Evidence of meeting #36 for Public Accounts in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was drug.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Neil Maxwell  Assistant Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General of Canada
  • Glenda Yeates  Deputy Minister, Department of Health
  • Paul Glover  Assistant Deputy Minister, Health Products and Food Branch, Department of Health
  • Marc Berthiaume  Director, Marketed Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Bureau, Marketed Health Products Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Department of Health

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

I'm sorry, what was that?

10:40 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Health

Glenda Yeates

We do intend to take that step to make sure. Right now we have a plan, and as the committee has requested, we will be even more specific about the steps in this plan. But we will broaden our information so that Canadians have information on conditions and rejections, for example.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Does the department do any foreign inspections of plants, like the USFDA did to Sandoz in Quebec? Do we do foreign inspections?

10:40 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Health

Glenda Yeates

Yes, we do, but I'll ask my colleague to speak to the specifics.

10:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Health Products and Food Branch, Department of Health

Paul Glover

We do a number of foreign inspections, and we also have what we call mutual recognition agreements, where we have gone through confidence-building and rather than constantly going all around the world, we work with our international partners and exchange information. For those that we have mutual recognition agreements, we collaborate and coordinate, and for those that we don't, we do foreign inspections.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Could you provide a list, for the last two years, of which plants you have done foreign inspections of? That would be extremely helpful information.

I'll leave time for you, Mr. Maxwell or Ms. Dubé, if you have any further parting comments you would like to make.

10:40 a.m.

Assistant Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Neil Maxwell

No, other than that I would say, I'm very pleased to see the committee focus on action plans. Different members had mentioned that, and that is music to an auditor's ears. Thank you for that.

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

Are you good, Mr. Byrne?

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Yes, thanks.

March 29th, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

Very good. Thanks.

I just want to make a couple of comments, and then we'll be on time to adjourn.

I want to underscore the importance, obviously, that everybody takes to this issue, and you can understand why. I think it's good that the action plan is giving Mr. Maxwell and his shop some comfort that you're on the right track.

It was good that you tabled this with us prior to coming here today. That is our rule, our policy. Not everybody is following it, but let it be known now that we'll be cracking down on that. You won't need to be on that list because you did meet the timeline, and it is appreciated.

I do want to underscore, and I think this is important, that this was not a good report. I think Mr. Allen commented that overall you didn't get a passing mark on something that is very close to every one of us here because of our constituents.

I will end on a positive note, but first I want to underscore that in the remarks from Mr. Maxwell this morning, he mentioned the 2011 fall report....

Now, people who have been on this committee for a while will know that nothing enrages me more than when things have been audited or looked at in the past, with recommendations made, recommendations accepted, and they go off with “Yes, sir, we'll do it”, but then, when they're brought back a couple of years later, it's not done. I have been on this committee, and Mr. Kramp too, where there have been four and five previous audits. Yours isn't quite that bad, but it's not good.

Mr. Maxwell said in his comments:

For our 2011 fall report, we examined whether Health Canada fulfilled its key responsibilities for pharmaceutical drugs....

We found that the department had not adequately fulfilled most of these key responsibilities....

Further:

We found that Health Canada had problems with the timeliness and transparency of its activities.

Health Canada is not meeting its service standards....

In paragraph 7, “but it is slow to act”, and I'll come back later to the 2004 example.

The Department is also not disclosing information....

There is a list of those, and we've talked about those.

We found that Health Canada was not making use of assessment work done in other jurisdictions....

Then there's the issue of the database back in 2004, which has been referred to by a number of members. In 2011 there was an audit where you were rapped on the knuckles for not having met your commitments in 2004, and here we are in 2012 and it's still not done.

So this is very serious. I said I'd end positive, and I will.

The action plan, I agree with Mr. Maxwell, looks very comprehensive. I think it gives us a good sense that you're on the right track.

But I do want to underscore to you, Deputy, that it will not be a pleasant day if your department returns, upon follow-up by Mr. Maxwell, and these things are not addressed. Given the assurances you're giving us—and my sense is that the committee is prepared to accept those assurances at face value—please do not come back here, upon a further review, and still have failed in all the commitments that you've made previous and made today. Please don't let that day happen. It won't be a pleasant one. Okay?

But we're feeling good. That was a good discussion. The answers were fulsome. Let's hope that going forward we can focus on being far more positive than any of the negatives, because I know you want to do the best you can for Parliament and for Canadians.

With that, I will thank you all very much. Thank you to the assistant auditor for being here today, and all of our other witnesses.

Colleagues, is there any other last-minute business to come before the committee?

Hearing none, this committee meeting now stands adjourned. Thank you.