[Ip-health] [CAMR Reform] "Comment: How can Conservative senators look at themselves in the mirror?" (The Globe & Mail, 2 April 2011)

Ann Frost annfrost at shaw.ca
Fri Apr 1 14:43:24 PDT 2011


On Tuesday can we talk about how we might best use this article?


At 05:27 PM 4/1/2011 -0400, Richard Elliott wrote:

>April 2, 2011
>Comment: How can Conservative senators look at themselves in the mirror?
>Gerald Caplan
>Globe and Mail Update
>Published Friday, Apr. 01, 2011 3:45PM EDT
>Last updated Friday, Apr. 01, 2011 3:51PM EDT
>Stephen Harper ended Parliament in typical style. He had the trained seals 
>he's appointed to the unelected Senate (a body he doesn't believe in) 
>sabotage the clear will of the democratically elected House of Commons 
>with consequences that will cost the lives of "thousands, maybe millions, 
>of poor people" in Africa and elsewhere.
>The words are those of an outraged James Orbinski, a renowned doctor and 
>Canadian expert in international health. The issue is Bill C-393, passed 
>by a large majority in the House to provide inexpensive Canadian-made 
>generic drugs for people in poor countries dying of easily treatable 
>diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
>The role of the Conservative majority in the Senate was to deliberately 
>stall passage of the bill ensuring it died once the election was called. 
>The instructions came from the Supreme Puppetmaster, Stephen Harper, 
>speaking through one of his most reliable dummies, Industry Minister Tony 
>Clement. The message from Mr. Clement cemented the reputation he warmly 
>earned during the long-form census fiasco. As Dr. Orbinski noted, Mr. 
>Clement's case to the Senate's Conservative majority for not supporting 
>C-393 was based on "distortions, deceptions, lies and scare-mongering." 
>Par for the course, in other words.
>Let me readily acknowledge that for my entire life I've believed the 
>Senate, a wholly undemocratic 19th century institution, should be 
>abolished and I have never understood how anyone could accept an 
>appointment to it. But I've always seen how appealing it is. After all, 
>you're suddenly handed on a platter one of the great gigs this country 
>offers - a fancy title, instant status, a minimum $123,000 a year plus 
>expense accounts, air travel, pension and optional attendance. Or a 
>high-profile forum if you choose to use it, as a few admirable senators do.
>But to whom are senators responsible, if anyone? How do they decide what 
>positions to support or oppose? They're appointed by the Prime Minister 
>personally and usually carry his party affiliation but they supposedly 
>serve the country, or so it's claimed. Do they show their eternal 
>gratitude to this one man, which would make them simple hacks, or have 
>they a higher duty to the public good? This is a genuine choice, and Bill 
>C-393 gave us the pathetic answer when a majority of senators chose to 
>slavishly follow the party line. All were Conservatives, no fewer than 35 
>of them appointed by Stephen Harper in violation of every word he ever 
>uttered about the illegitimacy of an appointed Senate. But that was before 
>he became PM.
>There's hypocrisy upon hypocrisy piling up here. Last November, for the 
>first time in 70 years, this same Conservative-dominated Senate, without a 
>hearing or debate, killed a climate-change bill that had been passed by a 
>majority of elected MPs in the House of Commons. It was a bill Stephen 
>Harper hated - he's still mostly a global warming denier - and it was at 
>his command that his senators transgressed against democracy, 
>accountability, common sense and the future of our children all at the 
>same time. Marjory LeBreton, Mr. Harper's Senate Leader, airily dismissed 
>the legislation as "a coalition bill," some kind of conspiracy, 
>apparently, of Liberals, socialists and separatists.
>Killing C-393 last week was a second example of the extraordinary harm a 
>majority of Conservative senators have been ready aye ready to inflict at 
>the behest of their master. (Some Conservatives stayed away from the 
>chamber, apparently to avoid voting with the majority but not prepared to 
>vote against them, and one, Nancy Ruth, honourably spoke in favor of the 
>bill.) Have no doubt the majority knew exactly what they were doing and 
>what the stakes were.
>Canada's Access to Medicines Regime was introduced nearly seven years ago 
>as a proud effort to help people dying of preventable diseases in poor 
>countries. It is Canada's shame that ever since, under pressure from the 
>giant pharmaceutical companies, a succession of Liberal and Conservative 
>governments have sabotaged this project. In the entire period, only two 
>shipments of drugs have been dispatched to Rwanda. Bill C-393 was the 
>latest futile attempt to make CAMR work. Now it too has been sabotaged.
>Bill C-393 would have fixed the regime by cutting the red tape that has 
>undermined its very purpose - enabling Canadian generic drug manufacturers 
>to provide inexpensive drugs to poor countries, where brand-name drugs are 
>often unaffordable. In the House, besides all members of Ms. LeBreton's 
>bogeyman coalition, 26 Conservative MPs also supported the bill. It was 
>endorsed enthusiastically by an overwhelming majority of medical and legal 
>experts, humanitarian activists, faith leaders, AIDS and international 
>development organizations across the country and health activists in 
>developing countries.
>Dozens of prominent Canadians immersed in international health issues 
>urged passage, as did more than 70,000 other Canadians who took the time 
>to sign a petition or to email and call their MPs and senators. The 
>national advocacy committee of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign - 
>10,000 Canadian grannies, committed to working with their African 
>counterparts, who had made this bill their crusade - lobbied vigorously on 
>its behalf; some were in the Senate audience last week, heart-broken when 
>the Conservatives assured its death.
>None of this mattered to the majority of Conservative senators. A more 
>perfect definition of Mr. Harper's contempt for Parliament, democracy, the 
>world and evidence-based policies would be hard to find.
>The Conservatives who have again sentenced so many Africans to a miserable 
>death should hang their heads in disgrace. They make a mockery of being 
>called "Honourable." There is no honour here. Yet I don't for a moment 
>expect them to feel the slightest embarrassment, shame or, indeed, 
>dishonour. Conservatives don't do remorse (except for wrongs committed by 
>earlier governments against potential ethnic supporters). But they need to 
>know how many of their fellow Canadians are deeply ashamed of them, and 
>while this is one of the many vital issues that won't be part of the 
>election campaign, they should understand how many voters will remember 
>their role not only on voting day but long after.
>Richard Elliott
>Executive Director | Directeur général
>Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network | Réseau juridique canadien VIH/sida
>+1 416 595-1666 (ext./poste 229) | relliott_aidslaw
>www.aidslaw.ca | www.twitter.com/aidslaw
>Access to Medicines Campaign: www.aidslaw.ca/camr | www.aidslaw.ca/facebook
>Campagne pour accès aux médicaments : www.aidslaw.ca/rcam | 
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