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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was question.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Vancouver South (B.C.)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply November 23rd, 2004

Mr. Chair, I will stand corrected if I am wrong, but I do not think having a national pharmacare program would make much difference in terms of how we are able to deal with the issue of drug prescriptions, because they are prescribed by doctors and filled by pharmacists and both of those bodies of professionals are obviously governed by provincial legislation.

Yes, export of drugs is dealt with by the federal government in any event, even now, but we are trying to deal with the issue of Internet pharmacies by using the definition of practitioner, because we believe that is the simplest way of dealing with it rather than a cumbersome export permit method that might be available.

On the other issue of national pharmacare, the hon. member suggests that the approach would have been better. Here is what we are trying to do with the national pharmaceutical strategy. The Prime Minister said this one day at Penticton, I believe, if I remember correctly, and I have said this several times. What we are trying to do is put in place building blocks that may over time lead us to a national pharmacare plan.

A national pharmaceutical strategy would include catastrophic drug coverage, speedier drug trials and common drug review. It would include perhaps a common formulary. It would include bulk purchasing. Once we have been able to put all of these things in place, we may not be far away from the idea of a national pharmacare plan even though it still may be run by the provinces in their own jurisdictions.

Supply November 23rd, 2004

Mr. Chair, obviously it is very important that we keep and maintain the robust drug approval process that we have. In terms of speedier drug approvals, I only meant to say that we have provided resources, starting last year with $190 million over five years, I believe, to make sure that we have the resources to be able to approve drugs within about 300 to 350 days rather than drugs having to wait over a couple of years to be approved. We want to make sure that business comes to Canada and they actually apply to have their drugs approved here. It is important for us.

But it is also important to ensure as rigorous a process as there is for pre-approval. There ought to be a rigorous process for post-approval in terms of the surveillance. That is missing at this point. I have been talking to my own department for the last several weeks to make sure that we add post-approval requirements for the drug companies to report to us any information and data they collect, and that we also have some surveillance ability and opportunity to be able to see how those drugs are doing after they have been approved, so that we do not have a situation of a drug being utilized over 10 years and finding out after 10 years that people have been having problems from year one.

It is important. I have actually been discussing that with my own department to make sure that we get there.

Supply November 23rd, 2004

Mr. Chair, the hon. member raises a very important issue. In fact, this was one of the first couple of issues that came to my attention when I became minister. We are currently in the process of developing and concluding development of regulations to deal with evergreening. Hopefully we would not need the private member's bill, but if we do I would be happy to take a look at it and tell the hon. member at that time whether or not I support it.

But I do support dealing with the issue of evergreening. It is a serious issue. It is a matter of balance. We want pharmaceutical companies to have drugs approved in this country and to manufacture drugs in this country. We also want to make sure that they do not unnecessarily delay the entry of generics into the market.

Supply November 23rd, 2004

Mr. Chair, let me first say I understand from the information I have been able to glean from the pages I have been able to access and read that Health Canada has made many changes in its processes to ensure that this kind of thing does not happen again. We also know that the matter is before the courts. We also know it was Health Canada that actually alerted the RCMP with respect to an investigation.

I think the questions of an inquiry are premature. As a former attorney general, I can tell the member one ought not to even think about an inquiry while there are criminal proceedings under way. At the end of those criminal proceedings, as a result, and if we can look at what Health Canada has done and what the results of the criminal proceedings are, in the end if the hon. member is still dissatisfied I will be happy to take that question from him and answer it more fully.

Supply November 23rd, 2004

Mr. Chair, let me address the earlier part of the hon. member's remarks with respect to the hepatitis C issue. Yes, the question can be answered, but at the risk of vitiating the discussions that are taking place. That is why I want to say all of the issues that members have raised on the floor of the House are wrapped up in the mandate that has been provided to the lawyers to have discussions and look at all available options for financial compensation.

With respect to the issue on diabetes, if I were able to say what the hon. member wants me to say, I would be pre-empting the Minister of Finance for next year's budget. The budgetary process is not complete. We will of course fight to make sure that the health budget is protected. It is the top priority of the government. I am assuming it would be protected. I remain hopeful that we will be able to integrate the strategies into one common chronic disease strategy across the country, with ample and sufficient funding. That is very important for me.

Supply November 23rd, 2004

Mr. Chair, the member obviously raises an important question that perhaps can be answered, but I have said very clearly that we are looking at all options. No option is foreclosed. Lawyers have been given a mandate to look at and discuss all available options for financial compensation to those from the pre-1986 and post-1990 class.

I believe it is important, if we want to have discussions with the lawyers from all the classes and the justice lawyers, that we not interfere in those discussions by holding negotiations in public.

Supply November 23rd, 2004

Mr. Chair, there is no question that we are discussing the possibility of a coordinated integrated chronic disease strategy. I think I said that to the hon. member in one of my earlier remarks. We want to make sure that we actually arrive at that because I believe that many of these diseases have similar issues relating to them. There are underlying diseases that happen for the same reasons and their treatment, cure and prevention sometimes take the same kinds of approaches to deal with them.

There is no question that we will be looking at that, but I believe that for HIV-AIDS and the like, very special kinds of diseases, we support specific strategies.

Supply November 23rd, 2004

Mr. Chair, with respect to prostate cancer in particular, I understand that CIHR in fact has taken up the slack and has provided $8 million for research in that particular area.

Supply November 23rd, 2004

Mr. Chair, the hon. member asked the same question in the committee. I told him that once I have the numbers I will be bringing those forward and tabling them for the benefit of all. Several numbers are being thrown about. It depends on how one calculates those numbers. I want to be able to bring the numbers that I can back up with facts, with reality.

I also just want to say that Commissioner Romanow agreed that in the accord, in the money that has been provided for health care across the country, the Romanow gap has been closed. This means that according to his calculations, there is adequate money for health care needs across the country for at least a little while.

Supply November 23rd, 2004

Mr. Chair, I understand, and I remember reading about this, that my predecessor actually announced some time ago that the funding would be increased from $41 million to about $83 million or $84 million. It would be ramped up to double over five years. I understand that that money is there. We are seeking approval to begin the increase incrementally over the next five years.

I was actually at the AIDS walk in Vancouver where I talked about this money. I want to make sure that we get it out the door and into the communities at the earliest possible time. I recognize that AIDS is a very serious issue.