With passing of Bill 204, UCP ideology reigns over science & evidence

November 16, 2020
EDMONTON

With passing of Bill 204, UCP ideology reigns over science & evidence

Today, in Alberta’s Legislature, we witnessed ideology win out over the well-being of all Albertans and Canadians. Following the Third Reading this afternoon, the legislative assembly passed Bill 204: Voluntary Blood Donations Repeal Act. In the midst of an unprecedented and worsening public health crisis, Alberta is now on track to allow the corporate collection and global export of Albertans’ plasma. 

Though Bill 204’s sponsor, MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo Tany Yao, has insisted his bill will help address our domestic plasma supply needs, in its mere three pages, the bill contains no stipulations to guarantee that privately collected plasma will remain in Alberta or even Canada. Instead, it will allow private blood brokers to set up shop in our province, and profit from the sale of our plasma on the international market. In contrast, every single collection within our publicly funded blood system is guaranteed to be used to treat Canadian patients. 

“What we’ve seen today is that MLA Tany Yao and the UCP government are quite content to literally bleed this province for whatever business interests they are backed by,” says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare.

Rather than supporting our existing public blood system, and efforts already underway by Canadian Blood Services to increase our plasma collections, Alberta has instead opted to repeal a bill which protects Albertans’ blood and plasma from commodification. Bill 204 does nothing to secure Canada’s domestic supply of plasma, and worse, it threatens to irreversibly reduce our domestic supply of blood.

Allowing a private blood supply system in Alberta is in direct contradiction to recommendations made in the Krever Inquiry, and the principles that blood should be treated as a public resource, and should be collected from non-remunerated donors. The royal commission was struck following the tainted blood scandal, when thousands of Canadians were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C from tainted blood and plasma products in the 1980s to 1990s. 

As Canadian Blood Services, our national service for the voluntary, non-remunerated collection of blood and plasma, as well as the European Blood Alliance and the World Health Organization have warned, allowing a dual system whereby commercial operators are able to collect remunerated plasma alongside public blood and plasma donations poses a threat to not only sustainable plasma collection, but our entire public blood system. Canadian Blood Services is in the process of opening a new standalone plasma collection centre in Lethbridge, which could now very well see its success threatened by the passing of Bill 204 and the subsequent introduction of unnecessary commercial competition.

“Every member who voted for Bill 204 today must understand that their legacy will be one of marketizing and corporatizing our plasma supply in the interest of private profit,” says Azocar. “These MLAs will have to reckon with the consequences their vote will have on patients in the long-term. Albertans will remember these names and this shameful legacy.”

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