Thank you, Mr. Chair.
There are people, who are close to us here today, who have gone a long way to ensure that the fight to open up the compensation fund to all victims has been pursued vigorously.
The fact that we are debating this subject tonight indicates that a major injustice was done against a group of people who needed the government's compassion like never before but who instead were spurned because of party politics, and that is a shame.
No words can capture the physical suffering and frustration the victims of tainted blood experience on a daily basis. Victims of hepatitis C suffer from very painful and exhausting physical symptoms that include extreme fatigue, cirrhosis of the liver, nausea, jaundice, and the list goes on. Besides the physical suffering, this, like all illnesses, has a dramatic effect on the lives of the family members who must take the steps necessary in their lives to accommodate the sick members in their family.
However, aside from the physical pain that these people experience, there is another pain that eats away at their self-worth and their value as a human being, and that is the pain of a decision made made by the government several years ago to shut pre-1986 and post-1990 victims of hepatitis C from tainted blood out of the compensation fund.
Victims wanted to know why they were left out and what they did to deserve that, but only the government could give them those answers. Instead the government denied closure for these victims and only provided pathetic excuses.
Why were they shut out and why have they still been shut out? It makes no sense to me. The money is there. The compensation fund actually made money on interest this past year. The public supports these victims. In fact the vast majority of Canadians feel that these victims have been treated badly by the government and deserve to be compensated due to the harm that the government caused them.
What is not there is the political will of the Liberal government. The government has strong-armed its members into turning their backs on the victims of tainted blood. Everyone could plainly see this when the opposition motion to compensate hepatitis C victims from tainted blood was defeated by the Liberals.
Some Liberal members were forced to vote against it with tears in their eyes, knowing full well the harm that they were causing the victims who remained outside the compensation window. They knew what they were doing was wrong and they have had to live with themselves ever since. These are good people on the other side of the chamber, but they were forced to vote against their own conscience. That is the kind of government we have. What a disgrace.
The point I just made strikes at the heart of the issue.The leadership of this Liberal government did not have the courage to support the opposition motion in 1998. The former prime minister was so afraid that he would lose the vote that he put the career of each one of his members on the line and made the motion a motion of confidence. They were afraid that if the opposition motion won in the House they would lose popular support among Canadians and drop in the polls.
The only concern of the government is the polls. Instead of doing what is right for Canadians it is concerned about doing what is popular and what will get it re-elected. There is no other explanation.
This government has had sevens years to explain to hepatitis C victims why they were not included in the compensation agreement and yet it has refused to do so. Year after year it has refused to do the right thing. It would rather see people suffer day in and day out.
It is not the Canadian way. I am a compassionate Conservative and my party is a compassionate party. When my party is in government, we will continue the Canadian tradition of helping those who are less fortunate.
Why is it that the Liberal government stubbornly refuses to take responsibility and look after those it has wronged? The Liberal Party is a party that supposedly bleeds Canadian values and wraps itself in the flag come election time but once elected refuses to live up to its commitments and responsibilities.
As the hepatitis C issue demonstrates, the government stands for values that are not Canadian values. This is unacceptable. The government should take a long, hard look at itself in the mirror some day and recognize the hurt and pain that it has caused the poor victims.
I receive letters and e-mails from people who have been stricken with this awful sickness. I do not know them and they do not know me but they have opened their hearts to tell me their stories of how difficult it is to live with hepatitis C. One person told me they had to sell their house and move out of town because they could not keep up with the drug costs and the expense of the constant trips to the hospital.
Does any member of the House think that is right or fair? I certainly do not and neither do my colleagues in the Conservative Party.
I would like to know what the Liberal Party thinks. It was its decision to defeat the 1998 motion and deny pre-1986 and post-1990 victims of hepatitis C from tainted blood access to the compensation fund. Is that compassionate? Is that accepting responsibility? I think not.
How can the Prime Minister proclaim to the nation that he leads a party that is reflective of moderate mainstream Canadian values? What does that say about what he thinks of mainstream and moderate Canadian values? If that is the case, it is no wonder we are in a minority situation. Normal moderate Canadians balk at the Prime Minister's vision of mainstream Canada.
I digress. During the original debates many parliamentarians spoke passionately about the plight of victims who were not included in the compensation agreement. For example, the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell said:
There is not a single parliamentarian, I believe, who does not have hepatitis C victims in his or her riding, just as there are none without cancer or AIDS victims among those they represent.
We all have constituents living with very difficult medical conditions, and suffering as a result of those conditions. Naturally, we all sympathize, and wish to come to their assistance to the extent that finances permit and to the extent that the necessary money is available.
I am not sure even now if the hon. member stands by what he said in the chamber that day, but with $1.1 billion in the compensation fund, I am sure he will agree that the finances do allow the necessary moneys to be available. That being said, it is time to act.
While the government has made partisan arguments and used all kinds of stall tactics, hundreds of people have died from hepatitis C acquired through tainted blood. The government can take action. It can take immediate steps to begin compensating the people it left behind for seven years. It can help alleviate the pressure of punishing drug costs, extended hospital stays and years of medical and physical anguish from a sickness that they should not have contracted in the first place.
The issue has been on the minds of Canadians for too long. The government should admit its mistake and compensate all the victims and let them carry on with their lives.To be clear, my party, the Conservative Party of Canada, and my leader unequivocally support the opening of the compensation fund to all victims of hepatitis C from tainted blood.
When the previous prime minister resigned from office, many questions were asked about his legacy. I am not sure what answers the former prime minister gave, but an unfortunate part of his legacy is that thousands of tainted blood victims were unjustifiably left out of the compensation agreement. Now his government will be forever known as the government that turned its back on Canadians suffering from tainted blood. I hope the present Prime Minister considers that point and acts appropriately.
I philosophically believe in the responsibility of the individual, but in that belief there is also an onus on the state to take responsibility for its actions. I took responsibility for my life after my accident. The victims of tainted blood want the same opportunity, However, before that happens, the government must accept its share of the responsibility and compensate all the victims of tainted blood.
Mr. Speaker, may God bless all the victims of the tainted blood disaster.