Mr. Speaker, Canada will provide support to improve maternal and child health care to several developing countries as part of its five-year commitment to the Muskoka initiative. As part of this initiative, Canada will provide support to improve the nutrition and health of three million pregnant and nursing women and their children in Ethiopia.
In addition, the government will strengthen the national health system in Mozambique to develop health services for mothers and children, providing life-saving HIV treatment to 38,000 children, treating 94,000 pregnant women and preventing HIV infections, and immunizing 2.8 million children over the age of five against measles.
Canada's support will also help to strengthen maternal and neonatal health services in Bangladesh through the purchase of essential drugs and equipment; the recruiting and training of health care professionals, including 2,000 new skilled community birth attendants; the upgrading of existing treatment centres; and by helping to purchase enough oral polio vaccine for 250,000 children annually.
I will now turn to discussing my concerns with Bill C-393, followed by the motions before us today at report stage.
I would like to remind the House that this is not the first time I have stood up to speak to this bill. I spoke to it before it went to committee. I actually supported it going to committee so we could hear the discussions. I want to thank my colleague from the Bloc, who attended those meetings and provided valuable input.
In October 2010, as we all recall, Bill C-393 underwent an extensive review by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, a committee of which I am a member. I would like to congratulate the members of the committee for their commitment to hearing testimony from a wide array of witnesses. Among those who shared their views on the access to medicines initiative for the developing world were experts in the field of international trade and patent law, representatives of non-governmental organizations with experience working in Africa, and government officials with knowledge of the historical background and technical implications of Canada's access to medicines regime.
Through this extensive testimony, the committee was well informed of the international drug procurement framework and trade obligations within which Canada's access to medicines regime must operate.
The committee also heard that Canada's access to medicines regime is only one element of the government's plan to improve health outcomes in developing countries, and that Canada is active in supporting programs like the Muskoka initiative on maternal and child health, which will have a significant effect on improving health conditions in poor countries.
The committee also heard evidence that there is a large economic context to providing affordable health care, including drugs, to low income countries, and that poverty, not patents, is the major obstacle to health access in developing countries.
Finally, the committee heard that Canada's access to medicines regime is working in its current form. The two shipments of 15,600,000 tablets of HIV-AIDS drugs to Rwanda in 2008 and 2009, after the country made a request for the drugs, is proof that it does work. It may not work to the efficiency and effectiveness of many we have heard from, but in its present form it does work. If it is compared with the access to medicines regimes in other countries, Canada is the only country around the world that has actually been able to use the system to deliver drugs to a third world country, a country in need.
In my view, along with what my colleague from the Bloc has said, that tells me that the regimes as set up now are not working to people's satisfaction. However, that does not mean that the regime we have is not set up in a proper, legal, and effective form. Maybe we should be looking at a broader review of what we can do to make sure we provide HIV drugs to those countries in need.
At the conclusion of the committee's review, members voted to substantially amend Bill C-393. One of the changes the committee considered necessary was the removal of the clauses that would allow Canada's access to medicines regime to be used by generic companies to export any amount of any drug to almost any country, including some that are relatively well off. This is sometimes known as the one-licence solution.
It is my understanding that the committee considered the elimination of the one-licence solution and the other changes to Bill C-393 necessary to ensure that the bill respects Canada's international trade obligations and maintains the integrity of Canada's framework for encouraging innovation and to ensure access to medicines for Canadians.
My key concern with the motions before us today is that they seek to undo all of the good work of the committee and they undermine the conclusions our fellow members of Parliament reached after careful review of Bill C-393.
In addition, I have particular concerns with Motion No. 3. The motion is original, in that it proposes to implement changes to Canada's access to medicines regime on a trial basis; first, for an initial period of four years, and then for a further five years, if both Houses agree.
As I have said, during the committee's review of Bill C-393, several witnesses noted that Canada's access to medicines regime works to send drugs to developing countries in need. It is the only regime, as I have said, of its kind in the world to have had this kind of success. As a result, it is our view that Canada's access to medicines regime does not need the changes that Bill C-393 proposes on a temporary basis.
I am also concerned that allowing provisions of Bill C-393 to have a temporary effect would be harmful because it would do nothing to improve primary health in developing countries. In our government's opinion, the best way to improve primary health care is through programs such as the Muskoka initiative that actively work to improve poor health conditions in African countries.
For all of these reasons, I am of the view that none of the motions to amend Bill C-393 should be accepted today by members of Parliament and that at third reading this bill should be defeated. Canada's access to medicines regime works and does not requiring changing.
In reviewing Canada's initiatives on access to medicines, the needs of developing countries must be balanced with the needs of Canadians. In sending over 15 million tablets of HIV-AIDS drugs to Rwanda, the current access to medicines regime has demonstrated that it achieves this balance; and the regime would not be improved by Bill C-393 or the motions put forward today. Therefore, I ask my colleagues not to support the report stage motions to amend Bill C-393.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Elizabeth Rennie and her team of grandmothers. Grandmothers to Grandmothers has come to see me many times. I have been very clear to this organization that I think the bill needs changes and that it would not have any effect on our being able to provide the drugs the organization would seek for African countries. This was passed by all parties. I think all parties should look at what we can do to continue to provide support for those countries, but I do not think it is through changes to this regime.