House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

So, on that note, I will conclude. Right now, Quebec is in the process of reducing its deficit, trying to stimulate employment, maintaining its health programs and educating its children.

Why does the federal government always try to make things difficult for us? Why does it invade our jurisdictions and try to take away all our powers?

We are in favour of establishing CIHRs, but we would like the government to restore now the money it stole from us in transfer payment cuts. If it has any money to put into health care, it should give it back to us so that we can fund our institutes ourselves.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her excellent speech. As hon. members are aware, she did a very good job as health critic for the Bloc Quebecois, from 1993 to 1999, if I remember correctly.

Since we are talking about health here, I would like to make a little announcement to my colleagues: I am going to be organizing a volleyball game along with Eric Plamondon, one of the pages in the House. The connection with the research institutes is that good health starts with physical activity. I appeal to all of my colleagues, particularly the Minister for International Cooperation, whom I see less and less often in the gym, to get active and keep fit. The game will be in February. You are welcome to participate too, Mr. Speaker.

Now, to a question for my colleague, without any further ado. I do not want any ambiguity about our belief in the Canadian institutes of health research. This must be perfectly clear, in my opinion. In his 1993 campaign, the current premier of Quebec, Lucien Bouchard, a man esteemed and appreciated in Canada and in Quebec, made research and development a plank in his platform.

I think that all my colleagues will recall that, since 1993, we have asked the government to invest massively in research and development. I do not know if members recall, but this was almost at the same time as the appearance of a report by the OECD, which said that, of all industrialized countries, Canada had the worst performance.

So, members will understand that, out of a concern for consistency, naturally, we agree with a bill like this one. When the bill has passed and the government has invested the full amount, $500 million will be available.

That is not much to write home about. I want to remind members that the Government of Quebec is formulating scientific policy with Minister Rochon, also a talented man. If everything goes well, he will release it in February. The Government of Quebec has set aside $400 million over two years. For Quebec alone, they are talking of $400 million over two years for research and development, whereas here the government is proposing $500 million to 2001.

Naturally, it counts for something, but I made the comparison to show the House the extent to which Quebec is maintaining the tradition of commitment to its scientific community.

Members no doubt know that about 60% of the biomedical industry is to be found in Quebec. Historically, very early on, Quebec, through the National Assembly, made a commitment to biomedical research. I ask my colleague to explain why Quebec has every reason to be in favour of the bill, knowing that, historically, it has been very supportive of biomedical research through its pharmaceutical industry.

In closing, I would remind the House there will be a volleyball game in February.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I always congratulate him for his skills as a speaker, including his metaphors and his sense of humour in presenting his views on these issues.

First, investments in research and development are necessary, and researchers in hospitals and universities really want them.

In fact, a number of Quebec groups have applied for funds to the secretariat of the acting governing council for research institutes.

The Bloc Quebecois supports increased investment in research, including health research. As my colleague pointed out, 60% of all biomedical research in Canada is done through pharmaceutical companies located in Quebec.

It goes without saying that we are behind them, and we agree that they should get investments and funds from the government to bring their research to fruition.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to my two colleagues' speeches, and now it is my turn to speak of the institutes of health research.

For two years, I was fortunate enough to work with the member for Drummond, and I know that she has done some excellent work. I particularly remember her extraordinary efforts on the hepatitis C issue. I wish to thank her, and I know that many Quebecers and Canadians with this illness are grateful for all the work she has done on their behalf.

Now, she has been replaced as health critic by the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, who did not wait till he was given this new responsibility to plunge right into the fight against AIDS. Since being elected, he has spoken very regularly on this subject and I think he deserves credit. He is now continuing his marvellous work in this sector by frequently bringing it to the attention of caucus, and he is a most eloquent spokesperson both here in the House and in caucus. His view is that we can never say too much about health, and he is right.

I am a recreation specialist by training and I can say right now that I accept the invitation to the volleyball game in February. I would have liked to go earlier, but I will certainly be there in February, because there is a connection between physical activity and health. Unfortunately, we members may not always have enough time for physical activity.

I am a diabetic, and I know that there are several other members in the House with the same condition. Diabetes is an illness that often strikes very active people who do not perhaps pay enough attention to their health. It is true that diabetes is a hereditary disease, but there are ways to stave off its onset.

I now come to today's topic, Bill C-13. The Bloc Quebecois has presented its position well, through the two hon. members in question. No one can be against health research. If there are any members in this House who are opposed to health research, let them declare themselves, but I am convinced there are none. There can never be too much money made available for finding solutions, for finding remedies for disease. Life is worth living and, more importantly, it must be lived in good health.

In my opinion, one of the problems with this bill lies in one of the four sectors, that is, the assessment of health services provided across Canada. My colleague from Drummond has asked a good question: Who is it that delivers health services in Canada? The provinces.

It can never be said too often, and we must keep hammering at it, health care and the delivery of health services to the public is a provincial area of jurisdiction. This is no whim; it is in the Canadian Constitution. Health care management is an exclusive provincial jurisdiction. Even with this bill, although it may not be its main intent, we see the federal government again trying to interfere in the health field.

Yes, more money will be injected into R and D in the health field, but it is regrettable that, at present, Quebec receives only 14% of funding allocated to R and D.

I referred earlier to transfer payments to the provinces, but since the government opposite has made cuts to health, a cumulative total of $3.4 million has been cut from Quebec since 1993. That is a considerable amount, and the Government of Quebec could certainly have done more in the area of medical research. There have, however, been problems, but there has been good news as well, such as the announcement by the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve that the Government of Quebec will soon spend $500 million in this area.

So much the better, but it might have been possible long before, had the federal government not cut transfer payments to the provinces in health care, among others.

Now, I am on the Standing Committee on Industry, and on this committee we often hear witnesses express concern about the brain drain. The brain drain obviously involves researchers. People from a variety of research institutes appeared before the committee, because it is the Department of Industry that is funding research agencies.

Canada ranks at the bottom of the G7 countries in this area. In the field of health, it is in last place among the OECD countries as well. I think one of the aims of the bill is to finally catch up somewhat. But the considerable delay and time involved is most regrettable.

In the meantime, many of our young researchers, and even more experienced ones, have left the country. They even left Quebec. My colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve made a connection between health and physical activity. As an example, Dr. Bouchard, who ran the scientific research centre on physical activity at Laval University, left the country for the United States, because more money was available for research in this area. This is most regrettable.

It is not only a health issue, it is an employment issue as well. When we talk about the knowledge economy, here is a fine R and D opportunity in the health field. Here is a fine opportunity to concern ourselves with retaining our researchers, people who trained in university for many years and whose education Canadians and Quebecers have helped fund. When these scientists can finally do research, a number of them leave Canada for the United States. This is regrettable.

Let us hope that this tendency will be reversed, so that we can keep our researchers, because we are talking about quality employment here.

There is also the fact that economic spinoffs from R and D are greater in the field of health than in any other, because of the value added. We know that discoveries lead to the development of better drugs, products or equipment, all of which can be exported to other countries. Think of developing countries.

We must not forget these countries, which may not have the money to invest in research and development. However, once new drugs, equipment or products are discovered, these may help fight disease and improve health in all countries of the world.

This is very good for the Canadian and Quebec economy, and this is why, as a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, I welcomed this opportunity to add my two cents' worth to the debate today, to say that we should do more.

In the minute that I have left, I would like to address another issue, which I would not want to overlook. I am referring of course to diabetes. The Minister of Health recently talked about the money to be allocated to fight that disease, but I think we should do even more about diabetes, because it is on the rise. Besides insulin, which does not treat diabetes but merely slows down its progression, possible cures are emerging, hence the need to invest more in research in this area.

One last area mentioned by researchers was social sciences. I have always been struck by the fact, which has apparently been verified, that children from zero to six with health problems stand a greater chance of experiencing social problems, including delinquency, later in life.

I will conclude on this note, but we should not forget health research through social sciences.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I sensed hesitation, and I thank you for giving me the floor. I would not dream of wasting the time of the House. I think it important, however, that we share our views.

I would like to begin by thanking the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, who, since 1993, has made such a contribution to all the deliberations of the Bloc Quebecois caucus. When we think of the him, all of us call up an image of a profoundly compassionate individual, whose humanism is deeply rooted in the 19th century but who, throughout the years, has stayed very much in touch with the major problems of the day.

The member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière is a recreation specialist, as he himself just said. He is therefore someone who has always made a great deal of room in his life for sports and recreation. I repeat this because I do not want there to be any confusion. There are people, whom I will not name, but whom I will look at, who sometimes set out to muddy the waters. This has already happened. The Bloc Quebecois is not against Bill C-13. Once Quebec's concerns have been addressed and debated, we are going to put all our energy into getting the bill passed as soon as possible.

Between 10 and 15 CIHRs are going to be established. The sectors in question will be determined by a provisional governing council. Naturally, all Bloc Quebecois members have always been faithful to the strictest and least negotiable interests that exist in politics.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Those of Quebec.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

My colleague tells me that these are the interests of Quebec and I think he has a very good handle on why we are here in the House.

The interests of Quebec demand that we ensure that it gets its fair share, particularly in the biomedical field. I would remind hon. members that the Medical Research Council has been in existence for 40 years, and is headed by the eminent Dr. Friesen, whose years in the service of research are well known to all, and for which I salute him.

Quebec has strengths in a number of areas, one of them the biomedical sector, because of our patent drug industry, particularly in the areas of cancer and of diabetes. Unfortunately that hit too close to home for my colleague, who has to deal with it daily, although he maintains his habitual good humour, his even temperament—in a word, his excellent character—regardless.

I would like to ask my colleague whether he agrees with me that the Bloc Quebecois has been, without a doubt, the best defender of the interests of Quebec and will continue to be, as far as health research is concerned.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis, QC

I most certainly acknowledge the role of the Bloc Quebecois. That is why we are here. We are, of course, promoting sovereignty because it is our feeling that the federal system has been out of order for years and that Quebecers are being disadvantaged by it. However, we are also here to defend the interests of Quebec, and I am here to particularly defend the interests of my region.

Not far from me is the hon. member for Louis-Hébert, who has a technology park in her riding. There is the Institut d'optique, the Institut de recherche scientifique which does research into water quality and many more areas.

At Laval University a great deal of research is being carried out in this field, as well as in my riding, at Lévis-Lauzon cegep. But more is needed.

As my colleague has invited us to do, each time I am asked to back a bill like this one, calling for additional investment in health research, I shall let the Bloc Quebecois health critic know in advance that I accept his invitation.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I should announce to the House that speeches hereafter will be of 10 minutes duration in this debate with no questions or comments.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Michelle Dockrill Bras D'Or, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak in support of the efforts of my colleague from Winnipeg North Centre in terms of ensuring that Bill C-13, which aims to establish a new framework for health research, becomes an effective piece of legislation that will be able to redress some of the problems in linking health research to practice in Canada.

Along with my NDP colleagues, I applaud the efforts by all those who worked to create the new legislation. However, along with my colleagues, I have several reservations about the legislation and hope that these will be taken into consideration when this bill reaches the committee stage.

In order for the bill to achieve its goal, it requires a considerable amount of political will to ensure that the research that will be conducted in the 10 to 15 new health institutes will indeed reach the hands of health practitioners throughout the country. While the bill acknowledges the need for this commitment, it does not ensure that the government will remain committed and be one of the driving forces in achieving the goals of Bill C-13.

The bill talks about increasing links, but it does not go as far as to enshrine the will to accomplish these links. In light of the continued cuts to transfer payments, I have to wonder how the government intends the CIHR to achieve its goal.

Since 1986 federal cuts to health care funding have totalled approximately $36 billion. The amount transferred via the CHST to my home province of Nova Scotia has been steadily decreasing since 1993 when this government came to power.

The bill does little to take into consideration the consequences of these cuts in transfers. These cuts have led to a diminished capacity of the health care system to care for its patients and new research findings have not been able to get off the ground and be applied. Because of these transfer cuts, problems have arisen throughout the country.

Take for example the tar ponds on Cape Breton Island, a toxic wasteland which has wreaked havoc on the health of the people in the local area and on the environment. People have died as a result of this toxic sludge. People have reported arsenic bubbling up in their backyards and basements. An entire residential street had to be bulldozed because it was considered extremely dangerous to one's health to live there. Even the government has recently committed another $37 million for a clean-up effort, but still no toxic sludge has been removed from the tar ponds.

Even though all of this money was provided to alleviate a major health concern, it has not translated into a healthier step forward for the communities affected by the tar ponds. Study after study after study have shown the ill-health effects and have shown the dramatic increase in the incidence of cancer. The government, however, has lacked the political will and commitment or health infrastructure to act upon this.

The CIHR needs a clear mandate to intervene in these types of situations where hard research has proven that adverse health conditions and/or effects exist. The government also has to provide a real commitment to ensure that sufficient funding exists. I sincerely hope that this issue will be examined in depth at committee. The CIHR will only be effective in working with its health practitioner partners if sufficient funding exists in the core health care system.

One of my major concerns with the proposed CIHR is its lack of clear commitment to an approach or framework of health care and service ethics. In this day and age with rapid increases in innovation and health care technology, it is absolutely essential that the ethical effects of medical research be given a high priority. Bill C-13 barely acknowledges this need.

The challenge we are faced with today is to ensure that, as with health care, we engage in preventive ethics, not just curative ethics. What I mean by this is similar to that old saying about an ounce of prevention is worth two of medicine. We need to be actively engaged in encouraging that ethical concerns are a priority in any new and ongoing health research and practice.

Today there are many ethical dilemmas in health research. I will highlight a few that relate to women.

These days simply because the technology exists, many women who would otherwise not be able to have children can have them. This is a fantastic gain for so many. However, there are ethical concerns about how these reproductive technologies are being implemented by health practitioners. These concerns need to be widely debated. They are already hot topics for researchers but so far, because the government has not acknowledged the need for ethical responsibility in medical services, they have not come under serious discussion and consideration in the public health care system in Canada.

It would be much more beneficial if we acknowledged this need for ethical responsibility now rather than later. The CIHR could provide for ethical responsibility by engaging in a little of what I call preventive ethics. It will be so much easier to deal with ethical concerns if they are enshrined in the legislation and recognized by health researchers and practitioners.

The last point of concern I raise is a simple one. It has long been acknowledged that men and women have different health needs. What has been harder to acknowledge and achieve is a balance in health research to ensure the particular differences and the needs of women and their bodies are taken into consideration.

My suggestion for the committee that will be examining Bill C-13 is that we ensure it is not just the universal male body that is used in all of the interesting and exciting research to be done in Canada in the future. There is certainly room within the legislation to require that one of the 10 to 15 institutes be a women's health institute. All of the institutes created as a result of Bill C-13 should ensure that their boards and committees have gender parity and ensure gender analysis is a major priority.

I reiterate that in principle I believe Bill C-13 is a very good start on the road to linking research and practice throughout the country. However to date, the government has done little to make me believe that it will provide a considerable amount of support including the political support that will be required to ensure the success of the Canadian institutes of health research, and that it is not just another empty handed gesture.

I call on all hon. members of the House to get the message to the government that we are serious about the need for a holistic approach to health care in Canada. We need a commitment from this government that it will provide an adequate budget and significant and stable funding for health research.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleague, I will let you begin your speech but I will cut you off after five minutes and you can take it up again after question period.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-13. It is a rare occasion when a member of the official opposition can stand in the House and actually congratulate the government on putting forward a bill that does contain at least a few very good points.

We are inclined to support this legislation because it has some very unusual and strange things, unusual and strange to the Liberal Party of Canada. One thing is accountability. It builds accountability into the new CIHR. It is really strange that it does allow for the governing council and the advisory board to be chosen by the research people themselves as opposed to simply being appointed by some Liberal patronage officer, which has been the case in the past with the Medical Research Council.

The Canadian institutes of health research will replace the current Medical Research Council. This is good for a number of reasons. One is accountability. Another is that the governing council and the advisers will be chosen by the researchers themselves.

Also, for anyone who does receive a research grant under this new set-up there will be an accountability requirement that goes along with the funding. That means that within six months and every six months subsequently, as I understand it, the researcher that has the funding will have to account for the work he or she has been doing and show why he or she should continue to receive funding. This is a good thing. It has not been present unfortunately under the current Medical Research Council and that has been a process that we have not been able to support.

Another good thing about the Canadian institutes of health research is that the administrative costs will only be in the range of 4% to 5%. This is another aspect of this unusual piece of government legislation that we can certainly support.

Most of the boards, commissions and governing councils that have been set up under a varying amount of Liberal appointments and structures have subjected the Canadian taxpayer to more and more administrative costs. At the bottom line it has been shown very often that these numerous boards the government has set up have simply been places for friends of the Liberal Party to spend the rest of their days in relatively nice comfort.

We are going into question period now and I will be very pleased after question period to talk about some of the features of the bill and why we will support it. I will also continue to remind Canadians that it is very seldom that the government puts forward a bill that the Reform Party, the official opposition, can actually support. This just happens to be one of them.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleague, you will still have six minutes when you come back and you can get a good run at it. It is almost 2 p.m. and we will go to Statements by Members.

The Junction
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Friday, November 12 I had the honour of celebrating with residents of a neighbourhood in my riding known as the Junction, the West Toronto Junction Team, and master of ceremonies George Chuvalo, a century of the history of the Junction and the Junction's rebirth and revitalization. The evening provided an opportunity to pay tribute to all those people who have played a role in the revitalization of this historic neighbourhood.

The ambitious revitalization project involves the burial of overhead hydro wires, the widening of main street sidewalks and the refurbishment of storefronts.

The Junction's revitalization was made possible as a result of a partnership between the Department of Human Resources Development, the city of Toronto, Toronto Hydro and the West Toronto Junction Team, a group of hardworking and dedicated volunteers who are spearheading this project.

The Junction is an exemplary model for community renewal. It is also a model of how governments working in partnership with the private and not for profit sector can successfully build strong and dynamic communities.

Canada Elections Act
Statements By Members

November 25th, 1999 / 1:55 p.m.

Reform

Ted White North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government House leader has wasted a once in three decades opportunity to modernize the elections act.

Instead of guaranteeing freedom of expression, we have a gag law. Instead of encouraging participation by new and smaller parties, we have an illogical 50 candidate rule for a party to get its name on the ballot. Instead of returning officers being appointed on merit, we have a blatant political patronage system for the Prime Minister. Instead of planning for the future, we are denying the Chief Electoral Officer the opportunity to develop and utilize new voting technologies.

The bill has been opposed by newspaper publishers and broadcasters, small and emerging parties, anyone and everyone who is interested in freedom of expression, the Chief Electoral Officer, the official opposition and the voters themselves.

The very best thing the government House leader could do, even at this late stage in the process, would be to simply throw the bill away and start again from scratch.