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

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Derek Walton  Member of Advocacy Committee, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Society of Canada
Galit Kleiner-Fisman  Neurologist and Movement Disorders Specialist, Baycrest Hospital
Deanna Groetzinger  Vice-President, Government Relations and Policy, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Marie Vaillant  Vice-Chair, Ontario Division Board of Directors, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Garth M. Bray  Chair, Scientific Advisory Committee, Neurological Health Charities Canada
Ian McDowell  Vice-Chair, Scientific Advisory Committee, Neurological Health Charities Canada

May 1st, 2012 / 10:25 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Good morning.

I’d like to speak to the subject raised earlier by Ms. Vaillant. Although the medical aspect of neurological conditions is quite interesting, this is a matter of provincial jurisdiction. I would like to know what the federal government can do to help those who suffer from a neurological condition or their caregiver families.

Ms. Vaillant mentioned earlier that there is a non-refundable family caregiver tax credit. She believes, as does her organization, that this credit should be refundable.

I’d like to ask other committee members if they agree, particularly in view of the fact that, as she mentioned in her brief presentation, 80% of individuals living with multiple sclerosis are unable to work and thus suffer a loss of revenue. Obviously, if the spouse is the caregiver, he or she must take time off from work to do so.

The NDP is aware that low-income families and even middle-class families cannot benefit from the tax credit. I would therefore ask other members if they agree that the family caregiver tax credit should be non-refundable.

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Libby Davies

Maybe what we could do is go down the panel. If each of you would like to respond quickly, we have about three minutes for a response.

Dr. McDowell and Dr. Bray haven't had a response yet, so if you would like to comment in terms of support for families and tax credits, feel free to add your voice, and then we'll hear from the others.

10:25 a.m.

Dr. Ian McDowell Vice-Chair, Scientific Advisory Committee, Neurological Health Charities Canada

It seems to make a whole lot of sense to me. When I was working on Alzheimer's disease, we did an intensive study on the costs to caregivers and collected national data on that. We were able to model it.

One of the advantages of the study that Dr. Bray described is that not only does it collect facts and figures about how many cases, but it also feeds those into the simulation modelling that allows us to model the impact of varying policy approaches to things such as caregiver support on an economic basis. That is an additional connection between the more basic science and clinical research and policy formation.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Libby Davies

Thank you.

Dr. Kleiner-Fisman, did you want to add anything?

10:30 a.m.

Neurologist and Movement Disorders Specialist, Baycrest Hospital

Dr. Galit Kleiner-Fisman

Absolutely. In fact, the figure that I had quoted in terms of $750 million, those were the direct costs. Nobody talks at all about the indirect costs, and that's one of the largest areas where there's a huge impact in terms of families.

Parkinson's is not just a disease of the elderly. In fact, it starts in some people in their thirties and forties, in the prime of their lives. There have been studies that have actually shown the near millions of dollars of lost income to the person living with Parkinson's, not to mention the fact that the caregiver has to take time off work. It's a natural assumption that the spouse would take care of the person. One of the major issues related to it, and it all ties in together in terms of depression and relationships between people, is the loss of income and the fact that people lose their sense of self, both the patient as well as the caregiver, who has to now stop his or her career also.

Absolutely, the support of caregivers is key. In the Rising Tide report, that was one of the priorities with regard to Alzheimer's disease.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Libby Davies

Does anyone from the MS Society want to add anything?

10:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations and Policy, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Deanna Groetzinger

No, we're fine.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Libby Davies

Then we'll go to Mr. Walton briefly. Mr. Walton, do you want to add anything about family reports?

10:30 a.m.

Member of Advocacy Committee, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Society of Canada

Derek Walton

Definitely. We totally agree with the direction that is being proposed.

ALS is a crippling financial burden on families. It has no boundaries. Therefore, ALS clients quite often have to give up work and the caregiver obviously needs tax benefits.

Yes, definitely, we concur.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Libby Davies

Dr. Morin, you have just about half a minute left.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Very well.

I’d like to mention a Manitoba government initiative, the inter-generational home forgivable loan program. Each year, this program has the potential to help up to 200,000 families add a second living area to their home in order to accommodate an elderly parent.

Are you aware of this program? Do you think this is a good way to help families take care of their loved ones?

10:30 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Libby Davies

Very briefly, please--like, ten seconds.

10:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations and Policy, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Deanna Groetzinger

Okay.

Our Manitoba division of the MS Society has been working very closely with the Manitoba government on a number of other initiatives regarding caregivers. I think Manitoba has done some great leadership in that area.

Thank you.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Libby Davies

Thank you very much.

Mr. Lizon.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Welcome to all the witnesses, and thank you.

My first question is on MS treatment. The Zamboni treatment was discussed here this morning, and actually it's been discussed for a while. Where are we in finding, or trying to find, the cause of the disease? Of course treating the condition is one thing, but I think the key to success would be finding a cause. Associated with this would be early detection of the symptoms, or really of the disease. That would probably greatly help in stopping the progression of the disease.

This is to whoever wants to address it. We briefly touched on it at the last meeting with Dr. Krewski and others who were there. Is there any international cooperation in the studies so that we don't reinvent the wheel and every single country doesn't have to repeat the same process of clinical studies? Is there a way of exchanging information?

10:30 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Libby Davies

Mrs. Groetzinger, and then maybe we'll also get Dr. McDowell to respond from an overall perspective.

10:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations and Policy, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Deanna Groetzinger

Perfect.

I'll start by saying that actually, interestingly enough, the MS Society of Canada funds a large research program, and obviously one of the targets we want to support is looking at actually what triggers this disease.

I think it was Dr. Sellah who asked the question about looking at CCSVI in children. Even before that, we'd been funding research, by Dr. Brenda Banwell at the Hospital for Sick Children, looking at MS in children; it's rare, but it does occur. That actually provides perhaps some insight into what might trigger that disease. If someone develops MS at the age of three or five or eight, then their life experiences are.... It's far less complicated than looking at someone who develops the disease at 30.

So yes, there's certainly work on that. It's a complex disease. It's probably a combination of genetics and environment and various other exposures.

I can assure you that on the international level, certainly with MS and I suspect with other neurological conditions, there's a lot of international collaboration, because we certainly don't want to reinvent the wheel.

10:35 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Libby Davies

Dr. McDowell, would you like to answer the question as well?

10:35 a.m.

Vice-Chair, Scientific Advisory Committee, Neurological Health Charities Canada

Dr. Ian McDowell

I think one of the skills in developing a national brain strategy will be to pay close attention to the balance between funding the clinical trials of treatments once it is in effect too late—the horse is getting out the door—versus doing etiological studies that may lead to preventive opportunities, which obviously is what we would all dream about.

So establishing that balance I think is going to be very, very interesting—and is a great challenge for you.

10:35 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Libby Davies

Mr. Lizon, you have about 30 seconds left, if you want to follow up.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Thirty seconds: it's not much.

10:35 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Libby Davies

I know.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

I would just make a comment on the Zamboni treatment. I strongly believe, and I think it would go for all of us, that MS patients should not be left without hope. Every possibility that can be used to address their difficult condition should be explored.

10:35 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Libby Davies

Thank you very much.

Now we'll go to Mr. Kellway.

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Thank you very much, Madam Chair,

Thank you to the witnesses.

This is my first day as a member of this esteemed committee, and I didn't realize how esteemed it was. Everybody is a doctor, it seems, around the table. I had no idea. I'm not a doctor, but I do look forward to working with everybody on the committee constructively. To pick up on Dr. McDowell's statement, we have many challenges before us in the health field, so I come to the committee with a great deal of enthusiasm.

To my colleagues, thanks for the welcome.

Dr. McDowell, you mentioned research on Alzheimer's. We heard from Dr. Kleiner-Fisman today about an interdisciplinary model dealing with neurological disorders that impact on mobility. I'm wondering if Alzheimer's stands out as a bit different among the kinds of neurological disorders we're talking about today, and whether it can lend itself to the same type of health care model that Dr. Kleiner-Fisman referred to for the movement disorders.