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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

The Budget May 8th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the member for Acadie—Bathurst for sharing his time with me.

I want to talk about what the budget means to the people who live in Surrey North which is the constituency that I represent, as well as to talk about health and disabilities, the areas for which I am the NDP critic.

What does the budget mean for the people who voted for me? Corporate tax cuts for people in Surrey North are not going to make any difference in how they make ends meet in their lives.

Every budget is about choices. As a result of the choices that the Conservatives have made, working people will have a harder time making ends meet where I live. I know that because the Conservatives chose to tax the family allowance and eliminate the young child supplement.

The real choice in child care is no choice. That is the real choice. Everyone would like to see a larger child allowance of $1,200 for an enhanced child allowance. That would be fine, but let us not play the shell game and pretend that it is child care because it is not child care. Every experience we have had says that business is not going to pick up those incentives and produce child care spaces at the very understated price that has been quoted by the Conservative ministers.

What happens to children over the age of six where the $1,200 stops? Where then is the choice in child care for those children? Are they old enough now to be able to go home by themselves with a key? What about before and after school child care? There is no choice in child care. It is a shell game.

There is no investment in lower tuition fees and student grants. What will that mean in my riding? That will mean that fewer students will have an opportunity to go to college or university.

Another choice the Conservatives made is to spread the funding for the Pacific Gateway Initiative over eight years instead of five. That means that a very important economic part of Surrey which is the South Fraser Perimeter Road will be spread over a longer period of time, which brings sound economics to Surrey because goods get to ports faster.

However, instead of assisting that, the government has spread the amount of time over a longer period, so that the economic boom will not come to Surrey sooner. The budget forecasts a surplus of $83 billion over the next five years. Now is the time to invest in communities like Surrey North that are on the edge and need that additional support.

What does the budget mean to people with disabilities? What is needed is what is absent: home support, education and skills training, and supports in the workplace. It is appalling that supports for people with disabilities are absent from the budget.

What does the budget mean for the health and wellness of all Canadians? If health care is one of the government's top five priorities, why was it barely mentioned in the budget document? I think it took up about three or four paragraphs at the very end of the rest of the discussion.

If it is so important, where is the plan? Where are the imperatives? How is the federal government going to work with the provinces? Where is that information? What is needed is absent. What about critical wait times for alcohol, drug and mental health rehabilitation beds, where persons actually wait longer than they do for many of the surgeries that people are talking about? Again, this is absent from the budget. Where is the national prescription drug strategy recommended in the Romanow report? It is absent.

We have people in this country who die in one province because they cannot get a drug when it is available in the province next to them. That is unconscionable. There is no money for improving home care and for improving long term care which everybody knows is one of the keys to reducing critical wait times.

The best parts of this budget are the investments the NDP secured in the last minority Parliament: spending increases for affordable housing, investment in post-secondary education, and money for improving transit. Those were all NDP initiatives.

Not only is this budget a missed opportunity, but there will be many vital missed opportunities for Canadians and for people in Surrey North as a result of this budget.

World Red Cross Red And Crescent Day May 8th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, today, May 8, is the day that the international Red Cross and Red Crescent movement pays tribute to the 90 million volunteers who provide vital assistance worldwide. These humanitarian heroes, who sometimes risk their lives in order to help others, deserve the international community's thanks and recognition for their devotion and tireless efforts.

Around the world Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are active in a diverse range of activities, from alerting the public to the danger of landmines in Afghanistan, to fighting the stigma and discrimination related to HIV-AIDS in southern Africa. They also regularly come to the aid of millions of people affected by natural and man-made disasters, such as the Pakistan earthquake, the Darfur crisis and hurricanes in the Americas, while providing ongoing support to the survivors of the Asia tsunami.

Today and every day we honour those volunteers who make considerable personal sacrifices to help others.

Food Labelling May 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, Codex Alimentarius, the United Nations food standards body, is meeting here in Ottawa this week.

One issue being discussed is a proposal for an international guideline on labelling food products containing GMOs or genetically modified organisms.

People have the right to know what they are eating. Without an international guideline, countries that enact mandatory labelling run the risk of a legal challenge at the WTO by large GMO producing countries. The Canadian government has previously opposed an international guideline.

Today, we call upon the government to do the right thing and join the majority of national delegations in supporting the proposed UN guideline on GMO labelling.

Hepatitis C May 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, that is not really good enough. When the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health used to speak about this issue, he would promise compensation immediately after the Conservatives were elected. That was three months ago and there is still no compensation.

Why did the government not move immediately after the election to compensate all hepatitis C victims and right this awful Liberal wrong? What is taking this government so long?

Hepatitis C May 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, when the Conservatives were in opposition they promised all victims of the tainted blood tragedy compensation. Pre-1986 and post-1990, thousands were infected with hepatitis C as a result of the failure of the Canadian government and were not compensated by the Liberals.

Does the Minister of Health have a plan to immediately compensate these victims?

Public Health Agency of Canada Act May 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I will be interested in the discussion at committee.

My current concern about the Quarantine Act is who declares a quarantine. In the provinces, the provincial medical officer of health can declare a quarantine based on scientific and medical information. There seems to be cognitive dissonance when we get to the federal level. It is not within the power of the public health officer to declare a quarantine. Why the difference?

Public Health Agency of Canada Act May 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, but I could not hear the last part of the member's question about the Quarantine Act.

Public Health Agency of Canada Act May 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I did mention early on in my remarks that long before the SARS crisis, public health officials in general had been raising the fact that there were problems with public health at a national level. The question about why people chose to bring forward or not bring forward something would most appropriately be directed to a Liberal member. What I do know is that SARS was not the first time that anybody had said there were problems with public health in Canada.

I am not sure if I have ever been asked about dilly-dallying. I am sure there is an official definition of that. What I do know is the problem was identified much earlier than the SARS outbreak and that it had been identified to the Liberal Party as a problem.

I think the member's first question was whether I would agree with the government that there were areas that were of national concern. We will see at the committee whether I agree with the government when we have had a chance to discuss this further.

I would say that outbreaks know no borders. Bacteria know no borders whatsoever. They do not know what country they are in, what province they are in or what city they are in. I do not think we can take the risk of drawing a line around that issue. There are many things in health around which we can draw a line around, no question. There is no question about that and I understand that, but around something like this, I think it is dangerous to people's health.

Public Health Agency of Canada Act May 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-5. I appreciate the opportunity to raise some points that I know that we will debate further in committee. In point of fact, there are parts of the bill that I think do not go far enough as opposed to going too far. I will be anxious to have that debate in committee so that we can see if those points we are talking about are synergistic with each other.

Canadians want and need to believe that their public health system can and will do absolutely everything it can to protect them and their loved ones from the kinds of tragic illnesses and tragic disasters that we think of when we think of public health agencies. Canadians want and need to know that and to know that their families will be safe.

When we look at the five components of public health, those mentioned by other members, disease and injury prevention, health promotion, health protection, health surveillance and population health assessment, I think there are some things that the bill has captured and I think there are some things on which the bill does not go far enough.

We have seen in recent years what happens when the confidence in a public health agency is shaken. During the SARS epidemic, which I know the Minister of Health has first-hand knowledge of, people in the greater Toronto area in particular were frightened for their lives. Their belief in this public health system was shaken to its very core. They did not believe that the public health system knew how to manage or was learning quickly enough and sharing that information across the country. Their faith indeed was shaken to the core.

I think more people died from SARS in the greater Toronto area than anywhere outside of Asia, if the information I have is correct. That is very frightening. At that time I talked to relatives and friends in Toronto. People did not send their children to school. They did not go to work. They were afraid to go outside their homes for fear of what was happening. On television, they saw people wearing masks, not that those masks indeed made a difference in the end, and we knew that. They were going to Home Depot or other stores buying up boxes and boxes of masks and shipping them back to Asia, hoping that it would help their relatives there, and they themselves were wearing the masks here. It was done out of fear.

Likely it was wasted money because it was not the kind of prevention that was at all successful, but it was done because people were so frightened and did not believe the health agency could cope with it. They were grasping for any straw that they thought would help keep them safe. We cannot ever see that kind of chaos in the system, where people do not believe there is leadership that will tell them what things to do to be able to stay safe.

I know that as a result of SARS there were submissions. There was the Naylor report and I know the Kirby report referenced this, but I also know that over the last number of years there have been officials of health agencies who have been warning that public health in Canada has many gaping holes that have not been filled and may put people at risk.

SARS was clearly the catalyst for the reports being done. By the way, the results quite matched, I think, and made recommendations for many of the same things, but it was not the first time that the government, primarily the former Liberal government, had heard that there were problems within public health and that indeed they had not been acted upon in the 13 years of the Liberal government. I think there is very good work being done at the municipal, provincial and federal levels around public health, emergency preparedness and a number of issues that the bill speaks to. That means there is a far greater awareness and people are working hard to make sure this does not happen again.

I give full kudos to everybody who not only has raised awareness but is working to bring people together to plan what happens when there is some kind of natural or unnatural emergency or disaster, but I think there are steps that would help this bill, since we have this first opportunity here, to show perhaps a bit more vision. I know it has been referred to as a “machinery” bill. I think there are other pieces that could cause this bill to show a bit more vision for Canada in terms of where the Public Health Agency is going. There probably are about five areas of concern that I would want to mention.

One of these areas of concern is the powers of the Chief Public Health Officer. The previous speaker spoke of these powers. I am probably going to take a different position on this, but it is clearly a point that needs to be debated. As for the powers of the public health officer, and I gather it will be the current person should the bill pass, in the bill the individual does not have authority over areas of federal jurisdiction such as airports, railways, military bases, et cetera. Why not? I think it is important that this individual has total responsibility for those clear areas. Planes do not change a protocol if they fly between Manitoba and Ontario. Trains do not change health protocols if they go from Alberta to British Columbia. There must be national standards of public health around transportation, support to aboriginal people, which again is a federal responsibility, and military bases as well.

Second, the Chief Public Health Officer is not given authority to act, which speaks to the previous speaker's point, when a province or territory is overwhelmed by a crisis or when that crisis transcends provinces. Again, bacteria, germs, SARS and avian flu, should it mutate, are not going to look at a map of Canada and say they cannot go there because there is a border. That is nonsense. Therefore, there must be an ability for the Public Health Agency and the Chief Public Health Officer to have that authority to cross all borders when that is necessary. Otherwise, we are going to put the public health concerns of Canada at risk if this cannot transcend geographical borders.

I want to speak to the issue of health protection for a moment as it relates to quarantine. In this bill, the Minister of Health is the person who is responsible for declaring a state of quarantine. In provinces, it is the public health officers who are responsible for declaring a state of quarantine. So why, at a federal level, would the Chief Public Health Officer not be the person who would, based on academic information and scientific research, be responsible for declaring quarantine? Why should it be the Minister of Health? That is a point we need to talk about and debate in committee. I am sure we will have that opportunity, but that is a disconnect between what happens in the provinces and what happens federally. I believe that it should be the Chief Public Health Officer.

I would like to talk a bit about House surveillance and population risk assessment. There is no mandatory requirement for the provinces and territories to report to the federal government any communicable diseases present in their provinces, never mind any other disease patterns that we might be seeing, although I did not see this bill going quite that far. We could ask them to. We could ask British Columbia to tell us if it has an outbreak of mumps. British Columbia could agree to do so, or it could say that it is not prepared to share the information. I realize it is difficult, but it has to be mandatory.

In the last two weeks the papers have reported a huge outbreak of mumps particularly in the United States, but it is moving up into Canada. We have not seen an outbreak of mumps affecting teenagers in a very long time. We have learned information about the length of time the first immunization is effective. The first immunization that babies get is an MMR shot for measles, mumps and whooping cough. For many people the immunization is not lasting long enough and people are not getting a second one, so there is an outbreak of mumps among teenagers. That is information surely we would want to know federally in order to see a trend across the country.

I cannot speak with knowledge of other provinces in any significant way, but I do know that among first nations people and very much in downtown Vancouver, we are seeing a significant rise in tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is something we thought was gone from this country. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, in my very early nursing days, all the TB sanitariums were closed down because we had beaten it. We had figured it out. People were not getting it anymore. We could treat it immediately. There was no further need and we were not going to see it again, but we are seeing it again in growing numbers.

I want the federal Minister of Health and the Public Health Officer to know that we are seeing those trends across the country, so there can be a national strategy. I am not very comfortable with there being 13 different strategies on what to do if there is a tuberculosis outbreak, a mumps outbreak, or an outbreak of any other kind of communicable disease, particularly those that we thought we had eradicated, such as TB and mumps. They are not even new ones. To have a different strategy in each province would be very dangerous.

I want to mention avian flu. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has just published a paper. It is concerned about avian flu. If it comes to North America there is every opportunity for it to mutate. At the moment people are not at risk, but we know that those kinds of infections mutate quite quickly, as is the case with many infections today. It can mutate so that humans can be infected by it. Everywhere across the country we see poultry and other birds being imported. A national strategy is needed. We cannot have 13 strategies on what to do about that.

It may go without saying that the agency must be resourced to do its job. I do not want to see an outline of what the Public Health Officer can do, all of the goals and objectives and just a document that will make me feel good because of what is in it. It needs to be properly resourced in order for the Public Health Officer and the people who work at the agency to be able to do their job, to collect the information that is necessary, to do the analysis of that information and to develop strategies that will protect all Canadians within this particular act.

The people in our country look to us for that protection. They deserve that protection. They deserve to know that it is being done and it is being done well, that it is being done in a coordinated way and that the Chief Public Health Officer has the power to take action. He or she should not have to go back to the minister.

I wondered out loud the other day whether consideration had been given to the Public Health Officer not having to go through the minister to present information either to Parliament or to the public, but could simply go ahead and publish a report, as can be done in many provinces. They do not need to go through the minister. They do not need to have someone's permission. They simply provide public information.

It would be interesting to have a discussion in committee about the independence of the Public Health Officer. I welcome the opportunity to discuss these matters in committee. I have had a chance to discuss them with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and I look forward to the chance to discuss them in committee.

The very basis of this must be that never again will we see the lack of leadership, the slow accumulation of information and the failure to share information that we saw with SARS or with avian flu, although that did not affect people, before people figured out what could be done. It was too late by then. People need to know immediately.

Darfur May 1st, 2006

Mr. Chair, I would like to ask a question using a bit of a different lens. I would like to ask a question through the eyes of a child, our smallest witness to what is happening in Darfur. What we know about children and raising them well is that it is about raising healthy babies with love and early attachment, gentle touching, good nutrition, and gradual independence and so on.

When we look at what is happening to children in Darfur, we see the horrific circumstances in which they are living. While some parents there were being interviewed, children were given crayons and paper to play with on the floor. They were not given any instructions. Using their crayons, in the only language they had, not verbal language but “showing” language, those children showed the burning of their homes, the beating of their parents, and people being hungry. These were very crude drawings, but they were the language the children had, that the smallest witness had, to show us what was going on.

Let me say for the parliamentary secretary that I would ask for that visual vocabulary to be kept in the front of our minds because, despite three security resolutions, women and girls continue to be raped, water and food sources are being destroyed, and schools and hospitals are being burned to the ground. Children of 11 years of age are raising families. The needs of girl children in conflict and post-conflict situations are being totally overlooked. Even though they are victims, they are fighters, they are leaders and they are peacemakers who are often left to rebuild their shattered communities at the age of 10, 11 or 12. So through the eyes of those smallest witnesses, I would like to ask--