House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. We will allow some additional time for the hon. member, but I want to remind the hon. member that it is the normal practice that we do not make reference to a member's absence or presence in the chamber in the normal course of debate. We will start again, and the member will be allowed the time accorded by the adjournment debate rules, as he normally would have had.

The hon. member for Scarborough Southwest.

7:30 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

My apologies, Mr. Speaker. I was making reference to the fact that the member was not paying attention.

I was asking about a jobs plan. That is really what is missing from the government's plan. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed Canadians are looking for work. As I mentioned in my statement a few minutes ago, many people have given up that job search. They have lost hope. They have stepped out of looking for jobs, which is certainly not helping the Canadian economy. It is not helping families to succeed. Yet, the government members do not even have the respect for Canadians, for Torontonians, or for other members of the House to actually pay attention when we are asking a question.

I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary why she does not have enough respect to actually listen to the questions being asked.

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us be very clear. The best way to escape poverty is to have a job. That is why this government has created over 700,000 net new jobs since the downturn of the economy. Our government provides almost $2.5 billion each year to provinces and territories to enable the delivery of critical services and supports to Canadian workers who need help making the transition to a new job. We also recognize that families are the most important building block of society. Our government provides over $14 billion per year to benefit families with children.

I should also state something specifically about the poverty rate which the member opposite has offered. The poverty rate for children has almost halved in recent years. The rate peaked at 18.4% in 1996 under the Liberal government and dropped to under 9.5% in 2009. We have also seen improved living conditions for these families who continue to live below the poverty line. We have made real progress in reducing poverty by providing jobs for Canadians.

7:30 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to comment on what the member has just said. The jobs that she talks about certainly will not cover the job losses that the Conservatives are going to add.

With respect to the issue I wish to talk about today, I hope to impress on the government that there is still work to do with respect to addiction in first nations communities. As the remainder of the black market OxyContin works its way through our first nations communities, there is still an opportunity for the government to assume its role seriously as the primary provider of health care for our first nations people. Once again, I will try to impress on the government that the way to deal with the problem is not by turning off the taps and adhering to a narrow ideological view.

Finally, I am also calling on the government to take action with regard to addictions, to treat them as seriously as it has treated other public health crises, such as H1N1.

In March, I asked what the government planned to do about the looming crisis that would hit places like Cat Lake First Nation, which was reporting an addiction rate of 70% to the drug which was being phased out. We know that the government had been warned time and again about the problem that was only growing in many first nations communities. I was merely repeating calls that had been made, very publicly, by officials of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. Chief Stan Beardy spoke honestly about the incredible rate of OxyContin addiction in northwestern Ontario. Despite the many warnings, the government sat on its hands. Health Canada only addressed the issue of legitimate prescriptions and not addiction.

Addiction is a moral issue. It is an issue as old as civilization. It will not bend to opinion. There are moral issues that attach themselves to addiction. Crime, violence and abuse are the obvious ones. However, at the very heart of the matter, it is an issue of health. The problems that lead to addiction will not disappear with the OxyContin supply. It is just not that easy. We know that when one drug supply dries up, those addicted look for other substances to fill the void.

In the current budget, there were significant cuts to agencies that could have helped deal with the issue of first nations' addictions.

I believe it is time for the government to consider the advice of Dr. Claudette Chase, a family doctor working in northern Ontario, who says that we need to treat the epidemic as if it is an epidemic. When it was H1N1, there were extra nurses and flu clinics all over the north. That model could be used again to stem the tide and help in the recovery process for those who are addicted.

In March, the Minister of Health accused me of fearmongering, leading many to wonder if the Conservative government would rather play petty partisan games or was actually that far out of touch.

I will ask again, will the government finally get off its hands and help our first nations communities deal with addiction?

7:35 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about our concerns regarding the abuse of prescription drugs in first nations communities.

I know that members of this House are also concerned about this issue. Our government takes the misuse of prescription drugs seriously. That is why we are working with other health partners to develop a targeted strategy to address this problem.

A few first nations communities struggle with various kinds of addictions. However, first nations leaders and communities are expressing particular concern over the ripple effects from the recent decision by Purdue Pharma to cease distribution of OxyContin and replace it with OxyNEO. The reason behind this is that, unlike OxyContin, OxyNEO cannot be abused as the capsule is in a gel form.

Through the non-insured health benefits, NIHB, program, we will continue to ensure that first nations and Inuit clients who received coverage for OxyContin during the three months prior to February 15 will continue to receive coverage for OxyNEO. Any new requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and coverage may be granted in exceptional circumstances, such as for individuals with cancer or palliative pain.

Changes to the listing status of long-acting oxycodone under the NIHB program are consistent with the changes made in the public drug plans for the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Some individuals who obtained OxyContin illegally or through multiple sources may experience withdrawal if it becomes harder to obtain OxyContin.

Department officials from Health Canada will continue to work with first nations leadership and the provinces to ensure short-term stabilization as well as monitoring of individuals going through opioid withdrawal. This support is in addition to the care offered by provincially funded treatment facilities.

We are also addressing the abuse of prescription drugs by funding community substance abuse treatment programs. We are investing close to $90 million a year to support a network of 58 drug and alcohol addiction treatment centres and prevention services that benefit close to 550 first nation and Inuit communities throughout Canada.

Working in co-operation with first nations, various Health Canada programs fund a variety of projects. Other treatments for drug dependency are also available.

The NIHB program provides coverage for methadone and Suboxone for the substitution treatment of opioid dependency. Suboxone is available for clients who are unable to take methadone due to life-threatening adverse reactions, such as a serious cardiac reaction to the drugs.

The NIHB program will also review requests for Suboxone from health providers on a case-by-case basis to help ensure first nations and Inuit clients who may not have access to methadone treatment can safely access substitution treatment without leaving their community.

Between December 7, 2011 and May 8, 2012, the NIHB program has approved 95% of the requests received for Suboxone coverage. When looking specifically at the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, the program has approved 99% of the requests received with the remainder pending receipt of further information.

I would like to assure the House that Health Canada will continue to monitor and address this ongoing problem.

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, it is obvious that the Conservatives do not realize how bad the crisis is, and they continue to shirk their responsibility when it comes to aboriginal health.

This spring, the Minister of Health refused to meet with the community in Cat Lake. Now there is an opportunity to fix that snub.

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation has specific proposals that are worth considering, and I will paraphrase them.

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation would like to have culturally relevant and community-based treatment for drug addiction using their own effective strategies and models; in community recovery programs to rebuild families and communities while addressing the root causes of addiction; improved security and policing resources to reduce the supply of drugs into their territory; and appropriate economic development and education that will bring an element of hope to the young population for a brighter and more productive future.

Once again, I need to ask the question and I hope I will get an answer. Will the Conservative government work with communities like those in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation?

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I cannot believe the hypocrisy of the NDP. Each time we try to work with first nations communities and put money aside in the budget, what do the NDP members do? They vote against it.

The member said earlier that we are making cuts to the health transfers to the provinces and territories. Actually, we are making a 6% increase per year, but each time we do that, the NDP votes against it.

It is our government that takes the misuse of prescription drugs seriously, and we are taking action. The pharmaceutical company that produces OxyContin, made a decision to cease distribution of that product and to replace it with OxyNEO, which is particularly harder to abuse because it is in a gel capsule.

Our NIHB program will automatically approve clients previously claiming OxyContin to use OxyNEO. Being mindful of the health and safety of Canadians, individuals should always consult their medical professionals and follow their directions.

However, individuals obtaining OxyContin from illegal sources may be affected when the drug is removed from the market. We will ensure that primary care supports are in place for short-term stabilization and monitoring of individuals who are going through opiate withdrawal.

Our government provides $90 million annually for addictions programming, including funding to support a network of treatment centres for first nations. We will continue to fund prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment supports and services.

We hope that one day the NDP will actually take the issue seriously and help support first nations people and vote with the government for these very important programs.

7:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been withdrawn. The House will now resolve itself into committee of the whole for the purpose of considering all votes under National Defence in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.

I do now leave the chair for the House to resolve itself into committee of the whole.

(Consideration in committee of the whole of all votes under National Defence in the main estimates, Ms. Denise Savoie in the chair)

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

I would like to open this session of committee of the whole by making a short statement.

Tonight's debate is being held under Standing Order 81(4)(a) which provides for each of two sets of estimates selected by the Leader of the Opposition to be considered in committee of the whole for up to four hours.

For some members, this may be the first time they participate in such a debate. Therefore, I would like to explain how we will proceed.

Tonight's debate is a general one on all of the votes under National Defence. The first round will begin with the usual rotation, with the official opposition followed by the government and the Liberal Party. After that, we will follow the usual proportional rotation.

Each member will be allocated 15 minutes at a time, which may be used both for debate and for posing questions. Should members wish to use this time to make a speech, it can last a maximum of 10 minutes, leaving at least 5 minutes for questions to the minister.

When a member is recognized, he or she should indicate to the Chair how the 15 minute period will be used, in other words, what portion will be used for speeches and what portions for questions and answers.

Members should also note that they will need the unanimous consent of the House if they wish to split their time with another member.

When the time is to be used for questions and answers, the Chair will expect that the minister's response will reflect approximately the time taken by the question, since this time will be counted in the time originally allotted to the member.

Though members may speak more than once, the Chair will generally try to ensure that all members wishing to speak are heard before inviting members to speak again, while respecting the proportional party rotations for speakers.

Members need not be in their own seats to be recognized.

As your Chair, I shall be guided by the rules of the committee of the whole. However, in the interest of a full exchange, I am prepared to exercise discretion and flexibility in the application of these rules. The Chair will expect all hon. members to focus on the subject matter of the debate, the main estimates of the Department of National Defence.

I also wish to indicate that in committee of the whole, ministers and members should be referred to by their title or riding name and all remarks should, as usual, be addressed through the Chair.

I ask for everyone's co-operation in upholding the established standards to parliamentary language and behaviour.

At the conclusion of tonight's debate, the committee will rise, the estimates under National Defence will be deemed reported and the House will adjourn immediately until tomorrow.

We will now begin tonight's session of the House in committee of the whole pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(a), the first appointed day, consideration in the committee of the whole of all votes under National Defence in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.

For the first comment, or statement, the hon. member for St. John's East.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Chair, I am happy to begin the evening's activities by using my time to ask questions. We have a lot of questions and I will not be speechifying.

I would like to start by asking the minister if he could deal with the section of the Auditor General's most recent report on the F-35s. In paragraph 254 of the report, it states that in 2008 the minister's department took an options analysis of three contending aircraft for the replacement of the F-18, based against high level mandatory capabilities and concluded that all three of the aircraft that were tested met the high level mandatory capabilities.

Could the minister confirm that this was the case and tell us what the other two aircraft were, because I understand the F-35 was one of the three?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

7:45 p.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Madam Chair, the situation with respect to the F-35, we are being guided by the findings and the recommendation made by the Auditor General. It is our intent to engage the secretariat. We have already done so.

With respect to the going forward plan, we have a seven point strategic plan of action. The answers to most of these items will be forthcoming once the secretariat does its work.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Chair, I would like to ask the minister, who was minister at the time in 2008, if could he confirm that the Eurofighter and the Boeing Super Hornet were the other two aircraft, as has been reported in the press.

Perhaps the minister who was minister at the time in 2008 could answer that question.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Vaughan, ON

Madam Chair, I am happy to assist the hon. member opposite. Again, no decisions have been made with respect to the selection of a replacement for the aging CF-18 aircraft. That work will be forthcoming once we have the secretariat's findings with respect to the issues that the Auditor General brought forward in his recommendations to that effect.

Decisions with respect to replacement aircraft for those CF-18 will be made at that time.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Chair, could the minister tell us whether any documentation was provided to the Minister of Defence, who was minister at the time, supporting the conclusions made by the Department of National Defence that the F-35 provided the lowest cost and unparalleled benefits for the Canadian aerospace industry?