Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my colleague from British Columbia. I again congratulate my colleague from Charleswood--St. James—Assiniboia for his leadership and initiative in bringing the motion before the House, and his continued efforts to inspire through his actions and work in the House of Commons.
This debate is of critical importance. It is not only a positive and extremely forward looking issue, it is a compassionate issue. It is one that Canadians feel passionately about because it affects the lives of so many. We can talk about the quantifying of the money involved, the program spending and the way in which many of these strategies may be implemented when it comes to cancer, heart disease and mental illness, but it is the human impact that cannot be lost in the debate.
It is fair to say that just about everybody in the House, if not everyone, including the pages and other people who are working here today have had their lives touched by one of these horrible afflictions. They have had their lives or someone around them impacted by these afflictions.
With respect to cancer alone, on which I may spend a disproportionate amount of time, one in three Canadians is affected by cancer. There are members of the House who are currently affected by cancer. The human costs are staggering in any way we calculate it. It involves children, families, parents, brothers and sisters, all of whom may have lost their lives too early because of cancer.
If there is anything that could be relayed from this debate, I hope that Canadians will realize that despite the partisan din that emanates from within these walls, there are people here working in their interests and are trying to bring forward something positive as the days in the House grow to a close.
Last weekend in my riding of Central Nova in Nova Scotia, I attended a national cancer survivors day with Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm. The theme was “Celebrate Life”, as a reminder that there is life after cancer, that there is an opportunity to celebrate those who continue to struggle with this illness.
It is fitting that the motion today calls on the government to fully fund and implement the Canadian strategy for cancer control in collaboration with provinces and stakeholders.
Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm just last week spoke before a gathered audience about the continued crisis in health care and specifically cancer as an area that is in need of attention, government support and funding. That sentiment is found in every province and at every level of government. When faced with an opportunity now to do something positive, there is hope that the federal government in its wisdom will support this initiative, but more important than that, that the government will actually follow through on a commitment. That is where it appears the government continually falls down. Although it may decide to vote for this motion this evening, there is great concern that this is disingenuous support as we have seen in the past from the federal Liberal government. It will vote for a motion or initiative, or promise it in one of its many campaign booklets as it did to abolish the GST or to get rid of free trade, and it did not happen.
This is a marker firmly placed in the ground calling upon the government to fully fund a cancer strategy, fully fund a strategy around mental illness, and heart and stroke. Those stakeholders watching now should be watching in the future very closely as to whether in fact the government does the necessary follow through.
To work on developing a national strategy with respect to cancer one has to look at previous efforts done by the agencies and the stakeholders. It goes back a number of years. In 1999 and again in 2002 a council was formed to lead the strategy development. The council was made up of more than 30 members including representatives of provincial and territorial cancer agencies, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute of Canada, Canadian Association of Provincial Cancer Agencies, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Cancer Advocacy Network. There are so many groups as my colleague referenced that have been doing incredible work in this regard and impacting on people's lives in a substantial way.
While there has been some meagre financial support from the federal government for this strategy, both federally and provincially, and from many individual Canadians who continually give generously, what I hear repeatedly is there is a lack of political will to put a strategy in place. The council itself said:
A lack of political commitment and significant dollars has severely hampered the ability of CSCC to put its ideas into action and to reduce cancer incidence in Canada, improve the treatment and care of Canadians living with cancer, and achieve greater efficiencies in health service delivery across provinces.
Today in the House we have an opportunity to demonstrate that that political will does exist. Today we can vote to support a strategy that will reduce this deadly disease, that will move toward a cure and that will, in a very real way, impact upon people's lives who continue to struggle. The often repeated phrase of hope that cancer can be beaten, embodied in the person of Terry Fox and other brave Canadians who continue to deal with this, could actually move toward fruition.
As I stated, I was at a dinner this past weekend and there was an individual there who was very inspiring, a man named John Hanna from Cape Breton who is currently battling cancer. He was an original six hockey player. He played for the New York Rangers at one time in his career. Having finished a life in hockey, in more recent years he has dedicated his life to working with children and community programs. I send to him and his family our personal best wishes as he continues that battle, the fight of his life.
Another speaker at the dinner, a friend of mine, Will Njoku, spoke of the need for spiritual health which is also an important aspect of a person's ability to fight and survive cancer.
I want to mention as well our colleague in the other place, Senator Mike Forrestall, who placed a private member's bill before the Senate, which calls upon the government similarly to develop a national research driven strategy around cancer control. I commend him for his ongoing efforts.
Although the statistics are there, it is again the human impact. Thirty years from now, between five and six million Canadians will develop cancer. Between 2.4 million and 3.2 million will die prematurely from the illness. Prevention, early detection, proper treatment, healthy living, anti-carcinogenic foods, drug strategies; is there anything in life more fundamental than health? Mr. Speaker, you know that, having done some training recently. Is there anything more basic than a quality of life when it comes to health?
The economic productivity at risk because of cancer is significant. Again there is a need to consider these aspects. Over the next 30 years the Canadian economy will lose approximately $540 billion as a result of lost productivity due to cancer. Tax revenues to cancer are expected to be in the range of $248 billion as a direct consequence of health costs and lost productivity.
Again I put those statistics on the record only to show that there is a huge economic impact as well. This is why it is such a meagre investment to be earmarking money at this point, knowing that it will be exponentially in favour of improving these economic impacts, but more important again, the life impact. It cannot be stated or repeated often enough. It cannot be quantified.
As envisioned by the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control, there are three basic goals: first, to reduce the mortality of cancer through preventative measures including tobacco control, physical activity, healthy nutrition, increased surveillance and early testing; second, to improve access to health care by reducing waiting times for treatment; and third, to increase the quality of life for Canadians and their families living with cancer through reducing physical discomfort and emotional distress and improving pain and symptom control. All of these have added benefits for the patients' loved ones who suffer as well.
The strategy would accomplish these goals by setting up systems and processes that allow the stakeholders to tap into the best practices and techniques that have been used around the country. This information is shared between provinces.
The Canadian Cancer Society says that cancer is now the leading cause of premature death. Prostate cancer is one of the more common causes. On average, 394 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer each week.
Members may recall there was a prostate cancer research initiative, an awareness day here on the Hill. Research is an important aspect to all of this, as are these preventative measures, including the need to have a PSA blood test done. Prostate cancer will actually surpass breast cancer as the leading type of cancer in Canada in very short order.
The dedicated work of many Canadians, including a citizen of my community, Darrell Rushton, and others makes a tremendous difference in the lives of those around them.
Breast cancer remains the leading cause. The Canadian Cancer Society predicts that this year an estimated 21,600 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and over 5,300 will die. These statistics speak volumes. They speak for themselves.
We need to do more. This is an opportunity to do just that. This is an opportunity to perhaps restore some lost lustre and credibility in this place. More important, this is an opportunity to have an incredible impact on the cure for cancer and to assist in every way the lives of those Canadians who continue to struggle with this affliction.