Mr. Speaker, I am truly honoured to stand today and talk about Bill C-307. I want to thank the member for Battle River—Crowfoot for allowing me to second this bill, for supporting me in terms of the debate, and for bringing forward this incredibly important issue. He did an excellent job talking about what the bill is about, what it will do, and why he has moved it forward. However, I will talk about a few areas that I do not think have been covered yet in this debate.
We have a record. Often when we hear we are number one or number two, it is something that we are very proud of. However, we are not and should not be proud of this particular record. Canada and the U.S. are the world's heaviest opioid users, with the rate of overdoses and deaths increasing dramatically. In 10 months in British Columbia alone we had 622 deaths. I wrote these notes yesterday. I had to revise that. It is now 623. This is in British Columbia alone. Of those, 322 have been related to fentanyl. Over 2,000 naloxone kits have been handed out, which is the antidote. Therefore, there were 2,000 potential overdoses and death might have been prevented with the use of the naloxone kits.
Back in September, I spoke in favour of the member for Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam's bill, Bill C-224, the good Samaritan drug overdose act. At that time, I talked about a young man and his wife I knew. They had both died from an overdose, leaving behind a young baby. However, I want to give another face to this crisis. I think it is important to give faces to the crisis and that it is important for the government to hear this if there is any way that it will help. I will talk about some of the evidence later, but I hope the bill will at least go to committee to get the most up-to-date evidence and to really have it looked at.
There was a young man who lived in Kamloops named Paul. I knew Paul as a very young boy. He had the cutest little smile, and he was a hockey player. I watched him grow up from someone who tottered around on skates to someone who was very skilled in the arena. He was a very fine young man. I saw Paul in September. I was at a golf tournament. I had not seen him for a long time, and I chatted with him for a while. I asked him what he was up to. He had graduated from university, he had a job with the Investors Group, he had a girlfriend, he was smiling, he was happy, and he seemed to have the world by the tail. That was in September. In October of this year there was a wedding. Paul was a groomsman at this wedding and did his duties for the day. Then he made a fatal error. He kissed his mom, and he and four friends went upstairs to the hotel room and decided to ingest some drugs. That was a fatal mistake, a silly mistake, and the wrong thing to do. The groom noticed that his friends were missing and decided to go and find out what had happened to them. He went upstairs and five of them had overdosed on fentanyl. They were unconscious. What had been a joyous occasion ended in panic, mayhem, and tragedy. There were four who lived after being given the antidote naloxone. However, Paul's mom and dad had to come and say goodbye to him. This is our neighbour.
Today, we have the premier of British Columbia, we have the health minister here, and we have this conference happening. They have said that we are the face, the whole face, of this tragedy—and people need to recognize it is a tragedy. If it has not impacted members yet, we can only hope that it does not, because in the community where I am there is Ryan's mother, there is Jordan's mother, there are way too many who have tragically made a mistake that has ended in tragedy.
I do recognize that Bill C-307 is just one tool. We have talked about its tamper resistance and abuse deterrence. It is strictly one tool in the tool box, but it is a tool that could make a difference.
We have to have many strategies and I noted that one of the questions from the Liberals was about the importance of an overall strategy. Absolutely, we need an overall strategy, and I hope the conference over the next two days will get us to a better place with an overall strategy.
However, I want to point out that it did not stop the Liberals from moving forward with Bill C-224, which they recognized made sense. Again, I would suggest that it should not stop them from moving forward with Bill C-307 or at least taking it to the next step. We moved forward on naloxone, in terms of the nasal spray. We have moved forward in many ways. Just because there is a need for a comprehensive strategy does not mean that we should not move forward with this particular bill.
I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health talk about the evidence and the balloon effect. To be quite frank, the evidence is actually contradictory. She talked about the worry about a balloon effect, but she did not cite references. I will follow up to see what her sources were.
The New England Journal of Medicine, which is a very respected publication, had a study where the new formulation decreased abuse from 35% down to 12.8%. That is one piece of evidence that needs to be taken into account.
A lot of work has happened in Australia, which has shown a significant decrease. The study focused on 606 people who had regularly misused opioids and due to the tamper-resistant and abuse-deterrent formulation, there was a significant decrease in the misuse, without the balloon effect that Liberals talked about as their reason for not supporting this legislation. The balloon effect was not there. There was not a shift, in this particular study, to using other drugs. There are a number of studies that have shown that is not an issue.
There was another study done by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. Opioids were used 3,500 to 4,000 times a month and once they established the tamper-resistant and abuse-deterrent formulation, it went down to 500 in terms of usage.
What I would tell the Liberals is this is such an important issue and they need to look at this very carefully. They need to vote for it, at least at second reading, because when it gets to committee, they will be able to review the evidence. When the Americans made their decision, they had a lot of evidence and moved forward. The previous minister of health for the Province of Ontario regularly asked for Canada to move forward with this.
We would be missing an opportunity to review the latest evidence. Concerns have been expressed around pricing. Again, things have changed over the last couple of years. As a result of studies done by the House of Commons and the Senate, they recommended we move forward. Those studies are a couple of years old now, so it would give us the chance to review this in light of new evidence.
To sum up, this is not the be-all and end-all and I am hoping the conference tomorrow and much of the other work will help us at least get a handle on this. The tamper-resistant and abuse-deterrent formulation has a very important role to play and we should not miss this opportunity. This is for Jordan, Hardy, and Ryan. Today the premier, with one of the mothers, laid out 54 pictures for the minister to see. These are 54 of the 600-plus who have died in British Columbia in the last few years, deaths that can be prevented.
I support this bill. Let us check the research and evidence and send it to committee to see where we are at.