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House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pension.

Topics

Division No. 127Routine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from June 5 consideration of the motion that Bill S-17, an act to amend the Patent Act, be read the third time and passed.

Patent ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2001 / 11:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, for the sake of the House and those interested in the process and in patent law, I will go through some of the technical reasons the bill is before the House. It is a bill that our party is supporting, much to the surprise I suppose of many across the way. It is not often that we stand in this place and support a bill brought in by the government.

Following a recent World Trade Organization ruling, the bill was introduced to bring Canada's patent laws into conformity with our trade obligations. Under the bill, all patents would last 20 years beyond the date applications are filed. Currently patents filed prior to October 1, 1989, under the old act, expire 17 years after the date they were granted. We are talking about a three year extension of the Patent Act.

Bill S-17 would not apply to patents that have already lapsed so the arguments we have heard in the House regarding that do not apply. As well, in cases where the old rule provides a longer period of protection than the new rule, the old rule would still apply. This would happen in cases where more than three years have passed between the time a patent application was filed and the time it was granted.

Bill S-17 would repeal subsection 55.2(2) of the Patent Act which has allowed for stockpiling of a product prior to the expiry of the patent.

When we talk about patent protection, what are we talking about? We are talking about copyright laws that would apply, for example, to writers, other artists, inventors and so on. Patents give their holders time to benefit from their research and ideas and from the money they have spent in developing them. In other words, they give them time to profit from their work, in many cases good work.

In this case we are talking about patent drug laws. We are talking about sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars being invested by drug companies to develop new drugs to help combat disease and prevent death. They do that at great expense. By refusing to invest here until we modernized our patent laws, these companies were sending a signal to Canada that they would not build factories and research facilities here unless they had patent protection to prevent others from copying what they do.

Research communities in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and other parts of Canada, not just in big cities but in smaller areas, were being denied the benefits of that type of research and the jobs and prosperity it brings.

The opposition parties in 1987, the major opposition party at the time being of course the Liberal Party, raged against the legislation we brought in, Bill C-22, the first act we brought in to protect patents.

In 1992 we did the same thing again and made further changes to improve the intellectual property protection given to pharmaceutical companies while strengthening the powers of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board Canada. The argument that the Liberal Party and the NDP waged at the time was that it would increase drug prices.

In a very basic sense, the Liberals asked us why we would provide drug companies with patent protection which would not allow generic companies to copy their products and which would outlaw copycat drugs for 20 years. They said that it would not help or enhance the health care system but that it would hurt and harm it. They said that it was the wrong thing to do.

The Liberals at the time, including the present Minister of Industry, who is now spearheading the bill through the House, argued that it would be wrong and railed against it. We have had many quotes in the House over the last number of days. Some of the quotes come from famous statements the present minister then made in committee and on the floor of the House railing against the very bill he now supports.

The truth is that what we did then, although some might disagree, and I know that even some government members disagree with the present bill, was the right thing. We created thousands of jobs in the pharmaceutical research industry in Canada. The evidence is there. Members opposite will tell us that the goal of the bill was exceeded in terms of jobs and investment in Canada.

We often talk about the brain drain, and there are a number of reasons for it. Obviously one of them is our tax regime. Unless we bring our tax regime in line with our partner to the south we will always have people leaving Canada to go where they will be rewarded for their work and not taxed to death. To a degree that argument is true, although there are other things that hold people in Canada simply because of our style of life. Considering the health care and other benefits we have in Canada, not everyone is attracted by high wages and low taxes.

We are losing a lot of top notch people to the south who go to work for pharmaceutical and research companies in the United States. The bill we introduced in 1987, Bill C-22 at the time, followed by Bill C-91 in 1992, completely stopped the transfer of talent from Canada to the United States. They worked.

The strengthening of the Patented Medicines Prices Review Board Canada also worked. As evidence of that, in the United States today there is a raging debate about drug prices and the high cost of patent medicines. Why are they so much higher in the United States than in Canada?

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11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

There is a 40% exchange rate.

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11:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Considering the exchange rate, and I know the member for—

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11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge. There is a 40% difference between Canada and the United States.

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11:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, please take note of the member on the other side of the House who is speaking and allow him to get up during questions and comments. I will deal with that when the debate is over.

The truth is that, excluding exchange rates, drug prices in Canada are cheaper and for a number of reasons. One is the strengthening of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board Canada. The other, which I think even the legal minds on the government side of the House would recognize, is that in Canada litigation does not play as big a part in the overall cost of a drug as in the United States.

Our legislation worked in the past and it is working today. The result is that we have lower drug prices than many industrialized countries.

I will go through Tuesday's debate to point out what my NDP colleague next to me, the member for Winnipeg North Centre, had to say. On page 4651 of June 5, 2001 Hansard she said:

Mr. Speaker, the question about the profitability of brand name drug companies is a very important one because members of the four parties who support Bill S-17 feel that the excessive profits of these drug companies should be allowed to become even more exorbitant. Profits for brand name drug companies are already triple the industrial average and this industry is probably the second, if not the first, fastest growing industry in Canada.

The member went on to talk about high drug prices in Canada. However facts point to something different. We do not have the highest drug prices in the world in Canada. If we compare drug prices in Canada to drug prices in other industrial nations, we are at the lower end of the scale and not the higher end.

The bill we passed is working and the current bill will work because we must provide intellectual protection for this type of research to happen.

For example, a new drug called Gleevec was just approved in the United States. I am not sure how long it will be before it is approved in Canada. It is a new cancer fighting drug that was brought to market at a huge cost. It cost hundreds of million of dollars in research to bring the drug on line. It is being used to cure some forms of leukemia.

In strictly layman's terms, Gleevec attaches itself only to cancer cells. It does not destroy good cells as does a lot of chemotherapy, hence the significant side effects of being treated for cancer. Not only are patients cured but they do not have the extreme nausea and sickness that comes with normal chemotherapy treatment. That is a huge advancement and it saves lives. The question is, would the drug be on the market today if the company, Norvartis, had not been given patent protection? The simple answer is no. We would not have the drug.

Another drug, Retuxin, was brought in by another huge international drug company. The company spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the drug, which helps those who suffer from non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other cancers. That is a huge cost.

Hoffmann-La Roche brought that drug online and waited for months for it to be approved in Canada. Again, it saves countless lives and frees up our health care system because it means that we can take a drug at home and be cured outside of the hospital. That is a net saving to the system. The truth is that we will either use that drug or something else that has been around for a few years but has not proven to be as effective. Obviously this is like anything else, supply and demand, but the truth is that this type of research will dry up unless these companies have the protection they deserve. That is what the bill would do.

That is why the industry minister has had to swallow his own words on the bill. I want to quote the industry minister. This is the quote that usually sets the members on the government side ballistic. This is what they call an about turn, an about face, a complete reversal of position.

Why did it occur? One of the reasons was of course that the Liberal Party went from opposition to government. It is sort of like a lynching in the morning: it kind of focuses the mind. Once in government the Liberals then say there are certain realities they have to deal with when they are in government. One is that they just simply cannot hide from the truth. When something is working they have to embrace it even if they have to do a complete flip-flop on it. Obviously the GST was one of those realities. Of course they are trying to do a complete about face on the helicopter deal and so on and so forth. We could rage on forever on this one.

The fact is that the minister changed his mind. Why? Because he was wrong. This is what the Minister of Industry, the former premier of Newfoundland, often referred to as Mini-Me, had to say about the bill a few years ago. If only I were a good mimic. I can see the hands waving now. He said:

It is inconceivable to me that Parliament finds it necessary yet again to deal with yet another measure proposed by the Government because it is bound and chained to some ideological dictate which says this kind of Patent Act is necessary.

He went on to say that we would be taking money out of the pockets of old age pensioners and so on and so forth, that we were basically robbing the people blind by giving the patent protection act some thought here in the House of Commons. The idea was that it would pass at a huge cost to the Canadian public. He has eaten those words because we have the pharmaceutical jobs in Montreal, Toronto and other parts of Canada to prove that we were right and he was wrong.

I will give the minister some credit. He did stand up in Geneva not too long ago at a World Trade Organization meeting and say that Prime Minister Mulroney was right in terms of the free trade agreement at the time. He basically said that he railed as a member of the Liberal Party but time has proven that Mulroney was right, the Conservative Party was right, that free trade does work.

We have to give him credit for that. That is much more than just about every member sitting on the government side today would do. They railed against it. The fact is that the Canadian economy has expanded dramatically because of that free trade agreement, not to mention the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Now we have a bill that would do the same thing, which the government of course now embraces, with the exception of some of the members now in the House.

This is Liberal logic at its worst. I have taken the time to identify some of those members who have actually stood up in their places in the House and railed against this bill. They have actually railed against the very bill that the minister has now on the floor of the House, Bill S-17.

The member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge railed against the bill the other day in the House, as did the members for Toronto—Danforth and Eglinton—Lawrence, but guess what? When push comes to shove and it comes down to the final vote, every one of those members will be standing like lame ducks, voting in support of the very bill they railed against in the House. It almost reminds me of the free trade debate.

The member the other day said that we Conservatives air our dirty laundry in public. That is true. We do air our dirty laundry. The difference is that those people wear their dirty laundry year after year.

Patent ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I realize there is a lot of interest in asking questions of the hon. member on the other side of the floor. We are all very interested in this issue and the bottom line is the high cost to our taxpayers and our consumers out there. That is what is of interest to all of us.

When the issue was before the Senate, the Conservative members of the House were also very concerned about the issues of compliance and the regulations. Can I gather from the comments the hon. member made that in the fall when the minister comes forth to the industry committee and to parliament, as he has indicated he will do, the member would support a complete and thorough review of those regulations?

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11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, we would support a complete airing of any issue, unlike the party opposite.

It is a good and very thoughtful question. It allows me in response to talk about a private member's bill I introduced in the House entitled Bill C-338. The NDP House leader has been quoted—it will show up in Hansard —as saying that it is exciting. It is indeed exciting. I thank the leader of the NDP. It is an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act regarding the process of approval for new drugs. That is one of the things the government has to look at in addition to this bill.

The member for Eglinton—Lawrence, I think it is—I can never get these Toronto ridings right, there are just too many Liberals in Toronto—is right in some of what he says. I do not want to discount that. On a very serious note, some of what he is saying is absolutely right. One of the problems, which I think the government will recognize, is the fact that the drug approval process in Canada is excruciatingly slow and very cumbersome.

The truth is that the delay in the approval of drugs in Canada costs consumers a lot of money. In fact it most likely costs us lives. For example, it will be months before the new cancer fighting drug Gleevec, which I mentioned earlier, will be approved in Canada, at a big cost to the health care system and individual lives. That is what Bill C-338 would do. It outlines a process under which we could move the approval process along a little faster. The bill does not suggest something that has not been proven. It would be modelled after the European Union example. That is very important, because used in conjunction with this drug it would actually accomplish much more than would be possible with this present piece of legislation.

In private conversations with the health minister he agrees with me. The health minister says “Listen, Mr. Thompson”—or Greg or whatever he calls me on that particular day and sometimes he is not quite that polite—“the truth is I think it is a good bill”. However, the money to get this new process going within Health Canada means he would have to take money from one part of the department and put it into another.

The truth is that it is something we have to examine. In this whole process the trick is to move these drugs onto the market as safely and as quickly as we can, but following experiences of other nations. If we are part of that bigger community in terms of trading partners, we should be able to share some of that basic scientific evidence which allows those countries to use these very drugs that are being delayed in Canada under the approval process.

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11:50 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it has been interesting to listen to the member for New Brunswick Southwest struggling to defend an untenable position. I have a great deal of respect for my colleague as a person. It is his policies that we have a great deal of difficulty with.

I am sure hon. members would find it interesting to observe this debate and note that it is the Conservatives in the Chamber who are promoting the position of subsidies for the wealthy and public assistance for the corporate sector, while we New Democrats in the House are pushing hard for competition in the drug sector to ensure that prices remain reasonable and our health care system is sustained and supported.

My question for the member is as follows. He will recall that prior to his former leader, Brian Mulroney, we had a reasonable system in place which included compulsory licensing and reasonable limitations on patent protection. Since the Mulroney era and the beginning of the end of proper and decent public policy in this regard, we have seen drug prices increase in the last decade alone by almost 100%.

Surely the member realizes what that does to people's access to necessary medications. Surely he understands that the return for that kind of public investment in brand name drug companies is not at all commensurate with the development of innovative drugs and breakthroughs for health care in Canada.

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11:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, that shows members how much civility there is in the Chamber from time to time. Here we are side by each and we can agree to disagree.

However members knows they are in trouble when a member stands up and says that it was an interesting speech or that it was interesting to listen to, because that is basically the end of the good news.

The member used the term reasonable. She was talking about a reasonable solution to the problem, saying that we had a reasonable law prior to 1987 and prior to the patent law. We did not. It did not work. It was not reasonable.

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11:50 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Oh balderdash.

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11:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

The evidence is the fact that companies were leaving Canada and refused to invest in Canada. The truth is that the research community in Canada was suffering. The truth is that there has been a completely turnaround in regard to that.

The other fact, as true as I am standing here, is that drug prices in Canada are lower than they are in the United States, lower than they are in most European countries, and they are saving lives. There is a cost to research and there is a cost to not doing something. We can sit down and go on forever with what we have, but if there is a way to improve it a government takes a risk and does it. That is what we did. That is what the present government is doing and I applaud it for that. We need the research. We need those new drugs and we need those lives saved. It is as simple as that.

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11:55 a.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I know time is of the essence, so I will be very brief. I listened to the comments of the member for New Brunswick Southwest. The bill would bring the Patent Act into compliance with the World Trade Organization. I think most people would accept that.

I think the 20 year patent protection is very appropriate, but there are generic companies in my riding that talk about the notice of compliance regulations which, they say, provide these companies with another three years of patent protection. I know that regulatory issues are not really tied to the legislation, but I am sure the member for New Brunswick Southwest has made a holistic study of the issue.

Does he support the notice of compliance regulations which appear to add more time to the 20 year patent protection? This is a provision that was brought in by his own government in 1993, so I assume that he may support it on that basis alone. I wonder if he has any policy rationale for that.

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11:55 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, basically a lot of what could happen could actually happen within the bureaucracy, if we talk to people who know the issue within the government.

These timely reviews of drug submissions are very important, but the fact is that we are lagging behind the rest of the industrialized world, notably the United States and European countries. I am suggesting that we follow the same model that is followed in the European Union. It is not new and it is not innovative. It is basically the bill that I have written. We took a hard look at the process in Europe versus the process here in Canada. We are suggesting that without too much money and without a lot of time we can actually change and improve it. When we do that I think it will be good not only for consumers but for the companies involved as well, and certainly for our health care system.

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11:55 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think the debate on Bill S-17 is very helpful for those Canadians who may be listening by helping people to see more clearly the kind of ideological and policy monoculture that we have here in the House of Commons.

The member for New Brunswick Southwest remarked on the fact that he as a Conservative was supporting the bill brought in by the Liberal government. The implication was that this was somehow exceptional or aberrant or not something that he would normally be inclined to do, but I beg to differ.

When it comes to Bill S-17, to the extent that Bill S-17 is part of a larger way of looking at the world, looking at the economy, looking at the relationship between property and health, I think that in fact there is a great deal of agreement between not just the Conservatives and the Liberals on this, but among the Conservatives, the Liberals, the Alliance and the Bloc, with really only the NDP standing out as a party prepared to defend human health and the Canadian public interest over and against the property rights, as they are delineated in patent law, of multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Some people would criticize us for this. They would say that we are not accepting enough of various economic realities. When they say that what they are really saying is that we have not accepted that the power of the multinational pharmaceutical companies should be a power that is acceded to in the way that all our other political colleagues have.

The member for New Brunswick Southwest cited the fact that in 1987 a Conservative government, long before the WTO and even the NAFTA and the FTA, had moved to change the compulsory licensing system we had in this country by which generic drugs were able to be produced after only two years.

My memory of that system is that it worked very well. My memory of that system is that it coincided with a time in which health care costs in Canada were not soaring in the way they are soaring now. One of the reasons health care costs are soaring now is the soaring price of drugs.

The Conservative member might want to argue that there is some kind of differential between the price of drugs in Canada and the price of drugs in the United States. If that is true, that can hardly be blamed or credited to the fact that we got rid of our generic drug licensing system because the United States has exactly the same system. It is an argument that does not make much sense to me.

The point I want to make is that at least with the Conservatives we kind of know what we are getting. In 1987 they did not hide behind a free trade agreement, a North American free trade agreement or the World Trade Organization. They said this was what they believed. I think it was done largely in the interests of big multinational pharmaceutical companies located in Quebec at the time.

Nevertheless it was also consistent with their philosophy, with their ideology, having to do with property rights, patent rights and the right of people to exploit each other in the marketplace, which is one of their fundamental beliefs. They did not hide behind any agreement although there was some suspicion at the time that they were setting the stage for the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, that in effect it was some form of laying the groundwork for that agreement.

Leaving that aside, at least they were acting on the up and up, so to speak. In 1987 when they did this, and of course during the free trade agreement in 1988 and even leading up to and including the debate on NAFTA, we had many crocodile tears from Liberals, crocodile tears of opposition to what the Conservatives were doing.

Yet the Liberals went on to sign the NAFTA. They went on to join the WTO and to be part of a system which now enforces the very thing they said they were against in 1987 when the Tories first moved to get rid of our generic drug laws.

We have a kind of political monoculture in which the power of property and the power of corporations are ultimate. Whatever they want they seem to get. It has been particularly tragic for our health care system. As the member for Winnipeg North Centre has pointed out time and time again, the price of drugs has gone up some 100% in the last decade or so. This what is breaking our health care system.

There are other stresses on our health care system: the demographic situation, the development of new technologies and the development of higher expectations. All kinds of things are putting pressure on our health care system, but it is very clear that the price of drugs is one of the main stresses on our system, so much so that it not only stresses the system but it changes the system.

One of the reasons people are being sent home earlier from hospital is that the hospitals do not want to pick up the cost of drugs. As soon as they go home they are on their own. They may have some kind of provincial or private plan or they may not, or it may not be a very good plan. Both the system itself is being stressed by the high price of drugs and people themselves are being stressed economically and psychologically by the high price of drugs.

We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. We are really not talking about virtue when we think that the same drug companies the member for New Brunswick Southwest rose to defend were trying to hold out for their right to make hundreds of millions of dollars on drugs that treat AIDS. They wanted to be paid in Africa exactly what they were paid in a clinic in downtown Toronto for those drugs.

They have finally backed off, but did they back off out of the goodness of their hearts or did they back off because it was a public relations disaster? I guess in the end, at one level anyway, it does not really matter. The fact is they backed off and perhaps we will be able to get some of those life saving drugs to the people in Africa who need them.

On a much smaller scale that reality plays itself out across the world, even in the industrialized world and with respect to diseases other than AIDS. We have a system which puts the profits of these companies foremost in the minds of public policy makers.

The argument is that this leads to more research, which leads to newer drugs, et cetera, but I am not convinced that in order to get the kind of research we want in the development of newer more effective drugs, something of which we are all in favour, we need the kind of regime that is now in place through the WTO and to which the bill is responding.

We are very much opposed to the regime that has been set up at the WTO through what is called the TRIPS agreement. That is one of the acronyms we find in WTO negotiations and discussions about the WTO. TRIPS means trade related intellectual property and is one of the tables at the WTO.

There will be further attempts to exploit the kind of knowledge that people arrive at through research to patent things that in our judgment should not be patented. The unfortunate part of the debate is that there has not been enough opportunity to go into the ways in which that will happen. The drug patenting system is a foreshadowing of what the multinational corporations would like to do in a whole lot of other areas, particularly with respect to biotechnology, gene therapy, et cetera. What we have in the patenting of drugs is a paradigm or a model for what they would like to see happen with respect to a whole lot of other treatments.

I met not so long ago with some people in the medical community in Winnipeg who were very concerned, and they have written to the Minister of Health about it, that once various gene therapies have become patented they will not only be bad in principle, to the extent that I do not think these kinds of things should be patented, but may also again drive up the cost of health care in Canada. To the extent these therapies become more and more accepted as ways of treating certain conditions, if it is the case that every time it is used in a Canadian hospital some kind of royalty has to be paid to a multinational corporation, that in itself will drive up the cost of health care.

There are some related issues which we have not had a chance to debate as much as we would have liked. The government is intent on getting the legislation through. We understand that; there is a deadline it has to meet. Is it not interesting that we as a parliament, a sovereign parliament, are having to do certain things that are required of us by the WTO?

That is really what many people are concerned about. They are concerned about the fact that what once would have been a matter of national public policy making, what once would have been a matter of domestic decision making, what once would have been a matter for the Canadian parliament to decide, is now a matter for the WTO to decide. It is now a matter for unelected trade bureaucrats and trade lawyers to decide. It is now a matter for them to decide on the basis of rules designed by and for the multinational corporations to protect their investments and to protect their profit strategies. We cannot figure out what is democratic about that.

I listened to my colleagues on the right, both in the Conservative Party and in the Alliance. They sometimes talk about the way they do not like the power of parliament being usurped by the courts. They are very concerned about the power of parliament being eroded. Yet they do not seem concerned at all with the power of parliament being usurped and eroded by international global and regional trade agreements.

Why is that? Why is there a double standard when it comes to the loss of parliament's power? I would like that to be explained to me some day by my colleagues on the right. Why are they so eager to support the Liberals in their abdication of their power through their complicity in the WTO, NAFTA, the MAI had it passed, and the GATS discussions coming at the WTO?

Why are governments around the world, some unwillingly but apparently willing when it comes to Liberal, Conservative and Alliance members in Canada, so willing to give up their power? What kind of sickness is this that makes governments and political parties that ostensibly want to be able to act in the public interest or on behalf of the common good so eager to embrace self-inflicted powerlessness?

This will be one of the things that many theses will be written about in years to come. What caused this? What kind of intellectual virus inhabited the brains of many politicians in the late 1980s and 1990s of the 20th century and in the early part of the 21st century and caused them to willingly give up the role and the trust that had been granted them by their electors and turn them over to unelected people who were making decisions based not on what is in the interests of health, the public or the environment but on what constitutes a barrier to trade, a barrier to investment or a barrier profit, as if it were the ultimate measure of all things?

We in the NDP do not think trade is the measure of all things. We believe the measure of all things is what contributes to the health and well-being of Canadians and people all around the world. We find ourselves very much at odds with all four parties in the House. We look forward to the final vote on the legislation so that it will be very clear where we stand and where others stand on this issue.

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12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the debate. I think members on both sides have taken the opportunity to express their views with respect to how this piece of legislation does work, will work and ought to work.

I was a little disappointed that I did not get a chance to intervene when my colleague from the Conservative Party spoke a few moments ago. Again, as in the discussions the other day, he made allegations that were personal in nature but steered away from the importance of discussing the issue itself. The member who just spoke is from Edmonton Transcona.

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12:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Winnipeg.

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12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Winnipeg, the hotbed of reform. I think it is just outside Toronto. The member raised a couple of very important questions which I think deserve our attention. First, from a philosophical point of view there is some disagreement. Second, I am not sure it is very productive or useful to discuss the issue of battles that have been fought and lost, as we cannot redo those.

The issue I wanted the member to raise and wondered whether he would address himself to it was his perception of the material impact of the maintenance of the regulations under Bill S-17 with which he appears to disagree so wholeheartedly.

In the interest of maintaining a discussion that is factual and has something to do with the health care system and the health of Canadians, would he be substantive enough to give us an indication of the specifics about how that would work or would not work. Otherwise, we are left to assume that there is nothing wrong with this.

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12:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member has spoken with his usual precision and has left me wondering exactly what he might have been asking me.

I can certainly understand why he does not want to talk about battles fought and lost. I thought the Liberals won the election in 1993. They won it on the basis presumably that Canadians liked some of the positions they had taken prior to 1993. This is another case of self-inflicted powerlessness. Even when the Liberals won the election, they thought they had lost, unless of course the member is referring to the fact that we lost. We all lost. Everyone who thought the Liberals were telling the truth prior to 1993 lost. In that sense we did not lose because we never believed them in the first place. We knew that there was a convergence behind closed doors on Bay Street and other places between the Liberal and Conservative Parties.

If I were the member from Eglinton-Toronto or Toronto-Eglinton, at least I got the words right, it would not take much for the rest of us in Canada to know more about Toronto than the member from Toronto knows about the rest of us. He cannot even get Edmonton and Winnipeg straight for heaven's sake. It is all just west of the Ontario border as far as he is concerned.

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12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

West of the 427.

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12:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

West of the 427, Mr. Speaker. That is what the people in Thunder Bay say too. People living in Thunder Bay, Kenora, Rainy River or Fort Francis all feel like they might as well be in Winnipeg. A long time ago, if we had drawn the boundaries of this country properly, they would have had the benefit of being part of the great province of Manitoba instead of being a neglected hinterland of metropolitan Toronto.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

We are straying away somewhat from the subject.

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NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will go back to what I said about self-inflicted powerlessness or this deep political pathology that so affects the Liberal collective mind. They signed agreements which make them do things that they used to be against. Months and years hence they say they have to respect their international obligations. How did they come to have these obligations? They came to have the obligations because they signed agreements in the first place.

The member might want to seek out therapy or something as to why he finds this to be an acceptable form of political consciousness.

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Thornhill Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, this is an important debate and I would like to make a comment, because I believe that much has been said that actually gives the wrong impression.

I am not questioning the motivation. However, I question the ideology of the member of the NDP who denies the reality that Canada is a trading nation and that we benefit from fair, good and clear rules. Trade creates an enormous number of jobs in Canada. Without jobs and prosperity overall we do not have good health. We know that unless people have the opportunity to work and no matter how many pills they take, their health status will not be improved.

I have always been one who has supported fair trade rules and as open and free trade as possible. I have been critical of trade agreements in the past that I did not believe provided good and fair access to markets. However, if the member were being realistic, he would know that the World Trade Organization and the general agreement on tariffs and trade has benefited all Canadians. We have seen our economy grow and prosper as a result of those trade agreements.

I would urge the member to bring his thinking into the 21st century and realize how important trade is to all Canadians and to our prosperity.