House of Commons Hansard #53 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was artists.


Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, the previous speaker just does not get it. This is a bill that could actually help his constituents.

I am from Fort McMurray and, of the almost 10,000 Albertans who live in my city, most of them are from somewhere else in Canada. This was a huge issue for my constituents in the previous election, the previous one to that and the previous one to that. Most of my constituents are from areas closer to his home town than my home town. I cannot tell the House how much my constituents want this legislation. It means jobs and it would add to Canada's economy.

I would like the member to tell me how he thinks his constituents feel about this legislation, because it would affect the jobs that they want in order to take money back to their families and establish new lives in Alberta and elsewhere.

Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, as the Edmonton caucus chair for the Conservative Party, I have had the opportunity to meet with several business groups, employer groups and many constituents. One of the top concerns that I hear time and time again is that they cannot find the labour they need in Alberta right now. At a time when Canadians need jobs, and there are still Canadians who are looking for work and need jobs, in excess of the 600,000 net new jobs that we have created, there is a place where jobs are available. However, we need to ensure we have measures in place to encourage labour mobility in this country.

Back in 2009, the Prime Minister made an agreement with the provinces and territories on this issue. The legislation that we are talking about today would put teeth behind that agreement. It puts penalties in place if the federal government does not meet its commitment in regard to that agreement.

This is not a long piece of legislation but it is important. We hope that we can count on the support of members of all parties in the House to get it passed quickly.

Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary did not include a description of the current progress or lack of progress on issues surrounding chapter 11.

In 2007 there was agreement between the first ministers of the 10 provinces and 3 territories and the federal government to conclude work on an energy chapter. Would the parliamentary secretary be able to provide an update to the House as to whether t a comprehensive energy chapter will soon be completed and included in the internal agreement on trade?

Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, the agreement on internal trade is an evolving process and it will continue to evolve. This government will continue to be focused on all factors within the agreement.

In regard to energy, it is not helpful when members of the New Democratic Party travel down to the U.S., our largest trading partner, and lobby against the interests of Canadians. That is absolutely not helpful when we are dealing with issues on energy security.

What is also not helpful in the area of our energy sector, which tends to be driving the Canadian economy and the social programs that we hold so dear here, is parties proposing things like a carbon tax, which the hon. member's colleague from Vancouver Island just recently raised again. It has been part of the election platforms of both the Liberal Party and the NDP in previous elections. That is not helpful to the Canadian economy.

Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act and the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act, which proposes amendments.

I am pleased because, regardless of what members opposite may say, the NDP supports the removal of domestic trade barriers, the expansion of internal trade and also labour opportunities and mobility. More specifically, we support the parts of this bill that will facilitate the movement of Canadians from province to province to get work. So, we think that some aspects of this bill are worthwhile.

As the hon. member knows, the Agreement on Internal Trade is an agreement between the provinces and the federal government that was signed in 1994 and came into effect in 1995. Since then, it has been amended several times. We are currently addressing the content of the 10th amendment. An 11th amendment has since been proposed and negotiated. We must recognize—and this is the point that I tried to raise in my question to the hon. member—the importance of striking a balance in a free trade agreement like this one, because this is really what it is.

It is a free trade agreement that is more similar to the one negotiated under NAFTA than to those that were ratified at the World Trade Organization. It is also obvious that an agreement like the Agreement on Internal Trade results in a loss of sovereignty for the provinces. That is the foundation of the accord. The provinces have signed it, and they have accepted it. However, the fundamental issue has to do with balancing that loss of sovereignty. I will elaborate on this later on.

We should also expect that agreement to harmonize standards between the provinces which, in many cases, may be a good thing. However, a lack of balance in this regard could trigger relatively serious problems for certain sectors. Indeed, it could create obstacles to a province's ability to legislate on the environment, workplace safety and other issues that may not constitute a trade barrier as such, but may have to do with specific concerns in the province involved.

There have been cases under the Agreement on Internal Trade. There was one that pitted Ontario against Alberta and British Columbia concerning substitutes and dairy blends. In fact, Ontario banned the sale and manufacture of various products that resemble or imitate products made out of milk or milk ingredients. The 2004 panel formed to talk about this issue found that Ontario's Edible Oil Products Act contained measures that were not compliant with the Agreement on Internal Trade. The 2004 panel found that the measures were discriminatory, that Ontario’s dairy products constituted a like product and that Ontario gave them better treatment.

The panel also found that the measures interfered with the right of entry and exit, as the Edible Oil Products Act restricted or prevented the movement of goods and related services between provinces and created an obstacle to trade. After the report of the panel formed under the Agreement on Internal Trade was issued, Ontario had until February 1, 2011, to comply.

I want to know whether Ontario was denied its ability, not to protect its dairy sector, but to establish a distinction between the consumption of dairy products and edible oil products, which are different but try to imitate dairy products or milk itself.

Ontario still claims that protecting its dairy sector, not from a commercial point of view but from the consumer's point of view, is a legitimate objective. This also raises another question about supply management. We know that supply management in Canada affects the Maritimes, but it mostly affects three provinces: Ontario, British Columbia and, naturally, Quebec. Quebec and Ontario alone account for 50% of dairy production in Canada.

These two provinces are strongly committed to fully protecting the supply management system. What does the Agreement on Internal Trade say?

The chapter on agriculture allows parties to adopt or maintain measures concerning supply management systems that are regulated by the federal and provincial governments as well as measures concerning marketing boards governed by the provincial governments, which are not technical specifications.

According to the agreement, a technical specification is a technical rule or standard, a sanitary or phytosanitary measure or a compliance evaluation procedure. Based on that definition, is supply management protected? We are not entirely sure.

A technical specification is a technical rule, a document or a legal instrument that sets out characteristics of goods or their related processes and production methods, including applicable administrative provisions, and compliance with it is mandatory under the law. It may also deal exclusively with terminology, symbols, packaging, marking or labelling requirements as they apply to a good, process, or production or operating method.

What is the point of supply management then? Can we protect the milk market? Perhaps, but we cannot regulate its manufacturing process, labelling, production method or characteristics in order to keep people from skirting the system by using analogs.

I am raising the issue of supply management because an agreement such as the Agreement on Internal Trade will surely have ramifications in terms of the free trade agreements we negotiate overseas. All of the rules that we want to apply to internal trade here are closely followed by our international trading partners. They can see the potential for loopholes and could ask for elements that were protected or were not on the negotiating table with the Government of Canada in the past.

As with any free trade agreement, it is crucial that there is a clear framework regarding the responsibilities of the parties. It is even more important to have the flexibility to protect sectors that are central to the economy of the parties, such as supply management. And this issue also brings up the question of programs that promote eating local. This is not a public health issue or a consumer protection issue. According to the Agreement on Internal Trade, it might therefore not be a legitimate objective.

Will these policies be challenged under the Agreement on Internal Trade because they give local products a higher profile? We are in favour of introducing exceptions so that the groups created under the Agreement on Internal Trade to judge cases can consider some of these exceptions. Once again, these exceptions are not there to impede commerce or to cause problems in terms of interprovincial trade. We are more in favour of a real response to the specific needs of several provinces.

Many of the concerns raised by the government and these groups warrant our attention and, accordingly, the NDP would like to call expert witnesses in committee in order to get some clarifications on the potential impact of such a bill.

As I pointed out, it is important to understand that the Agreement on Internal Trade is similar to NAFTA in terms of its structure. One of the things about NAFTA that worries us—and it still worries us because NAFTA is still in effect—is chapters 11 and 19, particularly the provisions on investor states. Those provisions allow investors to sue foreign states directly. Thus, an American investor can sue the Canadian government or the Mexican government for anything it considers a constraint on its ability to do business in a country or its ability to make a profit in that country. Of course, some exceptions exist in NAFTA, but they seem pretty weak.

This brings me to the measures that were the subject of the question I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry. We are talking about companies that launch lawsuits against certain governments for reasons that are not necessarily trade-related, but that aim to prevent a given country from enacting completely legitimate, pertinent legislation, in this case, on the environment.

I will give two examples. Dow AgroSciences sued Canada for $2 million because Quebec prohibited the use of pesticides manufactured by that company. We all agree that pesticides are a basic environmental issue that has been around for at least 40 years. A number of products sold by various companies are recognized as being harmful not only to the environment, but also to the health of people who live close to areas where these pesticides are used.

Dow AgroSciences has tried, and continues to try, to sue Canada for $2 million because of the ban. This is not the only such suit. The Crompton company has also sued Canada for $83 million because some municipalities have banned the use of the pesticide lindane. These two examples clearly show the weakness or the lack of balance in investor-state provisions when it comes to the state's ability to protect public health.

The Agreement on Internal Trade contains provisions that allow a person or a business to sue another province for decisions, regulations or laws that it deems to be contrary to its interests and to its ability to do business in that province. These aspects are dealt with in the agreement in effect negotiated between the provinces and the federal government. We will continue to talk about these aspects and any provisions of international or domestic agreements that do not uphold environmental rights or workers' occupational health and safety rights. We want the provinces to always have the opportunity to regulate their environment and to protect the health of their people.

We are in favour of the Agreement on Internal Trade to a certain extent, as long as it addresses all the points that I just raised. We want the bills related to the Agreement on Internal Trade or to international agreements to avoid encouraging policies that force deregulation or privatization on the provinces and territories. We want these bills to avoid pushing the federal or provincial government to have power of attorney over certain interests of an industry or major investor.

We also want to prevent the bills from seriously reducing a government's ability to buy products from local suppliers. That is an element that is very important, particularly when it comes to the strategy for economic recovery. We want to avoid limiting the provinces' and territories' ability to help their provincial companies and industries as part of an employment or economic recovery strategy, or preventing them from doing so.

In any free trade agreement, there must always be a balance between the various interests. Bill C-14 includes provisions that are encouraging in some respects. I mentioned the legal action taken against Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement. At least, this bill limits the potential impacts of such legal action. We are talking about economic impacts of approximately $5 million for a fairly large province like Ontario, Quebec or British Columbia. On a per capita basis, the maximum fine would be less depending on the size and population of the province to prevent what is often frivolous legal action from being brought against the provinces and to produce what I call the litigation chill effect and avoid things like the $83 million dollar case that I just mentioned. There are even cases that involve several billion dollars. Yet, I feel encouraged that a limit such as this one was imposed.

Another one of our concerns about this bill pertains to the composition of the panels, to those who are presented by the parties to hear a specific case.

Of the five members who can be presented by the two parties involved, only one must be an expert on Canadian commercial law. The other four individuals may have other expertise not necessarily related to the case at issue. We think that is a problem, and it should be corrected.

The other problem is that only one of these five individuals must be bilingual and be able to work in French and in English. Why only one? This means that if there is one bilingual individual in a group and the other four members do not speak French, the discussions will take place in English. If we were dealing with different commercial laws, we could have required, for example, that a good proportion of members be bilingual and able to carry discussions in French and in English. However, I do not see the justification for having only one bilingual person on either side, just like we fail to see why only one individual should be an expert on Canadian commercial law.

Therefore, the NDP will definitely support this bill at second reading, so that we can discuss it in committee and correct some flaws, such as a certain lack of balance. We notice a lack of definitions or limitations that could apply to some people, businesses or provinces to prevent the possible use of the investor-state provisions. These provisions can sometime have a chill effect and result in a province being reluctant to make undertakings, to agree or to legislate, even for the good of its citizens, on environmental issues or on their own stimulus measures. I am thinking of municipalities among others.

That is why we want to take a closer look at this bill. We will have a chance to do so in committee. I really appreciate this opportunity to present our views on this legislation.

I will be pleased to answer any questions.

Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it is not often that I have a chance to stand up and speak after such a great discussion by my colleague. I am pleased to do so.

We are all in favour of improving trade within Canada, but sometimes it does not work that way in the more remote regions of the country where, in order to provide services to people, we have to give businesses opportunities to compete. In many cases in communities across the far north there is a business incentive program. An incentive is provided to a business that locates in a community and pays the high cost of putting up an office building or a facility in a community where the costs are so much higher than anywhere else. Then that business is expected to compete with southern businesses that act like carpetbaggers. They come up and skim off all the good business. To avoid that issue in the Northwest Territories we have always had a business incentive policy that encourages businesses to actually provide services to the people of the region in their own communities.

How does the member see that this particular internal trade bill would work for the people of the Northwest Territories, the people whom I represent and want to see have the same opportunities as others across this big country?

Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Western Arctic for his question.

The issue that he raised also exists in my riding, which is considered to be a remote region, since it is far from large centres. I think that the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, whose riding is close to mine, could say the same. These are particular situations. Because these regions are remote, the trade reality is not the same as it is in large cities like Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal or Halifax.

The reality is different because the level of competition is not the same. If we want to promote emerging or developing local trade in the regions—which, until now, was less developed but which is trying to expand—we must also be able to rely on local initiatives. It is in that sense that the agreement may be problematic. Resorting to fines like this one, even though they are less heavy and have some cap, can become problematic for some regions—and I am thinking of the Northwest Territories, where the hon. member hails from—for the future ability of the territories to develop their own economic policies. I fully agree with my colleague on this issue. I have the same problems in my riding and those problems also exist further east in Quebec.

Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, does my colleague think that there is no longer such a thing as “small is beautiful”?

With respect to farmers, will Bill C-14 directly threaten small producers and small specialized markets which, if I understand correctly, will now have a harder time setting themselves apart? This bill will give more powers to people who do not view prioritizing local markets and agri-food identity favourably.

In my riding, there are vineyards and small-fruit farmers who produce apples, blueberries, pears, raspberries, etc. They will no longer be able to sell their products effectively. Also, if we penalize the markets, SMEs will have fewer chances to obtain contracts to provide goods and services, since priority could no longer be given to local businesses. I would like to ask my colleague whether this will do more harm than good for farmers and SMEs.

Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question.

The question is not necessarily whether this is going to help or hinder. It is a question of balance. Once again, we are more likely to find a possible problem at the heart of the Agreement on Internal Trade in the future, the possibility of using the agreement to determine, for example, that Quebec's supply management and marketing practices could be disputed by a province that is not necessarily involved in dairy production, but is aiming to enter the market by trying to pass off its product as a milk substitute. As far as the agricultural sector is concerned, the Agreement on Internal Trade makes it hard for one province to apply rules on labelling, marking, marketing, etc. It is because of the potential abuses of the agreement that we do not see eye to eye with the Conservatives and the interpretation of the agreement.

There have not been any abuses yet, but that does not mean they could not happen in the future. The bill mentions that fines could be imposed on provinces and territories that contravene a panel decision. That could convince a province not to further protect sectors that are essential to Quebec and its regions.

Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like the hon. member to tell us how he imagines the 2009 protocol, which is dealt with in the bill, would affect his riding. What other changes does he think will occur in this protocol or for the internal trade agreement between the provinces?

Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. My riding of Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques is fairly remote and it is considered a resource region. Quebec implemented certain measures that benefit my riding, including a tax credit for resource regions. According to the terms of the agreement itself and not the bill, if a province can make the decision, it can be challenged.

However, the agreement also has some advantages. I said that we were in favour of a greater flow of goods and services and of improved labour force mobility. Domaine Acer, a company in Témiscouata, produces alcoholic beverages made of maple sugar or sap. They are quite delicious, by the way. This company would like to be able to export its products more freely outside Quebec, and that is a commendable goal.

In that sense, the bill could have positive effects by facilitating the trade of certain products. However, it could have more negative effects on my region's ability to apply the rules to develop its commercial sector differently than that of the larger centres, given its distinct character. If such is the case, according to the bill, there could be penalties imposed on Quebec in order to convince it not to go in that direction or to prevent the municipality or my region from doing so.

These are the types of questions that we want to be able to discuss in committee. That is why we are going to support this bill at second reading so that we can continue to discuss these issues in committee.

Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, in southern Ontario there is an innovative program where farmland that is being underused is matched with young farmers who have been encouraged to come to southern Ontario and experiment with crops that people in Toronto, especially in the ethnic communities, want to buy. These are crops that they would normally would have to ship in from the Caribbean, Latin America or India and Pakistan.

It is an exciting program, reflecting interesting niche markets and a diversity of business opportunities. It serves a real market.

I am wondering if my hon. colleague, who has done such a great job with this overview, could speak to the concerns around this diversity of access for farmers.

Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I come from a riding where there are a lot of farmers. This type of proposal or initiative from a region or province is completely commendable, especially in times such as these when our businesses and our agriculture industry in general, particularly family farms, are having difficulty. If we want to diversify and fine-tune our research and our methods, this type of initiative is a very good idea.

Honestly, I hope to see this type of initiative implemented more often in Ontario, Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. Based on the provisions of the Agreement on Internal Trade, I do not see any major problem because I do not think that this gives Ontario or the region any particular advantage in this case. According to some analyses or interpretations of the agreement, it could eventually be the subject of a frivolous lawsuit, which is a concern for us because we want to avoid this type of imbalance.

Improving Trade Within Canada ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Multiple SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

November 24th, 2011 / 5:30 p.m.


Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should help ensure that patients suffering from Multiple sclerosis (MS), and their families and caregivers, have access to the information they need to make informed decisions in the management of their condition by ensuring that: (a) the MS monitoring system currently being developed by the Canadian Institute for Health Information contain specific and useful information, accessible directly to patients, on the risks, benefits, and other relevant aspects relative to undergoing surgical treatment for chronic cerebro-spinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI); (b) departments, agencies and programs work closely with provincial and territorial counterparts, with health professionals associations, such as the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, and with patient groups, such as the MS Society of Canada, on the sharing of up-to-date research-based information on the nature of CCSVI and its link to MS; and (c) the government’s two advisory boards dealing with MS ensure the patients’ concerns and views are well represented and heard at future meetings.

Madam Speaker, I note that it is a very complicated motion. I would have preferred a simpler one, but I think it was required to get the message across.

I am honoured to speak to my private member's Motion No. 274. It is a motion to help ensure that patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, MS, and their families and caregivers have access to the information they need to make informed decisions on the management of their condition.

In most situations, of course, they would get this information from their doctors. However, for some MS sufferers in the advanced stages of the disease, they simply cannot get the information they need in order to make the decision on whether to have the liberation therapy or CCSVI treatment. If they have already decided to have the surgery, they need to decide where to have it done. I will explain why their doctors cannot give them this information.

First, this treatment is not available in Canada because it has not been approved as a treatment for MS. It is simply too new.

Second, most doctors simply do not know enough about the treatment to give patients advice on it. Because the science is not complete, it would be difficult for doctors to advise patients to have a procedure done outside Canada.

The purpose of my private member's motion is to establish an information portal to allow MS sufferers who are considering having the liberation therapy outside Canada to get anecdotal information from others who have already had the procedure done. This would also allow people who have already decided to have the treatment to obtain information about the process, particularly about the results, in various clinics outside Canada. Of the many people suffering from MS that I have talked to, especially those who have had the procedure done, there seem to be different results from different clinics.

To be clear, my private member's motion is meant to fill a desperate need for information, just over the next two to three years until the scientific processes are complete or at least far enough along to release the information to the public.

What is MS?

Despite the amount of research to date, little is known about the disease or what causes it. While there are different theories, there are still questions about what causes MS.

There are four types of MS identified and a wide variety of symptoms for MS patients. It is an unpredictable disease that can affect a patient's vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. The most common form of MS is defined by attacks which are followed by complete or partial recovery. Eventually, the part of the body that is affected by the attacks loses its ability to recover and scarring begins. This can lead to more permanent damage. At the point when MS is diagnosed, the severity, the progression or the specific symptoms that might be suffered simply cannot be predicted.

For some types of MS, a sufferer will be immobilized to the point of needing constant care. Even if the MS sufferers are still very young, they are often put into institutions intended for disabled elderly people. They find this to be very difficult to take and they are looking for some way to get around it. These are primarily the people who are looking to this liberation therapy for help.

In June 2009, Dr. Paolo Zamboni from Italy published his first study that involved approximately 65 patients who underwent the CCSVI treatment. The CCSVI treatment is also referred to as liberation therapy or liberation treatment. It is a surgery that improves blood flow in certain veins which carry blood from the brain or upper spinal column. CCSVI itself is actually a restriction of the flow of blood drainage from the brain and spinal column. The treatment frees up this flow.

Dr. Zamboni's treatment initially came from the concept of standard angioplasty which is used widely in Canada and around the world. This is a procedure where doctors use balloons to open blocked arteries that carry blood from the heart. Dr. Zamboni teamed up with a vascular surgeon, Dr. Galeotti. They began treating patients to see if endovascular surgery using these balloons to open veins would repair flow in the vessels and reduce MS symptoms. The study resulted in patients' experiencing a reduced number of attacks, fewer brain lesions that define MS, and most importantly, an overall improvement in the quality of life of many of the patients.

Unfortunately, when the veins start to narrow again, the patients' symptoms start to return. Since Dr. Zamboni's first study, the process has evolved and is different in different clinics. Therefore, when people are considering getting this procedure done, or have decided to have it done and are deciding where, they will benefit from even anecdotal information about the results achieved at different clinics in the United States or around the world. This procedure is unavailable in Canada.

Why have I chosen this topic for my private member's motion? Because I will only get one chance in the four and a half years of this Parliament to put forth a motion and have it debated. In fact, probably not everyone in the House will have that opportunity, even in this Parliament which will be longer than usual. Why have I chosen this motion on this issue? It is for many reasons, and the most compelling reasons come from my constituents. Groups in Lloydminister and Wainwright, and individuals from across my constituency have contacted me to tell me how desperate they are for information to help them make this decision.

For several months, I have been meeting with not only constituents, but with the Minister of Health, representatives from the Canadian Institute for Health Information or CIHI, doctors researching CCSVI treatment and other treatments, representatives from the MS Society and a lot of other people.

From these discussions, it was clear that there is great hope in the CCSVI treatment. People from around the world are working to get more answers regarding the treatment. In fact, our government has implemented a very comprehensive plan which is being implemented on an accelerated timeline, beyond anything I could have imagined done by government, to determine the potential of this procedure.

The people in the Lloydminster group are great people. They presented their case so well and I simply could not say no. That is why I am here today debating this issue.

The CCSVI treatment is new. It has brought new hope to many MS sufferers, particularly those in the later stages of progressive types of MS. Because the treatment is not yet offered in Canada, Canadians seeking this treatment must travel to the United States, Mexico, Poland, Cost Rica and a wide range of countries. Despite the high cost of getting the treatment abroad and the difficulty in travelling, MS patients are forced to undertake the cost in order to get their lives back. This is the kind of terminology I have heard from people who have had this therapy and from others who are looking at the possibility of it.

Our government is currently working on clinical trials, studying this liberation therapy and its potential at an unprecedented rate. We are including information from around the world. Despite all the work being done, Canadians with MS are questioning whether they should have the treatment and if so, where. The purpose of my motion is to provide this information portal where people considering the process can read testimonials based on a wide range of fairly comprehensive and specific questions.

Individuals can then take this information and have at least something to help them with this difficult decision. Information is available right now online, but it is very limited. The Lloydminster group was very lucky. About a dozen people have had this procedure someplace around the world. People can talk to them, and they do that, but they are looking for more information. That is the purpose of my private member's motion.

This database would be confidential, of course, and would not advocate that patients have this liberation therapy done. The procedure has not been well enough proven to do that. It is simply meant to be testimonials by people who have had it done.

Instead, it would allow people to access information that may assist them in their decision-making process. This information would come from others who have had the therapy done at various clinics and can comment on such things as the clinic, the doctor, how long ago the therapy was done and all the various things that make a real difference.

Unbelievably, Zamboni only came out with his study of this result a little over two years ago. In that two years, there have been incredible progression and improvements and changes made, more in some clinics than in others. That is the type of information that is meant to be provided on the database.

It is extraordinary that a report released just two years ago has had this kind of impact. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the results, but it is impossible to ignore the results.

I have spoken to MS patients and their families first-hand about the effects of this treatment, and most of them have found quite remarkable improvement, especially in clarity of thinking. We can imagine living in a fog for years and all of sudden being able to think clearly. That is one of the greatest impacts. So is improved mobility. There are many benefits, although I have spoke to a couple of people who did not have any noticeable results, so this is not a panacea. It is not perfect, but it is something.

In describing this to me, some have said they don't know what the findings will be after the trials are conducted, but what they do know is that this CCSVI treatment has given them hope. They say they have something to live for again. Others have said it has given them their life back.

Multiple SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to highlight the very worthy effort that the member opposite has made by moving this motion that addresses the problems with multiple sclerosis, the complexity of the disease and the lack of information that is crucial for treatment.

Since specialists, experts, researchers and scientists do not all agree on the link between CCSVI treatment and multiple sclerosis or on the controversial side of the disease, and since a number of patients are frustrated and are hopeful about this treatment and their recovery, will the government ensure that this process goes through all four phases of clinical trials? The first two phases are currently underway. Will the government ensure that this progresses to the fourth phase and that there is a consensus in the scientific community before this treatment is recommended?

Multiple SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Madam Speaker, the member's question is extremely important. What I am proposing in no way makes any commentary on the effectiveness of this procedure, but the personal stories told to me have had an impact on me and leave no doubt in my mind that there have been some extremely positive benefits for some people. After talking to experts at Health Canada and other experts, I know that there does not seem to be any risk for this procedure beyond the normal type of risk for that type of operation.

This issue will go on over the next two or three or four years and beyond. A scientific determination will be made. The appropriate scientific process is taking place, as I mentioned in my presentation, at a rapidly accelerated pace.

If we were to find some real problems and risks in having this procedure done, then I suppose the government could have some egg on its face, except that the government has heard the same stories I have from people who have seen their lives benefit dramatically as a result of the procedure.

The scientific process will take place. The information gathering will be done by the government, but this portal would help fill an important gap over the next two or three years, which can seem like a lifetime, and can be a lifetime, for some MS sufferers.

Multiple SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I have a relative who had this surgery and I am interested in the types of questions that would be collected and that patients would answer.

I want to compliment the member as well. The surgery itself is very new around the world and I would like to compliment him on the step forward that he has taken, because it takes some initiative to do so, as well on as the research that he has done on it to bring hope to families and sufferers.

Multiple SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Madam Speaker, the types of questions that would be put on this information portal would be for people to give testimony about what has happened to them. There would be about five or six categories. Most of the questions in my suggested list, which will change, have come from people who have had the procedure. To give credit, most of the questions have come from people from the Lloydminster group. By the way, Lloydminster is on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border and has the highest rate of MS in the world, so this initiative is very important to people in that area.

The categories are as follows. One is general information, such as gender, age and that type of thing. The second is on the facility itself, such as how people were treated and whether they were given a film of the procedure so they could take it to their doctors. The third would ask if they had seen a result and, if so, to describe it. That is probably the most important section. Another category is information on travel. For people in the advanced stages of MS, travel to another country can be extremely difficult. There are a number of questions for information on that aspect as well.

That is a very quick summary, but those are the types of questions that would be asked.

Multiple SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my Conservative colleague for taking the initiative to move this motion for more information to be provided to those living with multiple sclerosis. We will support this motion.

This motion also gives us the opportunity to talk about multiple sclerosis and the impact this disease has on the lives of thousands of Canadians.

Canada is one of the countries most affected by this disease. In fact, it is estimated that between 55,000 and 75,000 Canadians have this disease. These people hope that science will eventually enable them to heal.

We know that multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system and that it attacks the myelin sheath, or cover, that protects cells in the central nervous system.

What does this mean for people who have this disease?

Many patients have vision problems, muscle stiffness, loss of balance, extreme fatigue and, on occasion, total paralysis. Some people have to use a wheelchair to get around. We know that there are still many barriers to mobility in our buildings, streets and homes. Some people have to renovate their homes, others have difficulty finding suitable housing, and still others must live in long-term care facilities. Daily life is not easy for those suffering from multiple sclerosis. The people who suffer from this illness know what I am talking about.

However, these people teach us life lessons. Most people who suffer from multiple sclerosis continue to work and lead an active life. Our society should recognize them and better integrate them.

Take the example of Denis Baribeau from Montreal. As is the case for most people suffering from multiple sclerosis, the illness manifested itself early in his life. Mr. Baribeau discovered that he had multiple sclerosis when he was 26 years old. He had just finished university and was preparing to enter the job market.

It is a shock for us and our families to be told by a doctor that we will suffer from a chronic and incurable disease for the rest of our lives. When we lose our physical abilities, we lose them forever. Every flare-up leaves us a little less mobile and has lasting and disabling effects. It is difficult to accept this reality. And yet, people with this illness continue to fight, and to lead as normal a life as possible. Mr. Baribeau continues to work and also to raise our society's awareness about this illness.

However, it is difficult to remain active and have a good quality of life, especially for those who need drugs and cannot afford them. There are medications available that act mainly on the immune system. Some medications slow down the progression of impairment, whereas others help manage symptoms. However, the drugs are often expensive. It can sometimes cost up to $30,000 a year for this treatment. It is beyond the reach of those without a drug insurance plan.

The purpose of the first part of my speech was to help members understand what it is like to live with multiple sclerosis and also to show the urgent need to find solutions.

For years, as the hon. member opposite mentioned, numerous researchers have put all their energy into finding a solution for this disease. One breakthrough that the scientific community feels is significant is chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI. The term was coined by Dr. Paolo Zamboni, a researcher from the University of Ferrare in Italy. He observed that, in some patients with multiple sclerosis, veins in the neck and head are blocked or narrowed and therefore unable to efficiently remove blood from the brain and spinal cord. Phleboplasty was suggested as a potential treatment for patients. It consists of inserting a catheter into a blocked vein and inflating a balloon to dilate the vein. These treatment seems to have had results with certain patients, who said that they have regained some feeling and mobility.

A number of studies are taking place in Canada and elsewhere in the world to confirm the research results. The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, in partnership with its American counterpart, is currently conducting studies.

In addition, the federal government has decided to fund phase I and II clinical trials on CCSVI. The goal is to determine whether there is a link between venous anomalies and multiple sclerosis. Researchers do not yet agree on the link between the CCSVI treatment and multiple sclerosis.

In fact, doctors and the scientific community do not yet have all of the data needed to understand CCSVI and to offer safe, effective treatment to patients. This lack of data means that CCSVI is not yet available in Canada.

Sometimes, patients travel abroad to get treatment without knowing if the method used is reliable and risk-free. The information available in Canada is limited and fragmented. Some studies show a link between venous insufficiency and multiple sclerosis, while others reject that hypothesis.

So, a lot of information is missing and this prevents people from making informed decisions. Moreover, we do not know how many patients have received innovative treatments and how they have reacted to such treatments. Let us also not forget that research protocols, diagnostic procedures and treatments vary from country to country. This lack of national and international standards is a major impediment to the treatment of people suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Yet, it is critical that patients get all the information necessary to make informed decisions. After all, they are the ones who live with MS and they should be well informed. That is why the motion presented by the hon. member opposite is welcome, since it provides that these people should have access to more information. That is extremely useful to patients. Therefore, it is critical that the Conservative government work with scientists to get the most accurate information available for patients and their families.

I should point out that a database project is underway at the Public Health Agency of Canada. The agency is developing a new monitoring system to collect data on the condition of patients, on what is being done in terms of treatments, and on the findings of studies. We hope that this project will be developed quickly and will be based on scientific standards, in order to provide patients with the information they need. That should have been done a long time ago, considering that the treatment was made public in 2009.

I also remind the government of the importance of allowing the public to have access as quickly as possible to scientific data on venous insufficiency. In June, the federal government announced that it would fund clinical trials for phases I and II, but we still do not have any information on the research protocol, the timeframe, or the number of participants. It is also important to remind the government that all phases of the clinical trials must be completed in order to have reliable results. There are four phases and we are currently funding only the first two. We would like to have more details on these trials but, as we know, it is always difficult to get clear answers from this government.

I wish to stress how important it is to focus on the fight against multiple sclerosis. People who suffer from the disease, their families and Canadian society as a whole all have an interest in finding scientific answers to this disease. Let us show leadership. Canadian researchers have all the skills necessary to get results, and we are anxiously waiting for these results.

I thank the hon. member opposite for promoting better access to information. As long as scientists agree among themselves, we will support this motion.

Multiple SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, as members know, about 75,000 Canadians are living with MS. This disease is characterized by episodes when people are stable and at other times acute episodes that cause them to lose more of their mobility and to become sicker. The point is that it can be a very long-term disease in that the ability for some people to have frequent episodic acute phases or not is an individual variant. There does not seem to be any way of telling who will have more episodes and who will not. People's knowledge that they are living with a disease that could come or go, could come more often or could leave them very immobile is like spinning the dice and not knowing which way it will come. That must be a huge problem for MS patients in that they must live with this uncertainty about what is going on.

As a result of that, I think we all know that when people are very ill with a chronic debilitating illness that does not have a set prognosis, that could come and go, that people will try whatever they need to try to get themselves better. That is human nature. That is something that I would do, I guess. If I had a problem, I would go looking to see whatever could help me to get better or to feel better and to be able to curtail as much as I could some of those acute episodes.

However, it is really important for us to ensure that we do not give patients false hope. Having said that, I am not hinting that CCSVI is a false hope. I am not saying that at all. I am saying that we want to ensure that we do not lead people to believe that this is a slam-dunk, that this will make a difference. This is why the Liberals last spring called for clinical trials on CCSVI. The government announced those trials in June, which I must congratulate the government for, as that was a quick turnaround and a quick response.

However, now we seem to be in limbo waiting for protocols and waiting for this to move forward. My colleague from the New Democratic Party made an important point. Will it only be phase one and two? What happens then? Does it mean that we lead people to some hope and then pull it out? I hope the government will commit to all the phases of a clinical trial because that would give us a very clear understanding about whether this procedure works, how long it lasts, what the disadvantages are and what the negative aspects of this are so we can be very clear, when we decide whether it works or does not work, that all the work has been done and that we do not leave people with false hope or to feel that interventions which could, in some instances, cause serious side effects, would. This is what clinical trials are about. We do not put anybody on a drug until we do the work on them, until we find out whether that drug is safe and what the risks are, et cetera. This is just simple evidence-based protocol for any kind of drug or intervention that is to be used on a patient. It t is a good thing and we would like to see that.

While I do support some of the pieces in this motion, I must say that we called a lot of the MS patients from the groups across the country over the last few weeks and there was a mixed review on this motion. Some of the MS groups decided that they did not like it because it was status quo, that it was only repeating what is already happening. The CIHI is able to post this information. That is already happening. The government and the CIHI said that it would happen. The groups wanted to know what was new about that.

The second piece of the motion is people working together across jurisdictions to link all researchers, academics, et cetera, to help people to understand the good aspects or negative aspects of CCSVI. However, nobody can really do that with any sense of certainty until the clinical trials are finished. So there is a sense that this is just treading water on this second one.

Those are the things that concerned me. A lot of people were concerned that this motion did not offer anything really new. I have to say that just putting information out there so it is easily accessible and people can find out what they want, look at case histories and look at what is going on, I hope that information will be based on looking at international work. In other words, are the people who go to Budapest for CCSVI intervention doing better than people who went to Thailand for the treatment? That is the kind of information I would hope we would see on this information module. I agree with it. I think information is good. I am just relaying to members what a big chunk of the community told us.

Another chunk of the community says that anything is better than nothing, that they are happy to see this happen and that it may not be a lot, but that it is a start.

I still do not know what I would do about the bill. There are some good aspects to it. As I said, we have talked with technical experts from across Canada.

What I would have liked to have seen in the bill is something that would assure us that if a patient goes abroad for CCSVI treatments, when they come back here and have side effects , or have negative problems associated with that treatment, that we do not turn them away. The hospitals and clinicians in this country should not say, “Sorry, you went abroad, took this upon yourself and therefore it is your problem”. It is not reasonable or fair for us to leave Canadians in the lurch just because they were desperate to try something, anything, that would alleviate what is, in effect, a very terrible long-term disease. It would have been nice if we could have had some assurances that, under the Canada Health Act, anyone who has come back from a treatment who has side effects and needs help will get that help and will not be turned away.

We have heard stories of people who were turned away, who could not get into emergency, who were told that no one could see them because they brought the problem on themselves. That is a punitive attitude that I believe some provinces are already working on locally to ensure the colleges, et cetera will ensure that it is good medical practice to take care of a patient regardless of the reasons for their side effects and complications.

I understand the intent of the motion, with the evidence and so on, but I do not understand part (c), which talks about collaboration with two advisory groups. I am not clear who those two advisory groups are. I am not clear if they currently exist or if the mover of the motion is suggesting that there should be two advisory groups. I do not know what that really means. It would have been nice if we could have had some sort of clarification on that.

I have some concerns that the government is directing the Canadian Institute for Health Information, not to do something but exactly what it should do. I think we need to keep arm's-length scientific bodies doing arm's-length scientific things based on evidence and good information. The CIHI should decide what information should go on there based on evidence and evidence alone, not just on hopes, dreams and wishes. Therefore, I have a little concern that this may actually be too directional for the CIHI.

However, as I said before, I would have liked to have seen some other things in this motion with regard to health care for CCSVI patients across the country.

I have another question, which was asked by many of the groups that I talked to. Will this motion interfere with the work that is already being done, such as the CIHI clinical trials? I do not see that it would but that was a question that I was asked. I wonder if at the next reading of this motion the member could actually explain that a little bit, if he feels that it would interfere with the CIHI trials. I do not think it will.

Those are good questions and concerns that need to be addressed because, if what we are talking about here is informing patients, this is something on which they want to be informed. We either listen to the questions they ask us and then try to answer them or we say that we do not like the question, that it is a stupid one. It was is a real question that I was asked by many groups that I talked to.

I would like to see the trials go on expeditiously. I know we are waiting for CIHI to come up with its protocols and that takes time, but I also want to ensure that we get out of this motion that all four clinical trials will be done. The question then is: What will happen and when? If we decide that this is an evidence-based intervention that works for some people and not for others, we need to know who are the people they work for, what exactly are the incidents of those people who might get some relief from it, et cetera. We also need to know if the relief is long-term, short-term or temporary.

As we well know, with a lot of diseases that are typified by this sort of wave pattern where it is bad and then the patient gets better and then it is bad again and then they get better, sometimes if they get a treatment at the time when they are stable it may seem like the treatment caused them to be stable, which may or may not be true. Again, that is just another reason that we need to do clinical trials.

I hope the member will hear my questions that I am asking on behalf of some MS patients. I think information is good but I think that information needs to be valid, clear and evidence based. If there is anything I need to suggest, it is that.

I thank the member for bringing forward the motion.

Multiple SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to private member's Motion No. 274, put forward by our colleague, the hon. member for Vegreville—Wainwright.

As I speak, I cannot help but think of my friends, my neighbours and my patients back in Oshawa who are living with this devastating disease. I would like to dedicate my remarks to my friend, Clark Caskey, who recently passed away, and his wonderful wife, Linda.

The motion calls upon the Government of Canada to ensure patients with multiple sclerosis, their families and caregivers have access to the information they need in order to make informed decisions in the management of their condition.

For my part today, I would like to talk about what we know, provide some of the context surrounding these issues in Canada, and discuss two recent major initiatives that complement this motion. I would first like to tell members what we know about multiple sclerosis, or MS.

MS is often a disabling disease of the central nervous system which may affect vision, hearing, memory, balance, and mobility. Canada has among the highest rates of MS in the world. MS often strikes young adults, with women three times more likely to be diagnosed with MS than men. The effects of MS are not only felt by those living with the disease, it also impacts their family and friends and the community at large, both emotionally and financially, often for a lifetime.

In 2009, Dr. Paolo Zamboni, an Italian surgeon, suggested that vein blockage is a main cause of MS, a condition he labelled as chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI. He suggested that opening up blocked veins in the necks of multiple sclerosis patients would relieve the patients' symptoms, a treatment commonly called the Zamboni or CCSVI procedure. Experts tell us that more research is needed on the safety and efficacy of the CCSVI procedure before it can be offered in Canada.

Motion No. 274 asks the government to support people with MS so they can make informed decisions about their condition. This includes information on the potential link between CCSVI and MS. The motion seeks to ensure that the recently announced Canadian MS monitoring system contains specific and useful information on the risks and benefits relative to undergoing surgical treatment for CCSVI. What is important here is that this information on risks and benefits be accessible to MS patients.

We know that people with MS need good information to make best choices about their health. Accurate information is critical in weighing the benefits and the risks of treatment options. Over the past year, we have developed two major new initiatives, in collaboration with key stakeholders, which align with the spirit of Motion No. 274. First, we announced the development of the Canadian multiple sclerosis monitoring system. Second, we recently announced the establishment of a phase I and phase II clinical trial to study the safety and efficacy of the CCSVI procedure. Today, I would like to speak to both initiatives in the context of the motion before us today.

On March 23, 2011, the Government of Canada announced the funding and development of a new national multiple sclerosis monitoring system devoted to monitoring the health of those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Through the new monitoring system, we aim to improve our understanding of the disease and its treatments. We will assemble a national information system so that persons with multiple sclerosis and their caregivers can learn from the national experience with multiple sclerosis. Information on treatments, side effects, quality of life, progression of the disease, health status and much more will come from the monitoring system. It will be a relevant, important, coherent and collaborative national resource. The system will help fill gaps of information so that patients and doctors have the information they need to better understand this disease in order to make informed health choices. The monitoring system is being developed by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in close collaboration with provinces and territories, the Canadian Network of Multiple Sclerosis Clinics and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

This system will collect information on a voluntary basis from all MS patients attending participating MS clinics, including those who have had the CCSVI procedure. Through all we do, the perspectives of Canadians living with MS is crucial to informing our activities, policies and our research. For this reason, the monitoring system is being built with the input and advice of multiple sclerosis patients and their doctors, which will help ensure its relevance for those living with this devastating disease.

Information from the MS monitoring system will be available to patients through regular reports on a variety of topics. This is particularly important for MS patients and their health care providers. For the first time from a national perspective, they will be able to use this information to consider potential treatment options.

Working closely with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada in the development of the monitoring system is essential, as it is the only national voluntary organization in Canada that supports both multiple sclerosis research and services for people with multiple sclerosis and their families. The MS Society of Canada represents patient priorities and interests. Its collaboration will ensure that information from the MS monitoring system is relevant to the needs of patients, families and caregivers. The MS Society also plays a key role in outreach to patients to provide them with this information and seek their feedback.

All of these efforts will help to ensure that the MS monitoring system remains relevant by providing the information MS patients and their doctors need for making decisions about treatment options.

In the spirit of the motion, the second initiative is the recent announcement to establish a pan-Canadian phase I and phase II clinical trial to study the safety and efficacy of the CCSVI procedure.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, CIHR, is leading this federal initiative and will implement a rigorous and international peer reviewed competition to select the team of researchers that will conduct this important research.

Through phase I, we will be able to evaluate the safety of the CCSVI procedure. In phase II, we will assess the efficacy of the CCSVI procedure in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

Through this clinical trial, new and timely information will be available and shared with patients and their doctors through health professional organizations, such as the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Aligning with this motion, Canadians living with multiple sclerosis, medical researchers and the MS Society of Canada are well represented on the advisory boards of both initiatives. Our government recognizes that MS patients are at the centre of this issue and established both advisory boards with this in mind.

The Canadian multiple sclerosis monitoring system advisory board will ensure that MS patients' perspectives are reflected in the development of this very important system.

The advisory board for the development of the phase I and phase II clinical trial of the CCSVI procedure includes researchers who are treating people with multiple sclerosis and who can bring patients' concerns to the table.

As I have emphasized today, collaboration is key to working on such a complex disease as multiple sclerosis. No one organization is alone in this fight. That is why we are working closely with the provincial and territorial governments, medical associations and the MS Society of Canada. This collective effort will help to ensure that people living with MS and their caregivers get the support and advice that they need.

Many of us have family members and friends who have MS. We see the strength and determination that they possess, and we are inspired by their spirit. As a chiropractor working in Oshawa over the years, I have had the privilege to treat patients with this debilitating disease and I have seen first-hand how it affects their families.

Our government recognizes the challenges faced by the thousands of Canadians who have MS and the toll it takes on them, their families and friends. It is vital that multiple sclerosis patients, their families, doctors and caregivers have access to information to make informed decisions in the management of multiple sclerosis.

I have appreciated the opportunity to speak to this important issue. I thank the member for Vegreville—Wainwright for introducing this important motion. I thank all members in the House this evening for their worthwhile participation in the debate. We look forward to moving this very important motion forward.

Multiple SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Madam Speaker, multiple sclerosis is a very complex, unpredictable disease that often disables those who suffer from it. The chance of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in Canada is among the highest in the world. Women are three times as likely to get multiple sclerosis as men. This disease is most often diagnosed in young adults between 15 and 40.

Multiple sclerosis affects 2.5 million people around the world. Studies show that the further away from the equator, the greater the incidence of the disease and Canada is no exception. Between 55,000 and 75,000 people have this disease in Canada, and more than 1,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, or three new cases a day.

Multiple sclerosis is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada. This disease also affects children, some as young as three years old. The impact of the disease is felt by everyone around the person suffering from it. The effects of MS are unpredictable and vary greatly from one person to the next. Between 80% and 85% of people with MS are diagnosed with the relapsing remitting form of the disease. Over time, from 50% to 70% of people originally diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS will worsen into secondary progressive MS, and will gradually become more disabled.

This disease affects vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. In addition, this disease has physical, emotional and financial effects that are life-long, which considerably impairs the quality of life of MS patients. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease; only treatments to alleviate the symptoms. However, in his studies, Dr. Zamboni apparently established a link to chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency. CCSVI is an anomaly caused by the narrowing of the veins that drain oxygen-depleted blood from the brain and the spinal cord. The theory behind the link between CCSVI and multiple sclerosis is that poor drainage of the oxygen-depleted blood could cause a back-flow to the brain, which would lead to a lack of oxygen in the brain and deposits of iron in the tissue. That would trigger an immune response associated with multiple sclerosis.

There is not enough evidence to conclude that CCSVI is the cause of multiple sclerosis. It is only possible to indicate that in some people multiple sclerosis may occur in association with impaired venous drainage of the central nervous system. For now, the data published about venous anomalies that could play a role in the occurrence or spreading of multiple sclerosis are contradictory. It is a subject that requires a clinical study.

The goal of the clinical study will be to determine if MS patients show venous abnormalities that differ from age-matched controls. The goal will therefore be to define, based on conclusive evidence, mechanisms of how venous drainage from the brain might be of relevance to MS, an issue that has not yet been adequately explored. Clinical studies are usually conducted on human subjects. Given the complexity of a research protocol, we need to ensure that it is as rigorous as possible, so as not to skew the results, but above all, in order to protect the health of patients and participants. We understand the importance of this issue for people who are suffering from MS.

However, we must be very careful in order to ensure the safety of everyone participating in the clinical trials. As a result, we need to establish the protocol in a responsible manner as soon as possible, but without compromising patient safety. The research protocol must ensure that the financial resources needed to conduct the study are available and must seek out new collaborations with various experts. This will require significant collaboration among researchers. These experts and researchers must come not only from the field of medical research, but also from organizations such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

Furthermore, we must not forget the important role of the provinces and territories. We must establish the number of patients to recruit, the frequency of consultations and imaging tests, the kinds of data to record, as well as detailed procedures for each phase of the study. This stage will ensure that all participants will be subjected to the same protocol, in an effort to strengthen the results of the research.

It is also important that a monitoring committee be established to oversee the study's progress and to react to any problems that could arise in terms of research or safety. The study should also recruit and select participants and obtain their consent to participate in the study. It is important to conduct a truly randomized trial to ensure that the results are well founded and to clearly establish what link exists between CCSVI and multiple sclerosis. It is important to share the results of the clinical study so as to not spread false hope among those with this terrible disease. It should be noted, as was specified in a number of studies, that each person reacts differently to Dr. Zamboni's treatment.

It is essential for doctors and other intervenors in the medical field, as well as for the patients, that information be shared about the impact and the link between CCSVI and multiple sclerosis. Many patients feel isolated because of the lack of understanding about this disease. These people feel overwhelmed by desolation, despair, lack of understanding, guilt and shame. For some, the suffering leads them to isolate themselves and they refuse to go out for fear of what people, in their ignorance, may say.

It is a vicious cycle that results in them more and more often finding refuge in their solitude. In many cases, patients feel misunderstood by doctors who apply their knowledge without always taking into consideration the strong emotions that people living with this disease face. Patients must live alone with their body, day in and day out, and that body no longer responds. They have to live with a physical and nervous fatigue that only increases with time. In many cases, once they build up some trust, patients feel less scorned by health professionals.

Thus, it is crucial that we have clear information on the link, impact and side effects in order to be able to make an informed decision concerning patient treatment. It is important that doctors and patients co-operate fully with one another. It will also be important to update the databases of the multiple sclerosis monitoring system regularly. This system will help monitor outcomes and identify the most effective therapies. It will also help health system planners identify future needs and plan resource distribution more effectively through the system administrator.

In order to help achieve medical breakthroughs in relation to MS, it is essential that the federal, provincial and territorial governments come together, particularly in order to make the necessary decisions regarding treatment and medical services. Knowing that health care and public health coverage differ from one province to the next, it is crucial to ensure participation among all levels of government. Co-operation is needed not only among governments, but also among the other organizations and professional health associations, and the people who have this degenerative disease, namely, the patients.

Multiple sclerosis is a ongoing battle for those suffering from this disease. They count on medical advances to help cure their suffering. For that reason, it is of the utmost importance to begin the clinical trials as soon as possible, but in a responsible manner. Serious and vigorous protocol will be needed to ensure the safety of those participating in the trial. The final results of the clinical trial must show a clear and precise link between CCSVI and MS, and the advantages and disadvantages of the treatment. As a result, an overall picture will help patients to make the best decision possible regarding their treatment.

These results will also have to be compiled in the monitoring system so that they can be consulted by people with MS and shared with other countries so that true medical advances can be made in the treatment of this disease. There are all kinds of partners, and they must be consulted. They include patients, doctors, researchers, health care stakeholders and the provinces. The provinces and territories provide the care and pay for treatments.

Multiple SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville can begin his comments. He will only have about two minutes before the end of private members' business. He may begin his introductory comments.

Multiple SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Madam Speaker, I will do what I can in two minutes.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on this very important issue that affects so many Canadians and their families, and I thank the member for Vegreville—Wainwright for introducing this important motion, Motion No. 274.

I am standing here as the elected member of Parliament for Mississauga East—Cooksville. One of the reasons I wanted to speak to this motion is because the member who previously represented my riding, Albina Guarnieri, suffers from multiple sclerosis. I spoke to her and this is what she said to me, “MS patients suffer from a lack of access to care, information and hope. Government can help connect researchers to speed results and connect patients to the care options they need”.

I thank Albina for her brave words and service to this country, and I wish her well. I believe that many members on both sides of the House have known Albina for years and we all wish her well.