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House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Mississauga South has a minute and a half to answer all those questions.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to speak with the member about some of the more detailed ones. However, let me strike down a myth. The myth is that this somehow has to do only with heavy drinkers and people who are addicted. That is not the case.

I wrote a book called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: The Real Brain Drain in March of 2000. It is on my website. Let me quote a mother, who said:

My son has fetal alcohol syndrome. He was diagnosed at age 8. I got pregnant between high school and college. I was a social drinker and have never had a problem with alcohol. I did not know I was pregnant until three-and-a-half months along. I stopped drinking then, but it was too late. The damage was done. Though I did not set out to harm my child, I did, and now I need to do whatever I can to make things easier for him.

The reality is that even during casual drinking at a critical period during the early stages of pregnancy, the damage can be done. If a woman is sexually active in her birthing years and is not using protection, the best prevention for fetal alcohol syndrome is to abstain from consuming alcohol.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the government's response to the report of the Standing Committee on Health on the issue of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

I would like to take a moment to again reflect on some of the comments made by the previous speaker and say that when this issue came up in 1992, the previous government was obviously aware of the terrible nature of FASD. That member continues--

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. chief opposition whip on a point of order.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act, be read the third time and passed.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize to my colleague. I understand that this is a debate that engages the entire House and I too would like to commend my colleague, who has done this work for 13 years, but I believe, Mr. Speaker, that if you were to seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That the motion for third reading of Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act, be deemed carried on division.

I recognize that there are many people in the House who would like to speak to the concurrence motion before us. I am very cognizant of the fact that there will be a budget tabled today. It is not our intention at all to in any way delay Bill C-36, but we obviously recognize how important this concurrence motion and the whole issue of fetal alcohol syndrome are, not only to the House but to all Canadians.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I was just about to reflect on the fact that the previous member and his party have been aware of this issue since 1992. In their 13 years of government, the issue was not dealt with in any substantive way. In fact, it could be argued quite easily that the issue has become worse under those 13 years of Liberal government. For the member to say that there was any concrete action under the previous government I think is very misleading. That is why this issue is very important and why we need to address it today.

I want to take a few minutes to talk about the report and its content. Members will see that what I am about to say goes a lot further. It is a broad approach with specific action items and it is far more extensive than that member's suggestion of simply putting labels on alcohol containers. The previous speaker's solution to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder was labels on alcohol. Even his own party members rejected that at health committee time and time again. I note that he was not able to get that bill passed through the previous government at all.

Thank goodness we have this government, because we are going to take real action to deal with this completely preventable and terrible disease. The term “fetal alcohol spectrum disorder”, or FASD, refers to a range of lifelong disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. It is a leading contributing factor to childhood development delays in North America and a major cause of preventable birth defects.

Before discussing the government's response, I feel it is important that we acknowledge the committee's hard work on this report. This is a committee made up of all members of Parliament. The committee's report represents an important contribution to the national discussion on how best to prevent and mitigate the impact of FASD and how best to improve the overall health, social and economic outcomes of those individuals' families, caregivers and communities affected by this issue.

The hard work of members from all parties in preparation of this committee's thorough analysis of the issues around FASD underlines the commitment we all share in preventing new cases of FASD and mitigating the impacts of existing cases. As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, I am proud of the accomplishments represented by this report and of the committee's ongoing efforts to improve the health of Canadians through endeavours such as this. The government has considered the committee's analysis and recommendations and will continue to consider them as we move forward.

I would like to underline that the government's response to the committee's report presents a holistic and integrated approach to this issue. FASD is not simply a health issue. It has implications for individuals' quality of life, for families, for caregivers and for communities, implications that make it a much larger issue, both socially and from an economic perspective.

As such, the government approaches FASD in a manner that is holistic and emphasizes collaboration and cooperation between all players. Led by the health portfolio, efforts to address FASD will engage departments across the federal government as well as provinces and territories, aboriginal communities, organizations and all of society. Provinces and territories have called on the federal government to assume leadership on FASD.

In 2003 the Government of Canada led some consultation, but obviously it was not nearly enough.

We have looked at an interjurisdictional collaborative approach by all governments and stakeholders to prevent the occurrence of new cases of FASD and to improve the outcomes for those who are already affected.

For example, budget 2006 provided $3 million for the fiscal year to mount a healthy pregnancy public awareness campaign. Three million dollars is a lot more than the previous government provided, I have to say. This includes moneys for first nations and new and specific programs.

Another example is the development and dissemination of diagnostic guidelines for FASD published as a supplement to the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2005. This ambitious undertaking involves consultations with practitioners and extensive expert peer reviews. It is an important tool for health professionals to--

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My apologies to my esteemed colleague. I assure him that this will not take too long.

Mr. Speaker, I think if you sought it you would find unanimous consent from all parties present to proceed to Questions on the Order Paper briefly so we could get that done before 4 p.m.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we would be more than happy to allow all questions to stand. If that is in essence what my hon. colleague is requesting, I would ask that he rephrase his request and we would be happy to concur with that.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I believe this has been walked around. There are a number of questions which are required by the Standing Orders to be answered today. We planned to answer them and that is why the request has been made.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

There is no unanimous consent.

The hon. the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is important to ensure that health professionals have the ability to diagnose FASD in a timely manner to maximize the treatment.

Beyond the framework that was introduced, the health portfolio and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission have been meeting on the development of a multi-sectional national alcohol strategy to reduce alcohol related harm in Canada. This will include increasing awareness of the harms caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

The strategy has been developed in consultation with relevant federal departments, provinces and territories, non-governmental organizations, researchers, addiction agencies, the alcohol beverage industry and the hospitality industry. I am pleased to report there is a high level support to move forward with the strategy's recommendations and I look forward to its release.

These are just a few examples of the ongoing work in this area which is being led by this government. This government remains committed to collaborative action along the lines of five over-arching goals of the fetal alcohol syndrome framework. These include: increasing public and professional awareness and understanding of FASD; increasing the capacity to address FASD; creating an effective screening diagnostic data collection and reporting tools and processes; expanding the knowledge of facilitating information exchange; and supporting action on FASD.

I have already mentioned that FASD is a significant and complex public health issue. Estimates of its commonality vary but the committee's report estimates that nine out of every thousand babies born in Canada will suffer from FASD, leading to an approximate cost of about $1.5 million for care and social services over the course of an affected individual's life, not to mention the terrible human cost.

The implications of FASD go far beyond issues of treatment. They include considerable implications for Canadian society in terms of lost potential, impact on families and caregivers of those affected and the cost to the health care system, social services and the criminal justice system.

Addressing such complex issues requires a coordinated action on a number of fronts. As such, the government's approach to addressing the issue is one of collaborative leadership via the health portfolio in partnership with other federal government departments, provinces and territories, aboriginal communities and stakeholders.

For example, right now within the health portfolio, work is taking place to address FASD through several initiatives. These include efforts under Canada's drug strategy, the work now taking place to develop a national alcohol strategy, and ongoing work under the national framework for action to reduce the harms associated with alcohol and other drugs and substances. As such, the committee's report itself notes that the health portfolio's ongoing work on this issue provides a diverse range and support for FASD activity.

As the committee report also notes, other government departments, such as Justice Canada, National Defence, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Correctional Service Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada provide services and support for client groups directly under federal jurisdiction.

The federal government also supports and coordinates work being done by the provinces and territories on FASD while many provinces and territories are leaders in this field. Significant disparities exist--

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to get this on the record. I am asking for consent from all parties to allow us to proceed to another item under routine proceedings for a brief period of time so that we can submit answers to questions which have been asked by members of the opposition. Today is the deadline for the majority of these questions and if the opposition members truly want answers to the very questions that they raised in this place, I am asking for their concurrence to allow us to give those answers today.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House?

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, it seems that not only do opposition members not want answers to the questions they have asked, but they also do not want to deal with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. It is disappointing that the opposition is playing games on issues that are so important. Having said that, I will continue with my speech.

The federal government also supports and coordinates work being done by the provinces and territories. For example, the health portfolio regularly provides support for meetings of the Canada Northwest Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Partnership, which includes membership from Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and my home province of Manitoba. As well, the health portfolio works with the FASD Intergovernmental Action Network for Ontario and the Atlantic Inter-governmental FASD Partnership with membership from all four Atlantic provinces and the province of Quebec.

Federal support for and collaboration with these intergovernmental networks allows experts and policy makers from all jurisdictions to work together to establish plans of action to share best practices. The government views this ongoing collaborative approach as critical to ensuring progress in addressing the complex and multifaceted public health issue of FASD.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the government shares the standing committee's concerns for preventing new cases of FASD and for mitigating its effects on individuals, families and communities dealing with it. Again, I would like to express thanks to my fellow members of the committee, as well as the witnesses who appeared during the study for their contributions to the ongoing national discussion on how to best address FASD.

The government is committed to continue to act on FASD within the existing framework which was developed through national consultations, whose goals are in keeping with the committee's recommendations and which has already yielded results. I look forward to continuing to work together collaboratively with everyone to fulfill the federal role in the pan-Canadian effort to prevent future alcohol affected births and to improve outcomes for those already affected by FASD.

Again, I would like to reflect on the fact that the member who raised this issue and other members of his party had 13 years to deal with FASD and they clearly did nothing. They would rather complain, obstruct House proceedings and provide only criticism where constructive comments are warranted. It is ironic that the criticism they are providing is directed at their own previous record.

I look forward to taking real action to deal with FASD and to ensuring that all Canadians have the opportunity to live the Canadian dream.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, let us see if we can get rid of the confusion.

I am not asking to revert to routine proceedings. I am asking for the unanimous consent of the House to answer a number of questions: Questions Nos. 134, 135, 142, 147, 153, 159 and 163. Also, if Questions Nos. 136, 137, 139, 140, 148, 152, 160, 172 and starred Question No. 154 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately and I would ask that all further questions be allowed to stand.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House for the series of propositions he is putting forward?