Mr. Speaker, I will speak, as I have done in the past, in support of the bill at report stage, but not with the same enthusiasm that I did earlier. As my hon. colleague for Vancouver East just mentioned, the bill went to committee, and it did not implement many of the changes that would have strengthened the bill and made it far more effective. I will speak to that a little later.
The bill's intent is to ensure that women and health care providers have the best information possible regarding screening, especially regarding new technology, and an understanding about dense breast tissue so that women know about it and health care providers and technologists understand what to look for. We know that tumours can be harder to identify in women with dense breast tissue. I would like to add, though, that it does not necessarily mean that a woman with dense breast tissue is more likely to have breast cancer. It is just that it is harder to identify if she does.
Twenty-three thousand women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Canada this year. Sadly, nearly a quarter of those women will die from that disease, so in many ways this is an important bill, in that it speaks to the issue of identifying and finding a cancer as early as possible.
The federal government has a definitive role to play in facilitating best practices and funding research related to cancer prevention and early detection as part of the Canadian partnership against cancer, which is a federal initiative with the provinces, especially, as well, since the 2004 health accord strengthened the federal leadership role in ensuring access to health care services no matter where people live in Canada.
Where I find a problem, and I find it disappointing, is in relation to the health committee's recent study this bill. We heard from many witnesses. We heard from experts, health care professionals, patients and researchers. They all agreed that the intent of the bill is a very good one. They all agreed that awareness is important and that information sharing is important. However, they all felt that the bill would fall short of achieving any really important outcomes unless some pieces were added to it.
The member who moved the bill earlier on praised the co-operation and collaboration across parties on his bill. However, it stopped short in the House of Commons and at committee stage, where witnesses made some very compelling testimony. They talked about ways to improve the bill to improve its effectiveness. This was voted down, not only by the member for Barrie, who moved the bill, but also by members of the Conservative Party.
A couple of items that I moved as recommendations to strengthen the bill came from the witnesses. One of them is about sharing best practices. Subclause 2(c) of the bill talks about the ability of the Public Health Agency of Canada to look at information and data sharing, et cetera. I consulted so that it would not add cost at all. I heard from the legislative wing of the Library of Parliament that in fact there was a way to make sure this would incur no cost. It would use the already existing infrastructure of the Public Health Agency of Canada, where they have data and information sharing, to add best practices.
The reason for this, as we heard from witnesses, is that there are provinces, such as my province of British Columbia, where the outcomes of breast cancer are, by enormous percentage points, better than anywhere else in Canada. Therefore, why do we not take a page from their book? Why are we allowing people to continue to reinvent the wheel when we know what would work? Of course, as with anything to do with health, time is of the essence. Why wait six years for someone to discover a new wheel, when other people discovered it six years ago and we could be implementing it now for the benefit of patients?
Therefore, I was really very disappointed that the member himself did not accept that amendment. In fact, he said that his concern was with the word “ensuring”. He said that the work of the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative is not controlled by the Public Health Agency of Canada and that as such it should not be “ensuring” the collection, processing and distribution of information or “ensuring” the identifying, synthesizing and distribution of best practices. However, in subclause 2(c) he himself suggests sharing information through the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative.
It seemed as if this amendment, which would have enhanced the bill, was blocked purely because it was going to change the bill in some small way, even though to improve it.
Perhaps in his final remarks today, the member could clarify why such a no-cost, important thing that we heard from witnesses over and over was rejected.
I do not for one moment impugn the intentions of the member. He did a lot of hard work. I think it is an important bill and I think he brought forward a lot of things about it, but it had no teeth. There was nothing that would really change outcomes, other than increasing awareness.
This is an example of what concerns many of us, which is that the government is not listening to the expert testimony of witnesses appearing before committee, especially on bills and especially when these witnesses enhance the bill. It is a pattern.
I would like to say that we saw the same thing with Bill C-300. Witnesses appeared before the health committee and made several suggestions to establish a truly effective framework for suicide prevention. Twenty-one amendments were brought forward, including nine by the Liberal Party, and every single one of them, none of which incurred new costs, was voted down for no really logical reason that was given.
What we are left with are toothless bills that sound good and do small things, but do not really improve very much the lot of women with dense breast tissue or a suicide prevention strategy.
I hope this is not about ideology, because most of us have been supporting these bills because the intent is good. However, we would like to see them actually make a difference to the patients.
As I said before, I support the bill, but with a great deal of disappointment and reluctance.