CARP Reports on the H1N1 Emergency Parliamentary Debate

Sparks flew Monday night (November 2nd 2009) as the House of Commons engaged in a special emergency debate on the handling of the H1N1 vaccine. Ontario Liberal MP and health critic Dr. Carolyn Bennett had asked the House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken for an emergency debate on status and delivery of the H1N1 vaccines earlier that morning. For the full pdf text of the emergency debates, click here

Please see below for the explanation of how Emergency Debates are initiated and conducted

The Opposition Liberals were adamant in their assertions that the government had mishandled the H1N1 crisis every step of the way. “The role of government is to prepare citizens, to lead citizens and to inform them. In all three dimensions, the government has failed in its duties.” said Michael Ignatieff, Official Leader of the Opposition. In a press interview, Liberal party president Alfred Apps went as far as to say that the government’s failure to prepare can be blamed on their ideological governing style “Is the H1N1 pandemic the hurricane Katrina of our own laissez-faire, fend-for-yourself government?” he said Monday in an interview.

During the debates Ignatieff asked the government why it had spent some ten times the amount of money promoting its Economic Action Plan as it had on a public H1N1 health awareness campaign. He also asked why the government was not assisting the provinces as much as he thought it could. In the event of a natural disaster, he explained, the government would cover 90% of the cost of relief efforts. In this case the government has paid for 60% of the cost of vaccines and will not be assisting the provinces with funds to help pay for initiatives that will deliver the vaccines such as setting up additional clinics and hiring back retired nurses to help administer them more quickly. The Liberals and NDP both argued that the Provinces were being forced to reallocate funds from other areas in order to meet the demand for the vaccine when budget 2006 allocated $400 million dollars specifically for this purpose.

“The provinces and territories asked the federal government for additional resources. Four hundred million dollars were allocated in the 2006 budget – which amounts to $80 million annually – to help the provinces and municipalities face this challenge. So far, there has been no reply and no cooperation on the part of the government.” he added.

The government argued that its response had been more than adequate. Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq, argued that the government had begun working with Mexico as well as the World Health Organization and holding briefing for members of opposition parties as soon as they were notified Mexico had an issue.

“To date, six million doses of adjuvanted H1N1 vaccine have been delivered to the provinces and territories. That is currently more H1N1 vaccine per capita than any other country in the world”, she said.