MUSKOKA - Conservative MPs defeated two bills last week by voting against them as a block. Parry Sound Muskoka MP Tony Clement voted against both bills.
Clement votes with Conservative block.
Parry Sound Muskoka MP Tony Clement
Earlier in the month he voted with the rest of the House to pass the Protecting Seniors Act.
With the exception of a few MPs who voted for it, one of the bills killed by the Conservative block was intended to make it easier for developing nations to gain access to drugs for deadly diseases. The other would have given volunteers a tax break.
Bill C398 would have amended the Patent Act to make it easier to manufacture and export pharmaceutical products to address public health problems afflicting many developing and least-developed countries, especially those resulting from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics.
“I think a lot of advocates for this are well meaning,” said Clement in an interview with this paper. “The fact of the matter is this (the bill) simply does not work.”
He said that as the former health minister his understanding is that it is cheaper for developing countries, in particular Africa, to get generic drugs from India and China rather than Canada.
“This bill solves nothing,” he said. “Our generic costs are too high – 25 to 40 per cent above the U.S. Our costs are not world competitive – there are other cheaper venues for health departments in Africa and other countries to access medicine that will help with HIV, tuberculosis or what have you.”
Clement said the federal government does other things to help get cheap drugs to Africa, such as supporting Health Partners International of Canada. This not-for-profit relief and development organization is dedicated to increasing access to medicine and improving health in the developing world. According to their website, the organization has distributed more than $375 million in medicines and medical supplies for people in more than 110 countries.
A second bill defeated by the conservative MPs, Bill C399, would have amended the Income Tax Act to provide a tax credit of a minimum of $500 and a maximum of $1,500 for volunteers’ travel expenses. Clement said he questions the wisdom of the tax credit, which he added would cost $430 million a year.
“It’s very expensive and there’s no evidence it would increase volunteerism,” he said.
“Many Canadian charities are opposed to this bill,” said Clement, adding that volunteerism is meant to be a selfless act.
On Nov. 6, MP Clement was part of a unanimous vote across parties in the House to pass Bill C-36, the Protecting Canada’s Seniors Act. This enactment amends the Criminal Code to add vulnerability due to age as an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.
Clement said the bill is about sentencing practices and ensuring through amendments to the criminal code that the justice system takes offences against seniors seriously.
“I think we do have a problem in our society with elder abuse,” said Clement. “Our government is committed to ending elder abuse in all its forms. Our laws reflect that if you are going to target elders, you’re going to pay the price.”