Canadian government defeats bid to expand hepatitis compensation

OTTAWA (AP) — The federal government survived a parliamentary showdown Tuesday with opposition parties who sought to expand a compensation package for victims of hepatis C from tainted blood.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien came back from a visit to Cuba earlier than initially scheduled to be on hand for the vote, and ordered all members of his Liberal Party to follow the party line on the controversial dispute.
He got his way, winning the vote 154-140 as every Liberal present in the House of Commons supported the government’s position in favor of a limited compensation package.
The four opposition parties, ranging from the right-wing Reform Party to the left-wing New Democratic Party, unanimously supported a motion to offer compensation to all Canadians who contracted hepatitis C after receiving tainted blood from government-supervised stocks.
The government has offered $1.1 billion ($770 million U.S.) to 20,000 Canadians who got the disease between 1986 and 1990, but has refused to compensate victims who got the disease outside that period.
The four-year period is when Canada could have — but didn’t — adapt blood-screening procedures that were in practice in the United States.
The vote Tuesday evening was raucous. Health Minister Allan Rock was booed as he rose to vote, and opposition lawmakers pounded their desks, chanting “Shame, shame,” after the results were announced.
Several hepatitis C victims were escorted from the public galleries by security as they clapped in unison with the opposition.