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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was labour.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Conservative MP for Simcoe—Grey (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Members Not Seeking Re-Election to the 43rd Parliament June 5th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, being a Canadian is a privilege almost without equal in the world. To be selected by our fellow Canadians as a representative in the House of Commons is as high an honour as there is. Thanks to the incredible people of Simcoe—Grey, who put their faith in me, I have been a member of Parliament for eight years. First and foremost, I want to thank them.

I grew up in a family where my parents, Lynne and Kit Leitch, lived certain values. My mom emphasized hard work every day. She was the most generous person I have ever known. None of my friends could leave our house without a toque on their head or a hug if they needed it. Sadly, after a strong fight, she lost her battle with breast cancer in 1989.

My dad continually challenges us to have free thoughts and develop new ideas every day. Even now, he challenges me to work harder and be better. Like so many who live and were born on the prairies, he believes that everyone is equal and should be treated respectfully. He is the epitome of tolerance.

In many ways, my parents are the embodiment of Canadian values, and these values matter. They are the reason Canada is a beacon of hope around the world for those fleeing persecution or seeking a better life. The values that Canadians share, that my parents taught us, are what make this country, Canada, the greatest country in the world, one that it has been an honour to represent.

The one question I get asked all the time as a member of Parliament is why a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon would run for office. There are three reasons.

First, my mom was insistent that public service is good for us.

Second, as a doctor, I would be helping dozens of kids every day. I loved my job, but in 2006, I was asked to chair the expert panel on the children's fitness tax credit. This opportunity allowed me to see first-hand how good public policy can have a positive impact on the health of thousands of Canadian kids, not just one child at a time, as I did as a doctor.

Third, I was asked. It was that simple. Jim Flaherty called me at the clinic one day on a Friday morning and said, “I hear you're running for office.” I said, “No.” We can see how well that worked out. On May 2, 2011, my name was on the ballot in Simcoe—Grey as the Conservative candidate the day the Conservative majority government was won.

I was appointed as a parliamentary secretary immediately after the election. As a PS, I was assigned the task to develop a new EI rate mechanism reform in the May budget. I also contributed to the creation of the Canada job grant.

As an Albertan, I heard every day from family and friends—especially my sister, who is a no-nonsense, super-smart engineer in Calgary—about the need for skilled labour. I led the consultations across the country related to this program, which revolutionized on-the-job training by providing incentives for employers to train people.

On my dad's birthday in July 2013, I was invited to meet with the Prime Minister. The PM appointed me Canada's first minister of status of women as well as minister of labour. I remember accepting and then immediately formulating in my head how to eliminate the department. I thought, as a professional woman, how ridiculous it was that the department even existed. My sister completely agreed. When I returned home that night and told my father, to my surprise he was ecstatic. He thought this was the best role ever. I thought he was crazy.

In retrospect, I will say that being the minister of status of women was one of the more meaningful and most fulfilling roles I have ever had. I learned so much, and realized that the department is in fact necessary and important. I have a strong belief that women are most successful in all aspects of their lives if they can be independent, when they can stand on their own two feet and make choices for themselves and families unencumbered by others and government. Our great team at Status of Women focused all its efforts on helping women of all backgrounds achieve this independence.

I am particularly proud of our focus on championing women entrepreneurs. Early in my term, I realized that for women to be successful, they needed three things: mentors, money and markets. As a young medical student, I benefited from mentors. Therefore, it was no surprise to me when I met with women across the country and heard they needed mentors and found it challenging to succeed without one.

The expert panel on championing and mentorship for women entrepreneurs was launched in 2013. Its work created “It Starts with One – Be Her Champion”, an initiative to provide mentors for women in all fields. As I leave public life, I look forward to continuing to support and build this program so that young women across our country can reach their greatest potential.

I have always championed children. I am told that my face lights up when a child walks into the room, so it was not challenging for me to embrace the idea of the International Day of the Girl Child at the UN and become one of the driving forces of its creation in 2013. This experience is the reason that today I am passionate about organizations that help eliminate the practice of early, child, and forced marriages around the world, such as Girls Not Brides.

Growing up in Fort McMurray, Alberta, my father ran a construction company. My talented brother Michael now runs that firm, and it has never had unionized workers, nor was there ever a desire for our labourers to unionize, so being Minister of Labour in Canada was a new place for me.

I was determined to have Canada ratify the UN ILO Convention No. 138 on minimum age for admission to employment. As a pediatric surgeon, I was somewhat dumbfounded that Canada had not ratified this basic convention, which we finally did in 2014. Our team at labour also spearheaded changes to the Canada Labour Code to ensure that interns were covered by health and safety protections and that these young Canadians received the pay they were due when they worked hard.

I believe that we as Canadians need to lead internationally by example as well as practise what we preach. The changes to these policies did both.

Politics is a rough sport. I realized that during the challenging 2015 campaign, and during my leadership campaign I learned that in spades. During the leadership campaign, I learned many things. I now have a better wardrobe and I wear makeup, and sadly, I also learned how much these material items matter. How we look is often as important as, if not more important than, our ideas or intellect, especially as women.

I also learned that not all Canadians are tolerant.

In Canada, as children we are encouraged to have new ideas, talk about those ideas and encourage debate. That is not at all what I experienced. What most Canadians saw during the campaign was people slandering me and my reputation. They saw me bullied continuously. I was subjected to the worst type of threats online. My home was broken into. My constituency office was compromised with hate banners illegally hung. My staff was intimidated. My Parliament Hill office even received long letters in which people outlined in graphic detail their plans to sadistically rape me.

This was all fuelled by people who claimed they were champions of freedom of speech, champions of women and champions of a tolerant society. I can tell members that these people are anything but that. I acutely learned that when individuals are unwilling—or, more often, unable—to debate an issue in a tolerant and respectful way, they turn to bullying, intimidation or worse. I would not wish this treatment on anyone, even on those who subjected me to it.

My campaign sparked debate on issues that Canadians wanted to talk about. I am proud to say that unlike some, I am not afraid to tackle the elephant in the room. For me, health care will be one of those topics as we go forward. We need an open and healthy debate in this country about our health care system. Today, politicians get to say when and where we get our care, but they are not accountable to deliver that care in a timely manner. Canadians are ready for a thoughtful discussion about the future of health care. As elected leaders, we need to be ready too.

Canadians have always been the most successful in all fields when we embrace our responsibilities as well-educated and tolerant people who put forward bold ideas on important subjects. Canadians elected us in the House of Commons to be leaders. We are expected to speak about issues that matter. We are not supposed to be afraid of tackling the tougher issues, and we should be able to discuss issues like health care, climate change, abortion and immigration without name-calling, without bullying, without resorting to insults or character assassinations. If we are not prepared to tackle the tough issues in a respectful manner in this place, then who is?

Leadership is about courage and about having the courage to act. As one politician once accurately outlined, most politicians, with the exception of a few with great courage, wait to see how political events are breaking before they risk their own political capital. I can say that I now understand that. Even with my challenging experience during and following the leadership campaign, I will continue to talk about issues that matter to Canadians, like the ones they talk about every day at the dinner table and at Tim Hortons. This country and the responsibility we have as Canadians to help others both here and abroad is too important to me not to.

I challenge members in the House to not shy away from bold and controversial issues. Do not be afraid of the critics and the media, the trolls and the angry people. Have courage and move forward.

It is an honour to serve in this House. I have many friends in this place and I have had many conversations, some more animated than others. No matter what our beliefs or political backgrounds, we share a common dedication to this country and to making it better. For that I thank my colleagues.

I encourage the leaders in this place to remember to take courage and bring forward bold ideas. Canadians are expecting us to do so.

Health Care Delivery in Rural Canada June 5th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting this motion by the member for Kenora. It is a study that is long overdue.

I, like the member opposite, represent a rural riding, but I will also say as a physician that patients who live in rural communities have substantive and challenging issues. In Nunavut, if someone sprains their ankle, we can take care of that. However, if a child breaks their femur there, it is an expensive endeavour, both for the parents and the government, to bring them all the way to Ottawa to be treated.

I support the member's motion, but I would like to ask him if there are some specifics that we should be focusing on in the study to make sure that rural Canadians receive the health care they deserve.

Children's Health Commissioner of Canada Act May 16th, 2019

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-451, An Act to establish a Children’s Health Commissioner of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this private member's bill today. In 2007, I authored a report called “Reaching for the Top: A Report by the Advisor on Healthy Children and Youth”.

In that report, I recommended that Canada create a national office of child and youth health.

This private member's bill is a long culmination of that report.

It is now more urgent than ever to establish a commissioner. Canada is ranked at the bottom of the list for most children's health indicators.

Indigenous children and children with disabilities fare far worse than other Canadian kids. Poor health in childhood is proven to lead to poor health in adults. We need to take the health of children in this country seriously.

Earlier this year, I introduced the children's fitness tax credit, which I proposed as a start. However, we need an advocate. We need someone whose exclusive mission is the promotion of children, someone who can work with government to ensure that legislation improves the health of kids, someone who would work with think tanks, the private sector and parents to raise awareness about improving the outcomes for children.

A children's health commissioner of Canada, the one recommended in this bill, is exactly that person. I ask all members in this House to join me in supporting the creation of this important position, which would help improve the health of Canadian children.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Health Act May 16th, 2019

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-450, An Act to amend the Canada Health Act.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present this bill.

I recently held nationwide consultations on the state of health care in Canada.

I met elderly people waiting for hip replacements and parents with kids waiting for mental health assessments. In Canada, there is an explicit agreement about health care. The state provides health care services and, in exchange, Canadians expect that their loved ones will be taken care of: except that the state is not keeping up its end of the bargain. Politicians get to say when and where people get their care, but they are not accountable to deliver health care in a timely manner. This is wrong. We need to take the politics out of health care.

My bill would amend the act to add a sixth principle, accountability. What I mean is the government's accountability to the patients it serves.

Accountability means that insured health services must be delivered in a timely manner. This is the health care guarantee that Liberal Senator Michael Kirby spoke of in his report. Accountability means that governments must be more responsive to patients' needs. Accountability was considered as a founding principle in the 1960s but was not included in the final five. It is time that it was.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions April 10th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to present in the House with respect to increasing concerns about the international trafficking of human organs removed from victims without consent and the not yet legal prohibition against Canadians travelling abroad to acquire or receive such organs. There are two bills currently before Parliament, Bill C-350 and Bill S-240, which is in the Senate. The undersigned are asking for amendments to the Criminal Code as well as to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to prohibit Canadians from travelling abroad with respect to this issue.

National Physicians’ Day April 8th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, after spending eight years in elected politics, including serving in cabinet and running for the Conservative leadership, I will say that I first and foremost always define myself as a physician, a role that I will be returning to full time at the end of this year when I leave this place.

When people ask me what I do for a living, I always say that I am a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, a doctor who gets to take kids who cannot play on the playground and let them play again, so it gives me great pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill S-248, an act respecting national physicians' day. This act would declare each May 1 national physicians' day.

Children's health has been the primary focus of my medical career, and it was one of the main reasons I ran for office. When asked in 2006 by then minister Jim Flaherty to chair the expert panel on the children's fitness tax credit, I was able to see first-hand how I could have a positive impact on the health of thousands of children via good public policy, not just one child at a time in a clinic. A tax credit to support healthy activities for kids and make activities more affordable for their parents was an innovative idea. It was a welcome idea.

Along with the reduction in the GST, I have heard from many people that this is the most popular and most memorable tax credit of the former government. Not only was it popular, but it was a success. Over 2.8 million children as of 2014 had taken advantage of it. The children's fitness tax credit was so successful that the only criticisms of were that it was not enough and that low-income families should receive a subsidy. In 2014, Conservatives made these changes to reflect what Canadians wanted and deserved.

The success and popularity of the tax credit made it even more puzzling why the Liberals promised to kill it in the 2015 election. Unfortunately, the Liberals kept that promise, reducing it in 2016 and eliminating it altogether in 2017.

One cold comfort is that in 2016, the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute and other researchers compared Participaction's report card on physical activity for children and youth to 37 other countries in six continents. Canada's highest grade was for participation in organized activities. The report noted that Canada's rates were significantly higher than sports participation rates 10 years ago.

I know that the tax credit was the right policy to help make Canadian kids healthier and for parents struggling to afford sports, so earlier this year I travelled across the country to meet with parents. I wanted to talk to them about preventive health and what we could do to help get kids active.

I continuously heard from parents that they were upset that the tax credit for kids had been cut, so I went to work drafting a bill. On February 6, Bill C-428 was launched, with a website to promote it. I encourage people to go to healthykidshealthycanada.ca to support this initiative and bring back the children's fitness tax credit.

When I heard of the idea of a national physicians' day, I must say I had second thoughts about it. I wondered whether we should we have a day to honour doctors. Most physicians would say that every day it is a privilege to take care of people.

As an orthopaedic surgeon who takes care of kids, I spend my days helping children. Frankly, when children with cerebral palsy walk again for the first time, even with assistance, the joy in their mothers' eyes and their sense of accomplishment and their great smile mean that doctors feel there is no need to be honoured. They know they have played a role in making that happen.

As I looked more into the bill, I began to see why this proposal was being brought forward by Senator Eggleton, with the support of the Canadian Medical Association. A special note is the date, May 1, which marks the birthdate of Dr. Emily Stowe, born in 1831, which several of my colleagues have commented on. Dr. Stowe was the first female to practise medicine in Canada. She was also a pioneer of Canada's women's movement and is an idol for many young Canadian physicians now, particularly female ones.

A national physicians' day is also important because it highlights the role that doctors play in communities across Canada, as my colleagues have also mentioned.

For those who live in big cities, access to care is often taken for granted. However, we do know that in smaller communities, people may not even have a doctor. Those in the north would be lucky to have a nurse practitioner in their communities. Anything more complicated than a broken arm requires a flight to Yellowknife, Iqaluit or Whitehorse, or often a more southern destination.

In the northern parts of many provinces, a doctor may rotate from a southern centre, which is great, but it means that people do not have a family doctor, as they could possibly have in a bigger centre. I say “possibly” because millions of Canadians in communities all across the country lack a doctor.

When places like my community, Simcoe—Grey, lose a doctor in rural parts of the country as he or she retires, we go to great lengths and efforts to recruit a new one, and frequently we cannot. For many communities, the loss of a doctor is like the loss of the post office, the local grocery store or the local school. It is a turning point for a community, and not a good one.

The recognition of a national physician's day gives an opportunity to bring these issues to the forefront at least one day a year. It gives an opportunity to speak to the important roles that doctors play in our communities, of the need for quality care that is accountable and accessible to patients, the ability to talk about lineups and wait times or about how the government demands that everyone use one system and then is unwilling to innovate and change to provide reasonable access to care.

Part of this bargain, the unwritten relationship between citizens and the government that is providing health care, must be reasonable access to care in a reasonable time frame. Currently, this is not the case. This neglect is made worse by the stress that it causes to the patient and to the families of these patients.

I heal kids. There is nothing worse than watching a child suffer, but what the families of these children go through because of the challenges in our system is a really close second. It is frustrating for my colleagues and me to know that we are bound by all sorts of rules that limit our ability to take care of patients. In getting surgical time at a hospital or even opening a clinic, there are many problems.

Just this weekend a colleague of mine, Dr. Smith from Windsor, an anaesthetist, said that the system is broken. The patients know it and the families know it. Why are the politicians and their colleagues afraid to change it?

I heard concerns like this across the country when I was conducting consultations on modernizing the Canada Health Act. Similar views were reflected in reports by Liberal senator Michael Kirby and former NDP premier Roy Romanow about how unaccountable the system has become to Canadians, how out of touch and bureaucratic it is and how the user, the patient, is often the last person of concern.

We need to listen to doctors when they use their collective voices to speak out on issues of national importance. We need to listen when they say that the system is broken, which is exactly what our patients are saying to us every day when they come to a clinic. There needs to be a revolutionary change in our health care system. The Canada Health Act needs to be modernized so that we can provide high-quality care for Canadians, the care they expect and deserve.

Interestingly, one of the most recent and most vocal examples of doctors speaking out was not medically related. It was related to their role as small business owners. Yes, I am talking about the recent tax changes to small businesses that the government introduced. Many Canadians learned during the whole affair that the overwhelming majority of doctors in Canada are small business owners. We are not government employees, which is what the majority of people believe. This misconception is largely owed to the Canada Health Act, which makes people believe that doctors are government employees, but we are not. We are small business owners who have a large amount of overhead and we have to pay for it ourselves. The same expensive equipment that is seen in a hospital we have often have to buy for our clinics. This equipment is not cheap, and it needs to be regularly updated.

Doctors are also substantial employers. Even the smallest doctor's office provides two jobs: an administrative assistant and a nurse. Most provide more, including a scheduler, an office manager and other nurses. A large doctor's office has more full-time jobs than a local café or a small clothing store. These investments in our communities are the reasons Canadians witnessed the negative reaction to the proposed tax changes. Doctors took it as an insult to be called tax cheats by the Liberal government. To be accused of taking advantage of a system by Liberal politicians was a bit much.

Each and every day it is an honour to be a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon. I have an amazing job and I help kids get back on the playground to play. My colleagues and I do not need a day to honour us. However, if a national physician's day can help bring attention to the doctor shortages that Canadians face, to small towns losing their only physician, to the lack of accountability in the health system, to the present model of health care that forces patients into a system where they are simply neglected or to the unfair tax changes that have done nothing more than chase doctors out of this country, then a national physician's day is worthwhile. I am pleased to lend my support to this legislation.

Children's Fitness February 7th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I was proud to announce my private member's bill, the new children's fitness tax credit. In 2006, I chaired the panel that recommended the children's fitness tax credit, and when I joined the Conservative government in 2011, 1.4 million families received the credit. In 2014, the credit became refundable for low-income families, and 1.8 million families were claiming it.

The initiative encourages active kids while making it more affordable for parents. Studies indicate that, from the time the credit was implemented, participation rates increased in sports and other activities.

Shockingly, the credit was eliminated by the present government in 2017. Today, I ask all members to support the bill and help make Canada the best place in the world for a child to grow up. I encourage members to support active and healthy kids. For more information, one can go to healthykidshealthycanada.ca.

Income Tax Act February 6th, 2019

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (child fitness tax credit).

Mr. Speaker, like others here, the member for Kings—Hants is someone I have known for actually over 22 years. I had the good fortune of meeting him in 1995. I wish him, Rose, Claire and Max Godspeed in their next great adventure.

It gives me great pleasure to rise today to introduce my private member's bill.

As members know, I have announced my return to medicine when my present term ends this year. Improving the health of Canadian children is why I became a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon.

That is why I accepted the invitation extended by former finance minister Jim Flaherty to chair the expert panel on the children's fitness tax credit in 2006.

The panel's recommendations formed the original children's fitness tax credit. In 2014, 1.8 million Canadian families with children were claiming the credit. Unfortunately, the present government campaigned on a promise to eliminate it.

The children's fitness tax credit was eliminated in 2017.

The bill I present today is similar to the 2006 children's fitness tax credit, with added benefits for parents who have children with disabilities.

This is a simple bill. I hope it will find multi-party support. I welcome the opportunity to meet with members of Parliament who support healthy and active children.

(Motion deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Business of Supply February 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his speech, albeit I do find it a little rich that he is claiming that the leader of the Conservative Party is misleading Canadians when that is exactly what is is doing.

The fact of the matter is that Canadians actually do not have more money in their pockets. That is because the Liberals are jacking up taxes. We know that is going to happen in the next couple of months, when we will see a new carbon tax. I am confident in saying that the people in Simcoe—Grey know that they have less money in their pockets today to do the things they want to do with their families than they did in 2015 or before that.

Maybe the member could revise his creative analogies around our leader, because our leader is focused on making sure Canadians have more money in their pockets and no carbon tax, unlike that government, which wants to jack up their taxes.

Veterans Affairs October 2nd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, I asked the veterans minister about Mario Bonafacio, a 79-year-old veteran suffering from a debilitating neck injury. Incredibly, the minister said that I should bring this to his “further attention.”

On June 4, I wrote the minister and last week, in the chamber, I handed him additional documents, including a privacy release signed by the veteran himself. This release allows the minister to say what work he has done for the veteran and not hide behind his usual privacy excuse.

When will the minister take this case seriously and get Mr. Bonafacio what he deserves?