April 3, 1998

REF

Maurice Vellacott

Reform

Mr. Maurice Vellacott (Wanuskewin, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, the health minister says he does not want the government's approach to compensation to set a legal precedent.

It is possible for the government to compensate hepatitis C victims infected before 1986 without admitting legal liability. To use a legal term, it can simply compensate ex gratia, out of grace.

Why is he inventing a doomsday scenario in order to avoid across the board compensation?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, there is sound reason for the approach taken by the governments of Canada in dealing with this difficult issue.

I refer the hon. member, for example, to the writing this week of Professor Bernard Dickens of the medical law and ethics faculty of the University of Toronto. He wrote at length an analysis that was published in the popular press about the proper role of government when it comes to a tragedy like this and the distinction between paying compensation based on accepting responsibility and going beyond that and the implications for the health care system.

I urge the member to think through the position he is expressing and its possible consequence for health care in Canada.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
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REF

Maurice Vellacott

Reform

Mr. Maurice Vellacott (Wanuskewin, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, it is a good thing the minister never read that article before the ice storm in January and the Red River flood.

The health minister says the government is not liable for infecting those victims before 1986. He believes it was an unforeseen tragedy. In the last budget the government set up a $3 billion contingency fund precisely for needs unforeseen by the government.

Why is this minister saying that his compensation plan is the best that can be done?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, Speaker, because in our analysis carried out by every government in Canada when we looked at the history of this matter as sketched out in the Krever report and elsewhere, it was clear that in the period 1986 to 1990 something could have been done to manage the risks. Something should have been done to prevent the infections and it was not.

In those circumstances all the governments of Canada agreed that is the appropriate basis on which the public should offer compensation to those who were harmed.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
BQ

Ghislain Fournier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Ghislain Fournier (Manicouagan, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Government of Quebec introduced its new policy of cooperation with Quebec's native peoples, a policy that was very well received by many native leaders, but that requires the cooperation of the federal government.

In a gesture of open-mindedness towards Quebec's native communities, will the federal government agree to match the Government of Quebec's contribution of $125 million over five years for the native people's development fund?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Native Communities
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LIB

Don Boudria

Liberal

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has not been advised of the details of the negotiations to which the hon. member refers in his question.

When we have these details, we will of course duly examine them and reply to the Government of Quebec after careful consideration of the matter.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Native Communities
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BQ

Ghislain Fournier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Ghislain Fournier (Manicouagan, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Quebec has also decided to give Quebec's native peoples an opportunity to collect the QST paid by natives and non-natives on and off reserves.

In order to give Quebec's native peoples greater financial autonomy, is the federal government prepared to allow native communities to collect the GST?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Native Communities
Permalink
LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the federal government has already signed similar agreements with native peoples in other provinces, and we are certainly prepared to sit down with the Government of Quebec and with the native peoples residing in Quebec for the same purpose.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Native Communities
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REF

Jason Kenney

Reform

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, the health minister is running out of excuses. One of the lame excuses he trots out is that if he compensated all the victims it would open up the legal floodgates. He said that anybody who is sick would sue the government. But that is ridiculous.

These victims are not suing because they are sick. They are suing because the government made them sick. It is government negligence that is to blame. That legal precedent has already been set through the treatment of AIDS victims who are now compensated on the principle of negligence.

Why the two tier standard?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I made the point that in the HIV example of 10 years ago the government proceeded on the same principle. It looked at what happened. It found that government should have been more vigilant, should have put surveillance systems in place, should have been more keenly aware of what was going on in Europe and other countries, and did not.

On the basis of that, compensation was offered. We are using the same principle in this case. It is a sound principle. It is a principle accepted by every government in this country.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
REF

Jason Kenney

Reform

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, the principle is that when the government is negligent it should pay. The government was negligent because it had a test that could have screened for hepatitis C as far back as 1981. That is when the German government started using the same test to screen for hepatitis C. The facts are irrefutable.

The government should have screened for hepatitis C as far back as 1981 but it did not. That is called negligence. Some people would call it malpractice. I call it just plain wrong.

Why will the health minister not right this wrong? Why will he not compensate the victims?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

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

First, Mr. Speaker, it is accepted by most commentators who know the history of this file that it was in 1986 that Canada ought to have adopted testing procedures. I rely, among others, on the Krever report in that connection.

The hon. member refers to 1981. Is he now arguing against his colleagues by suggesting compensation should only go to 1981 and not before that? The Reform Party should decide on one approach to this issue because it is contradicting itself.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
BQ

René Laurin

Bloc Québécois

Mr. René Laurin (Joliette, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence.

Everyone recognizes that the provinces are having a hard time providing front line health services because of the cuts made by the federal government.

How can the government be preparing to spend $800 million on submarines, while refusing to return the funds it dramatically cut from health care in recent years?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Acquisition Of Submarines
Permalink
LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no connection between the two. The question of the equipment that is necessary for the Canadian forces has been a matter of long discussion. It is a matter of where we deal with these equipment purchases within the budget, within the allocation of funds for defence purposes. It is part of protecting the sovereignty of our country on land, in the air and at sea.

I think the health minister has advised members of the House well with respect to the very fine position the government is taking in dealing with hepatitis C.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Acquisition Of Submarines
Permalink
BQ

René Laurin

Bloc Québécois

Mr. René Laurin (Joliette, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, would the government be preparing once again to make an important decision, such as buying submarines during the parliamentary recess in order to avoid a public debate on its misguided priorities?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Acquisition Of Submarines
Permalink
LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in the House yesterday, this matter is still under discussion with the British government and until that matter is finalized we are not in a position to announce a decision one way or the other.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Acquisition Of Submarines
Permalink
REF

Jim Hart

Reform

Mr. Jim Hart (Okanagan—Coquihalla, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, what is so disappointing here is that the health minister seems to not care. He just goes back on his own words.

In November he told the Ottawa Citizen that he did not want to see hepatitis C victims spend their lifetime in litigation.

A few weeks ago he said all victims would receive “compassionate and fair and appropriate compensation”. The minister broke those promises, and all the empty sound bites in the world will not change that.

Just when did he sell out on his principles and was it worth it?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, all the health ministers in the country took those same principles to heart as they worked for months toward this compensation package.

As a result of our work and the agreement among all governments over 22,000 Canadians have been spared litigation. Over 22,000 Canadians are going to be the beneficiaries of a compensation offer that totals $1.1 billion.

For them and their families that is very significant evidence of compassion on the part of governments.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
REF

Jim Hart

Reform

Mr. Jim Hart (Okanagan—Coquihalla, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I asked the minister if he was proud of the fact that he abandoned those people who now will spend their lifetime in litigation, the people who are not being compensated in his package. His package is wrong. He knows it. Other ministers of health in the provinces now know that too.

Is he now saying that he does not care about those excluded hepatitis C victims? Is he saying that he does not care if they spend their lifetime in litigation?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, as I have explained, all the governments of Canada brought those same principles of compassion and fairness to the table. We looked at the history of the matter. We proceeded on what we believe is sound public policy.

For example, in the Vancouver Sun this week some of these points are made very elaborately confirming the wisdom of the decision of all the health ministers and all the governments of the country supporting it and saying the position is fully justified. Across the country evidence can be seen of people who have thought about this issue agreeing with the position taken by all the governments of the country.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink

April 3, 1998