House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liability.

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Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:10 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I spoke of the money because listening to speeches and comments from across the aisle, one would think that if we were able to raise x number of dollars the problem would be solved. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, money is needed. Financial resources are needed to contain the disease, to contain the problem, but money would not solve the problem we have. Research needs to be going on to make sure that we eventually find a treatment to prevent the disease.

I am not a medical doctor; therefore, I am not an expert in the field, but since the disease is not spread easily we have to make sure that those places where it occurs have the tools to deal with it. Improper hygiene is the core of the problem. Running water, proper hygiene and other things are necessary so the disease will not spread so easily.

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right. Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said the Ebola outbreak is “the largest, most complex and most severe we’ve ever seen” and is racing ahead of control efforts. The UN coordinator for the Ebola response estimates the cost to respond at $600 million and will require several thousand people to scale up our response three to four times.

The WHO assistant director-general for global health security said, “We don’t have enough health workers, doctors, nurses, drivers, and contact tracers” to handle the increasing number of cases. Insufficient health personnel and facilities to care for the growing number of cases is fueling the spread of the epidemic, as families are forced to care for patients at home.

In light of this being the most severe outbreak, as he points out, will Canada provide more money and additional health personnel?

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:15 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I already stated, financial support is required and Canada is taking its part and contributing to the effort.

I would mention a few numbers: $2.95 million to work sharing organizations to strengthen the full response to the outbreak; $1.7 million to support humanitarian interventions led by Doctors Without Borders to reduce and control the spread of the virus in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; $160,000 to the International Federation of the Red Cross to support a response to the outbreak; $200,000 to the WHO through the international grants program to support a request for assistance toward operational costs in West Africa.

Therefore, there is a contribution and Canada is not on the sidelines. Canada is taking an active part in helping the affected regions to deal with the efforts, which have to involve both partners. We have to ensure that everybody contributes and eventually that we are successful in dealing with this deadly issue.

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:15 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, there have been many interventions in the House tonight that have talked about Canada striking out on its own and sending things or people.

Could my colleague talk from his life experience about the need to have a health agency like the WHO to be the lead agency on this and to coordinate all of the efforts from our international partners?

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:15 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I stated before, this is a problem that requires an international and coordinated effort. As we stated many times in the House, the World Health Organization is the one that is coordinating, and should be coordinating, all the efforts of the international community to deal with this terrible Ebola outbreak.

I truly hope that through research we will develop a vaccine that will prevent people from getting a disease, but where we are right now, we do not have the vaccine. It is still in clinical trials and we all hope that through coordinated efforts, through coordinated work, we will get there and will defeat this terrible disease, which is what Ebola is.

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:20 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I like numbers. In his response to my Liberal colleague, the hon. member listed numerous government initiatives. He spoke about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been invested. At the end of the day, the fact remains that Canada is investing just over $5 million in the fight against Ebola. For Canada, $5 million equals a mere 14¢ per person. The United States is investing 31¢ per person while the United Kingdom is investing more than 60¢ per person.

Will my Conservative colleague put pressure on his own government, on cabinet, so that Canada will give more than 40¢ per person?

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

September 15th, 2014 / 11:20 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the way and I have been working together for a few years now at the health committee. I do not know whether we will continue that work together.

However, I did provide some numbers of financial support provided by Canada to this effort to fight Ebola. If we add all those figures together, it is more than $5 million. Also, let us not forget that the experimental vaccines that were provided to this crisis did not come out of nowhere. This was developed because there were financial resources that we should add to this effort. These were the contributions of Canada. These were financial resources that were allocated to develop these experimental vaccines.

Therefore, if we add all the figures together, I do not think we are in the back of the till in international efforts. I think we are in the forefront.

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie for requesting tonight's debate.

I have been listening this evening, and I think none of us want this to be a political issue. However, all of us, as members of Parliament, are asking the same question: Is Canada doing enough, or should Canada be doing more? That is what Canadians are asking us, particularly those who come from the countries so desperate at this moment. They are pleading.

This infection is not contained. Without containment, everyone in the region is at risk. As we are learning today, even the United States of America is preparing for the possible eventuality that the disease could come to us.

We learned a lot in 2003 from SARS, because we were not prepared and because we really did not have the structures in this country to speak to one another. From Dr. Naylor's report, “Learning From Sars”, we know that we had to do better on collaboration, co-operation, communication, and clarity as to who does what and when.

The Public Health Network has now been set up, as has the Public Health Agency of Canada. The Public Health Network is doing an excellent job across the country with its weekly calls and letting one another know what it is doing, what is at risk, and what it believes can happen internationally.

The Public Health Agency, unfortunately, is still without a permanent chief public health officer of Canada. It means that at times like this, there is not the trusted voice speaking directly to Canadians. Dr. Greg Taylor, as the deputy chief public health officer, has done his best, but when the lessons were learned from SARS, it was extremely explicit that there needed to be a trusted voice of public health speaking to Canadians at times like this.

Frankly, it has been over a month since Canadians have had any conversation about this from any public health official of Canada. At that time it was merely an announcement of the expert and exciting news about the possible vaccine. Again, when it is delivered by the Minister of Canadian Heritage in her home town, it unfortunately smacks of politics instead of being a clear message to Canadians about what they need to know and what they should be telling their families and friends about this exponentially increasing disease around the world.

It has only been ten days since the excellent CBC post by Amber Hildebrandt, which talked about the “...dire predictions of 20,000 people — more than six times the current toll”. In the article she talked about Médecins Sans Frontières, saying that its “1,800 staff are overwhelmed” and that it is turning to “governments capable of rapidly deploying military units and running self-contained field hospitals”. That is what MSF is asking for, and that is what we have not heard tonight.

We have not heard once tonight from the government side that it will assess and do more if necessary. Canadians want to know that Canada will step up. They have not heard that message.

The parliamentary secretary said that the critics had had a briefing. I have to say that the briefing deck I just looked at is pretty thin gruel when we look at the international assistance, co-operation, and collaboration. There are three bullet points that start with the $5 million we have heard about countless times tonight.

The NML, or the national microbiology mobile lab, was sent, but then the three staff were brought back because there was an infection in the hotel, which is again a mixed message Canadians are hearing. They have not had an explanation. If it could only be contracted through bodily fluids, human to human, people did not know why those staff came home.

Those are the questions that Canadians are asking parliamentarians, and it is the reason that parliamentarians need proper briefings, in order to contain the fear. We do not want to fearmonger, but we do want to have specific answers, and also the donation of the doses of experimental vaccine.

There are three bullet points in a deck, and then unfortunately the closing remarks merely say that the Public Health Agency of Canada will continue to monitor the situation in West Africa and keep Canadians informed as the situation evolves.

What Canadians want to know is whether we are doing enough, and should we be doing more? That was supposed to be the point of the debate tonight. It is upsetting that we end up with this political defensive response instead of learning. We actually want to hear from medical professionals. That is why it is extraordinary that in Canada we have this approach, which unfortunately is inadequate information from people who are not medically trained or able to instill confidence in Canadians. From the articles in the Lancet, to all the things that should have, could have, or would have happened as proposed by the WHO, in 2011, this is now being called an international response that is fractured and delayed. Everyone is now scrambling as this thing is getting worse and worse. As Dr. Cornish from MSF Canada has said, the international response has been “lethally inadequate”.

The past deputy chief public health officer to Canada, Dr. Paul Gully, in that same article, talked about how a unified and coordinated response should work with other member states, hopefully led by the WHO. He is concerned that the deployment needs consular response, the ability to evacuate workers if needed, money to pay health workers and insure them, plus training, food, lodging, and travel. A lot of coordination would be required, and Canada probably has some capacity that it could share. However, he agrees that it is not that simple. He is saying that it is our responsibility.

It was Dr. Cornish who said that the world has to step up to this emergency, and if the call is unanswered, this could turn into a disaster and an outbreak of cataclysmic proportions.

Even as we have experienced the debate tonight, things are changing today. Already in the U.K., they are reporting the CDC decision to issue a six-page action plan on how to tackle Ebola for U.S. hospitals. Now is the time to prepare. They warned a week ago that the disease was out of control, as a CDC worker contracted the illness. World leaders are pledging to invest millions, particularly with the President of Liberia's urgent plea to the President of the United States.

It is an urgent issue and call to action today from the CDC. This is the first time we have heard experts saying that it is only a matter of time before the illness is widespread across America. This is really different, and it is hugely important to us here in Canada to understand that if we do not step up and help to contain this infection on that continent, we are going to be very sorry. I think that Canadians have been saying to me over the last little while that we could and should be doing more.

Today we learned that the UN Security Council is going to hold its emergency debate on Ebola on Thursday, and it will get attention in Washington, as we talked about earlier in one of my questions, as members of Congress are slated to hear from the federal officials who are leading the nation's efforts. Of course, President Obama is scheduled to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta and will be briefed. Tomorrow it is expected that President Obama will detail his plans to boost the nation's efforts to help West Africa battle the Ebola outbreak, and The Wall Street Journal is just recently reporting today that the plan could include sending more portable hospitals, medical staff and supplies, as well as training health workers in the outbreak countries.

As members know, Congress is currently considering Obama's $88-million request for the Ebola response, which is included in the resolutions to fund government for three more months, past the end of its fiscal year, and that the U.S. House of Representatives has already introduced a bill that includes the amount the administration requested. Also tomorrow federal health officials will testify before a joint Senate committee hearing on Ebola and the response change. Health officials on the witness list include the CDC, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

It is urgent that Canadians hear from the Public Health Agency of Canada directly and that journalists and others are able to ask the really important questions, which are the core of this debate. Could and should Canada be doing more? That is what tonight's debate is about. Are we doing enough? In order to sleep soundly in our beds at night, I think that across all party lines everybody needs to know that we have asked and had good answers to those questions. Otherwise, we are not doing our jobs as parliamentarians.

We want Canadians to hear from the medical authorities as to what is possible from our international development authorities, what is possible in terms of foreign affairs in terms of consular support, what we are stepping up. Those same places that the protective equipment announcement came from tonight also have the portable hospital units. Should and could we be at least considering that? How do I answer when I am asked: should we be sending portable hospitals, should we be sending some of our beds, should we be sending some of the things that we have in depots all over this country where the protective equipment came from? Should we be digging deeper into what is possible? It is a hugely important issue.

During SARS we were really reeling because we did not have the structures in place at the Public Health Agency of Canada, or the Chief Public Health Officer of a public health network. We are asking the government to let those people do their work and let them speak directly to Canadians and brief parliamentarians. A call to brief the critics of the two opposition parties is not speaking to our party. Are they supposed to then brief their caucus on this? Surely not. They have to come to committee, tell us what is going on and then tell us what could be possible. Then, after we are given the menu of choices and have it costed out, it is up to Parliament to decide whether we should do more. Then we will do the risk assessment and be able to make good decisions as a Parliament in the same way as tomorrow night we will debate the contribution in terms of Iraq.

As Dr. Keith Martin said, this should be dealt with as a natural disaster. We have to have that mentality of disaster response as opposed to being able to just say that the $5 million is enough and here is a little bit more equipment.

This is not what I am hearing.

I have to say, as I asked earlier in the day, we lived in Toronto with the ill effects of a travel advisory for a disease that actually, evidence-based, could not be contracted in the community. I am hearing from many people that the travel advisory to those very vulnerable countries is perhaps dangerous. Again, people can only get the disease through human-to-human contact and by bodily fluids. It is difficult for people to understand why this travel advisory was advised when many other countries have not done that. What I am hearing is that this travel advisory may well impede some of the assistance getting into these countries.

One of the other things we are hearing is that there are many doctors and nurses, health professionals across Canada, who are thinking about joining the amazing Dr. Eilish Cleary, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, who felt called to go and help. Obviously, there is Dr. Theresa Tam from the Public Health Agency. There are other people with skills who want to know if they can help. It is too difficult for them to find out how to do that in the current configuration of websites and in CANADEM or in the ways that this is structured, because most of our processes are not done for emergencies like this, and not for this specific kind of medical assistance.

We hope that the government will listen to what the President of the United States decides to do tomorrow, including appointing an Ebola czar who will be the person who Americans can listen to as to what is going on.

It is extraordinarily important that Canadians have confidence, and that as they see what the CDC has rolled out in terms of all the American hospitals, the handbooks, and the buddy system to make sure people wash their hands and to make sure that all the basic public health rules that are sometimes not observed are followed. This is a teachable moment for even the upcoming winter flu. We could do a better job now in preparing for this.

It is clear that President Obama's announcement is to “underscore” just how extraordinarily serious the administration has been in confronting what they call a top national security priority. What a senior administration official has said is that what is needed is on a scale that is unprecedented.

I think that Canadians think that $5 million and some special equipment is not an unprecedented contribution. This is business as usual in terms of $5 million here and $5 million there for a whole myriad of problems that countries in the world are facing.

We need a risk assessment as to what is the appropriate contribution for Canada to contain this epidemic and prepare Canadians for any eventuality in this country so that they feel confident. However, that can only come if they stand up, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the public health leadership in this country, and we let them speak directly to Canadians, let them speak directly to parliamentarians. We have to stop this game of politics and defensiveness, where everything we are doing is perfect, when too many Canadians have too many questions and too many parliamentarians have too many questions. Frankly, tonight's debate was very helpful in terms of getting some of this out.

However, the answers to the questions are not being given by people who actually have the medical knowledge to be able to give reassurance to Canadians or even to parliamentarians.

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:40 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my Liberal colleague for her speech, which was a heartfelt appeal.

She is absolutely right. During tonight's emergency debate, which was more of a discussion, information was shared by both sides. I concur with my colleague that the next step is for Canadian experts to explain the situation to parliamentarians and outline Canada's next steps. As parliamentarians we should listen to what our experts have to say rather than just saying that Canada should give more money and do certain things.

The Standing Committee on Health will resume its work this week or the next, and therefore we still have time. I am sure that my Liberal colleagues and all the other members who are just as passionate as we are could attend and hear what the experts have to say. You have to be passionate about this debate in order to remain in the House of Commons until midnight. I repeat that we are at a critical juncture of the evolution of the Ebola crisis. We must take the next steps.

Does my colleague agree that experts must appear before the Standing Committee on Health as early as next week, if possible, when the committee resumes its work? Although there are many worthwhile issues to be examined by the Standing Committee on Health, which does great work, we could make this issue a priority for one day so that Canada's parliamentarians could be advised by real experts who have been working on this file for many years.

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:40 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree. Inviting Canadian public health experts and international experts in order to support parliamentarians as part of a proper study in committee is a good idea. However, all parliamentarians must be briefed immediately.

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for truly an excellent speech that outlined the issues. It could not have been better.

She mentioned that another urgent need was opening up air routes that had been closed to affected countries. These closures have a huge impact, impeding the flow of experts and supplies into Africa, and the outbreak itself is having a negative impact on the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. People need medical supplies, food, fuel, charcoal and other provisions. The World Health Organization does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions be applied except in cases where individuals have been confirmed or suspected of being infected with Ebola virus disease, or where individuals have had contact with cases of Ebola.

Could she talk about travel bans as well as how the government might provide leadership? We have medical professionals who might want to contribute. Is there something the government could do to make this easier for them?

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:45 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, some of the public health experts have suggested that in lieu of the travel ban, which was not recommended, that there could be a better approach, whether through CBSA or the airlines, such as information being given at airports as to where one would be and then to list the symptoms that one should look for. We know that with this disease people are not infectious unless they have symptoms. Again, it is very important that people who have been to these areas know what symptoms to look for and know how to get help.

Again, it is a bit controversial that these travel bans were put on. We need to hear from the experts to find out if they think they are appropriate or whether they have complicated efforts in the region. It is also important for the Public Health Agency and International Development to have a look at the website to try to make an easier on-ramp for Canadians who might want to go and help in the region.

As my colleague from Mississauga said, this will not ever just be about money. Right at the moment, people need personnel and equipment. Experts and people who can actually go over and know how to work safely and teach and train other personnel will be hugely important.

In the U.S. there has been a specific call, which was very eloquent and easy. We have not seen that in Canada, the just asking for people like we did in Kandahar where so many amazing people were able to go and work in the hospital there, in X-rays and doing all kinds of things. I think Canadians would be generous with their time if they knew exactly how to do it.

The government needs to have a multifaceted approach because this crosses many government departments such as International Development, Foreign Affairs and Health Canada. We talked and heard about a whole-of-government approach to this, but we need to effect it. Just studying this at the health committee will not be enough.

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:50 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to ensure that the people still watching the debate at home at such a late hour understand the magnitude of the crisis and where we are heading. According to the World Health Organization, 4,293 probable or confirmed cases of Ebola have been identified in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal. The WHO is projecting that 20,000 people will be infected in the next three months. When I said that this is a pivotal time, I was not joking.

My question for my Liberal colleague is this: does she believe that the situation will be as serious as the WHO's projection if the government does not provide more assistance, be it financial or technical?

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:50 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his difficult question.

The projections are suggesting that there will be 20,000 people affected. It is very important that Canada contribute as much as it can. As always, an expert analysis is needed. After that, it is very important that parliamentarians determine the extent of our contribution.

Ebola OutbreakEmergency Debate

11:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate.

There being no further members rising for debate, the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. The House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 11:52 p.m.)