Playing politics

Amid reports that Canada’s H1N1 plan is flawed, here is the first exchange in Question Period yesterday, Ralph Goodale leading the Liberal effort, the Prime Minister responding for the government.

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the United States, Australia and China are already vaccinating their populations against the H1N1 flu. Europe and Japan will begin within the next few days. Canada will not begin for another month. The health minister says that this is all according to her plan. Could the government explain the logic of any plan that deliberately puts Canada behind the rest of the world in protecting citizens against H1N1? What is the logic of that?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, once again, the government bases its flu planning on the best advice of medical experts, including the chief medical officer. The immediate priority is seasonal flu vaccination. Canada will ensure that there is enough vaccine for every member of our population. That vaccine will be widely available the first week of November, as the government has said all along.

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government is not doing the seasonal. In the United States, officials are distributing doses of H1N1 flu vaccine to health care workers, children and people who care for babies younger than six months old. Not surprisingly, pediatric offices in Canada are already getting calls from anxious parents who want the vaccine for their children now. Could the Prime Minister justify why Canadian children, the most vulnerable among us, must wait a full month longer than American children? Will he guarantee today that they will not have to wait longer still?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is kind of amusing to see the Liberal Party now vaunting the U.S. health care system. As has been said all along, the government will ensure that the vaccine is available in the timeframe that the medical experts have advised. That will be available to all the Canadian population.

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the health minister says that this is not a race but vaccinations should be done before a disease hits. While other countries hurry to protect their citizens, the Conservatives say that there is no rush. They say that they have a plan but it is just a very slow one. Why? Did they order too late? Is it the clinical trials? Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer yesterday said, “Waiting for that data…is no reason to delay making sure people have the first dose and provide as much immunity as possible”. Why did the government actually plan a premeditated delay?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the government is following the advice of the Chief Public Health Officer. What we have here is a party that stands for absolutely nothing and is therefore trying to play politics with a public health issue. What the Liberals should do, instead of playing this two-faced game where they pretend to support tough on crime legislation but block it in the Senate, is go down to the Senate and tell their own senators to be honest with the Canadian people, to pass that legislation and stop letting criminals get away.

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