Mr. Speaker, a month ago, my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie called for an emergency debate on Canada's response to the Ebola epidemic. A month ago, the WHO reported that there were over 2,000 victims. Now, there are over 4,000. In one month, the number of victims doubled. A simple calculation reveals that if we do not stop the spread of the virus, in 18 months, 4 million people will have the disease.
This is an international health emergency, and members of the House have a sense of responsibility in light of this human condition. We are all very worried about what is happening in West Africa. We are following the development of this crisis, and the international response is essential, not just in terms of providing vaccines, but also in terms of making sure that medical supplies, protective equipment and human resources are on the ground.
There is not enough international aid at this time. The international community has given only 38% of the $988 million requested by the UN. The Conservative government has made some big announcements, promising international aid totalling $65 million. However, only $5 million has been paid out so far. What happened to the rest? When will the government free up the funding it promised? These are just more empty promises from the Conservative government. Here is what Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, had to say yesterday:
[The government's] financial contribution has been paltry...I've seen no evidence of any mobilization of financial or health human resources behind the fight from Canada in West Africa. The...government's theory that Ebola's coming to Canada is inevitable is true only if it remains committed to doing almost nothing to assist West Africa.
The best thing to do is to nip this epidemic in the bud, which means tackling it at the source and containing it in West Africa to prevent it from crossing our borders.
The deployment of UN-led military resources must be considered, along with access to emergency treatment. The Prime Minister has refused to send in the Disaster Assistance Response Team, even though the humanitarian organizations working on the ground in West Africa continue to call for an emergency military deployment in order to provide rapid logistical support for the humanitarian response. The WHO has said that it can meet only 21% of the need for beds in Liberia, 29% in Sierra Leone and 50% in Guinea. In September, the WHO identified 300 health care workers who were infected with the Ebola virus.
These countries have been devastated by the epidemic and cannot really fight it without adequate logistical and human reinforcements.
We have the civilian, logistical, technological and even military capacity to help the organizations working on the ground. Canada's response to this crisis should include disaster response teams that specialize in health and biohazard management, either through DART or some other mechanism.
Why is the Conservative government not considering the possibility of deploying teams that specialize in health and biohazard management? As hon. members know, Canada has that capacity. Why does the government not want to send in reinforcements to help the agencies on the ground?
I understand that we should not be alarmist and predict that contagion is imminent in Canada, but in my opinion, having the Minister of Health, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and the Minister of Public Safety appear before the committee is not a lot to ask and should not be so off-putting to the members across the way.
This would help reassure our constituents. Canadians need to be sure that the Public Health Agency of Canada will be able to properly respond to an outbreak of the virus in Canada. The suspected cases so far have revealed flaws in our preparedness and coordination. Holding drills and setting up response teams are steps in the right direction, but they came one month after notification of the first cases in the United States and Spain.
Communicating clearly with the public, reconsidering our investments in public health and being certain that we are doing everything possible to protect the health of Canadians are all reasons that the motion being debated today makes sense. The Minister of Health, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and the Minister of Public Safety need to appear before the committee to answer our constituents' questions, and especially so that we can track Canada's decisions and its operations in West Africa.