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House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vaccine.

Topics

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Pascal-Pierre Paillé Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a fairly simple question.

Earlier, the Minister of Health told us that she would give us facts. I will quickly go over some facts. The WHO instituted a state of emergency for the H1N1 flu on June 11, over four months ago. H1N1 flu appeared for the first time in April, over six months ago.

Will the member finally admit, once and for all, that her government alone is responsible for this crisis?

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is a very important aspect to H1N1. It is a virus that we have never seen before. Our government has worked very closely with our partners in the provinces and territories to ensure that up-to-date information, as we find out more things about this virus, is relayed to the Canadian public.

It is very important that all members of Parliament be very responsible and work together to ensure that this information gets out to their constituents, as we have done as a government here on the floor of the House of Commons. It is also very important that we do not create a mass hysteria.

We need to work in partnership on this pandemic and we need to ensure that everybody is vaccinated. People have to have that vaccination to be protected. That is the message we need to put out to the people of Canada.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for introducing the human trafficking bill, which the NDP caucus and I supported.

However, 50 million doses of vaccine are small comfort for people standing in line for eight hours and then finding out that the clinic is closed. Isolated communities like Garden Hill in Manitoba are ignored while members of the Calgary Flames get special treatment. The Prime Minister hides after saying that he would be first in line to get a vaccination.

I would like to know where the leadership of the government is. When is the Prime Minister going to get this whole effort organized?

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has shown remarkable leadership in ensuring that this information gets out to Canadians. I find it passing strange that members opposite do not talk about the vaccinations in the Thunder Bay area. That area had so much of a supply that they were giving some of it to other people.

We have a very balanced approach here in ensuring that Canadians know that they can get their vaccinations. By December, all of these vaccines will be out and people will be vaccinated in Canada.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon I rise to speak to the official opposition motion, which states:

That, in the opinion of the House, provincial and local health authorities and health care workers should receive the maximum possible support from the federal government in handling the H1N1 flu pandemic and related vaccination efforts, and the Government of Canada should therefore immediately: (a) allocate the full $400 million set aside for pandemic response in the 2006 budget to support additional medical staff for vaccinations and patient care; (b) increase support for emergency planning to help local health authorities cope with long line-ups and shortages of both vaccines and health care workers; and (c) divert the money now being spent on needless, partisan advertising of government budgetary measures to a new public awareness campaign to keep Canadians informed with essential up-to-date information throughout the pandemic.

The Bloc Québécois supports the motion because the federal government must now correct the situation and provide the support that Quebec and the provinces are entitled to expect. They could in turn facilitate the work of local health authorities.

The Bloc Québécois supports the motion to dispel confusion about the second wave of H1N1 pandemic influenza. However, we feel that the motion should be amended to ensure that each level of government continues to respect its jurisdictional boundaries while working to correct the situation.

The purpose of this motion is to allocate additional funding to fight H1N1 pandemic influenza. Following the SARS epidemic in the spring of 2003, which hit Canada hard, the Conservative government allocated $1 billion over five years in its 2006 budget “to further improve Canada’s pandemic preparedness”. That is what was in the budget.

About $600 million was given to various organizations and departments to help them prepare, and another $400 million was set aside for a future crisis. One of the official opposition's arguments that led to this motion was that because such a crisis did not occur during the past three years, the Conservatives used $80 million per year for other things.

I would really like to know for what other things the government thought it could and should use money that was set aside for something as serious as a pandemic. I would like the government to explain, here in the House, what happened to those millions of dollars, which were supposed to be set aside to help Quebec and the provinces should a pandemic occur.

Now it seems that there is $160 million left to deal with this eventuality. Yet the federal government should be able to draw on the entire $400 million initially set aside for pandemic response.

That money should be paid out to ease the burden for Quebec and the provinces, which have to cover the cost of vaccinating people and caring for the sick. That money would help hire more nurses to vaccinate people when the vaccine arrives or help cover the additional cost of caring for the higher number of people severely affected by H1N1 who require hospitalization.

It is important to keep in mind that a collective effort is what is needed. Everyone has to do their part. Everyone has to do their job. At this point, we can see that the government is not doing some of what it should be doing. It must also do its job transparently. Right now, it seems as though information is being given out in dribs and drabs. There is no clear strategy, and the government needs to make an effort to correct this situation.

As I said, the federal government must help the provinces cope with the added pressure on the provincial health care systems.

The motion also suggests that the federal government improve its emergency planning in order to support local health authorities, reduce lineups and address shortages of vaccines and health care workers. It is now officially recognized that the federal government was poorly prepared for the H1N1 outbreak. As recently as yesterday, November 3, the Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, criticized the government for not having a pandemic plan. In fact, the official opposition amended its motion to add the fact that the government must implement the Auditor General's recommendations on emergency management.

The Auditor General's report said this:

Public Safety Canada has not exercised the leadership necessary to coordinate emergency management activities, including critical infrastructure protection in Canada. For example, it has yet to develop the policies and programs that would help clarify its leadership and coordination role for an “all-hazards” approach to the emergency management activities of departments. Public Safety Canada has taken the first step by developing the interim Federal Emergency Response Plan, which it considers to be final although it has not been formally approved by the government. Nor does the Plan include updated or completed definitions of the roles, responsibilities, and capabilities needed for an integrated, coordinated approach to emergency response.

When I see the Auditor General of Canada being somewhat critical of the emergency plan, I recall the committee meetings where officials from various departments came and told us about their preparations. In light of that report, I wonder if, in their presentations to the committee, they did not fail to mention a few things. I think it would be interesting to hear them again on that. Are the departments talking to one another to ensure an overall coordination of government operations, among other things?

When I see the Auditor General suggest that the emergency plan is lacking, I recall the special meeting held in August, when the Standing Committee on Health heard the Minister of Health. She had been making piecemeal announcements week after week. I asked her this: “Madam Minister, do you not think that, instead of making piecemeal announcements, you should be putting forward a comprehensive overall plan of the actions to be taken to respond efficiently and effectively to a potential second wave of the H1N1 flu?” To this day, the government's policy seems to be this kind of piecemeal approach.

While the motion calls on the federal government to support local health authorities, we are of the opinion that the federal government should step up its prevention strategy to support Quebec and the provinces instead, so that they can in turn make things easier for local health authorities, given that health is a provincial jurisdiction.

The third part of the motion calls on the government to divert the money being spent on strictly partisan advertising to measures to promote public awareness and provide the public with all essential information concerning the H1N1 flu.

I am pleased to hear the Liberal Party say that partisan advertising should be ruled out. I cannot believe that it only now figured that out. Advertising should be for public information purposes only and really be used for that purpose. I hope that putting forward a motion they will be voting for today will make them realize that the various partisan ads they were fond of when in government were no more acceptable than the current government's ads.

It is disappointing when public funds are used for purely partisan purposes to increase a government's or a prime minister's popularity.

I spoke about relevant, accurate and targeted information. There is one example of a time when more information should have been given to the public; when other countries were approving the vaccine but not Canada. The public was confused. Members will recall that the United States approved their vaccine on September 13. Australia approved it on September 18, and France on September 23. Canada had to issue an interim order on October 13 to allow the vaccine to be distributed to the provinces. Furthermore, this interim order was based on European tests conducted on a vaccine similar to the one that would be distributed in Quebec and Canada.

So, after the government had put so much emphasis on waiting for the results of the Canadian tests, we have every reason to wonder why Health Canada decided to approve the vaccine at that point, since an official appearing before the Standing Committee on Health even admitted that aggregate data from around the world were used in making this decision.

Furthermore, the Minister of Health and the head of the Public Health Agency of Canada repeatedly urged the public to get vaccinated. This message was splashed all over the media—on radio, on TV and on the Internet. Now the massive vaccination campaign has been launched, and many Quebeckers and Canadians have heeded that message and are waiting outside vaccination centres.

Centres are having to turn people away by the hundreds, because they do not have enough doses of the vaccine. While the public has responded to the Canadian government's call, the government is being inconsistent, and is giving out conflicting information. At the end of August, the government said that we did not need a list of priority individuals, because Canada had ordered enough doses for everyone. Then, on September 16, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced that high risk individuals would be vaccinated first. This shows that they were managing things as they went along, instead of preparing in advance, which is what we expect from those in charge of Canada's public health.

What is more, it would seem that members of the Conservative government are not sharing their information. While the Minister of Health and the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada were touring the country to encourage people to get vaccinated, the Prime Minister seemed reluctant to follow the advice of a member of his cabinet. On October 15, the Prime Minister said he would get vaccinated if it were generally recommended.

The government only added to the confusion of its message, while its members sent out inconsistent messages, which left some doubt about the effectiveness of the vaccination campaign. After this blunder, it can consider itself lucky that the public responded positively to Health Canada's request and decided to get vaccinated.

We have to make sure the freed-up money goes to Quebec and the provinces, which are responsible for vaccination and health care delivery. The role of the federal government is limited to emergency planning, prevention and the distribution of safe vaccine, areas in which it has clearly failed.

On October 29, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada announced that the production of adjuvanted vaccine would be reduced, delaying by a few weeks the production and delivery of regular vaccine to the provinces.

During the emergency debate I asked the minister a very simple question: when will things return to normal? When will the number of doses we had been receiving week after week, namely 400,000 doses in Quebec, be distributed again to the provinces? The minister was unable to answer that very simple question. It is a bit distressing to see that the minister was unable to say when this shortage would end. A number of vaccination centres have closed because of this shortage. This really does not make any sense. People are told it is time to get vaccinated and the clinics that were set up have to close because there is no vaccine, which is the federal government's responsibility.

While the line-ups for the H1N1 vaccine are getting longer and the vaccination centres are overflowing, it is unacceptable that the distribution of vaccine has decreased because of this governmental decision, which smacks of improvisation. Quebec, which was receiving 400,000 doses a week, will now have to settle for 101,000 doses this week.

Earlier this week or even late last week, Dr. Butler-Jones indicated that he was only advised of the situation last Thursday. He said he had no way of knowing how popular the H1N1 vaccine would be. The reality is that the federal government is having a hard time keeping up with the demand for the vaccine, while the high risk groups remain vulnerable. It could have made arrangements much earlier, knowing that it would eventually be supplied with 50.4 million doses of the vaccine.

It is asking people to be patient, but during that time a higher percentage of the population runs the risk of being infected. Over the past 10 days, 167 hospital admissions were reported across Quebec. Five people have died in Ontario, including three healthy youngsters. These unfortunate situations soon raised concerns among parents looking to protect the health of their children, but many are unable to act on their concern because of the shortage of vaccines.

At the moment, the shortage of vaccines has been caused by the shift in production from adjuvanted to non-adjuvanted vaccine. The latter was ordered in September, after the WHO indicated it did not have sufficient data concerning the effects of the adjuvanted vaccine on certain groups considered at risk by the Public Health Agency of Canada, including pregnant women. Despite the fact that the WHO had made this fact known in June, when the pandemic started, the government delayed its order for the non-adjuvanted vaccine. In her October 26 press conference, the minister announced that she would be buying doses of the non-adjuvanted vaccine from Australia.

Adding to the confusion in the message sent to the public, the shift in production and the minister's announcement concerning the procurement of 200,000 doses of non-adjuvanted vaccine from an Australian company, whose product was also approved by interim order, happened just after the WHO approved the adjuvanted vaccine for pregnant women, the original reason for ordering the non-adjuvanted vaccine.

The delay in ordering the vaccine and the approval given through an interim order have done nothing to reassure Quebeckers and Canadians regarding the government's management in its own jurisdictions. As soon as the World Health Organization alerted governments around the world to the risk of a pandemic, the Bloc Québécois doubted the federal government's ability to properly plan for a general outbreak of H1N1.

That is why the Bloc Québécois supports the motion that seeks to clear up the prevailing confusion regarding the second wave of the H1N1 flu pandemic. However, a few small changes still need to be made in order to reassure us that, while fixing the situation, each level of government will continue to respect its areas of jurisdiction.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's remarks and agree with most of them on his criticism of the government. He talked about the lineups in Quebec. I can tell him that there are lineups and dissatisfaction in PEI.

The fact is that the government ordered late. Even China is in its seventh week of vaccinations. We are only in our second week, and there is only 20% of the supply that should be available.

The government goes on at length about the six million that it has out there. I would ask the question the other way. Simple math would tell me that if there are six million doses out there, there are 26 million doses that are not out there. Experts claim that the virus will peak in five weeks. The minister says we will get the vaccination by Christmas. What about these 26 million potential vaccinations that are needed?

I think it is incredible incompetence on the part of the government.

However, I will ask my colleague, would he agree that at least there is one area where the government could come up with funding to assist, in terms of maybe getting more health care workers out there, attempting to get vaccines elsewhere, and redeploy the $400 million that it had set aside for emergencies? We do not know where it went, whether it went to signage or whatever, but would it be wise to redeploy that $400 million so that we could put more vaccines into the arms of Canadians, where it matters?

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Malpeque was right when he said that the government set aside $400 million in its budget to help Quebec and the provinces deal with pandemics. As he himself said, we are going to see record numbers of people infected by the virus in the coming weeks. The government needs to provide a considerable amount of money to Quebec and the provinces, and fast. We must increase our efforts and the number of personnel devoted to this important task of vaccinating the public. We must ensure that all other health care operations in all the provinces continue operating smoothly, and ensure that all levels of government in Quebec and the provinces have the financial resources they need to carry out this very important task, that is, protecting the people they are responsible for.

It is also important to remember—and the hon. member mentioned this in his speech—that, between June 11 when the WHO declared this a pandemic and August when the government ordered the vaccine, concrete action could have been taken.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, from the outset of the debate in the House of Commons on H1N1, the government has blamed the Liberals and the Liberals have blamed the government. No one wants to take responsibility for what is currently happening.

I would like to ask the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes a question about what will happen in the future. I am thinking about the present and the future, not the past. I would like to know what he thinks the government could do in future to help Canadians.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, in fact, the motion answers the member's question in part. The first part of the motion, part (a), calls on the federal government to make an additional $400 million available to Quebec and the provinces to help them cope with the crisis in their jurisdictions.

In addition, part (d), which is the proposed amendment, calls on the government to implement the recommendations in the Auditor General's report, which says that the government's emergency plan is lacking. As I mentioned in my speech, it is important to have a clear, detailed plan, because it is important that every crucial step in addressing a pandemic or emergency be clearly defined in advance and shared with everyone involved, which means that the government must be transparent.

When I asked the minister to tell us the schedule for producing, administering and distributing the vaccine for Quebec and the provinces, she was unable to respond. Is it because she does not have the information or because she does not want to share it with all the members?

The last Conservative member who spoke seemed to be saying that we should be ensuring that scientific information about the vaccination and the fight against H1N1 is relayed to our constituents.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my hon. colleague's interventions.

I was in the Ontario government at the time of the SARS crisis. One of the things that came out of the Naylor report that has been referred to often is the need for the Government of Canada to co-operate effectively with the provinces in order to deal with a public health emergency.

I know the member for Malpeque delights in claiming that the provinces and the local public health officials have not been rolling out the vaccine quickly enough, but I note that some eight million doses of the vaccine have been delivered and that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are getting the vaccine. I know that the minister has been working extraordinarily well with her provincial counterparts.

I am concerned that the member opposite seems to be suggesting that the federal government should not be continuing to co-operate with the provinces in the truly extraordinary way that it has. Will he recognize the fact that unlike the SARS epidemic this government has worked extraordinarily well with the provinces? We have been able to get millions of doses of this vaccine out to people safely and faster than any other country in the world.

I wonder if the hon. member, as opposed to bringing down our provincial counterparts, would join with me in celebrating everything that they have done to ensure that Canadians are receiving this effective vaccination in record time.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member seemed to be saying that I think it is terrible that the federal government is getting along with the provincial governments in the fight against H1N1. That is total false. What I am saying is that every government must ensure first and foremost that it does its job, in keeping with the Constitution and the jurisdictions of the different levels of government.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it appears that I have about five minutes left in the debate to give a perspective that I think has been missing from some of the discussion today.

First, I want to thank the Liberals for bringing forward this motion, part of their opposition day debate. I want to say to them that it is probably important for the Liberals in the House to answer questions, more than the Conservatives.

We have identified one of the root causes of the problems we have faced over the last few days to be the fact that we have in place a single source contract that was signed by the Liberals, Prime Minister Chrétien at the helm, at cabinet in 2001 with the company that preceded GlaxoSmithKline, Shire Biologics for $325 million.

That was 2001, when of course we were in the middle of the sponsorship scandal. That was 2001, when the Liberal government at the time suggested that there had to be a company funded in Quebec, thereby excluding most other possible bidders. As a result, a single source contract for producing all pandemic vaccines went to one company, Shire Biologics.

I raise this because I want the Liberals to account for it. I want their members to know and members in the House to know that Canadians are standing in line for vaccination that they believe is necessary for the health and well-being of themselves and their children, who are worried to death about not being able to get the vaccine for asthmatic children, and who are fearful as pregnant women about what, when and how they will get the protection they need. I want Canadians to know the true story, that behind this problem, behind much of the difficulties that we are faced with today, was a decision made by the Liberals eight years ago for political purposes, it would appear.

I am not here making generalizations or casting aspersions, but it would appear that, in fact, there were political reasons for the decision that was made back then and we are paying the price today. It is infuriating for Canadians to realize that the lineups, the lack of access to the vaccine, can be traced back to the fact that we have a single source contract.

I would like to remind the House about the expert testimony we received at the health committee, and the Liberals were there to hear this, from the company that did not get any contract from the government for producing the pandemic vaccine, and that is Sanofi Pasteur. Dr. Rob Van Exan, who came to our committee, said the following:

My comments were based on the fact that we have had a two-supplier process in Canada for the regular seasonal vaccines since 1992, which predates GSK's involvement in this. I've been with Connaught for 30 years, so I remember this. In fact, Connaught was one of the ones that instigated and negotiated the two-supplier system--

He went on to say:

This is a much trickier vaccine to produce on a seasonal basis than any other. The concerns are not only with the virus changing. What about the source of eggs, and what about viruses getting into the eggs or into the chickens? There are so many places for something to go wrong.

That is why we must have a two supplier contract. Why? That is the first question.

How do we fix the problem? The government has suggested that perhaps it will start looking at a two supplier scenario once again, but it is a little too late, is it not? Why did the government, when it was faced with the knowledge of these problems and the single source contract, and the inability to meet demand as it had predicted, not make changes to the contract, not do something to enhance the production of the vaccine?

Maybe it has to do with the fact that the Conservatives are playing the same kinds of games as the Liberals. Maybe it has to do with the fact that the chief lobbyist for GlaxoSmitKline is Ken Boessenkool, who is a well-known Conservative, a close friend of the Prime Minister's, who served as policy and communications adviser when the Prime Minister was doing his leadership bid, and who more recently became a lobbyist for GSK.

Is it possible that the government did not intervene because the most current version of this drug company was busy lobbying the government and trying to keep hold of this single source of production?

I raise other concerns that we have faced within the last few days that gall Canadians. They now realize that there have been 101 deaths, six since last Thursday when the supply of vaccine dried up and mass immunization clinics across this country were closed. Provinces had to say to people on the priority list that they did not have the vaccine to help them.

I want the House to know that Canadians are galled by the fact that there are Canadians in this country who can go to Medcan, a private clinic in Toronto, or Copeman in Vancouver and get the vaccine they need and want because they have paid $4,000 a year for a membership and are therefore entitled to it.

I thought Conservatives were against that kind of elite access. I thought Conservatives were going to stop the kind of nonsense we saw from Liberals with their entitlements.

Why did the Conservatives not ensure that no private clinic would be able to access this vaccine, and why was the Canada Health Act not upheld?

I also wonder why the government has not been able to present a coordinated strategy with one communication message across this country showing that the vaccine is available and that the government is prepared to do whatever is necessary to save people's lives and to ensure that people get the vaccine they need when they need it.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It being 5:28 p.m. it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion--HealthBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I understand there has been agreement to proceed first with the recorded division on Bill C-391.

The House resumed from October 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-391, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (repeal of long-gun registry), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-391, under private members' business.

The question is on the motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #124

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)