Mr. Chair, it is a pleasure to rise to add to the debate this evening with regard to this important decision. I hope the minister and his colleagues in the Liberal Party are genuine about some of the comments I heard this evening.
This is a new Parliament, a new phase, with a minority government. My greatest hope is that the House will truly reflect the will of the people who put us into office, which is the democratic reform that I sense is necessary in this place. I see this House as somewhat dysfunctional and my hope is that during a minority government we can actually add some democracy to this place. If true democracy breaks out I want to be here. I want to see that actually happening because it is very important. I know we jest about it somewhat, but it is not a funny matter when members of Parliament are not able to reflect the will of the people who put them into office. That is the fundamental right of democracy. That is what it is all about.
This issue has gone on for almost a decade. Victims have passed away during the time that the government in power said it was feeling the pain of the victims and understood the plight and wanted to do what was right. Well, I hope so. I really do. I will give it that option. I am going to lay it out as easily as I possibly can so that the government can truly reflect its words this evening.
I have the privilege of serving as the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Health. At the very first meeting we came to I brought forward a motion that we compensate all victims following the Krever inquiry. Mr. Krever spent four years on the inquiry and said that all victims should be covered, in light of the size of the fund, particularly. The motion was before the Standing Committee on Health and the committee, to the credit of all parties, agreed unanimously to the motion. The motion was then reported to the House yesterday. When it was reported to the House, I gave notice of a motion for concurrence for that motion. That will happen tomorrow afternoon.
Tomorrow afternoon we will ask the government in power and Liberal members, given the words the members of government have spoken this evening, if they would actually put feet to those words, and stand and support the motion that was a unanimous decision of the Standing Committee on Health.
If their true intent is to work as aggressively as possible, and that is what the minister and his colleagues just said, to compensate the victims of hepatitis C outside the window from 1986 to 1990, then it should be a very easy thing for the House to reach a unanimous decision tomorrow afternoon. That would be a great day and a great victory, not for any one party but only one group, those who were victimized.
It is not going to solve their problems, but it is a step toward the fairness of treating them all equally. I think that is what has been overlooked in this entire debate. It is something that absolutely has to happen. As members of Parliament, as leaders, and as legislators we must be responsible and responsive to the needs of those people, in fairness as true Canadians.
I want to bring the potential of tomorrow's motion to light in this debate tonight. I also want to talk about some of the facts of this fund. The fund was set up with $1.2 billion. That is a lot of money. Some $300 million has been paid out of that fund. In that fund, because of interest and so on, there is $1.1 billion left in the fund after everyone is paid out within that window of 1986 to 1990. In fact, it grew $56 million more than it paid out last year.
Therefore, when $1.2 billion is put in and $1.1 billion is left and everyone is paid out within the window, the idea of not having the funds to pay out the rest, when we actually know those numbers, is not valid. The government, at the time it made the decision, said it was not sure how many were actually going to come forward, how many victims were really out there. Its numbers were 20,000 or 22,000 plus. We said those numbers were wrong and we were right, the numbers were wrong.
In fact, through the other fund the minister talked about, $300 million went to the provinces to compensate some outside that window. We know what those numbers are now. We know that there is going to be roughly 10,000 total. Those are estimates, but they are fairly close, and we know what they are. We know that the fund will be able to facilitate paying everyone out fairly and justly.
The reason for not paying out evaporates. It was never there originally. That is my frustration this evening when I hear the sounds of compassion coming from the other side. This has been a fight. These words and these arguments were used for the last eight years since the Krever inquiry reported and they fell on deaf ears. Did the government not believe it?
Even as early as last year I personally challenged the health minister of the day on her numbers. We said that we have the money to compensate and these are the numbers. It was all there, yet the minister refused to hear these arguments and understand them. This evening we are all of a sudden supposed to think that there is a complete reversal, that the lights have come on, and there is a new revelation and new information about the numbers. The numbers were all there. They were there a year ago; they were there three years ago. They were there in 1998 when the House was whipped into a vote that went against those victims outside that window.
What is interesting is that we say there are new members. I know some of my colleagues are brand new to the House and they say it was not their fight back then. Maybe to some degree that is true. We had this debate in the Standing Committee on Health and we started looking at the fact that those who are in power in the cabinet today were here back in 1998 when the decision was made.
I can say the Prime Minister was there. I can say the Deputy Prime Minister was there, the Minister of Finance was there, and the Minister of State for Public Health was there, and the Minister of the Environment was there. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs, National Defence, Human Resources, Agriculture, International Trade, Indian Affairs, Veterans Affairs, International Cooperation, the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers, the government House leader, the President of the Treasury Board, and I could go on and on, they were all there and they are here today. They had all this information over that same period of time.
Forgive me if I sound a little skeptical about what might happen in the vote tomorrow. I am here to lay out as aggressively as I possibly can, and that is what I think a debate should be, the arguments for why we should stop playing games and think of the victims.
I would like to end by thinking about those victims because they are really the tragedy of this whole debate. They were the ones who, through no fault of their own, contracted hepatitis C when the government knew the blood system was faulty and the potential of risk was there.
Some of the problems that happened with this disease have been talked about. They include fatigue, jaundice, nausea, hair loss, unresponsiveness, forgetfulness, trouble sleeping, weight loss, problems with water retention and so on. They are debilitating.
In fact, I want to read part of a letter that I received from a constituent in my riding. It says it all. It was from a woman whose husband contracted hepatitis C before 1986. She wrote:
I was married to a man who had a zest for life, had many friends, was popular in the community through volunteer work, enjoyed sports and loved his job. But because of hepatitis C, he was now shunned by his community. His many friends slowly disappeared and he couldn't play sports any more. He felt that all the years of hard work to establish a good reputation at work had been compromised somehow. But besides the mental damage he had endured, there were the physical changes. After losing 40 lbs. to a weight of 125 lbs., his hair fell out in clumps and his body was covered with rashes and cracks, and bled. He had constant migraines and vomited regularly. When I look in the mirror, this is the man that I had married at one time.
This just a small portion of the countless number of letters that have flooded in from victims right across this nation. It was a sad day when the decision was made in 1998.
Looking ahead, we have an opportunity to correct that. We cannot erase the wrongs of past years. That is beyond our ability to do. However, we can do something for those remaining victims and their families before it is too late. We have the power to do that. The victims are watching. Canada is watching. Let us do the right thing.