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Results: 1 - 30 of 91
View Leah Gazan Profile
NDP (MB)
View Leah Gazan Profile
2020-07-08 13:06 [p.2545]
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Madam Chair, I will be splitting my time with the member for Elmwood—Transcona.
The government encouraged people to apply for the CERB and deal with complications after, and that is exactly what has occurred: complications. In Manitoba, the Pallister government has decided to treat the $2,000 CERB as an excuse to cut provincial supports. EIA recipients who got CERB are now ineligible for future support.
Instead of making sure provinces do not claw back federal help, why has the government chosen to callously go after people who applied in good faith as “fraudulent applicants”? People in my riding who have their EIA paid out to landlords will no longer have their rent paid and they are at risk of homelessness. This is a nightmare.
Will the government respect Make Poverty History Manitoba's request and not require EIA recipients to pay back the CERB, forcing individuals deeper into poverty, yes or no?
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View Leah Gazan Profile
NDP (MB)
View Leah Gazan Profile
2020-07-08 13:08 [p.2545]
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Madam Chair, small businesses are the heart and soul of Winnipeg Centre, yet the government has made their ability to survive questionable. Paul Taylor, who owns the Brickhouse Gym in Winnipeg Centre, said, “These rent assistance programs are not a one-size-fits-all issue. Businesses have suffered from COVID-19. Programs need to be scalable to help Canadian small businesses survive. On top of the failure of the rent program that relies on landlords to sign on, the wage subsidy arbitrarily requires businesses to have their own CRA business number since before the pandemic, but a lot of small businesses do not, including many in the gig economy, in arts, film—”
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-07-08 13:09 [p.2546]
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Madam Chair, after years of cuts to health care in Manitoba, the Conservative government here is now preparing to spend millions of dollars on private clinics to make up for surgery backlogs. That is money that could be invested in the public system in order to restore needed capacity, and we know that public delivery of services is the best way to realize the spirit and the promise of the Canada Health Act. Therefore, I am wondering what the government is going to do to promote the public delivery of services.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-07-08 13:10 [p.2546]
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Madam Chair, one of the reasons I think the government's answer to this is very important, and it is something that we have learned during the pandemic, or that has been publicized and many already knew, is that the state of long-term care in Canada has not been good. It has not been serving a lot of Canadians well.
We know from the evidence that for-profit delivery of long-term care results, on average, in lower health outcomes for Canadians. We know that a lot of federal money will be required in order to get long-term care up to where it needs to be in Canada. We want the federal government to be convening meetings with the provinces now on how to do that, and we want the government to be a champion at that table for getting for-profit delivery services out of long-term care.
Is the government committed to doing everything it can to get for-profit delivery of long-term care off the table in Canada?
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 11:05 [p.1984]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway for the motion, which is something we have talked about in this place before. As he has said many times, after many years—decades, in fact—it is high time that we got something done on this file.
I would like him to speak a little more on something that I always find strange in this debate. A lot of members from other parties routinely stand and say they want efficiency in government and less money spent overall. We know that prescription drug coverage for provinces is one of the major cost drivers in health care. Drug coverage on a federal scale is a way to drive down those prices, which are putting upward pressure on provincial budgets. It is always mystifying to me that when we come up with an idea that would, without sacrificing services, drive down the cost of something that governments are already providing, we do not see more support on the other side of the House.
I wonder if the member could speak to that phenomenon and maybe help Canadians understand how that could be.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 11:22 [p.1987]
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Mr. Speaker, we are here 23 years after the Liberals initially promised this in their platform. They have had many years of majority government since making that promise. We just came off a Liberal majority government and the Liberals have not even had a meeting with the provinces to discuss the idea, to feel them out and see where they are with this.
If the Liberals are really serious about developing a single-payer national public comprehensive pharmacare plan, when will they call a meeting with the provinces for the express purpose of figuring out what the concerns of the provinces are so they can start to develop a plan to deal with those and make an offer that would be acceptable to the provinces to move ahead on? I do not want NDP MPs standing here 23 years from now, talking about 46 years of inaction by the Liberals. They first promised it in 1997.
When is the government going to actually convene a meeting with the provinces to talk about a national pharmacare plan? When is it going to happen?
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:27 [p.1997]
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Madam Speaker, I think the member knows that the NDP supports the idea of increasing federal health transfers. Many Canadians, not just Quebeckers, are disappointed, not with the federal government per se, but with Liberals and Conservatives for not ensuring that the federal government pays its fair share.
Our party wants to work with Quebeckers and progressive Canadians across the country so that the federal government gives the provinces a fair amount to help them manage their provincial health care systems.
A program like the one we are discussing today has the potential to save money, something that no province can do alone. If we work together, across our great country, we can save money that we would not be able to save if every province works alone. That is the big advantage here.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:32 [p.1997]
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Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Victoria.
Today, I am rising in the House once again to address the issue of pharmacare. It is unfortunate, frankly, that we are still only addressing this issue through opposition day motions. It is a testament to the fact that the government has not brought anything to the House that would advance the cause of a national pharmacare program. It is something that we know we need. We have made these arguments many times before, and Canadians themselves have a real and intense sense of the need.
In a telephone town hall in my riding, we held a straw poll of the several hundred people on the call. We asked how many people, either themselves or people they knew, close friends or family members, were cutting their pills in half, choosing to go without food, struggling to pay the rent or going without their prescription drugs because they had to choose between food and rent. We asked how many were dealing with the consequences of not being able to manage their illnesses, and it was about a third of people in Elmwood—Transcona. That is consistent with national polling that says a lot of Canadians are in this boat. Why are they?
If we look at international drug pricing, we know that Canada pays among the highest prices for drugs. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, earlier in this debate, said we need to figure out why it is that Canada is paying among the highest prices in the OECD. We know why. It is because we are one of the only countries without a national pharmacare plan. It is not a puzzle or a mystery. We know exactly why. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health was talking about how they are working at the problem around the edges and wondering why they are not having any success.
We know from report after report, going back to the 1960s, that the way to make serious progress on this issue is to cut right to the heart of the matter and have a proper national, universal, single-payer public pharmacare plan. If we were to do that, we would see Canada's standing on the OECD drug price list go down significantly. It is not a mystery. The only mystery is why a party that promised this 23 years ago in its election platform, and has had a number of majority governments since, has not been able to get it done. It is charitable to call it a mystery. It is a mystery if we do not give what I think is an obvious explanation to those who are not in a charitable mood, which is that drug company and insurance lobbyists clearly have a lot of influence on the government, and that is why we are not able to make headway on this important issue.
What we hear from the Liberals is that the NDP wants to move too fast, that it is in such a hurry. When we talk about a policy proposal from the 1960s, and a Liberal promise from over 23 years ago, I hardly think that New Democrats are moving too fast. That would be like saying that somebody who took out a 25-year mortgage on their home was moving too quickly and the person should not have amortized the home over 25 years, but longer. We can do a lot in 25 years. People have died waiting for a national pharmacare plan, and I hope there will not be any more. The evidence and the research is there. We hoped we had the conditions in this Parliament to make it happen.
Earlier in the debate today, there was talk of establishing medicare across the country and how that was a function of collaboration between a Liberal minority government under Pearson at the time and the NDP in the 1960s. New Democrats had hoped that there was the willingness on the part of the Liberals to make a bold policy move. The circumstances today are the same as then, and we are willing to work with the government.
We have drafted legislation that provides a framework and put forward the motion today. The research is already out there. Not only is it out there by the Parliamentary Budget Officer and a number of civil society and academic groups that have studied the issue, but the government commissioned its own report from the last Parliament that recommended exactly what we are proposing. The research is done. The conditions in Parliament have been obtained.
If the Liberals need somebody to blame, they can tell the insurance and drug companies, “We were trying to look out for your profits, but those bloody NDPers just would not give us a break and we had to do it.” Liberals can blame us, that is fine. We do not mind looking bad in the books of insurance and pharmaceutical companies if it means getting a win for Canadians struggling to pay for their drugs. They can blame us. That is how we have gotten a lot of good stuff done in this country.
The problem is that the government does not want a deal, and it does not want to move forward. I think the frustration here is that a lot of Canadians felt if we got a Parliament that looked like this one, we could move forward on a common-sense policy proposal.
Often when we talk about helping people out, common objections that come up are what it is going to cost and where we are going to find the money. The fact of the matter is that we can afford to not only maintain the existing level of service, but expand it to everyone and save billions of dollars at the same time. The money is already being spent. In fact, we are already overspending on prescription drugs in Canada. We have the research. We thought we had the political conditions to be able to get this done.
Part of what is happening, if we look at this and the reluctance of the Liberals to use this Parliament to make significant gains, is a little like outdated conventional wisdom. This is not grandpa's Liberal Party. It has not been the same since 1993, but there is still an image in the heads of a lot of Canadians. They think back to constructive minority Liberal governments that worked with the NDP to get good things done, but today it is like putting butter on a burn. That was something that people used to do because it seemed like a good idea.
However, when we look at the evidence that we have so far in this Parliament, and from the Liberal majority governments from 1993 onward, we can see that it is becoming a dated notion. The evidence disproves the claim that Liberals are here to do real progressive work and are willing to sign on to innovative new social policies that not only save money but also expand service for Canadians. I think that is a message that Canadians should take seriously.
There was a lot of talk in the last election about what a minority Parliament could produce, and I know that for people not just in Elmwood—Transcona, but right across the country, there was a real hope that we would be able to get this kind of collaboration. This is a starting point, as I have said. We have done a lot of work in order to make it as easy as possible for the Liberal government to move ahead. It is something that we desperately want to see. It is something that, when we look at the potential benefit to Canadians in their everyday life, is huge, and it is rare that we get that kind of benefit while saving money at the same time.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, we are talking about over $4 billion a year that we are already spending that we would not have to spend. Members can look at some of the other studies. They talk about $6 billion, $8 billion or $10 billion a year that we could be spending. I think the PBO report is universally acknowledged as being quite conservative in its assumptions.
Here we are. We have the political conditions. We have the research. We can get it done. That is exactly what we need to do, and we are waiting for that to happen.
An hon. member: You have to call for split time again. They did not hear you.
Mr. Daniel Blaikie: I know.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:40 [p.1999]
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Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's enthusiasm to hear from the member for Victoria. I am looking forward to her speech as well. It is going to be an excellent speech, because it is a really important topic.
I am just going to wrap up by reiterating. It is rare that we have such a clear-cut public policy opportunity to save money and to expand services for people who really desperately need them. We spend so much time in politics listening to politicians say we need to cut the budget, we need to save money and we need to balance the budget. The biggest cost driver for provincial health budgets, which are paying for prescription drugs already, is prescription drugs. We can do something about that by mobilizing the purchasing power of the country and expanding the service for Canadians.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:42 [p.1999]
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Madam Speaker, in response to the member's question, I will just read item (b) from the motion:
(b) call on the government to implement the full recommendations of the final report of the Hoskins Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, commencing with the immediate initiation of multilateral negotiations with the provinces and territories to establish a new, dedicated fiscal transfer to support universal, single-payer, public pharmacare....
It is right in the motion. Of course we believe that it is important to work with the provinces. It is why we put it in the motion.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:44 [p.1999]
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Madam Speaker, there has been a lot of debate, discussion and research on how medication for rare diseases is a separate category and needs to be treated differently. The idea is not that a national pharmacare plan would be a panacea for every patient and for every condition. The fact of the matter is, as the member has been pointing out often in the House and not just in the debate today, people already have trouble accessing those drugs in Canada under a patchwork system. That is not a reason not to have a system that makes it a lot easier and a lot cheaper to access common drugs for most Canadians, and then work on an appropriate solution for people who are struggling to get access to medication for rare diseases.
The member sees these two things as being in fundamental opposition. I disagree. He is identifying a legitimate need that needs a policy response, but the policy response is not to negate all of the benefits of a national pharmacare plan.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:47 [p.2000]
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Madam Speaker, our health critic said today that it is part of our policy and it is in our platform.
We hope to have a program that works. Quebeckers can participate in the program if they wish. We are open to them joining it if they want to. We do not want to begin the process with the assumption that they will not participate. We want to convince them to join it, but we recognize that it is up to them.
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View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
View Niki Ashton Profile
2020-03-12 14:46 [p.2019]
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Mr. Speaker, first nations in northern Manitoba are scared of the impact of COVID-19 on their communities. People in the Island Lake region are sounding the alarm. There is no running water, overcrowded housing, no hospital and nowhere to self-isolate and get treatment. Meanwhile, the government is talking conference calls, hand sanitizer and testing tents. These are first world responses to a third world reality.
The government needs to get real about what first nations are facing on the ground. These communities need urgent infrastructure now and before the winter road season shuts down. What will the government do to take COVID-19's impact on first nations seriously now?
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View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
View Niki Ashton Profile
2020-03-12 15:49 [p.2030]
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Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House in support of our opposition day motion.
I want to acknowledge the important work of my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, who has worked tirelessly on this front. I want to reflect on the fact that the push for national universal pharmacare is core to who we are as New Democrats.
It is the NDP that has pushed for medicare, leaders like Tommy Douglas, other NDP leaders and activists across the country. National universal pharmacare is very much part of that legacy. It is incumbent on us as New Democrats, but also as Canadians, to see that legacy realized. It is desperately needed in Canada today.
What we are proposing is so important. On clinical, ethical and economic grounds, universal public drug coverage has been recommended by commissions, committees and advisory councils dating as far back as the 1940s. Health policy experts have made it clear that a U.S.-style, private patchwork approach will cost more and deliver inferior access to prescription drugs.
According to the Liberals' own Hoskins report, universal, comprehensive and public pharmacare will reduce annual system-wide spending on prescription drugs by $5 billion through the negotiation of lower drug prices, increased generic substitution and use of biosimilars and other shifts in prescribing toward lower-cost therapies.
Pharmacare, to put it bluntly, is an investment in our future. It will stimulate our economy by reducing prescription drug costs for businesses and employees by $16.6 billion annually and out-of-pocket costs for families by $6.4 billion, according to the Hoskins report. It will take pressure off our public health care system through improved health outcomes, as individuals no longer face cost-related barriers to treatment. This will provide long-term savings, along with greater stability and resilience to shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic.
We believe pharmacare should follow the same principles that are the bedrock of our public health care system: universality, comprehensiveness, accessibility, portability and public administration. This is core to our opposition day motion today. It is core to who we are as New Democrats. I believe it is core to the values of so many Canadians. That is why I hope the House will see fit to support this critical motion.
We currently have a Liberal government, albeit a minority Liberal government, that has all too often used the right words to speak to the priorities of Canadians. We have heard the Liberals talk about their commitment to the middle class. We have heard them talk about reconciliation. We have heard them talk about making life more affordable for Canadians. However, their actions do not follow their messages.
In fact, in many of these cases, the Liberals employ what some are now calling reconciliation washing. They employ a kind of language that makes us all feel good about what needs to be done, yet we go on to watch them do the exact opposite.
When it comes to pharmacare, they have used that word incessantly, a commitment to pharmacare. We have heard about it repeatedly in the last majority government. We heard them talk about in previous majority governments. Here we are with no national universal pharmacare plan in front of us, yet a dire need for it.
What we have also seen from the Liberals is some clear actions that serve to benefit not Canadians, but actually the wealthiest among us and particularly corporations. Big pharma is definitely part of that.
In a report that the CCPA put out in 2018, it indicated a crisis in the pharmaceutical world, but not a crisis of profitability.
In December of 2015, Forbes magazine reported net profit margins of 25.5% from major pharmaceutical companies, 24.6% for biotechnology firms and 30% for generics. Comparable rates for tobacco companies, Internet software and services, information technology and large banks were 27.2%, 25%, 23% and 22.9% respectively.
The CCPA report went on to say, “...the crisis in the pharma sector is in the escalation of prices for individual drugs, especially but not exclusively in the United States”, and that is also a reality here at home, “and the low number of new products that offer major therapeutic gains over existing medicines. The industry’s lavish profits make these deficiencies all that much harder to tolerate.”
We know that between 2006 and 2015, the 18 U.S. pharma companies listed in the S&P 500 index spent $465 billion on R and D, $261 billion on stock buy-backs and $255 billion paying out dividends. These companies are making a profit off the backs of everyday people in our communities. We know that big pharma has mobilized against the pharmacare plans that have been put forward.
I want to point to the work of the PressProgress. On March 10, it said:
The pharmaceutical and insurance industry is quietly preparing a campaign to stop a coalition of 150 Canadian organizations pushing the federal government to follow the recommendations of its own expert panel and bring in a universal, single-payer pharmacare system.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has launched an “action plan” on behalf “business stakeholders across the country,” namely “benefits providers” and “pharmaceutical companies.”
The Chamber of Commerce has the audacity to call it a “grassroots movement”, and it says that it will “advocate the preferred pharmacare model with federal, provincial/territorial and municipal leaders” and “focus on targeting key policymakers in Ottawa.”
This is a disturbing message. Canadians do not send members of Parliament here to make decisions to benefit the biggest and wealthiest corporations in our country.
Every one of us represents constituents who are struggling because they cannot afford life-saving drugs. Every one of us represents families that have to prioritize food and rent above the kind of medication they may need. Every one of us knows people who have ignored health issues and bypassed the drugs they need and have often ended up becoming much more serious.
I think of the many seniors in my riding who are struggling because they cannot afford the drugs they need. However, I am also increasingly thinking about young people, young people in my constituency who are working in jobs that a few years prior were covered with great pharmacare plans. In some cases, the jobs do not exist any longer and in some cases those pharmacare plans do not exist any longer. As more and more young people engage in precarious work, work that does not have the coverage necessary, we know the need for a national universal pharmacare plan is not theoretical. It is very much a reality and an urgent reality for so many.
These days, we need to deal with the pandemic of COVID-19, particularly in vulnerable communities like the first nations I represent. However, we also need to remind ourselves how critical it is to ensure Canadians are supported day in and day out and that they have the support so they are better prepared when a pandemic is around the corner. I think of the many people who are living with chronic illnesses right now. They are particularly worried about COVID-19. I think of people who are struggling to make ends meet, whether it is affording medicines or other essential goods. They do not know what a pandemic might mean financially to them. Let us make it easier for them.
As parliamentarians, as representatives, as people who have the power to change the lives of Canadians for the better, let us get behind a motion that pushes for universal pharmacare, that pushes Canada to do better when it comes to our health care system, which we are proud of, but it needs so much more support going forward. Let us be on the right side of history. Let us support this opposition motion and make national universal pharmacare a reality in Canada today.
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View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
View Niki Ashton Profile
2020-03-12 16:00 [p.2032]
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Mr. Speaker, we have engaged in many conversations about how important pharmacare is. This is about action.
Right now we have an opportunity to support an opposition day motion directing the government to act on its own report, the Hoskins report, and ensure there is a national universal pharmacare program. The time for talk is over. It has been over for a long time. The needs of Canadians are only growing, given our demographics and, as I pointed out, given that increasingly many people, especially many young people, are not covered for medications by their work. We know that many people are in an increasingly precarious situation.
We have a moment in time to show leadership on this front. We can support broadening health care in our country and support our constituents. Let us take this moment in time; let us not waste any more of it. Let us get behind this opposition day motion. I implore the Liberals to do that today.
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View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
View Niki Ashton Profile
2020-03-12 16:02 [p.2032]
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Mr. Speaker, we are here to show leadership for Canadians, not jurisdictions. We are here to show leadership for our constituents. I think we can all agree that many constituents are struggling because they cannot afford their drug costs. This is the way we can act going forward.
I am sure that a lot of the messages we are hearing today are reminiscent of the kind of opposition that Tommy Douglas and others faced in bringing in medicare. They stood up for Canadians in their time in the face of great opposition, and often that opposition was from monied interests that wanted to profit off sick people.
Let us learn from that moment in time and have the courage to stand up and fully realize the idea of medicare for all by bringing in national universal pharmacare and really defending constituents, the people who send us here, the people who share the heartbreaking stories of what they are facing.
We have that opportunity at this moment in time, right now. Let us be on the right side of history.
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View Leah Gazan Profile
NDP (MB)
View Leah Gazan Profile
2020-03-11 14:47 [p.1933]
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Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the Minister of Indigenous Services when his government would stop breaking the law and honour the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling to immediately stop discriminating against first nations children. This was followed by 10 seconds of silence and then story time. The same silence was heard about a plan for COVID-19 on reserves.
When will the minister follow the rule of law, honour the tribunal ruling and stop discriminating against first nations children?
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-10 11:29 [p.1856]
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Madam Speaker, in his speech, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot mentioned that an agreement had been reached between the Bloc Québécois and the government regarding the aluminum sector.
In committee, we heard that the government already had mechanisms in place to find out how much aluminum was in transit from China to Mexico. The information needed to find out what is happening is therefore already provided.
How is the agreement between the Bloc and the government different from what the government is already doing?
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-10 11:34 [p.1857]
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Madam Speaker, I have found the third reading debate and indeed this whole process around the Canada-U.S.-Mexico trade agreement interesting. Today I watched as the governing Liberals, the opposition Conservatives and the separatist Bloc all tried to take credit for free trade and sing the praises of free trade. I can tell members that the New Democrats are not here to sing the praises of corporate free trade; far from it. We have been pretty consistent critics of this model of trade, but not trade itself.
One of the sleights of hand that too often happens not just in this place but in the media about trade is that somehow the corporate model of free trade that has been very good at reinforcing corporate rights over the rights of people and the environment is somehow the only way to do trade. New Democrats are not under that illusion. We know that too often corporate free trade deals have meant that countries get trapped in a race to the bottom, that these deals are structured in a way to allow international capital.
We hear in other debates about how Canada needs to compete for investment, and if it tries to regulate in the public interest in areas that have to do with the environment or workers that international capital is going to leave and go to other jurisdictions. These types of free trade agreements are all about making that easier and all about intensifying the threat of capital flight in the event governments choose to stand up for their workers, the environment or the rights of indigenous people within their territory.
CUSMA unfortunately is part of that model. What is different here is that we are not talking about going from no free trade agreement to having a corporate free trade agreement. What we are talking about is two different agreements and which one we are going to have. As some people mentioned earlier, if we did not go for the new CUSMA and the existing NAFTA was abrogated by the President of the United States, there would still be a free trade deal in place, the original free trade deal between Canada and the United States.
We are not in a position where we are talking about whether Canada is going to sign up for some new commitment under the corporate free trade agreement. What we are talking about is which commitment is going to serve Canadians better. That is an important point to make, and that has been a consistent theme throughout the debate on this. Certainly it has been an important part of the NDP's deliberations on this particular deal.
In my speech at second reading, I said there were two questions that were going to guide us in our thinking. One was whether, on balance, this deal would leave Canadians better off than the current agreement. The second question I said would guide our deliberations was whether we could leverage the process around this deal, which we knew was going to pass anyway because the Conservatives said early on that whether they liked it or not or studied it a long time or a short time, ultimately they were going to vote for it. We knew that this was an agreement that was going to pass, and the question was whether we could use the process around this ratification in order to get a better process that made the next trade agreement negotiation more open and transparent to the Canadian public.
I want to talk a little about some of the problems with the model and then I want to talk a little about this particular agreement and why, on balance, we think that the package of things that comes with this agreement will leave Canadians a bit better off than the status quo.
In addition to the problems of the corporate free trade model I mentioned earlier, particularly that race to the bottom when it comes to environmental standards and labour standards, there is another problem. We hear often from Conservatives that what they do not like about government is that it picks winners and losers, except that they have no problem with that when it comes to free trade agreements. Often the Conservatives negotiate the deal and then the Liberals sign the deal. That seems to be the pattern.
The Liberal Party and Conservative Party work very well together when it comes to advancing this corporate model of free trade, but Conservatives do not have a problem picking winners and losers in free trade agreements even though they do not like the idea of picking winners and losers when it comes to funding renewable energy, for instance, over other industries. They say that is an unacceptable picking of winners over losers. However, when it comes to sacrificing the dairy industry in agreements, we know the Conservatives negotiated concessions on supply management in the TPP, which ultimately the Liberals signed on to.
I was trying to listen in the best spirit and interestingly, optimistically, I heard members of the Conservative Party defending Canada Post, a Crown corporation. That was great to hear. I might add that is not reminiscent of the way the Conservatives behaved as a government, but it was nice to hear. That was another instance where they were decrying picking winners and losers. I am inclined to agree that Canada Post should not have been singled out, because I am a proud supporter of Crown corporations. I hope their resolve carries forward with them into whatever future positions they may have in this House, be it government or the fourth party. We can only hope.
I mentioned also that CUSMA picks winners and losers when it comes to the digital economy. Unfortunately, the losers, by and large, are Canadians themselves. This has been another feature of these corporate free trade agreements where governments, I think quite needlessly, tie their hands when it comes to making good public policy. One of the things this agreement does is it really constricts the options Canadian governments have going forward on how to deal with what is a new, emerging and very important and significant aspect of the global economy, which is the digital economy.
For instance, in this agreement, the government has agreed it will not make third party platforms responsible for the content posted on those platforms. That is a major policy decision. It is one that we may well live to regret. It is a discussion which, in my opinion, should have happened in this House in a far more robust way. That is not the kind of thing we should have been negotiating with trading partners prior to having a meaningful debate about how Canada wanted to treat this issue.
In some places within trade agreements we get protection for existing laws, rules and policies. We really have not had the opportunity to establish those in a meaningful way for many aspects of the digital economy. We see the government already signing away its ability to make those decisions and, by extension, the ability of this place and Canadians themselves to decide how they want their digital space managed going forward. That is a feature of these kinds of agreements. It is the kind of thing the NDP has been a vocal critic of. We think it is one thing to decide we want to trade with another country, but when we look at agreements like the Auto Pact, which were not global free trade deals but about dividing up the wealth that comes from producing those products and ensuring that the trading partners each were getting their fair share of the wealth generated by the products that were going to be moving freely across the border, that is not what free trade is. Rather, it is more about, as I said earlier, setting up rules to make it easy for multinational corporations to move their production around. That may have a short-term benefit on price, but it does not always. We know companies charge what the market will bear. In the long term, I think there are many Canadians who would appreciate the opportunity to pay a bit more for a good or service that contributes to Canadian workers and keeps wealth in Canada, but I digress.
I mentioned earlier there were two questions that would guide our deliberations. I want to speak to the first one now, which is whether, on balance, this agreement is better than the status quo. There are a few things I would point to that are laudable, despite the faults of this agreement.
One is the elimination of chapter 11 of the original NAFTA. That was the clause under which foreign corporations, not Canadian corporations—although I would not have been a fan of that, but I think it was that much more egregious that it only gave these rights to foreign corporations—could sue the Canadian government for creating laws or instituting regulations that protect the environment or workers that they saw as costing them profit. Canada not only put that in the original NAFTA, but these investor-state dispute settlement clauses have been in most of the trade agreements that we have negotiated. Canada has paid out the most in the world under these kinds of clauses, so I am glad to see that go. I note it was something the President of the United States wanted gone and that initially our government defended, which has always seemed backward to me. Nevertheless, regardless of who got it out, it is out and that is a good thing.
It is likewise with the energy proportionality clause. It said that if, in any given year, we take the average percentage of Canadian production of oil and gas that went to the United States over the previous three years, in future years the U.S. would have a right to insist on that percentage of Canadian production. Regardless of whether there was a domestic shortage or whether we could get a better price somewhere else, the United States would have a right to that percentage of our production of oil and gas. We have always seen that as a completely unreasonable, to put it mildly, infringement on Canadian sovereignty and something that was not in the best interests of Canadians, so we are glad to see that go.
There are a number of new North American content provisions for the auto sector, which we think is a good thing. They hearken back to the Auto Pact. Those provisions are actually least like free trade provisions, but they are being lauded as potentially doing the most for the Canadian auto sector. I think this is a signal that the free trade model, in itself, is not enough for Canadian success.
One of the other things to note is that in the original version of CUSMA there were provisions that would have significantly increased the cost of biologic drugs. This was due to, unfortunately, not our own government, but to the Democrats in the United States who went back to the table. Because they were not satisfied with the original agreement, those provisions came out. That means that some of the increases in the cost of prescription drugs that were going to happen as a result of this agreement, which we have seen in other agreements like CETA and the TPP, are not happening in this agreement. That is a good thing. One of the reasons that the NDP has often opposed some of these trade agreements is because they offer unreasonably good protection to international pharmaceutical companies at the expense of Canadians who require medication to improve their quality of life.
We also saw, in the second round of negotiations spurred by the Democrats in the United States, first-of-their-kind labour provisions in a trade agreement. I will not say that they are perfect; a lot of work is going to have to be done in order to ensure that they are implemented in a way that realizes the maximum potential for workers in Mexico, but these agreements would provide some upward pressure on wages for Mexicans working in the auto sector. I think just as, or more, importantly, and we heard this at committee from a Mexican member of the labour movement, it will make it easier for them to organize real unions in their workplaces. Evidence shows that when there is a union, one is able to get better working conditions and secure better wages. That is good for Mexican workers and for workers in the United States and Canada as well. This is to the extent, and that extent remains to be seen, that companies will not be picking up their operations and simply moving them to Mexico because it is a way of getting out of having a union in a workplace and paying higher wages.
Again, this is not a panacea; it is not going to change things overnight, but these enforceable labour provisions are the kinds of things that New Democrats have said for decades ought to go hand in hand with the rules that are established, and very strongly protected, in international trade agreements.
By voting for this agreement at this time, we are trying to consolidate the gains of having chapter 11 eliminated, having the proportionality clause eliminated and having the potential increase in prescription drugs stopped. We want to give a chance to allow these first-of-their-kind labour provisions to play out and to see whether we can use trade agreements to increase fairness for workers. I hope, if we can show that there is success on that front, that one day we could get meaningful enforcement of some environmental rules across jurisdictions too.
This agreement really does not do that. It does not mention the most important agreement designed to address the most important environmental challenge of our time, which is the Paris accord and climate change. I think that is where we are going to need to get if we are going to have accountability internationally for countries reducing their climate emissions. We need to tie those accords to economic accords as well, so that there can be meaningful consequences for countries that do not live up to their expectations.
I want to spend a little time now talking about the second question that I said would guide our deliberations on this matter, which was whether this ratification process could be leveraged to get a better trade process for the next time.
This process in itself was not great. We heard other members speak earlier about just how late Parliament got an economic impact assessment. By everyone's admission, we are talking about a major deal. We are talking about a lot of trade crossing the border every day, and there has been a lot of commentary on the agreement. The surprising thing for Canadians who may just be learning about this, if they are watching at home, is that debate was not supported by any real economic data because the government did not release it until the day before the end of the committee hearings, which was just the last sitting Thursday. Therefore, the economic report that actually puts some numbers to what we are doing here came out on the Wednesday and the committee study concluded and moved along on the Thursday. That did not make a heck of a lot of sense.
There are other things that have not made sense over the years, particularly the high degree of secrecy around trade negotiations. As I mentioned in my speech at second reading, two of our biggest trading partners, with which we have concluded free trade deals, the European Union and the U.S., both released far more information about their negotiation process to the public. They create far more of a space for civic engagement around trade negotiation and allow their citizens to weigh in on what is important to them, what they think their executive is doing right in those negotiations and what it is doing wrong. We saw how that interplay between the legislature and the executive can create opportunities to get better deals. We saw that happen with this very agreement, unfortunately not here in Canada but in the United States where Congress was able to get involved and require the President to go back to the table in order to get a deal that was acceptable to the legislature.
This Parliament only deals with trade deals once they are signed, sealed and delivered and there is no possibility of going back to the table. That was why I contacted the Deputy Prime Minister early on in this process, to talk about some of those problems of process and how we might be able to improve those going forward. That precipitated a period of negotiation, at the end of which the government committed to put in its policy for tabling treaties in the House of Commons a new commitment. The government will now tell Parliament formally, 90 days before beginning formal negotiations with another country or group of countries, of its intent to bargain a new trade deal. It will table its negotiating objectives in Parliament, which means publicly, 30 days before those negotiations. That is comparable to what already happens in the United States, and is even less stringent than what happens in the European Union, so it is a completely reasonable thing to do and Canadians will be better off for it.
Finally, on the topic of the economic impact assessment, we got a commitment from government that it will make it a matter of policy that governments table economic impact assessments side by side with the ratifying legislation so that we never again end up in the ridiculous position we were in this time, where we were being asked to study a bill without having any economic data about its impact. I should not say “any”; we did have some from the United States because a year ago, it published an economic impact assessment. Canadians and their parliamentarians should not have to look to our trading partners for information about how a trade deal is going to affect us. We should be able to get that from the government. We now have a commitment to make it a matter of policy that governments will provide that information, which is important.
There is more I would like to say, but I look forward to the question and answer period.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-10 11:55 [p.1859]
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Madam Speaker, I am just digesting the question. I hope I was clear enough that I am not a supporter of the original NAFTA. The NDP was not and is not.
What I was saying is that I do not like the model. I do not like the model that that agreement was signed under, and I do not like the model that this agreement was signed under. What we have been tracking in this debate is whether, overall, the one agreement under a bad model is, relatively speaking, better than the original agreement under a bad model.
Of course there are lots of corporations that employ a lot of Canadians; that does not mean they can do no wrong. That does not mean that they are all wonderful people. That does not mean they are all looking out for the interests of their employees.
I would refer the member to the 400,000 Canadians who have lost manufacturing jobs since the signature of the original NAFTA, including those in Oshawa who just recently had their plant closed, despite the fact they did award-winning work, because that plant moved to Mexico for the sole purpose of low wages. Canadians workers should not be forced to compete with that. That is exactly what these deals do.
There is some relief from that, for the first time, in these labour provisions. We are interested to see how those play out.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-10 11:57 [p.1860]
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Madam Speaker, there were clearly many job losses between 1994 and 2007-08, when the Canadian dollar was at par with the U.S. dollar. The appreciation of our currency may explain some rather recent manufacturing job losses, but it does not explain the jobs lost between 1994 and 2007-08.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-10 11:58 [p.1860]
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Madam Speaker, I am going to go back a little ways to a process that some might remember around what was referred to as the security and prosperity partnership, SPP.
One of the really frustrating aspects about those negotiations was that we did not know the full extent of them. In one of the minority Parliaments that preceded 2011, there was an attempt to get documents, just for Canadians to get some basic information about what the government was doing at the negotiating table with the United States on that file. A Conservative chair of the committee at that time stood up and walked out of the room, lest emotion pass demanding information about what was going on at that table.
What we have negotiated with the government and what should be different is at least Canadians will know that a negotiation is taking place. That sounds really basic. It does not sound particularly exciting. It sounds like the kind of thing that of course we would know, because the government always tells us. However, the fact is that there is no requirement for the government to tell us. The SPP was a great example of a time when it refused to tell us.
Not only would we know that that negotiation was happening, but we would have, at the very least, the high-level negotiating objectives, which were presumably were different for the SPP than they were for the TPP or CETA.
This is one of those things that are easy to understate. It sounds like it is not that big of a deal, and that the government was already doing that. The point is that it was not. People in the trade justice network, labour unions and other parts of civil society know that these trade agreements can have a real impact on the lives of working people, not just corporate tycoons who are going to make more money but real Canadians who have a real potential to lose out on things that matter to them in their lives. This is going to give them a window in, to know where to start looking and sniffing around to find out what is going on and how it is going to affect people, whether they are members of unions or organizations, or just ordinary Canadians whose welfare they are concerned for.
That is why it is a really important starting point.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-10 12:02 [p.1861]
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Madam Speaker, I know the Deputy Prime Minister has made a lot about the amount of consultation that went on. However, there is a big difference between consulting sector-specific people under the cloak of NDAs, or non-disclosure agreements, where they are not allowed to talk about anything, versus bringing it to Parliament where there are things we can discuss. There is a difference between sharing objectives at the negotiating table with people who are not allowed to talk about those with anybody else and sharing them in Parliament, where the country can have a conversation about what should be on the list and what should be taken off the list, and supply management is a great example.
Dairy farmers are hit hard by this agreement. I hope there will be another context. It has been done somewhat at committee, where we have talked about ways government can mitigate some of the ill effects that are part of this agreement. That debate should have taken place with more information on the table. Up until two weeks before this version of the deal was signed, dairy farmers were told they would be okay, that there were not significant concessions beyond what was in the original NAFTA.
People were caught off guard. Public debate has a way of bringing those things out. It does not always, it is not perfect, it is a blunt instrument, but it can really bring things to the surface. That is why it was such a priority for us to take the first meaningful step on a road toward a better, more transparent process. In the long term, that will help us get better deals that are fairer for workers and the environment.
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View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
View Niki Ashton Profile
2020-03-10 14:46 [p.1887]
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Mr. Speaker, today when I called on the Liberals to address the potential crisis of coronavirus on first nations, they tried to shut me down. The government does not get it.
The Liberals advised regular hand washing. How does one do that without running water? They advised self-isolation. That is impossible with a housing crisis of 12 to 20 people living in a home. In places like the Island Lake or Cross Lake regions, there are thousands of people and no hospital in sight. People are worried.
Can a regular member of the Prime Minister's coronavirus committee please stand up and tell us what they are doing to ensure first nations and Inuit communities are supported now?
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-10 17:33 [p.1911]
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Mr. Speaker, I do want to get to the member's comment about New Flyer and the great work that it does. I was surprised to hear the member say that he has been talking to dairy farmers who think this is a great deal. Having been there for virtually the entirety of the committee hearings and having heard from a lot of people in the dairy industry, I want the member to know that I think if he looks at the record he will find that dairy farmers are actually rightly quite upset with the contents of the deal for them. We heard that loud and clear. We heard that many times over. He can believes what he wants about the deal, but I do not think he should believe that dairy farmers are satisfied with the treatment they got in CUSMA. That would just be an error.
I notice he mentioned New Flyer in his remarks. It makes a great product. It sends that product all over North America. One of the challenges for New Flyer has been that it continues to have to shift jobs out of my riding of Transcona to the United States because of the buy America policy. There is no protection for Canadian businesses from the buy America policy.
Does the member want to provide some reflections on that, particularly in light of the U.S. announcing an intention to leave the procurement provisions of the WTO?
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-10 17:50 [p.1914]
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Mr. Speaker, as the NDP trade critic, I have been following the debate very closely.
Conservatives mentioned a couple of issues multiple times. One is the lack of an economic impact assessment, or the late delivery of that document, getting it only a day before the conclusion of the committee's study. A second concern, and I think a legitimate concern, is about having to give notice to the United States of negotiating an agreement with a non-market country, which really means China.
The NDP was successful in negotiating some policy changes with the government, namely that the government would be required by its own rules to table an economic impact assessment with the ratifying legislation, that it would be required to give three months' public notice, here in Parliament, of an intent to negotiate with any country, and that it would give notice of its negotiating objectives.
That is sound policy, and it helps in addressing some of the concerns about the process for this agreement by making public the notice that the U.S. would get anyway and by ensuring that economic impact assessments would be tabled with the ratifying legislation.
Would the member comment on those provisions?
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-10 18:05 [p.1916]
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Mr. Speaker, is my understanding correct that a future Conservative government would make no concessions on supply management in a future trade deal, whether Canada-U.K. or another deal?
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-10 18:50 [p.1923]
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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening, after a full day of debate on the Canada-United States-Mexico trade agreement, to follow up on a question I asked in question period some time ago around the provisions protecting Canadian businesses, which see U.S. government procurement as an important part of their business, from the buy America policy.
We are told that these agreements are all about unfettered access to markets, yet there are companies like New Flyer, which manufactures buses in, among other places, Transcona, that have to shift jobs from manufacturing facilities in Canada to the Untied States because the U.S. content requirement for things like buses increases under the buy America policy.
I am hoping that a representative of the government can explain tonight the rules, if there are any, that protect Canadian businesses from the buy America policy. In the event that there is no preferential access for Canadians with respect to American government procurement, what reciprocal limitations are put on U.S. businesses applying for government procurement contracts in Canada?
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-10 18:53 [p.1923]
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Mr. Speaker, I will start by quickly noting that the NDP's support for this particular iteration of the deal was contingent upon some successful negotiation with the government on things that we think are important in going ahead on trade policy. Also, a number of the things we think are laudable about the agreement were secured not by our government but by American politicians, which is too bad, frankly, because we would like to see the Canadian government as a champion of things we support.
In the parliamentary secretary's answer, I did not hear a definition of the rules that apply to Canadian businesses applying for American government procurement work and vice versa. I wonder if he would be willing to follow up in a letter and outline what rules govern the application for procurement projects from parties of one country to another, going each way. I would appreciate a letter to that effect.
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View Leah Gazan Profile
NDP (MB)
View Leah Gazan Profile
2020-03-09 14:46 [p.1803]
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Mr. Speaker, the Liberals keep saying they care about a nation-to-nation relationship, but as we face a potential coronavirus outbreak, they have turned their backs on first nations and Inuit again.
When the H1N1 crisis hit, indigenous nations asked for help, but the government sent body bags instead.
Lives are at risk.
Will the Prime Minister admit he was wrong and reverse his decision to exclude the Minister of Indigenous Services from the COVID-19 committee?
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