Petty politics trumps doing the right thing


"The Herald" missed this story last week, but it's important for people to know about it.  One typical headline in another news outlet read, "Tories block bid to make cheaper medicines for poor nations" (Globe and Mail).  The background is that Bill C-398 came up for a vote in the House last week.  This bill aimed to correct several flaws in Canada's Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) which dates back to 2004. CAMR was designed to allow generic drug manufacturers to make generic drugs used in the treatment of AIDS for shipment to impoverished nations.  However, CAMR is full of red tape and, since 2004, just two batches of one generic drug has been sent to only one country.

A similar bill passed the House of Commons in 2011, but didn't make it through the Senate before the May 2, 2011 election was called.  So this fall New Democrat MP Hélène Laverdière proposed a private members bill with the same intent and similar wording.  It came up for a vote last Wednesday (Nov. 28).  In 2011, 26 Conservatives supported its predecessor, but this time the Conservatives, with their false majority, let it be known that they opposed it.  Figuring out their reasons for opposing is difficult since their campaign against was full of misinformation. For example, they said the drug manufacturers were opposed.  Drub manufacturers stated publicly they weren't.  The Conservatives said the bill would put Canada in contravention of its obligations under WTO rules.  International legal experts say that is false.  There is some suspicion that the Conservatives' opposition is related to drug patent laws in trade agreements.  

In the end, seven Conservatives saw fit to vote for the bill, but it was defeated anyway (148 to 141);  none of these seven are from Southern Alberta.  

The Conservatives support for the largest corporations continues.

"It is so profoundly sad that they couldn't rise above petty politics," Ms. Laverdière said. "There are two types of people who are really losing this evening. First are the people we could have helped with the bill. And I think that the Conservatives have also shown that they were not able to rise above politics to do the right thing."

Mark Sandilands
President, Lethbridge Federal NDP Riding Association