October 21, 2020
As Alberta’s MLAs gear up for this year’s fall sitting of the Legislature, Albertans can expect to continue to see steadfast steps to pursue this government's ongoing agenda to privatize our public health care.
The October 20th, 2020 order paper indicates that among the first bills up for debate is Bill 204: Voluntary Blood Donations Repeal Act, introduced by MLA Tany Yao. Bill 204 simply calls for the repeal of the Voluntary Blood Donations Act (2017). It offers no alternative to address our current dependency on US plasma-derived products, and no reason to necessitate this repeal except to further this government’s never ending quest to privatize our public resources.
Prior to the end of the last sitting of the legislature, this bill had been referred to the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills. This committee, created by the UCP government, is tasked with deciding whether bills introduced by private members are deemed worthy of a fulsome debate in the legislature. All the UCP MLAs on this committee voted in favor of bringing this bill back for debate, allowing it to proceed to the ‘committee of the whole’ stage, where it is just one step away from the third reading which could see it passed. In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, Alberta could begin allowing for-profit brokers, introducing unnecessary competition to voluntary donations and threatening Canada's blood and plasma supply.
Throughout the deliberations at the Private Member’s committee, we saw MLA Yao obstinately try to defend a bill that would serve only to support the export business of plasma, with no benefit to Albertans.
During his presentation to the committee, Canadian Blood Services CEO Dr. Graham Sher, shared Canadian Blood Services’ concern regarding the repeal of the Voluntary Blood Donation Act, where he said:
"It is our role to provide advice as the national blood authority, on the impacts of changes to legislation. In this context, then, we are not neutral on the repeal of the Voluntary Blood Donations Act. Without the dialogue and the resolution we’ve been calling for, I cannot definitively say that repealing this legislation will not harm the voluntary collection system that governments have invested in for decades. I can say, however, that commercial plasma collection without controls will not address domestic security of supply."
Prior to Dr. Sher’s presentation in Alberta, he along with his counterpart from Hema-Quebec, testified in front of the Canadian Senate in May 2019, where he made it clear to the federal government that private plasma collectors operating in this country do not secure the supply chain for Canadians. Why? Because blood brokers make their profit on the international market, where they compete to sell their plasma to the highest bidder. In stark contrast, every single voluntary donation collection within our publicly funded blood system is guaranteed to go to Canadians patients.
"By allowing Bill 204 to proceed, this government is making it clear that they have no issues with opening up the veins of Albertans to this huge, exploitative, multi-billion dollar global market, without even a cursory concern for the impact this will have on our blood supply chain and patients," says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “This bill does a huge disservice to all of the Albertans who rely on our public blood system."
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