Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to address this very important bill proposed by my colleague from Edmonton Manning. I want to commend him at the outset. This is a great initiative, the kind of substantive initiative we would hope to see coming forward in private member's bills. The member is drawing from his own experience and knowledge of a particular area but is also bringing forward a proposal that is meaningful and that would have a positive impact for many Canadians.
This bill would create a national organ donation registry. When we look at the solution, it is important to start with what the problem is we are trying to solve. Some of the speeches that have been made on this bill have suggested that everything is fine. We have a current system in place, so let us just leave the current system in place. However, that is not good enough, because in 2014, almost 300 Canadians—278, to be precise—died waiting for organ transplants. Almost 300 families were affected by someone dying in their families simply because they were waiting for organ transplants. Perhaps not enough people had signed their donor cards, or perhaps there was not an effective system in place to ensure that they got the organs they needed. In 2013, the year before that, 246 people died.
Canada ranks relatively poorly when it comes to this area. In 2012, Canada ranked 20th in deceased organ donor rates. Many countries that are, generally speaking, similar to us, including Spain, the U.S., France, and the U.K., do better than Canada does in this respect. This is not because Canadians are less generous or less concerned about the health and well-being of themselves, their families, or their neighbours.
We need to recognize that we have a problem here. We are under-performing when it comes to supporting those who need to receive organ donations. Let us recognize that problem. I hope this bill will move forward as part of that solution and will also stimulate further discussion about how we can move forward and make this decision better. Maybe, as well, this debate will stimulate awareness among Canadians about the importance of being an organ donor.
The solution my colleague from Edmonton Manning has proposed is to have a national organ donation registry. As much as health care is predominantly a provincial jurisdiction, the bill proposes that there could be more effective national coordination. We could work together as a country to make sure that we are implementing best practices and getting the best use of organs and the best donations we could. This is a great initiative. This is the kind of area on which we should be working together as a country.
As a Conservative, I believe deeply in the principle of subsidiarity, that we should allow provinces and municipalities to operate in their own areas of jurisdiction without undue influence. However, this bill would create a mechanism for collaboration between different jurisdictions. It is an area where collaboration makes sense, where the sharing of information and working together, such that different regions help meet needs in other regions, is just transparently better for everyone. It is the kind of initiative that other levels of government would respond to very well.
It is a simple solution, one that would not tread on anyone's toes, so to speak. It would confront this very real problem, which is that people in Canada are dying because they are not getting access to the organs they need. Perhaps those people could get them under a better developed, better worked out, and better constructed system, as my colleague is proposing.
I hope that members will take their responsibilities seriously as they study this bill and consider how they vote. We have heard from the parliamentary secretary an indication that the members of the government will not be supporting this bill. However, I encourage all members, whatever party they are part of, to reflect on the potential of this initiative to save the lives of many Canadians and the potential to make an actual, substantial difference. That is our job here, after all. It is not to line up along party lines but to think about how an initiative like this could have a positive impact and really matter for people who are suffering and need the help.
My colleague from Calgary, who spoke before me, did an excellent job outlining this.
The objections we have heard are just not substantive. Yes, this is something new. There is a sense that there are existing initiatives and that we should just leave them in place.
Sometimes there is a tendency in government to want to just leave things the way they are. The old way may not be perfect, but we should just leave it the way it is. However, when there is a real need to move forward, because there is a definable negative impact from the current system and there are improvements needed that could and should be made, I think it behooves us to look for those solutions and not just say that we have an old system that is working and that we should just stick with it. I think we should be prepared to do more than we are doing.
There was some discussion about the issue of jurisdiction. This is one of those areas where, while respecting provincial jurisdiction, we should be open to the idea of national leadership and national coordination and co-operation. When there are clear economies of scale, because everyone has the same organs, whether they are in B.C., Quebec, or the Maritimes, there is no reason not to work together to achieve the kind of positive outcomes we can.
I would add that there is an opportunity to see the bill not as the end of a discussion but as the start of an important discussion. I think there are many other options we should explore, building on the leadership of the member for Edmonton Manning, to say how we could do more to encourage organ donations.
We could build on this through enhanced public education, working with provinces on education in schools so that young people growing up are aware of the impact of organ donation and what it can do to help the quality of life of those in their communities. We could be looking at other kinds of programs that have been tried. One option might be a reverse-onus type of program where instead of people opting in as organ donors, people who do not want to be organ donors have to opt out. There would be a presumption of being opted in until an individual opts out.
These are models that have been explored and tried in other places. They are not part of the bill, but recognizing the challenge we face, which the member has brought forward, I think there is an opportunity for us to explore that conversation.
I would emphasize again, for the government and for all members as they think about how they vote on the legislation before us, that the current system is not good enough. When we have a large number of Canadians dying because of a lack of access to organs, and we have Canada under-performing compared to other countries, there is a problem and there is a need to respond in some way.
We are one country, and we can and should work together. We should not hide behind jurisdictional arguments to say that there should not be some kind of national coordination. Yes, of course we have to be respectful of provincial jurisdiction in this area, but that does not mean there cannot be collaboration across the board.
Yes, this is something new. This is a new idea that is different from the system we are using right now. However, that is not sufficient reason not to move forward.
If members have doubts about the bill, this is a vote at second reading that would allow it to go to committee. It would create an opportunity for further study, for Canadians who have been affected by this issue to come forward and tell their stories and for experts, legal and others, to propose modifications and improvements to the bill.
Let us not end it now. Let us move the bill forward to second reading. If members have doubts about it, I encourage them to vote for it at this stage, at least, because it will make a difference. It will make a difference to Canadians who are affected by this issue. It will make a difference as we start a conversation about how we can build on this to save more lives and have a positive impact on the health and well-being of Canadians.
I will be voting for the bill. I am pleased to do so, and I encourage all other members to do so as well.