April 1, 1998

LIB

Jean Chrétien

Liberal

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as we said in the House, there was a period where the responsibilities of the government were well established.

We have been dealing with the provincial governments. The provincial governments of all political stripes and the federal minister of health have agreed to a scheme to compensate the victims of that period, as it is our obligation to do so.

The decision represents $800 million from the federal government and $300 million from the provincial governments. I think it is a very generous program.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
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REF

Preston Manning

Reform

Mr. Preston Manning (Leader of the Opposition, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, this is not an administrative issue. This is a moral issue. It is morally wrong for the government to abandon these victims of its own negligence.

The Prime Minister is concerned about his place in history. He wants the millennium fund to be a monument to himself and to his administration, but if he allows this decision to stand he will have his monuments all right, 40,000 of them in the graveyards of the country.

I ask him again. Will the Prime Minister do the right thing and compensate all the victims of poisoned blood?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
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LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, this terribly difficult decision was made by 13 governments in the country. All the provincial governments joined with the federal government in coming to the conclusion that for the period 1986 to 1990, when something could and should have been done, government should accept responsibility to compensate.

As a result, as the Prime Minister has said $1.1 billion is being offered as assistance to the victims who were infected during that period, as well as those who were infected by those people.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
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REF

Preston Manning

Reform

Mr. Preston Manning (Leader of the Opposition, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, we have heard this cold-hearted rationalization before. It does not address the moral issue that is involved here.

There is no excuse for doing the wrong thing. There is no legal excuse. There is no administrative excuse. There is no accounting excuse. There is no political excuse.

I ask the Prime Minister again why he will not do the right thing and compensate all the victims of this tragedy.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
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LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition uses high sounding phrases but he does not come to grips with the dilemma facing governments in this situation, a very difficult dilemma.

We are dealing with a medical and health system in which there are sometimes risks. Before 1986 the risk of infections through the blood system was well known. After 1986 it was known and there was something that could have been done about it. That is the difference.

Where do governments compensate? Do they compensate women who have high risk deliveries and babies delivered with brain damage? Do they compensate the people who have anesthetics and suffer adverse reactions? Mr. Speaker, this is—

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
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?

The Speaker

The hon. member for Edmonton North.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
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REF

Deborah Grey

Reform

Miss Deborah Grey (Edmonton North, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, the government used to use a high sounding phrase, that is it talked about universality. The Prime Minister used to say that he did not think it was right to have a two tier system in the country, but it has all changed now.

He has told the health minister that there is just not enough room in the lifeboats for everybody with hepatitis C. Only some of those who were infected will get any sort of compensation. The rest of them will suffer with nothing.

Why does the Prime Minister think there should be a two tier system in this instance?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
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LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, what all the governments of Canada have done, all governments of all political affiliation, is apply a single principle. That single principle is that public intervention to offer assistance is appropriate when it can be identified that at a point during the chronology something could have been done by those responsible to change the outcome.

The hon. member should think through the implications for the publicly funded health care system if we are to adopt the principle that everyone who is harmed, regardless of any circumstance, will be compensated.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
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REF

Deborah Grey

Reform

Miss Deborah Grey (Edmonton North, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I think it might be wise for the health minister to think through the implications for the victims who are suffering today.

For those who were infected it does not matter whether they were infected in 1985 or 1986. All they know is that they have the disease and that they are suffering. What difference does that make? It is still wrong. These people are still suffering.

The Prime Minister is morally responsible because it was a government regulated blood system that wrongfully infected all these people, regardless of when it happened.

Why is the Prime Minister allowing his health minister to have a two tier system set up for this problem?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
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LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member ignores distinctions that do not suit her purpose. She is slipping away from the difficult dilemma in confronting the difficult principle that has to be brought to bear in cases like this one.

For those before 1986 thank God we have a health system in the country that will care for them and a standard of excellence to look after them in their illness. Thank God they will be treated. Thank God they will be the beneficiaries of excellent research in the country.

For those before 1986 we have a medicare and a health care system to look after them in their illness. For those after 1986, in the period to 1990, we are acknowledging that—

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
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BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Bernard Landry tabled his budget, a budget that came very close to being balanced but that was very tight, a budget that had no real room to manoeuvre because of the huge cuts imposed by Ottawa on the provinces in the areas of health, welfare and post-secondary education.

Is the Prime Minister not embarrassed that the federal government is literally swimming in money, when the provincial governments are too strapped to ensure adequate delivery of the front-line services for which they are responsible?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Budget Of Quebec Finance Minister
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LIB

Jean Chrétien

Liberal

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, there are several provincial governments in Canada. The great majority of them are able to balance their books. They were treated exactly the same as Quebec, but if Quebec had started a little earlier, it would have made it on time.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Budget Of Quebec Finance Minister
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BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)

The Prime Minister is perfectly right. If the Liberals had not left a deficit of $6 billion and had started to work on it earlier, we would now have a budget surplus.

But the Prime Minister should remember that all the provinces feel the way Quebec does about transfer payments.

Does the Prime Minister not find it abhorrent that the federal government overestimated its deficit by $17 billion, and that it is still going ahead and cutting billions from provincial budgets, all the while creating new programs in jurisdictions where it has no business, just for the visibility?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Budget Of Quebec Finance Minister
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LIB

Jean Chrétien

Liberal

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should perhaps ask the PQ government whether it created a Quebec blood agency just for the visibility, thus creating duplication in an area affecting the health of Quebeckers.

I think that we have done our job well here in Ottawa. We have balanced our books. If Quebec has taken a few years longer to do so, it is because Mr. Parizeau wanted to spend the money before the 1995 referendum.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Budget Of Quebec Finance Minister
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BQ

Michel Gauthier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, if there is a financial problem in Quebec, it is because Minister Bourbeau, a former Liberal finance minister, left the largest deficit in the history of our province. This is the reality.

The government can make all sorts of excuses, but one fact remains: the federal government is literally rolling in dough, while provincial governments, including those that have balanced their budgets, have difficulties making ends meet.

Does the Prime Minister agree that it is unusual and unhealthy to have in Canada a government—

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Budget Of Quebec Finance Minister
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?

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. The Minister of Finance.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Budget Of Quebec Finance Minister
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LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member must know that the federal government achieved, with the help of Canadians from across the country, an incredible fiscal turnaround.

However, we still have a debt of $583 billion. We have a debt-GDP ratio of 70%, compared to the provincial average of 30%. We spend 30 cents of every dollar in interest, compared to the provincial average of 14 cents.

That being said, I am very pleased—

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Budget Of Quebec Finance Minister
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?

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the minister. The hon. member for Roberval.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Budget Of Quebec Finance Minister
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BQ

Michel Gauthier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, we can certainly listen to the finance minister's explanations. However, we cannot help but wonder about a federal government that spends in order to increase its visibility, while the provinces are having a hard time providing the basics to people.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Budget Of Quebec Finance Minister
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LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, since we took office, the value of tax points, for Quebec alone, increased by $2.1 billion, while equalization payments went up by $1 billion.

Lower interest rates in Quebec have also resulted in a windfall of more than $1.4 billion over the past three years.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Budget Of Quebec Finance Minister
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April 1, 1998