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Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq ponders a question during a news conference on the H1N1 flu virus in Ottawa on Friday, October 30, 2009. (FRED CHARTRAND)
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq ponders a question during a news conference on the H1N1 flu virus in Ottawa on Friday, October 30, 2009. (FRED CHARTRAND)

The morning buzz

Flu questions weigh heavy Add to ...

The morning buzz: What's making news today on Parliament Hill

1. The "swine line." That's the term being used for the long line-ups of parents, their children, pregnant women and others standing around for hours waiting for their H1N1 vaccine shot. With reports of a vaccine shortage and as some provinces have suspended clinics, the controversy over swine flu will continue to dominate in the House of Commons today. Opposition parties are clearly concerned about the Harper government's role in the supply and distribution of the vaccine. Questions are being raised now about the government's contract with supplier GlaxoSmithKline. What are the terms of the contract? Was there a communication problem between the government and the firm? Why did no one know until late last week that the supply would be severely limited this week? Why can't the federal government buy vaccine from other sources?

On CTV's Question Period yesterday, NDP health critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis said "questions have to be asked: what was the deal with GSK, why did they not hear sooner, when did the minister know?" And this morning, The Globe and Mail also looks at the issue of fairness of supplying vaccine to private medical clinics. On Question Period, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Chief Public Health Officer David Butler-Jones would not criticize the practice. Rather, Ms. Aglukkaq repeatedly cited jurisdictional issues, saying the federal government is not responsible for the distribution of the vaccine. "We do not deliver health care," she said. And Dr. Butler-Jones said about the private clinic in Toronto: "They have a system. I guess they have a system in Toronto for distributing to family docs, a group of family docs, so they're organized to do that."

2. Sick-note praise. At least someone thinks Ottawa is doing a good job. The Canadian Medical Association has "commended" the Harper government for easing up on requirements for "sick notes during the H1N1 pandemic." CMA president Anne Doig is asking private-sector businesses to follow the government's lead. "During this pandemic, doctors want to spend their time dealing with patients and not paperwork," says Dr. Doig, in a press release. "Asking people to provide sick notes for H1N1 increases the risk that others will get infected."

3. Posh Spice trumps the Prince of Wales. Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, begin a whirlwind 11-day trip across Canada today, landing first in St. John's. While there is a lot of media attention here, a scan of the British newspapers this morning reveals little interest in Charles's travels to Canada, his 15th visit to the country. In fact, the Daily Mail front-page makes no mention of the trip. Rather, it is concerned with Posh Spice's new hairstyle: "Hairlelujah! After a crop of misses, has Victoria Beckham found the right style at last?" There is a picture of her with slightly longer hair. The London Evening Standard's front page has many stories but none about the Prince's adventures. Its only royal story deals with the fact that the Queen's "knicker-maker," lingerie firm Rigby & Peller, "has defied the recession thanks to cash-strapped couples spending more time at home." The rather convoluted thesis of the story is that women are buying more lingerie as they want to look good at home since they are spending more time there. And the Telegraph has a story today about another Prince - William, Charles's son, is to make his first solo overseas official visit next year to Australia and New Zealand.

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