Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to support Bill C-442. On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I would indicate that we do support the bill and want to see it ultimately passed, going through our committee process and, obviously, third reading.
I was encouraged to hear from the leader of the Green Party that she is open to having some possible amendments that would not change the intent of the bill but, quite possibly, make it a bit more practical, in terms of its implementation.
Lyme disease is a very serious issue, as it has been said at length in the last 45 minutes. I thought I would emphasize it from a different perspective, from more of a personal perspective, in terms of what I believe is likely the most important issue facing this particular disease; that is, the whole sense of public awareness.
There are different regions in Canada, some more affected by Lyme disease than others. In Manitoba, it is a very serious disease. Many people are aware that in Manitoba we have beautiful, wonderful summers. Many of my friends have cottages out in rural Manitoba. There are all sorts of youth camps in the province. In some regions of the province of Manitoba—in particular, in the southeast—there is a higher risk factor of Lyme disease, and we need to ensure that there is a higher sense of public awareness.
Over the last three or four years, maybe, I have found that there seems to be a higher sense of a public awareness, but even today, I do not believe enough is being done in terms of promotional educational material and the government taking a proactive approach to ensuring there is a high level of education with respect to this particular disease.
That is one of the aspects of the bill that I do support in its entirety: the fact that we need to recognize that and incorporate it. I am glad it is actually in the legislation itself.
I have gone through all the different trails, for example, at Pelican Lake, which is in the southeast part of Manitoba. I have spent many days with my daughter, in particular. When we get back to the cabin after a half day of going through the trails, we might have a dozen or so ticks on us. Even though we have taken the precaution to wear long-sleeved tops and tuck our pant legs into our socks and put on some form of repellants, somehow the ticks have this ability to cling onto us. It does not take much.
We make sure we do what we can to get rid of the ticks, if we see them on us.
However, what amazes me, when I have had the opportunity to talk to people about Lyme disease, is the number of people who do not know what Lyme disease is. They know what a wood tick is and have often had them on their body, but they do not know what Lyme disease is. I find that to be actually quite tragic. These are individuals who I thought would have known: some of the more regular cottage-goers.
I made reference to youth camps. We have young people who participate in camps throughout Canada. I made comments with respect to southeastern Manitoba. We have had cases of Lyme disease identified in most provinces. Every year we will have literally tens of thousands of children participating in outdoor activities, in summer camps, and so forth.
As the leader of the Green Party pointed out, we want to encourage our young people, and all people, to appreciate and enjoy the outdoors, but it is very important that we recognize the advantages of being proactive in terms of material on this particular disease, because of the debilitating impact on someone acquiring Lyme disease.
Most would say that it takes two or three days before the symptoms are seen. However, it can often take a week or so. It has appeared months if not a couple of years after an original infection from a tick.
Symptoms are fatigue, fever, headaches, and a bull's-eye rash. People need to be aware of and look for these symptoms.
In terms of the consultation process, a priority is to come up with a program that has educational and promotional components.
The role of the federal government would be to work with the provinces and territories. That needs to be expanded to include the medical professions as well as the other stakeholders, such as school boards, non-profit groups, and groups that promote the outdoors. These include outdoors groups, cottagers, and ATV and jogging clubs. We need to heighten awareness of this disease.
I would like to think that we would take a holistic approach in developing an overall strategy. I recognize that the federal government has a strong role to play in terms of best practices. That is where we can complement provincial and territorial jurisdictions.
We need to make sure that there are resources. If we can be more proactive on the front end, we will dramatically impact the spread of this disease. What we have realized is that the number of reports of Lyme disease is on the rise.
Bill C-442 proposes that the federal government convene a conference with the provincial and territorial health ministers and different stakeholders and that it establish a national medical surveillance program to use data collected by the Public Health Agency. The bill also calls for a report on the strategy, to be tabled here in Parliament. The strategy would be reviewed for effectiveness after five years.
I believe this is a bill worth supporting. We in the Liberal caucus support it and anticipate that it is only a question of time before it passes.