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House of Commons Hansard #92 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quarantine.

Topics

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The Chair will take the amendment under advisement. We will continue with debate on the motion.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalDeputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We had a similar type of amendment presented this morning on the motion for concurrence on a committee report. The question as to whether or not it was in order was raised. We then waited a while for the Speaker to rule. We know the Speaker ruled earlier today that the particular amendment was not in order due to relevance.

Since we are talking about Senate amendments to a bill dealing with quarantine, one might wonder about the relevance of the amendment just proposed. Essentially, the House has already stated, by adopting this bill at first, second and third reading, that indeed the bill itself was more than acceptable to the House because it approved it and sent it on to the Senate.

I would ask that the Chair seriously consider whether or not we are again facing a situation where an amendment has been presented that is not in order and I would ask that the Chair rule on it.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I have a couple of things for your consideration while you deliberate as to whether this amendment is in fact in order.

I want the House to take note of the fact that it is certainly in order for the House of Commons to accept or reject Senate amendments to a bill. On page 674 of Marleau and Montpetit it states:

--it is for the House itself to decide whether it accepts or rejects the amendments proposed by the Senate, and if the House so desires it may state the reasons for rejecting or amending them.

The House may want to reject the Senate amendments for a variety of reasons. In the actual amendment that I have just introduced to the chamber, it clearly states why I believe the House should reject these Senate amendments. It is contained in the body of the amendment itself.

As to the deputy House leader's assertion that because these amendments deal with a bill that had already passed through the chamber at a previous time, I would submit that events not only in the House of Commons but indeed in our country have changed dramatically since that bill proceeded through this chamber.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn Conservative St. John's South, NL

Madam Speaker, in his ruling this morning, which is what makes it entirely different from the present situation, the Speaker stated that the amendment was only to a part of the report, but it really referred to the entire report and therefore was not really relevant.

Certainly, in this case, this is not the case. The amendment that was made is very relevant as it relates to the piece of legislation, so we are not talking about apples and apples at all. We are talking about two entirely different cases.

If we look at the ruling the Speaker made earlier, given this type of amendment, the Speaker said quite clearly that this would be proper, right and acceptable.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Werner Schmidt Conservative Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to refer in particular to the reference made by the hon. deputy House leader of the government when he stated that the bill had been presented to the House, was given third reading, and was before the Senate. That is a matter of fact. We know that happened.

What is being moved here is an amendment to the amendment from the Senate. That is not the same thing as the bill. That is an amendment to the bill itself which changes the bill.

This House did not approve that bill without the amendment. It approved a bill that was presented by the government. The Senate has made some amendments to that bill which is, in effect, to change that bill. It is argued that this is not the same bill simply because the amendment itself changes the bill.

Madam Speaker, it is absolutely in order and you should rule in favour of the amendment.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, there are a couple of things that distinguish this amendment from the one that was dealt with this morning by the Speaker. The ruling this morning by the Speaker dealt with an amendment to a committee report. The Speaker was very specific as to the relevance of the amendment to that particular report.

This is a piece of legislation. Surely the House of Commons has the right to decide whether to reject it, accept it or call into confidence the government that ultimately sponsors that bill. That is our right. It has been our right I think for several hundred years. In our system, we have the right to reject that, reject the government that is sponsoring that, and indicate that we no longer have confidence in the group within this Parliament that is moving it. It is very different from what we dealt with this morning.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The Chair wants to thank all hon. members for their input, but will continue to reserve and ask that we continue with debate. I will come back to the House with a ruling.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order to seek clarification. This morning my understanding was that in spite of the fact that the amendment was taken under advisement by the Speaker, that the debate was ongoing on that amendment, in spite of the fact that it had not been accepted. I need to have clarification from you, Madam Speaker, if the debate that is about to take place following my point of order is on the amendment or on the original motion.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

For the clarification of the House, the debate is now on the main motion. The amendment is taken under advisement.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join in this debate on the quarantine legislation.

It really amazes me that anyone in this House would try and block quarantine legislation in this day and age. The world as we all know is getting smaller and smaller.

We have the most diverse country in the world, so we have people, on a daily basis, with actual physical links with not tens but with hundreds of countries. In the province of Ontario, for example, we have people from 211 different countries, first generation Canadians, who have relatives coming and going and they travel. They are moving all around the world.

It is quite clear, under those human circumstances, that we need quarantine regulations. The idea of trying to block that at this time is really quite extraordinary. In addition, and I do not really know the statistics, we have daily trade with scores or hundreds of countries. We have products of all sorts, plant and animal products, moving across our borders.

We are a great trading nation. Among the G-8, we are the nation which depends most on trade around the world. If we send our goods elsewhere, other people are certainly sending their goods here. If ever there was a time when we needed quarantine legislation, this is it. And if ever there was a country which needed quarantine legislation, this is it.

I would have thought that the members of the opposition who are blocking this bill and slowing it down would have learned from the signals which we have been receiving in recent years. These are not just hints that there are problems in the area of quarantine, and of screening people and products as they come across our border. These are major signals of what is happening.

We think of SARS. In Ontario, particularly in southern Ontario, the the city of Toronto was affected just like that by the SARS epidemic. It also spread out to the hospitals and nursing homes in my riding of Peterborough.

Then there is avian flu, which we escaped, but my colleagues on this side from the west coast experienced it. I went to one of the ridings out west soon after the first avian flu epidemic. Hundreds of thousands of birds were slaughtered. The effect of that was staggering not just on the economy but on the morale of the people living there.

We can all recall the hoof and mouth disease from some years ago. We were all very concerned about that. We had a hoof and mouth free environment and here was a risk of it coming into our country. We remember walking across mats in the airports with disinfectants on them. Our farms were surrounded by fences and again, we had to go over disinfected barriers to enter the farms.

Madam Speaker, I know that you have many deer in your riding. People think of hoof and mouth disease as a cattle problem, but in fact, if that had skipped into the area of wildlife in our enormous country, it could have disappeared into the bush, be gone for generations, but be there for generations, and come back into our fields and into our herds and flocks.

I have not yet touched on BSE. We talk about screening for various things, but in the case of BSE, it is a little different than some of these other diseases. Here we have a disease which comes from contaminated food. It has now closed the border for years. In my riding 1,000 farm families are affected. Cattle, sheep, a large bison herd, they are all affected by BSE.

Then all over the country, and not just in British Columbia, people talk about the beetles and bugs that have come in which are affecting our trees.

Our maple trees are being affected. There is nothing more symbolic of Canada, as my colleague will note, than the maple tree and it is being affected by a beetle, which could result in the destruction of all the maple trees in the country.

We have already had Dutch elm disease and there is another tree in southern Ontario that is being affected. We are cutting a swath across the province to try to prevent the spread of it.

I have beekeepers in my riding. Bees are not a large part of the agricultural economy in my riding, perhaps $250,000 a year, but in counties around me the bee industry represents millions of dollars. We have to import queen bees from New Zealand and places like that because our own queen bees have been affected by some exotic disease.

I started off with quarantining for human beings and then I mentioned trade. I then mentioned some examples, which were only the more familiar examples that our colleagues here know. The fact is that the two are linked. Increasingly, it is becoming clear that there is no real difference between animal disease, human disease and plant disease. There are crossovers from them all.

We can have a diseased animal, which is the case in BSE. If we eat the meat from that diseased animal there is another disease that we can get. There are crossovers when we think of SARS. We can think of the links between mosquitoes, the dead birds which are the indicator of SARS, and the dead human beings who eventually succumbed from SARS. Think of the fear in South Korea at the present time for avian flu skipping into human beings.

In this important matter of quarantine, which the opposition has been blocking here, we are talking about a serious increasingly complex matter. It is complex in terms of what is crossing our borders, human disease wise, animal disease wise and plant wise, and it is complex in terms of the crossovers between plants, animals and human beings.

I think we need a quarantine system that truly addresses that. It does not say that this is what we do for plants, this is what we do for animals and this is what we do for those other animals which we call human beings. Somewhere in the sophisticated computer system, which is screening for these things, it tells us about a plant disease that can affect animals and a plant disease that can affect human beings. It then tells us about a human disease that can affect animals and plants. This is the sort of sophistication we should be at in this modern day and age.

Let us think now of quarantine for human beings, although it would work just as well for all animals. One of the difficulties with any quarantine system is that if we are not careful, if we wait until the animal or the human has the full blown disease, it is too late. Therefore if a person or an animal is coming through one of our airports or getting off one of our ships and they are already very diseased it is too late.

We need to develop quarantine systems that will get in front of that so that we will detect people, animals or plants, if we can because it is more difficult with plants, before the disease becomes impossible to control. There are various ways of doing that and one of them is to detect symptoms.

Let me do this from the point of view of, let us say, Peterborough county, and then we can think of it in terms of Canada as a whole. If Peterborough county had a tracking system in the hospitals, the doctors' offices, the nursing homes, the seniors' homes and the schools where they have nurses who are doing check-offs of children, it could input people's symptoms, which may include high temperatures and fever, or instances of vomiting and diarrhea.

As we all know, a variety of diseases have different symptoms but let us say we had tracked 10 or 20 of those symptoms. From the Palm Pilots in the schools, from the doctor's office computers, from the emergency room of the hospital, or from people checking on residents of seniors homes, if we discovered that in Peterborough county there were spikes in two or three of these twenty symptoms, this would be a signal to us that something is happening.

It would be checked and we might discover that in a particular seniors' home there might be food poisoning or it just happens there are more people with fevers than usual. However if in fact we discover that in all of those places, two or three of these symptoms are showing up at the same time, we might say that here is something that could be an epidemic, here is something which worldwide could be a pandemic, and we are catching it at the symptom stage.

That is why, in terms of a quarantine system for the airports and for the docks, among other things, as well as looking for the obvious signs of diseases, such as spots on people's faces or that kind of thing, we can scan for high temperature. We can have people watching for individuals who look as though they have a fever, take them to one side and see if we can check it. We can then input that very quickly to discover whether it is something that is nationwide, not something that is local to a family or to a particular airport.

There is one more thing about this that has human rights implications and ethical implications. It has to do with tracing human beings and animals. We know that the biggest scientific breakthrough of this century is DNA. Each of us, each plant and each animal is perfectly identifiable from DNA. Let us take the case of BSE. If an animal has BSE, from a sample of its blood that was given at birth or when the animal came over the border, we would know with absolute certainty which animal it was. When a problem occurs it can be traced right back with DNA.

One of the interesting examples of this lately is Maple Leaf Foods which is now taking DNA samples of all its hogs. What this means is that if we find something wrong with a piece of bacon it would be possible from the DNA to identify the hog from which that bacon came.

I mentioned the ethical implications and I will come back to that in a moment, but if we are going to have a quarantine system, particularly tracing human beings coming in but also animals and plants coming in, it is not just enough to say that a certain animal in a certain condition passed through the border at Windsor the other day. We have to know first of all where the animal is going, and hopefully we know that already, and then if there is something wrong with it we have to know where it is coming from so we can address the source of the actual problem.

When we think of human beings, including sick human beings, the DNA analogy applies at the same time. We have to remember the ethical aspects of that but it is extremely important to be able to trace a very sick individual to his or her original environment.

I would go back to what I said at the outset here. I do think it is of the greatest importance that this House, including the opposition parties, move as quickly as we can, bearing in mind the ethics that I have mentioned and the complexity I have mentioned, to a deal with the management of emerging and re-emerging threats to public health.

I have been mentioning animals and plants all the time but I do not see any difference between monitoring human beings for public health reasons and monitoring animals and plants for public health reasons.

At every point of entry to Canada we need to invest money, technology and creativity to protect our population. It is our duty as members of the House of Commons to do that. Those border points are our first line of defence as long as we can trace the products and the people that I mentioned earlier. There are other things we can do, such as the symptoms analysis in Peterborough county that I described before, but the first line of defence is the quarantine system around this wonderful huge country.

This legislation would provide the Government of Canada with truly modern, 21st century tools to screen people and products coming across our border. It would also give the Government of Canada the capacity to respond once it had evidence that something is going on.

In the case of this bill, it is not as though we are dealing with something that someone has just dreamt up or something that has just appeared out of nowhere. The Standing Committee on Health made significant contributions to the bill and strengthened the legislation. I certainly acknowledge its efforts and commitment.

The Senate of Canada recently completed its legislative review. As a result, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology adopted amendments pertaining to the tabling of regulations before Parliament.

Bill C-12 was passed by the Senate of Canada on condition that the proposed quarantine regulations be laid before both Houses. Constitutionally, that has to be done. This amendment reflects equal status for both chambers in parliamentary oversight of the regulation making process. Furthermore, the governor in council may only make a regulation under section 62 of Bill C-12 if both Houses concur.

From time to time I have been critical of the other place but I respect its jurisdiction and I respect the individuals who operate there. It is my hope that members of the House of Commons will find merit in the work previously undertaken by the Senate of Canada and concur with the Senate amendments to Bill C-12.

I wish to express my strong support and the government's strong support for this important piece of health protection legislation. I urge all members to give third reading to the bill in the interest of global public health and the health and safety of all Canadians.

I am delighted to have participated in this debate. I urge all members to move rapidly on this matter. It is urgent and it is something which responsible members of Parliament should do.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Carr Liberal Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I know my hon. friend did not have a lot of time to prepare this excellent presentation but I am always amazed by his great wealth of wisdom.

The question I have relates to some important aspects of the bill. I agree wholeheartedly with what my hon. friend said about SARS. Like a lot of us, we were concerned that the opposition, through procedural wrangling, would try to prevent the debate on the bill from taking place.

I was particularly struck by what the member said regarding some of the diseases that we in Ontario face, particularly as it related to the SARS outbreak last year. We all remember people wearing masks during flights as a result of the scare at that point in time. As a result of some of those activities, we are now dealing with this legislation.

My question deals with protecting and compensating people who are quarantined. I wonder if the member could inform us what is going to be done regarding protecting or compensating people who are quarantined as a result of this legislation.

I want to say again how proud I am to have listened to some of my colleague's comments. As usual, he has given great insight into this issue.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, in these issues there are questions of costs involved. I tried to make the point that the quarantine system I have in mind is not something selfishly just for us. We are not just protecting ourselves from things coming into Canada, we are protecting the rest of the world from products and people going out of Canada as well.

However, where Canadian citizens are involved, the costs are covered by our wonderful public health plan. Canadian citizens are well covered for the costs of quarantine mentioned by my colleague. In the case of SARS, we had people, who eventually and thankfully were determined not to have the disease, taken off work or taken away from wherever. They were confined to their homes, a kind of house arrest. We had to make special coverage at that time. I recall special provisions were made under EI for that. However, our health system covers those issues.

For non-Canadians though, it will become a matter of travel health plans, which many of us invest in when we go overseas. We will have to recommend increasingly to people who are travelling around the globe that they consider some health insurance with respect to quarantine, unlike the case for Canadians, if they will not be covered for that type of medical intervention. I hope it would be recommended that they take out health insurance.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Ahuntsic Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Social Development (Social Economy)

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest in what the hon. member for Peterborough had to say. There was one area that the hon. member perhaps would like to address, and that is what happens, in our zeal to protect the public, to individual rights? Is there any question in Bill C-12? There is the question of the charter. I can give a perfect example of what happened recently in Montreal.

It was in the news that in Montreal a package was suspect. Immediately when the authorities came in, to protect the public, people were stripped and hosed down. Should we be concerned, with what is provided in Bill C-12, that the Charter of Rights of individuals will be protected? I am assuming this is the case after having read the bill. I am sure the hon. member will let the House know that protection does exist within Bill C-12.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I did mention in a slightly different context than my colleague the ethical and moral implications of some of these matters. Is there not always a balance? I described the case in which people were effectively under house arrest because they were in quarantine. It is their rights, the right to go to work, as compared with the possibility of infecting other people.

First, protections are included in the legislation and it is charter friendly. As my colleague indicated, the charter is there to protect everyone. Also, appeal is available against any measures taken under this legislation. I repeat, it is a balance between the public good and the individual good, between the rights of the general public, or rights of each of us as a member of the general public, and the rights of a particular individual at a certain time.

My understanding also is that the legislation is consistent with such matters in all provincial jurisdictions so there will be no serious clash there.

This is something which I do believe has been taken into account by the committee and by the Senate as it has been developed and as we move forward with these regulations.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for that because I think it is a very important issue in the context of, as I said, examples at which we have looked. Especially during the crisis of SARS, there were questions about employees who were in quarantine.

Those employees obviously could not work. They could not have employment benefits because they were under quarantine. I am sure the hon. member would like to let the House know that there are provisions within the legislation. The Senate has taken into account in studying the legislation what happens when one is put under quarantine and his or her livelihood or employment is affected by it. Is that covered by Bill C-12?

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned to the previous questioner, the sad fact is we do already have experience of these matters. SARS is perhaps the highest profile one but there have been many others.

As we should, we have learned from those. Special provision had to be made in the case of SARS for employment insurance and employment insurance benefits for people who were kept away from work. We have learned from that experience and that has been built into the legislation and the regulations. In future, instead of us having to invent this thing and give greater anxiety to people who find themselves, for example, confined to their own homes instead of going to work, this will be an automatic way of dealing with the work side of this. It is the same as through the public health system where there will be automatic ways of dealing with public health side of it.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, Natural Resources.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Carr Liberal Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to enter the debate and talk about this very important quarantine bill.

I want to start by speaking about what I consider probably the most important issue facing this great country today, and that is health care. I want to couch this in the context of what this Quarantine Act means to the Canadians as it relates to health care.

I was one who pushed the government and the Prime Minister on the issue of the health care accord. When the Prime Minister was in my during the election campaign, I sat and listened to a group of cancer patients from Cancer Care Ontario who talked about some of their concerns and related some of the problems. This is one reason why I pushed it.

The Prime Minister then signed the accord, which we know provides $41 billion over the next 10 years. Some of that money will go to help out with things like the Quarantine Act. Looking at the health care system, it is my belief we have a number of concerns. One is the quarantine situation, which is a relatively new concern. My hon. friend last time highlighted the situation of SARS. We have the avian flu situation. It is relatively new in terms of the consciousness of Canadians.

There were a lot of concerns about the waiting list times and what we would do with regard to long term waiting lists for key areas like heart surgery, knee surgery, sight replacement. Those were on the public's mind. Some of the issues relating to quarantine are relatively new. Bringing this bill in will highlight to people just how important the health care system is as it relates to quarantine.

As I have dealt with and looked at this bill, a number of questions have come up from a number of people. I would like to talk a bit about the bill and what I see as an important part of it. I also want to answer some of the questions I have received from people who have talked about their concerns.

One concern raised is why there is no protection or compensation for people who are quarantined. I asked the hon. member that question on the last round. It is my understanding that the Department of Justice is looking at compensation and considering the proper wording.

Members who have concerns regarding that issue should rest assured that is definitely part of the concerns of the ministry and it will deal with the issues of compensation for people who are quarantined. Everything from Workers' Compensation situations to employment insurance are things that make this a encompassing and detailed act.

The other question that comes up is, why is the bill is so urgent at this time? As I mentioned, we could talk about the SARS scenario. It offers authorities related to people departing Canada as well. My hon. friend from Peterborough made a valid point. It is not only people coming into Canada who are the concerns. It is also people leaving.

I am from Ontario. We know what happened during SARS outbreak. It affected everything, including tourism. People were not coming to Canada. As we well know, we have a country built on tourism. We have a tremendous amount of support, for example, from people in the United States who come to Canada. As a result of this legislation, I think we will ensure that people continue to come in this great country.

The next question is, why so little consultation? There was a lot of consultation with the public and the provinces. We can always do more in that regard. I want to commend the health committee that looked at this. I did not have the opportunity to sit on that committee, but I did have the opportunity to read some of Hansard . I know the committee did some fine work in terms of consultation.

It is always difficult in committee to do the type of consultation that is needed because there is always so little time, as there is in this House, to pass things. However I do want to say, in a non-partisan way, that the committee had some good consultations on this.

We have attempted, as a government, to work with the public health community as a first step. I want to commend the minister in that regard. I know she has done an excellent job in dealing with a lot of the public health community groups that are out there that have given us, I think, some very good ideas.

We also want to consider the minimum requirements to allow flexibility to handle further public health emergencies because, as I said, this is an all-encompassing act that would look at a lot of those areas.

We want to continue to work with the stakeholders as we continue to go through what I consider phase two.

The Quarantine Act impacts on other sectors. One of the questions that has been asked, particularly by people on the financial side, concerns the financial impact of those costs.

I know that when it comes to the health care deal, the $41 billion over 10 years is a tremendous amount of money but getting virtual unanimity from all political parties and all provincial and territorial premiers to sign the deal was not an easy thing to do. However, when we are talking about the $41 billion, cost becomes a very important part of it because so much goes into the areas I have mentioned and people want to know what the cost will be for this particular impact and what the cost impact will be as a result of this legislation.

I believe, having looked at it and having had some discussions with people in the financial field, the act is consistent with the initial norms in managing serious infection scenarios. The cost of having inadequate tools is much greater.

I will highlight that. To this day the cost and the impact on the economy, by not only lost wages of people but lost tourism, was absolutely tremendous. We have a tremendous amount of tourism because we are blessed with having one of the most beautiful countries in the world. We have everything from oceans to mountains to beautiful scenery. Tourism is very important and when we look at the cost, the cost of this Quarantine Act is far less than if we were hit with just one serious situation.

I know some people look at the financial cost but most of us are more concerned about the human impact. However the financial impact has been taken into consideration.

What do we know about the public's receptiveness for this act? I know in the public opinion polls health care is the number one issue and it has been for the last number of years I have been in politics. I was at the provincial level for about 13 years and it has been the number one issue going back to the early 1990s bar none.

As a result of some of the things, the influenza, the SARS outbreak, I think we have seen probably over the last little while even more concern relating to health care and certainly during that period of time. I guess it was the springtime during that period of time that in terms of the public opinion poll it would have even been greater than it was at any other time.

The number one issue for people in this country is health care. I therefore think the Quarantine Act has broad support right across this great country, which is why I am a little concerned with the opposition not wanting to get this legislation through.

Why do the provinces feel they are not being respected in their jurisdiction? That is something that comes up on a lot of the bills that we deal with. I know it is an important issue to all provinces, and certainly having been a provincial MPP for 13 years I know the jurisdiction questions. I know jurisdiction is important to provinces like Alberta and Quebec. Some people in this country believe that the way to deal with that is to simply send the money from the federal government off to the provinces and let them deal with it because it is their jurisdiction.

I am not one who believes we can do that. When we are talking about the Quarantine Act and about dealing with something right across the country, we cannot talk in isolation. It does not just affect Ontario or Alberta or any of the other provinces. It affects the entire country and we cannot do it in isolation.

This is one of the cases where I believe that the federal government can play a coordinating role. I say this to my hon. friends, particularly in the Bloc who come from Quebec and want to respect the jurisdictions, we all believe in that but there are times when we have to look at things from a national perspective. It is a very delicate balance.

I think the Quarantine Act tries to respect the provinces' jurisdiction while at the same time ensuring that a nation-wide plan is in place. I think Ontario raised that concern. I was there during that period of time. I happened to be sitting in the chair and I remember the member who was the health minister coming in every day. I used to ask him if he was okay because he was losing so much weight working on this. One of the concerns was that we needed a national plan. The provincial government was saying that it needed to make sure that the federal government was ready for the next time and God forbid there is a next time that something like this happens.

The Government of Ontario and the federal government worked very hard during that initial crisis but we need to learn from that. For people who have concerns about this act dealing with the provincial governments on the health care issue, they only need to look at the health care deal that was signed with the other provinces.

Every province and territory, every Liberal New Democrat and Conservative premier signed the deal, with flexibility by the federal government for the Quebec government to sign the deal. I think the same thing can apply to the Quarantine Act. There can be flexibility, protecting the jurisdictions of the provinces, that are very mindful of their jurisdiction, but ensuring that there is both money and a plan through this act to deal with it at the national level.

If we look at the situation I firmly believe that one of the big concerns relating to the provincial governments is the cost factor. I am hopeful the $41 billion that will go to the provinces with these deals, and with the agreement with Quebec that was specially put together knowing the concerns that it has, that we can come up with a Quarantine Act that will protect provincial jurisdiction.

Under the British North America Act health care was given to the provincial governments because it said in one line something about hospitals going to the provincial jurisdiction. We never realized in those circumstances that the health care system would become the number one spending priority of all provinces. In Ontario, health care has gone from 24% to, I believe, easily 35% and may go to 50% of the cost.

If we do not have the federal government involved both with money and with acts like the Quarantine Act, I do not believe the province of Ontario could solve all the health care issues. When we talk about waiting lists, sometimes we may have to give the provinces the money and allow them to do with it what it needs to do. It may be for example that Ontario has problems in one particular area that are good in another area. Manitoba may be strong in one area. Wait lists may be longer for knees and not so much for heart. We need to ensure that the provinces have the flexibility to make the decisions of how they are going to deal with it.

However when it comes to things like the Quarantine Act , it is the one issue that transcends all borders. In the past it was not as big a problem because people were not travelling as much. Now within 24 hours we can have any type of disease spread right around the world just simply by people getting off a plane and bringing a particular disease into any particular country.

I am very mindful of the jurisdiction of the provinces but I believe that the Quarantine Act will protect that.

The big concern I have heard from people, and some of the members have mentioned it as well in their speeches, is that the minister appears to have extraordinary power to make interim orders and what checks and balances are in place.

When the Minister of Health was here during the member's speech I briefly had an opportunity to share some of my thoughts with him. I was pleased to have been able to spend some time with the Minister of Health on some of these issues. When the Prime Minister was kind enough to take some of the new members aside he asked me what the difference was between the federal House and the provincial House. I told him that in all honesty, in the short period of my mandate, within six months, I had spent more time with the Minister of Health as a federal member than I did in the 13 years in the provincial legislature.

As part of my MBA, I put together a strategic plan for the ministry of health and actually gave the plan to the minister of health, a very fine lady and a good friend of mine, Elizabeth Witmer. She looked at me as though I was crazy for putting a strategic plan together for the provincial ministry of health. She must have thought I was a bit of a keener but it was as a result of putting together my MBA.

However I must say that the federal minister has spent more time with backbenchers like us asking questions on this particular bill and has been able to allay some of our concerns, one dealing with the interim orders.

There are examples of scenarios where ministerial orders would be critical, declaring public emergencies. We all hope and pray, of course, that this will never be needed, but the minister is required to table the order in Parliament in 15 days. There is a fine line between giving enough power to get the job done by the minister of health and then also ensuring that the minister of health of any political stripe does not have too much power. It is a very difficult and very delicate balance.

What is being proposed is that the minister would be required to table the order in Parliament in 15 days, which I believe would allow the people in the House to then deal with it.

I will say in a critical way but not in a non-partisan way that I do not blame any particular side. Although as hon. members would imagine, I obviously have a bias on which side I think is making the House work.

One of my concerns is that when we see the antics that are being played with the bill, we need to ensure that if we give more power to the House, we do the right thing. One of the right things is passing the bill, not playing political games because we are looking at the other picture.

I have been outspoken throughout my career about wanting to give more power to the people. I know a lot of my hon. friends feel that way as well, but there is a fine balance.

I do not think anybody in the House believes that the Quarantine Act is not important, but we still get caught up in the politics of wanting to adjourn the debate, move on and not deal with it. We rise on points of order but there is a time and place for that. When it comes to acts that are so important, so critical to the future of the country, we need to get away from the political games.

On the one hand, I am one of those who have fought for 13 years for giving more power to the legislature, which this will do through the order in Parliament in 15 days. The trouble is that this is my first minority government and, unfortunately, sometimes the political games hon. members play make this place not work the way it should. However I am sure everyone would come through in any type of crisis.

I want to say to all members of the House that this is a very good legislation. We need to work on it to ensure it puts in place the health care of our citizens, which is so important. Let us work on the bill. Let us put all the partisanship aside and get on with the job we were sent here to do, which is to help people by passing the amendments to the Quarantine Act.

I thank all the members for patiently listening to me. I look forward to their comments and questions, because at the end of the day we are all here to help improve the safety and the health of all of the citizens we were sent here to represent.

Quarantine ActRoyal Assent

4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

May 5, 2005

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Marie Deschamps, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in her capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 5th day of May, 2005, at 4:03 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck

The Schedule provides that the Royal Assent was given to Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act—Chapter 17, and to Bill C-29, An Act to amend the Patent Act—Chapter 18.

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-12, an act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague who has just spoken and who has had a considerable amount of experience at the provincial level. Obviously from his remarks he has indicated that he understands very well the requirement in a strategic way, with respect to the changes that have been made in the environment and events that have occurred recently, that there have to be strong partnerships that are going to be looking at those changes, and our reactions have to be immediate.

However, the question still remains in the minds of many people. It seems as if every day there is an invasion of privacy and issues come up that challenge people's personal rights and individual rights. The public generally is always trying to balance out those kinds of changes against the higher public good.

I have a question for the member. In view of that sort of propensity that exists out there, at this particular time why is the government determined that there must be an update of the Quarantine Act within the context and along the lines being suggested? I think people would like to know that in a very clear and succinct way.

As evidenced when we had the anti-terrorism legislation and all of the concerns that were related to individual rights and human rights, people wanted to know what the compelling reason was for changes being made that affected those rights. I would ask the same question of our colleague. What is that very compelling reason that exists as to why we are moving on these amendments to the Quarantine Act in this manner?

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Carr Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I have said privately to the hon. member, I have followed the member's career and I have always admired him because he has come to this place and he always asks the tough questions, even of his own government. I think that is what he was sent here to do. Part of his background is the municipal sector, where those tough questions are asked. I am happy to respond to his question because I know he has done that in a number of fields, certainly, including the environment. I want to say how much I respect the hon. member.

During my speech I did not have a chance to talk about other diseases. We focused a little on SARS because it was the most recent, and on the avian influenza, but there is also the West Nile virus. I did not have an opportunity to talk about the West Nile virus as well. This is another disease that was of major concern during that period of time, particularly in Ontario.

The answer to the question is, what happened during that period of time? On February 2 in the Speech from the Throne, the government committed to modernizing the health protection legislation as an ongoing objective. What happened as a result of some of these concerns is that the government in the throne speech in 2004 said it was going to take a look at that.

Then, Dr. David Naylor, chair of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health, also recommended legislative changes to government to better address the risks posed by new or re-emerging infectious diseases. I apologize that I did not get into that part of my remarks, because I wanted to. Unfortunately we do not always have enough time, but I think this is very critical.

I think it is critical because Dr. David Naylor, as chairman of the national advisory committee, is the person who is in the best position to tell us as legislative people what we should be doing. That is the reason the government acted; it was not only in the throne speech based on what happened with the provinces and the concerns expressed to the federal government by the Ontario government, particularly over SARS, but also because of Dr. David Naylor's concerns. I think everyone in this House has a tremendous amount of respect for him and is very pleased to have him in that role. He is one of the people who recommended the legislative changes.

I say to those members who may be reluctant to take a look at this that when we have someone with the expertise of Dr. Naylor recommending these legislative changes in this act, I think we should listen very carefully.

I will say to the hon. member that this is one of the big reasons. It is because of what Dr. David Naylor said. An update to the Quarantine Act will address these urgent issues regarding the spread of communicable diseases.

In one last point, I have listed a few of the diseases and I may have missed a couple, but the concern is that there are new diseases springing up all the time. These are diseases that we may not know about.

I thank the hon. member for his tough questions and hitting right to the point as he usually does. I hope I have answered the member's question.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also would like to say that while my colleague just behind me was newly elected last June to the House of Commons, he has a long experience in the provincial legislature and a distinguished career indeed. I appreciated and enjoyed his remarks on this important legislation.

I would like to ask him a philosophical question. It is hard for us to imagine being quarantined. It is hard for us to imagine that terrifying impact on the quarantined individual or family, whether they are quarantined at an airport, a hospital, a home or wherever the case may be.

Let us try to imagine ourselves in their shoes. It must be a time of great uncertainty and a time of great trepidation. Not only are they in those moments facing the uncertainty of their own health, but they are also facing the uncertainty of what the health system and the rules and regulations will do to them.

However, let us put ourselves in the shoes of the community at large. It is important that the health of the community at large also be protected. While we can look with great sympathy upon those who are quarantined by necessity, and we should, that quarantine has the effect of protecting the larger community.

As we so often see in society, we have to balance the needs and the rights of the individual against the needs and the rights of the community at large. That is why it often requires great wisdom to draw the dividing line between what circumstances or actions of an individual have consequences for the larger community and when the larger community must take action.

I know it is a bit of a philosophical question and I know that this legislation attempts, and I think attempts well, to find the balance between those two extremes: the needs and the quandary facing the quarantined person and on the other hand the need of the community to protect itself, as we saw with the SARS outbreak, as the member spoke about in his last response, and the avian flu. We can also think back to long ago and smallpox epidemics and polio and so.

These do not come without consequences to the community and to individuals. I wonder if he could talk about that balance between the needs of individuals and the needs of the community when it comes to matters such as these.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Carr Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know people who were quarantined during the SARS crisis. They were in their homes with telephones and the media reporters could not get close because obviously they did not want to get the disease. The media was photographing people as they were on the phone talking to reporters. They were being asked what it was like and what was happening? It was very powerful to see those people quarantined not knowing what was happening to them being on the phone speaking and relating what it was like. I remember those images of people in their homes.

The member asked what it would be like. We cannot imagine what it would be like to not know if they had the disease because they did not feel bad, but they had the potential. To a person, what struck me, is that the people were not concerned about themselves when asked what was their biggest concern. Most of the people were concerned about whether they had infected a family member, whether it be a child, a spouse, a mom or dad, an aunt, an uncle, or a grandparent. They were not concerned about themselves, but for the people they were in close proximity to.

I was struck at that time how Canadians, when they were down to the crunch facing the disease themselves, were more concerned with what it was going to do to their children. The people being interviewed were not concerned for themselves or what may happen to them but were concerned for family members. That is what Canadians are all about. In a time of need, they are still more worried about other people than themselves.

However, later, the people in quarantine began to ask about compensation. We need to take a look at that because they were concerned, if they had to take days or three weeks off in a quarantine, what that would do to their families and income. That needs to be addressed. Hopefully, that will answer the member's question.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Ahuntsic Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Social Development (Social Economy)

Mr. Speaker, it is truly a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-12 today.

I have to say right off I find it deplorable that we have a fairly important piece of legislation in public health terms and, because of the official opposition, are obliged to play very political and partisan games. It is unfortunate because the public has long been awaiting a review of such a bill, which is very relevant, as all my colleagues in this House have already said.

I remember that when the former opposition party was known as the Reform Party and it came to the House, it came to do things differently. Well, we have seen how it does things differently in terms of blocking government legislation and also playing very partisan political games in order to stall.

Bill C-12 is an act to prevent the introduction and spread of a communicable disease. It comes to us from the other chamber and it speaks about migration health and its relationship to the rapid spread of disease in today's globalized world. As other speakers before me have said, we do live in a global community where the spread of disease can happen very rapidly.

With advances in technology and rapid air travel, which is now a common practice in the daily lives of individuals replacing the days of long voyages on ships, this new age of jet travel is paving the way for increased population mobility and subsequently accelerated rates in the spread of disease on both the domestic and international fronts.

From a pan-Canadian perspective, migration health and its related consequences pose a threat to the health and safety of all Canadians. A serious communicable disease can now spread to any part of the globe in less than 24 hours, which is less time than the average incubation period for most diseases. We know this firsthand from our recent experience, and as other speakers have said on this side of the House, through SARS.

This means a person incubating an infectious disease can board a plane, travel 12,000 miles, pass unnoticed through customs with no visible signs of illness, take several domestic carriers to their final destination in Canada and still not develop symptoms for several days, thus infecting many other people in their journey before the conditions becomes detected. This was the case in terms of SARS.

The concept of superspreading events further illustrates the magnitude of concern of public health experts. This concept has been used to describe situations in which a single person has directly infected a large number of other people. For example, 103 of the first 210 probable cases to be reported in the Singapore SARS epidemic were infected by just five sources.

This new migration health reality is becoming a cross-border issue of growing importance with numerous ramifications for public health, including implications to the social and economic fibre of our society. Further, the international community remains at risk if the appropriate measures are not administered to stem the spread of disease.

With the looming threat of an influenza pandemic, the impact to the global world may be catastrophic. The nature of this outbreak has the potential to be exponentially worse than SARS in its capacity to cause human suffering. In Canada alone, it is estimated that 5 to 10 million people could become clinically ill.

Once inside Canada, this public health emergency will place enormous strain on our front line workers and the local delivery of health care services. Economic and social upheaval will ensue as provinces and territories are stretched beyond their jurisdictional capacity.

While the principle of uncertainty prevails in global health care, officials do know that economic and psychosocial upheaval is contingent on how virulent the virus is, how rapidly it spreads from one person to another, the capacity for early detection, and how effective and available preventive and control measures prove to be.

The challenge is containment. How do we keep this confined to a small group, which was not the case as we know with the SARS epidemic? Mitigating the threat at hand will depend on vigilant border control activities, often the first line of defence in public health.

It will also rely on the collaborative efforts from cross-jurisdictional partners to stop the spread of disease, including the hospital isolation of infected people, voluntary home quarantine of close contacts, and the quarantine of anyone potentially exposed.

To manage emerging and re-emerging public health threats, legislative measures need to be considered across all levels of government. There is an urgent need for updated legislation to mitigate the heightened risk of global disease transmission and support modern public health practices in times of crisis. Legal preparedness remains a critical component when managing migration health related consequences.

In his report on Canada's recent experiences with SARS, Dr. Naylor highlighted the limitations of Canada's current quarantine legislation and health surveillance. The report recommended that Canada's governments seek to harmonize federal, provincial and territorial public health legislation with specific attention to health emergencies.

To date, existing federal powers under the Quarantine Act are limited in scope and do not reflect the changing face of emergency preparedness and response in the 21st century.

The Quarantine Act prevents the importation and spread of a communicable disease at points of entry. However, it does not address the domestic spread of an infectious disease once inside Canada.

The modernization of public health protection legislation so that it reflects today's realities is an ongoing Government of Canada objective, most recently demonstrated by the creation of the Public Health Agency of Canada, the appointment of the first Chief Public Health Officer last fall, and the commitment to support the work of the agency as found in this year's budget.

Another important step is Bill C-12, the modernization of the Quarantine Act. The Quarantine Act was created in 1872. As we know, much has changed in the last 133 years, including the mode of disease transmission. Problems in the current act include many outdated and redundant provisions, and the lack of harmonization with proposed revisions to the international health regulations.

Further, an order in council is required to amend the schedule of listed diseases, which hinders the ability of the minister to act--