There is a lot of movement on the Hill this week with regards to the Canadian Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR), with both the Senate bill S-232 continues committee hearings, while NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis' Bill C-393 is scheduled to continue Second Reading debates in the House this week. I spoke to Wasylycia-Leis in the foyer of the Commons before Question Period today.
Q: Were you following what went on at the Senate committee hearing two weeks ago?
A: I flipped through it. I didn’t follow it closely.
Q: Did you catch what the government officials were saying?
Q: They were pouring cold water on the bill.
A: What was the big reason the officials gave?
Q: For one thing they talked about concerns over anti-diversion, even though the current rules are the same ones drug companies use already.
A: That’s something that could be addressed in committee. That doesn’t sound to me like a fundamental reason to oppose the bill.
Q: The biggest thing was the WTO and TRIPS provisions, and they were saying that their legal opinion – which wasn’t a formal, written, but what their legal council had looked at – said that they could be a problem even though the former Senator [Yoine Goldstein] said that he had considered legal opinions in mind when he drafted it.
A: I think those are bogus arguments. It sounds like the big pharmaceutical lobby has gotten to the government. If they’re concerned about the anti-diversion mechanism isn’t strong enough, that can be fixed. My understanding from having researched this and talked to the experts, this bill is totally in line with TRIPS and WTO – in fact, it honours what’s happened on the international stage with respect to advancing the idea of universal access to drugs for developing countries. I guess the bureaucrats didn’t stop to recognise that Canada, as part of the G8, committed to universal access by 2010. There’s nothing substantive to the arguments about this contravening TRIPS, so I again think they’ll have to take these issues head-on, and somehow get this bill to committee so that we can make the necessary changes.
Q: When do you expect your bill is going to come back up for debate?
A: The second hour of debate may happen this Friday with a vote next week. There’s some negotiations going on right now in terms of if C-311 – the Climate Change bill – gets through the House on Wednesday, how to advance it through the Private Member process before Copenhagen, and I’ve said I’m certainly willing to look at trading [spots] if necessary, but certainly it will be debated and voted on before the Christmas break.