National Lyme Disease Strategy Act

An Act respecting a National Lyme Disease Strategy

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Elizabeth May  Green

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (House), as of March 3, 2014

Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-442.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment requires the Minister of Health to convene a conference with the provincial and territorial ministers responsible for health and with representatives of the medical community and patients’ groups for the purpose of developing a national strategy to address the challenges of the recognition and timely diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease. It also authorizes the Minister of Finance to establish guidelines in respect of the allocation of funding to provincial and territorial governments that have enacted legislation to implement that strategy.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

March 3rd, 2014 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

, seconded by the hon. member for Oakville, moved that Bill C-442, An Act respecting a National Lyme Disease Strategy, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

She said: Mr. Speaker, today I am very honoured to introduce this bill for a national strategy on Lyme disease at second reading. When we are able to work together as members of Parliament, anything is possible.

Today I stand here with the great honour of presenting a bill in my name. If I could, I would remove my name and put the names of all of us on it. This is a truly non-partisan effort, and this is reflected in the process of this legislation in the House so far.

At first reading, in June 2012, the seconder of my bill was my friend the hon. Liberal member for Etobicoke North, who has been very active on many health issues. Today I have the enormous honour of having my bill seconded by the hon. member for Oakville, himself a champion on a number of health issues. I commend him and the Minister of Health, in fact all of the Conservative members, for bringing forward Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, Vanessa's law. I look forward to seeing that legislation made into law. These are important steps, which prove that individuals can change public policy, as I hope we will here.

By coincidence, the hon. member for Oakville has also taken a stand on the Lyme disease issue, having written a foreword to a Canadian book called Ending Denial: The Lyme Disease Epidemic.

In this non-partisan spirit, the official opposition, the New Democratic Party, was the first party to signal full support for my bill. The New Democratic Party health critic, the hon. member for Vancouver East, signalled some time ago that I could count on her party's support. It means a tremendous amount to me personally to have this support. It acknowledges the importance of this legislation.

The hon. member for Edmonton—Spruce Grove, the Minister of Health, has herself been very willing to work with me, which means the bill has the potential for success. We have sat down and worked over this bill, and there are some amendments that I would expect to see in committee. I do not regard them in any way as other than helpful. This bodes well for our ability to work together to make a difference on this issue.

What is this issue? Everyone in the Chamber is now familiar with the fact that Lyme disease is spreading. It is spread through a very specific bacteria that is carried by ticks, often blacklegged ticks or deer ticks, and it is now spreading to other species of ticks. The bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi is a bacteria that brings with it both a potential personal tragedy and a very troubling set of symptoms for diagnosis.

As I have said, this disease is spread through ticks. As we have seen, this disease can be delivered to other areas through the agency of birds. The range in which these ticks occurs across Canada has been spreading, and it is part of the increase in vector-borne diseases that are anticipated in relation to global warming and the climate crisis.

We know there are more cases of the disease. It was shocking to many, when in the summer of 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, Georgia, issued a revised estimate of Lyme disease in the United States. Its new estimate increased the prevalence of Lyme disease ten-fold, reporting that the previous year's 30,000 cases were probably 300,000. This is a timely reminder to us in Canada that the incidence of Lyme disease is spreading.

To the credit of Health Canada, since 2009 Lyme disease has been a reportable illness in Canada. There is no question that we know it exists in Canada, and health professionals have a mandatory duty to report a diagnosis of Lyme disease. We are also aware that it is under-reported. Currently any medical practitioner who diagnosis Lyme disease has a responsibility to inform the provincial health authorities, who in turn report this to the Public Health Agency of Canada. At this point, only 310 cases have been reported across Canada.

I am sure my colleagues on all sides of the House know that the number of cases is somewhat low, just in terms of our own anecdotal experience of constituents who have Lyme disease, and from the number of petitions we have received in this place from people urging us to find a solution and urging better treatment and a cure. We cannot estimate exactly how low that is, but as in the United States, I think we will find that as we increase awareness we will have a clearer understanding of the incidence of the disease.

Let me review quickly what the bill would do. This is a bill to deal with the threat of Lyme disease, but it does it in a couple of different ways. The bill's goals are to create a national surveillance system dealing with the problem that I just mentioned; we do not always have good information on exactly where the ticks are spreading and how prevalent they are.

The other area that is important is to get a handle on better awareness, perhaps national standards, or at least a sharing of best practices, to understand the challenges of diagnosis and treatment.

The bill calls for:

3.(b) the establishment of guidelines regarding the prevention, identification, treatment and management of Lyme disease, including a recommended national standard of care that reflects current best practices for the treatment of Lyme disease;

It also calls on the Minister of Health, working with others, to create a national program of educational materials to increase public awareness, but also to assist medical professionals. The process by which this would take place is that once the bill has come into force, there would be a mandatory obligation on the minister of health to convene, within six months, a national conference of provincial and territorial ministers of health, as well as the stakeholders, who are described in the bill as representatives of the medical community and patient groups, for the purpose of developing this national framework.

I am very heartened that at this relatively early stage in the consideration of Bill C-442, it has already received the support of important elements within the medical community. I want to cite particularly, and to thank, Eric Mang, director, health policy and government relations for the College of Family Physicians of Canada, who wrote in the fall of 2013 that they support the bill. He stated:

[The College of Family Physicians of Canada] supports further studying the economic and health impacts of Lyme Disease to ensure that Canadian physicians have the necessary tools and knowledge at their disposal. Guidelines produced as part of the strategy should include the input of family physicians and be available to all primary health care providers.

Even more recently, on February 27, 2014, I was thrilled to receive a letter from the Canadian Medical Association and its president, Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti. Coming from the medical community, it is important that I read some of this letter into the record at second reading debate. He wrote the following:

Diagnosis of Lyme disease can be difficult because signs and symptoms can be non-specific and found in other conditions. If Lyme disease is not recognized during the early stages, patients may suffer seriously debilitating disease that may be more difficult to treat. Given the increasing incidence of Lyme disease in Canada, continuing education for health care and public health professionals and a national standard of care can improve identification, treatment and management of this disease. Greater awareness of where ticks are endemic in Canada, as well as information on the disease and prevention measures, can help Canadians protect themselves from infection. A national Lyme disease strategy that includes representation from the federal, provincial and territorial governments, the medical and patient communities can address concerns around research, surveillance, diagnosis, treatment and management of the disease. In addition, public health prevention measures will advance our current knowledge base, and improve the care and treatment of those suffering from Lyme disease.

With the support of those two important associations of medical professionals, the Canadian Medical Association and the College of Family Physicians of Canada, I am encouraged to know that we can work together as members of Parliament from all parties in this place. The approach set out in the bill for a national conference urges federal and provincial jurisdictional responsibility in the health community; the medical community, the doctors, health care professionals, nurses, people who deal with trying to sort out a diagnosis for Lyme disease when it is not always easy; and the patient communities, people who have advocated, who have cried out for help, people for whom this bill represents the first ray of light in what, for many, has been years of suffering. I am enormously encouraged by the support from the medical community.

I want to now turn to the support from the patient community. I would never have thought to put forward a private member's bill on Lyme disease had I not encountered so many Canadians who are suffering from the disease. My first friend who told me she had Lyme disease was Brenda Sterling, of Pictou County, Nova Scotia. From her wheelchair, she told me that she had been bitten by a tick and now she was virtually disabled. I was shocked. I did not know Lyme disease could be so serious when I first met Brenda, but she educated me about it.

Then when I moved to Saanich—Gulf Islands and was living in Sidney, I kept meeting people who were experiencing Lyme disease, some of them kids. It is heartbreaking to know a brilliant, beautiful young woman, Nicole Bottles, who is in a wheelchair and not able to go school. It is not because the wheelchair is a difficulty, but because the Lyme disease, as she says, muddles her brain from time to time. She has trouble concentrating and she has not been able to keep up with her schooling. However, she and her mother, Chris Powell, whom I think have met many of the people in this chamber today, have come to Ottawa and advocated for Bill C-442. They see it as a way to get to better levels of awareness.

I am so grateful to James, Michael, and other young constituents, like Eric, and his family. When I think about why I chose this bill, it had a lot to do with Eric and his family. His father-in-law was a strong supporter of mine, and I wondered how I could ever thank him. I am thankful to Fraser, among many people, for my bringing forward a bill that could try to make a difference in thousands of lives.

As we work toward this bill, let us keep a couple of hopeful things in mind. One is that we should never fear the outdoors. Some people have come to me since this bill was tabled saying, “For Heaven's sake, be careful that we don't create fear of going outside”. I want to emphasize that is not my intention.

I subscribe to the view of some who have described nature deficit disorder as a real threat to our kids. They need to get out and engage with wilderness. They need to be in nature. It increases learning abilities, capabilities, and emotional maturity. It is great for kids to spend time outdoors.

We have become used to the education challenge of a thinning ozone layer, which due to the Montreal protocol is reversing the thinning process. Over the years we have become used to asking what the UV rating is, wearing long-sleeved shirts, remembering to use sunscreen, and wearing a broad-rimmed hat, something that did not occur when I was a kid. These are common-sense prevention measures.

We need common sense to be a part of our daily routine. When our kids go out to play, we need to say, “Tuck your pant legs into your socks”, and when they come in from playing outdoors, to say, “Let me give you a quick check to make sure you haven't picked up a tick”. Those kinds of things are common-sense prevention measures.

The good news when facing Lyme disease is that it is preventable. That is why a federal framework makes so much sense. If we are aware of the disease, and watchful, we will not get it in the first place. However, if we do get it and diagnosis is speedy and correct, the treatment works. The treatment need not take long, and one can recover to a complete state of health and well-being.

Lastly, let us shine a light of hope for those dealing with the challenge of continuing debilitating symptoms. With a real focus and continued research, we can find treatment measures that will work for the entire Lyme patient community.

I am indebted to all of the members who have come here this morning for second reading, and thankful for their support. With their help, this bill will become law.

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

March 3rd, 2014 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for bringing forward this important piece of legislation on behalf of one of my constituents, who suffered for the longest time in terms of finding a diagnosis and then treatment. She was not able to find appropriate treatment in Canada, and I believe she went to Mexico three times for treatment.

In terms of best practices and treatment, is the intent to look worldwide and go outside of Canada and the United States, to search for the best treatment possible?

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

March 3rd, 2014 / 11:20 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a point clearly and this gives me a good opportunity. I am not a medical doctor. A few of us in the House are, but for the most part, I want to make sure that the medical diagnosis and research is left to medical experts, the ministers of health provincially, federally, and territorially.

I would think it makes sense to do what my hon. friend suggests. My constituents have gone to the U.S. and to Mexico for treatment. I was interviewed this morning by Kamloops CBC, where a family is trying to raise money for some treatment in Florida. I do not know what it is.

It is important that as members of Parliament we set up a framework to allow the research to extend to wherever the answers will be found, but we should not prejudge that. We should make it possible for medical professionals to seek out best practices.

I think a lot of those may be in Canada. We just need to share across provincial and territorial boundaries, and perhaps international ones as well.

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

March 3rd, 2014 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate and thank my friend and neighbour from Saanich—Gulf Islands for her excellent presentation and for her hard work on the bill.

During her speech, she alluded to certain amendments that might be brought forward at committee stage, and I wonder if she could advise the House on the kind of amendments she would consider acceptable.

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

March 3rd, 2014 / 11:20 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is helpful to perhaps give a prelude. I do not assume anything. I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that the bill gets through second reading and to committee.

The Minister of Health has been very forthcoming in sharing with me some of the things she thinks would make the bill easier, from her point of view, and obviously I want to do everything possible to be reasonable and bend over backwards to make sure we can accept any amendments.

The kinds of things suggested are really sensible. I do not want the bill to create, for instance, any federal or provincial jurisdictional conflict. It has been suggested that we change the terms “standard of care” to “best practices” and “national strategy” to “federal framework”, and to give the Minister of Health, who in the current version of the bill is given six months to hold a conference from when the bill enters into force, to perhaps make that longer, to ensure that federal-provincial processes are respected. It could go to perhaps 12 months.

None of those things strikes me as anything other than helpful, and I certainly look forward to getting the bill to committee so that those amendments can be made.

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

March 3rd, 2014 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I pick up on the need for having that national strategy, as individual provinces, some more than others quite possibly, look at what can be done with Lyme disease.

Would the member comment on why it is so important that there be a national strategy? This way we could better serve all Canadians.

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

March 3rd, 2014 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the reasons are clear in terms of the context. Some hon. colleagues have asked me why the federal government should be involved in this. Partly, unlike other diseases, this one is preventable. Better knowledge and sharing of best practices can allow Canadians, wherever they go across this country, to know—as with the metaphor of UV radiation and skin cancer—are we in a part of the country where ticks bearing this bacteria are endemic? Are we in a place where we should perhaps be more vigilant than usual?

The more we share across provincial boundaries, best practices, the more the medical community is able to benefit from what some doctors are doing in one part of Canada, which is quite different from what is happening elsewhere. Sharing best practices as a country will make sure that all Canadians, wherever they live, are better protected from this terrible disease.

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

March 3rd, 2014 / 11:20 a.m.
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South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue and for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour for me to rise today to participate in this debate on Bill C-442, an act respecting a National Lyme Disease Strategy. I would like to begin by commending the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her stewardship of this important bill, and I would like to acknowledge its support by many members in the House.

The hon. member mentioned in her comments that many of us, myself included, live in areas where the blacklegged tick, or deer tick, is endemic. In addition, many of us, myself included, have constituents who have contracted Lyme disease at some point.

This is an endemic disease. It is a Canada-wide disease, and it is a disease that is spreading. For those reasons, we need a national strategy. The support for this bill underscores the need to work together and to address this emerging infectious disease in order to minimize the risk for Canadians.

Across the country, the number of reported cases of Lyme disease has increased significantly in the last decade. In fact, the actual number of cases in Canada is estimated to be up to three times higher than reported because many Canadians may not seek a full diagnosis and, quite frankly, many medical professionals do not know how to diagnose Lyme disease.

To underscore that point, as the hon. member would know, Lyme disease was first reported in Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975 or 1974. Here we are, 39 years later, with Lyme disease endemic throughout New England and now it has spread into Canada, following the white-tailed deer, of course, and we still do not have a national strategy for Lyme disease. That underscores the need for the important discussion we are having in the House of Commons today.

This has led to a growing recognition among governments, health practitioners, and stakeholders that work needs to be done to address this emerging infectious disease. Support for this bill also highlights the need to better leverage efforts at the federal level and across jurisdictions in Lyme disease surveillance and research.

Our government has already established improved surveillance specifically aimed at Lyme disease, and welcomes the sponsor's efforts to bring additional attention to this important issue.

The proposed bill highlights the need for continued action by governments, stakeholders, and the public health and medical communities to improve the understanding and awareness of risk factors, prevention, and treatment options. The objectives of this bill are laudable, and in fact align with the many activities already being undertaken by our government. Canadians should be reassured that the government has not been standing still.

We are already making significant progress under the leadership of the Public Health Agency of Canada. We are working with provincial and territorial health authorities and other partners in informing Canadians of the health risks from contracting Lyme disease. We also continue to help protect Canadians against Lyme disease through improved surveillance, by conducting research, by providing factual and evidence-based information to Canadians, and by providing support for laboratory diagnosis. Since 2006, our government has invested $4.6 million through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to specifically fund research on Lyme disease and to disseminate the latest findings and knowledge to the scientific community.

These efforts are a central component of the Public Health Agency of Canada's approach to infectious diseases in Canada. More specifically, our approach to Lyme disease takes important action to reduce the disease's impact.

We do this by enhancing surveillance, prevention, and control; research and diagnosis; and engagement, education, and awareness. These three areas are consistent with the key elements of the bill, and our approach is already delivering results. However, as mentioned before, we are also prepared to do more, and in a collaborative fashion, to further address this emerging infectious disease.

That is why I want to signal to the House today that the government supports the intent of Bill C-442 and that we will be proposing practical amendments to ensure that the vision and values expressed in the bill can be realized and provide maximum benefit to the Canadian people.

The bill addresses an important issue, but it needs to be refined to remain consistent with the jurisdictional roles and accountabilities of Canada's federal system of government. In keeping with the spirit of the bill, we must be mindful of our federal role and respect jurisdictional accountabilities.

As we know, the provision of health care services in Canada falls under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. It is the provinces and territories that establish and monitor standards of care for health providers. It is also the purview of relevant medical colleges to define clinical care guidelines.

It is not the federal role to tell medical professionals how to practise. The proper role for the federal government in this area is to ensure that best practices are being shared across all jurisdictions, so that Canadians can be reassured that treatments are guided by the best scientific evidence.

In a similar vein, dictating to provinces and territories how and where to allocate their spending is contrary to our government's approach to fiscal federalism. However, it is within our federal role to facilitate collaboration across jurisdictions and with stakeholders to monitor and address the challenges posed by Lyme disease.

We are doing precisely that through our involvement in the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network and our collaborative work with stakeholders such as the College of Family Physicians of Canada and patient advocacy groups.

For example, the Public Health Agency of Canada is already working with the College of Family Physicians of Canada to engage health professionals on Lyme disease by increasing awareness among health care providers to enable them to recognize, diagnose, and treat the disease in its early stages.

Suffice it to say, while we concur with the bill's goals and objectives, it would need to be amended to reflect these jurisdictional realities, which is something that the hon. member has already mentioned she is supportive of.

This government is looking forward to working with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and will propose amendments in these areas to ensure that the bill is consistent with the provinces' and territories' primary role in delivering health care.

Early on in my speech, I mentioned that 39 years ago, Lyme disease was first diagnosed in Lyme, Connecticut. It took 39 years to get to this stage.

I have heard some members in this place—as the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has already alluded—question whether they would support this piece of proposed legislation. Some members say that Lyme disease is not prevalent in their area or that it is not endemic in their area.

I would suggest to these members that they had better take a look at whether they have white-tailed deer in their area. The blacklegged tick, better known in my part of the world as the deer tick, came to North America with the white-tailed deer. It has spread very successfully in most jurisdictions of North America.

As deer become more urban, or perhaps as humans become more rural, more white-tailed deer are moving into what were once rural areas, which are now urban areas. Therefore, this disease is only going to get worse, and it has been wildly underreported. There are a number of cases we are still trying to diagnose that I suspect will end up being Lyme disease or some variant of Lyme disease.

In closing, I commend the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her very important and extremely timely work on this file. I have a number of constituents in South Shore—St. Margaret's in Nova Scotia who are watching this file as it proceeds forward. These folks either have contracted Lyme disease themselves or have family members who have contracted Lyme disease.

This is a terrible, insidious disease that is very difficult to diagnose. Therefore, this is very timely legislation.

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

March 3rd, 2014 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-442, an act respecting a national Lyme disease strategy at this second reading stage. Again, I would like to acknowledge the work of my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands in bringing forward this very important initiative.

I want to say from the very outset that the official opposition will be voting in favour of this bill.

I want to acknowledge as well the pioneering work of former MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis who, well over five years ago, urged the health minister to implement such a strategy. Our NDP health critic from Vancouver East has also written to the Minister of Health about this issue and pushed very hard to establish a national strategy to diagnose, treat, and do better surveillance for Lyme disease in response to the growing threat of infection from coast to coast. Both she and I have seconded this important bill. Receiving early and appropriate treatment would improve the quality of life for thousands of Canadians and their families.

Lyme disease is one of the fastest growing infectious diseases in North America. I have heard first-hand about its devastating effect from a constituent, Nicole Bottles, who is a 20-year-old sufferer of Lyme disease. She is now in a wheelchair and met with me in Ottawa to advocate for this national strategy bill.

Early treatment of Lyme disease reduces the severity and duration of the illness. Experts agree that more accurate testing and earlier treatment of Lyme disease would reduce the health care costs associated with a lengthy illness and the more severe side effects, particularly for women, who suffer longer-lasting effects when their Lyme disease goes untreated. As members know, Lyme disease is caused by a specific bacterium spread through tick bites. It is one of the most under-diagnosed diseases in Canada. However, Lyme disease symptoms can range from a localized rash to fatigue to very serious central nervous system disorders that can lead to paralysis.

Let me begin by outlining the nature of the disease; then I will talk about what Bill C-442 is intended to do to address the problem.

Last month, the newspaper in my community, the Victoria Times Colonist, reported that a Vancouver Island hawk became the first raptor to join the list of species believed to spread Lyme disease. Research scientist John Scott found a Cooper's hawk with 22 ticks on it, 4 of which were infected with the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. It is the first raptor or bird of prey known to host this bacterium. The Cooper's hawk was found on the doorstep of a house in Oak Bay, part of my constituency. It flew into a window. Then it was delivered to the wild animal rehabilitation centre near Victoria, where it was examined.

Five of the six species of ticks that live on Vancouver Island are apparently involved in the transmission of Lyme disease. Other known reservoir hosts include songbirds, deer, mice, and rabbits. I would agree with my hon. friend opposite from South Shore—St. Margaret's that deer have become an increasing part of the problem, and in communities such as Oak Bay, the rapid increase in the deer population can only cause additional concern about the spread of this devastating disease, because the ticks feed on the blood of animals and humans and pass on Lyme disease. The ticks feed on species that include mice, birds, and the like; then they carry the bacterium and bite humans, and the disease cycle begins.

Ticks are most common during the warmer months, so Canadians who live in areas of our country with mild winter temperatures and minimal snowfall, such as southern Vancouver Island, have an increased risk of coming into contact with ticks. However, as Bill C-442 notes in its preamble, climate change is one of the factors causing more and more regions of Canada to be at risk. As we experience more warmer weather ahead of us, that would only increase the tick distribution across the country, as scientists have predicted.

By 2009, Canadian physicians were required to report on cases of Lyme disease to their provincial health registries. However, according to CBC News last year, national statistics are still unavailable at this time.

Recently, as the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands mentioned, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the number of people in the United States affected by Lyme disease was around 300,000, but that figure is 10 times higher than what is reported to that agency. In the province of New Brunswick in 2009, there were 128 confirmed cases of Lyme disease, but by 2011, that number had doubled to 258.

If Lyme disease is treated at early stages with antibiotics and the tick is removed, the severe neurological symptoms that often occur can be avoided. I am told that in some states in the United States, such as Massachusetts, it is relatively routine for the tick to be removed and antibiotics administered at that early stage. However, there seems to be a different level of awareness in Canada; hence, the need for the strategy before us.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any standardized testing for Lyme disease in Canada, so Lyme disease advocates and health practitioners say the different types of blood tests performed to identify Lyme disease currently yield inaccurate results. What does that mean? It means that patients who in fact have Lyme disease are often not diagnosed or are misdiagnosed with such illnesses as multiple sclerosis or chronic fatigue syndrome. They do not receive the appropriate treatment, thereby exacerbating the symptoms. I have spoken with some patients from Victoria who say they have had to travel to other countries, as the member opposite for Sault Ste. Marie has also acknowledged, possibly because the treatment in Canada ranges so dramatically and is often inadequate.

What would Bill C-442 do, then? First, it would track the incidence rates, create educational materials to raise awareness about Lyme disease, and establish testing and treatment guidelines, as well as track the related economic impacts of Lyme disease. Second, Bill C-442 would support research and implementation of better and more reliable diagnostic testing, as well as increased education and awareness among physicians. In short, the bill would create a coordinated strategy, which is long overdue.

Canadians deserve to get adequate testing and treatment for this disease. The federal government is responsible for improving the surveillance of Lyme disease, as well as establishing best practices so that the provinces can better understand the disease and adopt evidence-based measures to improve outcomes.

The Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, or CanLyme, is in full support of Bill C-442. President Wilson stated, “This bill responds to the failure of existing guidelines to reliably detect and treat Lyme disease”.

As the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands already noted, the College of Family Physicians of Canada has also supported Bill C-442. It stated, “The CFPC supports further studying the economic and health impacts of Lyme Disease to ensure that Canadian physicians have the necessary tools and knowledge at their disposal”.

I regret that past governments have failed to take the appropriate leadership role on a range of important health issues, including the kind of coordination and funding that are necessary for health innovations, testing, and treatment. It was only in 2009 that we began to track Lyme disease, and some have argued in my office that there has been a failure to heed the pleas to advance testing and treatment options in this country. Therefore, this is an issue where the federal government must show leadership in health care and work to better protect and support the health of Canadians.

This is far from a partisan issue. It does not help at all to talk about past governments. We want to stand firm with the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and all members of the House to address this problem. The time to act is now. Sufferers from Lyme disease are looking to the government for leadership. The official opposition wants to be part of that solution. It is time to get on with it. New Democrats will be voting in support of this bill.

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

March 3rd, 2014 / 11:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to support Bill C-442. On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I would indicate that we do support the bill and want to see it ultimately passed, going through our committee process and, obviously, third reading.

I was encouraged to hear from the leader of the Green Party that she is open to having some possible amendments that would not change the intent of the bill but, quite possibly, make it a bit more practical, in terms of its implementation.

Lyme disease is a very serious issue, as it has been said at length in the last 45 minutes. I thought I would emphasize it from a different perspective, from more of a personal perspective, in terms of what I believe is likely the most important issue facing this particular disease; that is, the whole sense of public awareness.

There are different regions in Canada, some more affected by Lyme disease than others. In Manitoba, it is a very serious disease. Many people are aware that in Manitoba we have beautiful, wonderful summers. Many of my friends have cottages out in rural Manitoba. There are all sorts of youth camps in the province. In some regions of the province of Manitoba—in particular, in the southeast—there is a higher risk factor of Lyme disease, and we need to ensure that there is a higher sense of public awareness.

Over the last three or four years, maybe, I have found that there seems to be a higher sense of a public awareness, but even today, I do not believe enough is being done in terms of promotional educational material and the government taking a proactive approach to ensuring there is a high level of education with respect to this particular disease.

That is one of the aspects of the bill that I do support in its entirety: the fact that we need to recognize that and incorporate it. I am glad it is actually in the legislation itself.

I have gone through all the different trails, for example, at Pelican Lake, which is in the southeast part of Manitoba. I have spent many days with my daughter, in particular. When we get back to the cabin after a half day of going through the trails, we might have a dozen or so ticks on us. Even though we have taken the precaution to wear long-sleeved tops and tuck our pant legs into our socks and put on some form of repellants, somehow the ticks have this ability to cling onto us. It does not take much.

We make sure we do what we can to get rid of the ticks, if we see them on us.

However, what amazes me, when I have had the opportunity to talk to people about Lyme disease, is the number of people who do not know what Lyme disease is. They know what a wood tick is and have often had them on their body, but they do not know what Lyme disease is. I find that to be actually quite tragic. These are individuals who I thought would have known: some of the more regular cottage-goers.

I made reference to youth camps. We have young people who participate in camps throughout Canada. I made comments with respect to southeastern Manitoba. We have had cases of Lyme disease identified in most provinces. Every year we will have literally tens of thousands of children participating in outdoor activities, in summer camps, and so forth.

As the leader of the Green Party pointed out, we want to encourage our young people, and all people, to appreciate and enjoy the outdoors, but it is very important that we recognize the advantages of being proactive in terms of material on this particular disease, because of the debilitating impact on someone acquiring Lyme disease.

Most would say that it takes two or three days before the symptoms are seen. However, it can often take a week or so. It has appeared months if not a couple of years after an original infection from a tick.

Symptoms are fatigue, fever, headaches, and a bull's-eye rash. People need to be aware of and look for these symptoms.

In terms of the consultation process, a priority is to come up with a program that has educational and promotional components.

The role of the federal government would be to work with the provinces and territories. That needs to be expanded to include the medical professions as well as the other stakeholders, such as school boards, non-profit groups, and groups that promote the outdoors. These include outdoors groups, cottagers, and ATV and jogging clubs. We need to heighten awareness of this disease.

I would like to think that we would take a holistic approach in developing an overall strategy. I recognize that the federal government has a strong role to play in terms of best practices. That is where we can complement provincial and territorial jurisdictions.

We need to make sure that there are resources. If we can be more proactive on the front end, we will dramatically impact the spread of this disease. What we have realized is that the number of reports of Lyme disease is on the rise.

Bill C-442 proposes that the federal government convene a conference with the provincial and territorial health ministers and different stakeholders and that it establish a national medical surveillance program to use data collected by the Public Health Agency. The bill also calls for a report on the strategy, to be tabled here in Parliament. The strategy would be reviewed for effectiveness after five years.

I believe this is a bill worth supporting. We in the Liberal caucus support it and anticipate that it is only a question of time before it passes.

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

March 3rd, 2014 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on Bill C-442, An Act respecting a National Lyme Disease Strategy. I would like to start by stating my own personal support for Bill C-442. I am pleased to see that most, if not all, government members will be showing such support as well.

I am also pleased with how the federal government is working with the provinces, territories, and stakeholders to address Lyme disease. The bill would be a sound complement to these efforts.

As members of the House are aware, Lyme disease is a rapidly emerging infectious disease in North America and in Europe. It is transmitted to humans from the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Over the past few years, I have met with a number of constituents from my riding of Dufferin—Caledon who suffer from Lyme disease and with the family members and friends of sufferers. They have related to me the symptoms they live with and the difficulties they have faced within the medical system.

In October 2012, I met with a constituent of my riding, whose name I will not use for privacy reasons, who has been suffering with Lyme disease for seven years. She informed me of the difficulty in diagnosing the disease, which is similar to multiple sclerosis. She also informed me of the type of treatment she has been receiving and gave me some detail about what it was like to live with this disease.

This constituent is quite passionate about raising awareness of this issue. She organized signatures for a petition, which I had the honour of tabling in the House. The petition called for the government to increase its efforts on behalf of those suffering with Lyme disease.

That brings me to the bill before us today. Numerous residents of Dufferin—Caledon have written to me regarding Bill C-442. I am honoured to speak to the bill.

The number of reported cases of Lyme disease in Canada increased ninefold between 2003 to 2012 to over 300 cases annually. One of our problems is that the actual number of cases of Lyme disease is estimated to be three times higher than the number of cases that are actually reported. Even more troubling, based on current trends, the Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that these numbers will continue to rise.

In the majority of cases, Lyme disease symptoms may include fever, headache, and fatigue. Fortunately, if diagnosed early, Lyme disease can be treated quickly and effectively with antibiotics. In cases of late diagnosis, where the disease has spread through the body, the burden of illness and the cost to the health system increase exponentially. Suffice it to say, if left undiagnosed, the impacts can be devastating.

Let me put in perspective why we need to make progress in raising awareness of the challenges Lyme disease poses and the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. This applies as much to the public at large as it does to health professionals.

If Canada were to indeed be managing the increased rate of Lyme disease, the difference in the costs associated with early versus late diagnosis would be startling. The Public Health Agency estimates that the potential cost of early diagnosis in 2020 would be just over $8 million annually. However, for late diagnosis, that figure could rise to over $338 million.

Fortunately, our government has made significant research investments in areas related to Lyme disease. Indeed, since 2006, we have invested over $4.5 million. We have established improved surveillance specifically aimed at Lyme disease so that action can be taken quickly and effectively. We are also providing federal leadership, building consensus, mobilizing partnerships, and promoting education and awareness.

Research has shown that climate change is bringing Lyme-disease-carrying ticks further into Canada. Understanding and tracking their movement is an important part of any future strategy for combating Lyme disease.

Supporting research to generate new insights into how Lyme disease is evolving, why its impacts vary so widely, and how it can be treated is central to our efforts. That is why we are committed to supporting research on the range of strains of tick-borne pathogens and their geographic locations and on the epidemiology and intervention of the disease in Canada. This will help us better forecast how Lyme disease is spreading and how its impacts can be contained.

However, the federal government cannot and should not act alone. With Lyme disease now a national reportable disease, it should also come as no surprise that we have been working closely with the provinces and territories. Early measures include exploring how we can work together in communicating the risks of Lyme disease to the public and the medical professions.

We are also reviewing current Lyme disease guidelines to ensure that they are based on the best evidence available. This will help us educate Canadians in identifying and protecting themselves from Lyme disease.

These collaborative efforts do not occur in a vacuum. This is an integral part of the Public Health Agency of Canada's approach to managing infectious diseases. The agency's key areas of action are surveillance, prevention and control, research and diagnosis, and engagement, education and awareness.

Let me summarize just a few of the ways that work in these areas is providing real results for Canadians struggling with Lyme disease and their families.

The Public Health Agency is conducting surveillance of Lyme disease in Canada and is developing strategies to encourage preventive behaviour. It is investing in new laboratory methods to improve our surveillance of the tick that causes Lyme disease. It is undertaking research on new strains and pathogens of tick-borne diseases, and it is updating public health guidelines on Lyme disease. The agency is also working to develop new approaches to better educate both health care providers and the general public, especially those at risk of infection, about Lyme disease. Together these efforts will equip all stakeholders to better respond to Lyme disease.

Our government's current leadership in this area, coupled with the positive principle of the bill before us today, will serve to focus on protecting the health and safety of Canadians. It will recognize the need for action and leadership to mitigate the impact of Lyme disease. It will drive the imperative for evidence-based decision-making and the sharing of best practices. It will acknowledge the importance of collaboration to raise awareness of the disease, how to avoid it, and how to diagnose and treat it. It will also disseminate data on the real impact Lyme disease has already had on too many Canadian families.

That is why, as I said at the outset, I am supportive of the principle of the bill and look forward to reviewing the work undertaken by the health committee. I encourage all members of the House to support the bill.

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act
Routine Proceedings

June 21st, 2012 / 1:50 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

,

seconded by the member for Etobicoke North, moved for leave to introduce Bill C-442, An Act respecting a National Lyme Disease Strategy.

She said: Mr. Speaker, it is my great honour to rise today to present this private member's bill, for which I hope there will be support from all sides of the House. This is the ultimate in non-partisan issues. This is the ultimate in non-geographically limited issues. We are, in each of our ridings, facing an increasing threat to our constituents and their families from a very tiny threat, a little tick that is spreading and can bring debilitating illness to any one of us at any time.

I dedicate tabling this bill today to a very brave young woman who was with me earlier today at a press conference, Nicole Bottles. She was diagnosed in high school and is in a wheelchair waiting for her cure. I want to thank the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation. I urge all members of the House to join me in working toward a national Lyme disease strategy.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act
Routine Proceedings

June 21st, 2012 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would request unanimous consent for the following motion.

I move that in relation to its study and the order of reference of May 30, 2012, the members of the special committee on the status of co-operatives in Canada be authorized to travel to Fredericton, New Brunswick; Quebec City, Quebec; Regina, Saskatchewan; and Vancouver, British Columbia in July 2012, and that the necessary staff do accompany the committee.