Mr. Speaker, I am always humbled by the privilege of standing in the House to represent the people of Nickel Belt. On this motion, on this issue of a national dementia strategy, I realize I stand to represent not only the people of Nickel Belt but also the millions of Canadians who are demanding a credible, real, national dementia strategy.
What is at play here is self-evident to many Canadians. This motion perfectly captures the Conservatives' politics, which have been on display here in Parliament time and again on issues vital to Canadians. This motion is more a child of spin and politics than a commitment to the leadership we are looking for. It gives the appearance of doing something to really help Canadians while staying the course on their own priorities.
Members will know that this motion appeared out of the blue a week before debate on my bill, which proposed a real, credible, national dementia strategy. It was a plan that would be anchored in a law, with leadership mandated from Ottawa. Canadians clearly wanted that.
The minister indicated that while initially opposed to the legislation, she had a change of mind. I believe the change of mind had something to do with the dozens of petitions being tabled in the House in support of a national dementia plan, the hundreds of municipal resolutions backing Bill C-356, and the growing number of provincial governments seeing the value of leadership from Ottawa that still respected provincial jurisdiction.
Canadians changed the government's mind. During many discussions with the minister and her representatives, we on this side of the House accepted all the amendments proposed to address their reservations. However, in the end, the government showed its true colours and abandoned its leadership and any legislative measure that it would be required to implement. This government's ideology and practice is to disregard authentic national strategies containing real measures that make things easier for Canadians.
This brings me to the vote held on May 6. Despite the fact that the government is now opposed to the bill and even though it has a majority in the House, the bill was defeated by one vote, 139 to 140. The media first talked about the confusion at the time of the vote. One Conservative member voted twice before withdrawing his support for the bill. Let me quickly say that the vote of 140 to 139 is a sharp reminder of the importance of every member's vote. Yes, bills can be passed or defeated by a single vote. The Conservatives have also heard about what their vote means since that night.
However, the vote was also a clear reminder of how we need to listen to the will of Canadians. Nine members of the Conservative caucus did so, voting for the legislation. I have recognized their votes in public comments. There were nine government MPs who joined our party and other parties to support real help for the 747,000 people now dealing with Alzheimer's or related dementia disease, plus the millions of people caught up in providing care and health services.
This motion cleverly includes so many elements from my bill and what is needed for a genuine national strategy, but this motion will not here and now help any of the people who are so in need of help.
This motion recognizes the important research initiatives that we on this side of the House enthusiastically applaud. It recognizes the federal-provincial discussions under way, while deploring the fact that they are painfully slow. The motion includes many of the basic elements of a strategy, but it makes no commitment to accomplish what that it sets out.
The real problem of the motion before us not being as binding as legislation is that, in the words of my colleague the member for Victoria, it risks being a “feel-good, do-nothing motion”. I will say more about motions versus legislation later, but in terms of recognizing what Canadians really need from the current government, we need to hear what they said in the wake of the defeat of Bill C-356 by one vote. Some of what they said, I cannot repeat. “Shame” and “disgrace” were some of the more polite words.
The Canadian Medical Association lamented the lost opportunity. Dr. Chris Simpson, president of the CMA, said:
The defeat of Private Member's Bill C-356 Wednesday night represents a lost opportunity to make lasting progress in the serious and growing problem of dementia in Canada. We remain one of the few industrialized countries to be without a national dementia strategy.
... Bill C-356 would have called on the government to set up a national dementia strategy. Canada would have been able to get to work making sure the health care system has the right resources to deal with this problem before it becomes overwhelming.
However, a national strategy would involve all levels of government and introduce benchmarks, standards of care as well as timeframes. It would also give other levels of government and stakeholders a forum to point out the need for resources. Instead of a series of ad hoc initiatives, a national strategy is a long-term solution for a problem that will be with us for a long time.
Canadians want a real national strategy enshrined in law. That is what we have heard from municipalities, doctors, people with dementia, their caregivers, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, other religious leaders, CARP and other seniors' organizations, unions and many others.
The motion moved in the House reproduces, almost word for word, many of the provisions in Bill C-356. There is heavy emphasis on research, something we have always considered essential to any strategy. That is something that will only contribute to other aspects of a well thought-out strategy.
However, when we unpack this motion, and all its phrases, again we see that it will stay the course on what Ottawa has been doing, slowly and with so few results. There will be research. There will be discussions with the provinces. There is a nod to sharing of best practices and reports to the public, but with no real accountability or timelines.
There is little evidence of a comprehensive plan that also provides for early diagnosis and treatment. I do not see the continuum of care for people to remain at home and in the community, which is critical as our scarce acute care beds have many people who do not need to be in hospitals.
A real credible national dementia strategy would also now help those overwhelmed in the dementia workforce. For example, the motion mentions support for caregivers, but nothing about how and when. What resources will be given to these people now?
We on this side know the difference of a motion versus legislation. In another Parliament, we saw the passing of Mr. Broadbent's motion to end child poverty by the year 2000. It was unanimous. There was good will on all sides, but we know what happened with that motion. What will happen to this motion when there is no will of governments to follow up with real action and leadership.
We are reaching the end of this Parliament next month. We or others representing our parties will all have to face the voters in our ridings. Organizations like the Canadian Medical Association, CARP and others are advising voters to remember their MP or party votes on dementia. We are pleased on this side for having done our part in education, advocacy and building the momentum for a genuine national dementia strategy. There is no turning back.
Through Bill C-356 and our debate on this motion, Canadians will not be fooled by words any longer. They want a national dementia strategy to actually show up in their community to help their loved ones, their neighbours, their work colleagues, now. Canadians will not stomach more press releases, motions, promises or explaining of votes.
I will support this motion because I like mom, apple pie and everything that is said in Motion No. 575. Speaking of mom, the story of my mom and my family connected me to the millions of Canadians struggling with this health care crisis that dementia represents. She was a straight shooter. She would figure out fact from fiction about what the government says it does or will do.
We on this side are committed to continue the real work required to make this happen. I look forward to the new government in Alberta being part of that work. I look forward to a new government in Ottawa, a government led by my leader, that will lead on this file. Canadians deserve better than what we have.