Kenney: a blood-sucking profiteer (literally)

In 1972, the impoverished and oppressed people of Nicaragua suffered a terrible crisis when an earthquake struck the capital of Managua. An estimated 5000 people were killed, and the city centre was destroyed. International humanitarian aid flowed to the country, including blood and plasma donations from all over the world. Perversely, then dictator Anastasio Somoza intercepted large amounts of the emergency blood donations, which he then exported from his stricken country, at a huge profit.

Almost 60 years later, Alberta premier Jason Kenney seems to be taking a page from Somoza’s playbook. His government’s Bill 204, The Voluntary Blood Donations Repeal Act, will cast aside legislation that guarantees blood and plasma as public resources and open the field to corporate blood banks who sell blood products for profit on the international market.

The bill has passed second reading and, as of press time, was headed for third and final reading on November 16.

Friends of Medicare has organized a campaign against the legislation, calling on Albertans to take action against the corporatization of the province’s blood supply system.

Notably, Bill 204 only contains nine lines of text – its only purpose is to repeal the existing law. This leaves Alberta with no regulation whatsoever on the collection, storage, use, sale or export of blood or plasma donations. It’s a field day for literal blood-sucking profiteers. “Rather than allowing corporate brokers to profit from export of Albertans’ blood products, we must instead support Canadian Blood Services’ ongoing strategy to increase unpaid plasma clinics and move towards self-sufficiency in our domestic plasma supply.”

In Nicaragua, the blood profiteering scandal helped broaden mass opposition to Somoza, which culminated in his overthrow during the Sandinista revolution of 1979. A united, militant and broadly-based resistance in Alberta, led by the labour movement in coalition with community allies, can put a halt to Bill 204 and to the entirety of Jason Kenney’s austerity and privatization agenda.

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