My apologies, Mr. Chair.
On April 28, 1998, an opposition supply day motion to extend compensation to everyone infected through the tainted blood scandal, so to speak, was defeated by a vote of 154 to 140. The key reason the government gave, and the health minister at the time repeatedly stated, for the fact that compensation would be limited to the period of 1986 to 1990 was that there were no tests available prior to 1986.
In fact, on April 29, 1998, the hon. Allan Rock stated that there was a period during which the harm could have been prevented. That same day Mr. Rock stated:
Mr. Speaker, we are helping the hep C victims for the period when it was clearly determined that the government had responsibility. Between 1986 and 1990 it could have tested properly.
I would further add that a few days later, on May 1, 1998, the same Allan Rock stated:
Mr. Speaker, for the last five weeks in this House we have stood on the principle that governments should pay cash compensation when they have caused damages and when those responsible for the system could and should have acted.
In 1981 those responsible could and should have acted. An official message dated January 14, 1981, from the American National Red Cross stated that blood services providers should prepare to test all units collected and to avoid transfusion of units with elevated ALT values.
I know one of the hon. members present earlier commented that she had no idea what this virus was. Indeed, it was called non-A, non-B hepatitis. The fact is that these markers were well known to be the causative indicators of transfusion hepatitis, which has now been labelled hepatitis C.
I also have a letter dated May 22, 1981, from the Blood Transfusion Service in Ottawa to Health Canada in which it discussed post transfusion hepatitis and appropriate testing methods. I have a response to that exact letter indicating that it did know about this. The response is dated June 4, 1981. It states that these donors should also be tested for ALT, but that it is not set up to do that.
There are other examples around the world. For example, Germany had regulatory authority requiring all ALT testing prior to 1995. New York state began routine ALT testing in 1982. Indeed, France began its own testing in 1985. All of these are prior to this key definition date of 1986, so I do not think that argument holds true at all.
Let us talk about the alleged number of victims. Again on April 29, 1998, the hon. Allan Rock stated:
It was only because of the leadership of the federal government that 22,000 victims of hepatitis C have been offered $1.1 billion in compensation.
There were no 22,000 victims. That was an overestimation by the hon. minister. I suspect it was not on purpose. Indeed, I doubt that any member in the House would ever purposely inflate these figures. I am only pointing out that we are now being asked to wait for further actuarial reports and I am not convinced that those figures will hold any more value than these figures.
We have come to know the true number of victims. As of March 31, 2004, which is the latest audit, only 8,800 claims have been approved and of those primarily infected that only represents about 5,000 victims. That is far below the initial estimate which was set up to provide $1.1 billion for 22,000 victims.
Now that there are only 5,000 victims that we know of in that timeframe, clearly there is money set up for the other groups.
I can point out that for pre-1986 and post-1990, as of the end of September this year there are only 5,071 victims that have been approved by the Red Cross settlement. This is free money to those infected outside of the groups.
This makes very reliable figures that we have to date from these reports. So the bottom line on this second issue is that again the government is wrong in its estimates. There are not 22,000 victims in this 1986-to-1990 group, and indeed there are not 40,000 to 60,000 victims outside this group. The total number of victims appears to be a terrible number, but clearly a more moderate number, of approximately 10,000 victims.
The government's original responsibility is very clear. The fund's viability is also very clear. The original fund was $1.1 billion, and it was set up to compensate 22,000 victims. We now know that there are far fewer victims than the government had predicted, but there is still $1.1 billion in the fund. The reason for limiting compensation, according to the government, was because there was no testing prior to 1986. Well, that is simply not true. The evidence is very clear in the papers that I have today.
I would like to comment as well on the cash-not-care debacle. I am sure it was designed to be a good program, and it was approximately $300 million set up to provide for drugs and other care that fell to these poor people outside of the provincial health care that was available. And indeed, as mentioned earlier by other members, some of the costs to these victims are astronomical. So there was money sent to the provinces by the federal government to the tune of $300 million. The problem is clear that this money has not reached and may not reach the victims.
Here in Ontario the Liberals have misspent millions of this federal money that was earmarked for these victims. George Smitherman, the provincial health minister, has chosen to rob these victims by conveniently and incorrectly interpreting the government's legal obligation. Money that was meant for hepatitis C victims under this program has been funnelled into programs that these victims would normally receive.
This kind of convenient interpretation conveniences the government, not the victims. In this instance, money given to the provinces, particularly in the case of Ontario, has once again broken good faith. I believe this money should be immediately returned and refunded to the federal government and used to further the compensation of these victims.
No more money should flow to pilfering provinces on this particular matter. It should flow directly to the victims. The current Liberal government in Ontario cannot be trusted any more with this additional money, and therefore should not be trusted by their federal counterpart.
In closing, I would like to say that the administration fees are approaching $250,000 a month. Waiting until next summer for another report will only help the administrators, accountants, and lawyers. There are people and corporations that have been charged with various criminal activities, and administrators and bureaucrats are making money off this situation, not the victims.
The government's estimations of the victim numbers were, like their surpluses, wrong. They were wrong in their estimates. They were wrong on their dates when the tests were available. They were wrong in their assessments of the impact, and they are still wrong. If they do not vote for full inclusion of all victims, they will remain wrong.