House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

Topics

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3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, is there a contradiction? Not at all, absolutely not. Our party has enormous respect for provincial jurisdictions and for Quebec. It is not a partisan or regional question but a question of finding substantive solutions. It is also, of course, a matter of money. The purpose of this motion is to provide money for the cause and find a solution to this problem.

I am saddened to think that the Bloc or any party would try to somehow hive off a partisan interest and not see the greater good in this issue, not look to their communities, as I have to my own in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, and see the tight-knit support network and caring communities that develop around persons suffering from cancer or mental illness or heart and stroke, along with the incredible effort that groups and survivors make every day in trying to cope with these afflictions.

I think of the Women Alike Abreast a River, a dragon boat team that has had incredible success not only in their races but, more important, in raising money and awareness in providing a focus to the efforts to combat cancer. I think every year of the numbers of Canadians who continue to struggle with this illness knowing that the government has it within its discretion and within its coffers, its banks, to fund programs that are going to have such a real and significant impact on their lives, yet chooses, through whatever reason, whatever misguided attempts it might make to just cling to power, not to fund a national strategy.

Do members know that this country will be hosting an international conference in October and we do not have a national strategy that we can point to? We will be going into that conference without the ability to say that we in this country are taking great strides to combat the afflictions of cancer.

I again salute these individuals and I salute organizations like the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow and others. They continue to do their level best and inspire with their actions, words and deeds. I again call upon the government to similarly step up and fund a national strategy for cancer, mental illness and heart and stroke.

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3:55 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

Let me say at the outset that I want to congratulate the member for bringing up this motion. There is not a family in this House, or indeed in Canada, that has not been touched by the savagery of cancer or mental illness. Both of these of the collection of diseases have an effect on our country, on individuals and families, that is beyond the pale. It is clear that we in this House and indeed the country have a commitment to put our best efforts forward to deal with these problems in an effective and cost effective way.

It is interesting to note, though, that the opposition has not mentioned much about what this government has been doing, which has been quite extensive and quite exciting for the last few years. We have worked with the provinces to develop a number of exciting initiatives that I am going to talk about.

Before I do that, let me preface what I am going to say by looking at the big picture. Research done by the World Health Organization clearly tells us that the burden on health care and on individuals in the future will largely be from chronic diseases, be they cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, both type 1 and type 2, or indeed that collection of diseases that we know are cancers. We know that cancers by and large are mutations in genes and we can have a hereditary predisposition for this, so our genetics are extremely important, but what is also important is that we can do a great deal to prevent a lot of the chronic diseases that are affecting us right now, all of that collection I mentioned.

It is the simple things. It is risk factors: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inactivity, obesity, poor diet, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. These are a basket of behaviours which if modified would have a dramatic and profound effect upon individuals' lives, their health and indeed the bottom line for governments, the cost to the taxpayer in terms of health care.

When we look at that collection, that basket of behaviours, we can also see that some very simple interventions can be used to address them and, in doing so, address the problems that we are talking about today.

If we increase our activity and have moderate physical activity every day, if we eat properly, if we reduce our consumption of alcohol to moderate at best and if we do not smoke, if we do all of that, we will have a profound impact upon 90% of the chronic diseases that affect us.

Indeed, that is what the government is doing. We are working with the provinces, which are the primary managers of health care in our country, to try to address this. We have invested quite considerably in a number of initiatives.

The first I will be talking about is the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. If members ever have a chance, they should take a look at the work they do. The head of CIHR, Dr. Alan Bernstein, and his team do an extraordinary job. They fund some 442 research projects, representing 8,000 researchers across the country. Those projects are on the cutting edge of dealing with the cancers as well as an array of other diseases.

As I have said, we know that the cancers are by and large a collection of diseases that have at their root the mutation of genes. We have a hereditary predisposition for that. They can occur singularly. They can occur sporadically. They can also occur through our activities and behaviours as individuals. It is a complex mix.

What is CIHR is doing with the funding that we have engaged in, which is over $180 million? We are working with CIHR to work with researchers across the world to address and find cures for the cancers, and we have come a long way.

With respect to sequencing, which is done at Genome Canada, we are one of the world leaders in this area. In fact, Canada is one of the top five countries in the world for medical research. For example, Canada was the first country to sequence out the coronavirus that causes SARS. Our genetic capabilities are going to be extremely important to our ability to address the cancers.

However, we are also working with the provinces on how we can make people more active. This is particularly important for the kids. Our country has one of the greatest preponderances of child obesity in the world, which will have a profound impact in the future, not only on the lives of Canadians but also on our health care costs.

It is simple to do. When working with the provinces, what I would personally suggest is that the provincial health ministers and the ministers of education work with the school boards to make physical activity obligatory for kids up to the age of 11. This is critically important.

Another intervention we are doing with the provinces is the early learning program that the minister is sponsoring. So far, five provinces have signed on. Why? Because if we get kids early, in the first eight years of life, if we can ensure that they live in a loving, caring environment where they are subjected to reasonable discipline and have proper nutrition and the kind of environment where parents are actually engaged with their children, that has a profound impact upon the development of a child's brain, and particularly, as I have said, in the first eight years of life.

We know that in the first eight years of life the neuroconnections take place in a way that does not happen at any other time in an individual's life. If we subject a child to neglect, poor nutrition, sexual or physical abuse or violence, the neuroconnections do not take place very well, which has a profound impact upon the health of the child in later years. If we remove those factors and give the child loving care and a secure environment with the proper nutrition, as I mentioned, along with engagement, the child has the best chance of becoming a self-actualized, integrated member of society.

We know that there is a $7 savings for every dollar invested in the head start type of programs. Kids stay in school longer. There is a 99% reduction in child abuse rates, a 60% reduction in youth crime and a 50% reduction in teen pregnancies in those programs. All of which is to say that this kind of simple, easy preventive measure has a profound impact upon health care and upon a range of health care problems, which is why our government is doing it.

I would also beseech those who are viewing this to please have regular health care checkups. Women should have mammograms and they should have colonoscopies to pick up on bowel cancers early. People should have their cholesterol and blood pressure checked. They should eat properly. They should see their family doctor about questions they may have in other areas. A few small changes can have a profound impact upon one's life. This is certainly about living longer, but it is also about living healthier and about the quality of life.

We have an exciting program in our province of British Columbia. The B.C. cancer agency has been a world leader in preventing a lot of problems and improving the health of Canadians. Indeed, in my province there is a 12% better outcome for those who are affected by cancer.

A case in point is smoking cessation and not smoking in the workplace. The city of Victoria in my riding was a national and indeed an international leader on the issue. The banning of smoking in the workplace and in other environments has had a profound impact on a range of cardiovascular and respiratory problems. It has had a dramatic effect on the health of British Columbians. I am happy to say that Health Canada has been an international leader on this issue as well. Not only are we doing things in Canada, but we are also exporting the knowledge around the world.

Lastly, to speak on the issue of mental health, this is a very difficult problem. Indeed, it is one that has vexed and challenged all of us. It will become a larger problem as time passes. The WHO did a very good analysis of this issue. It may come as a surprise to viewers that depression will be the second leading cause of morbidity in the world in the next 10 years. Also, the burden of dementias on our western world is going to be huge. There are some exciting things that can be done to prevent some of this. I am running out of time, but I will be happy to take any questions on this issue.

Canada has done exciting things. Our government is working with the provinces to deal with these very challenging issues. Can we do more? Yes. Will we do more? Absolutely.

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4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about working with the provinces, but what about working with the stakeholders? The stakeholders in the cancer community, for example, have come up with a game plan. They have the expertise. They called for a Canadian strategy on cancer control, yet the government has refused to fund it. He talks about $300 million for chronic care. The plan that we are talking about here will cost about $260 million over five years.

On the one hand, we have some members saying that they would support it, then on the other hand, it is clear that the government has no intention of funding it. There is an intrinsic contradiction here. It is very sad that the government would try to mislead Canadians again on an issue that is so important. The member also spoke of national strategies but he does not recognize that disease specific strategies are the way to go in a situation such as cancer.

Will the government fully fund the cancer strategy as outlined in the motion and use it as a model for future initiatives?

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would challenge the hon. member on his disease specific approach to this because the cancers are a collection of diseases. Indeed, they have at their root cause some very interesting commonalities. It is not appropriate to deal with the cancers as individual cancers. They need to share their information because that is a more appropriate way of doing this.

In budget 2005 we put an initial investment for the Public Health Agency of Canada of about $300 million over five years which is better than what the member has asked for. The purpose of this money is to promote healthy eating, encourage physical activity, healthy weight control, and to provide national strategies for the prevention and addressing chronic diseases, exactly what the member is asking for. In fact, we are actually going beyond this. We are going beyond what the member has asked for by a factor of two.

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4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I was just looking at some of the outcomes of the strategy, one of which is over a 30 year period. Something like 420,000 lives would be saved if this strategy was implemented and the cost would be $50 million or $60 million a year which seems to me to be very good value for money if we are getting those kinds of results.

The member was a leadership candidate for the Canadian Alliance and I recall him talking about the dreadful gun registry and the terrible waste for this registry and how that money could be better spent. We spent $2 billion on that. I remember Allan Rock, the minister of justice, saying that if it saved one life, it was worth the $2 billion. It has cost us $125 million a year to maintain the gun registry with no results to show for it. All the statistics would indicate that it has not saved one life. It is impossible to make that argument. This would save 426,000 lives.

I would ask the member opposite, with his great knowledge as a former Canadian Alliance leadership candidate, would the $125 million a year that we are wasting on the gun registry not be better spent on a strategy like this which would save thousands upon thousands of lives if it were implemented?

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, whenever we talk about health care, I have an unbridled bias toward health care as a physician. The member knows full well that I am very supportive of putting more money into health care. However, it has to be done wisely and effectively. Indeed, we have actually gone beyond what the hon. member has asked for in terms of $300 million for the types of chronic care and preventive initiatives.

I would strongly request that members look at these initiatives. If they have solutions as to how we could better allocate these moneys, we are all ears, but I also wanted to say that we are working with stakeholders in these areas. We are committed to dealing with the cancers as a collection of diseases. We are committed to dealing with mental health issues and we are committed to doing the relatively inexpensive and effective initiatives to address chronic disease problems. It does not take a great deal of money to address these problems. The prevention initiatives are relatively simple. They are cost effective. They are inexpensive and we are working to do that through the plan that we have articulated.

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate which calls for a Canadian strategy for cancer control and mental health as well as tackling heart disease. These are all very important issues.

We have all been touched by cancer. I lost both of my parents to cancer about two years ago. They died very close in time to each other, one from stomach cancer and one from bowel cancer. Like most Canadians, I have been touched by cancer. I know the awful legacy that it leaves for families.

As a member of Parliament, I have had the chance to speak with a lot of people about it, people like Charlene Dill, who came to ask me to support funding for the strategy, and Barbara Thompson, who came to see me about the tremendous work that she is doing on breast cancer in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. She has set up a support group for people who have breast cancer.

I want to talk a bit about the cardiovascular disease aspect of this motion. I was involved with the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Nova Scotia, both as president on the provincial board and on the national board for a number of years. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Canada, accounting for at least 36% of all deaths, about 80,000 people a year. More than 450,000 Canadians are hospitalized for cardiovascular disease per year.

The most common problems are coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, valve disorders and heart muscle disease, including congestive heart failure. It is estimated that one in four Canadians or eight million people have some form of heart disease, disease of the blood vessels or are at risk for stroke. The economic cost is staggering, $18.4 billion a year.

In this regard, I would like to compliment the hon. member for putting forward this motion, which I know was done with the best of intentions for Canadians, and a motion that I will support. The hon. member knows, as a colleague of mine on the health committee, of my interest in promoting a national wellness strategy, a way to get at the illness of Canadians hopefully before it strikes them, but also to look at the issues of home care, palliative care and support for people who are sick.

Today I want to talk not only about cardiovascular disease but specifically about cardiovascular research which is such a key part of the work that the Government of Canada is doing to promote heart research and develop a national approach to fighting this disease.

Harnessing Canadian investments in health research is the key to improving the health of our citizens by building sustainable, evidence based, leading edge health care and public health systems, and developing the transformative new technologies of tomorrow. That is why the government created the CIHR, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, in 2000.

Since that time, CIHR has led the transformation of the health research enterprise in Canada. Today CIHR is strengthening support for excellent research, expanding strategic research, training the next generation of health researchers, accelerating the transfer of knowledge into action, building capacity across Canada, attracting and retaining world class researchers and responding to emerging health threats.

With an annual budget of nearly $700 million, CIHR is Canada's lead funder of health research, supporting the work of 10,000 researchers in universities, teaching hospitals and other institutions. Of this total, CIHR invested more than $109 million in heart research last year. I am pleased to note that budget 2005 increased CIHR's budget by $32 million, a clear signal of our continued support for health research.

I should also note that along with the CIHR the government has announced investments of more than $13 billion for research and innovation since 1997. These have been extremely beneficial, creating the beginnings of an internationally competitive Canadian health research environment, something that we really needed.

The CIHR funding commitment to heart research is being leveraged through partnerships spearheaded by CIHR'S Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, one of the CIHR's 13 vital institutes of health research. The institute, led by Dr. Bruce McManus, who is an international leader, supported by an advisory board comprising volunteers from all parts of the cardiovascular community, has been breaking new ground in developing a national heart research agenda for Canada.

Partnerships are integral to the vision of CIHR. By building partnerships among its stakeholders, those that have interest and a stake in health, the health system and health research, Canada will be better positioned to support stronger internationally competitive research initiatives that produce quality results more quickly for the benefit of Canadians.

CIHR partner organizations include other federal departments. They include provincial funding agencies and relevant provincial and territorial departments, health charities, non-government organizations and private industry.

Over the last several years the Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health has worked closely with its partners to develop its strategic plan and research initiatives. Much in the spirit of the motion that we are debating today, the institute's strategic plan builds on existing knowledge, fills gaps and maximizes Canadians' investment in health research by stressing cooperation and minimizing overlap.

A quick glance at the list of partners that the institute is working in conjunction with is very impressive. Among them are the Canadian Hypertension Society, Blood Pressure Canada, the Quebec Hypertension Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. I well recall being on the national board of the Heart and Stroke Foundation when CIHR was brought along and developed, replacing the old MRC. I can speak on behalf of the Heart and Stroke Foundation on how delighted we were with this incredible new funding agency, and the new avenues of research that had opened to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

I want to talk about a couple of the returns on investment for which CIHR has been responsible. For example, Dr. Jafna Cox of Dalhousie who found that alternative medicines with prescription heart drugs can have deadly consequences for cardiac patients. Dr. Cox found that two-thirds of Nova Scotians with heart disease use at least one form of alternative therapy leading to potentially lethal interactions with prescription drugs. For instance, the blood thinner warfarin should not be used in conjunction with high doses of vitamin K, ephedra and ginseng, et cetera.

Dr. Luis Melo, from the University of Saskatchewan, used his CIHR support to discover a protein that is involved in regulating heart attacks. By understanding this protein he hopes to design a safe and efficient gene therapy strategy to protect the heart from damage due to heart attacks.

I would like to talk about Dr. Renée Lyons and Dr. Judy Guernsey who are doing CIHR funded research in Atlantic Canada looking at rural health, women's health and population health, and how to promote health in those areas that do not have huge hospitals. The question is, how do we get people to live more healthily, to not be sick, and how do we keep them well once they have been sick? There has been tremendous research done by Dr. Renée Lyons and Dr. Judy Guernsey.

These are just a few examples of CIHR funded research that are providing much needed hope for those suffering from heart disease or those who might otherwise suffer from heart disease.

I am pleased the Government of Canada created the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. CIHR is providing an integrated, coordinated, problem based and strategic approach to all of the health and disease challenges that face Canadians.

Through the efforts of CIHR and the leadership of its Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, Canadians can be confident that their investments in heart research, both through their tax dollars and their generous support to heart health charities, are being spent in a coordinated and successful manner.

We do need a coordinated national strategy on cancer, on cardiovascular health, and we need one on mental health. This is not a partisan issue; this is a non-partisan issue. Last week I had the opportunity to meet with TEAM Work Cooperative, a group in Halifax doing some tremendous work with mental health consumers. I was at the meeting with the members from Halifax. We discussed their needs and about ways that we could approach government together to make things better.

We all know the cost of cardiovascular disease, mental health challenges and cancers. Research is the key. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is becoming a world leader in this area and it can be an important part of whatever strategy Canada needs to combat these diseases.

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4:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased we are having this debate in the House today. I believe this is a non-partisan issue because all of us have been affected by cancer.

My question for the hon. member is about the Liberal government's strategy which seems to be very much on making good lifestyle choices and focussing cancer as an issue of perhaps giving our children flags, skipping ropes and little eat right posters and we would be better off.

It seems to me that a broader issue has not been addressed. It reminds me of my background in the Timmins region, where we know a lot about cancer. When Ukrainian widows went to the compensation board because their husbands had died of brain cancer, they were told it was the east European diet that killed them. When women from Kirkland Lake, Red Lake, Timmins and Cobalt went to find out why their husbands had died of stomach cancer, or pancreatic cancer, or lung cancer and or throat cancer, they were told it was the bad air in their homes. It was always a lifestyle choice that killed these thousands of men in the mines across northern Ontario. What they were exposed to never did.

Today we are discussing this issue on a very important day, a day when we have heard about the smog deaths across Canada. I do not see anything in the strategies being put forward which deals with the environmental factors and the industrial pollutants. I hear nothing about moving forward, getting beyond the silly notion of voluntary standards and everyone will be happier because of that. I have heard nothing about dealing with the serious polluters in the country who are releasing carcinogens into the atmosphere.

Could the hon. member explain to me how he sees a strategy that has some teeth to ensure that we deal with the main polluters that are creating carcinogens in our atmosphere?

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will speak to the health aspect of the question. I think what the member started off asking me was about disease specific areas as opposed to talking about keeping Canadians well.

I will make no bones about it. The number one issue I spoke about when I came to this place last year was the importance of a national wellness strategy, the importance of keeping Canadians healthy by promoting a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition choices and reducing smoking, obesity and stress.

I come from an area of the country that has the highest incidence of all those. Because of that, we have the highest incidence of a range of cancers, cardiovascular, cerebrovascular disease and diabetes is out of control.

We will have to look at all those diseases individually and provide support to them. It also is important that we look at the common cause together. If we are ever going to get out of this cycle of always dealing only with sick people and not promoting people to be well, we are not serving Canadians.

For now, the $42 billion that we put into health care last year over 10 years strengthens health care so we can at least say that we will ensure that people who need that acute care get it because we cannot abandon them. However, we as a nation have to get out in front of that cycle of illness and promote wellness, and that should never be forgotten.

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4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, I note that the member spoke a lot about CIHR, but he did not speak to the motion at hand, which is the Canadian strategy for cancer control and beyond that the strategy for heart disease and mental illness.

However, cancer stakeholders have really set the bar as far as what they have been able to put together. I hope that other organizations like the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Mental Health Association will be able to follow their lead.

Having said that, funding needs to be committed to ensure that the strategy is brought forward. The motion today is about that. We have yet to get a straight answer from any of the member's colleagues on when or even if this strategy will be fully funded to the $260 million over five years.

Will the member, on behalf of the Liberal Party, tell us that, yes, the cancer strategy outlined in the motion will be fully funded?

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry if I was not clear enough. I did indicate that I supported the motion and I think other members have as well.

If the member is speaking to the part in the motion that asks the House to call on the government to fully fund and implement the Canadian strategy for cancer control, I have a letter that I wrote to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance after meeting with Charlene Dill in Halifax prior to the budget. I asked the government to fully fund the Canadian strategy on cancer control.

When I speak in support of this motion, I do it looking back as well as forward. I also indicate that there is a part of the motion calling on a comprehensive national strategy on mental illness, mental health and heart disease. That was the specific part I spoke to and I stand by that for sure.

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4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, before I get too far into my remarks, I should note that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for South Surrey--White Rock--Cloverdale.

This is a broad topic as far as dealing with the health care needs and a national strategy on cancer, mental illness and cardiovascular disease. However, irrespective of where we come from on this, we all have a personal story. We all know someone in all three of these areas whom we want to remember and think about. I think personally of a friend who died two years ago, after having successfully beaten cancer once before, roughly 25 years earlier, only to succumb to it on its second pass through.

We all have relatives or friends who have passed away due to cardiovascular diseases. Unfortunately, as well we know people who suffer from depression and mental illness. I think in particular of a couple of my acquaintances whom I have known over the years.

This is very much an issue which speaks to the heart of why we are here as parliamentarians, to do something practical and positive for our constituents. This is also one area where Canadians have come together and worked as communities and as individuals. That is one reason why I am particularly happy to speak to the motion.

In particular, I want to note a couple of things that are being done in my riding to deal with cancer. I want to specifically congratulate some of the people of Saskatoon, survivors and others, for getting together last weekend to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. Saskatoon had a record turnout this year, with 792 teams and raised over $185,000. I want to congratulate the people of my constituency who participated in that and for doing their part to fight cancer.

I also want to put on the record and congratulate the researchers who are working in the riding of Saskatoon--Humboldt, using the Canadian Light Source synchrotron to find cures for breast cancer. It is one of the leading edge areas of technology. I am proud we are taking that initiative in Saskatoon, with the support of the Government of Canada through its funding. All across the country various researchers are working on it. Some very practical things are being done.

I also wanted to congratulate the member for Charleswood--St. James--Assiniboia for bringing this to the attention of the House.

Why do we need a national strategy to deal with cancer specifically and also cardiovascular and mental health diseases? We spend tens of billions of dollars on health care in our country. We spend it on cancer. We spend it on general care. We spend it on emergency wards. Why specifically do we need a national strategy to deal with this problem?

In looking through the research and notes on the issue as to why we should deal with it, a few points came to mind as to why I will be voting in favour of this.

First, we need to maximize our assets across the country. We need to coordinate and think it through. We really cannot have a disjointed approach to dealing with any disease on any issue across the country. Looking through all the plans and so forth, there are many fine institutions and doctors. Various approaches and treatments are being tried across the country. We need to not only spend on these individual initiatives, we need to coordinate them so they all work functionally and effectively.

This is why the Canadian cancer strategy was brought together. Members of the House did not think of the idea. Nor did they wisely put it together. It was brought together by 700 experts and survivors, people who have a real vested interest and personal knowledge. This is not merely something that is done for one day's publicity or one day's thinking. This is something that has been developed through considerable, well thought out and thorough research by specialists who are experts on the matter.

Looking at the people who have decided to support this, gives me the confidence that the plan will work, that it will be functional.

Another reason why I think we need to support the initiative is it will set priorities. When we have an overall plan, we can coordinate to make what we already have work better. As I understand it now we do not have definite goals or priorities. We do not have definite targets or points of reference that we need when we are developing anything. A national cancer strategy as well as a national cardiovascular and mental health strategy would do this.

Another reason we need to support this strategy is because it will provide real results.

When I was researching the issue, I was struck by how important it was. It is estimated that 420,000 lives could be saved over 30 years with a national plan. By my calculations, that is 14,000 people per year. Other than the city of Saskatoon, one-third of my riding is rural. Fourteen thousand people works out to be three times the size of the next largest community in my riding. That is an immense number of people who could be saved every year for the next 30 years.

Other countries have developed cancer control strategies and have seen positive results. In the United Kingdom cancer deaths fell 10% in just four years. In Luxembourg morality plummeted 24% by 2000. In Finland the numbers dropped to 17% and in Austria 15%. Just after a few years, Ireland dropped to 10%.

This strategy has real benefits for Canadians. It is practical and could be done.

Let me compare the cost of the initiative of $300 million to other things on which the government has spent money. Other hon. members who have spoken today referenced the ad scam controversy. By the time the commission has finished, the government will have spent more money than what a five year cancer strategy would cost. Compare the results. We could save 14,000 people a year compared to a lot of corruption. Those are the choices.

The strategy is a wise place to put our revenues and our spending. For someone who has a hard time supporting any new spending initiatives because they are worried about waste and corruption and various other things, this is one of the very few that would be a wise investment of taxpayer dollars. It would save lives and money.

There are many other reasons to have a strategy. We just need to look at the economics. Canadians would be healthier. The economy would be more productive. There are many other reasons to support the idea and the motion.

The final reason why I have decided to support it is a well thought out plan. This is not about giving more money and then figuring out what to do with it. This is a well developed, well thought out plan. They are working on a strategic cancer leadership platform. There are cancer targets, national standards, national clinical and practice guidelines and prevention systems. These things will not just provide publicity and then disappear. They will make a real difference.

I have concentrated mostly on dealing with the national cancer program because it is the one that is the most detailed and well thought out. Before I close my remarks, let me say something needs to be done for the national mental health strategy and the cardiovascular strategy as well.

One in five people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime. Thousands of people commit suicide. The human stories that we all know compel us to act and to support the motion.

It is for those reasons that I will support the motion. I support the call for a national cancer strategy, for a national mental illness strategy and for real achievement on the national heart and stroke and cardiovascular strategy. These are good reasons. This is a good motion. I call on the House to be unanimous in its support of the motion.

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June 7th, 2005 / 4:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want the hon. member from the Winnipeg area to know that he has our full support in this initiative.

I do not want to be too critical but sometimes a party's voting record comes back to haunt it. In March 2003, I introduced Bill C-206, which would have allowed caregivers the opportunity to take time off work to care for their loved ones under a palliative situation.

The hon. member was absolutely correct when he said that the motion was a wise investment of tax dollars and would be a saving in the long run. Those are the exact words I used in my motion in terms of allowing people the opportunity to leave their place of employment, care for their dying loved ones, collect employment insurance and have their job protected at the same time. It is the exact same benefits that a person would receive from maternity benefits.

Unfortunately, the previous leader of the Alliance Party, the current leader of the Conservative Party and the finance critic for that party voted against my bill. We cannot have a national strategy unless we deal with the caregivers concerned who deal with those people under the serious concerns of rehabilitative or palliative care.

My bill has been reintroduced as Bill C-256 and has had first reading. It has almost the exact wording as what was voted against by some members of his previous party.

Would the member support a strategy that would allow people who care for dying relatives the opportunity to stay at home, collect employment insurance, have their job protected and provide their relatives who are under palliative care the options that they deserve, which is the desire to be surrounded by their loved ones, to be surrounded in the setting of their choice and, of course, to be free of pain?

I wonder if the member who spoke so eloquently to this motion, which we support, would rise up and mention that.

Supply
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, this issue has been referred to not only by members on his side of the House, for which I thank him, but also by the member for Langley who has had a specific constituent concern where I believe the sister of one of his constituents has taken time off to take care of her dying sister.

I have been very supportive of my colleague from Langley. He has raised this issue and has complete and total compassion, not only in the House and in front of the cameras, but behind them as well.

I am not fully aware of what the previous legislation was in March 2003 as I was not a member of the House at that time. However I will look at the new legislation.

I will say that as far as the general principle that the member for Langley and the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore have spoken to, I support the general principle that we should have flexibility in our social spending.

When we consider some of the other uses EI has been put toward, it would strike me as a much more reasonable approach to look at. Again, in principle, until I see the legislation I will not commit to vote for or against. However, in general, I would be supportive of the principle that people be allowed to take time off to look after loved ones who are in need of care in very serious incidences, such as parents looking after dying children or a sister looking after a sister.

My understanding was that it only took an administrative ruling by the minister, which is quicker than legislation. If that is not the case, I would be very interested in discussing it with the member. Perhaps he could educate me more, but in principle I support it.

Supply
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had a similar experience with a private member's motion that I had on environmental contaminants and human health. Amendments made by the Bloc were passed by the House with almost all party support. There were individual members, some from the Alliance at the time and some Liberals, who did not supporting it but the amendments passed.

The main motion had more Liberals and Alliance members vote against it. The motion looked at preventing some of the illnesses and included a lot of the debate we are having today. At that time the leader of the Alliance, now the Conservative Party, voted against that.

I would ask the hon. member a question similar to my colleague's question. Does he support the connection between environmental contaminants and human health? What would he like to see happen to stop the illnesses from afflicting our citizens?