Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this evening's debate at the report stage of Bill C-393. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Canadian Access to Medicines Regime, which was created to facilitate the development and sale of low-cost generic medicines to developing countries.
Bill C-393 was introduced in the House on May 25, 2009, by the former member for Winnipeg North so that this regime, which has been used only once so far, would be more flexible and therefore used more often. In fact, these changes were called for by the only generic pharmaceutical company to have ever used the regime. It sent a clear message that if the changes are not made, it would never use the regime again. However, we have been advised that, if Bill C-393 passes, it has promised to create and distribute a drug for the treatment of HIV infection among children in Africa.
Since we began examining the bill, the Bloc Québécois has always remained completely open and carefully studied the impact of the changes that Bill C-393 would bring to the Canadian Access to Medicines Regime. We have made it very clear from the beginning that we did not want the House of Commons to limit itself only to the study of Bill C-393. One of our biggest concerns was the importance of seeing more low-cost medicines distributed to some of the world's most needy populations.
Once again, we believe that other solutions, no doubt more consensual, could have been considered. For that to happen, Parliament would have had to clearly express its desire to reflect on this very important question without any partisan agendas. However, as he himself indicated on January 31, 2011, my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes was unable to convince the members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology to take an interest in studying the regime as a whole.
How can we balance the objectives of Bill C-393 with the concerns that have been raised, such as respect for the requirements of our participation in the World Trade Organization, the need to encourage research and innovation of pharmaceutical products and respect for the altruistic spirit of the act that created the regime in 2004—the objective of which was not to create a tool to export medication for commercial purposes? We can do so simply by more closely monitoring its application to ensure that these irritants are simple concerns and not real problems. Today, the real problem is that there are entire segments of poor societies that are struggling with infectious and communicable diseases. This has reached proportions so high that it is impossible to turn a blind eye and do nothing. Today, we have the only option before us here, which is the passing of Bill C-393.
Of course, when the bill came out of committee some amendments were needed to bring out the essence of the bill. That is why the member for Halifax moved two motions that were then amended by the member for Windsor West. As we have said before, we are in favour of their adoption.
However, a third motion was moved by the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes, which is pragmatic, something that is more than necessary in this case. Since it is impossible to eliminate all of the potential irritants of passing Bill C-393 by studying the information available, without any concrete examples, we believe that we must create some examples.
Need I remind members that one single global transaction took place through Canada's access to medicines regime? This was the sale of antiretrovirals to Rwanda by Canadian company Apotex. We must experiment and use the modified regime to prove that all of the concerns were unfounded, while assuming our responsibilities as legislators and not disregarding the concerns raised by experts. This inspired my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes to propose this sunset clause. He wants to create a sort of pilot project.
Pilot projects are strong tools to test and evaluate programs. They must not prevent decisions from being made. On the contrary, they should make decisions easier. That is why we agree that a fundamental part of the clause proposed by the Bloc Québécois is missing, which is feedback. What will we do, as parliamentarians, at the end of the pilot project?
Motion No. 3 is silent on this issue. That is why in a few moments I will be proposing a major amendment that will require hon. members to re-evaluate the plan in order, if possible, not to interrupt a plan that has contributed significantly to making a difference in getting drugs to countries that struggle, despite poverty, to bring relief to their sick.
I also propose making another major change resulting from the fact that in this matter, as in all matters brought to our attention, we have continued to listen to the people. When we were asked why we proposed a pilot project for four years, the answer was easy. It seemed and continues to seem clear to us that at the end of that period of time we would have seen concrete results from the changes made. If, at the end of four years, nothing has happened, then we will have to admit that the officials who told us that Bill C-393 would not change anything were right. However, one argument made us stop and think. What would happen to a drug being distributed at the very moment that the four years were over?
To prevent a drug from being withheld for that reason and to truly give Parliament enough time to study this new plan with access to real examples provided by the manufacturers and exporters of these new generic drugs, and, if possible, to make permanent the changes suggested by Bill C-393 before the sunset clause takes effect, we agree with the proposal made by a stakeholder we have encountered many times, to extend the trial period from four years to ten years. Therefore, there is every reason to adopt Motions No. 1 and No. 2, and Motion No. 3, as amended, in order to allow the desired changes to the plan to be made while ensuring that the plan remains consistent with the spirit of the legislation adopted in 2004.
Therefore, seconded by the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead, I move that motion No. 3 of January 31, 2010, be amended by replacing the words following “The provisions of this Act that amend the Patent Act” with the following:
“shall cease to apply on the day that is the tenth anniversary of the day on which this Act comes into force unless, before that day, the application of those provisions is subject to a comprehensive review by the standing committee designated by the House of Commons for that purpose, that committee recommends that they be maintained and the House of Commons approves that recommendation.”