Mr. Speaker, it appears that I have about five minutes left in the debate to give a perspective that I think has been missing from some of the discussion today.
First, I want to thank the Liberals for bringing forward this motion, part of their opposition day debate. I want to say to them that it is probably important for the Liberals in the House to answer questions, more than the Conservatives.
We have identified one of the root causes of the problems we have faced over the last few days to be the fact that we have in place a single source contract that was signed by the Liberals, Prime Minister Chrétien at the helm, at cabinet in 2001 with the company that preceded GlaxoSmithKline, Shire Biologics for $325 million.
That was 2001, when of course we were in the middle of the sponsorship scandal. That was 2001, when the Liberal government at the time suggested that there had to be a company funded in Quebec, thereby excluding most other possible bidders. As a result, a single source contract for producing all pandemic vaccines went to one company, Shire Biologics.
I raise this because I want the Liberals to account for it. I want their members to know and members in the House to know that Canadians are standing in line for vaccination that they believe is necessary for the health and well-being of themselves and their children, who are worried to death about not being able to get the vaccine for asthmatic children, and who are fearful as pregnant women about what, when and how they will get the protection they need. I want Canadians to know the true story, that behind this problem, behind much of the difficulties that we are faced with today, was a decision made by the Liberals eight years ago for political purposes, it would appear.
I am not here making generalizations or casting aspersions, but it would appear that, in fact, there were political reasons for the decision that was made back then and we are paying the price today. It is infuriating for Canadians to realize that the lineups, the lack of access to the vaccine, can be traced back to the fact that we have a single source contract.
I would like to remind the House about the expert testimony we received at the health committee, and the Liberals were there to hear this, from the company that did not get any contract from the government for producing the pandemic vaccine, and that is Sanofi Pasteur. Dr. Rob Van Exan, who came to our committee, said the following:
My comments were based on the fact that we have had a two-supplier process in Canada for the regular seasonal vaccines since 1992, which predates GSK's involvement in this. I've been with Connaught for 30 years, so I remember this. In fact, Connaught was one of the ones that instigated and negotiated the two-supplier system--
He went on to say:
This is a much trickier vaccine to produce on a seasonal basis than any other. The concerns are not only with the virus changing. What about the source of eggs, and what about viruses getting into the eggs or into the chickens? There are so many places for something to go wrong.
That is why we must have a two supplier contract. Why? That is the first question.
How do we fix the problem? The government has suggested that perhaps it will start looking at a two supplier scenario once again, but it is a little too late, is it not? Why did the government, when it was faced with the knowledge of these problems and the single source contract, and the inability to meet demand as it had predicted, not make changes to the contract, not do something to enhance the production of the vaccine?
Maybe it has to do with the fact that the Conservatives are playing the same kinds of games as the Liberals. Maybe it has to do with the fact that the chief lobbyist for GlaxoSmitKline is Ken Boessenkool, who is a well-known Conservative, a close friend of the Prime Minister's, who served as policy and communications adviser when the Prime Minister was doing his leadership bid, and who more recently became a lobbyist for GSK.
Is it possible that the government did not intervene because the most current version of this drug company was busy lobbying the government and trying to keep hold of this single source of production?
I raise other concerns that we have faced within the last few days that gall Canadians. They now realize that there have been 101 deaths, six since last Thursday when the supply of vaccine dried up and mass immunization clinics across this country were closed. Provinces had to say to people on the priority list that they did not have the vaccine to help them.
I want the House to know that Canadians are galled by the fact that there are Canadians in this country who can go to Medcan, a private clinic in Toronto, or Copeman in Vancouver and get the vaccine they need and want because they have paid $4,000 a year for a membership and are therefore entitled to it.
I thought Conservatives were against that kind of elite access. I thought Conservatives were going to stop the kind of nonsense we saw from Liberals with their entitlements.
Why did the Conservatives not ensure that no private clinic would be able to access this vaccine, and why was the Canada Health Act not upheld?
I also wonder why the government has not been able to present a coordinated strategy with one communication message across this country showing that the vaccine is available and that the government is prepared to do whatever is necessary to save people's lives and to ensure that people get the vaccine they need when they need it.