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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was know.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as NDP MP for Surrey North (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2006, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Health December 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, under the Liberal government in British Columbia, we have seen a huge increase in the number of private health clinics looking to open and profit from our health care system. The False Creek Urgent Care Centre wants to charge extra for medically necessary services and is currently in secret negotiations with the Campbell government.

It is the federal government that is charged with protecting patients by upholding the Canada Health Act. What steps has the minister taken to ensure the Canada Health Act is not violated in British Columbia?

Health November 29th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is laughable that the Conservatives have announced only two minor projects recently and the minister trumpets them as the saving grace of health care. This is not what Canadians had in mind when they were promised reduced wait times across the board. In fact, the pilot projects do not affect any of the five priority areas identified by the Wait Time Alliance.

The Minister of Health has been ineffective and invisible, and time is running out. The Conservatives will not achieve the meaningful reductions in wait times called for in the first ministers “A 10-year Plan To Strengthen Health Care”. How is the minister going to fix this mess?

Health November 29th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the report card gives the Conservatives a D for failing to establish a timetable for achieving targets and said that the government's work in achieving meaningful reductions is incomplete.

My question is for the Minister of Health. When will he keep the promise made to Canadians, almost a year ago, and implement a real, meaningful patient wait times guarantee or has his so-called priority been officially dropped from the agenda?

Health November 29th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the Wait Time Alliance released its interim report card on reducing wait times. The report card gives--

Business of Supply November 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, on mental health, I think in my first speech in the House, when we talked about wait times, I said that I hoped they included both wait times for mental health and for people with drug and alcohol addictions. It is almost not worth looking at this because there are so few services available.

We know that not treating, and it is not only treatment but providing support as well, people with mental health needs is an enormous cost to our society, to families and to communities. We know we can provide support in the community, but we also know those supports have not been there. The reason normally given, and I have seen this myself, is that the resources—

Business of Supply November 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would work with any province regardless of its political leadership to reduce wait times, whether it is New Democrat, Liberal or Conservative. It matters not to me in reducing wait times.

I had enough challenges explaining my own actions on reasons for them as the health minister in British Columbia. I would certainly not get into choosing to explain the actions or the statistics in Saskatchewan, but there are also high wait times in NDP provinces, in Conservative provinces and in Liberal provinces. I will work with any province regardless of its partisan or its political leadership to reduce wait times. I will do that with any partner who can come forward with the will and the courage to do that.

Business of Supply November 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, across this country people do not have necessarily the same care because from province to province to province people need different things. However, there should be an equal level of access for the needs of individual provinces, there should be something that says whether we live in Newfoundland and Labrador or Haida Gwaii, that depending on the needs of our particular communities, we will have access.

I would not want to say that every province should have exactly the same standard if we are talking about very specific standards, but people should have standards regarding the equality of access to the care needed by each community.

Business of Supply November 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, we are debating wait times today and the things that are the drivers for wait times, so perhaps in signing on the dotted line there should have been a more extended or expanded version of accountability. Was that health care money expected to go to building hospitals or paying salaries? What was the accountability and how would that actually reduce wait times?

I think that all of us recognize that when we talk about accountability, we have to be very specific with whomever is the recipient of dollars about what the government expects to see back in the area of accountability.

I do not know, as a result of those dollars, whether the Liberal government at that time was able to say that as a result of it putting those dollars out, wait times were to be reduced by x. I think it is a lesson in the specificity of accountability. However, I do take the member's point.

Business of Supply November 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party has, since its inception, and the CCF before that, put health care first. It is not a partisan issue. It does not come up from time to time. It does not come up only during elections, before elections or as some crisis hits the health care system. It is a part of the founding of this political party. I believe I am speaking to this motion without attempting to make health or wait times a partisan issue.

However, I will talk about what I think are some of the significant challenges around the fact that this wait times guarantee has not been met.

When the Conservative government was elected, I believe Canadians had certain expectations on what the wait times guarantee would mean. I do not think that what the people of Canada have seen is in any way what they expected to see given the focus and the priority that was placed upon health care and patient wait times guarantee by the government. I do not think the Canadian people see the commitment or the political will to move this agenda along.

One of the reasons for this that might cause people to wonder is that one of the Conservatives' five priorities during the election campaign was to work with the provinces to establish a patient wait times guarantee. People saw that as being one of the Conservatives' priorities and whether they voted for them or not, they expected that to happen because that was the promise.

When they hear the Prime Minister talking about being pleased that his government has made progress on all five priorities, from cleaning up the federal government, to cutting taxes, cracking down on crime, supporting families and strengthening our country at home and around the world, they may be great, but where did health care go?

When the government talks about its five priorities, why has it stopped talking about the patient wait times guarantee? Has it fallen off the table? Has it been recognized that there is no plan in place whatsoever on how to approach it or is there no political will and courage to carry it out? I do not know but I do know that Canadians are asking themselves those kinds of questions.

I have a friend with a back problem who had to wait seven months for spinal surgery. This happened after the election. Every day for those seven months she hoped the promise of the guaranteed wait times within a reasonable time, depending upon when the illness, disability or diagnosis, would come through. She does not have full recovery and will probably never have full recovery. However, she would have had full recovery had she had her surgery earlier. However, lying in pain for seven months on a bed or a chesterfield and not moving created a whole series of other problems, as well as further damage to her spinal problem.

I do not think it is any great wonder that Canadians are wondering about this promise.

While I support the motion, I find it ironic that the motion was brought forward by a Liberal member of Parliament, a member of the health committee. Where do we think these wait times came from? They did not develop overnight. They came from 13 years of the Liberals not taking any action on wait times. When they did take action it came at the very last moment when it was clear that we had an enormous crisis across this country and it was shortly before an election was on the horizon. They only waited 12 years to do something about the growing wait times and all the factors that contribute to wait times.

There are factors that have played into the increase in wait times where the government could have and should have taken earlier leadership, or is still to take leadership, that would have made a significant difference in the quality of lives of many Canadians, both adults and children.

Earlier someone referenced the recent dollars for foreign-trained, immigrant doctors. The dollars will go toward rewriting the curricula and looking at the context of the tests or exams with the possibility of rewriting them, and that is a good thing. However, although foreign doctors can take the extra courses and write the exams, the real barrier for them and the one thing that was missing from the announcement is that they cannot get residency positions.

If we were to go to the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and ask foreign-trained doctors what Canada has done to help them, they would say that it has allowed them to drive taxicabs. About every third or fourth taxi driver in the Lower Mainland is a foreign-trained physician, many of whom have made their way through the existing curriculum. It is fine to be looking at the exams and rewriting them but if these foreign-trained doctors cannot get residency positions, it does not matter because they will never be able to practice.

In that announcement or that concern about health and human resources, of which physicians are only one piece of course, there was no money for residency positions. I understand that many residency positions go to the medical students who have gone through the medical schools in their provinces. That is fair enough. They should have a chance for residency positions. I am not suggesting for a moment that they do not deserve that. However, there should be an expansion in the number of residency positions available, which is the piece in that announcement that was missing. If everything in that announcement happens, it still will not produce more physicians unless there are residency spaces. This is action that is missing a piece. This is a promise to foreign-trained doctors that will be broken because they will not be able to get residency positions.

One of the biggest things we could do to help with wait times would be to provide a national home support program or ensure that each province has some standards around home support. Across this country, from coast to coast to coast, the standards as to whether one gets home support are very different. Seniors who apply for an extended care facility or for long term medium care facility cannot get in because there are no housing initiatives for anything but private long term care. Some seniors, who could perhaps stay in their homes much longer than they currently do if they had help at home, can no longer get the help they need and therefore their physicians must admit them to the hospital. Once they are in a hospital they have first priority when an opening becomes available in an extended care facility. What does that do? It just backs up the entire system.

People talk about the crisis in emergency rooms but the crisis in emergency rooms is simply a domino effect backward. No beds are available because the people who are in the beds do not need to be there. They should be someplace else but there is no place else for them to go.

I understood the Conservative member to say that the Liberal opposition had done work on home support, that it had researched it and had some initiatives but that nothing came from them. I think he said that was in 2003 but this is 2006. Since January, what have the Conservatives done to either renew some of the oppositions' initiatives, if those were good initiatives, or to develop initiatives of their own? This is another way the government is driving up wait times in this country.

I want to speak for a moment to aboriginal health. The wait times for aboriginal people are also part of the pressure on wait times. We know that many aboriginal people are at risk of other health problems, diabetes among them, because aboriginal health has not been attended to in a manner that would have really made a difference in their quality of health which drives up wait times additionally.

I know that 10 out of the 623 reserves have a pilot project on wait times for prenatal care. I am not certain of the lessons we will learn from that project, although I am sure we will learn some, but there is an irony in picking wait times for moms.

We know that good prenatal care is absolutely critical, although the aboriginal people I speak with talk far more about the fact that women do not go early enough due to the lack of transportation to get them there. What happens then is they go back into a community like Kashechewan where health care for aboriginals is appalling because of all of the social indicators that have not been attended to due to the lack of action on the issue of aboriginal health.

That is a broken promise to aboriginal people and certainly not the kind of movement needed on patient wait time guarantees, although I am very pleased for those 10 out of 623 reserves involved in the pilot project. I do not think that is the kind of wait time guarantee action that was expected by Canadian citizens.

One of the things that would make the biggest difference in wait times is that of innovation. There is innovation in wait times going on across this country, not because of the government but in spite of the government. Are wait times going down? Yes, they are. Wait times are going up in many provinces, but there are many examples of excellence which have not come about because of the government.

I was fortunate enough to have my motion pass in the health committee to establish a database of innovation on how to reduce wait times. People from across the country could look at this database and see examples in P.E.I., British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba or wherever of how hospitals, sometimes very small hospitals, had been able to reduce their wait times. Why should we reinvent the wheel when people could simply look at a database? That would make a big difference for people.

That motion was passed by the health committee. So what? Nothing has happened. Innovation will make one of the biggest differences in wait times. I am pleased that it was passed by the health committee, but I am concerned about what happens after something is passed by a committee. It seems to go to some ether land where it is never to be heard of or seen again.

Recently, at least two private facilities have opened. One is a hospital with operating rooms, et cetera, and there is a story about a private emergency room opening in a hospital in Surrey, British Columbia or it has at least gone through a change in zoning.

There is a national leadership role for the government to play regarding the issue of privatization. Provinces must be held accountable and clearly British Columbia paid a $72,000 fine last year. There is not enough accountability with the privatization of health care. Where is the accountability with the fact that privatization violates the Canada Health Act? Where is the accountability regarding the standards? There are some stories about some very bad experiences people have had in some, and I only say some, private health care facilities.

The government has a national leadership role to play in research. It cut the medical marijuana research program. The physicians who are prescribing medical marijuana for patients who need it as a result of nausea or dealing with what is a debilitating or very often terminal illness need more research around what an appropriate dosage is and over what period of time. Now that research is gone. Those physicians are either left saying they will not use it any more or they will use it with the information they have, which is not currently as adequate as they would like it to be.

The government has not taken up its role on national strategies, although I see the national cancer strategy was announced. I am waiting for the national strategy on autism. If we can do it on cancer, we can do it on autism. As I said, the government has not taken up the national leadership role regarding accountability.

The last thing I will mention is prevention and promotion. The biggest thing that we can do, if we do nothing else, is prevention and promotion.

I do not want to find a better way to deal with wait times, bring wait times down, but have just as large a percentage of patients in 10 years time. We must have good prevention and promotion which is always the poor sister of health care, provincially, federally, wherever.

Yes, the health committee has prepared a report on childhood obesity, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, but where do the reports go? We agree and pass these reports, and they disappear and nothing happens. Perhaps something happens, but I do not know how we figure that out because there is no mandatory action as a result of that.

Good prevention and promotion today is the most significant thing that we could do to bring down wait times in the future. Yet, that is what is focused on the least by the federal government and the provincial governments as well.

I will support the motion with the irony of where the motion comes from after 13 years of allowing wait times to grow. I expect courage and political will on the part of the government to take action and not to have its legacy be a legacy of broken promises.

Autism Spectrum Disorder November 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and support the motion put forward by the hon. member for Fredericton.

There are a few points that I would like to make. Sometimes people do not think of these points unless they know families involved in this issue.

One of the things that was just said concerned the failure to bond. Any parent knows the great joy of coming into a room, having their child smile at them and put up his or her arms, wanting to be picked up and hugged. Parents recognize the fact that the child has bonded with them. I am thrilled and pleased to say that my 11 year old grandson still does that. It is very difficult and hurtful for a family if a child is not able to do that easily. Sometimes these children can do so with their parents, but often not with other people in their lives.

We need a national autism strategy. We are in the process of getting a national strategy for cancer, although one could say it is a health issue so therefore it is a provincial issue. We now have leadership on a national cancer strategy and we could have a national autism strategy, and part of this debate has been about whose responsibility this really is.

We know about early intervention leading to success no matter what challenge a child may have. The earlier we can identify that a child needs support and the earlier that appropriate support can be provided, at the right time and in the right way for that particular child, it is a thousandfold more likely that the child will be far more successful than he or she otherwise would have been. Because they have had early intervention, we see children who are now in the regular school system and we see children graduating from high school.

As with any other challenge a child faces, autism has a variety of effects. Some children, with early intervention, will do very well. In particular, children with Asperger's will go to school and participate with their classmates. They may have a challenge when it is a bit unstructured, but they will do very well.

Some children will always need ongoing support in a significant way. If we do not do that, if we do not pay for the cost of a national strategy, the costs that we will pay down the road in health care, in the education system, in foster care and in group home support are going to grow at a rate that I cannot even imagine. This is why I am a bit worried about the amendment. It does not talk about those nice parts, about what the strategy should do.

We do pay for treatment for people in Canada, and while I will admit that the numbers are not large, these people are on drugs that cost the taxpayer $90,000 to $100,000 a year. Without those drugs, those people would not be able to function. We spend that much money on these other people to enable them to be the best they can be during their growth. Therefore, I think the economic argument fails. If people have no moral support for this, then the economic argument should move them. I hope both would.

We are seeing increased numbers in regard to autism now. I am not sure that we know all the reasons for the increase. They are increasing dramatically, more in some places than in others. Sometimes we see more than one child in a family being affected. We have not figured out all of the pieces, which is certainly why research is so important, but the research may not be available to us for five or ten years. I do not know. I have no idea how long it will take.

However, I do know that today there are parents at home who cannot leave their home because they cannot find someone to care for their child. If someone says to them that there is a great movie on and they should go to see it, they cannot, because they cannot get a babysitter who is able to meet the needs of their child. Their world becomes quite insular, although they do amazing things. They were on the steps of the legislature and they were out advocating to every MP, MLA and municipal councillor, every place they could, and they have been doing so for some time.

They manage to do that, but they do it against such odds that I do not know if all of us would be able to do it. If we can support the needs of children with autism, not just with our good feelings or a strategy, but also with financial resources, then we help not only the child with autism, although that is the first and most important thing, we also help their brothers and sisters, because their brothers and sisters may then have a little more time with mom and dad.

Moms and dads have to spend a lot of time with their children who have autism, particularly if they are children who may not yet be able to go to the bathroom independently or feed themselves independently or even tolerate the feeling of most foods in their mouth because of their tactile defensiveness. So this support is not just for the child; it is for their moms, their dads, their grandparents and their siblings. They will all benefit from our ability to support families not just with a national strategy, which I do support, but also with financing.

There is another thing I would say about a national strategy. When we talk about children with autism, because we have been talking about it for 10 years, 12 years or 15 years at the most, we talk about children, and that is where we focus, but we need a national strategy that looks beyond when they are 12 months old, 2 years or 5 years of age, or in elementary school or high school. How do we get past that early age and successfully into the teenage years, which are even more difficult for any child with a challenge, and then into adulthood? These are children who will be adults in our communities and they need support. We need to look at that strategy about the kind of support or kinds of resources that will be needed, not just for them as children but lifelong.

As somebody who has worked with people with disabilities for 40 years now, I can say that if we do not do this for children with autism, if we do not do something now and those children and adults are not in our community, we lose too, because they bring something to us. It is not just about us giving. They bring their special gifts and talents into our community, so we lose if we do not provide support.

There are many families looking at us to see what will happen with this motion. I hope that every member of the House will be able to support this strategy but I hope too that members understand when they support it that it is not only a strategy; it is a strategy with the pieces that were in the original motion, which I have to say I liked better.

If the member who proposed it agrees, then so be it, but the fact is that it will take funding for related services. It will be in cooperation with provincial governments that will have a surveillance program and that right now are probably desperate because we are seeing such increasing numbers of children with autism. The numbers are increasing in ways that I cannot imagine with any other kind of health or disability issue. Without proper surveillance and research, we will have no idea of how to stop this increase in numbers or about what it is in our environment that is causing this and then causing us to see it in a second child in the family.

I would hope that supporting the national autism strategy will also mean that people understand that what goes with that support is the costing for treatment, education, professional training and support for the parents.