Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the privilege to enter into the debate in the House on a very important issue to Canadians.
I know there are a lot of people who will be directly and indirectly affected by the outcome of the legislation. First of all, there will be the people who are involved directly in research in the country. I hope the passage and perhaps some proposed amendments to the bill will have a positive impact on the ability of Canadians to participate in worthwhile, meaningful, efficient research in the area of health care in Canada.
Hopefully there will be thousands and maybe millions of not only Canadians but people around the world whose lives will be made more enjoyable and, in some cases, whose lives will be made possible because of the research that will come out of this particular initiative.
In case the people listening, either in the House, in the galleries or on television, are not aware, we are debating Bill C-13 today. It is one of those cases where the government is saying that it will end one organization and put in place a replacement organization. We are talking about the old Medical Research Council, which will be phased out with Bill C-13 and replaced with this new organization called the Canadian institutes of health research. It is a very noble sounding title with very noble objectives by this particular group.
I am one who firmly supports the funding and promotion of research in the medical field. I am not at all convinced that it should all be done by direct research grants funded by governments. I said that I support funding, but I am not sure that having a government bureaucracy involved is the most efficient. As a matter of fact, even before I get into some of the details of my discussion, I will put forward an idea for people to think about.
Perhaps what we ought to do is shift governments out of this more and more and allow private companies and individuals to receive a greater benefit in the tax regime so that they can directly support those particular areas which they support.
I know of many individuals who, because of involvements in their families with certain diseases, are very prone to supporting funding for research in order to find a cure, help to ease the problems of living with a particular disease and perhaps even in the preventative end. They would be very willing to support a research project in this area or that area. Many of our large corporations in Canada would support it.
I think that if we had that we would have a better allocation into areas of need than we do now when government bureaucracies and politicians, being subject to the vocal lobby groups, tend to respond to that. I think we are all aware of the fact that there are a number of groups that get a lot more money than the statistics would show are warranted simply because they make the most noise on Parliament Hill. I am thinking of a couple of specific organizations in different areas of research.
I had the privilege this morning of meeting with Barbara Nathan-Marcus. She is a volunteer. She is a diabetic who has learned to cope with the disease.
I have had several friends in my lifetime who have coped with diabetes. It is a very difficult disease. I do not know if members are aware of this fact, but there are some really interesting statistics in the brochure that I got from them which surprised even me. One statistic shows that the economic burden of diabetes alone is estimated to cost the Canadian economy in excess of $3 billion a year. I was also amazed to find out that there are approximately 2.25 million Canadians affected by this disease and many of them are not even aware of it. We have approximately 60,000 new cases every year. It is the leading cause of blindness. In fact, Barbara, with whom I met this morning, is very, shall I say, sight challenged. I cannot tell by looking at her. She copes very well but has great difficulty seeing.
One of my friends at university, a wonderful man, was stricken with diabetes. He was a very active, a helpful and kind person, who unfortunately lost his eyesight due to his diabetes. He died at a very young age as a direct result of it.
Do I wish that we had more funding and more research for diabetes so that my friend and millions of others like him could have their symptoms relieved and we could continue searching for a cure and for a way of preventing the disease? Absolutely. If there is anything Canadians can address themselves to as a country it is in this area.
I think of the area of cancer. I do not think there is a family or a person who has not had a close friend or a member of the family affected by this disease. We have seen it in our family. Very frankly, we need to do all that we can to find the cause, to search for a cure and to find a way to prevent the disease.
I think of Alzheimer's disease. My goodness, think of the people we know today who are totally able to communicate, to engage in discussions and debates and who several years down the road find their brain suddenly ceases to function and are stricken with a disease that causes lack of recognition of even their closest family members. How dreadful. How great it would be if, as a result of this bill, we could increase the research into Alzheimer's and look for and find something that would prevent the disease from occurring or to arrest it when it comes.
I think of Parkinson's disease. I have several friends who have Parkinson's. One of my friends who had this disease passed away not long ago. I have another friend younger than I, who I have mentioned in the House before, who had an early onslaught of Parkinson's disease. Today he sits in his wheelchair day after day. When people ask me if I would want to see a cure, a way of preventing Parkinson's, a way of curing it, I say “absolutely”. We in this country need to do all that we can.
I think of strokes and heart disease. One of my closest friends, younger than I, had a serious stroke. He will probably have to live with the marginal ability to get around and communicate for the rest of his life. Yes, let us find a cure. Let us find a prevention.
I think of multiple sclerosis, MS as it is called. I also have a number of friends with MS. I think what I am saying is true for all of us. Every one of us can think of someone in our families or a close friend who has been stricken with these different diseases.
I am not saying that Bill C-13 and the new organization of health care research is the final answer and will solve all of these problems, but I am encouraging all of us to work together to provide research so that these diseases can be tackled and solutions, cures and preventative measures can be identified, found and implemented. It would do Canada a great service and all Canadians would benefit. It would give us a mark in the world as being on the leading edge of needed health care research.