Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the member for Barrie on his bill. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and his bill's noble objectives are most appropriate.
On this side of the House, and I am sure on the other side as well, we recognize the impact that breast cancer has on the people of Quebec and Canada. This disease is unfortunately all too common. The statistics do not lie: one out of every nine women will suffer from breast cancer in her lifetime. What is even more tragic is that one out of every twenty-nine women will die from breast cancer. The considerable progress that has been made in recent years in research, treatment and screening has significantly lowered the breast cancer mortality rate.
Breast cancer is still too common among Canadian women. I should also point out to the House that, although it is less common, breast cancer can also affect men. An estimated 23,000 women will be affected by this type of cancer, not to mention the thousands of loved ones and caregivers who are also affected. The disease also has high social and economic costs. There are other human costs associated with this terrible disease: the loss of income can be devastating. Many couples do not survive these challenges, and loved ones become caregivers but receive little support from this government.
The bill introduced by my colleague opposite addresses a very particular issue: cancer in women with dense breast tissue. This is a real problem. Recent research has shown that dense breast tissue is a factor as important as age in the risk of breast cancer. Higher tissue density also makes breast cancer screening more difficult. During a mammogram, tumours and high-density masses in the breast both show up as white spots. It is much more difficult for women with dense breast tissue to get quick diagnoses with traditional equipment.
It is also important to bear in mind that problems linked to dense breast tissue are not likely to diminish; quite the opposite. Studies have shown a link between being overweight or obese and denser breast tissue. I do not need to remind this House that the issue of excess weight has reached epidemic proportions in Canada. We can only assume that an increasing number of women will have dense breast tissue in the near future and that this trend is on the rise.
Once again, I would like to say how much I appreciate that the member for Barrie has brought this issue forward so that we can discuss it today. Awareness is always a positive initiative. It makes women more vigilant and ensures that health care professionals are better informed. Everyone supports awareness—it is a noble objective and a just cause, but it is merely one element of treatment. In my mind, this bill is pointless. It does nothing concrete for women who have or will have breast cancer. It does not ensure better access to a health care system that is so desperately lacking in its current state.
I am a doctor myself. I decided to go into politics to make a difference. Many causes are important to me, such as the recognition of foreign credentials—which affects me personally—the status of women and immigration. But health is at the top of that list. I know that the people of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert elected me because they believed in the NDP message that we will work for them. I am worried that this bill, while noble and having created the opportunity for debate, will not make a real difference in the lives of the people of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, Quebec and Canada.
One of the issues my constituents talk to me about is access to a family doctor. This bill has nothing to offer people who do not have a family doctor. This bill will not improve access to our health care system. We know that a timely diagnosis helps significantly increase the chances of survival. Without access to a doctor, many Canadians will not have access to this timely diagnosis. Wait times for mammograms are also far too long in many places in Quebec and Canada. Those are two significant factors that are not addressed in this bill that would help improve treatment, survival rates and quality of life for breast cancer survivors.
That is why the people of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert voted for me. They want their daily lives to be better. They are demanding better access to health care, and rightfully so. Despite the good intentions of the hon. member for Barrie, this bill does nothing for the Canadian general public.
The hon. member for Barrie was right when he said in the preamble of his bill that the provinces are responsible for the delivery of health care. I agree with him, but I would like to remind him that he is wrong to think that his government has no responsibility in this. The federal government currently has a funding agreement with the provincial and territorial governments. Under that agreement, the different governments agreed to certain specific objectives.
This tool could be used to achieve the objectives of developing better breast cancer diagnostics and treatment for women with dense breast tissue. This is an agreement the provincial and territorial governments, including that of Quebec, signed on to. Why does the member opposite not encourage his government to get on board? We could achieve better concrete results that way.
Perhaps the member for Barrie does not believe that the 2004 health accord is the right tool to allow us to meet these objectives. If that is the case, the 2004 health accord gives his government certain tools to determine whether the accord's objectives have been met, whether the funds transferred are being used in the manner agreed upon by the federal, provincial and territorial governments, and whether the funding is achieving the expected results. It is important for his government to be able to tell Quebeckers and Canadians whether the health accord, which will expire in 2014, is delivering the promised results. Such an accountability exercise, one to which Canadians are entitled, would be the first step in determining needs and the model that will be negotiated in good faith and in partnership with the provincial and territorial governments, including the Government of Quebec, of course. I therefore invite the hon. member to exert pressure on his government to report back to Canadians on the results of this accord and to begin discussions in order to ensure funding for our health care system and for the objectives negotiated for the well-being of all Canadians.
I would also call on the members opposite to address the underlying causes of the problem. I mentioned earlier that women who are overweight or obese are more likely to have dense breast tissue. Women who smoke and who have low levels of physical activity are also at higher risk of developing breast cancer. The Canadian Institute for Health Information indicated in a report that socio-economic status and poverty are significant social determinants of obesity. The Canadian Council on Learning has confirmed that smoking and low levels of physical activity are related to poverty and a lower socio-economic status.
I therefore invite the hon. member for Barrie and this government to address the employment problems facing Canadians, to implement measures that will help the people of Canada to live in dignity, and to find ways to help families in our ridings so that they do not have to live paycheque to paycheque in order to be able to buy groceries.
Quebeckers and Canadians do not have better jobs than they did two years ago. In addition, young people are once again more affected by unemployment than the Canadian average. Furthermore, the number of children living in poverty is not decreasing, far from it. This government's lack of action in this regard is negatively affecting the health of young people. Action must be taken immediately.
I would like to close by saying that I support the principles of this bill. In order to help all Quebeckers and Canadians, we must find a way to improve access to doctors and reduce wait times for the diagnosis and treatment of various illnesses.