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Evidence of meeting #34 for Health in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was know.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Glenda Yeates  Deputy Minister, Department of Health
David Butler-Jones  Chief Public Health Officer, Public Health Agency of Canada
Jane Aubin  Chief Scientific Officer and Vice-President of Research, Canadian Institutes of Health Research

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Thank you, and thank you for participating last night in the debate.

Reversing the trend in childhood obesity is very important. The World Health Organization declared last year that obesity is a global epidemic now—not tomorrow—today.

As you've mentioned, it will require action from all sectors of society, all levels of government, the private industry, the communities, the families, and individuals. I'm very happy to say that all these groups were at the summit I hosted this past month.

We recognize that we all have to work together, and that was the key point at the summit. I am therefore happy to say that Canada's ministers of health made the commitment to also work together with other sectors of society to address the issue of obesity.

The summit was another important step in creating the conditions that will help children, youth, and their families achieve healthy weights. It was an important step in continuing our efforts to take action across sectors to reduce childhood obesity in Canada. It followed the dialogue held last year, “Our Health Our Future: A National Dialogue on Healthy Weights”, which engaged Canadians in a conversation about approaches to tackling the obesity challenges we face.

The summit also challenged us all to think outside the box. We laid out the foundation of new ways to promote healthy weights. We owe it to our children and our youth to give them the healthiest possible start in life. This conference was historic, but I can say that there are great initiatives occurring across the country, in partnership with provincial and territorial ministries, in addressing the epidemic of obesity that we are seeing in Canada. This conference was the first of its kind to address that very important issue.

Thank you.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Thank you very much.

I'd like to now share my time with Mr. Brown.

March 13th, 2012 / 9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Minister, a few years ago we had a chance to meet an individual from Barrie by the name of Derek Walton, who had been living with ALS for eight years. I know that Derek is part of a growing number of Canadians who have neurological disorders. The Rising Tide report from the Alzheimer Society certainly illustrated that neurological disorders are becoming a greater challenge for our health care system every year.

I know that I was impressed, as I think most parliamentarians were, by the $100 million brain trust that this government announced. Could you outline a little bit what that brain trust will mean for our battle against neurological disorders in Canada?

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Thank you for your question.

As you know, this is Brain Awareness Week. I'm very pleased to speak on our efforts to support brain research. This government understands the importance of brain research for the one in three Canadians who will be affected by a mental disease or disorder in their lifetime.

Diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and spinal cord injury lead to a profound deterioration in quality of life. Equally important, they have a profound impact on patients' families as well as caregivers. We are committed to supporting research and initiatives to continue the research for new treatment, prevention, and cures. We are committed to supporting initiatives that could eventually relieve social and economic burdens and relieve suffering.

The CIHR makes significant investments in neuroscience and mental health research. For its part, the Public Health Agency of Canada adds to the understanding of brain disease and mental disorders by also administering the national population study on neurological conditions.

Canada is regarded as a leader in neuroscience. We've signed an international MOU with France, Germany, and the U.K. on Alzheimer's research. Our universities pursue world-class and cutting-edge research. Our NGOs, such as Brain Canada, are establishing a strong infrastructure to support research in this area. But we also understand that more can be done.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

I assume I have a little bit more time, Madam Chair?

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

No, your time is pretty well up. Thank you, Mr. Brown.

We'll now go into our five-minute second round.

We'll begin with Ms. Quach, for five minutes.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I thank the Minister of Health for being here this morning to discuss supplementary estimates (C).

I would also like to thank her for having participated in the emergency debate suggested by my colleague Libby Davies, the debate which took place yesterday, on the drug shortage. However, the debate turned out to be rather sterile, since the government seems to want to avoid any responsibility in the matter. And yet, the Minister of Health stated that she wanted to work to accelerate the approval process for new suppliers, so as to help the provinces to make better decisions.

She claims to be proactive with regard to legislation, and yet the medication shortage is a recurring problem. In Quebec alone, according to data from the Institut national de l'excellence en santé et en services sociaux [institute for excellence in health and social services], in 2010, there were 116 shortages. So, we have a problem: there is no long-term plan. If there were one, it should include more regulation, which several provinces and health experts are clamouring for. Over the past few days, they have spoken to the media, both the anglophone and francophone media, from one end of the country to the other.

It is important to point out that in her opening statement, Madam Minister states that “providing Canadians with the information they need to make healthy decisions for their loved ones is key to optimum population health”. And yet, the blame is constantly being put on the provinces and on companies, whereas the federal government has the responsibility to protect health and ensure the safety of treatments, and find tools to “strengthen the health care system”. Once again, that is taken from the minister's opening statement.

Currently, the federal government does not oblige pharmaceutical companies to report their stock decreases. It is clear that the voluntary system whereby they provide information on stocks is not at all producing the hoped-for results, since we are once again facing a shortage.

We know very well that fires or technical problems can occur in any kind of industry. All companies do not release that information regarding their stocks. They choose what information they release. Consequently, several provinces and health experts are unable to obtain information on time. The proof of that is that it took several months before people in Quebec knew about the production slowdown at the Sandoz plant.

Madam Minister, it seems to me that the time has come to take preventive action, rather than doing crisis management to handle events that occur on a regular basis, even if they are spontaneous. It seems to me that there ought to be permanent coordination between the provinces, the federal government, health experts and the suppliers of pharmaceutical products, in order to guarantee continuity in the production and supply chain.

What concrete measures do you intend to take to prevent further shortages? Is it not time to show leadership—that is being called for by everyone, everywhere—and bring in a mandatory information disclosure system, as well as adequate regulation of drugs?

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'm going to start off and then pass it on to my officials, who have been working with the provinces and territories and the industry to respond to the latest situation with Sandoz.

As I stated last night and in a number of conversations, we need to work in partnership with the provincial and territorial health ministers on this very issue. We cannot ignore the fact that the provinces and territories deliver health care. My job is to work with the jurisdictions to provide support in responding to the situation they find themselves in.

Through this process, as I stated last night when we started dealing with the issue of Sandoz, we provided to the provincial and territorial health ministries a list of companies in Canada that are already approved to produce the drugs Sandoz can no longer produce.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Minister, that is a very short-term solution.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

That information was provided to provinces and territories, and it's up to each jurisdiction to move forward to purchase them.

The other thing that needs to be made clear, again, is that the provinces and territories deliver health care. They provide services to their citizens. They know what drugs and products they use.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Yes, and the federal government has a responsibility to ensure the provision of health care.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

At the same time, they have a contract with industry to determine what those contracts are. I do not have access to the provinces' and territories' contracts with their drug suppliers, as to whether there's a provision in the contract or not.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

No, but you can create laws to protect the provinces from all of these shortages.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

If there's a provision in the contract for the industry to provide notice to the province when they're going to shut down production or slow down production or are not going to be able to provide drugs, that question needs to be answered by the provinces and territories. They have the contract. I do not. Our role has been to provide the support to the provinces and territories in identifying the other companies in Canada that they can go to. At the same time, we have a process in place within Health Canada as a regulator to be able to move very quickly on approving drugs in Canada, which may be a need for each jurisdiction.

A lot of work has gone into this process. I will have Paul Glover elaborate a bit more on that.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

I have a point of order, Madam Chair.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

Yes, Dr. Fry.

Sorry, Minister, my apologies.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Thank you very much.

Madam Chair, the minister has been kind enough to come here. The reason the minister is here is so she can answer questions put by this committee on issues that we consider to be of importance. I think it is inappropriate for the chair to continue to stop a member of this committee who feels that her question is not being answered and wishes to redirect the question—

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

It's probably not the answer you want to hear.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Madam Chair, the minister cannot respond if I'm making a point of order.

Listen, Madam Chair, I have not finished my point of order—

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

Dr. Fry, this is no point of order. I'm sorry, you are finished. This is not a point of order.

We'll now go to Ms. Block.

Ms. Block, you're next. Thank you.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I would like to welcome all of our guests here today as well as our minister. I'd like to thank you for the very good work you're doing on behalf of Canadians.

As you are aware, in the spring of 2010—

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

I have a point of order, Madam Chair. I brought up a point of order. I did not get a response from the chair—

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

With all due respect, you're talking over me, Dr. Fry—

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

If the chair is ruling me out of order, I would like to challenge the chair—

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

You do not have a point of order—