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House of Commons Hansard #188 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was asbestos.

Topics

AsbestosPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

AsbestosPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, December 5, 2012, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed from November 21 consideration of the motion.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Vancouver Centre had 6 minutes remaining in her speech, to be followed by 10 minutes of questions and comments.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for giving me the opportunity to finish my remarks on the motion for concurrence by the New Democratic Party.

I was talking earlier about the futility of witness presentations under the Conservative majority government and the inability of Conservative members at the health committee to use their intelligence and goodwill to listen to expert advice and testimony supporting concrete recommendations for change. These recommendations would remedy some of the challenges and problems that our aging population faces in specific areas like health promotion and disease prevention, access to medications, housing, long-term and chronic care, home care and community-based multi-disciplinary community care models, all of those kinds of things that we heard so clearly from witnesses. Conservative members sadly were unmoved and unrelenting in their fixed ideation and slavishness to their marching orders to maintain the status quo, to say nothing of ignoring the evidence and accepting change to the government's fixed path.

Parliamentary committees have become a farce and so have reports from them. I can only speak for the health committee and the report that we are discussing today. Conservative members do a disservice to their own constituents when they do not look at what they could do to better the health of the population, to deal with the problems that the aging population faces.

I spoke earlier about the misrepresentation of public policy by the Conservatives, where they say they have been doing certain things and we find out that they have not. Their words have no teeth; there is no action. In fact, they are cutting back on a lot of the health programs and policies that may have made life different for the aging population and chronically ill.

When we look at things such as rising obesity, nothing is going to change until the minister decides to regulate trans fats and salt. Nothing is going to change with diabetes until the minister looks at regulating sugars in food, as she has been advised by expert panels and her own department. Yet she still refuses to do this. Nothing is being done about cardiovascular disease, mental illness or depression. All of these programs are being cut. Whatever people say we should be doing, especially expert witnesses at committee, absolutely nothing is being done to change the lives and the health of Canadians. The Minister of Health does absolutely nothing. When we ask her questions, she has nothing to say. Members of the Conservative Party on the health committee simply rubber-stamp the status quo. That is really sad.

Even if the Conservatives' mantra, that we should not look to the federal government because this is the role of the provinces, were true, the minister has a direct responsibility for aboriginal people, the RCMP, the armed forces and the Inuit, who have the worst health outcomes. Seniors and populations in the north have a high incidence of arthritis, autoimmune diseases and rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Nothing is being done to deal with that. Seniors have a high incidence of diabetes. They are facing vision loss and mobility problems because of diabetes. The government never mentions this.

We heard at committee that housing is a major issue for seniors. Seniors who are chronically ill age better at home and do better in the community, according to evidence-based medicine. We heard from everyone that community care and multi-disciplinary clinics run by doctors and nurses, psychologists and nutritionists can do more to allow people to remain healthy in their communities, who then do not need the kind of services in acute care hospitals that cost the system a lot of money. We know that seniors do not do well in hospitals, where they get infections and seem to get sicker.

Here are all the answers. This is not new; this did not only come out at the committee hearings we had on chronic disease and aging. This is evidence that has been carefully studied and everyone knows about it. It has been around for the last six years. Nothing has been done and nothing is being done.

We look at housing. There is no mention of poverty among the elderly. In fact, we see changes that would increase the retirement age to 67 when we know that a lot of people who have chronic back and mobility problems or high stress levels from work need to retire sooner. We would have a lot of people retiring very ill. This is the conundrum. This is another example of the New Democrats rushing around to support the Conservatives, trying to get concurrence in a report that the New Democrats disagree with and we disagree with, which is why we wrote dissenting reports. However, it continues to happen.

The New Democrats make decisions such as this, which puts everyone in a conundrum. If we vote for concurrence, I have accepted the fact that this do-nothing, ridiculous sham of a report would be accepted. If we say no and vote against it, the dissenting report that we brought together is not going to be accepted. At the end of the day, the Liberal Party is going to vote for the best thing and that is that we will be voting against this concurrence motion because there is no way, in good conscience, that we can accept the report that came out of that particular—

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please.

Questions and comments. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to my colleague's speech and I cannot believe what she has just stated in the House. It is almost as if she did not read the report or do any research before her speech. I was in those committee meetings and this report did reflect a lot of what those witnesses said.

I just want to correct the record because the member went on as if nothing is being done. What we have done is launch the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. I am going to ask her if she has ever heard of that. Maybe she voted against it, but it is something we put forward. There is the Canadian diabetes strategy, and the member said nothing has been done on diabetes. We do take this seriously. That is why we are putting the strategy forward and are actually funding it. There is the aboriginal diabetes initiative. She talks about our first nations people up north and says nothing is being done. Maybe she has not done her research. There are also the national lung health program, the Canadian heart health strategy and action plan, and the Canadian mental health report that just came out. We have been implementing and moving forward all these things and unfortunately this member stands in the House and misrepresents what we are doing and moving forward as a government.

I ask her to look back on her own party's government when it cut $25 billion in transfers to the provinces. It came up with something called a health accord, which had absolutely no teeth. It was a blank cheque written to provinces.

Could the member please, for the benefit of all Canadians, when she rises in the House actually do some research and be truthful when she is talking about the things that are being done by this government? That is all I am asking. She can criticize but please do not be—

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please.

The hon. member for Vancouver Centre.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I actually did not talk about what was being done by the government because nothing is being done by the government that would make any difference to chronic disease in aging for seniors. What I am talking about is what the government is not doing. With regard to research, I sat and listened to the witnesses who presented. I am a physician. There is nothing that this particular hon. member can tell me that I do not know about evidence-based medicine and about the issues of aging, et cetera.

In regard to this member's suggestion that the government side listened to this report, it did not. The government members did not listen to the witnesses. They did not implement recommendations. They voted against important concrete recommendations that would have made a difference to chronic disease in aging.

In fact, it is a misrepresentation by this hon. member to say the accord was toothless. There were very many clear objectives, five of them. One of them was health human resources. Another was looking at the shift to community care centres and the multidisciplinary delivery of care. The other one was pharmacare. We see that seniors do not have access to drugs. Those things were all dropped by the Conservative government when it came into power.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, although I thank the member for getting up and speaking to the motion, I wonder if she actually read any of the documentation. She criticized the New Democrats for not standing up to principles of health care. Yet, we have a minority report right in the document. I invite her to actually read it. It would help in her discourse in the House if she spent some time doing that.

I also wonder if the Liberals could teach us any lessons on cuts to health care, the massive cuts that happened in the 1990s leaving the provinces scrambling for financing. Could the member describe those cuts, what impact they had on health care and how we are still digging ourselves out of the hole that the Liberal Party created for all of us?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the hon. member was not listening to what I was saying.

The NDP did write a dissenting report and I did read it. I congratulate the NDP for its dissenting report. Why, then, would the NDP members want to concur with the actual report that came out when they wrote a dissenting report against it? That is what I was saying. Maybe the hon. member should listen the next time and not jump to conclusions.

I did agree with the NDP's dissenting report. Why would the NDP members want to concur with the report when they dissented against it?

The second question was with regard to what the Liberals did? We actually got rid of a deficit. We actually brought the debt down, which is what the present government seems unable to do. We put $41.2 billion into a health accord with five clear objectives, none of which were achieved because in 2006 the present government walked away from it.

We are not digging ourselves out from a hole. We are digging ourselves out from inaction by the government.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is important to recognize that it was the Liberal Party that, in essence, changed the way in which health care was being financed at a time when tax points were being shifted in replacement of cash.

It was the Chrétien government that said that it needed to establish cash amounts going to the provinces as opposed to tax points. At the end of the day, there was more money, record highs, than ever before that went to health care by the time the Liberals were into the year 2000. The health care accord that we have today is what has provided the guarantees and the amount of money that goes toward health care across Canada coast to coast.

Within his own caucus, he has members who have suggested that we need to go back to the tax points, which is not a good situation for Canadians. I am wondering if my colleague might want to provide some comment on that.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad my hon. friend mentioned that because the important thing, which nobody seems to have understood the history or read the truth about what went on, is that in three short years the Liberal government got rid of a $43 billion deficit.

In six years, the present government dug a hole and put us even deeper into a deficit, which it cannot seem to get out of.

We brought down what was at the time a third world debt. To do that, we did, in those three years, cut some of the health care, but when we came back in 1997, we started putting money back into health care. The first amount was $24 billion. We changed the situation from the tax points that Brian Mulroney brought in, which would not give the federal government any teeth to implement the Canada Health Act, and brought in cash transfers instead, which allowed us to withhold payments. That was a significant thing.

Then came the 2004 report with an additional $41.2 billion to achieve transformative change in the health care system. It is obvious that none of those people have done their homework either.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to all the creative answers in the House today. It would be almost interesting if it were not so creative.

How does the member explain the Liberals' cut of $25 billion? From what I have heard, there is no explanation for that at all. I remember when nurses were cut, when hospitals increased their waiting time and when the health care system was absolutely turned upside down.

On committee, it is very hard for members opposite to understand that Canadians elected a Conservative stable government to guide them through these tough economic times. At the same time, our government increased transfer payments to the provinces by 6%. Why? It is because we have an aging demographic and we have challenges in health care.

With all this criticism, I have heard the walk around but I still have not heard the answer to why $25 billion was cut in health care. Could the hon. member explain that?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, the creative financing that the hon. member came up with was interesting. There was no $25 billion cut in health. There was a small percentage cut in health care. However, while the current government is cutting and gutting everything that moves, we achieved our goal. In three years we got rid of the deficit and we started to pay down the debt. We had money immediately following that to put $24 billion into health care and into cash transfers, which is important.

I do not know if the member understands the difference between cash transfers and actual point transfers that would kill the Canada Health Act, and then $42 billion into an accord.

The member said that the government was increasing transfers by 6% every year. That was a side agreement in 2004 between the Liberal government and the premiers, and that was signed for 10 years. The present government cannot touch it. The money is there. The 6% was written in stone. To suggest that the Conservative government is putting in 6% is really creative policy at best and creative financing at the worst.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Kildonan—St. Paul.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to our government's response to the Standing Committee on Health's report on chronic diseases related to aging, health promotion and disease prevention. I thank the committee for its important work in examining health promotion, the prevention of chronic diseases and healthy aging. These are topics of vital importance to all Canadians.

The report outlines six recommendations that are organized along three broad themes: one is health care, the second is research and the third is promoting healthy choices. For my part today, I will provide some examples of how, in collaboration with our partners, our government is meeting or exceeding the recommendations of these very important areas. Addressing these challenges requires partnership and collaboration. We are working with partners across the country to meet these challenges.

The government knows that health care is important to Canadians. We are determined to put in place a solid public health care system that Canadians expect to have today and in the future.

We are determined to support provincial and territorial measures to improve patient care and the sustainability of the health care system. In fact, the Minister of Health meets regularly with her provincial and territorial counterparts to discuss common interests in this sector.

There can be many partnerships between the government and the provinces and territories. Together, they are finding ways to innovate and to make our health care system more sustainable and transparent for Canadians.

While we acknowledge that the provinces and territories have primary responsibility for health care management and delivery of services, we also recognize our leadership role in health care. Our government is a major funder of health care through federal health transfers. For example, these transfers provide the certainty and flexibility that the provinces and territories need to deliver sustainable, responsive health care today and for the future. Our investments will help preserve Canada's health care system so it is there when Canadians need it.

However, any discussion of the government's contributions and role in health care extends far beyond transfers. For example, we play a key role in delivering health care to certain populations. We fund health research. We support and spearhead national programs and we undertake critical policy from a national perspective.

Chronic diseases require serious attention. They are a challenge for individuals, their families and caregivers, for the health care system and for the Canadian economy. This underlines the importance of working together across jurisdictions to make the health care system sustainable and to effectively reduce the impact of chronic diseases for all Canadians.

Our government invests more than $1 billion annually to support health care innovation through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canadian Health Infoway and Health Canada's health care policy contribution program. In fact, it is this program that addresses the committee's report directly. It is designed to promote policy research and analysis. It supports pilot projects and evaluation of emerging health care system priorities. Federal contributions to fund research, led by many different partners, allow new knowledge to be translated into the best practices and strategies to increase innovative health care delivery.

We have also invested over $39 million over six years through the family medicine residences initiative to support the provinces and territories in training over 100 family doctors for remote and rural communities across Canada. Our government has also supported the national case management network to develop a standardized set of skills and knowledge for case managers who help Canadians navigate the health care system.

Health Canada has invested $112 million annually in the first nations and Inuit home and community care program. Working with first nations, Inuit communities and provincial partners, this program helps develop community-based home and community care services for people living with disabilities, chronic or acute illnesses, including the elderly.

It is true that these projects show sustainable and responsible funding, but they also truly reach Canadians in a very direct way by supporting them in their communities—for example, by giving doctors in training the experience they need to practice in these communities.

In the end, quality care that Canadians can count on depends on a commitment from all partners. These are some of the ways we are working together to make our health care system the best it can be.

As I mentioned earlier, the federal role also extends to research, a second key theme in the committee's report. Health research provides the evidence for the development of effective public health measures to support health promotion, healthy aging and the prevention of chronic diseases. Our government is committed to supporting research, so that we can help Canadians lead the healthiest lives possible.

As many members know, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, CIHR, is the Government of Canada agency responsible for funding health research in our great country. This includes support for major research initiatives on health promotion, healthy aging and the prevention of chronic diseases.

Since 2006, our government has increased investments in chronic disease research by over 10%. In 2010-11, CIHR invested $445 million to support research on chronic diseases and more than $112 million in initiatives on age-friendly communities, elder abuse and mobility in aging.

Colleagues, this last element is an important point. As we all know, Canada's population is aging. We also know that while Canadians are living longer, we are not necessarily healthier, which is why the importance of good health is paramount. Put simply, it is not just about how long we live but how well we live.

Almost 90% of seniors have at least one chronic disease or condition. Many Canadian seniors are living with serious chronic conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis or Alzheimer's disease. Our most vulnerable seniors, seniors who are economically disadvantaged, are at an even greater risk.

However, the pressures of an aging population are not unmanageable. Health promotion benefits people of all ages, even the very old. Research shows that health promotion across all ages improves healthy behaviours and leads to better health outcomes and quality of life. It also has very real impacts in reducing health care costs.

Quite simply, healthy people make less use of the health care services, and they live longer and better. This is why our government recognizes the importance of supporting research that leads to information, programs and services that help Canadians live to their healthiest potential.

A key research initiative that is providing us with reliable information on healthy aging is the Canadian longitudinal study on aging. This is a national long-term study that is following 50,000 Canadians between the ages of 45 and 85 for a period of 20 years. It will increase our understanding of the health, social and economic issues facing Canadians. It will inform future decisions and initiatives on disease prevention, health care and social support.

In short, this study will address knowledge gaps that currently exist related to aging and chronic diseases. For example, there is still so much to learn about neurological diseases, which can be present at birth, can develop in young adults and are often associated with aging. Having a better understanding of such chronic diseases will be particularly important as the baby boom generation enters its senior years.

We know, for example, that diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease will affect more and more Canadians. This is why our government is supporting the first-ever national population study on neurological conditions with an investment of $15 million over four years. Working in partnership with the federal government, Canadian neurological charities have come together under the umbrella of the Neurological Health Charities Canada to provide a clear picture of the state of neurological diseases in Canada.

Through this coalition, organizations such as the Alzheimer Society of Canada, Parkinson Society Canada and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada are working together to collectively represent Canadians living with chronic and often progressive neurological diseases.

I see that I do not have a lot of time, but I would like to again state that with all these changes we are making, we are moving forward in addressing chronic diseases and neurological diseases. Again, I want to take this opportunity to thank the committee and all the witnesses who came in and gave us great information to help improve our health care system. The health and safety of Canadians is our priority, and we are grateful for this opportunity. I thank the committee and its members.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member on the other side of the House, because a number of the programs he has announced are worthwhile. The members are to be congratulated for the work they do. A number of programs are worthwhile and will help to improve Canadians’ health

However, I have a concern relating to the funding of health insurance across Canada. I would like to come back to the fact that it is unquestionably the Liberal Party that really emptied the health insurance coffers in Canada, in an extreme way. The Liberals really have to be called out for jeopardizing Canadians’ health.

I would like to ask my colleague a question about the funding formula proposed, the 6% formula. In fact, that formula was not proposed; it was imposed on the provinces. There was no consultation. They decided that was how it would be and they imposed the 6% formula, full stop.

That is a bad way to manage health insurance and funding, particularly for some regions, because funding will depend on the province’s economic product.

Why were the provinces not consulted? Why was a formula imposed on them?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, sometimes it is difficult to explain the jurisdictional responsibilities in Canada. The reality is that the provinces are responsible for delivering health care. As I said in my speech, the federal government does play a certain role and we work as best we can within that role.

The member is quite correct. During the dark years when the Liberal government balanced the books. it did it on the backs of the provinces. It took $25 billion out of health care. I remember being in Ontario when hospitals were closing and nurses were laid-off. It was a horrible situation.

One of the things we have agreed to do is to continue funding at a 6% accelerator. It is at such an amount that even this year it is more than the provinces are increasing in health care. We are giving them enough money to follow through on their jurisdictional requirements. We will continue to work with them in partnership for the health care system in Canada.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think the New Democrats and Conservatives feel intimated by the good solid Liberal policy over the last couple of decades that ensured we had the health care we have today. In fact, the minister tries to take credit for the 6% increase. That was not something which his government negotiated. That was a health care accord, which was achieved through Paul Martin. It was a Liberal prime minister who put in that fix.

At the end of the day, Canadians are most concerned about a tangible commitment from the federal government that says that it believes in the Canada Health Act and that is prepared to use it to ensure there is a basic standard of health care from coast to coast to coast so individuals can feel comfortable in knowing that it will happen well into the future.

As we talk about concurrence and reports, why has the government not sat down with the provincial health ministers or even the premiers to come up with a new health care accord to take us into the next half—

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, we will take no lessons from the Liberal Party of Canada as far as health care is concerned. As I said, it made $25 billion in cuts to health care.

The member brought up the health accord. I want him and everyone in the House to know that the minister meets and discusses regularly. When the H1N1 problem occurred, there was unprecedented co-operation between the federal and provincial governments. Canadians expect the federal government to take the leadership role to help and to work together with the provinces.

On the health accord, if we remember the history lesson, Paul Martin at the time said that he would meet with the premiers on the weekend to fix health care for a generation. Then, when he left with his tail between his legs at the end of the weekend, he said that he would fix it for 10 years and gave a blank cheque.

The member say that we have followed through with the 6% accelerator because there was an agreement, and that was the agreement. There was a call from Vancouver just before with a list of all of things that were supposed to be done with the health accord, the platitudes, but there was no teeth in the agreement.

I agree with my colleague from the New Democratic Party. We in government have to respect decisions made by previous governments, but we are now working with the provinces to ensure we have a sustainable, quality health care system. On this side of the House, the health and safety of Canadians is our priority.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to talk about the action our government is taking on health care, a matter we know is of vital importance to all Canadians. Our approach is grounded in a commitment to Canada's universal publicly funded health care system. We recognize the role and responsibility of provinces and territories for health delivery, and we support Canadians in playing a more active role in their own health.

Federal actions and investments in health are helping to strengthen and improve Canada's health care system so that Canadians can stay healthy and get the care they need when they need it. Since taking office, our government has increased financial support provided through the Canada health transfer from $20 billion in 2005-06 to over $28 billion in 2012-13. This financial support will continue to grow over the coming years, reaching a record amount of over $40 billion in 2020-21.

Furthermore, over the past couple of years, our government's support for health care has been growing significantly faster—nearly double, as a matter of fact—than the rate of growth in provincial and territorial health spending. This provides provinces and territories with additional fiscal flexibility to undertake needed health care system reforms to better serve their populations.

Of course, our government acts in many other ways to improve the health of Canadians. For example, we support health care innovation improvement; we regulate drugs and medical devices so Canadians have access to safe and effective therapies; we work to improve the health of aboriginal people and northern Canadians; and we invest in research and knowledge so that all Canadians can better understand whether health reforms are working for them.

What does this mean? On health care innovation and improvement, we support a number of pan-Canadian organizations that play a critical role in driving progress on health care. They work collaboratively with governments and the health care community to develop, share and apply knowledge so that patients receive the best possible care. These organizations include the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Our government also plays a role in accelerating change in areas such as access to health care providers, home care pharmaceuticals and modern health information technology.

While respecting the jurisdiction of provinces and territories in health care delivery, we are taking action to support their reform efforts. Although the number of doctors in Canada has reached an all-time high, we know that numbers alone are not enough to improve access to regular care. That is why our government has introduced targeted initiatives to help provinces and territories improve access to health care providers in areas where they are needed the most. For example, we are providing approximately $39.5 million over six years to support medical residency training in underserved communities. As well, practising family physicians, family medicine residents, nurses and nurse practitioners will be eligible for federal Canada student loan forgiveness. This will complement initiatives already underway to expand the provision of primary health care services to Canadians in underserved, rural and remote communities.

Our government is also modernizing federal regulations to reflect the changing roles of health care providers. Currently, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act authorizes only medical doctors, dentists and veterinarians to prescribe controlled substances such as codeine. Our government has passed new regulations allowing midwives, nurse practitioners and podiatrists to prescribe selected medications containing controlled substances. These new regulations improve flexibility within the health care system and help people get the care they need where and when they need it. By updating this federal law, we are helping to support the changes provinces and territories are making to improve the health care system.

We also support efforts to help teach health care providers to work effectively in collaborative practice, and budget 2012 allocated $6.5 million over three years for a research project at McMaster University to evaluate team-based approaches to health care delivery. We are also helping jurisdictions strengthen their programs for continuing care. We have supported the development of common educational standards for home support workers and the tools that case managers need to help patients and families navigate the system and access care. Also, in budget 2011 we announced direct support for caregivers of dependent relatives who are ill, including for the first time spouses, common-law partners and minor children, through the family caregiver tax credit.

Another area where our government actively supports provinces and territories is the development and application of health information systems. Such systems connect different points of care, improving patient safety, increasing accountability for health outcomes, and fostering quality improvements through evaluation and research.

To date, the federal government has invested $2.1 billion in the Canada Health Infoway. Created by the Government of Canada, Infoway is an independent organization that works with provinces and territories to put compatible electronic health records and other electronic health technologies in place across our great nation. Over half of Canadians now have an electronic health record available to their health care providers, and Infoway's target is 100% of that by 2016.

Attention is now shifting to establishing electronic records in doctors' offices across the country. Infoway is working with the provinces and territories to speed up the adoption of electronic records by physicians.

Beyond electronic records, we have provided significant support for telehealth. This is a key tool to help provinces and territories provide remote communities with better access to timely, relevant services and tele-home care applications. Tools include videoconferencing between health care providers in different settings, and telemonitoring of patients in remote locations.

One of the most complex and challenging aspects of the health care system is the management of pharmaceuticals. Drugs are an increasing part of modern health care, but the cost of drugs is growing faster than virtually every other area of health care. Canadians need access to drugs, but we need to keep spending on drugs under control. That means giving market access to safe and effective drugs and helping doctors, pharmacists and patients decide what drugs are appropriate to use.

Canada has one of the safest and most rigorous drug safety systems in the world. We continue to update the regulatory system to one that is efficient, sustainable and responsive to science, the needs of patients and health care practices.

We provide the bulk of funding for the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health to provide decision-makers with the impartial advice they need to make informed decisions around health technologies.

Building evidence for the safe and effective use of pharmaceuticals also requires better information on their use in the real-world setting, that is, by patients outside the controlled environment of clinical trials. The federally funded pan-Canadian Drug Safety and Effectiveness Network addresses this important issue.

We also play a role in drug affordability through the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, which has a mandate to protect Canadians from excessive prices for patented medicines. Work by the federal Competition Bureau on generic drug pricing and purchasing reforms is also making a positive impact in several jurisdictions.

In terms of improving aboriginal health, Health Canada invests about $2.4 billion annually in first nation and Inuit health programs. These programs provide access to essential health services on reserve, cover the costs of needed medications and other services that are not insured by other public or private health plans, and promote the health and well-being of aboriginal communities.

Beyond these programs, our government is also taking action to support the unique needs of aboriginal and norther populations. Through budget 2012, our government will be investing over $330 million over two years to build and renovate water infrastructure on reserve and to support the development of a long-term strategy to improve water quality in first nation communities.

In budget 2012, our government also committed to working with aboriginal communities and organizations, provinces and territories to improve the mental health and well-being of aboriginal peoples in Canada.

This builds on previous significant investments in health, including funding through budget 2010 to renew important aboriginal health programs related to health promotion and health prevention, aboriginal health human resources and the integration of federal health services with provincial health systems.

More broadly, our government is working to implement innovative approaches to improve the delivery of health care services to first nations. In October of 2011, our government, the first nations of British Columbia and the Government of British Columbia signed the historic Tripartite Framework Agreement on First Nation Health Governance.

We have done much to improve health care for all Canadians in this country. I am very proud to say that we have done this while paying attention to the ongoing aging demographic in our country.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have before us today a report that contains six recommendations. For example, it is recommended that the Minister of Health continue to dialogue and engage with her partners, and it is suggested that the government continue to work with industry and that Health Canada continue to promote healthy lifestyle choices.

I cannot understand how a committee could have so many hearings with experts who have innovative ideas on how we can do better in health care and then the committee arrives with a report with six recommendations that suggest we continue what is already being done.

Therefore, perhaps the chair of the health committee could tell me how many interesting hearings they had in that committee on that subject and what the role of her committee was, because it does not seem obvious to me when I read the report the government produced.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, our committee started a whole study on innovation. I am very proud to say that we have had amazing witnesses at the committee to talk about their innovative programs.

I agree with the member, it is a very good insight into the fact that there are so many innovative programs in our country. What we are attempting to do on the health committee is to gather all of these innovative ideas together and put them into a report so everyone can share in these ideas.

Today on committee, we had some amazing witnesses. New ideas are coming forward all the time, but tried and true ideas. This report will help give that information to all of Canada.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from my colleague from Kildonan—St. Paul and the role that she plays on the health care committee.

Recognizing that when we talk about providing health care to Canadians, a big part of it is money but another part is the how we administer health care. That is something that ultimately is being done through the provinces. If we have bad administration or are not managing the need for change, it could end up causing a great deal of issues, ultimately leading to the services that someone would receive in an emergency at, for example, Seven Oaks Hospital, a facility that we are both quite familiar with and very proud of.

Does she believe that her committee has a role to play in dealing with the management of health care in terms of the bigger picture across Canada?