By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 0 Comments
The International Association of Firefighters arrived in Ottawa and held a reception at the…
The International Association of Firefighters arrived in Ottawa and held a reception at the Delta Hotel.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, October 24, 2011 at 8:54 PM - 12 Comments
Rona Ambrose, Minister for Status of Women, hosted a reception in Senate Speaker Noël…
Rona Ambrose, Minister for Status of Women, hosted a reception in Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella’s salon in honour Women’s History Month. The gathering was to celebrate women in Canadian military forces.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 30, 2011 at 9:53 AM - 41 Comments
(This post last updated at 7:46pm)
The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Insite safe injection facility—a unanimous ruling in the facility’s favour—is here.
The Minister made a decision not to extend the exemption from the application of the federal drug laws to Insite. The effect of that decision, but for the trial judge’s interim order, would have been to prevent injection drug users from accessing the health services offered by Insite, threatening the health and indeed the lives of the potential clients. The Minister’s decision thus engages the claimants’ s. 7 interests and constitutes a limit on their s. 7 rights. Based on the information available to the Minister, this limit is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. It is arbitrary, undermining the very purposes of the CDSA, which include public health and safety. It is also grossly disproportionate: the potential denial of health services and the correlative increase in the risk of death and disease to injection drug users outweigh any benefit that might be derived from maintaining an absolute prohibition on possession of illegal drugs on Insite’s premises.
10:46am. Liberal health critic Hedy Fry applauds.
10:51am. The Canadian Public Health Association applauds.
11:37am. Ms. Davies raised the court’s decision in QP just now, provoking a response from Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 6:20 PM - 66 Comments
The Scene. The Prime Minister stood and congratulated the leader of the opposition on his election. The leader of the opposition congratulated the Prime Minister on his election. In his front row seat, Tony Clement wrapped his arms around himself and mimed a hug to celebrate this new spirit of mutual appreciation.
The civility that we were promised—and which everyone is now monitoring with the sort of close attention and nervous anticipation usually reserved for the rescue of Chilean miners or small children from holes in the ground—is now almost entirely insipid. Newly elected members and newly appointed ministers are applauded for simply existing. Everyone claps for everything and everyone. David Anderson was widely saluted today for apologizing after suggesting that a member opposite had made a “fool of himself.” It is like being in a kindergarten classroom where encouragement and self-esteem and positive affirmation are paramount.
This Decorous Era achieved total farce this afternoon when Conservative parliamentary secretary Shelly Glover thanked one of her opposition critics for their re-election. “Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague once again for returning to this House,” Ms. Glover said of New Democrat Irene Mathyssen. Presumably she meant to congratulate. Hopefully we will soon enough be sufficiently reacquainted with each other that even that seems unnecessary.
In the meantime, this place remains mostly concerned with serious matters of public policy. And whatever this may lack in salaciousness, it does at least allow members of different parties to acknowledge their critical views of each other’s intentions. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 12:46 PM - 100 Comments
For those interested in a health care debate ahead of impending federal-provincial negotiations, the Harper government seems keen to start the discussion on their terms. Or rather, their term.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, May 18.
I do think that the public wants to understand better from all governments how the amounts of money we’re putting into health care are going to lead to better outcomes, greater accountability for results.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, February 11, 2011 at 11:36 AM - 5 Comments
For a second year, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) presented A Taste of the Arctic:…
For a second year, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) presented A Taste of the Arctic: A Celebration of Inuit Culture. This time the event was held in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Canada. Below, Evan Solomon, host of CBC’s Power & Politics (left), signs ITK president Mary Simon’s cast.
Former GG Michaëlle Jean (left) and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 3:11 PM - 1 Comment
Former cabinet minister Jim Prentice held a goodbye party before the House rose. Prentice…
Former cabinet minister Jim Prentice held a goodbye party before the House rose. Prentice (left) with Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.
Tory MP Lynne Yelich (left) with Karen Prentice.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 10, 2010 at 12:23 PM - 16 Comments
On September 28, the Globe reported that provincial health ministers had been told by that the federal government would not be moving forward with new warning labels for cigarette packaging. When NDP health critic Megan Leslie asked about the apparent cancellation that day in the House, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq ignored the question. A month and a half later, Ms. Leslie asked again about the apparent decision and again Ms. Aglukkaq ignored the question.
This week though, in the wake of a CBC report that tobacco company lobbying preceded the apparent reversal, Ms. Aglukkaq told the House that “additional health information on labels is still under review” and “an announcement will be made soon.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:54 PM - 75 Comments
A survey of recent government prioritizing.
Jim Flaherty, December 7. Mr. Speaker, Canada’s economic recovery remains our government’s number one priority.
Leona Aglukkaq, December 7. Mr. Speaker, we continue to make health care a priority.
Stephen Harper, December 7. Mr. Speaker, the priorities of this government, beyond national defence and criminal justice, are pretty obvious. It is preserving jobs; it is making sure Canadian families do not pay taxes that are too high; and it is making sure that we fully fund transfers for health and education to the provinces…
Stephen Harper, December 7. That is why, as this government has looked at its budgetary priorities, maintaining the growth of those transfers for our health care system has been the number one priority of this government.
Peter Kent, December 6. I must emphasize that the safety of Canadians and all people travelling on Canadian roadways remains our first priority.
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 1:11 PM - 0 Comments
I see that Colleague Kingston is unsure why the federal Minister of Health is frustrated at media coverage of her ministry’s approach to the vein-centered Zamboni hypothesis about multiple sclerosis. One possible reason, I think, is that statements like those of Liberal health critic Kirsty Duncan are being repeated rather uncritically. Duncan told Kingston “They say we need evidence-based medicine but they are doing nothing to gather evidence.” Nothing? I wonder how else, but as “evidence-gathering”, one could possibly characterize the seven MS Society-funded preliminary studies Aglukkaq mentioned in her burst of finger-wagging at the media. These studies are designed to establish precisely what needs to be confirmed before the dream of a pan-Canadian trial of vein therapy for MS can appropriately be fulfilled: namely, whether there is any such thing at all as “chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency”, and whether it is really correlated with MS.
The religious conviction of some MS patients that they have a venous disorder is hard to account for, given the state of the evidence. It seems to be a by-product of natural frustration with slow progress on MS treatment, and, often, of conspiracy theories about sadistic drug companies and greedy, arrogant “neuros”. Some of these patients now reject the idea that they have multiple sclerosis at all—and, indeed, one must admit that there is something refreshingly categorical about such views. MS is not diagnosed by direct observation of demyelination, after all, but largely by means of functional criteria. The idea that CCSVI is not MS at all sidesteps the multiple logical problems with attributing MS to CCSVI. (One obvious example: why doesn’t anybody develop MS beyond middle age, even as the vascular system in most humans continues to fall into ever-worse disrepair?) I suspect it is almost easier to believe that there are some non-MS patients whose real problem might be a chronic vein blockage than it is to believe that MS, which is known to be a demyelinating disease, is caused or worsened by such blockages.
The problem with making grandiose statements about this wholly novel ontological entity, CCSVI, seems similar to the one that plagued the field of back surgery until fairly recently: patients presenting with chronic lower-back pain would be given MRIs, and a surgeon would go “Ahhh, here’s your problem”, point to some apparent lesion—a “slipped disc” or the like—and recommend an expensive, disabling operation. We now know, because people got around to checking by means of controlled investigations, that many of these lesions are indistinguishable from ones commonly found in asymptomatic individuals. Put in plain English, everybody’s back kind of looks like hell in an MRI, because we are imperfectly evolved to walk upright. Stronger criteria have thus been established for surgical interventions into chronic lower back pain, and even for mere medical imaging of bad backs. Something similar is likely to happen with tonsillectomies for children, which are increasingly thought to have been performed much too commonly in the past (although the rates at which they are done seem to be about as high as ever).
Like it or not, medicine no longer cuts first and asks questions later. We can’t presume CCSVI into existence; we have to ascertain the natural background rate of vein blockages, even ones that look dramatic in a venogram. You can see for yourself that this is the basic aim of the studies Aglukkaq points to; all seven involve vascular comparisons of MS patients with healthy controls.
For the record, I would like to politely distance myself from any suggestion that the strongly evidence-based treatments developed for vein-obstruction problems in the legs should be used, on the premise of a “right to blood flow”, to justify vaguely analogous and non-evidence-based treatments in the region of the head and neck. I would also like to observe that surgery for varicose veins does not normally involve surgical widening of the affected vessels with balloons or stents: instead, the veins are simply removed, perforated, or destroyed, precisely because a sufficient volume of blood can be counted on to return to the heart from the leg through other tissues.
By Anne Kingston - Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 11:48 PM - 0 Comments
Was it media “misinformation” or Orwellian double speak?
Thirteen days after she ignited a firestorm with her announcement that the federal government does “not have the evidence to proceed” with pan-Canadian clinical trials investigating CCSVI treatment for multiple sclerosis, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq lashed out at the press who she claims mangled her message. “We needed to clarify the misinformation that was laid out in the media,” she told the scrum assembled in St. John’s, NL, to cover this week’s meeting of federal, provincial and territorial health ministers.
The minister wanted to make clear that her government is “still open” and “never said no” to funding clinical trials on CCSVI, the controversial MS treatment pioneered by Paulo Zamboni to restore blood flow in the blocked neck and chest veins of patients via a routine balloon angioplasty. She also wanted it known the feds and provinces are in sync on the issue: “We are speaking with one voice on MS,” she said.
Aglukkaq’s statement offered a minor rewording of her Sept. 1 announcement that did say “no”—at least for now—to government funding for pan-Canadian clinical trials into CCSVI based on the recommendations of a study conducted by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in consultation with the MS Society of Canada. That report concluded scientific evidence didn’t support clinical trials but that the situation should be monitored via seven two-year studies into the MS-CCSVI link funded by the MS Society of Canada and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in the U.S. The minister also announced at the time that the government would set up a consult with the study’s researchers.
Exactly how the media distorted Aglukkaq’s message isn’t clear. But it’s understandable—politic even—that she take another run at CCSVI, a topic that has polarized the medical community over the past year and sent a fault line down the health ministers’ confab. In July, Saskatchewan’s government drew a proverbial line in the sand when it announced it would fund clinical trials into CCSVI treatment. On Monday, Jerome Kennedy, health minister to Newfoundland and Labrador, kicked off the meeting with news of an observational study tracking residents before and after they left the country for CCSVI treatment (but would not provide the treatment itself). Yesterday, Alberta’s Health and Wellness Minister Gene Zwozdesky announced that he wants to speed up an “examination” study underway in his province involving patients who’ve undergone CCSVI treatment.
Aglukkaq has suffered slings and arrows of newspaper editorials that condemned the government’s wait-for-research-to-see-if-research-is-warranted position. Her office has been deluged with angry letters from MS patients who feel they can’t wait for the clinical trials required before the government green lights the procedure. Hundreds have traveled offshore to far-flung clinics, cashing into their RRSPs to pay upwards of $10,000 for the treatment. Anecdotal evidence from more than a thousand of CCSVI patients attests to varying degrees of symptom relief. Many report increased energy, improved mobility, increased sensation and improved bladder control and vision.
Zamboni’s approach contradicts entrenched thinking that MS is a neurological condition and autoimmune disorder best treated by drugs. But these drugs, with their laundry list of side effects, also pose huge risks, including fatal brain disease. Even Alain Beaudet, the president of CIHR and chair of the CIHR report, concedes the balloon angioplasty advocated by Zamboni is a “relatively low-risk” procedure. The greatest risk of venous angioplasty is veins collapsing again, he told Maclean’s.
It’s an emotional issue to be sure, one that is extending beyond the country’s estimated 75,000 MS patients to become a metaphor for its health system’s priorities. So vitriolic has been the backlash to the government’s decision that last week the MS Society of Canada was compelled to issue a letter to assure angry members it was committed to CCSVI research. Criticism of the government’s decision mounts. Yesterday, Direct MS, the country’s second largest MS charity, issued a critical analysis of the objectivity of the CIHR report.
Agluukaq said it was “important that we set the record straight for MS patients and their families.” But saying the government is “open to funding” clinical trials into CCSVI treatment does not change the fact the government is not funding clinical trials—just as saying the provinces are all “on side” doesn’t make it so. Liberal health critic Kirsty Duncan questions the government’s “double speak”: “They say we need evidence-based medicine,” she says. “But they are doing nothing to gather evidence.” She believes the government should be collecting data on the hundreds of Canadians traveling out of country for treatment: “If it did, we wouldn’t be looking at the evidence as anecdotal. The only other way to collect data is to do clinical trials, and they’re not doing that.”
Another question mark is the minister’s claim that research results from the seven studies will be available in “a few months.” Yesterday, a MS Society of Canada spokesman told Maclean’s “preliminary” findings from the seven studies are expected in “the early part of 2011”—six months from now at the earliest. (None of the seven studies involve CCSVI treatment; all explore possible links between CCSVI and MS using scanning technology.) If the government is committed to evidence-based medicine, it will have to wait until the studies are concluded two years from now. That’s the blink of an eye in research terms—but not for patients suffering from a degenerative condition in which months can mean the difference between walking and paralysis.
What many MS patients want to know is a simple question: why they’re subject to a double standard when it comes to the right to blood flow. When a non-MS patient is diagnosed with a blocked vein, it’s cleared. If someone requires surgery for a varicose veins in her legs, there isn’t a problem. So it’s perplexing that clinical trials destined to take years are required before MS patients receive similar treatment.
“Time matters,” says Duncan. “People die of this disease. And it has a terribly high rate of suicide.” Many are waiting for the minister to say ‘Yes’,” she says: “But until she actually says ‘Yes’, it’s the same result.”
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 3:18 PM - 0 Comments
Conservative cabinet minister “accepts the recommendation of the country’s leading researchers.” The subject is multiple sclerosis, the decision is to refrain from funding studies into the effectiveness of a maverick therapy Colleague Cosh and others here have covered at some length, and in the context, Leona Aglukkaq’s decision seems rather courageous.
By Anne Kingston - Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The leaders’ spouses avoided protesters—and any whiff of substance
As mayhem erupted on Toronto streets on Sunday, the spouses of G20 leaders were above the fray quite literally—ferried more than 800 m up to the revolving restaurant atop the CN Tower. The occasion was a brunch with “Canadian women of distinction” hand-picked by G20 summit hostess Laureen Harper. Flutes of bubbly and strawberry juice circulated, and the most pressing decision was whether to order the rosemary-mushroom gnocchi or the French toast.
It was a fitting finale to an event that saw politicians’ partners kept at a hermetic remove unprecedented in the G8’s 25-year history. Gawking at spouses has become part of summit spectacle, a justification for big-buck spending, a way to promote the global family. While world leaders thrash out big issues, their partners tour local landmarks—a high-tech incinerator in Japan, an earthquake site in Italy, a Harry Potter party in London.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, January 29, 2010 at 11:56 AM - 8 Comments
Folks from all parties packed the Hill Helps Haiti fundraiser organized by the government…
Folks from all parties packed the Hill Helps Haiti fundraiser organized by the government relations firm Summa Strategies. The event raised over $32,000. Below, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq (left) and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea.
Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay.
Green leader Elizabeth May.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
Bowling for Haiti
IT gets hot, hot, hot when you’re all wearing sealskin
“A Taste of the Arctic,” held at the National Gallery of Canada, kicked off 2010 as the Year of the Inuit. The room, packed with people wearing sealskin outfits, got so hot doors needed to be opened to let in the winter air. Inuit leader Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, was in a new head-to-toe sealskin ensemble complete with caribou antler buttons, made by Victoria Okpik of Nunavik Creations. It was the ofﬁcial debut of the outfit Simon plans to wear for the opening of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. Food at the Taste of the Arctic included dried caribou jerky, agnolotti with muskox tomato sauce, and a shepherd’s pie made with ground seal meat. On the tables were rocks that looked like ice, covered in flowers. At ﬁrst glance the decorations resembled giant spiders, causing more than a few alarmed double takes. Among the guests at the event were Nunavut’s government leader Eva Aariak and federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the MP for Nunavut. Laureen Harper, invited by Simon, also attended. Noted Mrs. Harper: “Mary said there would be Arctic char and I love Arctic char.” Over the Christmas break, the Harpers, including the PM, made a snow fort at Harrington Lake; at the event, Mrs. Harper asked the Inuit leader if she could help her make an authentic igloo. “We have lots of snow there,” Mrs. Harper said. “I’m not sure it’s the right kind.” Another guest was former Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell. She recently saw the birth of her sixth granddaughter and told Capital Diary she loves spending time with the girls after raising four sons. CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge was honoured at the event with an award for his coverage of the Arctic. It was also announced that several Inuit groups would be donating nearly $100,000 to help Haiti.
SHE’S HELPING Haitians stranded in quebec
The earthquake in Haiti has politicians dealing with a variety of issues. Bloc MP Nicole Demers says her office is working with Haitians who were visiting Quebec and are now stranded here because their homes have been reduced to rubble. Montreal Liberal MP Marlene Jennings says two nuns from the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Anne in her riding are still looking for two missionaries missing in Haiti. Former Bloc MP and current vice-president of the Bloc Québécois, Vivian Barbot, who was born in Haiti, managed to get texts and cellphone photos of the devastation from people. Sadly, while Barbot’s cousin managed to survive, his wife and her entire family were killed. Fortunately, the son of Barbot’s cousin is in Canada studying. Barbot says the Bloc is calling for a Marshall Plan for Haiti.
Bowling for Haiti
Last week, Ottawa NDP MP Paul Dewar had planned to hold a Bowling for Paul fundraiser for his riding association. He changed it to Bowling for Haiti. More than $1,000 was raised for the Humanitarian Coalition (Oxfam, CARE and Save the Children). On Jan. 25 there is a nonpartisan event called Hill Helps Haiti, being organized by the government relations ﬁrm Summa Strategies.
Former MP Belinda Stronach’s Belinda Stronach Foundation is planning a special women’s summit in Toronto to coincide with the upcoming G20 Summit. Twenty groups are involved, including the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and UNICEF. It’s being billed as Girls20.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, January 25, 2010 at 9:10 AM - 5 Comments
“A Taste of the Arctic,” held at the National Gallery of Canada, kicked
“A Taste of the Arctic,” held at the National Gallery of Canada, kicked
off 2010 as the Year of the Inuit. Below, Laureen Harper (left) and Inuit
leader Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
Mrs. Harper and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq (left).
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 12:43 PM - 27 Comments
It has now been two weeks since Leona Aglukkaq’s office was asked to provide evidence to support the claim that Canada had the highest per capita supply of H1N1 vaccine. Such evidence has not yet been provided.
In the three sessions of Question Period since the Liberal opposition asserted this claim to be incorrect, the government has avoided making a specific per capita claim to this country’s vaccine supply. The closest Ms. Aglukkaq has come to the assertion was in this exchange last Friday. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 16, 2009 at 5:42 PM - 27 Comments
The Scene. So where were we? Ah yes, that global pandemic.
“Mr. Speaker, the last time the House sat, the Minister of Health claimed that every Canadian who wanted the H1N1 vaccine would receive it before Christmas,” Carolyn Bennett recapped. “Now, she is saying that the rollout will take up to 12 more weeks and run well into next February.”
So it is for the Health Minister. If not for her having to periodically stand and state things as fact, her critics would likely have little to complain about.
“Why,” asked Ms. Bennett, “did the minister mislead the House and why did she not tell Canadians the truth?”
The Prime Minister, the Transport Minister and the Industry Minister were all away this day, so Leona Aglukkaq was offered the chance here to answer the question herself.
“Mr. Speaker, again, we have said all along that we would try and complete the vaccination program by December,” she said.
Her use of the term “try” was perhaps notable, at least in so much as it was not employed two weeks ago when the Minister told the House that, “every Canadian who wants the vaccine will be able to receive the vaccine by Christmas.”
But close enough. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 4:44 PM - 35 Comments
The military says prisoners in Afghanistan will be offered the H1N1 vaccine. The military says this is in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says this is outrageous. Canadian Press says Canada doesn’t recognize the mission in Afghanistan as falling under the Geneva Conventions.
I confess some confusion. But here are the Geneva Conventions. And here is an excerpt from a joint statement issued a year ago by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.
First, we need to ensure security in the five southern Afghan provinces. This is where Canada has just recently transferred command of ISAF forces to the Netherlands. There is still hard work to be done there with boots on the ground. We are confident that Allies understand the importance of standing together and ensuring that ISAF has the forces, resources and flexibility for success in these provinces. It is our shared interest to always adhere to International Law. We operate in strict accordance with Geneva conventions. That will also improve NATO’s image in that part of the world.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 2:46 PM - 72 Comments
Over the course of five Question Periods, from October 30 through November 4, three cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister combined to assure the House on 20 separate occasions that Canada had the highest per capita supply of H1N1 vaccine.
On Thursday though, the official opposition countered that Australia was ahead of Canada on that count. Asked for evidence, they pointed to this press release from the Australian Minister for Health and Aging. That release, dated Sept. 30, states that Australian authorities had distributed 5.5 million doses of the vaccine for a population of 22 million people—covering 25% of the population. Canada, by last week, had distributed six million doses for 33 million people—covering 18.2% of the population.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq’s office was asked last week to supply the data that supports the government’s claim. They have not yet passed on such information. When they do, it will be posted here. In the latest response, received yesterday, the minister’s director of communications said the department was “having some issues releasing this as some is confidential information.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 5:44 PM - 17 Comments
The Scene. Like a young man on the verge of a break from school—and indeed the House will not be in session next week—the Prime Minister seemed lighter this day. Rising from his seat before Question Period, he stopped by to visit with John Baird and Chuck Strahl, the three demonstrably laughing at something or other the Prime Minister had to say. Returning to his spot, Mr. Harper chuckled with Lawrence Cannon about something on Jim Prentice’s BlackBerry.
Yes, indeed, all was fun and frivolous. And then Bob Rae stood up.
“Mr. Speaker, we now know that more than half of the vaccines that have been produced are in fact in storage and not in people’s arms,” the Liberal reported. “Experts are also telling us that the peak of the epidemic is expected to be at the end of November and not at Christmas, so I would like to ask the Prime Minister this: What exactly is going to change to ensure that Canadians in fact are inoculated before the end of November?”
The Prime Minister rose to respond, appearing largely unperturbed by Mr. Rae’s suggestion that something was amiss. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at 6:00 PM - 28 Comments
The Scene. Holding his notes in his right hand and gesturing with his left—and with the Prime Minister now physically present—Michael Ignatieff repeated his concerns of the day previous. Why, he wondered, were so many other countries faster to act on the H1N1 flu pandemic? Where, he asked, was the Prime Minister? How, he speculated, was the Prime Minister so quick to pose beside a new roadway, but so invisible now?
If only to give Tony Clement a much-needed day off, Stephen Harper stood to take this one himself. The government, he assured, was following the advise of the chief public health officer. The country’s vaccine supply, he boasted, was supple.
Mr. Ignatieff was quite ready for this. “Mr. Speaker, we keep hearing that the vaccine is available, so why are there shortages?” he mused aloud. “Why are clinics closing? Why are people waiting eight hours in line? There is a disconnect between what the Prime Minister is saying and the reality on the ground. Two weeks ago, the health minister said the vaccine would be available to all Canadians by November. Now it is pushed on until Christmas. Local authorities cannot plan because they cannot predict a reliable federal supply of this vaccine. When will the Prime Minister take his responsibilities and give provinces and territories the predictability they need, but also the resources?”
From the other end of the room, Leona Aglukkaq objected loudly to the Liberal leader’s insinuation. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 6:46 PM - 90 Comments
The Scene. The Prime Minister’s chair, as an inanimate object, was unlikely to answer. But Michael Ignatieff insisted on asking anyway.
“Mr. Speaker, today we learn from the Auditor General that, for its entire time in office, the government has failed to develop any national emergency preparedness plan. That includes planning for epidemics and pandemics like H1N1. Does that not begin to explain why the government’s response to this crisis has been so slow and confused?” he wondered aloud. ”We have heard from the Minister of Health. When will we begin to hear from the Prime Minister? When will he stand up, take responsibility for the government’s mistakes and correct the situation?”
The Prime Minister was otherwise engaged with escorting the Prince and Camilla around rural Newfoundland. John Baird, Mr. Harper’s de facto deputy, was away as well, while the Health Minister was in Vancouver. No worries though, because this seemed to be a question about emergency preparedness and that is distinctly the purview of the Public Safety Minister and that minister, the typically unshy Peter Van Loan, was most certainly in his seat.
And yet, here came Tony Clement, the Minister of Industry and master flailler of arms.
“Mr. Speaker, let me dwell in the realm of facts,” Mr. Clement boldly offered. “The fact of the matter is that there have been six million doses of H1N1 vaccine that have already been delivered to the provinces and territories.
“That’s what you said yesterday!” lamented a Liberal.
“We currently have more H1N1 vaccine per capita than any other country in the world,” Mr. Clement reviewed. “The vaccine is being distributed as quickly as it is being produced and there will be sufficient H1N1 vaccine available in Canada for everyone who in fact needs or wants to be immunized.”
“Merry Christmas!” chirped a Liberal, yesterday’s points and counterpoints now sufficiently covered. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 11:09 AM - 20 Comments
Here then is last night’s full discussion, just about five full hours in all. The first hour and a half or so includes Carolyn Bennett (the first speaker, though it’s not entirely clear on Hansard), Michael Ignatieff, Leona Aglukkaq, Jack Layton and some discussion of Luc Malo’s 36th birthday.