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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was reform.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Softwood Lumber March 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the hon. member that when it comes to resolving the softwood lumber dispute, that is the number one priority of this minister. In fact, it is his major preoccupation. After all, he has a high regard for all the stakeholders in the industry including the workers and the communities.

We want members to know that the minister has a two track policy: litigation through the WTO and NAFTA, and negotiations. The ultimate goal is free trade. American consumers, after all, want our softwood lumber.

Supply February 24th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member for Red Deer, the home of women's curling this week. I saw the good member on television trying to raise money for the Sandra Schmirler Foundation, and I hope all went well.

Maybe I was not listening too closely to the member. He seemed to suggest, coming out of the conversation he had with some of the oil workers in his province of Alberta, that business, regardless of its size I suppose, really had no responsibility when it came to providing pensions for its employees. I just want to make sure because I would have thought there could be competitive questions, and it may be difficult for a lot of companies. I think he implied that if businesses do not want to provide pension benefits for whatever reason, it should be their business.

We do not take that attitude with respect to safety standards or pollution control standards. We ask businesses to provide and meet certain standards. I would have thought the same thing would apply to the question of pension benefits. People who have worked with companies for a good many years deserve some kind of standard of living in retirement. Is the member suggesting no responsibility at all when it comes to pensions?

Adverse Drug Reactions February 20th, 2004

Madam Speaker, all Canadians want to know that the medicines they are taking are safe. They place tremendous confidence in the ability of Health Canada to effectively regulate the therapeutic product industry to enable access for them and their health care professionals to update product safety information.

To maintain and improve Canada's excellent drug safety record, Health Canada continues to be receptive to suggestions that increase our capacity to detect new problems with marketed drugs, and thereby reduce the potential for serious adverse reactions to drugs taken by Canadians.

The government welcomes the motion by the hon. member, which is something I have already said, that the government should consider making it mandatory for health care professionals to forward to Health Canada information on all serious adverse drug reactions within 48 hours of their occurrence. However, to potentially make a useful difference in drug safety, such a system should not only address the quantity of reports submitted but also the quality of the reports received.

At first glance, mandatory reporting might seem to be a useful approach to improved post-market drug safety. However, I would caution that it would be premature to draw this conclusion prior to a full and frank discussion with the provinces and territories and health profession groups on the issues that surround this matter.

Before discussing the many issues pertaining to mandatory adverse reaction reporting, let me give a background on the drug approval and post-market surveillance programs in Health Canada.

First, no drug is authorized for sale in our country before it has gone through clinical testing and a rigorous drug review process. Once a drug is on the market, Health Canada regulates the market authorization holder who is responsible to report known adverse reactions to Health Canada. Manufacturers also investigate complaints or reported problems, update conditions of drug use via changes to the product monograph, communicate new information to health professionals and consumers, and if necessary, limit the distribution of a drug or remove it from the market.

Health Canada itself also monitors adverse reactions as well as the effectiveness of the actions of manufacturers and can take regulatory action if necessary.

Patients, health professionals and manufacturers work together with the department to monitor adverse reactions. The Canadian reporting system consists of two components: mandatory reporting of serious side effects by manufacturers to Health Canada in accordance with our Food and Drug Act; and, the voluntary reporting of adverse drug reactions to Health Canada by health professionals. There are 23 countries worldwide, including the U.S.A., the United Kingdom and Australia which have similar combinations of mandatory and voluntary reporting systems.

Canada was also a founding member of the WHO drug monitoring program and continues to work with the WHO Uppsala Monitoring Centre with some 65 other member countries.

It is important to acknowledge that the effectiveness of all reporting systems are affected by reporting rates. Some international studies estimate reporting rates as low as 1% to 10%. The low rates can be attributed to barriers such as the lack of awareness about the existence and benefits of a report system, concerns about litigation and privacy, heavy workloads and confusion over when and what to report.

These barriers are a widely acknowledged international reality in the field of adverse reaction reporting. The schemes rely on a potential reporter making the connection between a symptom and a drug therapy and then taking the time to report. These are some of the challenges the department officials must face in their efforts to promote and encourage reporting.

It is also important to note that increasing the volume of reports by itself does not really lead to success. Our ability to identify potential and new safety problems also relies heavily on the contextual richness of the information in the case report describing the event and the circumstances.

Experts in pharmacovigilance responsible for post-market surveillance believe it is more effective to be making decisions based on fewer reports with high quality data than on many reports with poor quality data. An inherent challenge is to find a way to improve both reporting rates and the quality of the data submitted.

In addition to report promotional activities carried our by the network of five regional adverse reaction centres located in local drug information centres, a monthly Health Canada journal advertisement has been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal to promote Health Canada's toll-free telephone and fax lines specifically established to facilitate adverse reaction reporting by health professionals.

Officials at Health Canada also actively participate at health professional meetings and conferences to promote the reporting program, improve its visibility and provide feedback to the health professional community as to how adverse reaction reporting contributes to the safe use of medications.

Another approach to stimulate reporting is targeting specialists. Health Canada has partnered with the Canadian Paediatric Society to launch an active surveillance initiative. The project will collect information from 2,300 pediatricians and subspecialists on a monthly basis.

The focus of reporting is on serious and life threatening adverse reactions in children and youth up to 18 years of age. In addition, the partnership will encourage pediatricians to report adverse drug reactions through regular reminders and monthly feedback to reporters.

Health Canada is also looking into ways in which mobile wireless technology, in other words palm pilots, can facilitate reporting.

We hope that this technology will enable health professionals to promptly and more completely report adverse reactions to Health Canada.

Health Canada also works with academia to encourage inclusion of education about adverse reaction reporting in curricula of health professional schools right across Canada. The department cannot, however, mandate the curriculum content of health professionals in Canada.

I would like to emphasize the importance of international information sharing. The size of the Canadian population is a key limiting factor in accumulating adverse reaction data in as short a time as in a larger population.

Rare, previously unidentified adverse reactions are only likely to be found when a drug is given to larger numbers of patients than took the drug prior to market authorization in clinical trials.

For this reason, Health Canada is collaborating with foreign regulators to use non-regulatory tools such as partnerships and information sharing, among other strategies, to counteract and overcome these limitations.

Over the past five years, Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration and New Zealand's MedSafe organization have worked closely in exchanging information on adverse drug reactions. In fact videoconferencing between them currently takes place on a bimonthly basis.

Drugs are used all around the world, and drug safety depends on countries working together and sharing information. It can be difficult for a relatively small country, like Canada, to accumulate sufficient domestic reports independently to evaluate signals for rare adverse reactions. That is why partnerships and cooperation are so vital.

Another improvement initiative currently in progress in the area of post-market surveillance would see Health Canada to move to the use of software developed for the U.S. FDA to manage Canadian adverse reaction reports.

All aspects of implementing mandatory reporting must be carefully weighed so that an informed decision can be taken on this issue.

If indeed mandatory reporting were to result in the generation of a higher number of quality reports, then it would certainly increase Health Canada's ability to determine drug safety problems.

It is true that reporting by health professionals is considered vital. However, at present Health Canada has no clear evidence that a mandatory reporting system would actually result in the increased submission of quality information.

Again, let me reiterate that, in principle, the government supports the motion as a means of potentially strengthening Health Canada's ability to generate drug safety signals. However, I must point out that there are still a number of aspects of this motion that require further clarification and discussion.

In closing, I know I can call on all the member of the House to support our future initiatives to improve the post-market surveillance activities of Health Canada.

Adverse Drug Reactions February 20th, 2004

Madam Speaker, I will be speaking to this motion in greater length in just a moment.

I appreciate the remarks made by the hon. member. Certainly, we on this side welcome the motion, but the question I have relates to his contention that a mandatory system would be better than a voluntary system.

I would like to hear him support that, that a mandatory system would be better than a voluntary system. As he already pointed out, France has a mandatory system, as does Italy and Sweden, but the information we have is that the reporting rates in those countries are really not significantly higher than elsewhere in the world where there are voluntary systems.

Could the hon. member provide some information in support of a mandatory system and why it would be better?

Marilyn Hurrell February 20th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate one of my constituents, Ms. Marilyn Hurrell, for her outstanding efforts on behalf of the Canadian Executive Service Organization.

Marilyn Hurrell went to Riga, Latvia to train staff and volunteers of a public AIDS prevention centre. Marilyn interviewed staff members and representatives of various NGOs and government agencies either directly or indirectly involved in HIV-AIDS prevention to acquaint herself with prevention activities in Latvia.

She presented a report with her assessment and recommendations based on the WHO Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion to the director of the centre. Marilyn expects that the centre will now concentrate more on vulnerable groups such as prisoners and street children.

Ms. Hurrell, a dedicated, hard-working volunteer, is typical of the Canadian Executive Service Organization. Volunteers such as Ms. Hurrell are truly outstanding Canadians.

Ballistic Missile Defence February 17th, 2004

Madam Chair, it is nice to hear the remarks from my good friend from Toronto. I know that he has been a long-time supporter of our participation in missile defence, particularly in getting into discussions and negotiations leading to something which he believes will be of benefit to Canada. I suppose all of us would like to think that whatever the participation is on the part of Canada, it will benefit and enhance the security of our country.

I think that my friend from Toronto knows as well as I do that the real concern about missile defence is, where does it take us? As proposed, the current proposal is just the first round of technology. There could be a second round of technology. We all know there is deep concern that what it will lead to is weaponization.

That is one of my questions. Does he feel confident? We are opposed to weaponization; that is our policy. Is the member confident that if this project, this technology, whether it is in its first phase, its current phase or some other phase, gets too close, too uncomfortable for us with respect to weaponization, Canada can withdraw?

The second question I have has to do with what I would call the imprimatur of legitimacy. I think what the Americans want from us more than anything is our stamp of approval. They want to say, “Hey, look at those good Canucks, those good, innocent, freedom loving, peace loving Canadians. If they can support missile defence, it cannot be all bad, can it?”

Those are my two questions. I am sure that my good friend, who is quite sanguine on the issue, will give us some good answers.

Ballistic Missile Defence February 17th, 2004

Mr. Chair, I want to ask a question, but first I want to say to the minister that I am glad to hear he is careful and deliberate about this. One can be on either side of the issue and have a lot of serious concerns and questions.

My question really has to do with this. When it comes to missile defence, where is it as a priority in the whole range of priorities? I would think that there are other arrows in our quiver where we as Canadians can provide some enhancement to world security, maybe through diplomacy, maybe through disarmament. Perhaps there are even better ways. Missile defence is perhaps one, but I am wondering, from the minister's point of view, what other track the government is following to enhance security around the planet?

Supply February 17th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam said a lot of things but the one thing that struck me was that he agreed with us when he said that his party and the country wanted to get to the bottom of this issue. That is exactly true. We want to get to the bottom of this. The Prime Minister has said this from the outset of this story.

Let me remind the member from British Columbia that on the day the Prime Minister became Prime Minister he cancelled the program. That was the signal that he was as distressed as anybody about this.

What else has he done? He has ordered a judicial inquiry to get to the bottom of it. He has named a solicitor to retrieve as much of the money as possible. He also got the House to refer the matter to the public accounts committee as soon as possible.

What does that indicate? I think it indicates to most rational Canadians that he, above everybody else, wants to get to the bottom of it.

The hon. member also said that this cannot be whitewashed with a cross country tour. The Prime Minister is visiting parts of the country. He wants to make himself available. He wants to answer questions and he wants to hear people's concerns. Is that not the ultimate responsibility of a prime minister?

Softwood Lumber February 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, may I suggest to my hon. colleague from Nova Scotia that if he wants to know something about what the government is doing on this particular file he might want to listen to my remarks for the next five or ten minutes.

I thank the House for the opportunity to talk about the softwood lumber dispute in response to Motion No. 397 brought forward by the hon. member for Etobicoke North. Before going straight to the substance of the motion, let me begin by briefly updating the House on the status of the dispute.

As members are aware, Canada continues to pursue a two track strategy to resolve the softwood lumber dispute: legal challenges and negotiations with the United States. On the legal front, Canadian governments and industry are challenging the U.S. actions before the World Trade Organization and under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Canada is involved in six cases dealing with U.S. allegations of dumping, subsidy, and threat of injury to the U.S. domestic lumber industry. Three of these cases are before NAFTA and three are at the WTO. In addition to these legal challenges, Canada is currently in the midst of two administrative review processes before the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In all three NAFTA cases, the panels have remanded critical issues in the U.S. determinations back to the United States. At the WTO panel, reports on anti-dumping and threat of injury are to be published in March. These will show that the U.S. duties are not in compliance with WTO rules.

In addition to these legal cases, the Government of Canada has spared no effort in working toward a negotiated settlement that would provide a durable, long term resolution of the dispute. This long term solution would involve an interim border measure that could replace the U.S. duties, pending changes in provincial forest management practices.

On December 6, the United States put forward a proposal that calls for a tariff rate quota equivalent to 31.5% of the U.S. market. The proposal was presented to the Canadian industry and provinces for comment. Provinces were strongly of the view that this proposal did not give us a sufficiently clear path to free trade in softwood lumber.

On January 12, 2004, Canada presented its concerns with respect to the latest proposal to its American counterparts. We believe they now have a better understanding of our position.

We will continue to consult closely with provinces and industry on what would be required to achieve a negotiated solution. The litigation before NAFTA and WTO panels is ongoing and will be pursued aggressively until and unless we achieve a negotiated settlement.

Let me reiterate that Canada will continue to work with all those involved to find a long term solution that will get us to free trade and that will benefit both Canadians and Americans. We remain in regular and close consultation with industry and the provinces.

Let me turn to the motion at hand. The hon. member is proposing that Canada negotiate an end to the United States' countervailing duty by replacing this U.S. trade remedy with one which is either based on the concept of a net subsidy or that focuses exclusively on whether or not economic development and investment policies in Canada and elsewhere are anti-competitive in nature.

It is important to state at the outset that there are serious practical implementation concerns with a net subsidy approach given that the measure is not provided for in either the WTO or the NAFTA. The first major concern is that there are no internationally set guidelines as to how the net subsidy amount would be calculated.

The hon. member is correct in stating that a net subsidy approach could provide some degree of relief to Canadian softwood lumber exporters in the form of a lower countervailing duty rate on shipments to the United States. Of course, this is assuming that an investigation would find the countervailable subsidies are benefiting the United States softwood lumber industry, and that the subsidies to U.S. lumber producers would be deducted from the countervailing duties imposed on exports of Canadian softwood lumber.

However, one might ask if embarking on such a negotiation would result in resolving the issues and practices currently being disputed by Canada and the United States.

It would be unlikely that the United States would consider adopting an approach that would implicitly acknowledge that it is providing countervailable subsidies to its lumber sector and that potentially could lead to a reduction in the countervailing duty rate imposed on imports of Canadian softwood lumber.

It is important to recall that U.S. actions in this dispute have been driven in large part by U.S. industry concerns over the volume of Canadian softwood lumber imports and the resulting impact on U.S. lumber prices and the bottom line of U.S. forest product companies. The U.S. industry alleges unfair practices by provincial governments with respect to forest management programs generally and crown timber pricing in particular.

Another technical concern lies in determining which investigating authority would be responsible for conducting the investigation to establish the new subsidy rate. For example, would American investigating authorities be responsible for investigating the amount of subsidy present in its own domestic industry or would that responsibility lie with Canadian investigating authorities? There would undoubtedly be diverging views as to how such an investigation should proceed.

All of this is not to say that we ignore U.S. practices. The Canadian government monitors the U.S. subsidies to its industry via the WTO's trade policy review mechanism, which is conducted, in the case of the U.S., every two years. Should the Canadian industry feel that it is being injured or threatened with material injury by measure of U.S. subsidy programs, then it is well within its rights to request that an investigation be launched.

The two track approach of litigation and negotiations taken thus far is the result of extensive consultation with the provinces and the industry. Changing our course of action at this time would simply result in delaying the eventual resolution to the dispute. Furthermore, our current approach is aimed at eliminating both the countervailing and anti-dumping duties imposed on Canadian softwood lumber imports. Unfortunately, the proposals presented in the motion only address countervailing duties.

The hon. member is also of the opinion that the government should, in the context of the current softwood lumber dispute, launch negotiations with the U.S. government with a view to eliminating tax competition, in particular, manufacturing subsidies between our two countries.

A competitive tax system is a key factor contributing to economic growth. The government has taken major steps in ensuring that Canada's tax system remains internationally competitive. The five year tax reduction plan has created a Canadian tax advantage for investment by reducing the general corporate income tax rate from 28% in 2000 to 21% in 2004. The 2003 budget builds on the Canadian tax advantage by phasing out the federal capital tax by 2008 and extending the 21% corporate income tax rate to the resource sector.

Taxation is also called upon as an instrument to implement a range of economic and social objectives. Differences between the tax systems of two countries, as are readily apparent between the U.S. and Canada, result from a myriad of factors that reflect fundamental policy choices made by each country. To enable countries to make those policy choices, a certain degree of flexibility must be retained in designing their tax policies.

To attempt to eliminate tax competition between Canada and the U.S. by harmonizing the tax system would involve negotiations on several complex issues. In particular, to meet the stated objective, harmonization would also have to be achieved at the sub-national level, adding further delays or further layers of complexity to such negotiations which are far beyond the scope of the current softwood lumber dispute.

Moreover, the motion also assumes that the U.S., for its part, would be prepared to revisit aspects of its own tax policy for purposes of achieving harmonized tax rules with Canada. In fact, it cannot be taken for granted that the U.S. would wish to cooperate in such negotiations since it is not readily conceivable that the U.S. would consider it to be in its best interests to impose constraints on its tax policy.

Notwithstanding, coordination and cooperation among countries to reduce tax related distortions is desirable to the extent these distortions are harmful for global economic growth and long term welfare.

In closing, the proposals identified in the motion, while useful and stimulating debate toward finding innovative ways to resolve this long-standing dispute, would broaden significantly the scope of the disputes.

All of our efforts to date have been with the goal of working toward a solution that will provide unrestricted access to the U.S. market for the Canadian softwood lumber industry. We will continue to pursue that goal.

Softwood Lumber February 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thought I would offer a couple of questions to my hon. colleague who just gave his speech.

My first question to him would be this. Why would the United States of America be interested in negotiating such a net subsidy scheme?

My second question would be this. What kind of mechanism and who would be involved in the mechanism, in the calculation of determining any net subsidy?