House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tobacco.

Topics

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion for concurrence in the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #148

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

Afghanistan
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a report entitled “Canada's Engagement in Afghanistan, Setting a Course to 2011”.

Royal Recommendation—Bill C-474, Bill C-499 and Bill C-550
Private Members' Business
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The Chair has a statement to make regarding the management of private members' business.

After a replenishment of the Order of Precedence, the Chair has developed the practice of reviewing these new items so that the House can be alerted to bills which, at first glance, appear to impinge on the financial prerogative of the Crown. The aim of this practice is to allow members the opportunity to intervene in a timely fashion to present their views about the need for those bills to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Accordingly, following the June 4 replenishment of the order of precedence with 15 new items, I wish to inform the House that Bill C-499, An Act to establish the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario, standing in the name of the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming, as well as Bill C-550, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (family leave), standing in the name of the member for Compton—Stanstead, give the Chair some concern as to the spending provisions they contemplate.

I would encourage hon. members who would like to make arguments regarding the need for a royal recommendation in these cases, that is Bill C-499 and Bill C-550, or in the case of any of the other bills now on the Order of Precedence, to do so at an early opportunity.

Also, I would like to take this opportunity to make a brief statement regarding Bill C-474, An Act to require the development and implementation of a National Sustainable Development Strategy, the reporting of progress against a standard set of environmental indicators and the appointment of an independent Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development accountable to Parliament, and to adopt specific goals with respect to sustainable development in Canada, and to make consequential amendments to another Act, standing in the name of the hon. member for Don Valley West, which was already on the order of precedence.

The Chair would like to remind members of a ruling made on February 11, 2008. In that ruling I stated that the bill in its form at that time needed to be accompanied by a royal recommendation. The Chair notes that the hon. member for Don Valley West had expressed the desire to work with the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development to overcome this difficulty.

On June 5, 2008 the committee reported the bill with amendments. The Chair has carefully examined these amendments and confirms that the bill, as amended, no longer requires a royal recommendation. Consequently, debate may proceed and, when appropriate, all necessary questions to dispose of the bill will be put.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded divisions, government orders will be extended by 21 minutes.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have just a few remarks to address in this debate. They take the form of certain questions which I would be grateful if the Minister of Health would take the opportunity to address before this debate comes to an end.

Bill C-51 amends the Food and Drugs Act to modernize the regulatory system for foods and therapeutic products, such as contact lenses, breast implants, pharmaceuticals, and so forth. The bill seeks to improve the surveillance of benefits and risks of therapeutic products through their life cycle. It is intended to improve the compliance and enforcement measures by corporations to encourage them to report adverse reactions or potential health threats associated with market products. To this end, the bill proposes to give very substantial regulatory powers to the minister. That is the type, broadly, of legislation we are dealing with in Bill C-51.

We in the Liberal Party obviously are committed, as we always have been, to improving the health and safety of Canadians and to making sure that we have an appropriate legislative framework to that end. We obviously support measures which strengthen the regulatory process to ensure that Canadians are able to have access to the safest and most effective food and therapeutic products.

However, members will have noticed as this debate has gone on that a number of problems have been brought to the attention of the House which need to be addressed. I would like to highlight a couple of those and ask the government for its considered response.

I am sure that all members of Parliament have received letters from a variety of people across the country with respect to the professional services of naturopathic doctors. The statement has been made by those who defend this legislation that the bill actually has nothing to do with that broad category of activity.

I would like to read briefly into the record one of these letters that I have received from a constituent in Regina. I would ask the minister or the parliamentary secretary to be kind enough to provide responses to the questions that this individual has raised. I will read portions of the letter as follows:

I am writing to you as one of your constituents to express my concerns about Bill C-51 and the impact it will have on the ability of my naturopathic doctor (ND) to treat my health concerns safely and effectively....

As an informed patient I have chosen to be treated by a naturopathic doctor utilizing natural therapies and substances to ensure optimal health. I would like some assurances that my choice to see a naturopathic doctor...will not be negatively impacted by Bill C-51.

I have the following questions:

1. Will Bill C-51 exclude my ND [naturopathic doctor] from having access to all the products that he/she needs to treat all my health concerns?

2. Will Bill C-51 result in fewer natural health products being available in the Canadian marketplace?

3. Will inspectors have the ability to enter premises under the search and seizure provisions without a warrant or a judge's approval?

That is the end of the bulk of the letter. I am sure the tone of that letter is familiar to many members in the House who would have received similar letters. It is important for the government to put on the record the official response to those concerns so that Canadians who have those kinds of concerns can be reassured about the impact of this legislation.

Finally, I have a suggestion to offer to the Minister of Health. It has been said in parliamentary circles in the last several days that when this bill gets to the committee stage, the government intends to bring forward what are considered to be significant amendments. We do not know if that is in fact the case, but the rumour that seems to be circulating in the Standing Committee on Health is that when Bill C-51 arrives in the committee officially, there will be significant amendments to the bill brought forward by the government itself.

That presents a problem for the House. We are now coming near the end, I suspect, of the debate at second reading and very shortly we will be called upon to vote on approval in principle of this legislation before it goes to the Standing Committee on Health for detailed consideration clause by clause. I would suggest that before the House is asked to vote at second reading on approval in principle of the bill, the House needs to know what amendments the minister has in mind. Are there amendments that are likely to be forthcoming at the committee stage? Are they significant amendments as they have been portrayed? If they are significant amendments, they may well affect the principle of the bill.

Second reading, as we all know, is approval in principle. Once we vote on approval in principle at second reading, a lot of water has gone under the bridge. It is important for the House to know exactly on what it is voting.

How can the House approve in principle Bill C-51 now if we are not told specifically what that principle is? Will that principle change? Are these amendments that the minister proposes to introduce in the committee so fundamental that they might take this bill in a new or different direction that is not contemplated by the scheme of the bill that is presently before the House?

There are two alternatives. First, before this debate comes to an end, it would be very helpful if the Minister of Health or the parliamentary secretary or someone on behalf of the government would simply inform the House now of the type of amendments the government may have in mind when the bill gets to the committee stage. They have been portrayed generally as significant, but we have not yet been told the detail.

If we are to vote on approval in principle of this bill which at a later stage is going to be amended, we are being asked now to buy a pig in a poke. I would simply ask the parliamentary secretary or the minister to tell us what the amendments are so we can make a considered judgment about Bill C-51 when we are asked to vote on it in principle at second reading.

The other alternative is if the government is not in a position to publish its amendments now or to inform the House about what those amendments might be eventually, the government could choose to simply suspend the debate at second reading. Instead of forcing the House now to vote in principle on something that may change at a subsequent date, the government could change its tactic and adopt the procedure that is set out in Standing Order 73(1), which is to send Bill C-51 to the Standing Committee on Health before the vote at second reading.

If that course of action were adopted, it would then be possible for members of Parliament to consider all dimensions of what is contained in Bill C-51, both the substance of the bill as it now exists and any proposed amendments the government might have in mind, without first having to vote on a principle, the substance of which we are not sure because it might change when it gets to the committee.

Either give us the amendments now so that we can know what the government has in mind or send the bill to committee before second reading so that members of Parliament will have more scope to change the bill if the principles contained in the amendments the government has in mind are not consistent with what the House would prefer.

Those are the points, briefly, that I wish to make on Bill C-51. They are offered in a spirit of trying to be constructive in this debate and bringing forward the concerns that people in my constituency, at least some of them, have expressed. I would ask the government if not now then at some other time in the debate to make an effort to respond to those points in the constructive spirit in which they are offered.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Parliamentary Secretary for Health

Mr. Speaker, the answers to the three questions of the member for Wascana are no, no and no. The bill will in no way hamper individual access to natural health products. It will in no way hamper naturopaths from doing what they do well. There will be no ability to go into someone's home without a warrant, as some have suggested.

There has been a lot of fearmongering on the bill. I want to assure the member that the government has paid very close attention to the comments that have been made by many people on the bill.

To accommodate or alleviate some of the concerns, I look forward to some amendments, but the member very well knows that parliamentary procedure is such that we have to go to second reading first before we can present the exact wording of the amendments.

The member may also know that we have had very good discussions with the health critic. We have, in general terms, agreed that this is an important bill, that some tweaking may be needed to alleviate some of the concerns.

I am pleased the health minister has listened to the people who have concerns about the bill, and we will address these concerns at committee. However, we need the cooperation of all parties, particularly the official opposition, to move forward so we can protect Canadians. The bill is about that. Only a small part of it actually deals with natural health products. The bill deals with much broader issues than just natural health products.

Has the member talked with his health critic and will he work together with the government to ensure that the safety of Canadians is protected, while people have maximum choice when it comes to natural health products?

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, what the parliamentary secretary mentioned in his last sentence is what I am sure all members of Parliament would desire to achieve. However, we all know this old principle that the devil is in the details. Parliament is here to examine that detail to ensure we do not get stuck with the devil.

Accordingly I would ask the parliamentary secretary two further points.

He expressed great confidence about the impact, or not, of this legislation with respect to naturopathic doctors and the various remedies to which they wish to have access. The parliamentary secretary's view is there is nothing in the legislation that in any way detracts from that.

Since he is aware that a number of members of Parliament have received rather extensive representations from this sector, and I suspect the parliamentary secretary has received many himself, would he be good enough to provide to the House the written responses of the Minister of Health or the Department of Health and to put in writing the specific assurances the has given here? Those assurances are important.

For people who have questions and wonder how this legislation affects them or may have some negative impact on them, it would be of considerable reassurance if the Department of Health would be forthcoming to give a written response to Canadians who have expressed their worries in this regard, in a number of letters to members of Parliament.

Second—

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member. We are now resuming debate. If the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca wants to take his seat, I will recognize him. Otherwise, my glasses will get very foggy.

If the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain ready, she has the floor.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today and participate in the debate on Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

At the outset, that I will be voting against the bill at second reading. I am taking this position for a number of reasons, including the view that it may open the door to direct-to-consumer advertising for pharmaceuticals, that it gives an inordinate discretion to the minister on a number of fronts and that it may be a thinly veiled attempt to bring natural health products under the rubric of drugs.

It is particularly the latter concern that I want to focus on in the limited time I have in the debate today.

No bill in this sitting of Parliament has generated as much public interest in my riding as Bill C-51. Both producers and consumers of natural health products have expressed serious misgivings about the bill. It is no wonder that Canadians are expressing a healthy dose of skepticism about the government's agenda in bringing the bill forward.

This is the fifth attempt in just a decade by successive Liberal and Conservative governments to overhaul the Food and Drugs Act. The Liberals made four of these attempts and each time they failed. Why? They failed because each time the community spoke up.

Producers and consumers both demanded more accountability from government and wanted much clearer answers with respect to the new regulatory authority that government was assigning to itself. This time some of the same misgivings persist. Will the bill maintain regulation that is distinct from that of pharmaceuticals? Is the enforcement appropriate, with checks and balances against abuse? Is the process free from the minister's arbitrary intervention? These concerns are legitimate and must be addressed by the government.

The NDP has always believed that natural health products are a fundamental element in disease prevention and treatment. They are an element with distinct characteristics that distinguish it from both food and drugs, a distinction that merits a separate regulatory framework in ensuring its safety and efficacy. This is the position that I continue to advocate as we scrutinize Bill C-51.

My constituents in Mountain have said loud and clear that the bill, as it stands now, is unacceptable. Significant and necessary changes cannot and will not be made before the second reading. Therefore, the bill will not have my vote or I believe the votes of any of my NDP colleagues at second reading. Furthermore, I cannot accept a bill that undermines Canadians access to safe, reliable natural health products and one that favours multinational corporate drug interests.

To be fair to the government, there is a misperception that Bill C-51 would require consumers to get a prescription to access natural health products. I have studied the bill closely and I do not believe that is the case. Bill C-51 would not affect prescribing requirements.

The public's concern about this aspect speaks volumes about the unease that this legislation is creating about the government's true intent with respect to natural health products and it speaks volumes about the need for the government to clarify its intentions so there is no room for doubt with respect to any of the sections that apply to natural health products.

Proper consultations may have been able to alleviate some of those concerns, but those consultations did not happen. That is why there is such a huge disconnect between the government's rhetoric on the purported intent of the bill and the community's understanding of what is really at stake.

At a cursory level, the provisions of the bill purport to enhance consumer and product safety protections, a goal which we all share. In fact, as hundreds of emails and letters from people in my riding of Hamilton Mountain made clear, they simply want to ensure and I quote “that natural health products are treated fairly”.

In fact, allow me to share with members of the House a lengthier quote from correspondence that I have received from one of my constituents, whose sentiment is shared by literally dozens of others. The constituent writes:

I am writing you to express my growing concern about the impact of Bill C-51.

This proposed new law has major ramifications for the natural health products I depend on. I am very worried about potential impact this bill could have on the future of natural health products. Bill C-51 restricts the choices Canadian people have when it comes to their health.

As my Member of Parliament, I need your help in ensuring that natural health products are treated fairly. What is needed is a legislative framework that treats natural health products as a third category for Health Canada. This is something promised by previous Ministers of Health but never delivered.

Please review Bill C-51 and fight to make sure natural health products are not eliminated as a viable consumer choice in Canada. Did you know that more than 70% of the Canadian population uses natural health products? This bill opposes the desires of most Canadians and restricts our freedom of choice.

Members will have noticed that the concerns expressed by these constituents are entirely reasonable. My constituents are simply asking that natural health products be treated fairly. Their concerns are measured, balanced and they deserve to be resolved, but the only way to have them resolved is through dialogue and meaningful consultations. However, here we are in the last few days of the session before the House rises for the summer and the government is trying to rush the bill through to a vote. Why not slow things down?

This chamber is supposed to deliberate on legislation that is brought here by the government. Deliberation suggests thoughtful debate, with give and take in shaping the final product. That means that we need to have enough time to hear the concerns of our constituents, reflect on them and give voice to them in the House. That is what representation is all about. Yet with the government's rushed timetable, I am one of the few MPs who will get an opportunity to represent my constituents here.

Thankfully, natural health product consumers in my riding are well informed and know that they can get in touch with me any time if they have concerns about what happens in the House of Commons. And they have. However, thousands of other Canadians share their concerns and their members of Parliament either cannot or will not represent them in this chamber. That is a bitter pill to swallow.

If the government is so certain that Bill C-51 is benign, why would it not allow all interested parties to participate in the careful scrutiny of this bill? The mere fact that the government is unwilling to engage in this kind of dialogue just serves to increase further the concerns in the community.

I have already said that not all provisions of the bill are flawed. It deals with a broad range of issues, aside from natural health products. In many respects, the government has moved a significant distance from the days of the Liberals. However, that does not change the fact that the bill still has many problems.

Greater consultation might have been able to resolve these problems and allay community fears, but because that input was not sought and because of the potentially dangerous ramifications and provisions of the bill, I now have no choice but to oppose the legislation as tabled. Yes, I am voting that way because of the concerns around natural health products. I am also doing it because I have serious concerns about advertising, adverse reactions and life cycle licensing. Above all, I am concerned that the bill, as a whole, is premised on the Conservatives' risk management approach to safety rather than the do no harm principle.

For all of those reasons, I will be voting against Bill C-51 in the upcoming vote. I am happy to do so on behalf of my constituents of Hamilton Mountain. Their concerns will be represented in the House. I just hope the members of the other parties will do the same so, together, we can go back to the drawing board.

The government has already signalled that it will need to introduce numerous amendments to fix the bill. In other words, it agrees that the current bill, as drafted, is flawed. Therefore, let us do the right thing. Let us vote it down at second reading, allow the health committee to do full public consultations and then introduce a new bill that addresses the concerns of hard-working Canadians. Our constituents deserve nothing less.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Parliamentary Secretary for Health

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's statement intently and many points are not accurate.

First, the government has consulted widely before the drafting of the bill and during the drafting of the bill. Since the bill has been introduced, consultations have taken place right across the country from coast to coast to coast, and there continues to be consultation on the bill.

The member said that the bill should be defeated and not brought to the health committee. The whole point of having a second reading is to go to the health committee so we can hear from stakeholders from coast to coast to coast. That is the parliamentary procedure. That is the process and it has suited our country, by and large, very well.

I ask the member to reconsider her position, given the new information, which she is apparently unaware, that there has been very broad consultation. The minister has been listening. There is an opportunity, after second reading, to bring amendments forward. I also point out that natural health products are not considered drugs under the current legislation, and it will be made crystal clear after the amendment.

Therefore, with that information, will the member please be reasonable and help the government to ensure maximum access to natural health products and to ensure health and safety of Canadians?

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have never been accused in the House of being anything other than reasonable, and I certainly want to continue that tradition now.

I have no doubt that the government consulted on this legislation. I just doubt the breadth of that consultation, because I have had the privilege of sitting in the health committee and I know that most of the presentations that I have heard about, albeit second hand, were consultations with big pharma. That is not who I am talking about needing to consult.

We need to talk to the consumers of natural health products in our communities. Those are the people who are flooding our offices with mail each and every day suggesting that they actually do not feel that they have been adequately heard. Yes, by all means, let us do the consultations, but let us do them right and let us not be selective in terms of whom we listen to.

The parliamentary secretary suggested that this bill does not need to be defeated because the government is going to bring in a ton of amendments that will allay all my fears. In typical government fashion, the member is suggesting that I should just trust him on that. If the government already knows that it needs to bring in substantial and substantive amendments to the bill to allay fears, then the government itself is admitting that the bill as it is currently before us is flawed. The vote at second reading is a vote on the principle of this bill. You are asking me to support the principles of a bill that the government says is flawed. I for one am not prepared to do that.

Indeed, the member said the serious concern that natural health products consumers have about those products not being considered drugs would be dealt with in the amendments to this bill. I am not willing to take the government at its word. I am willing to accept that the government has now seen that its current legislation before us is flawed, so I would happy if it withdrew the bill, introduced one with all of the amendments already in place so we could then have a vote on second reading of a bill that is in the form the government wants to see it. We could then make a considered decision on second reading.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Hamilton Mountain will be happy to know that I do not want to tell her how to vote either way.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to Bill C-51. All of us in the House have received a lot of correspondence from very concerned Canadians. They believe that the bill will impede their access to substances that they have freely bought over the counter for many years, products that are used by naturopaths and herbalists across our country and products that are used by first nations healers in Canada. Those groups are concerned.

The government has done a very poor job of describing what the bill is about. That the government will be putting forth amendments which it is not willing to share with us speaks to the fact that it is proceeding in a way that is less than organized with respect to the bill. The government is hearing about it from Canadians and from members of the House of Commons.

The crux of the concerns of most Canadians is whether the bill impedes a person's ability to access those products. The bill touches on a lot of things that are very important. It covers many substances. It covers pharmaceutical products and medical equipment. It enables the minister to more rapidly assess whether a product is good or bad for the public. It enables him to remove products more quickly.

Right now product removal is voluntary in nature and it is up to the private sector companies to remove them. The bill would give Health Canada the ability to better monitor products that come on the market and to remove them if there are problems that are identified. In fact, the Food and Drugs Act, which this bill amends, has not to my knowledge been significantly amended since 1953. Obviously we need to do a better job of that.

Penelope Marrett, president of the Toronto based Canadian Health Food Association, said:

People need to remember that we're an already regulated industry....Herbalists and naturopaths will still be able to provide the products and the compounds that they do under the current situation.

I hope that allays some concerns. However, the proof of the pudding is in the bill. We want to make sure that the bill goes to committee, which is the next stage after this one, and that members on the health committee have ample time to dissect the bill from stem to stern. Members of the naturopathic groups in Canada, the aboriginal groups and other groups that are concerned will be able to appear as witnesses in front of the health committee. We are hoping this will happen in a very public fashion. I hope that the government sees fit to televise the hearings of this investigation. It is very important for all Canadians to witness the people who come in front of the committee so that all sides can be heard. I know that the concerns of Canadians about the bill will be expressed in that committee and will be heard and understood.

If the bill compromises the ability of Canadians to access the naturopathic products that are safe and to which they have traditionally had access, then we will not support the bill. We will not compromise people's ability to access these products, but we are obviously in favour of ensuring that whatever products come down the line are safe for Canadians.

I would ask why on earth the government has not taken it upon itself to deal with what is arguably one of the two most important issues affecting Canadians, and that is health care in Canada. The government has been missing in action. Why have we not seen a plan to deal with the health care human resources catastrophe that we will be facing in the coming years? Physicians, specialists and general practitioners, nurses, technicians and other health care workers, there is a huge aging out of the population taking place. The average age of many physicians and specialist groups is in the fifties and for nurses it is in the low forties. This is a problem that cannot be rectified overnight. The government has not done anything about this. It has to work with the provinces.

Here is one easy solution. There are some 1,800 Canadian students who could not get into medical school in Canada who are studying abroad in places like Australia. Those Canadians would dearly love to come back to this country, but it is exceedingly difficult for Canadians working abroad to come back. They even have to write a test to determine whether or not they can speak English or French. Can anyone believe that?

The system makes it very difficult for Canadians abroad to come back. Why do we not make it easier? Why do we not enable Canadians to be quickly assessed and to either have extra training or be allowed to practice in Canada if they are Canadians who are studying abroad? That would potentially introduce 1,800 doctors into Canada in a very short period of time at a very low cost.

Where is the government on other issues? Where is it on home care? This is a serious issue given our aging population. Where is it on a national mental health care strategy? The government is moving slowly in that direction. It is a positive direction and we continue to encourage that. Where is it on modernizing the Canada Health Act? There is silence from the government.

Where is it on information technology? This is something that could radically and dramatically improve our ability to care for our patients. Where is it on the head start program for children? That was passed in the House in 1998. It would be the simplest, least expensive and most effective preventive measure we could possibly have in our country.

Where is the government on research and development? Where is the government on its science and technology strategy? I can say where it is. The government's science and technology strategy is to fire the science adviser to the Prime Minister and eliminate his office. Firing Dr. Arthur Carty, one of Canada's finest scientists, and eliminating the post of science adviser to the Prime Minister is the government's science and technology strategy. What kind of strategy is that?

What is the government doing to facilitate the connection between bench discoveries and putting them into clinical practice? Where is its ability to move forward on the scientific discoveries that we have and commercialize them? Why is it not connecting up groups like the MaRS centre in Toronto and the 27 science and technology parks from coast to coast in our country? Why is it not working with them to connect them and maximize their possibilities. That is the future economic ability of our country to compete.

China and India are building dozens and dozens of these parks. They know that the future does not lie in petrodollars. The future does not lie in resource extraction. The future lies in our ability to maximize technological advances in science and research and to commercialize an operationalize them.

Our fine scientists are some of the best in the world, but they are being left to drift by the government. There is no plan whatsoever from the government. Why? Because in part everything is controlled by the Prime Minister's office and it chooses to deal with only a few things.

I would strongly advise the government that there are members in the Liberal Party who would very much like to work with the government to advance ideas and solutions to enable Canadians, particularly those who are sick, to access the care they require.

Most Canadians would be fascinated to know that with respect to modernizing our health care system in Canada, it is not a binary question. It is not our system or the U.S. system. What about all those systems in Europe where for a lower price and less cost there are better health care outcomes? There are no, or small, waiting lines. There is better access to new technologies.

Canadians would be interested to know that we fall somewhere in the lower third of OECD countries in our ability to access modern technologies. Technologies and medicine are out there. Can Canadians get them? No. Why is the government not working with the provinces to look at best practices in Europe and bring them here to Canada?

Why do we not have a centre for best health care practices in our country? This is something for which I have been calling for a few years. The government could organize a centre for best health care practices, take the best ideas from around the world, bring them here to Canada and push those out.

One particular area that is important to my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, as it is to the country, is the health care of our Canadian Forces members and their families. They are suffering in silence, in part because of the situation in Afghanistan. We could set up a centre of excellence for health care for our Canadian Forces members and their families. In doing so, we would be more effective in addressing PTSD, preventing PTSD, dealing with the anxiety issues and psychological problems and other physical problems they have.

We look forward to having a strong debate in committee regarding Bill C-51.