Madam Speaker, I am incredibly pleased to be here today to speak on Bill C-237, an act to establish a national framework for diabetes.
This is an incredibly important private member's bill, because it addresses something that really concerns me: The reality that people with diabetes across Canada are being treated very differently depending on what province or territory they live in. I thank the member for bringing this bill forward and for her passion on this very important issue. I am very happy to be here to discuss why it is important.
A couple of years ago, Juvenile Diabetes spokespersons came to have a conversation with me. I met with two teenagers, one from Alberta and one from British Columbia. As members in the House, we all have moments where we hear stories and think, “This is wrong,” and that we have do something to make it better. That day, I learned that people living with diabetes could have something inserted in their arms that would allow them to scan their blood sugar levels very quickly with their phones. There was no more need for pricking fingers or carrying around those tools: They could quickly scan to see how things were going and address them as needed. The problem is that in one teen's province, there is a monthly fee for this service, and in the other teen's province, there is no fee at all.
It really broke my heart when I heard from the mother of the teen who was in the province where a monthly fee was required. She and her husband had been doing really well paying that monthly fee, until her husband got hurt on the job and was off work. Their income went down significantly. The mother told me that one of the hardest choices they had to make was to acknowledge that they could no longer afford the monthly fee, which meant that their daughter had to have the pump removed and move forward.
No parent ever wants to do that. It completely broke my heart. I do not think any parent in the country would be happy if they had to make a decision between the health and well-being of their child and feeding them. I recognize that across Canada, many parents have children who have health issues. They really struggle to afford, or cannot afford, the basic medication they need to make sure that their children are well cared for, and this is one example. We need a better strategy. It is important to point out that a national pharmacare program would address this issue and ensure that parents would not be making choices, such as these parents had to, between their children's health and well-being and feeding them and keeping a roof over their heads.
The facts are very clear. Individuals with diabetes cannot regulate their blood sugar properly. Diabetes causes many physical health issues, and is a cause of debt for more than 7,000 Canadians every year. Diabetes also impacts the mental health of people who have diabetes, as well as their families. It is time for Canada to take this seriously, and the bill before us is one step towards doing so.
This bill asks the government to bring together all provinces, territories, indigenous leaders and stakeholder groups to create a plan to support those living with diabetes more holistically. Diabetes is a chronic disease, and it is so important that the federal government do more to support Canadians living with diabetes, particularly those who incur significant out-of-pocket costs because of it. Too many Canadians living with diabetes are unable to afford the medications, devices and supplies they need. When medication and supplies are unaffordable it leads to bigger health issues, which can lead to an early death. That is just not acceptable in a country as wealthy as ours. Families and loved ones feel this reality, and it is really scary for them to always worry about what they will do if they cannot afford what those people need.
Not too long ago, I received a message from a constituent who had just been diagnosed with diabetes, and she was really scared. She was not sure how she would afford the medication. When dealing with a chronic illness, the last thing the body needs is the stress of wondering, “Can I afford the most basic supplies and medication that I need?” We know that this is true. A recent report from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions found that 57% of Canadians with diabetes reported failing to adhere to their prescribed therapies due to affordability issues related to their medications, devices and supplies.
Fifty-seven per cent is more than half of Canadians who have this chronic disease. This is important because research indicates that when a chronic illness is managed, the expense is lower and the health of the individual increases. Preventative supports matter. They allow people to care of themselves and prevent repetitive visits to the emergency room caused by a lack of access to medications, devices and supplies.
Again, we have to think about what this means in Canada. It is one of the most wealthiest countries in the world and these realities exist because people cannot afford their medication.
This is why Canada's New Democrats recognize that there is an urgent need to for universal, comprehensive and public pharmacare, a plan to ensure that all Canadians have access to the medications they need when they need them, that we do not have people like my constituents staying up half the night wondering how they will afford this new expense in their lives. This must include coverage for diabetes devices and supplies, such as test strips, syringes, insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors.
Sadly, we have seen the reality that the Liberals and the Conservative governments, one after another, continue to deny this measure that would create a more affordable and a fair system to care for the well-being of people across Canada. It would save significant money by lessening emergency health care costs, which are extremely high and terrible for the health of people who cannot afford their medication. Universal health care would also support businesses that have multiple challenges when they have a team member or a loved one who has health issues. In some cases, even with health insurance people cannot afford the cost of their medication.
Just weeks ago we heard the government make promises, but when it actually had an opportunity to support pharmacare, it said no. How many times do Canadians have to wait and ask again for this human rights-based approach?
I will be supporting this bill. It is a step that will at least support people living with diabetes. I hope the government will support it as well. The concerning reality is that so many families that apply for the disability tax credit when they have children who are born with diabetes lose it when those children come into adulthood. The Government of Canada has rejected these applicants in the past. When is in place, I hope it stops denying this small tax credit. Most important, ensuring that people have access to the RRSPs they invested in for many years is absolutely key for me.
There is a lot of injustice for people living with chronic illness. I hope the bill will at least help one portion of the community. However, I want to remind everyone in the House that only pharmacare will make it a more fair system for everyone in the country.