Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in what is probably the last day in the current session to speak to an extremely important bill.
During our life as parliamentarians, we often make mountains out of mole hills even though there are no mole hills in this dignified House. But here we are dealing with an extremely important bill in the dying days of a session.
Regrettably Bill C-56 was put forward at the very last minute. It could already have been reviewed in committee and disposed of, sent to the other place where it could have been reviewed, amended if necessary, and passed.
A political agenda has taken over a humanitarian agenda. This is what is going on here. For the past few days, even weeks, various opposition parties, several government members and some ministers also, I hope, various stakeholders in Bill C-56, including brand name drug companies and generic name drug companies, as well as humanitarian and community groups involved in this issue have been urging the government to go ahead.
As a matter of fact, the office of the Minister of Industry had invited members to a briefing session on the bill, but it was postponed and was only held this week. It makes one wonder.
This week, the Prime Minister answered a planted question on Bill C-57, reading a prepared text saying that it was a priority. We might stop sitting very soon. Yesterday, the government House leader, before leaving for a warmer climate as a result of an appointment, said good bye to parliamentarians although Bill C-56 has not passed yet. Once again, the partisan agenda has taken over the humanitarian agenda.
For several weeks now the government has tried to blame the drug industry as well as the opposition parties, including the Progressive Conservative Party, the sponsor of the Drug Patent Act, accusing them of delaying matters. The holdup is not with us; it is with the government.
I will not talk about the benefits of Bill C-56, as everybody is in agreement on that. However, as my Bloc Quebecois colleague said, now that Bill C-56 can be discussed, as we are doing now, we see that there are people on both sides who have reservations, be they the brand name drug companies or the generic drug companies, humanitarian groups or non-governmental organizations.
We are ready to take a few hours or a few days to study the bill in committee, very quickly. We will not be the ones holding the process up. The problem is that every time there is a delay, there are more deaths in these countries, every day.
Let us imagine the possible and probably scenario of an adjournment and a prorogation in the next few weeks. We should be called back sometime in February. However, if there is a prorogation, all the bills will die on the Order Paper, unless there is an agreement among the parliamentary leaders of all the parties represented in the House. This could represent a delay of three or four months.
I would not want to hit a nerve here, but how many hundreds of thousands of people will contract these diseases, tuberculosis, malaria or AIDS, in that period? How many hundreds or thousands of people will die? It could be interesting to air the Liberal convention in Africa next week to make sure people realize that, because of a leadership convention, everything is being put on hold while people are dying.
We all agree with the bill. Yes, we support the pharmaceutical companies, and we also support the Patent Act since we introduced it. As one of my colleagues was saying earlier, what is interesting in all this is that we can be compassionate while doing business.
We can do it. The big bad World Trade Organization was able to arrive at a compromise, to strike a delicate and complex balance. It can be done.
That being said, we are stuck in a situation that we cannot control. The four opposition parties are in agreement about speeding up the process, but not at any cost. Our party does not have on its agenda a leadership convention that will be broadcast on all major Canadian networks on November 14 and 15.
We are lawmakers. We are here to finish any job that we start. Certain bills are frivolous. In fact, they exist just to make a minister or a government look good.
Bill C-56 is a very important bill. The Minister of Industry has made a number of blunders when he was justice minister and when he was health minister. We all remember the blunders he made on the hepatitis issue. At least here, with the credibility given to this file by the Minister for International Trade, he had a chance to speed up the process. But no. We are getting a new prime minister.
People dying in Africa are not a priority after all. Surely something can be done. We, in the Progressive Conservative Party, are in contact with our colleagues and our leader in the Senate. He and the PC team in the other place are ready to do the job quickly, but properly.
Will we have time to finish the job? While reading a letter, the current Prime Minister was boasting about the fact that we are the first country to legislate on the WTO decision, but the legislation may not be passed because of the partisan agenda of this government.
Yes, maybe it is time we had a new leader. Yes, maybe it is time we had a new prime minister. I agree with that, but surely there can be better planning. It is so important. Surely it would be possible to give the House, the committee and the other place the opportunity to look at this issue.
House leaders on this side met and they had discussions with the government House leader, or at least the person who will be in that position probably for another few hours. Rumour has it that he is going to Brazil. They can send him wherever they want. The fact remains that he always was a good soldier for the Liberal Party.
However, what are we going to do now? We will be back in our ridings next week. In my riding, I have organizations lobbying to have this bill passed. In Quebec there are organizations lobbying to have it passed. They are going to ask us what we are doing. And we will have to answer that we are currently on break. Their next question will be, “So will you be able to deal with it next week?”
We do not know whether or not we will come back. Regardless of the fact that the Order Paper is calling us back on November 17, we do not know if that is what is going to happen. We are ready. I am ready, as a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, to come back next week to review the bill, to bring in people concerned with Bill C-56 and speed up the process.
We can do it. However, in some respects, we wonder if we should lend credibility to the Liberal partisan agenda. Should we do it? They tried to put the blame on us, “We know full well that the Conservatives favour the big drug companies. In the 1990s you introduced the Patent Protection Act and so on and so forth. You are against it. You are the bad guys in this Parliament.”
We are not the bad guys in Parliament. The bad guys are those who are unable to get their priorities straight with regard to their own legislative agenda. That is the problem.
With better planning and cooperation when they introduced Bill C-56, it could have passed today. Today, we are realizing that the big mean drug companies are not the only ones to have reservations. The generic drug companies also have reservations regarding the implementation of the bill. As I said earlier, without sounding like I am repeating myself and rambling on, organizations have reservations regarding Bill C-56. We would like to hear from them in committee. I can guarantee we will speed up the work, but we will do it.
If it were only pharmaceutical companies that had reservations, I would not be making this speech today. But stakeholders on both sides have reservations about the application and the applicability of this legislation.
Members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology discussed this issue, and we would like to see the regulations. A bill is often 3, 4 or 5 pages long, whereas regulations are often 3, 4 or 5 inches thick. We would like to see what would be in there.
We must protect tens of thousands of jobs in Canada. In fact, we must protect the delicate balance between Canada and the United States with regard to pharmaceutical research and the distribution of pharmaceutical products.
Therefore, this bill must go to committee quickly. I am sure that, on this side of the House, we would agree to do this right now. Members on this side of the House, or at least members of the Progressive Conservative Party, are ready to sit down in committee and do a good and credible job.
Today, we can help those who are suffering, those who have had enough and those who will contract these diseases. We can tell them that Canada's commitment is more than a statement made by a Prime Minister at the end of his reign. Parliament will take its responsibilities.
At the same time, if the government has not done a good job in terms of legislative planning, that is its problem. It is not the opposition that is the big bad wolf here, but the government.
Bill C-56 is one of those bills that gives goose bumps. Yesterday, we were watching the Prime Minister who was boasting about Bill C-20. It gave me goose bumps, but not for the same reason. It gave me a negative feeling, whereas Bill C-56 gives me a positive feeling. If everybody agrees, we could look at this as early as next week, unless the partisan agenda prevails again over the humanitarian agenda, unless the government is willing to wait three or four months and have a few thousand more sick or dead people on its conscience. We are ready to move quickly to do a credible job.