House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.


SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, whenever we talk about health care, I have an unbridled bias toward health care as a physician. The member knows full well that I am very supportive of putting more money into health care. However, it has to be done wisely and effectively. Indeed, we have actually gone beyond what the hon. member has asked for in terms of $300 million for the types of chronic care and preventive initiatives.

I would strongly request that members look at these initiatives. If they have solutions as to how we could better allocate these moneys, we are all ears, but I also wanted to say that we are working with stakeholders in these areas. We are committed to dealing with the cancers as a collection of diseases. We are committed to dealing with mental health issues and we are committed to doing the relatively inexpensive and effective initiatives to address chronic disease problems. It does not take a great deal of money to address these problems. The prevention initiatives are relatively simple. They are cost effective. They are inexpensive and we are working to do that through the plan that we have articulated.

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4:10 p.m.


Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate which calls for a Canadian strategy for cancer control and mental health as well as tackling heart disease. These are all very important issues.

We have all been touched by cancer. I lost both of my parents to cancer about two years ago. They died very close in time to each other, one from stomach cancer and one from bowel cancer. Like most Canadians, I have been touched by cancer. I know the awful legacy that it leaves for families.

As a member of Parliament, I have had the chance to speak with a lot of people about it, people like Charlene Dill, who came to ask me to support funding for the strategy, and Barbara Thompson, who came to see me about the tremendous work that she is doing on breast cancer in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. She has set up a support group for people who have breast cancer.

I want to talk a bit about the cardiovascular disease aspect of this motion. I was involved with the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Nova Scotia, both as president on the provincial board and on the national board for a number of years. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Canada, accounting for at least 36% of all deaths, about 80,000 people a year. More than 450,000 Canadians are hospitalized for cardiovascular disease per year.

The most common problems are coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, valve disorders and heart muscle disease, including congestive heart failure. It is estimated that one in four Canadians or eight million people have some form of heart disease, disease of the blood vessels or are at risk for stroke. The economic cost is staggering, $18.4 billion a year.

In this regard, I would like to compliment the hon. member for putting forward this motion, which I know was done with the best of intentions for Canadians, and a motion that I will support. The hon. member knows, as a colleague of mine on the health committee, of my interest in promoting a national wellness strategy, a way to get at the illness of Canadians hopefully before it strikes them, but also to look at the issues of home care, palliative care and support for people who are sick.

Today I want to talk not only about cardiovascular disease but specifically about cardiovascular research which is such a key part of the work that the Government of Canada is doing to promote heart research and develop a national approach to fighting this disease.

Harnessing Canadian investments in health research is the key to improving the health of our citizens by building sustainable, evidence based, leading edge health care and public health systems, and developing the transformative new technologies of tomorrow. That is why the government created the CIHR, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, in 2000.

Since that time, CIHR has led the transformation of the health research enterprise in Canada. Today CIHR is strengthening support for excellent research, expanding strategic research, training the next generation of health researchers, accelerating the transfer of knowledge into action, building capacity across Canada, attracting and retaining world class researchers and responding to emerging health threats.

With an annual budget of nearly $700 million, CIHR is Canada's lead funder of health research, supporting the work of 10,000 researchers in universities, teaching hospitals and other institutions. Of this total, CIHR invested more than $109 million in heart research last year. I am pleased to note that budget 2005 increased CIHR's budget by $32 million, a clear signal of our continued support for health research.

I should also note that along with the CIHR the government has announced investments of more than $13 billion for research and innovation since 1997. These have been extremely beneficial, creating the beginnings of an internationally competitive Canadian health research environment, something that we really needed.

The CIHR funding commitment to heart research is being leveraged through partnerships spearheaded by CIHR'S Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, one of the CIHR's 13 vital institutes of health research. The institute, led by Dr. Bruce McManus, who is an international leader, supported by an advisory board comprising volunteers from all parts of the cardiovascular community, has been breaking new ground in developing a national heart research agenda for Canada.

Partnerships are integral to the vision of CIHR. By building partnerships among its stakeholders, those that have interest and a stake in health, the health system and health research, Canada will be better positioned to support stronger internationally competitive research initiatives that produce quality results more quickly for the benefit of Canadians.

CIHR partner organizations include other federal departments. They include provincial funding agencies and relevant provincial and territorial departments, health charities, non-government organizations and private industry.

Over the last several years the Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health has worked closely with its partners to develop its strategic plan and research initiatives. Much in the spirit of the motion that we are debating today, the institute's strategic plan builds on existing knowledge, fills gaps and maximizes Canadians' investment in health research by stressing cooperation and minimizing overlap.

A quick glance at the list of partners that the institute is working in conjunction with is very impressive. Among them are the Canadian Hypertension Society, Blood Pressure Canada, the Quebec Hypertension Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. I well recall being on the national board of the Heart and Stroke Foundation when CIHR was brought along and developed, replacing the old MRC. I can speak on behalf of the Heart and Stroke Foundation on how delighted we were with this incredible new funding agency, and the new avenues of research that had opened to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

I want to talk about a couple of the returns on investment for which CIHR has been responsible. For example, Dr. Jafna Cox of Dalhousie who found that alternative medicines with prescription heart drugs can have deadly consequences for cardiac patients. Dr. Cox found that two-thirds of Nova Scotians with heart disease use at least one form of alternative therapy leading to potentially lethal interactions with prescription drugs. For instance, the blood thinner warfarin should not be used in conjunction with high doses of vitamin K, ephedra and ginseng, et cetera.

Dr. Luis Melo, from the University of Saskatchewan, used his CIHR support to discover a protein that is involved in regulating heart attacks. By understanding this protein he hopes to design a safe and efficient gene therapy strategy to protect the heart from damage due to heart attacks.

I would like to talk about Dr. Renée Lyons and Dr. Judy Guernsey who are doing CIHR funded research in Atlantic Canada looking at rural health, women's health and population health, and how to promote health in those areas that do not have huge hospitals. The question is, how do we get people to live more healthily, to not be sick, and how do we keep them well once they have been sick? There has been tremendous research done by Dr. Renée Lyons and Dr. Judy Guernsey.

These are just a few examples of CIHR funded research that are providing much needed hope for those suffering from heart disease or those who might otherwise suffer from heart disease.

I am pleased the Government of Canada created the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. CIHR is providing an integrated, coordinated, problem based and strategic approach to all of the health and disease challenges that face Canadians.

Through the efforts of CIHR and the leadership of its Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, Canadians can be confident that their investments in heart research, both through their tax dollars and their generous support to heart health charities, are being spent in a coordinated and successful manner.

We do need a coordinated national strategy on cancer, on cardiovascular health, and we need one on mental health. This is not a partisan issue; this is a non-partisan issue. Last week I had the opportunity to meet with TEAM Work Cooperative, a group in Halifax doing some tremendous work with mental health consumers. I was at the meeting with the members from Halifax. We discussed their needs and about ways that we could approach government together to make things better.

We all know the cost of cardiovascular disease, mental health challenges and cancers. Research is the key. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is becoming a world leader in this area and it can be an important part of whatever strategy Canada needs to combat these diseases.

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4:20 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased we are having this debate in the House today. I believe this is a non-partisan issue because all of us have been affected by cancer.

My question for the hon. member is about the Liberal government's strategy which seems to be very much on making good lifestyle choices and focussing cancer as an issue of perhaps giving our children flags, skipping ropes and little eat right posters and we would be better off.

It seems to me that a broader issue has not been addressed. It reminds me of my background in the Timmins region, where we know a lot about cancer. When Ukrainian widows went to the compensation board because their husbands had died of brain cancer, they were told it was the east European diet that killed them. When women from Kirkland Lake, Red Lake, Timmins and Cobalt went to find out why their husbands had died of stomach cancer, or pancreatic cancer, or lung cancer and or throat cancer, they were told it was the bad air in their homes. It was always a lifestyle choice that killed these thousands of men in the mines across northern Ontario. What they were exposed to never did.

Today we are discussing this issue on a very important day, a day when we have heard about the smog deaths across Canada. I do not see anything in the strategies being put forward which deals with the environmental factors and the industrial pollutants. I hear nothing about moving forward, getting beyond the silly notion of voluntary standards and everyone will be happier because of that. I have heard nothing about dealing with the serious polluters in the country who are releasing carcinogens into the atmosphere.

Could the hon. member explain to me how he sees a strategy that has some teeth to ensure that we deal with the main polluters that are creating carcinogens in our atmosphere?

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4:25 p.m.


Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will speak to the health aspect of the question. I think what the member started off asking me was about disease specific areas as opposed to talking about keeping Canadians well.

I will make no bones about it. The number one issue I spoke about when I came to this place last year was the importance of a national wellness strategy, the importance of keeping Canadians healthy by promoting a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition choices and reducing smoking, obesity and stress.

I come from an area of the country that has the highest incidence of all those. Because of that, we have the highest incidence of a range of cancers, cardiovascular, cerebrovascular disease and diabetes is out of control.

We will have to look at all those diseases individually and provide support to them. It also is important that we look at the common cause together. If we are ever going to get out of this cycle of always dealing only with sick people and not promoting people to be well, we are not serving Canadians.

For now, the $42 billion that we put into health care last year over 10 years strengthens health care so we can at least say that we will ensure that people who need that acute care get it because we cannot abandon them. However, we as a nation have to get out in front of that cycle of illness and promote wellness, and that should never be forgotten.

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4:25 p.m.


Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, I note that the member spoke a lot about CIHR, but he did not speak to the motion at hand, which is the Canadian strategy for cancer control and beyond that the strategy for heart disease and mental illness.

However, cancer stakeholders have really set the bar as far as what they have been able to put together. I hope that other organizations like the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Mental Health Association will be able to follow their lead.

Having said that, funding needs to be committed to ensure that the strategy is brought forward. The motion today is about that. We have yet to get a straight answer from any of the member's colleagues on when or even if this strategy will be fully funded to the $260 million over five years.

Will the member, on behalf of the Liberal Party, tell us that, yes, the cancer strategy outlined in the motion will be fully funded?

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4:25 p.m.


Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry if I was not clear enough. I did indicate that I supported the motion and I think other members have as well.

If the member is speaking to the part in the motion that asks the House to call on the government to fully fund and implement the Canadian strategy for cancer control, I have a letter that I wrote to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance after meeting with Charlene Dill in Halifax prior to the budget. I asked the government to fully fund the Canadian strategy on cancer control.

When I speak in support of this motion, I do it looking back as well as forward. I also indicate that there is a part of the motion calling on a comprehensive national strategy on mental illness, mental health and heart disease. That was the specific part I spoke to and I stand by that for sure.

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4:25 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, before I get too far into my remarks, I should note that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for South Surrey--White Rock--Cloverdale.

This is a broad topic as far as dealing with the health care needs and a national strategy on cancer, mental illness and cardiovascular disease. However, irrespective of where we come from on this, we all have a personal story. We all know someone in all three of these areas whom we want to remember and think about. I think personally of a friend who died two years ago, after having successfully beaten cancer once before, roughly 25 years earlier, only to succumb to it on its second pass through.

We all have relatives or friends who have passed away due to cardiovascular diseases. Unfortunately, as well we know people who suffer from depression and mental illness. I think in particular of a couple of my acquaintances whom I have known over the years.

This is very much an issue which speaks to the heart of why we are here as parliamentarians, to do something practical and positive for our constituents. This is also one area where Canadians have come together and worked as communities and as individuals. That is one reason why I am particularly happy to speak to the motion.

In particular, I want to note a couple of things that are being done in my riding to deal with cancer. I want to specifically congratulate some of the people of Saskatoon, survivors and others, for getting together last weekend to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. Saskatoon had a record turnout this year, with 792 teams and raised over $185,000. I want to congratulate the people of my constituency who participated in that and for doing their part to fight cancer.

I also want to put on the record and congratulate the researchers who are working in the riding of Saskatoon--Humboldt, using the Canadian Light Source synchrotron to find cures for breast cancer. It is one of the leading edge areas of technology. I am proud we are taking that initiative in Saskatoon, with the support of the Government of Canada through its funding. All across the country various researchers are working on it. Some very practical things are being done.

I also wanted to congratulate the member for Charleswood--St. James--Assiniboia for bringing this to the attention of the House.

Why do we need a national strategy to deal with cancer specifically and also cardiovascular and mental health diseases? We spend tens of billions of dollars on health care in our country. We spend it on cancer. We spend it on general care. We spend it on emergency wards. Why specifically do we need a national strategy to deal with this problem?

In looking through the research and notes on the issue as to why we should deal with it, a few points came to mind as to why I will be voting in favour of this.

First, we need to maximize our assets across the country. We need to coordinate and think it through. We really cannot have a disjointed approach to dealing with any disease on any issue across the country. Looking through all the plans and so forth, there are many fine institutions and doctors. Various approaches and treatments are being tried across the country. We need to not only spend on these individual initiatives, we need to coordinate them so they all work functionally and effectively.

This is why the Canadian cancer strategy was brought together. Members of the House did not think of the idea. Nor did they wisely put it together. It was brought together by 700 experts and survivors, people who have a real vested interest and personal knowledge. This is not merely something that is done for one day's publicity or one day's thinking. This is something that has been developed through considerable, well thought out and thorough research by specialists who are experts on the matter.

Looking at the people who have decided to support this, gives me the confidence that the plan will work, that it will be functional.

Another reason why I think we need to support the initiative is it will set priorities. When we have an overall plan, we can coordinate to make what we already have work better. As I understand it now we do not have definite goals or priorities. We do not have definite targets or points of reference that we need when we are developing anything. A national cancer strategy as well as a national cardiovascular and mental health strategy would do this.

Another reason we need to support this strategy is because it will provide real results.

When I was researching the issue, I was struck by how important it was. It is estimated that 420,000 lives could be saved over 30 years with a national plan. By my calculations, that is 14,000 people per year. Other than the city of Saskatoon, one-third of my riding is rural. Fourteen thousand people works out to be three times the size of the next largest community in my riding. That is an immense number of people who could be saved every year for the next 30 years.

Other countries have developed cancer control strategies and have seen positive results. In the United Kingdom cancer deaths fell 10% in just four years. In Luxembourg morality plummeted 24% by 2000. In Finland the numbers dropped to 17% and in Austria 15%. Just after a few years, Ireland dropped to 10%.

This strategy has real benefits for Canadians. It is practical and could be done.

Let me compare the cost of the initiative of $300 million to other things on which the government has spent money. Other hon. members who have spoken today referenced the ad scam controversy. By the time the commission has finished, the government will have spent more money than what a five year cancer strategy would cost. Compare the results. We could save 14,000 people a year compared to a lot of corruption. Those are the choices.

The strategy is a wise place to put our revenues and our spending. For someone who has a hard time supporting any new spending initiatives because they are worried about waste and corruption and various other things, this is one of the very few that would be a wise investment of taxpayer dollars. It would save lives and money.

There are many other reasons to have a strategy. We just need to look at the economics. Canadians would be healthier. The economy would be more productive. There are many other reasons to support the idea and the motion.

The final reason why I have decided to support it is a well thought out plan. This is not about giving more money and then figuring out what to do with it. This is a well developed, well thought out plan. They are working on a strategic cancer leadership platform. There are cancer targets, national standards, national clinical and practice guidelines and prevention systems. These things will not just provide publicity and then disappear. They will make a real difference.

I have concentrated mostly on dealing with the national cancer program because it is the one that is the most detailed and well thought out. Before I close my remarks, let me say something needs to be done for the national mental health strategy and the cardiovascular strategy as well.

One in five people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime. Thousands of people commit suicide. The human stories that we all know compel us to act and to support the motion.

It is for those reasons that I will support the motion. I support the call for a national cancer strategy, for a national mental illness strategy and for real achievement on the national heart and stroke and cardiovascular strategy. These are good reasons. This is a good motion. I call on the House to be unanimous in its support of the motion.

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June 7th, 2005 / 4:35 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want the hon. member from the Winnipeg area to know that he has our full support in this initiative.

I do not want to be too critical but sometimes a party's voting record comes back to haunt it. In March 2003, I introduced Bill C-206, which would have allowed caregivers the opportunity to take time off work to care for their loved ones under a palliative situation.

The hon. member was absolutely correct when he said that the motion was a wise investment of tax dollars and would be a saving in the long run. Those are the exact words I used in my motion in terms of allowing people the opportunity to leave their place of employment, care for their dying loved ones, collect employment insurance and have their job protected at the same time. It is the exact same benefits that a person would receive from maternity benefits.

Unfortunately, the previous leader of the Alliance Party, the current leader of the Conservative Party and the finance critic for that party voted against my bill. We cannot have a national strategy unless we deal with the caregivers concerned who deal with those people under the serious concerns of rehabilitative or palliative care.

My bill has been reintroduced as Bill C-256 and has had first reading. It has almost the exact wording as what was voted against by some members of his previous party.

Would the member support a strategy that would allow people who care for dying relatives the opportunity to stay at home, collect employment insurance, have their job protected and provide their relatives who are under palliative care the options that they deserve, which is the desire to be surrounded by their loved ones, to be surrounded in the setting of their choice and, of course, to be free of pain?

I wonder if the member who spoke so eloquently to this motion, which we support, would rise up and mention that.

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4:40 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, this issue has been referred to not only by members on his side of the House, for which I thank him, but also by the member for Langley who has had a specific constituent concern where I believe the sister of one of his constituents has taken time off to take care of her dying sister.

I have been very supportive of my colleague from Langley. He has raised this issue and has complete and total compassion, not only in the House and in front of the cameras, but behind them as well.

I am not fully aware of what the previous legislation was in March 2003 as I was not a member of the House at that time. However I will look at the new legislation.

I will say that as far as the general principle that the member for Langley and the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore have spoken to, I support the general principle that we should have flexibility in our social spending.

When we consider some of the other uses EI has been put toward, it would strike me as a much more reasonable approach to look at. Again, in principle, until I see the legislation I will not commit to vote for or against. However, in general, I would be supportive of the principle that people be allowed to take time off to look after loved ones who are in need of care in very serious incidences, such as parents looking after dying children or a sister looking after a sister.

My understanding was that it only took an administrative ruling by the minister, which is quicker than legislation. If that is not the case, I would be very interested in discussing it with the member. Perhaps he could educate me more, but in principle I support it.

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4:40 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had a similar experience with a private member's motion that I had on environmental contaminants and human health. Amendments made by the Bloc were passed by the House with almost all party support. There were individual members, some from the Alliance at the time and some Liberals, who did not supporting it but the amendments passed.

The main motion had more Liberals and Alliance members vote against it. The motion looked at preventing some of the illnesses and included a lot of the debate we are having today. At that time the leader of the Alliance, now the Conservative Party, voted against that.

I would ask the hon. member a question similar to my colleague's question. Does he support the connection between environmental contaminants and human health? What would he like to see happen to stop the illnesses from afflicting our citizens?

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4:40 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, having been elected not quite a year ago I cannot speak to the specifics of what the hon. member has said.

Let me lay out some general principles that I do deal with on environmental legislation and why I support it. I am talking about environmental legislation that would improve people's health.

Environmental pollutants, which get into the atmosphere and damage other people's water, land, health, et cetera, are, in principle, a violation of a person's inalienable rights to private property and rights to the person. That is why I as a Conservative, for philosophical reasons, will support the rule of law being applied on environmental issues to protect people's health and so forth.

As to the specifics of what the member is speaking to, I really cannot comment, not being in the House during that period.

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4:45 p.m.


Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to participate in the debate. I thank my colleague from Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia for his courage in bringing this important issue to the floor of the House.

The motion reads:

That, given a national strategy is needed now to reduce the growing human and economic costs of cancer, heart disease and mental illness, the House call on the government to fully fund and implement the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control in collaboration with the provinces and all stakeholders, and given that Canada is one of the few developed countries without a national action plan for effectively addressing mental illness and heart disease, the government should immediately develop and initiative a comprehensive national strategy on mental illness, mental health and heart disease.

There can be no mistaking the importance of these issues.

Cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of death among Canadians, claiming close to 150,000 victims every year. There is no doubt that everyone in the chamber and those watching at home have some loved one who has been affected by these diseases. My two aunts have bowel cancer.

In fact, as legislators we are not alone or immune. We have lost members of the House of Commons in recent years and colleagues and friends of ours are currently waging brave battles against these diseases. I think of my colleagues from the ridings of Athabasca and Okanagan—Shuswap in particular.

These issues are of particular importance to my riding of South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale. My riding has an excellent climate and fantastic views of both the ocean and mountains. We also have excellent health care facilities. Because my riding is such a fantastic place to live, many Canadians move there to enjoy their golden years. It is no wonder we have the fourth largest population of seniors in the country. Over 17% of the citizens in my riding are over 65 years of age. As such, health issues take on a special importance for me as a representative and my constituents.

I will turn now to cancer. According to the Terry Fox Foundation, an estimated 145,500 new cases of cancer and 68,000 deaths occurred in Canada in 2004. It would seem that we are beating the disease most of the time but it is still claiming far too many victims. Based on current incidence rates, 38% of women will develop cancer during their lifetimes and 43% of men. Cancer is the leading cause of premature death and early death in Canada.

Cancer is primarily a disease of older Canadians, particularly men. Among men, 82% of deaths due to cancer occur to those 60 years of age and older. Among women, 78% of cancer deaths occur to those 60 years of age and older. Heart disease is the leading cause of death by any disease in Canada. It kills 32% of all males and 34% of all females. In the latest year Statistics Canada has numbers for, which is 2002, cardiovascular diseases were the cause of almost 75,000 deaths.

Of course heart disease is better understood. There are several risk factors, some of which are controllable by a patient or potential sufferer. These include diet, exercise, smoking, obesity and air quality. In other words, although medical research is needed to better understand and treat this leading killer, there is much that can be achieved to prolong life through education and healthier living.

Mental illness in its many forms also takes a great toll on society in terms of lost productivity, lost income, damaged lives and broken relationships. It is often found at the root of serious societal problems, such as homelessness, poverty and crime. In extreme cases, mental illness can lead to violence, incarceration and even suicide.

Mental illness is perhaps the least understood of the medical conditions. It can affect patients as severely as other physical illnesses and yet display no physical symptoms at all. While some mental illness can be attributed to biochemical imbalances in the body, the cause of much mental illness is still poorly understood by medical science and yet still exacts a heavy toll on patients, their families and society.

According to the Coast Foundation, one-quarter of the 34 million hospital days used each year are used by patients suffering from a mental illness. According to the Canadian Psychiatric Association, 16% of health care budgets are used to treat those with psychiatric disorders. The cost of mental illness to our economy, as estimated in 1998 by Health Canada, was over $14 billion and is undoubtedly much higher now.

Mental illness is present in at least 90% of those who commit suicide, according to the Harvard Medical School Guide, and we know suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers in Canada. That is horrific.

The teen suicide rate has more than quadrupled in Canada since the 1960s, with more than 300 teens killing themselves every year.

Given what is at stake with cancer, heart disease and mental illness, there is certainly a leadership role for the federal government to be playing.

We are all aware of provincial jurisdiction in the area of health care and we respect the rights of the provinces to deliver those services as they see best. Indeed, the needs of tiny Prince Edward Island are far different than those of my own province, for example, and it makes sense to have the level of government that is in the best position to deliver certain services do so.

However that does not preclude a federal role in offering leadership on these issues by fostering cooperation between the provinces in the delivery of services and by collecting national statistics, particularly in the pursuit of research into these devastating diseases.

The federal government has a long history of conducting research itself and funding research, including research in provincial institutions through various granting agencies, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The CIHR currently spends close to $600 million a year, including large amounts on research into cancer and heart disease.

I want to spend a minute talking about the important advances being made in an area of research that CIHR is funding, the area of stem cell research. While much of our medical research over the past several decades has focused on pharmaceuticals, the groundbreaking research into stem cells is demonstrating that the body may well have the capacity to heal itself, even after the devastation of heart disease and cancer.

While the technology is still in its infancy, autologous stem cell therapy, drawing on the patient's own stem cells, is being used in a breathtaking variety of applications to replace or repair damaged tissues, including the heart or other organs damaged by cancers, that often lead to the full recovery of the patient.

The CIHR is funding research into stem cell technology and our party wants to encourage that. However, let us be clear, we want to see those limited dollars go where they will be most effective, and that is into autologous stem cell research, not embryonic stem cell experimentation.

The provinces and private foundations and charities contribute even more and Canadians are not alone in the fight against disease. Other western nations also spend billions of dollars annually in the race for a cure.

However it is the work that individual donors, volunteers, patients, doctors and researchers put into the fight that makes such a difference. I am proud of the effort that my own community puts into raising money to fight these diseases. For instance, our second annual White Rock Relay for Life, a fundraiser in support of the B.C. Cancer Society, raised $127,000 for cancer research this year over the course of a 12 hour marathon. I was part of a team that raised almost $4,500 of that total.

Our excellent community services organizations, such as the Peace Arch Community Services or PACS, offers a wide variety of services to the vulnerable and needy in our community. Among those services are counselling and addiction treatment services. PACS is the helping hand that many suffering with mental health issues turn to. While PACS receives government subsidies, it also raises a significant portion of its budget from private sources and the wider community.

This past weekend, PACS held an information fair in my riding which included 45 organizations, many of which are dedicated to meeting the challenges of disease, including the White Rock/South Surrey Mental Health Care Centre, the Geriatric Psychiatry Services and the Prostate Cancer Support Groups of Surrey and White Rock.

Of course, British Columbians are very generous Canadians. This weekend, the B.C. Children's Hospital just set a North American record by raising over $10 million through its annual 24 hour telethon.

It is clear to me that there is a will on the part of communities and provinces across Canada to beat cancer, heart disease and mental illness. However there is more that can be done at the federal level in offering national leadership. A national strategy can save time and limited resources and ensure that we are not duplicating efforts or running down rabbit trails in our own research.

The fact that the government has not fully funded the Canadian strategy for cancer control is unacceptable. The fact that we do not have a national strategy to combat the nation's number one killer, heart disease, is unacceptable. The fact that we have no national strategy for addressing mental illness, perhaps the most costly illness affecting the nation, is unacceptable.

I want to point out that the motion by the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia reflects the kind of leadership we could expect regularly if we had a Conservative health minister and a Conservative government. I would urge all members to support this motion.

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4:55 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.


Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the hon. member brought up a salient difference between the Conservative Party and the Government of Canada. He brought up the issue of stem cell research and the notion that his party supports the use of stem cell research. He also said that he and his party support only the use of autologous stem cells.

I understand completely from where he is coming. He believes, as many do, and I fully understand and am very sympathetic toward it, that a fertilized egg is life. For ethical and philosophical reasons, they believe that the egg should not be affected in any way. I fully respect that. It is something rooted in religious beliefs, that life begins at the moment of conception. The individuals who believe that are fully able to hold that view and are respected for that.

However, the Conservative Party and a Conservative health minister would ban the use of embryonic stem cell research.

While I fully understand the rationale for why his party would prevent the use of embryonic stem cells, the fact of the matter is that in other parts of the world embryonic stem cells are being used. The difference is that embryonic stem cells provide a degree of pluripotentiality that does not exist with autologous stem cells. Said another way, autologous stem cells do not have the ability to change into as many different types of cells as embryonic stem cells do.

His party and a Conservative health minister would prevent embryonic stem cell research from occurring and worse, would prevent the possibility of a cure for the very people we are talking about today, those who are struggling and dealing with the cancers and myriad other diseases.

Would the member and his party, if they were in government, prevent the use of embryonic stem cells and embryonic stem cell research?

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4:55 p.m.


Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am neither the health critic nor an expert in autologous stem cell research.

The member opposite did start his comments by pointing out the differences between a Conservative government and a Liberal government with respect to health care. I want to point out that it is the Conservatives who are taking the lead on this issue, not the Liberals. In fact while the Liberals are up to their eyes in corruption and scandal and cover-ups, it is the Conservatives who have put together a plan for Canadians. We are the ones who care about the health and welfare of Canadians. We will not sacrifice these ideological principles for mere vote buying or political reasons. We are here to provide a logical, cohesive national strategy in which Canadians can have confidence.

Canadians are concerned about their families' needs and their own lives. Many people in my constituency who are facing these issues at the ends of their lives wonder what research is being done that might assist them in dealing with cancer, heart disease or mental illness. That is what they are concerned about. What we are talking about today is a national strategy that would provide exactly that, answers to their questions.

What we see is a government that talks one thing and does another. Just a week before the budget came out, the health minister said that he was going to commit $26 million toward this kind of a national strategy. One week later the budget came out and not a penny was in the budget for a national health care strategy. Not a dime was there. The Liberals say one thing and they do another.

That is why we have taken the time today to move this motion, to draw attention to the fact that the Liberals are not standing up for Canadians with respect to health care, or with respect to cardiovascular disease in particular, or mental health. That is the point of today's motion. I think that point is becoming clear to Canadians as they watch from home or perhaps see this on the evening news. We are here as Conservatives who are putting together a plan. We are showing leadership. We are not worrying about how to buy votes and that sort of thing.

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5 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have been looking forward to entering into this debate all day. I watched some of the debate on the parliamentary channel and realized that while the words were there from many of the hon. members gathered here today, the actual actions, if we look back through the records of Parliament, tell a different story.

As the environment critic for the NDP, it is important for me to more succinctly and concretely make the connection for Canadians of the importance between their environment and the health that they enjoy. The environment has become more and more intrinsic in the way we view our health care and the health care costs that seem to be mounting day after day. Unless we take a strong and purposeful move in the direction of environmental protection, such a motion as the one presented today is somewhat irrelevant. It does not speak to the actual sources of some of our health care concerns.

We have the beginning of smog days in the summer. Many Canadians who live in our cities choke on the fumes during smog days and do not have the choices that some people in society have to get away from it. Harmful diseases are being spread by what I would call an inefficient economy. It is an economy that has been allowed to persist because of a lack of will on the part of government to on the one hand make the regulations that are required for cleaner air and on the other hand to actually enforce the few regulations that we have.

The economic numbers are staggering. In Ontario alone the Ontario Medical Association estimates that we will lose $1 billion a year due to the smog. This is just in Ontario. We can multiply those numbers for the cities in the rest of the country. On the economic balance sheet this is costing us an extraordinary amount of money, never mind on the human side.

On the human side Canadians and their families are suffering because of smog. The figures are staggering. In Toronto 822 people died this year due to smog; 818 in Montreal; 368 here in Ottawa; and 258 in Windsor. These are just sample cities that were taken as a test for across the country to understand the social impact on our communities and families due to something like smog; how much it costs us in health care terms and also how much it costs in real family terms, in terms of the pain and suffering caused by this pollution.

There was a previous motion by the member for Windsor West that was narrowly defeated by the members of the alliance, now the Conservative Party. This raises great concerns for me and my party in terms of the rhetoric used today and the importance of health and protecting health care. The motion was very straightforward and succinct and should have achieved success but it did not due to the voting habits of some of the members of the party which now has a different name, but which I would only imagine has the same philosophy. The motion stated that the House call upon the government to take the necessary regulatory measures, including drafting of legislation to prevent medical conditions and illnesses caused by exposure to identifiable environmental contaminants.

For the member for Windsor West this is a crucial issue in his riding. The cancer rates and negative health effects of industries past and present are being felt on the ground day to day.

One of the key and critical roles of government is to set up a structure in which all Canadians can participate in their day to day living in a healthy and safe way. We do not allow people to drive at unsafe speeds in school zones. We do not allow people to drive without wearing their seat belts. Both of those are regulatory in nature and are important for all Canadians to know that they are going to exist in a safe manner.

Yet when it comes to the environment, parties in the House voted against the motion in order to ensure its defeat. Liberals voted against it as well. They refused to realize the important connection between our environment, the pollutants we are allowing into the air and the connection back to the health of Canadians on a day to day basis.

Earlier in this Parliament the Conservative Party voted against a motion we presented on the removal of trans fats from our food system. We have been told by the health associations and the heart associations that in Canada trans fats are a huge cost both economically and socially.

The party bringing forward today's motion found a way to vote against something that all the health proponents found to be beneficial, as too was the case when we brought forward a motion to include mandatory regulations on emissions with respect to the auto sector. We realize there are serious costs attributed to what comes out of the tail pipes of our cars and vehicles. While California and other states within the United States have boldly gone forward and brought the car manufacturers more in line with efficiency standards over the last number of decades, and which they have been able to achieve with greater productivity and greater efficiency for their own markets, Canada simply falls behind in the wake left by the Americans.

Many Canadians would like to maintain the notion that on the environment file Canada is stronger than our U.S. partners, particularly our U.S. partner states. Nothing could be further from the truth, as we go file by file. On this one the Conservatives stood well arm in arm with those most backward thinkers when it comes to the environment and health costs in voting against the NDP motion.

Something very important finally did happen earlier. It is incredible for many Canadians to realize that up until this Parliament, corporations in Canada that committed environmental offences, that were found guilty and fined, were able to write off those fines. Most Canadians intuitively would find that wrong and unbelievable that we would allow that practice to persist for so many years. There are some very notable companies. Canada Steamship Lines was fined $230,000 at one point. It was able to write off that environmental penalty against its taxes as if it had been for business lunches, as if it had actually made some investment in our economy as opposed to polluting our environment.

In Yukon we estimate that the federal government spends about 150 million taxpayer dollars a year on cleaning up old abandoned mine sites that are now polluting the waters, fish bearing waters primarily. That is $150 million at a minimum which Canadians who work hard and pay their taxes are paying for the cleanup of what companies made a profit from previously. There is no longer the need to operate regimes in business or in any other part of the economy that allow this pollution to continue and contribute again and again to the deteriorating health of Canadians.

There is an important and virtuous link that must be identified. A sound regulatory environment with respect to good pollution standards creates a virtuous cycle within business. It encourages businesses to make the investments, to design their businesses in such a way as to contribute not only economically, but also environmentally. The old debate about jobs versus the economy must stop. We have seen from some of the figures I quoted earlier that a poor environment costs us economically.

Operating a business in Canada is not a right. It is a privilege that is sanctioned to the businesses by the government. The role of government is to provide a legislative framework, the rules of the game to allow those businesses to operate and conduct themselves in such a way as to be of benefit to society. We have seen the Liberal government go through the last decade with 11,000 and growing foreign acquisitions of Canadian companies, without one rejection that we are aware of. One of the stipulations of these acquisitions is that it must be to the benefit of Canada. We must have had an extraordinary streak of good luck that so many foreign hands have bought businesses on Canadian soil, some of them moving Canadian jobs to other markets, always at the benefit of Canada.

It is time for the government to assume the role that Canadians have elected us to the House of Commons to do, which is to represent them in a leadership capacity to realize that in the preventing of pollution, in the reduction of pollution, we increase the health and well-being of Canadians. In many cases, as we have seen in studying the climate change file these last number of months, businesses have been saying that when they have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions that go into the air and cause all sorts of detrimental effects to our environment, they have actually achieved better and more efficient businesses. Their bottom lines have improved as they have gone through the pollution reductions.

We can no longer stay in the old paradigm where it is jobs versus the environment. The Europeans are far ahead of us. Thirty-nine states have done more on their Kyoto file than Canada has and are close to achieving their own targets. We should no longer be laggards when we look at the connections between our environment and our health system.

There is another role of government and that is to provide incentives for the investments that we believe are good for our communities and our society. The recent NDP negotiation with the government saw millions of dollars going into an investment in the environment which we saw as principled and right. That is a sound investment. In this day and age we have the capacity and the technology available to us to create things that will help clean our air while providing jobs for Canadians. This is no longer daydreaming. This is reality.

The witnesses who appeared before the environment committee described the advances that have been made in technology, particularly in energy production. We have the capacity if the investments are there. If the government were to set the regulatory framework and give positive signals to businesses to come onside, this would make good sense for the economy and the environment.

Recently, the government saw its way to invest in research and development in the auto sector. That was a noble investment. The auto sector forms the foundation of the Ontario economy and thus the Canadian economy. However, nowhere in the agreement is there any stipulation on technology investments going toward improving our environment. There is no request on behalf of businesses involved to make improvements to the cars we need to decrease smog days. There is no stipulation that would lessen the economic and social costs of families showing up in our already over-crowded hospital wards with something that may be preventable.

I would like to give the House one more example and it succinctly brings together the issues around the economy, the environment and health. I am talking about what has been happening with the wild salmon on the west coast of British Columbia and the intrusion of more farm salmon. The front page of yesterday's Vancouver Sun states:

Farmed salmon in B.C. contain six times the level of cancer-causing PCBs, dioxins and furans as wild salmon, according to government tests obtained by The Vancouver Sun.

The Vancouver Sun and other newspapers have been requesting, through freedom of information, to get this information from Health Canada. They have been trying to find out whether the salmon we are selling in our markets and putting on our tables is safe for us to eat. One would think the reverse would be true. It is difficult to believe that information from Health Canada, with its mandate to protect Canadians, would have to be obtained through freedom of information. However, we saw what happened with Health Canada's mandate to protect Canadians with mad cow disease. That was a failure.

When I asked the Department of Fisheries and Oceans how much money was spent on the simple monitoring and promotion of this potentially dangerous form of farming, the numbers were not available. We simply do not know. We do not account for these things.

On the one hand, we need to drag out of the government what is safe for our families in this country to eat, and on the other hand, the government is subsidizing, sponsoring and monitoring the very same product. This duplicity cannot be allowed to continue.

While we applaud this motion, there is a certain request for consistency that is required when we start to look at the virtuous cycle between smart regulations that effectively promote a positive business cycle and an environment in which we can maintain our quality of life, and where we can provide jobs for our communities and create a profitable and healthy environment.

I would encourage the hon. member who brought the motion forward to apply greater strength from his caucus and colleagues. When we brought forward motions that we saw as strong for the environment and for the health of Canadians and were subsequently defeated, we felt the reason was because there was a lack of cohesion when it comes to these issues.

It was requested earlier that we not play politics with this issue because health care is important. When we brought the trans fat motion forward, the mandatory regulations for the auto sector, and when we pushed to no longer have write-offs with respect to pollution in Canada, the Conservatives found other ways to vote on those issues which was completely duplicitous and confusing to many Canadians.

We need to clean up our environment while allowing a productive and healthy economy to continue. The NDP will continue in this effort. I look forward to my colleagues bringing forward further motions.

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5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

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5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

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5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

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5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment which was agreed to on the following division:)

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5:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the amendment carried.

The next question is on the main motion, as amended.