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House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.

Topics

HealthOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health encouraged Apotex to produce a drug in violation of the law, apparently in good faith.

Normally the Minister of Health, a former attorney general to boot, should have denounced the illegality of the transaction but that is not what he did.

Will the Minister of Health admit that by condoning an illegal contract he was acting more like a former attorney for Apotex than a former attorney general?

HealthOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that an error was made in good faith. Accordingly, we have resolved the dispute with Bayer. It is also clear that one week ago Bayer said it could not provide the necessary drugs.

We now have a secure supply of the drugs necessary to protect the health of Canadians. That is our priority.

HealthOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health says that it is clear. I would like to see an accused tell a judge that it is clear that he broke the law in good faith and is therefore innocent. That is ridiculous. It is not a defence.

What I find surprising is that not just the Minister of Health, but his officials, cabinet, Liberal members and even the Prime Minister are saying that there was nothing wrong done because it was done in good faith.

Is this not encouraging people to break the law, to conduct themselves illegally? How can the government just break the law?

HealthOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I greatly admire the member's devotion to the laws of Canada but I must say that if officials erred, they did so in good faith. The dispute with Bayer is now resolved.

In the meantime, we have ensured that the necessary drugs are available for Canadians and that is what is most important.

HealthOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister congratulated his Minister of Health on his handling of responsibility in the Apotex affair.

Does the Prime Minister realize that his congratulating the minister sends the following message to generic drug producers. “Manufacture and stockpile drugs illegally. It will be worth your while”? That is what he is telling them.

HealthOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I must make it clear to everyone that it is very important for the government to take steps to ensure that in the event of a crisis the necessary drugs will be available to Canadians. This is what the minister has done.

Today it is clear that the drugs required are available in sufficient quantity in Canada, thanks to the actions of the Minister of Health.

HealthOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, the president of Apotex himself says he asked the departmental employee who contacted him whether he had the go ahead from the Commissioner of Patents to proceed with the order. Clearly that was never obtained.

How can the minister plead that he made an error in good faith when this was instead a deliberate, wilful and fully informed action that was against the law?

HealthOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

They acted in good faith, Mr. Speaker.

Patent LegislationOral Question Period

October 25th, 2001 / 2:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

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

The NDP begs to differ with the spirit of question period. The Minister of Health is not the problem. He will move on to another political disaster sooner or later. The problem is the law and it needs to be changed.

We have seen the moral inadequacy of the law, not just in respect of what happened in Canada but in respect of what happened earlier with the availability of AIDS drugs in Africa.

Would the Prime Minister commit to the House today to review Canada's commitment to these kinds of laws because they are proving inadequate in emergencies and other kinds of situations?

Patent LegislationOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I realize that the hon. member has been in a disastrous situation for the last 20 years being a member of the NDP.

I just want to say that at this time the laws are in place. The minister needed that. There is a possibility under the law to have an exemption that was not asked for and should have been, but it is provided in the law so that if there is an emergency, we can turn to somebody else to get the pills.

It was done exactly that way in good faith by the Department of Health.

Patent LegislationOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I remember being on the same side of the House with the Prime Minister when he was criticizing the very law he just defended.

Could the Prime Minister tell us why his Minister for International Trade, in respect of talks having to do with the trade related intellectual property rights talks, is siding with the United States when the big multinational drug companies are trying to stop the easy flow of generic drugs into developing countries? Why are we doing that when we have just experienced how difficult those patent laws can be for public health?

Patent LegislationOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. Canada is playing a leading role on TRIPS discussions we are having at the WTO. We have been working very hard at clarifying some elements in the existing TRIPS to allow for good flexibility in terms of emergencies like HIV-AIDS, TB and malaria to actually accommodate these countries in the existing agreements. We hope that in Doha we will be able to have that in the draft ministerial statement.

HealthOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has a personal history with Apotex. In 1984 he was its legal counsel. In 1994 when he was the Attorney General of Canada, he intervened in a lawsuit involving Apotex. In 1997 his conscience twinged and he had a little chat with the ethics commissioner. What was that about? It was about Apotex.

Now the same company gives up $1.5 million after what, a late night meeting with a Health Canada order clerk?

Is the minister the only one left who does not understand that there is an apparent conflict of interest in his dealings with Apotex?

HealthOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, my law firm acted for generic drug companies including Apotex from time to time just as it acted for brand name companies from time to time.

The member knows I was not involved in the decision to purchase from Apotex in this case. If this member has a specific allegation to make about me and conflict of interest in this case, let him make it. If not, let him stand down.

HealthOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning the Minister of Health told me to shut up. I will not shut up.

The evidence is piling up. It is now clear that the Minister of Health has, in the past, had a sometimes close relationship with Apotex.

This morning I asked the minister if he had informed the Prime Minister about his previous connection with Apotex but he refused to reply. Instead, he panicked.

Could the Prime Minister tell us whether he was advised by his minister that the latter's relationship with Apotex might create the perception of conflict of interest, even before the Minister of Health broke the Patent Act?

HealthOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I wish the member would take my advice. If he has some allegation to make about me and my conduct, I wish he would make it specifically here or outside the House. If he does not have an allegation to make then he ought to remain quiet.

HealthOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately the health minister, who is a former minister of justice, seems to have trouble respecting the rule of law or any rules. He violated Canada's law by ordering an illegal supply of drugs. He also violated a mandatory directive which controls government spending. His illegal order grossly exceeded even the approved limit allowed if there is a pressing emergency.

How can Canadians trust a lawbreaker to protect them?

HealthOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, I did not order these drugs. It was done by officials acting in good faith. As to what Canadians ought to have confidence in, Canadians will look at this spectacle on the opposite side of the House and wonder just what they are thinking over there.

Canadians want to know that we are concerned with protecting their health and getting on hand medications we may need in times of emergency. From that perspective I wonder just what the opposition is talking about.

HealthOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday it was that minister who stood behind a microphone and said “I am in charge”. Now he is saying “I did not even know what was going on”. Which one is it?

HealthOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, Health Canada will always be there acting aggressively to make sure the health of Canadians is protected. Unlike the other side of the House, which is interested in scoring cheap, partisan points, we are focusing on what truly matters to Canadians.

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance announced a budget for the beginning of December but, at the same time, he said that we should not expect direct support measures for the economy.

We agree that we must avoid any deficit but will the Minister of Finance recognize that he has the means to act and that this is not the time to use all the surpluses for the debt, but to allocate the majority of them to economic recovery?

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, this is in fact what we have always done.

If we look at the tax reductions, which are substantial, at the infrastructure program and at the investments made by the government, we can see that we have always invested in measures that promote economic growth and job creation for Canadians.

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the minister wants to live up to his claims, will he pledge in his next budget, so as to be effective, to transfer more money to the provinces for health and education, now that would be effective, to have targeted measures to stimulate the economy, as proposed by the Bloc Quebecois in its plan of October 3, that would also be welcomed, and to pay off the debt?

The minister can do all that and still avoid a deficit. We think that if there are no structuring measures in the next budget the minister will have failed in his duty.

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we will definitely have a debate on the measures to be taken, before and after the budget.

The hon. member will have the opportunity to make suggestions and I anticipate that he will. However I hope that these will be very targeted and detailed suggestions because we have no need for empty words. What we need are detailed proposals and concrete measures.

National SecurityOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, provincial premiers, business leaders and the U.S. ambassador to Canada have been urging the government to develop a continental security perimeter in order to secure our trade.

The foreign affairs minister met yesterday with Tom Ridge to discuss border delays and domestic security issues. My question is for the foreign affairs minister. Did he discuss the concept of a continental security perimeter and if not, why not?