Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to each and every one of you for coming in bright and early this morning. I know it's perhaps a bit of an odd time to come in, but we certainly wanted to make sure that we had an opportunity to respond to some of your questions and to appear for the main estimates.
Hello, Mr. Chair and members of the Standing Committee on Health.
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you about the votes in the 2018-19 Main Estimates for Health Canada and some of its priorities.
First of all, I would like to congratulate the committee on its work and accomplishments. The government and I value its expertise on health matters.
All standing committees work hard, but I have to say that the Standing Committee on Health does outstanding work.
First, I wanted to introduce my colleagues, but you've done that already, so I will pass along and continue with my comments.
Over the next few minutes, I would like to highlight some of the portfolio's key proposed expenditures for the 2018-19 fiscal year. I would also like to discuss our actions on some of the issues that this committee will address in its work over the coming months. I will then be pleased to take some of your questions.
Let me begin by giving you an overview of Health Canada's planned initiatives.
The department is seeking $2.2 billion in spending authority for 2018-19. This funding will enable Health Canada to continue to protect the health and safety of Canadians. As you know, the budget no longer includes the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, which has been transferred to Indigenous Services Canada.
I will now outline some of the government's priorities for health and describe what Health Canada is doing to follow through on them.
Let's start with Canada's actions on the opioid crisis. As you all know, this crisis is certainly unprecedented, and the effects are truly heartbreaking. One of the first trips I made as Health Minister was to Vancouver, where I toured the Downtown Eastside to visit treatment centres and supervised consumption sites. It was very moving.
I was proud that our government is taking action. We have restored harm reduction as a key pillar in our strategy. We have approved more than 25 supervised consumption sites and passed the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act. We have supported national treatment guidelines for opioid use disorder, and we've made it easier for health professionals to provide access to methadone and prescription-grade heroin as treatment options.
Continued federal actions combined with reduced barriers to treatment will help us mitigate the opioid crisis.
I will now turn to cannabis.
As you know, the government wants to protect Canadians and minimize the harmful effects of cannabis consumption. That is why it introduced Bill C-45, which is currently being considered in the other house.
In these estimates, we are seeking $65.1 million for the implementation and application of a federal framework to strictly regulate cannabis. In addition to developing a regulatory framework, the government has made public education a cornerstone of its approach to cannabis, the ultimate focus of which is public health.
We want to give Canadians the information they need to make informed choices.
Another priority for our government is ensuring that Canadians have access to the health care services they need. That is why our government is working with the provinces and territories to ensure that health care systems continue to respond to the needs of Canadians. In the 2018-19 main estimates, we are requesting $850 million in funding to support provincial and territorial investments in home care and mental health care.
As you know, last summer, provincial and territorial governments agreed to a common statement of principles on shared health priorities with the Government of Canada. Now, Health Canada is establishing bilateral agreements with each province and territory to determine how they will use the federal funding included in these estimates to improve access to home care and mental health services.
We are also making great strides on another important issue, pharmacare.
In the 2018-19 Main Estimates, we are seeking $17.9 million to improve the affordability and appropriate use of prescription drugs and medical devices. This amount will allow us to strengthen regulations on the price of patented drugs and modernize the way we regulate prescription drugs and medical instruments.
We also want to protect Canadians, governments, and private insurance companies against exorbitant drug costs, while ensuring that patients have access to the drugs they need. These efforts are in line with and contribute to the key measures announced in Budget 2018, in particular the creation of an advisory council on the implementation of a national pharmacare program.
Mr. Chair, in April you tabled the committee's report entitled “Pharmacare Now: Prescription Medicine Coverage for all Canadians”. I would like to thank you and the committee members for all the work that went into producing this excellent report. I am confident that it will be helpful to the advisory council.
Today, I also want to highlight the progress made by the agencies of the health portfolio. Let me begin with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Overall, the estimates for this agency have decreased marginally over the last year. Beyond these estimates, budget 2018 provides $47 million to maintain CFIA's efforts to improve food safety. Specifically, this funding will support activities to address food safety risks before Canadian consumers are affected.
This includes improving risk intelligence and oversight, developing offshore prevention activities, and improving business compliance with food safety regulations. Budget 2018 also provides $29 million for continued support for CFIA's activities related to the negotiations of export conditions and the certification of Canadian exports against the import requirements of other countries.
I will now turn to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The votes for the Public Health Agency of Canada in the 2018-19 Main Estimates represent an increase of $17.2 million, bringing its total budget to $589.2 million. This increase is primarily for the creation of the Harm Reduction Fund, which will support community projects to help reduce rates of infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C, among people who use drugs, and provide new funding for the effects of climate change on public health.
As you know, one of the government's key priorities is to understand and mitigate the health effects of climate change. The funding requested in the main estimates reflect this priority.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, also known as CIHR, supports world-class health research in Canada. CIHR's proposed spending on health research for 2018-19 is approximately $1.1 billion, an increase of $16.8 million over the 2017-18 main estimates. These estimates will help provide the evidence needed to make better health care decisions and ultimately improve health outcomes for Canadians. By supporting the Canada 150 research chairs program, this funding will enhance Canada's performance and reputation as a global centre for science, research, and innovation excellence.
In closing, I would like to say that I am confident that the measures outlined today will help Health Canada carry out its mandate, which is to maintain and improve the health of Canadians. This is a very broad mandate and we face headwinds at times, so it is essential for us to have clearly defined priorities with targeted measures.
The commitments announced in the main estimates reflect our most pressing health priorities. They show that we are taking action. They reassure Canadians that we will continue to protect and improve our health system.
Once again, I want to thank the committee for the opportunity to provide comments, and I will be pleased to take some of your questions. I have my officials with me, so I may rely on them for a bit of assistance if your questions get technical.