House of Commons Hansard #218 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was research.


Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

I see the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development rising on a point of order.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we could get unanimous consent to see the clock at 5:30 p.m.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from May 13 consideration of the motion.

National Action Plan to Address Violence Against WomenPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 444 under private members' business.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #408

National Action Plan to Address Violence Against WomenPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion defeated.

It being 6:10 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of DementiaPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should, while respecting provincial and territorial jurisdiction, continue to take the necessary measures to prevent Alzheimer's disease and other dementias and to reduce the impact of dementia for those living with this disease, as well as for their families and caregivers, by continuing to focus on: (a) taking leadership appropriate to the federal role that will encourage a collaborative and coordinated approach with the provinces and territories to develop a pan-Canadian strategy for dementia, as agreed to at the recent federal-provincial-territorial Health Ministers' meeting; (b) partnerships within Canada and internationally, including commitments with G7 partners, and the work initiated at the 2014 Canada-France Global Dementia Legacy Summit, to accelerate the discovery and development of approaches for the prevention, early diagnosis, delay of onset, and treatment of dementia; (c) education and awareness to reduce the stigma associated with dementia, including the implementation of the Dementia Friends Canada initiative; (d) dementia research with a focus on primary prevention, secondary prevention, and quality of life, including those initiatives outlined in the National Dementia Research and Prevention Plan; (e) promoting the sharing of best practices among all jurisdictions to ensure awareness of promising treatments and services; (f) continuing to work in partnership with relevant stakeholders, including families affected by dementia and leading national groups such as the Alzheimer Society of Canada and the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging; (g) ensuring the full inclusion of all Canadians living with dementia, regardless of age, when acting on the above; (h) continuing to support, through national surveillance systems, the collection of data on key aspects of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias in order to inform evidence-based analysis and policy-making; and (i) keeping Canadians informed as progress is made.

Mr. Speaker, that was well said. It is a pleasure to rise in the House today to debate Motion No. 575 on Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

Just to lay a brief context behind this issue, it is estimated there are over 40 million people worldwide who are currently suffering from this disease, and there are over 700,000 Canadians who are facing one or another of these diseases. Virtually everybody in this House today will know someone who is suffering, or has known someone in the past who has suffered, from this disease. It is very much a serious issue facing not only Canadians but people around the world. We are here today as parliamentarians to discuss this issue and look at what the government has done in the past and what it is working on today and into the future.

The motion calls on the government to take strong action to address dementia and ensure that we are doing everything we can to help Canadians who are living with this disease. I appreciate the opportunity to speak here today on this topic.

Our government, under the leadership of the Minister of Health, has made great progress to date. Lots of good measures are under way and we can always do more. We cannot stop now. We need to move forward and, if anything, we need to increase what we are doing at an even more rapid pace. Over the past year, there has been a lot of attention in Canada and internationally on how to better address the challenges of dementia. This has not gone unnoticed and there have been numerous federal investments in activities to advance collective efforts on dementia.

Dementia, particularly Alzheimer's disease, is a complex public health challenge that confronts a large and growing number of Canadians. It affects not only those who are living with this condition but also the relatives and friends who are providing them with care and assistance. As well, there is the broader issue of health care system costs and models of care.

As reflected in Motion No. 575, further research is needed to learn more about what causes dementia and the most effective ways to prevent, identify, treat and ultimately find a cure for it. Addressing these challenges requires innovative actions from government, industry, non-governmental organizations and other partners. Our government recognizes that understanding dementia and its impacts on individuals, families and caregivers is necessary in order to be able to effectively meet their needs. Consistent with the federal role, our government's activities on dementia are focused primarily on research, surveillance and monitoring, promoting awareness, and understanding.

I would like to highlight the works that our government has supported in order to further develop effective programs in response to this issue.

Over the past decade, our government, through CIHR, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, has invested over $1 billion in world-class neuroscience research to improve the health of those people who live with brain diseases. Since 2006, government investments to the institutes and research specific to dementia have increased by 67%, reaching $37.8 million in the 2013-14 year. This research has not only helped improve our understanding of dementia, it has also created new possibilities for prevention, improved diagnosis, treatment and quality of life for patients and their families.

Notably, last year's budget announced a new ongoing investment of $15 million for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for the expansion and creation of a variety of health research priorities, particularly Canada's strategy for patient-oriented research and the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging.

Launched in September 2014, the consortium is working on bold and transformative research ideas to improve the lives of Canadians living with dementia. It is focusing on three specific areas of improvement: primary prevention, secondary prevention and quality of life. The consortium is supported with federal funding of $22.6 million, along with an additional $9.9 million over five years from a group of partners from the public and private sectors, including the Alzheimer Society of Canada and the Women's Brain Health Initiative.

Most recently, budget 2015 proposes to provide up to $42 million over the next five years to Baycrest Health Sciences to support the establishment of the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation. Funding for the centre will support new research in the development of products and services to support brain health and aging. The funding includes $32 million in support from FedDev Ontario, the Federal Economic Development Agency for southern Ontario.

Furthermore, in 2009, our government invested $15 million over four years to the national population health study of neurological conditions to better understand Alzheimer's disease and other conditions as well as their impacts on Canadians. Findings from the study were released in September 2014. As a result of this study, our government is expanding the Canadian chronic disease surveillance system in collaboration with the provinces and territories to include ongoing surveillance of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

In budget 2011, our government committed up to $100 million over six years toward establishing the Canadian brain research fund. This fund supports neuroscience research in the advancement of knowledge and treatment of brain disease and mental disorders, including dementia. In May 2014, the Prime Minister announced government support for one of the largest single grants for Alzheimer's disease prevention research in Canada under the fund. In September 2014, the government announced support for five additional dementia-focused projects with total funding of $7 million.

All of these federal investments, partnerships and initiatives are part of the government's national dementia research and prevention plan. We have a strong record of action on this file, but as I said at the onset, more needs to be done.

That is why my motion calls on the government to continue working with the Alzheimer's Society of Canada to establish a program called “dementia friends Canada”. This program, originally launched in Japan and more recently in the United Kingdom, will help to engage individuals, communities and businesses in understanding what it means to live with dementia and how to better support those affected within the community.

It is also clear that research is not enough. All of us in this place know that the provinces and territories are responsible for the delivery of health care, but we should ensure that, where we can as a federal government, we are working to support the provinces in addressing dementia. That is why this motion calls on the government to continue working co-operatively with the provinces to establish a pan-Canadian strategy for dementia. The Minister of Health has made good progress on this to date and will be discussing it with her provincial counterparts at the next federal-provincial-territorial meeting.

Having all jurisdictions working co-operatively together is the key to getting a national plan in place and I know that our minister has the dedication to ensure this is done. That is why I encourage all members of the House to support today's motion, so that the provinces know this is a priority not just for the minister, but for all members of Parliament.

It should be noted that dementia is not just an issue of national concern here in Canada, but has captured global attention. Many countries around the world are facing similar issues. The Government of Canada has committed to work internationally to address the health and economic challenges of dementia and to reduce the burden of this condition.

Most recently, in March of this year, Canada participated in the first WHO Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia in Geneva, Switzerland. At the conference, Canada was among 80 countries that adopted a call to action to advance efforts on dementia and maintain it as a priority issue on national and international agendas. This conference was the latest milestone in a series of international efforts to address dementia that began at the G8 Dementia Summit in December 2013 held in London, England. Canada also participated in this summit, which was dedicated to seeking a heightened level of international collaboration to face the global challenge of dementia.

Following the summit, Canada joined forces with our G7 partners to work toward identifying a cure or disease-modifying treatment for dementia by 2025, increase investments towards dementia research and reduce stigma, exclusion and fear, among other commitments.

Additionally, the World Dementia Council was formed to stimulate innovation and development of treatments for those with, or at risk of developing, dementia. Five priority areas have been identified, including finance, global integrated development, open science and big data, care and risk reduction. A representative from Canada is greatly involved in this international council.

Canada also co-hosted a followup legacy event with France in September 2014, which brought together 200 experts from a variety of countries and focused on strengthening academic-industry partnerships in order to develop new approaches to dementia prevention, treatment and care. The outcomes of this event informed the development of a global action framework, which brings together commitments on dementia from different countries and organizations.

It is clear that addressing the challenge of dementia requires the participation and collaboration of many sectors and partners. Many initiatives involve the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, including different levels of government within Canada and other countries. By working with a variety of organizations and initiatives, our government is able to gain greater awareness and understanding of dementia and other neurological disorders. Our government is doing its best to ensure that the necessary research is made to better combat dementia.

In closing, I would like to thank the House for the opportunity to speak today about this important issue. There are many initiatives under way in Canada and abroad. We are working to maintain and build on the momentum that has been generated through these initiatives. While we are still learning from each other in the development of innovative approaches to addressing dementia, we are definitely moving in the right direction.

I would encourage all members to consider this motion, do their research and if they have other questions, they are free to ask me or any member of our caucus. We would be happy to answer any questions they have.

In the beginning I talked about people in our community who had Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. I was going to talk about one particular individual who I have had the chance to get to know through the years, Jim Finkbeiner, a resident of South Huron, and his wife Linda.

Jim was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at a relatively early age, in his 60s. He and Linda wanted to do as much as they could while Jim could still participate. They came up to Ottawa, they toured Parliament, went to the provincial legislature and toured there, and they toured around the province, spending a lot of time together.

While they were here, they mentioned that in January Jim had walked from Exeter to Huron Park. He is a former firefighter. That is about a 14-kilometre walk. His latest endeavour, going back a few years now, was to walk from Exeter to Clinton, which is about a 33-kilometre walk in the middle of January.

Being relatively keen to support Jim, I told him that if he was game to do it, I would do it as well. I and members his family went for a walk a week before the Walk for Memories. We did a 33 kilometres trek. Jim was actually in his early stages of Alzheimer's when he did the walk. He did the entire walk on his own.

It shows the tremendous commitment that he had for raising awareness. He did a great job in promoting that people could live effectively with Alzheimer's.

As his disease progressed, it also shed light on the need for support for caregivers. His wife did her very best to keep Jim at home as long as she could, and as the disease progressed, she did have to send him to a long-care facility.

Just before I take questions, I want to stress that this disease, as I mentioned in the beginning, affects 40 million people worldwide. The numbers are going to double before too long. All levels of government around the world need to continue to take action. Now is the time to act.

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of DementiaPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Nickel Belt brought forward a private member's bill, Bill C-356, not long ago. It contained much of the same material that this expression of opinion, which is what a motion is, contains. Why did the member vote against that initiative. Why did the government defeat the private member's bill that would have created a national dementia strategy in Canada rather than simply, as in the motion before us tonight, an expression of the opinion of the House?

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of DementiaPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, to the member's first point, we have seen recently what motions can do in the House. The thalidomide motion that recently came before the House actually caused action, and I think that is a great example of what motions can do. However, I would point out a couple of potential faults in the well-intentioned bill that the member brought forward.

One is that there are financial considerations involved in his bill. It would also create an advisory board and specifically points out the payment of members on the board. In addition, there is a clause in his proposed act that spells out a time period of 30 days after the enactment of the act. That is assuming that the bill would actually pass through the House and Senate, which is unlikely, considering the current calendar of Parliament. It is unlikely that any of this would happen.

However, we can put this motion forward. There are differences, but we can get things done for Canadians.

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of DementiaPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, dementia is a very serious issue. It touches the lives of all Canadians in every region of our country.

The merit of a national strategy has been talked about within this chamber previously. However, I would suggest that we have witnessed a lack of leadership on the part of the current Prime Minister, and to a certain degree on the part of the Minister of Health.

We recognize the importance of working with others, particularly the provinces, which administer health care. In fairness, the member did make reference to that.

It is very important that we recognize that Canada does have a strong leadership role. However, part of that role means that the leadership within the government needs to work with the different provincial entities. Here we are, months away from an election, and we are just now seeing this motion. There must be some disappointment that the government has not acted more quickly in terms of recognizing how important it is to work with the other stakeholders, particularly the provinces, to try to develop that national strategy.

If the member does not want to answer that specific question, maybe he can comment on the important role that provinces play in providing the services that are absolutely critical in dealing with this issue.

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of DementiaPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to answer the question. However, I do not think the member has read my motion, nor has he read the facts on what we have invested on the issue of dementia. I mentioned in my speech that we have invested over $1 billion through CIHR since 2006, so we are not late to the game. We have made investments right from the beginning of this government.

In addition to that, my motion lays out a number of activities that the government has already commenced, such as surveillance, monitoring, and best practices, and we are encouraging them to continue. These are all things that we have done for years and years.

It appears that once again the Liberal Party is a little late to the game.

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of DementiaPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.


Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague has articulated very well some of the important things that have already been done in terms of research and in terms of the minister working with the provinces and territories.

I guess I need to go back to the predominant difference between this motion and the well-intentioned bill that we voted on previously, which had its challenges. Could the member quickly rearticulate the real concerns that were in the bill and why this motion is much more appropriate for moving forward in partnership with the provinces?

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of DementiaPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, obviously we are going to respect areas of jurisdiction.

I know the member for Nickel Belt had the best intentions with his private member's bill. I am fully satisfied with his effort. There is no issue there, but some of the pieces that he put in the bill would be problematic, such as the availability of specialists, including neurologists, psychiatrists, nurses, diagnostics, and treatment. These are areas of provincial jurisdiction.

The bill is well intentioned, but it is not the role of the federal government to get involved and start dictating to the provinces: thou shalt allocate this; thou shalt do this; and thou shalt put this equipment into this facility; thou shalt train doctors, nurses, specialists. That is for the provinces to do. We want to support them in any way that we can, but let us not get involved in the issues that the Liberals had in the 1990s and early 2000s when they became involved in areas of provincial jurisdiction

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of DementiaPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise on behalf of the official opposition to address this motion this evening. I wish to start by acknowledging something that the member for Huron—Bruce said, and congratulate and thank the government for the research that has been done on neuroscience. He quite properly pointed out the enormous amount of money that is made available for the important work of dealing with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, for which I salute him and his government.

On the other hand, this is what the Canadian Medical Association called a “lost opportunity”. It said very clearly that the defeat of the bill that the member for Nickel Belt introduced in this House, a private member's bill that would take action and do something, as opposed to expressing the opinion of this House, was a “lost opportunity”.

I want to thank the Canadian Medical Association, and Dr. Chris Simpson in particular, for leadership on the entire issue of finding a way to go forward in dementia. That is not just on research, which I concede is a critically important part of this puzzle, but also to deal with the stress, financial and otherwise, on caregivers, and on people who are living with this terrible disease. That is what I want to make the focus of my remarks.

Before I speak to those things, I want to congratulate and sincerely thank the member for Nickel Belt, who has worked tirelessly on this issue, for the leadership he has shown coast to coast in hearing from people who are living with this terrible disease, and for all he has done to raise my awareness and I think the awareness of other members in this House.

I was told by the Minister of Health not long ago, in another context, about how important it is for people to work in a non-partisan way on issues relating to health. She said that Canadians like to see us work together on these issues. I am entirely in agreement with that. That is why it is so disappointing to be standing here this evening, when we were on the cusp of passing the member's private member's bill to do something about this disease, talking about an expression of an opinion.

Once again, the Conservatives cannot help themselves, because even wording the motion shows what the game is before us tonight. They want us to talk about continuing to take measures to do so, to continue to focus on this, to continue to support. It is a self-congratulatory message that they want us to agree with.

I say at the outset that, of course, we will support the motion, virtually irrelevant though it is, because it is an expression of our concern over this issue. The lost opportunity, as Dr. Simpson pointed out, is the sad part.

I would remind members that on May 6 in this place, we had a vote on that private member's bill. Through the enormous efforts of my colleague from Nickel Belt, the vote was very close. The vote was 139 in favour and 140 opposed. Sadly, one of the Liberal members conceded that she forgot to vote. Had she done so, it would have been the law.

That is why I come here with a certain amount of sadness as I address this critically important issue. The statistics on this disease are absolutely staggering. As the member for Huron—Bruce reminded us, almost three quarters of a million people currently live with the Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, and cognitive impairment.

People with dementia may live for years with the condition and eventually need around the clock care. The cost, just at the economic level of the diseases involving dementia, is roughly $33 billion a year. As we have an aging population, the Canadian Medical Association reports that by 2031, fully 1.4 million Canadians will have dementia. By 2040, the annual cost to the country will be $293 billion. That is simply the cost. I am not talking about the emotional and other costs that are involved.

Other countries show leadership and have the national dementia strategy that my colleague has sought to create in this country, sadly lost tonight. Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, all have national strategies to address this epidemic.

The Canadian Medical Association urged us to join that list. We said no by one vote. Why is it important? It is important because we need research, and again I salute the government for that aspect of addressing the issue. However, it also points out that the occupation of acute care hospital beds with dementia patients is exploding and costing us billions. They could be placed in more appropriate long-term care beds if we could take a strategic approach in investing in that regard.

As we baby boomers deal with the so-called grey, or silver, tsunami coming at us, it will get staggeringly worse. Other countries are taking a strategic approach to this problem.

The emotional and financial burdens faced by spouses, children and other informal caregivers has to be addressed. There is nothing in the motion to address that.

I would like to talk about the comments made in the Edmonton Journal by a young woman named Joanne Cave, who is from Edmonton. She is a Rhodes scholar, studying at Oxford. She wrote poignantly about her mother who was a functioning person in the workplace and eventually this slow indignity of dementia that she talked about took its toll. I want to read what she said:

For my peers and I—twenty-something caregivers, stuck in a generational wedge we never anticipated—Canada is failing us now and for the future. Alzheimer’s isn’t just my daily reality; it’s a source of ongoing political frustration.

She talked about the current family caregiver tax credit hardly compensating for the loss of income or unplanned early retirement and the occasional support of personal care attendants and the like. She contrasts that with what the U.K. is doing with caregiving pension credits, or Australia with caregiving pension allowances. She points out just how far behind Canada is in addressing this crisis.

Along with the Canadian Medical Association, we call for increased support for these informal caregivers in various forms, financial and programs to relieve the stress, such as the need for respite workers and that sort of thing. The opportunity lost here is something that causes great sadness on this side of the House.

The Canadian Medical Association talked about the number of patients who could be elsewhere. They occupy about 15% of the acute care hospital beds across Canada, one-third of whom suffer from dementia. The cost of that is just so staggering when we put it in the context of what aging at home with appropriate support would allow, or even long-term care facilities, which are obviously more expensive. However, as Dr. Simpson points out, hospital beds are where a lot of these people are found, and will continue to be found. It is a strain on our system which will be enormous in the future.

After the defeat of the bill of my colleague from Nickel Belt on May 7, the press release of the Canadian Medical Association said it all. This ”represents a lost opportunity to make lasting progress in the serious and growing problem of dementia in Canada”. Dr. Simpson continues, “We remain one of the few industrialized countries to be without a national dementia strategy”.

According to the Alzheimer's Society of Canada, almost three-quarters of a million Canadians have been diagnosed with dementia, and that number will balloon to 1.4 million by 2031. This is the enormity of the problem with which we are dealing.

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons is also saluting the efforts of my colleague from Nickel Belt in his efforts to create a strategy. It talked about recognizing “the needs and improving supports for caregivers”, all of which CARP advocates for and supports. Fully 83% of Canadians reported that they believed Canada needed such a strategy, given the aging nature of our population.

There is absolutely no doubt as to the urgency of the issue facing Canadians. We see it. Many of us know people who have dementia. In fact, so many of us know people who are suffering from this terrible affliction and those who support them.

The government motion is an expression of concern. That it is of course supported by us, and I will recommend that the official opposition support this. It could have been so much better. We could have done something for Canadians.

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of DementiaPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that the Liberals will be supporting this motion.

What bothered me just a little was the partisan nature of the question period and the discussion. This is not a partisan issue. This is something that crosses all political parties, or should. Something could have been done if the federal government had not forgotten that the provinces exist and had not dumped everything on the provinces. Any time the government is asked about anything, it says to talk to the provinces and that it has nothing to do with it.

I am pleased that the member who brought forward this bill talked about working with the provinces and territories. It is not just about working with the provinces and territories; it is about taking a leadership role as a federal government. The important thing to remember is that many provinces had a real problem with the 2014 budget, which actually did health transfers on a per capita basis. There are a number of provinces, especially in Atlantic Canada and especially British Columbia, that have large cohorts of seniors, and the provinces are now going to have to struggle, because there was no demographic consideration on a needs-based transfer. It became a per capita transfer. A lot of provinces are going to be struggling to do this.

I am glad that we are talking about working with the provinces and territories. However, I wonder why it is that when the provinces have been asking the Prime Minister for such a very long time to meet with them to talk about health needs and health care, the Prime Minister of this country has refused to meet with them, for 10 years, on the matter of health, when before that, every single year, the government, including the previous government before the Liberal government in 1993, used to meet with the premiers. There were first ministers meetings to talk about important issues.

If anything is an important issue, this one is, first and foremost, mainly because all of us standing in the House are going to be aging, and we do not know whether we will be one of the groups that will need this care. The aging population in this country has created a huge set of challenges for all of us: the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. The provinces and territories have recognized this. The Council of the Federation has been asking over and over to look at the demographic of seniors who are coming forward.

One of the things to remember is that in 2011, statistical data told us that there were about three-quarters of a million people living with dementia. We know that by 2031, that number is going to double. We know that it currently costs $33 billion a year to deal with those three-quarters of a million people. We also know that by 2040, that amount is going to increase to $293 billion a year. I want to repeat that. Currently it costs $33 billion, and by 2040 it is going to cost $293 billion to take care of the tsunami, as the Canadian Medical Association calls it, of seniors who are going to be aging in this country and will reach 80 by 2040.

This is a huge problem for all of us to think about. There is pressure. It is not only about the issue of dementia itself. Talking about a dementia strategy is a good thing. One thing we need to look at is what it is going to look like. What should we have talked about a while ago when talking about a dementia strategy. We needed to talk about research.

I want to comment on my colleague who brought this motion forward. Liberals will be supporting the motion. It is something we should be supporting. I am not thrilled, however, about anything the government has done to deal with it during its 10 years in office. We have heard that there has been $1 billion invested in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research were created in about 1993 or 1994, so this is not new, and that $1 billion has been the static amount the Canadian Institutes of Health Research have dealt with for the last eight years. They have not moved beyond $1 billion, and $700 million of that is dedicated to research. We need to look at how to move forward.

It is not as though $1 billion has been dedicated to research on dementia. It has not. That is for research on everything. That is for the 14 institutes under the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In the last budget, we saw that the government put a bit of money into CIHR, but it was only for their management system. It was not to give them any more money for research. When we talk about research, that is at the forefront, and the government has done little when it has had an opportunity to deal with research. Now we want to talk about prevention and promotion.

We know some of the things that could be dealt with to delay, not prevent but delay, the onset of dementia. For instance, we absolutely know that increased exercise and proper nutrition have been shown to delay the onset of dementia. We know that if someone has a concussion over the course of their lifetime, his or her risk of developing dementia is rapidly increased.

Seven years ago, I brought in a bill talking about wearing a CSA-approved helmet for recreation sport. We know so many people have been getting concussions when not wearing the right helmet. There is a prevention strategy that was not going to cost anyone any money. The government has refused to do it, and it is seven years later.

Let us talk about what the government could have done and what we are now talking about perhaps doing on the eve of an election. This is kind of sweet. We talk about treatment options. We need to talk about long-term and assisted care.

In 2001, Prime Minister Chrétien's Liberal government indicated that we need to look at home care, community care and integrated care supports in the community. As these are provincial jurisdiction, the federal government put money on the table in the 2004 accord to involve the federal government in dealing with some of these issues that are outside its jurisdiction. The premiers all agreed to it. No one is ramming anything down the province's throat. This was agreed upon. The Conservative government came in in 2006 and walked away from all those tables in the 2004 health accord. In 2014, it cancelled it.

I am just trying to say, it is nice that this is coming. I am not saying that the member has not done a nice thing by bringing this forward, but there was a lot the government could have done. Action could have been taken. Nice is nice, and I will support it for that reason, but I do not see this doing anything.

As far as caregiver support, we have heard from the Canadian Mental Health Commission of Canada that actually 75% of caregivers today are suffering from mental health stress because of taking care at home of the chronically ill and people with dementia, children with disabilities, and chronic diseases. We have seen and heard about that. What did the government do in this budget? It put forward a $300 tax credit. That does not even begin to touch the need for caregivers in the country. We have seen families who are looking after their senior parents on the one side and their children on the other. They are caught in a sandwich and they are suffering. They are going to be costing the health care system from all of the pressure and the stress they are under. Large numbers of them are suffering from depression because they do not know what to do about it.

In our country we have seniors looking after seniors. I have travelled around the country as the health critic and I have talked to people in town hall meetings. I have had people say to me, “I am 82 and I am looking after my 85-year-old spouse. I cannot even lift him, and I don't get any respite. I get two hours a week of care that comes in. I get to use that two hours to go and buy groceries, to take my spouse to the doctor to get medications, go to the drugstore and to do everything. We have seniors coping with this.

There is a lot that could be done and a lot that could have been done. One can look back and say, “Well, you didn't do this and you didn't do that”, but the bottom line is, this was all articulated by the prime minister of the country back in 2001, working with the provinces. In the 2004 health accord all of this was part of the clear objectives set out. As I said, in 2006, the government walked away and said, “We have nothing to do. This is all provincial.” That is not true. It was signed on the dotted line by the provinces that they recognized they could not do it without the federal government.

I meet with ministers of health of every political stripe across the country and they say the same thing, “There are things we cannot do without a high-level meeting and without the federal government at the table”.

The federal government is responsible for all Canadians. Let us remember that. We cannot pass the buck and say, “This is a provincial jurisdiction and this is not.” We have to take leadership and work in partnership.

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of DementiaPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley Nova Scotia


Scott Armstrong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about Motion No. 575, introduced by the hon. member for Huron—Bruce.

As we heard from my colleague, this motion was put forward to call for further effort to prevent and reduce the impact of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias on Canadians as well as on their families and caregivers.

I could not agree more with the importance of taking further measures to support all Canadians who are living with Alzheimer's disease, so I am pleased to say that our government will be supporting this motion. We are working hard to make progress in fighting this disease and we are committed to taking the steps that my colleague has identified so that we can continue to work toward a cure and support Canadians until we find one.

As I said, we know the significance of this issue. In 2011 alone, it was estimated that 6% to 15% of seniors aged 65 or over were living with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. As our population ages, the number of Canadians who are living with dementia is expected to increase. The number is expected to double by 2031. Direct health sector costs linked to dementias are similarly expected to double over the next 20 years and are predicted to be as high as $16.6 billion in 2031. These additional costs, along with an aging population, will put additional pressures upon our health care system.

It is always helpful to remind people of what we are talking about when we discuss dementia. Dementia is the loss of mental functions as a result of the connections in the brain breaking down over time. The technical term for this is neurodegeneration.

There are many types of dementia, with Alzheimer's disease being the most common. Symptoms can include memory loss, impaired judgment and reasoning, and changes in behaviour, mood, and communication capacity. As dementia progresses, a person's ability to function diminishes and reaches a point where the patient can become totally incapacitated.

Dementia also impacts the families and caregivers of those living with dementia. In addition to the financial burden it imposes, dementia can be devastating to a family's emotional, social, and psychological well-being. All of us have heard of the struggles of families who are working hard to support loved ones who are stricken with this disease.

For the Canadians facing this incredible challenge, we recognize the importance of hope and the need for immediate action. That is why our government has been working to support research on this issue. Dementia has no known cure, and there are no known treatments to alter its progressive course. The current treatment of dementia is limited to the treatment of symptoms, such as the decline in memory, language, thinking ability, and motor skills, but there is no treatment that addresses the cause.

As indicated in this motion, we need to bring together international partners to combat this disease and come up with a cure. Dementia is a challenge that is not unique to our country. There is a growing worldwide recognition that dementia, and Alzheimer's disease in particular, is a key global health crisis in this century.

The World Health Organization estimates that dementia cases will double every 20 years. It estimates that there are currently 47 million people living with dementia and that by 2030 this number could be as high as 75 million people worldwide. The growing social and economic costs associated with dementia care could easily grow to an unsustainable level.

In response, the Government of Canada has worked with the international community to address the challenges posed by dementia.

Following the G8 dementia summit, Canada endorsed a declaration along with our G7 partners that consists of a dozen commitments to strengthen collaboration on dementia. These commitments include an increase in research funding and improving the quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers. Our Minister of Health has also committed to supporting research that will identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025. That is our goal.

We have been working with the World Health Organization to maintain this momentum. Canada took part in the call to action by 80 countries on this issue, and we are working here at home. Motion No. 575 calls for the development of a pan-Canadian dementia strategy while respecting the jurisdiction of the provinces and the territories.

We are building on a strong track record. Last year, we launched the national dementia research and prevention plan. This plan brings together a significant number of federal investments and partnerships on research and prevention.

These investments form a cohesive effort to improve diagnosis, treatment, and care to help individuals living with this disease and help reduce the burden on families caring for loved one with dementia

The plan also supports healthy living investments and research that may help prevent or delay the early onset of dementia.

We are committed to facilitating collaboration in research on prevention, treatment, and a cure; assessing and sharing best practices; engaging our partners; and raising public awareness on this issue. By compiling current and ongoing research initiatives and aligning research priorities and strategies at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels as well as the international level, we are working with all partners to make the biggest positive impact possible.

Another important federal contribution is the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, better known as the CCNA. This consortium is the primary avenue for coordinating research with the provinces and territories. It is led by the government through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research as part of the dementia research strategy, which is Canada's premier research hub on neurodegenerative diseases.

Research undertaken by the consortium is focused on improving primary prevention, secondary prevention, and quality of life for those stricken. The CCNA receives $31.5 million in funding over five years from the Government of Canada and a group of partners from the public and private sectors. Several provinces have also been engaged as partners in this research endeavour.

Our government is also providing up to $100 million over six years, from 2011 to 2017, to the Brain Canada Foundation to support the Canada brain research fund. This fund provides dollar-for-dollar matched funding to the Brain Canada Foundation to support Canadian neuroscience research and advance knowledge and treatment of brain disease and mental disorders, and these include dementia.

In regard to engagement to address dementia, the government is currently working with the Alzheimer Society of Canada to launch a new program called Dementia Friends Canada. This program will engage Canadians in understanding what it means to live with dementia and in taking action to support those affected within the community.

The burden of dementia on caregivers must not be overlooked, and for this reason our government provides a variety of supports to unpaid caregivers. These include financial credits and benefits, such as the family caregiver tax credit; income replacement through the employment insurance compassionate care benefit; and funding for research and community-based initiatives. It is clear that significant investment and coordination on dementia is taking place at the federal-provincial-territorial level as well as at the international level.

Many of the components are already in place for a national dementia plan and pave the way for future innovation and achievement.

Our government fully recognizes the impact that dementia has on Canadians who are living with this disease and on the caregivers who are providing them with support. We have invested in a range of partnerships and key initiatives related to dementia, research, and prevention to improve care and reduce the burden on families that are dealing with this disease.

I am pleased that my colleague from Huron—Bruce brought today's motion forward. I am also pleased that we are calling upon the government to take even further measures to address dementia and to continue working with the provinces to establish a national strategy on this issue. We recognize the scale of this challenge and the need for a thorough response. We will continue working to deliver to support all Canadians and meet this challenge head-on.

I want to thank my colleague for this motion. I am proud to say that our government will be supporting this motion.

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of DementiaPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am always humbled by the privilege of standing in the House to represent the people of Nickel Belt. On this motion, on this issue of a national dementia strategy, I realize I stand to represent not only the people of Nickel Belt but also the millions of Canadians who are demanding a credible, real, national dementia strategy.

What is at play here is self-evident to many Canadians. This motion perfectly captures the Conservatives' politics, which have been on display here in Parliament time and again on issues vital to Canadians. This motion is more a child of spin and politics than a commitment to the leadership we are looking for. It gives the appearance of doing something to really help Canadians while staying the course on their own priorities.

Members will know that this motion appeared out of the blue a week before debate on my bill, which proposed a real, credible, national dementia strategy. It was a plan that would be anchored in a law, with leadership mandated from Ottawa. Canadians clearly wanted that.

The minister indicated that while initially opposed to the legislation, she had a change of mind. I believe the change of mind had something to do with the dozens of petitions being tabled in the House in support of a national dementia plan, the hundreds of municipal resolutions backing Bill C-356, and the growing number of provincial governments seeing the value of leadership from Ottawa that still respected provincial jurisdiction.

Canadians changed the government's mind. During many discussions with the minister and her representatives, we on this side of the House accepted all the amendments proposed to address their reservations. However, in the end, the government showed its true colours and abandoned its leadership and any legislative measure that it would be required to implement. This government's ideology and practice is to disregard authentic national strategies containing real measures that make things easier for Canadians.

This brings me to the vote held on May 6. Despite the fact that the government is now opposed to the bill and even though it has a majority in the House, the bill was defeated by one vote, 139 to 140. The media first talked about the confusion at the time of the vote. One Conservative member voted twice before withdrawing his support for the bill. Let me quickly say that the vote of 140 to 139 is a sharp reminder of the importance of every member's vote. Yes, bills can be passed or defeated by a single vote. The Conservatives have also heard about what their vote means since that night.

However, the vote was also a clear reminder of how we need to listen to the will of Canadians. Nine members of the Conservative caucus did so, voting for the legislation. I have recognized their votes in public comments. There were nine government MPs who joined our party and other parties to support real help for the 747,000 people now dealing with Alzheimer's or related dementia disease, plus the millions of people caught up in providing care and health services.

This motion cleverly includes so many elements from my bill and what is needed for a genuine national strategy, but this motion will not here and now help any of the people who are so in need of help.

This motion recognizes the important research initiatives that we on this side of the House enthusiastically applaud. It recognizes the federal-provincial discussions under way, while deploring the fact that they are painfully slow. The motion includes many of the basic elements of a strategy, but it makes no commitment to accomplish what that it sets out.

The real problem of the motion before us not being as binding as legislation is that, in the words of my colleague the member for Victoria, it risks being a “feel-good, do-nothing motion”. I will say more about motions versus legislation later, but in terms of recognizing what Canadians really need from the current government, we need to hear what they said in the wake of the defeat of Bill C-356 by one vote. Some of what they said, I cannot repeat. “Shame” and “disgrace” were some of the more polite words.

The Canadian Medical Association lamented the lost opportunity. Dr. Chris Simpson, president of the CMA, said:

The defeat of Private Member's Bill C-356 Wednesday night represents a lost opportunity to make lasting progress in the serious and growing problem of dementia in Canada. We remain one of the few industrialized countries to be without a national dementia strategy.

... Bill C-356 would have called on the government to set up a national dementia strategy. Canada would have been able to get to work making sure the health care system has the right resources to deal with this problem before it becomes overwhelming.

However, a national strategy would involve all levels of government and introduce benchmarks, standards of care as well as timeframes. It would also give other levels of government and stakeholders a forum to point out the need for resources. Instead of a series of ad hoc initiatives, a national strategy is a long-term solution for a problem that will be with us for a long time.

Canadians want a real national strategy enshrined in law. That is what we have heard from municipalities, doctors, people with dementia, their caregivers, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, other religious leaders, CARP and other seniors' organizations, unions and many others.

The motion moved in the House reproduces, almost word for word, many of the provisions in Bill C-356. There is heavy emphasis on research, something we have always considered essential to any strategy. That is something that will only contribute to other aspects of a well thought-out strategy.

However, when we unpack this motion, and all its phrases, again we see that it will stay the course on what Ottawa has been doing, slowly and with so few results. There will be research. There will be discussions with the provinces. There is a nod to sharing of best practices and reports to the public, but with no real accountability or timelines.

There is little evidence of a comprehensive plan that also provides for early diagnosis and treatment. I do not see the continuum of care for people to remain at home and in the community, which is critical as our scarce acute care beds have many people who do not need to be in hospitals.

A real credible national dementia strategy would also now help those overwhelmed in the dementia workforce. For example, the motion mentions support for caregivers, but nothing about how and when. What resources will be given to these people now?

We on this side know the difference of a motion versus legislation. In another Parliament, we saw the passing of Mr. Broadbent's motion to end child poverty by the year 2000. It was unanimous. There was good will on all sides, but we know what happened with that motion. What will happen to this motion when there is no will of governments to follow up with real action and leadership.

We are reaching the end of this Parliament next month. We or others representing our parties will all have to face the voters in our ridings. Organizations like the Canadian Medical Association, CARP and others are advising voters to remember their MP or party votes on dementia. We are pleased on this side for having done our part in education, advocacy and building the momentum for a genuine national dementia strategy. There is no turning back.

Through Bill C-356 and our debate on this motion, Canadians will not be fooled by words any longer. They want a national dementia strategy to actually show up in their community to help their loved ones, their neighbours, their work colleagues, now. Canadians will not stomach more press releases, motions, promises or explaining of votes.

I will support this motion because I like mom, apple pie and everything that is said in Motion No. 575. Speaking of mom, the story of my mom and my family connected me to the millions of Canadians struggling with this health care crisis that dementia represents. She was a straight shooter. She would figure out fact from fiction about what the government says it does or will do.

We on this side are committed to continue the real work required to make this happen. I look forward to the new government in Alberta being part of that work. I look forward to a new government in Ottawa, a government led by my leader, that will lead on this file. Canadians deserve better than what we have.

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of DementiaPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have another opportunity to address this important issue.

As people may know, one of the many challenges remote first nation communities face is substandard health care services. The success and well-being of the community is actually largely dependent on the quality of health care services and how easy it is to access them. Unfortunately, for too many remote and northern first nation communities, the quality and availability of health care services cannot come close to matching those that most Canadians receive.

In these locations, the government has failed the first nations, despite a clear constitutional responsibility to provide health care for those very communities. The problems are straightforward, mostly that nurses are not adequately trained and some communities are isolated from any service at all. In addition to that, building regulations can be completely ignored for many of the nursing stations currently in use.

This spring's Auditor General's report focused on health care in communities like these and brought many problems into focus. According to the report, only one in 45 nurses had been properly trained. In most cases, they do not have the qualifications to provide the most basic of care for these communities, let alone the resources or manpower shortages that only compound the problem. On top of that, nurses are often required to do things outside of their legislative scope of practice.

Health Canada is aware of this and yet nothing has been done to provide appropriate supporting mechanisms for these situations. In one community, two four year olds died because of strep throat-related conditions. Penicillin could have saved them. If they had had access to proper health care facilities, two four year olds could still be alive today.

I understand there is rhetoric on the other side of the House, but this is a serious issue.

Is this the quality of life we want for anyone in Canada? No community should be forced to worry that an entirely preventable and treatable disease can take the lives of its members, but that is the case for too many remote and northern first nations.

There is yet another example of how the Conservative government misses the mark on anything to do with the first nations. It is quick to bring in regulations but slow to invest. However, if we want to help these communities face their challenges over the long term, we need to invest. The government is doing the bare minimum, and it shows.

If the government really wanted to improve the quality of life for the people in first nation communities, it would provide properly trained nurses and take into account the specific needs of each community when allocating nursing staff levels.

In addition to that, the quality of clinic buildings is also a problem. Many buildings were not inspected on time according to Health Canada's 2005 framework for capital planning and management requirements. If they were, most deficiencies related to health and safety requirements or building codes went unaddressed. Of the 30 reviewed deficiencies, only 4 had been taken care of. This disregard for building quality puts patients and nurses on staff at risk and could limit access to health services in remote communities.

The government brags about its balanced budget. Inaction on problems like these is one way this has been done. The budget has been balanced on the backs of those who need it the most. Why are the Conservatives abandoning remote communities?

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.


Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address the comments of the hon. member with respect to health care for first nations and Inuit.

Certainly our government ensures that first nations communities have access to health care providers. Guided by the Canada Health Act, provinces and territories deliver hospital, physician, and public health programs to all Canadians, including first nations.

However, as I have previously noted, in order to support first nations in reaching an overall level of health that is comparable to other Canadians, Health Canada supplements provincial services by providing or funding the delivery of effective, sustainable, and culturally appropriate services in first nations communities. This work is done in a collaborative manner with our first nation partners. We also work with the provinces and territories to address the pressing health issues and provide the appropriate access to health services.

It is important to note that over $2.5 billion is invested annually by the government in first nations and Inuit health, in the form of primary care; non-insured health benefits; and a broad range of public health programs, such as the aboriginal diabetes initiative, the national native alcohol and drug abuse program, and maternal child health programming.

Non-insured health benefits include medical transportation so that when first nation people living on reserve need to access health services that cannot be obtained in their community, and this includes emergencies or routine doctor appointments, Health Canada provides coverage for transportation. This, of course, includes emergency transportation for those living in remote and isolated communities.

On the primary care side, Health Canada directly delivers primary care services in 53 remote and isolated first nation communities in four regions: Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. We also provide funding to first nations to deliver primary health care services in 27 remote and isolated first nation communities, and that includes 12 in Saskatchewan region.

We are working closely with first nation communities and have transferred programs and services to varying degrees in over 400 communities. I am also proud of the agreement that we have in British Columbia, covering more than 200 communities there.

It is important that we continue to work collaboratively with our provincial and first nation partners to improve delivery and the integration of health services.

Again, Health Canada's programs and services rely heavily on nurses. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners are predominately the first point of contact, and they are valued members of the community.

We take the recent recommendations of the Auditor General very seriously and are already working to address the recommendations in the report. Notably, to address nursing vacancy rates, Health Canada has implemented a recruitment and retention strategy, and is already receiving more than 250 applications per month.

On recruitment and training issues, having been a nurse who has worked in small remote aboriginal communities, I know that changeover is a real challenge in ensuring that we keep the training going for every new person. However, rest assured, we are committed to having highly educated, qualified individuals, and that everyone has been trained and certified to be a health care provider.

There are many other things that are important in terms of where we go in moving forward. I think there are enormous opportunities with telehealth. However, again, rest assured that we are taking the recommendations very seriously.

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General's report provides proof that the Conservative government is not making first nations a priority. The findings of this report are horrifying but not surprising.

The NDP has been stressing the challenges that too many first nations are facing throughout this entire Parliament. Proper nurse training, staffing, and building inspections would make a huge difference for these communities.

Each and every nurse that is sent to remote first nation locations needs to be adequately trained. Nurses should be equipped with the knowledge and experience it takes to handle the situations that will arise in these locations. In addition, each community should be properly examined to discover their unique needs when it comes to health care services.

If we are spending money to send nurses to these locations, it makes sense to ensure they are given every opportunity to do the best job they can. However, the state of health care services in remote first nation communities reflects the attitude of the Conservatives toward first nations as a whole.

First nations' lives matter. When is the government going to address the problems with health care services in northern and remote first nation communities?

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, our government will continue to provide front-line services to first nation communities while also ensuring that medically necessary care and services are available for all first nations and Inuit in Canada.

Our work on first nation and Inuit health care services is collaborative. We have reached a comprehensive deal in British Columbia that contributes to the development of healthier and more sustainable first nation communities. It is one we hope will be implemented across the country.

We are investing in nursing stations and building new ones. We are working with first nation communities and other important partners to address the issues of prescription drug abuse and mental wellness. Budget 2015 would provide annual funding of $2 million to support mental wellness teams in first nation communities.

Again, we are dedicated to improving the health of Canadians, including our first nation and Inuit communities.