation but may go well beyond that in the sense that it is really making sure the victims can live out their lives decently with their families and dependants. We can bring it to a solution in this particular way.
I look forward to the meeting taking place on this basis and to the responses made in that context.