Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking about Bill C-277, an act for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada. I will be supporting this bill at second reading.
The New Democrats have a dedicated history of supporting and advocating for a pan-Canadian palliative care strategy to deliver end-of-life services for Canadians. Now, more than ever, our advocacy is needed. As Canada's aging population puts unique stresses on our medical system, it is increasingly important that we have a coherent strategy for palliative and end-of-life care across Canada. This is an issue that touches every Canadian and leaves an impact on every single family.
When we have good options for palliative care, we can ease the many burdens of families so they are able to make these difficult transitions. When services are fragmented, too many people fall through the cracks right when they need the support the most.
Only 16% to 30% of Canadians today who require formalized end-of-life care have access to it. This is an extremely concerning figure. It means that the majority of Canadians who have spent their lives working hard, contributing to our economy, raising families, building communities, and working towards creating a Canada that we can all be proud of will not have the end-of-life care they deserve. Even fewer Canadians receive grief and bereavement services.
The time to act on this issue is long overdue. It is said that the mortality rate will increase by 33% by 2020, making the need for palliative care an urgent one, even more so within the context of the legalization of physician-assisted dying. The provision of high-quality palliative care services is all the more important, as it provides meaningful options for end-of-life decisions.
Currently, nearly 25% of the total cost of palliative care is borne by families, and significant disparities remain across Canada with respect to access to end-of-life care, quality of care, and those out-of-pocket expenses. At least 50% of hospice palliative care services are funded by charitable donations, which continues to restrict the size, scope, and access Canadians have to palliative programs.
Very few Canadian provinces have designated hospice palliative care as a core service under their provincial health plans, and in the remaining provinces, hospice palliative care may be included in provincial home care budgets or other health service budgets, leaving the funding vulnerable to redistribution and cuts. We must have a national strategy that can protect the palliative care of Canadians who have access to it, expand access to care for Canadians who do not have it, and improve the quality and affordability of care for all.
On average, it is estimated that Canadians spend 54 hours per week caring for a dying loved one at home. For most people, this is simply not feasible. Most people in my community need to work to support themselves and their families. Currently, family caregivers provide more than 80% of care to their loved ones, which takes an economic toll on them personally.
If the government provided support to an end-of-life strategy and replaced these family caregivers with specific palliative care professionals trained to provide the proper type of care for those who are at the end of their lives, it would take a huge financial strain off of our more expensive acute and emergency care facilities.
A national strategy for palliative care would also have positive effects on families across Canada beyond the financial costs. End-of-life care is a difficult and emotional time for families. Studies overwhelmingly suggest that women are more often affected as they tend to be the primary caregivers within families. The mental and physical strain of acting as a caregiver is linked to societal expectation of women to provide a greater degree of care at the end of life for family members.
I, like many others in the House, have a personal experience with this exact scenario. My 94-year-old grandmother, the matriarch of our family, Mary Murphy, passed away on October 22 this year. She was fortunate to have been in long-term care, but could not be placed in hospice care due to a lack of space.
My grandmother was blessed to have five angels, daughters who were selfless caregivers to help her through her end-of-life journey; and my mother, Linda, and her four sisters, Nancy, Janet, Kathy, and Debbie. Our family is eternally grateful to them for putting their lives on hold to ensure that my grandmother's dignity and comfort in her last days was a top priority. However, I cannot help but think of what hospice care options could have been provided to my family during this difficult time.
By supporting this legislation at second reading, we can promote a fuller discussion about the familial and gendered ramifications for a palliative care strategy.
The NDP has repeatedly called for the betterment of end-of-life care. On October 31, 2013, the member of Parliament for Timmins—James Bay, introduced Motion No. 456, which called for the establishment of a palliative and end-of-life care strategy. His motion called for the federal government to work in conjunction with the provinces and territories on a flexible and integrated model of palliative care. The motion passed with nearly unanimous support the following year, on May 28, 2014.
It is frustrating to once again have to advocate for something we all know Canadians would greatly benefit from. The government has made no substantial progress on this file, and this bill seems to essentially replicate the initiatives taken by the NDP nearly three years ago. It was the New Democrats who called for the dignity of Canadians at the end of their lives. The initiative for a pan-Canadian palliative strategy is an NDP one, not only due to the replication of Motion No. 456, but also due to the continued advocacy the New Democrats have given this issue.
Sadly, as we may recall, the Conservatives cut the national secretariat on palliative end-of-life care in 2006. For nearly 10 years, no action to implement a new strategy was taken. Although we continue to talk about moving forward for families and those needing a comprehensive national strategy for end-of-life care, Canadian families need action on this issue. I was pleased to hear the member indicate that the Conservatives will support this initiative.
I was proud of the work of my NDP colleague, the member for Victoria, during the meetings held by the special joint committee regarding the Carter decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. The member for Victoria fought hard to bring forward palliative care provisions to create a properly funded pan-Canadian strategy of palliative and end-of-life care, and to re-establish Health Canada's secretariat on palliative care.
The Standing Committee on Justice unanimously passed NDP amendments on palliative care, which were added to the preamble of the bill. While I was happy to know that our amendments were included, ultimately I was disappointed, as the preamble did not hold as much legal weight as the actual text of the legislation.
I would also like to remind this place that although we fought to incorporate palliative care into the Liberal majority joint committee report on physician-assisted dying, I was surprised to find this year's federal budget contained zero federal funds earmarked for palliative care. The budget this spring and the update this fall simply failed to deliver on these concrete recommendations.
Although my NDP colleagues have done so much work to bring forward a national strategy for palliative and end-of-life care, both in previous and within this current Parliament, neither the former Conservative government nor the current Liberal has government has helped those Canadians needing this essential care provision.
I believe it is common for us all to think we have more time. Especially when I was younger, I could not imagine planning into next month, let alone planning for my senior years, or thinking about my own end-of-life care. However, as I get a little older and I see family members and loved ones around me age, I hope I also get a little wiser. Part of that growing wisdom is acknowledging that as a community and as a nation, we need a vision and a plan.
People in Essex have told me that they believe in comprehensive health care systems, which include home care, long-term care and palliative care. In this vision and plan, it is vital that the government take into account Canada's vast diversity. Across the country, from urban to rural, Canadians have different needs, influences, and preferences to take into consideration when designing and implementing an end-of-life care plan. It must also respect the cultural, spiritual, and familial needs of all Canadians, including Canada's first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
This is bigger than any of us individually. It is bigger than any of our individual parties. It is a moment when we have to try to work together to have that vision. I would like to think that we can stand together in the House, and do just that. Our worth as a society is measured by the support we give to those members who are most vulnerable. Let us provide them with more than just words and hyperbole. Let us work together to put forward a comprehensive pan-Canadian palliative and end-of-life care strategy that works for everyone.