Public Health Agency of Canada Act

An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Tony Clement  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment establishes the Public Health Agency of Canada to assist the Minister of Health in exercising or performing the Minister’s powers, duties and functions in relation to public health. It also provides that the Governor in Council may make regulations respecting the collection and management of public health information and the protection of confidential information, including personal information. It also makes related and consequential amendments to certain Acts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 20, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
May 8, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

June 19th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Chair, with regard to the planning for the agenda in the fall, I would be prepared to see an early scheduling of a briefing from the department on Bill C-57. As for further meetings on Bill C-57, I would like to see that matter referred to the planning committee before those meetings are scheduled. I think the planning committee would need to meet early when we return to discuss the specifics of our schedule in the fall. At this point, I'm not prepared to say that Bill C-57 should be the first or our primary work in the fall, especially given the fact that the government has delayed giving us a briefing now, when we could have been working on it this week.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, I assume the member is talking about the virus C difficile.

In any case, the government has taken significant steps to ensure the public health of Canadians is protected. We have approved and expedited the Quarantine Act which was reviewed at the health committee in the previous Parliament.

More than that, we brought forward Bill C-5, the Public Health Agency of Canada Act, which I believe was the first bill the government voted on and approved. It brings into play many protections for Canadians, not the least of which is a chief public health officer who has the powers of a deputy minister and is the head of the Public Health Agency, as well as Canada's chief public health authority. He is able to provide direction, not only to government but to the public with a credible scientific background.

Moreover, the member raised the issue of SARS. We are very fortunate in this country to have a health minister who was actually the health minister in Ontario at the time of the SARS crisis. He also has a very unique background of being not only a provincial health minister but now the federal health minister. He certainly understands the issue of public health, the challenges of SARS and other similar potential public health emergencies.

The minister has been able to create an environment between the provinces, territories and the federal government that is very conducive to bridge building with all the communities and stakeholders necessary to ensure that Canada has the best public health protection possible.

September 25th, 2006 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

I'd love to get into the discussions around the minimum wage, but I think we're going to have to take a whole day to do that.

One of the comments I have is for Mr. Gordon, which would obviously lead into a question. First, I was interested in the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness quote you used from the former president. It certainly makes me think about what we're doing in Afghanistan right now. I know we're not here to talk about that, but I certainly will keep that in mind in terms of the debate around emergency preparedness and what we need to do to prevent things like that from happening in our country.

One of the earliest pieces of legislation this government moved was Bill C-5, which actually implemented, under the direction of Dr. David Butler-Jones, the Canadian Public Health Association. A big part of their responsibilities--and he reports directly to the Minister of Health--is emergency preparedness, prevention, and being proactive with respective to any type of pandemic that might hit the country, as it did somewhat with the SARS outbreak.

I wonder what your relationship is with the CPHO and if that relationship actually has a strength that can be bonded.

Public Health Agency of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2006 / 10:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is obviously a great pleasure for me to speak on Bill C-5, An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts.

As you know, this agency has been in operation since the fall of 2004, but there was no legislation giving it the powers and responsibilities that it currently exercises. Accordingly, the bill we are considering today proposes, finally, to give powers to the new Public Health Agency of Canada.

Like my colleague, I hope that the Conservative members who were elected in Quebec on a platform of respecting areas of jurisdiction will vote against this bill.

When the former Liberal government created the Public Health Agency of Canada, it assigned it the mandate of ensuring that Canada was connected at the national and global levels, in health matters, and that there was a network responsible for disease control and emergency response. As well, the federal agency has as its mission to focus on more effective efforts to prevent chronic diseases, like cancer and heart disease, prevent injuries, and respond to public health emergencies and infectious disease outbreaks, as well as providing for other federal public health initiatives.

Clearly, when the Liberals established the Public Health Agency of Canada, they were once again confirming that they did not respect Quebec’s difference, by interfering massively in an area under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. By creating this agency, the federal government is showing its arrogance with regard to the powers of Quebec and the provinces, and insolently denying the unique aspects of the health care system of Quebec, which is solely responsible for managing health care within its borders.

It is important to point out that while this was an initiative of the former Liberal government, the new Conservative government has decided to reintroduce the same bill. It is now number C-5. By bringing forward the same bill as the Liberals, the Conservative government shares the vision of the federal Liberal Party: Ottawa knows best, and Ottawa will impose that on the entire country.

Just as the Liberal government used the fiscal imbalance it had itself created, as my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville was saying, to continue interfering in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces by using its spending power, so the Conservative government now seems to be continuing that tactic for the same purposes.

This new government, however, claims in its speeches that it is practising open federalism that respects the jurisdictions of the provinces. It is not respecting Quebec when it brings forward a bill like this. The discrepancies between word and deed are glaringly obvious.

Plainly, and contrary to what it has said since it was elected, the Conservative government is not reluctant about invading areas under Quebec’s jurisdiction, like health. It is as intrusive as the Liberals. Since it is a more right-wing government, we might even be more worried by this.

In my opinion, Bill C-5 raises a number of concerns that explain why we oppose it.

Not only does it have an arrogant attitude towards Quebec and the provinces, but the federal government has created a new health structure. The Conservative government must know that since 1998, Quebec has had its own national public health institute, and it does not need a new federal agency. Since it was created, Quebec’s Institut national de santé publique has monitored pubic health trends, prepared prevention programs for the Quebec public and advised the Government of Quebec when the government is developing new health programs.

So it already does what the Public Health Agency of Canada is supposed to do under this bill.

The Bloc Québécois feels that since the Government of Quebec has the expertise and deals with the institutions in the health care system, it is the government that should determine the priorities and develop action plans in its own territory, making them compatible with the global objectives developed by the World Health Organization, for example.

For 20 years I worked in the health care system as a social worker. I was therefore able to see for myself all the skill and expertise that Quebec’s public health care system brings to preventing and dealing with epidemics, for example, through vaccination campaigns against meningitis, as we had a few years ago, in which the CLSCs did a tremendous job, or all the prevention and intervention programs developed by the CLSCs, community organizations and hospitals. We have the necessary health care expertise and do not need the federal government to interfere.

I saw that Quebec’s strategy was very effective and, most importantly, met the needs of Quebeckers. I do not think, therefore, that there is any need for this new agency. It will only duplicate what is already being done by Quebec and the provinces, in particular by the Institut national de la santé publique du Québec.

Instead of interfering in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, this new government should set as its priority the provision of adequate funding for health. Duplicating a system that already exists in Quebec is not the way to solve the central problem of our health care system, that is to say, under-funding.

If the federal government really wants to help improve our health care system, it should fix the fiscal imbalance instead and give Quebec and the provinces the means they need to develop and further improve the services they provide their populations in their areas of jurisdiction and ensure that, when it comes to health, their populations have the tools they need to deal with the new challenge facing public health care.

By its massive cuts to health transfers in the 1990s, the federal government endangered Quebec’s health care system. It is obvious that the cruel cuts to federal transfers helped destabilize the system because the Government of Quebec finds itself now in a financial situation that makes long-term planning very difficult.

Our health network in Quebec is under enormous pressure. Our aging population requires more and more hospital care, surgery, geriatric services and cancer services, not to mention home care provided by the CLSCs and proximal care provided by our community organizations. We need funding for our health network.

Instead of creating an agency that already exists in Quebec and can provide services tailored to Quebeckers' needs, despite underfunding problems, the federal government should quickly correct the fiscal imbalance so that the provinces can develop their respective networks to ensure that their citizens will be well served. The people in Quebec and the other provinces are entitled to health services, not duplicated programs and repeated interference.

The House resumed from June 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts, be read the third time and passed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts, be read the third time and passed.

The House resumed from June 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts, be read the third time and passed.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-5, An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

The House resumed from May 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Public Health Agency of Canada ActGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2006 / 10 a.m.
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Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on Bill C-5, An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts.

I have some serious concerns about Bill C-5.

I was a social worker in Quebec's health and social services network. For the past three years, I worked in a nursing home and long-term care facility for the elderly. Such facilities have a high risk of influenza and other viral epidemics. I found that the regional public health authority acted competently and expertly to prevent and respond to epidemics. I am convinced that Quebec's response strategy is effective and rigorous, and that it meets the needs of Quebeckers.

Given that the Government of Quebec has the expertise and works with all parts of the Quebec health network, the Bloc Québécois believes that the provincial government should establish its own priorities and create its own action plan according to world-wide objectives developed by organizations like the WHO.

I do not share the opinion of a certain colleague from another part that Canada cannot have 13 different strategies and action plans. I believe that every province can create its own plan that corresponds to the particular activities and characteristics of its territory, particularly regarding prevention strategies for problems such as obesity, diabetes and injuries.

I do not believe that creating or changing the status of the current agency to coordinate the action of the provinces is necessary. I am not saying it is not necessary to coordinate what the provinces are doing in matters of public health. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health said, viruses do not have boundaries.

It is important to protect the health of our citizens. However, I wonder about the means proposed and described in Bill C-5. In this bill, we see that the agency will have its own portfolio and that the main administrator will be accountable to the Minister of Health while still remaining impartial and non-partisan.

The detachment of the Public Health Agency of Canada from Health Canada worries me. I fear that significant amounts of money will be allocated to that agency rather than be transferred to Quebec and the provinces, which have jurisdiction over this.

Quebec has to be able to fund its priorities in prevention and health promotion. These priorities may not be the same elsewhere, in all the other provinces.

Having worked in Quebec's health and social services network, I have seen that the application of “wall to wall” programs does not always help in achieving objectives. This centralist formula being imposed on us is far from being unanimously accepted in Quebec.

The Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, said in January 2004, on the matter of the possible implementation of the Public Health Agency of Canada that:

Quebec ... has created its own structures in these two areas and they work. They will work with those that will be created, but duplication is out of the question—

That is precisely what the government is proposing to us today: duplication of services to the public because, once again, it is interfering in one of Quebec's jurisdictions.

The federal government keeps bringing in more structures in the area of health. After the National Forum on Health in the 1990s and the Health Council of Canada, now they are adding the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The Bloc Québécois, together with the Quebec government, objects to the federal government's desire to interfere with health care in Quebec. How the Quebec government organizes and provides care and establishes priorities for health care and social services is strictly its business.

This does not rule out cooperation and coordination among the provinces.

Consider the contradictions of this Conservative government, which says one thing then proposes to do the opposite.

In a speech on May 1, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, citing the Speech from the Throne, said, “The government is committed to building a better federation in which governments come together to help Canadians realize their potential”. However, barely two weeks ago, his boss, the Prime Minister and only official spokesperson for the government, stated that the only federalism he would engage in would be open federalism, federalism that respects the areas of provincial jurisdiction and in which the federal government's spending power is monitored.

Thus, in order to make this Conservative concept of open, cooperative federalism a reality, we are presented with a Liberal bill, a bill that comes directly from a government that Canadians removed from power during the last election. This Liberal bill allows Ottawa to interfere once again in an area of jurisdiction that belongs to Quebec and the provinces, this time under the guise of public health.

To justify this interference, reference is made to the SARS crisis that hit the Toronto area in 2003. In his remarks to this House, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health said that the SARS crisis “launched an important discussion and debate about the state of public health in Canada”. That is true, he is absolutely right. However, he forgot to mention that, at the time, all stakeholders in Quebec agreed that, had this crisis hit Quebec instead of Ontario, it would never have developed to the extent it did in Toronto. Why? Because Quebec's public health services already had an action plan in place for use in the event of such an emergency in that jurisdiction. Not only did Quebec have an action plan, but the human resources required had also been defined. That is why.

As an aside, I noted in my research that Ontario has just received, in March 2006, a report recommending that it set up its own public health agency, something similar to Quebec's Institut national de la santé publique.

In a nutshell, it is because Quebec has put in place what is needed to face this kind of situation and because Quebec minds its own business, which we would very much like the federal government to do.

By espousing this Liberal legislation, the Conservative government is espousing at the same time the Liberal vision of Canada: Ottawa knows best and will impose its will from sea to sea.

How will a new agency or specific entity, call it what you want, with offices across the country help us deal with any potential flu epidemic? What will it change in real, concrete terms? I would like to know.

We have no problem with the federal Department of Health instituting prevention and emergency response measures in its areas of responsibility, such as screening at the border. Not at all, that is its job. But to have the federal government establish an agency and spend public money on a new structure duplicating one that already exists and is working well, that is a problem.

The government repeated over and over during oral question period that it is committed to the interests of taxpayers. This is a fine opportunity to show concern for them by using their money efficiently and effectively.

Can someone explain to me what exactly the staff of the new agency will do in the offices in Quebec that employees of the health department cannot do here in Ottawa?

I would like an answer to that question.

How will information on new public health threats be any better coordinated with the creation of the public health agency than it is now with the health department, whose job it is to coordinate this information? I would also like an answer to that question.

The Conservative government plans to set up a new entity, separate it from the health department, give it substantial funding and personnel and set up an office in Quebec and the other provinces, all in order “to identify and reduce public health risk factors”, as the preamble states.

I cannot stress enough that the fiscal imbalance is the cause of the biggest public health risk factor in Quebec: overcrowded emergency rooms. The proliferation of resistant nosocomial bacteria such as C. difficile in some hospitals is one of the biggest threats to public health in Quebec.

To address these problems, the Government of Quebec does not need a new federal agency in Quebec, it needs money. The problem is that the provinces and Quebec have the health and social services needs, but Ottawa has the money. The government should stop creating new structures. Quebec and the provinces are cooperating already. Quebec coordinates with the other provinces on public health. I do not think that creating a new agency will make things any better.

We have the federal government to thank for Quebec's underfunded health services. By its actions, the current federal government is doing everything it can to take up where the previous government left off. Emergency rooms will not become less crowded overnight. In my opinion, in addition to recycling a Liberal bill, the Conservative government is clearly also recycling the arrogance of the previous government, which tried only to penetrate further into areas of Quebec and provincial jurisdiction.

I would like to clarify another point. The preamble to Bill C-5 states that “the Government of Canada wishes to promote cooperation and consultation in the field of public health with provincial and territorial governments”. In his speech yesterday, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health added that his government plans to strengthen its collaboration with municipal governments. While he was on the topic, why did he not tell us right away that the next step—under the guise of cooperation and consultation— would be direct interference in the administration of health facilities? Let us not forget that history repeats itself.

Let us talk about health services for aboriginals, which fall under federal jurisdiction. Services provided to first nations communities cannot be considered adequate, to say the least. This government should tread carefully; look where meddling in other people's affairs got the previous government.

The Bloc Québécois is committed to supporting the other parties in this House on issues that are in Quebec's interest. The government again plans to duplicate services and create a new structure whose only purpose in Quebec would be to spend public moneys for no good reason. We cannot support that.

That reminds me of the two anti-tobacco campaigns aired recently in Quebec.

In Quebec a campaign was launched to help people wanting to quit smoking by giving them the tools and a service to help them in this endeavour. While this was going on, the federal government flooded the Quebec media with ads giving a different message with a different telephone number and different contact information on the same issue. What wonderful collaboration and use of public funds.

In closing, I want to make one last point on the issue of direct communication with the public. In Bill C-5 respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada, it stipulates that the chief public health officer “may communicate with the public, voluntary organizations in the public health field or the private sector for the purpose of providing information, or seeking their views, about public health issues”.

It is quite clear that with its independent administration and its offices spread out here and there, this agency will end up justifying its presence by regularly implementing communication plans for all Canadians, including those in Quebec. It seems clear to me that this type of duplication is counter-productive. It is not what citizens and taxpayers want. In any case, it is not the wish of the people of Beauharnois—Salaberry, whom I represent in this House.

I would like to draw your attention to a more specific aspect. I read and listened to various speeches by colleagues in this House. There was a great deal of discussion about health prevention in terms of epidemics and pandemics. However, I noticed that there was less discussion about health promotion. An expert in this area knows that it is important for local communities to identify their problems and to find solutions that will work in their areas.

Take obesity, for example. In my area, we decided to fight child obesity by approaching cafeterias in secondary schools, convincing them to offer more nutritious foods, and thus help youth develop better eating habits. We did not talk to youth about diet or try to make them feel guilty. In terms of promotion, we know that individuals are not always solely responsible for their health given that their environment and everything around them also have an impact.

In Quebec, we have made choices. There are campaigns to prevent obesity, to reduce the number of low birth weight babies, and others. We have our own way of communicating with our communities and, what is important, we have a decentralized approach. Each community can promote and work on improving the health of Quebeckers. This is done at the local level. Naturally, everyone does not just do what they want, leading to chaos. We are bound and guided by broad directives issued by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec. It provides instructions and directives to each of the 16 regional branches in Quebec.

This is my first speech in the House and I would like to conclude by stating that I hope to discuss my concerns with the parliamentary secretary. Above all, I would like to impress on him that we believe that the public health agency, as proposed, is not the best means to protect and promote the health of Quebeckers and Canadians.

The House resumed from May 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts be read the second time and referred to a committee.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

The House resumed from May 1 consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts, be now read the second time and referred to committee.

Public Health Agency of Canada ActGovernment Orders

May 1st, 2006 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

moved that Bill C-5, An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.