Wednesday, December 02, 2009

What's a million?

...two million? Five million dead Black Africans?

Not much to Marc Garneau, a Liberal Party star--and a host of his Liberal colleagues, set to shoot down a private member's bill today that would put AIDS-fighting antiretroviral drugs into the hands of desperately sick and poor people on another continent.

Nope. "Intellectual property rights," he sniffs. The ultra-profits of Big Pharma, if I may offer a translation. A succinct deconstruction of that line of argument may be found here. And here.

The bill, sponsored by NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis, seeks to fix earlier legislation, given unanimous support in the House of Commons a mere four years ago, that would have permitted generic drug manufacturers to produce and
sell lifesaving brand-name drugs relatively cheaply in impoverished parts of the world. But the legislation contained so many bureaucratic hurdles that since that time only one pharmaceutical company, Apotex, has managed to ship a single anti-AIDS drug to Rwanda--one shipment in four years, to help 21,000 people.

One expects this sort of thing from Conservatives, whose milk of human kindness, if it exists at all, does so in a curdled state. But Liberals are supposed to offer an alternative--not solely a political one, but a moral one. This is the party of inclusiveness, of unity, of human rights.

That's the story, anyway, and they're sticking to it. But it's a tall tale--arguably always has been--and the likely vote later today will simply reinforce its exaggerated, fictional quality.

The Liberals are a big business party, just like the Conservatives. They have always put profits before people. It will be interesting to see how former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff votes on this one. These days, you pretty well have to toss a coin.

We sometimes imagine that politics is merely a game, and the issues are irrelevant abstractions. Not so, and especially not so today.
Wasylycia-Leis tells it like it is:

This is about saving lives. It's as simple as that. It's about getting medication from Canada to countries that don't have the means to pay for them to help deal with HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and other serious illnesses.

The defeat of this bill will kill people. But the Librocons--blue wing and red wing alike--don't give a damn when corporate profits are at stake. And dying Africans don't vote in Canadian elections.

UPDATE: Whew! Amazing what a media spotlight can accomplish.

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