James Cowan: Not all senators against bill C-393

Liberal Senator James Cowan and Leader of the Opposition shares his opinion on the state of Bill C-393 this weekend at the Toronto Star:

I am writing to correct a point made in this otherwise excellent article. Craig and Marc Kielburger made a strong case that Bill C-393 could have gone a long way to save potentially millions of lives. They went on to say that “Canada’s unelected Senate” stalled the bill that had passed in the House of Commons.

Canadians should know that it was not the whole of the Senate, but rather the Conservative majority that insisted on delaying action on the bill until the government fell on the no-confidence motion in the House of Commons. In fact, it was a Liberal senator, Yoine Goldstein, who introduced the first bill in Parliament in March 2009 to fix the problem with Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime, and help make it possible for people in developing countries to access affordable life-saving medicines. That bill unfortunately died on the order paper when Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament. Bill C-393, the NDP bill referred to by the Kielburgers, was virtually identical to Goldstein’s bill.

My Liberal colleagues and I — joined by both a Conservative and a Progressive Conservative senator — spoke strongly about the importance of this bill, and urged that it be considered promptly and passed into law before the expected election. To our disappointment, with their new majority in the Senate, the Conservatives were able to repeatedly adjourn debate on the bill, and effectively stalled it until the government fell.

The issue has not gone away. The need for affordable drugs in developing countries is as great as ever.My colleagues and I are already discussing the best way to move forward with this important initiative.

James S. Cowan, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

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