Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Jonquière for a very good speech. I would like to talk a bit more about those pharmaceutical companies, and I'm drawing inspiration from the open letters my colleague from Joliette published. He published another one just this week in L'aut'journal.
Recently, the Government of Canada admitted that the U.S., the U.K. and Germany would start vaccinating their populations in December 2020, whereas Canada would have to wait until the first months of 2021. Why will Canada be starting the process months after the others? It is hard to know, because the Government of Canada signed confidential agreements with pharmaceutical companies that put Quebeckers and Canadians in line behind the Americans, Brits and Germans. That is why the Bloc Québécois demanded that the federal government agree to the Government of Quebec's request for more information about how we will be getting the vaccine.
The Government of Quebec and the Bloc Québécois want to understand why Canada did not get any guarantees for priority processing of its orders. Why did it not align its approval process with those of the vaccine-producing countries in order to synchronize timelines? Why will Quebeckers not be vaccinated at the same time as the rest of the world? Why is Canada unable to come up with a solution to Canada's vaccine production and licensing capacity so that the vaccine could be produced in Canada on a tight deadline? Above all, why did the Prime Minister give a false impression about how quickly the vaccine would be available in Canada?
Upon closer examination of the Government of Canada's decisions and actions, it is hard to know whether there is a real plan for vaccination and, more importantly, whether there is any willingness to increase vaccine manufacturing capacity in Canada, particularly in Quebec, with Medicago, a Quebec-based pharmaceutical company that has the capacity to meet the demand for vaccination with other international pharmaceutical labs.
That is why the Bloc Québécois demanded that the federal government agree to the Government of Quebec's request for more information about the decisions and actions of the Government of Canada. With former Bill C-13, the federal government had established the legal framework required to ensure that pharmaceutical companies could produce a competitor's vaccine without having to wait for a licence. However, Ottawa backed out after the first step. Lastly, the Prime Minister gave false impressions.
I will now speak about the destruction of our pharmaceutical industry because it is worthwhile delving into this issue. I would like to remind my colleagues in the House of Commons that just a few years ago, Quebec had the capacity to develop and sell vaccines. For decades, Quebec was a world leader in the pharmaceutical sector. In Longueuil, Laval and Montreal, in the metropolitan area, large pharmaceutical companies were well established in Quebec.
Under the Government of Quebec's requirements, Canada was collaborating with the Government of Quebec to develop a true pharmaceutical cluster. At the time, the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec was thriving, with many start-ups. The governments of Canada and Quebec were providing economic incentives and policies favouring the development of large laboratories, as well as local manufacturing of innovative drugs. Hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of start-ups, SMEs and jobs were being created.
In the 1980s and 1990s, through the collaboration between the federal and Quebec governments, Quebec built a true pharmaceutical cluster, but as usual, the federal government simply destroyed Quebec's pharmaceutical cluster in the 1990s and the 2000s.
It was the Liberal Party that started the destruction in the 1990s by reducing patent protections for pharmaceutical companies operating in Canada. The Liberal Party then suspended Technology Partnerships Canada, a risk-sharing investment program. When the Conservatives returned to power in the 2000s, Stephen Harper simply finished what the Liberals had started by abolishing the program.
From then until 2012, all of the big pharmaceutical laboratories in Quebec shut down one after the other. Once again, Quebec was abandoned by Ottawa. Meanwhile, the Liberals and the Conservatives chose to favour pharmaceutical companies in Ontario at the expense of those in Quebec. I should also point out that the pharmaceutical companies in Ontario have always contributed significant amounts to Liberal and Conservative election campaigns. Both the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party were responsible for Ottawa's choice to stop investing in pharmaceutical companies in Quebec.
That is why, even though the Government of Quebec wanted to develop its pharmaceutical cluster on its own, it simply could not keep this industry competitive in the face of global competition. What kind of dynamic growth would we have seen in Quebec's pharmaceutical industry? What kind of expertise would Quebec have now? I believe that this industry would still have been one of the best in the world. It would surely be in the process of manufacturing a vaccine. That vaccine might even have been approved by now, and we would have been vaccinated.
Once again, Ottawa undermined an important industry in Quebec. Once again, Quebec had a world-class pharmaceutical industry, but Ottawa kept dragging Quebec down. Once again, Quebec's expertise was world-renowned, but Ottawa kept plundering Quebec's industry to help Ontario's. It is always the same old story with Ottawa.
As we saw with the shipbuilding, auto and forestry industries, and as we are currently seeing with the aerospace industry, Ottawa continues to drag Quebec down. Quebec gives half of its tax revenue to Ottawa, but Quebeckers have a bad feeling that they are paying for the destruction of Quebec's most successful businesses with their own money. They have felt that way for far too long. We see it happening with the decisions made by the Liberal and Conservative parties, which do not really care about Quebec's economic development.
I think it is worth mentioning these industries. It has been said that this was a missed opportunity and that there has been a decline in the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec. We were once one of the major world centres. In the early 2000s, we had seven big private pharmaceutical labs in Canada, six of which were located in Quebec. They were Merck Frosst, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Witten A.R., Shire BioChem, Boehringer Ingelheim and AstraZeneca, whose vaccine is currently undergoing approval.
In 2006, the best year for Quebec's pharmaceutical sector, investments totalled $600 million. Six big pharmaceutical companies had research centres that employed 8,100 people. The pharmaceutical sector had 21,000 employees.
All the big pharmaceutical laboratories subsequently closed their doors. Now, the pharmaceutical industry is one-third smaller. Several major researchers have left the country. Several small pharmaceutical companies were bought out for their patents, and their products are now manufactured abroad. That is the crux of the problem.
If this had not happened a dozen or so years ago, the vaccine could surely have been manufactured in Quebec and Canada. The pandemic might have been over by now, and we would have been able to leave our homes. We could have spent Christmas with our families. The Liberals and the Conservatives bear a certain responsibility for this.