Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for putting forth this private member's bill. It is always an honour to get up in the House and address Canadians as an elected representative from my riding of Peterborough—Kawartha, but our voices often resonate across Canada.
What we are talking about tonight, for those watching, and I know my mom and dad are watching, is a private member's bill. My parents will like this private member's bill. It was put forward by a Liberal, the member for Humber River—Black Creek, and it is a really good private member's bill.
A private member's bill is something that, as it sounds, is put forth by members themselves. There is policy we see on the floor of the House of Commons that comes forward, and then there are private member's bills, where a member works together with people here at the House of Commons to put it forward. It takes a little more work in a lot of ways because the member has to convince everybody in the House to work with them and get everyone on board.
A lot of this often comes from a place of personal experience. We all have an agenda for why we got elected or what we are doing here, and we have personal connections and things we want to change. The member who put this bill forward shared her story of her personal connection and why she put it forward, and I am going to read the summary into the record for people. Bill C-284 is “An Act to establish a national strategy for eye care”, and the summary states:
This enactment provides for the development of a national strategy to support the prevention and treatment of eye disease, as well as vision rehabilitation, to ensure better health outcomes for Canadians.
It also designates the month of February as “Age-Related Macular Degeneration Month”.
There is a reason I love this bill so much. When we look at our health, let us be honest: Nothing else matters in the world other than our health. Someone does not know they do not have health until they do not have health. I always say it is like that age-old adage: When someone is sick and laying on the ground with the flu or something, they could have all the money in the world and all the possessions in the world, but without their health they cannot do anything.
What I like about this bill is that it puts a focus not only on our eyes, but on the overall health of our eyes and the impact our eye health has on us. It also talks about prevention, and that is the smart economics, I would say, of this bill. When we look at prevention, that is really when we are working upstream.
Often in this House, what we are doing is intervening. The damage has already been done and we are doing an intervention, constantly. We are doing damage control all the time. We see this in so many aspects, such as our mental health crisis and our opioid crisis. We are trying to undo all of these things. However, if we focus on prevention and research, we will save ourselves so much money in the long run. I like that this bill has a specific focus on research and prevention.
There is an area about this bill that intrigued me and got me thinking. I am the shadow minister or critic for children, families and social development. We have a ton of children in this country who are not reaching their full potential in learning. Something is often overlooked, and I can remember my own experience of this with my kids when things were not working out at school or something was going on. The simplest thing we can do is check to see if their vision is working, if their eyes are working. People do not know any different. If someone's eyes are not working, but they have never had them tested and do not know any different, that is what their baseline is. They do not know that they cannot see the board or cannot see their friends.
There could be a whole bunch of kids acting up or their behaviour has changed or they are not reaching their full potential. They could be a bright child but have fallen through the cracks because they are not engaging socially, or they do not feel smart so their worth declines. That has a spider web of impacts.
We can help our children have access. A ton of children fell through the cracks in so many areas with the pandemic, which I am going to park because I have so many feelings on that. They really fell through the cracks and did not get access to testing. I think that if we have a national eye care strategy that helps in those very first few years, diagnosing whether there is a vision issue, we are going to prevent so many long-term issues. The same can be said for our seniors.
Before I get to our seniors, I want to talk about the economic impacts when we look at prevention and what this is costing our system. There was a report from 2021. It is two years old, so the data could be even more current. A headline about the report reads, “New report reveals vision loss costs Canada almost $33 billion annually”. That is not chump change. That is not nothing.
If I go back to the beginning of what I said, our health is our mental health, so our mind and body have to be working well. If our eyes are not working well, this is going to impact our mental health as well, which costs the system. I do not even know that one can quantify whether that $33 billion would take into account all of the other secondary issues that would happen as a result of not having access to eye care.
The article about the report goes on to say, “What is most concerning is that 75 percent of vision loss is either preventable or treatable if caught early”, so we can see why the private member's bill has garnered support in the House. It is because it is just common sense, as we would say on this side of the House. The report revealed the following costs from vision loss borne by society and individuals every year—