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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was debate.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Vancouver East (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 63% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Health October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are also very concerned about the chikungunya virus, which is affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the Caribbean. The outbreak has led Jamaica to declare a state of emergency. At least 200 Canadians have already contracted the virus, and many more risk being infected in their travels this winter.

Can the minister inform the House of what steps the Public Health Agency is taking to protect Canadians from this virus?

Health October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, while the death toll from Ebola is rising daily, the International Red Cross has said that the virus can be stopped within four months if the world is prepared to take all the necessary steps. This is a global crisis, and it requires a global response.

Can the minister update the House on what additional contribution the Canadian government is prepared to make to the international response?

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his very thoughtful comments on this important debate that we are having today. I would also like to thank him for sharing his personal family experience, because I think these things matter a lot in terms of impacts on our health care system.

Certainly we in the NDP have been raising the issue of the Ebola crisis almost every day in the House. The leader of the official opposition, the member for Outremont, and others in our caucus have been raising this issue with the Minister of Health, and there are many unanswered questions.

I think the member well understands the importance of the health care infrastructure that we have in this country. We need to have protocols in place, hence some of the questions in the letter that we sent to the minister, but for West Africa, not having basic health infrastructure is a critical issue, whether it is clinics, delivery systems, or access to primary health care. I wonder if the member would comment in terms of the importance of Canada supporting that kind of long-term initiative.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. Unfortunately, I wish I knew the answer as to when we would get a response from the government. This is precisely why we need to have officials come before the committee: so that we can keep pressing on these questions.

We have asked if there is a plan to rapidly increase production of the vaccine in the unfortunate event of worst-case scenarios, as outlined by the WHO. We have not had a response on that question. We do not know what efforts are currently under way to produce more of the vaccine. We do not know what percentage of the existing supply will be used for clinical trials.

There are a ton of questions that we have to keep pressing. I can tell the member that we will absolutely do that. It is our responsibility and duty to do that until we get answers.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her very appropriate and pointed question, because the issue of timing and what is moving quickly or slowly is a very critical matter.

As I pointed out in my comments, we do know that as of this date, less than 10% of the funds committed by Canada have actually been delivered. That implies that we are a long way from where we should be in ensuring that Canada's commitment is actually getting to the people who need it.

Overall, the same is true internationally. This does have to be an international effort. It is very concerning to see the estimates made by the World Bank, the United Nations, and others that this is about the long game. It is about a sustained effort. It is about ensuring basic health care capacity in the affected regions. That is a very important question to deal with. We saw that with HIV/AIDS. Even if treatments are available, if there are no local clinics, no trained personnel, no delivery system, then what needs to be done is completely missing.

We have to focus on the short term in terms of a vaccine and protective gear, but we also have to make a long-term commitment to make sure this funding continues.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate today as the health critic for the NDP. I would like to thank my colleague for bringing forward this motion in the House today.

Obviously we will be supporting the motion. We see it as a very minimal demand to the government to ask the Minister of Health, the Chief Public Health Officer and the Minister of Public Safety to appear before the Standing Committee on Health twice monthly to report and account on what Canada is doing around Ebola, both in Canada and internationally. It is a very minimal demand, and obviously we need to go a lot further and do a lot more. Certainly, as far as the motion goes, we support it and thank our colleague for bringing it forward today.

I want to focus my comments today on what it is that has been completely lacking in Canada's response. Of course we do know that Canada has committed $65 million internationally. Just to put that in context, for example, the U.K. has committed $205 million. Germany, for example, has committed $127 million. There has been just recently very generous contributions made by private individuals.

We are obviously glad that Canada has made the commitment of $65 million, but what is really concerning and we should be focusing on is that at this point less than 10%, only about $5 million of the $65 million has been delivered in goods and services in terms of what needs to be done. That is very concerning.

All of us are very concerned about what is taking place in West Africa. We are watching the evolution and the development of this crisis, and the international response is so critical, not only in terms of the vaccine but also in ensuring that medical supplies, protective gear and so on, as well as health care professionals, are there on the ground. That is the most important point I want to make today.

This is not unlike what we have seen with the AIDS crisis. I note the article that came out in The Lancet magazine yesterday also made the point that the critical issue is containment within the countries that are now infected and to ensure that they have the capacity, the support and the resources, including a vaccine, to deal with their situation on the ground. This is about trying to ensure that we are not seeing an increase in transmissions to other countries, whether it be in other African countries, in Europe or in North America.

It is very concerning to us that we are many weeks into this crisis and Canada has fallen so far behind in its ability or willingness, whatever the impediment is, to deliver on the commitments it has made. I have come to the conclusion that unfortunately what we are seeing unroll in Canada is more of a public relations exercise.

I have been on a number of panels with the parliamentary secretary. We have heard the minister in the House when we have asked questions. We are told every time that Canada is a world leader, we are doing this and we are doing that, the vaccine was donated and it has been made available, yet nothing is actually getting done, or very little. It was only yesterday that some of the vaccine actually moved out of Canada.

We even heard the Prime Minister basically blame the WHO for that, when in actual fact, Canada itself sold the licensing rights to a company for $205,000, a very valuable health product, the vaccine that was developed in Canada, and basically did nothing to expedite the development of the clinical trials and the need to get this vaccine to where it needs to go. In the U.S. they have been working on the clinical trials for a month already.

There are so many questions as to why the Canadian government has made these pronouncements publicly but has not followed through and remained vigilant in terms of delivering on the commitments that Canada has made.

Yesterday or maybe at the end of last week, we learned the shocking situation that back in June the honorary Canadian consul for Sierra Leone was urgently sending messages to Canada saying that they needed protective gear. Canada was auctioning off those same items for cents on the dollar. It seems unbelievable.

It was not until September that those discounted auctions were actually stopped. There was a delay from June until September. There was information on the ground that was coming back to Canada, saying they desperately need assistance and need to get protective gear over to Sierra Leone, and Canada was selling off the needed equipment at incredibly discounted prices. We have now learned that it is being resold elsewhere at inflated prices.

This raises a whole question about the plan and whether or not there is oversight on the plan that Canada has developed and that we have been told exists. We certainly do appreciate the briefings that have been given by officials at the Public Health Agency of Canada. We appreciate the information they have provided.

However, I do have concerns. We know the budget of the Public Health Agency of Canada has been cut by $60 million over the last three years. We have to question whether or not, even within our own environment here politically, within Health Canada, within PHAC, if there is the capacity to deliver on the plan that is being developed.

We have been asking, consistently, in the House and in other venues, and in writing to the minister—I think we have now done two letters—very specific questions about what it is that Canada is doing and why it is that we are falling so far behind. I have to say that we are not getting the answers we need.

It is not like this is an issue where we can say, “Oh well, all in good time”. This is a critical urgency. It is an emergency today. There are people who are dying. The rate of infection is averaging 1,000 new infections per week.

Every day, every week there is a lag or delay it is affecting the lives of many people who we could be helping. This is a very critical issue.

I want to mention the letter we wrote recently to the Minister of Health. We asked some very pointed questions. We asked which minister was responsible for ensuring quarantine and treatment protocols in Canadian hospitals and clinics. That is a very basic question.

We know that PHAC has been developing national guidelines. We know that yesterday the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, a very major organization in this country, representing front-line health care workers, expressed a lot of concern about the fact that front-line health care workers are not prepared in this country. They do not have the protective gear. In fact, provinces are apparently developing different protocols and different levels of safety equipment. What is happening in Ontario may be different than what is happening in Saskatchewan or in British Columbia.

It does raise some very serious questions as to who exactly is responsible for not just developing guidelines but ensuring quarantine and treatment protocols. Who is responsible for ensuring that hospitals and medical practitioners have the appropriate equipment? These are questions that we have not yet had answers to.

Today, I want to say that in supporting this motion, it is important that the officials come before the health committee, that we be able to hold them to account and to provide these questions. We will certainly be doing that in the House. I have been very glad that the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Outremont has been raising these questions in the House on a very regular basis, as have I and my colleague, the member for LaSalle—Émard.

We will continue to do so because we are very concerned that this not just be a public relations exercise by Canada, but that it be a full commitment, not just in the short term but in the long term, to help people in West Africa who are affected and to ensure that there are the proper protocols and treatments in place should there be a case in Canada, which of course we hope will never happen. However, we have to be prepared, particularly given what we have seen in the United States and some of the protocols that were broken there.

We support the motion and we will be doing a lot more on this file to hold the government to account.

International Development October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will quote from the WHO press release from October 1. It says:

The license for commercialization of the Canadian vaccine is held by an American company, the NewLink Genetics company, located in Ames, Iowa.

Is the Prime Minister saying that the WHO is not telling the truth, or is it just the minister?

International Development October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister seems to think that a donation means that we then have nothing more to do with the matter. The fact is, and I will quote from a WHO press release—

International Development October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there is more Canada could be doing now to help the Ebola response, but the government has not even delivered on its earlier promises. The experimental Ebola vaccine still has not left Canada, and trials still have not started. In fact, the Conservatives persist in blaming the WHO, but it is not responsible for the delays. The commercialization of the vaccine is held by an American company, despite what the Prime Minister said yesterday.

Why has the government done nothing to get the Ebola vaccine moving?

Health October 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are facing escalating prescription drug costs. One in 10 cannot even afford to fill their medication prescriptions.

Canada has the second-highest spending per capita on prescription drugs of all OECD countries. The premiers have made it a clear priority to have drug coverage, but the current government is missing in action.

Why has the federal government failed so miserably in its leadership to reduce prescription drug costs for Canadians?