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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

Business of Supply June 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, in answer to how it will be done, I hope it does not depend on the history we have seen. We have to eliminate what I would call family poverty. There is no such thing as child poverty where children live in poverty and their parents do not. Many promises have been made but not kept.

However, we are putting this forward with the expectation that the government will recognize its responsibility for seniors. Perhaps in doing that, it will look at the other promises that have been made. People look forward to the receipt of some of supports to help them raise their children, to provide their children with books or clothes for school or housing. During the time I was in provincial government, I believe Quebec and British Columbia were the only provinces providing any money for off-market housing, and that is a disgrace.

I recognize the history that has come before from promises. If the motion passes, and I expect it to, I expect the government to live up to this promise. Not only do poor children and their families have voices. I do not know about Quebec, but in the province of British Columbia seniors have very loud voices. Many organized groups of seniors will watch this carefully to ensure the government is accountable for this.

Business of Supply June 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Winnipeg North.

Many times across the country we honour seniors with seniors days, seniors activities, seniors proclamations and so on. What we really owe seniors is a great deal more than they are currently receiving.

The seniors charter guarantees the supports that will help to provide seniors with health and well-being. It promotes wellness through promotion and preventative care to keep them active and participating in our community.

The guaranteed access to primary care and home care, aside from the moral correctness of doing this, will do nothing but cost the country, the government, the budget less money. It is much less expensive to support and care for someone at home than it is in a multi-level care facility or in hospital, which is often where seniors end up when they do not have that support at home. In addition, they are far more comfortable, more relaxed and more likely to keep participating if they are in their own home. Therefore, there is an economic argument for doing this, not only the moral argument for the comfort of seniors.

This also guarantees access to geriatric care, people who need perhaps a more complex level of care, and palliative care. Many people, but certainly seniors, are choosing to die in a hospice bed or often now in their own home. They need the support to do that, surrounded by their families and the people who love them.

The seniors charter establishes a national prescription drug plan for seniors. I think of a woman who I talked to not very long ago. She retired about three years ago. She now has two part time jobs because she has to pay for her prescription drugs. There are times when she makes a decision to only take one pill per day, instead of the four that she is supposed to take. Even with her part time jobs, she has a problem paying for her medications. That is not acceptable. Those are exactly the people who, if they do not take their full prescription, end up back in hospital.

Other than the fact that it is the right thing to do, there is an economic argument to keep people out of hospital.

The seniors charter would provide a dental plan for seniors. Seniors often suffer oral side effects from a number of chronic illnesses. Something that can keep them healthy is good nutrition and they can have that, if they are able eat comfortably. Providing preventive dental care is not only the right thing to do, but it will be a cost saving.

We have a proud history in the NDP of innovation and investing in and providing for Canadians. For many seniors over 65, their coverage has been reduced or eliminated so they have to go without.

The Canada Health Act mandates funding for drugs in hospital. Drugs prescribed outside hospital may not be covered by provincial plans. Some of those pharmacare costs can be catastrophic. Many seniors are forced to choose between their health and their pocket book, between eating and taking their medication. I do not think anyone wants to see seniors having to make those kinds of choices.

Many provinces have pharmacare plans, but only for some seniors. Eligibility varies from province to province. Seniors in Halifax deserve the same standard and coverage as seniors in Surrey. It is time for a national standard. It is time for a national dental plan.

The province of Alberta has a seniors dental plan so does the city of Toronto. They are two different examples of effective and affordable dental care for seniors.

Investing in Canadian seniors is the right thing to do. If we invest in seniors, they will invest in us. They are out there in their communities, still participating, volunteering in almost every activity that goes on in our cities.

I am proud that the NDP has launched another Canadian innovation. I thank the member for Hamilton Mountain for her work on behalf of Canadian seniors. I hope that all members of the House will support this important motion.

Health June 14th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the NDP motion to ban trans fats was adopted with all party support, including 18 members of the now governing party.

The studies have been done. The consumption of just five grams of trans fats a day increases the risk of heart disease by almost 20%. Labelling does not work. Voluntary measures, as we have seen under the Liberals for 13 years, do not work.

Will the government commit to take action on the motion adopted by the House and ban trans fats for the health of our nation?

Health June 14th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, a study released today reveals that fast foods sold in Canada contain some of the highest trans fat content in the world. In a media survey published today, one cardiologist from Denmark said, “I was surprised to find so many foods in Canada with such high levels of trans fats”.

So was I, considering that over a year and a half ago in this House an NDP motion was adopted that would see trans fats eliminated in Canada.

The government talks about upholding the will of the House. When it comes to trans fats, when will the government do just that?

Public Health Agency of Canada Act June 13th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, as with any new initiative, I would hope there will be an ongoing evaluation of how Bill C-5 is proceeding. At committee, people were interested in the initiative, but some had questions about what it would look like in six months or twelve months and whether it would accomplish what it was put forward to do.

I am very hopeful that the government will put in place a way to monitor and to evaluate whether the legislation has done the work that Canadians expect it to do. There are still some pieces that we can work on a bit.

A number of issues need some following. Because time is short, I will focus only on the bill and on another day I will give another speech.

People know about pandemics. Anybody who turns on a radio, or a television, or talks to a neighbour may not understand everything about a pandemic, but at least they know it is a health crisis. They read about people dying from it. They see the kinds of actions being taken, as we saw in Ontario last year around SARS and TB. They have seen people wearing masks.

There is no question that the work around pandemics in the bill takes us forward. However, some things fall from that. While individuals might understand a pandemic, they may have no idea about the other things the Public Health Agency does or will do. They count on the government to be there to do the work. They are not even sure what “the work” is. Most of what they read about, if not pandemics, are the bed shortages at their local hospitals. People depend on the government to do this other work, which also falls under the agency. I will speak to that in a moment.

The issue of a pandemic and the responsibility of the Chief Public Health Officer is extremely important. We have federal areas of jurisdictions, such as transportation, airports, railways, ports, which are incredibly busy in the area where I come from, and military bases. I believe the Chief Public Health Officer should have jurisdiction over all those. New or very dangerous viruses entering the country know no jurisdiction. They enter the country and spread as quickly as possible.

It is difficult. In certain areas we clearly have federal jurisdiction and in other areas the provincial health officer would make decisions about quarantine and actions taken around a pandemic. I really believe the Chief Public Health Officer is the individual who should make those decisions. I also believe that the Chief Public Health Officer needs to have a mandate to do that. It is not always clear in the bill where the Chief Public Health Officer's mandate to act starts and where it ends.

One of the things I might raise is that I gather we had a new quarantine act last year. I was not here. I know it has had royal assent, but I do not think it has yet been proclaimed. I am not going to ask those questions because I am not going to use up that time yet, but I will at some stage. Perhaps we could learn that from the health committee. When will this quarantine act actually be proclaimed so that it therefore can be used in the way that it is intended to be used?

There are some other things I would look at in the act that need to be at least monitored on an ongoing basis.

By the way, the other thing I would say around federal responsibilities and the Chief Public Health Officer's responsibility is the fact that we also have international obligations. We do not just have obligations to the people who live in Canada, because again, viruses and other illnesses do not know borders. We have an international obligation to meet, which is not just a moral obligation but a contractual obligation. I think the Chief Public Health Officer is the person to ensure that we do this.

The one thing that concerns me is that the ability to declare a quarantine is still left with the Minister of Health. I must admit that as a citizen of Canada I would much rather see the quarantine act or the proclamation of the quarantine in a certain area for a certain reason rest with the Chief Public Health Officer as opposed to the Minister of Health. This is an area which I must admit I could be more comfortable with.

I think people expect that this person will be a professional individual, not that the minister is not one. People expect that it will be a trained, educated person who has a medical background, medical expertise and expertise in diseases that are contagious. However, having made that point, I want to go on to the other points that I am a little worried about. That is why I will look for the report about the act from this committee.

One point is resourcing. Other people have spoken to this. Resourcing is going to be extremely important in order for this agency and its staff to be successful. There is no question about it. I know there has been a significant amount of money added as a result of the pandemic part of the agency. I more than understand that, but there is another huge responsibility that comes under the Public Health Agency.

One huge responsibility is surveillance. We need to know what it looks like across the country for a number of chronic diseases. It could be chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, or type II diabetes. It could be Alzheimer's disease. It could be a variety of chronic illnesses for which this agency already has the responsibility to do the surveillance.

I want to make sure, particularly as we see more chronic diseases and growth in the numbers of people with these diseases, that this agency is able to carry out its tasks in an able and efficient fashion. I do not want to see resources diverted to prevent people from doing that at a time when we are actually seeing more people with chronic illnesses.

There is another thing about surveillance, of course, and I know that for my colleagues across the way this is a concern. There is no mandatory reporting. I would far rather have seen mandatory reporting.

I do not think any province is deliberately going to hold back information, but I would rather have seen mandatory reporting whereby provinces have to report to the Chief Public Health Officer what the status is around chronic illnesses or other trends they are seeing. That would be important for the federal government to know in order to take proactive as opposed to reactive action. I would much rather have preferred, as I say, to see mandatory reporting.

Another thing we have recently seen across the country in many places, but which is different in every province, is a drop in immunization. There are a lot of people today who have never seen a communicable disease. Either they have been immunized against it as children or their children have been, but they have never seen tuberculosis. They have never seen an outbreak of tuberculosis unless, of course, they are working in a downtown urban area now, although we thought it was gone. They have never seen, as I have in one province, 50 children left significantly challenged as a result of the fact that their parents had not had the children immunized.

When we start to see those drops in immunization, that is a trend across the country. I want the Chief Public Health Officer to know that and to be able to at least provide some leadership. I want the health officer to look at whether there are some reasons why it is going up in one province and down in the other and to look at what have we learned from the province that is doing well and what is happening in the province that may not be. Without mandatory reporting, that is not always possible, although, as I say, I do not think anybody would ever try to deliberately hold back that kind of information.

It also indicates that if we start to see more chronic disease across the country, we may, although I am not saying we will, start to see a need for certain kinds of surgery. I assume that this would somehow affect guaranteed wait times or the fifth platform, which I am still anxious for us to have an opportunity to speak about. I will not take up the time today, but it may have an implication for how we can continue to guarantee wait times if there is a trend that says we have more people with a particular chronic illness, which we know may lead to surgery at some stage for many of these people.

The other two areas that I think are extremely important have also been mentioned earlier. These are the areas of promotion and prevention. We will do far less work in health care and we will have significantly less wait times if we do really sound and solid work in the area of promotion, which is about helping people make good choices. Then there is prevention, which means being able to do those things such as helping young women learn to exercise very early on. I bet that if we did this with every girl child in Canada we would see far less broken hips from osteoporosis when those young girls are 65 or 75 or whatever.

These areas of promotion, of promoting health lifestyles, and prevention, the kinds of things that we know can prevent certain illnesses, often are pushed to the back because we are concerned about the pandemic, the wait times and what we read about at our local hospital. I speak from some experience as a health minister when I say that prevention and promotion often get pushed to the side.

I am not saying that there is an intent in this. I do not want there to be an inherent risk because of the very broad mandate, and because of the extreme interest in pandemics, as there should be. Many people have died during a pandemic. We have seen more information recently from another country to show that one virus can go from person to person. This means that virus is mutating, so that is very front page news.

I think it would be easy as the agency to focus on those areas that we hear so much about and see so much about and that people talk so much about, and yet those areas that could reduce our wait times, make our population healthier, et cetera, may not get the kind of attention they need. If we can do promotion and prevention and encourage that while we have young children, then the minister of health, whoever that is in 20 years' time, is going to have a healthier population and will spend less money because we will not see people with the same levels of a number of those chronic illnesses.

Recently there has been quite a bit in the paper about asthma and the number of people who die from asthma, often because the prevention being done is not being done in a way that is consistent and not in a way that always meets their needs. I would want to see that from across the country, so--

Citizenship and Immigration June 8th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am rising in the House today to speak against serious discrimination faced by many people who emigrate to Canada. Our country has signed reciprocal agreements with dozens of countries to make qualified new immigrants eligible for old age security immediately when they arrive in Canada.

If an immigrant comes from a country like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka or one of the many other countries that have not yet signed reciprocal agreements, they are forced to wait 10 years before becoming eligible for their pensions, even after they become Canadian citizens. This practice is unfair and unjust. Eligibility for old age security should be based on logical criteria, criteria that do not treat people differently based on where they come from.

I plan to introduce a motion in the House next session calling for an end to the discriminatory 10 year waiting period applied to some new Canadians. I hope all hon. members will join me in showing their support.

Health June 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, 2,4-D is banned in most major Canadian cities and in the province of Quebec. It has been linked to cancer, neurological damage and reproductive problems, but Health Canada did not even contact leading researchers before distributing this report and deciding whether the pesticide is safe.

What action will the Minister of Health take to ensure regulations regarding the health and well-being of Canadians are objectively based on scientific research and not biased by industry lobbyists given that they turned down the pesticide regulation put forward by the NDP?

Health June 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it was revealed earlier today that Health Canada officials sent a document supporting the use of 2,4-D, a dangerous pesticide, to an industry group that is currently lobbying the government to allow the use of this chemical in residential neighbourhoods. Health Canada is in the middle of a safety review of this product, a review that is supposed to be impartial.

My question for the Minister of Health is, how can Canadians have faith in the system meant to protect them from dangerous pesticides when the government's own officials appear to be collaborating with companies that use and distribute these harmful pesticides?

World No Tobacco Day May 31st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, today is World No Tobacco Day 2006. This is a significant time to remember a Canadian leader in the fight against tobacco.

Heather Crowe worked as a server in the hospitality industry for over 40 years. In 2002 she was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer caused by the second-hand smoke she was exposed to at work. She never smoked a day in her life.

Like many hospitality workers, Heather did not know that second-hand smoke was putting her health at risk. When she discovered the cause of her cancer, she dedicated enormous strength and energy to protecting others. Despite her illness, Heather lobbied politicians, spoke to schools and communities across the country, and appeared in a Health Canada advertisement to raise awareness about the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Heather lost her fight against cancer last Monday. She once said that her goal was to be the last person to die from second-hand smoke. Thanks to her, thousands of hospitality workers across the country now have a safer workplace.

I ask all members to join me in remembering her tireless advocacy and activism.

May 30th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have heard the parliamentary secretary for health speak very compassionately on many occasions about the plight of people with hepatitis C who have not been compensated. I know and I believe when he says how much he cares about that.

That makes me additionally disappointed that the government will not give direct answers to direct questions. The Conservatives made a significant promise to a group of innocent victims who suffer the consequences of a terrible tragedy each day of their lives. Time is running out.

What may have been a casual campaign promise for the Conservatives is a matter of life and death for people living with hepatitis C. Promising immediate action during the campaign, then dragging their heels for more than four months is outrageous and unforgivable.

Will the government tell us today when victims will begin receiving the compensation they were promised, and if the government cannot estimate how much longer it might take to keep the promises, will it explain to us why? At the minimum, will the government at least commit to providing interim payments to victims until the compensation plan is finalized?