Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I appreciate being invited here today to discuss Health Canada's 2017-18 main estimates and our proposed spending, which has been identified as part of budget 2017.
Since I was here last year presenting the main estimates, I've had the opportunity to travel the country, and to visit and hear from Canadians about the health issues that concern them. I know that you, as a committee, have also heard from many Canadians, including those in indigenous communities in this country.
My career as a medical doctor made me realize how necessary it is to improve health outcomes for Canadians. My experiences as a minister over the past year have confirmed that.
I'm very pleased to have this opportunity to discuss the resources that we, as a federal government, are putting towards making these kinds of improvements.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for announcing those who are accompanying me today. I will not repeat their names. I'm pleased that they are here.
I will first say a few words, and then I would be pleased to answer your questions.
As you'll see reflected in the 2017-18 main estimates, Health Canada is delivering on many priority initiatives for our government. These are going to result in approximately $4 billion in spending authorities for 2017-18. This is a net increase of more than $500 million from 2016-17, and there will be significant additional investments that were outlined in budget 2017 and will be identified through future supplementary and main estimates exercises.
I would like to highlight some of our government's priorities and the actions my department is taking to address them.
Canada's publicly funded health care system, as you well know, is a great source of pride for Canadians. The federal government along with our provincial and territorial partners recognize the need to strengthen the health care system so that it adapts, innovates, and addresses the many new challenges that Canadians are facing every day.
I'm pleased that almost all jurisdictions now have accepted our federal offer of new investments in health care with significant new money, in particular for shared priorities including mental health and home care.
You will note that over the next five years, the Canada health transfer amounts provided to provinces and territories are expected to total approximately $200 billion, providing long-term, predictable, and growing funding to our provincial and territorial partners.
This year's funding, for example, will be approximately $1.1 billion higher than it was last year.
As part of our deliberations with the provinces and territories, we identified some particular health care priorities, specifically, mental health and home care.
One thing I learned as a doctor, and no doubt you all understand as well, is that there is no health without mental health.
Over the past few months, I have had meetings in eastern Canada and I participated in a roundtable in Toronto. Stakeholders talked to me about what we could do to improve mental health services, especially when it comes to young people, and the need to monitor those improvements.
There's a growing awareness in Canada about both the importance of mental health and the large number of Canadians who are affected by it. Indeed, most Canadians are affected, either directly or indirectly, by matters of mental illness.
There's a recognition, as well, about the tremendous importance of and the rising need for home care. As we may have discussed before, some 15% of hospital beds are currently occupied by patients who would prefer to receive their care at home or who would be better off in some kind of community-based setting.
Budget 2017 proposes to provide $6 billion over 10 years for home care and $5 billion over 10 years to support better access to mental health care. These initiatives will make Canada's health care systems more responsive to the needs and expectations of all Canadians.
Two other priorities were identified during discussions leading to a renewed health accord—making prescription drugs more affordable and ensuring that our health care is more focused on innovation.
To improve access to prescription medicines and lower drug prices, budget 2017 proposes to invest $140 million over the next five years. This will support important work by Health Canada, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, and the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health. To expand e-prescribing, virtual care initiatives, and the adoption and use of electronic medical records, we propose $300 million over the next five years to support the Canada Health Infoway.
We also propose to invest $51 million over three years in the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement, to help accelerate innovation in our health care system. We plan to invest $53 million over the next five years for the Canadian Institute for Health Information to improve decision-making and strengthen reporting of health-related principles and outcomes.
Based on observations from my own travels to first nations and Inuit communities across the country, I believe very strongly that improving the health of indigenous peoples in Canada must be a priority for our government.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has asked the federal government to close the gaps in health outcomes between aboriginal communities and non-aboriginal communities. That is exactly what we are currently doing.
Through budget 2017, we're proposing to invest $813 million in new money for health services for first nations and Inuit. This includes new money to increase community-based infectious disease programming, to expand access to nurse practitioners as well as physician services, to increase access to mental health and wellness services, and to increase home and community care services on reserve.
As you'll note in the main estimates, Health Canada's funding for first nations and Inuit health programs will increase by approximately $440 million this year. This will include $82 million for major repairs, expansions, and new construction of health infrastructure such as nursing stations, health centres, acute care facilities, as well as drug and alcohol treatment centres.
The estimates also include support for three other related matters: $58 million to continue implementing our legal obligations under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement; $27 million to provide first nations communities on reserve with access to safe, reliable water and waste-water systems; and $25 million to address urgent mental health needs in these communities.
Finally, we will also invest this year $137 million in interim reforms related to Jordan's principle. This will ensure that first nations children on reserve have access to the same publicly funded health and social services as other Canadians, and that no child falls through the cracks. The need for this action is obvious. In July 2016, we announced funding of $382 million over three years. Since then, more than 3,300 requests for services and supports related to Jordan's principle have been approved for first nations children.
Another health priority we're addressing is our country's opioid crisis.
I went to British Columbia and met with those who have to deal with the crisis—first responders who are repeatedly called upon to deal with overdoses, as well as families and friends who are suffering the loss of a loved one.
I also want to thank the committee for the work it has done thus far, especially its effort to accelerate the passing of Bill C-37 by Parliament.
Addiction rates and overdose rates are on the rise, and our response must be comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based.
Last December, I announced the Canadian drugs and substances strategy, which will replace the current national anti-drug strategy. It re-establishes harm reduction as one of the key pillars of our policy along with prevention, treatment and law enforcement.
In February of this year, we announced $65 million over five years for national measures to respond to the crisis, and budget 2017 proposes an additional $35 million, for a total of new investments of more than $100 million over the next five years.
Our government is well on track toward legalizing, strictly regulating, and restricting access to cannabis.
On the matter of CFIA, the health of Canadian families depends on access to safe and nutritious foods. To help strengthen Canada's world-class food safety system, budget 2016, you'll recall, provided $38.5 million over two years to invest in systems that focus on high-risk domestic and imported foods. Budget 2017 continues this direction, proposing to provide up to $149 million over the next five years to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to carry out this work.
That funding enables the CFIA to develop more stringent and consistent food safety regulations, and to modernize core food safety inspection programs. As a result, Canada will be better able to prevent, identify and address food safety risks.
In addition, several of the priorities of budget 2017 will require that agencies across the health portfolio continue to collaborate on many health priorities. For example, budget 2017 proposes to allocate $47 million over five years to Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to develop and implement a national action plan to address the broad range of health risks associated with climate change.
I am confident that the amounts noted in our main estimates and the funds identified in budget 2017 are going to help us to continue to support better health outcomes for all Canadians and to build a healthier country.
Thank you to the committee once again for inviting us to join you today. We are grateful for your contributions. I am certainly looking forward to your questions.