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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was certainly.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Sarnia—Lambton (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 53% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Public Health Agency of Canada Act May 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that health care and our food supply are interwoven. Both are extremely important. We have said repeatedly that we need to have control of our food sources. We had this discussion during other debates on agriculture and the plight of our farming community across the country.

I agree with what the member has said. We need to have control of our food sources. We need to examine that. There are great links to public health issues, our food sources and our food supply, and I support those.

Public Health Agency of Canada Act May 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the government is definitely committed to improving the health of all Canadians. By bring this bill brought forward so early in our mandate, speaks well to that commitment. We definitely have made health care, including shorter wait times and other issues, one of our priorities. We know this has to be done in cooperation and collaboration with other areas of this great country. We need to discuss these issues with the provinces and territories. We also need to have discussions with municipal leaders, who also have a role to play in public health.

The fact that this government is extremely committed to moving forward on health care and that is extremely committed to taking a leadership role and to collaboration and cooperation should convince the Canadian public that we are very serious about health care in Canada.

Public Health Agency of Canada Act May 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us today is a very important bill for all Canadians. Whether the bill was before the House in some other form is not the issue. The issue is the fact that we all care very much about the public health of Canadians. The bill is before the House for discussion and passing. We have a lot of positive comments on it from all parties. The discussions at committee level will be extremely interesting, and I look forward to that.

Regarding the other question, we need to put the resources in place and I am quite confident that those resources will be there to address the issues that will come from the bill. The independence and the leadership that will develop as well from the bill are extremely important as we deal with the public health of all Canadians.

As far as the question regarding the private member's bill, I cannot answer that question. I do not have that knowledge. Perhaps one of my other colleagues on this side of the House would be able to answer it. Once the health committee sits, that is a question I can ask and we can definitely answer later. At this point I cannot answer the question.

Public Health Agency of Canada Act May 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, today it is my privilege to speak to Bill C-5, an act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

I take very seriously the responsibilities the member of Parliament for Prince George—Peace River and chief government whip gave me when he appointed me as a member of the Standing Committee on Health. This is the first of many issues relating to health that I plan to address.

I am very pleased to speak about such an important service that benefits all Canadians, the Public Health Agency of Canada. I would like to address the reasons this agency was created, the reasons this agency is needed, and the reasons we need a Chief Public Health Officer. Finally I will address what the legislation will do.

The overarching theme of this legislation is the protection and promotion of the health of Canadians. The establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada was in fact a response to the need to establish a federal focal point to address public health issues following the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, popularly known as SARS.

SARS was a blow to our health care system. Some experts have stated that only the heroic efforts of Ontario's front line health workers kept the deadly SARS outbreak from exacting a far heavier toll. The province's public health system was called into question. Internationally, the health of Canadians was also called into question for months after the outbreak when they travelled overseas. Even Canadians living abroad were sometimes questioned. Canadians demanded action.

Dr. David Naylor and Senator Michael Kirby each consulted with the health community and reported specific recommendations, including the establishment of a Canadian public health agency and the appointment of a chief public health officer for Canada.

As members are probably aware, our right hon. Prime Minister has great respect for provincial jurisdiction. That is why our government is committed to federal, provincial and territorial collaboration, especially in such an important project as the Public Health Agency of Canada. One way this cooperation is done is through the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network which was established in April 2005. Informal discussions with provincial and territorial public health authorities have indicated that they would like a federal public health focal point with the authority and capacity for effective collaboration, especially during emergencies. God forbid an emergency like SARS should ever resurface, but we will be prepared.

Consequently, the Minister of Health has made it clear that the legislation does not expand on the existing federal role in public health. Instead, the legislation simply provides the agency with its mandate to assist the Minister of Health in exercising his powers, duties and functions in public health. Nothing that the federal government is currently doing in public health has changed.

Although the Public Health Agency of Canada was created by order in council in September 2004, it lacked parliamentary recognition. As the House is quite aware, my party is about accountability. This legislation will give parliamentary recognition to the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Chief Public Health Officer. In other words, this is largely a machinery bill that will give the agency a sound legislative footing to support the Minister of Health in addressing public health issues.

For me, this is an area of grave importance. In my former role as mayor and warden, I served for many years on the local board of public health, including six years as chair of that board. I know first-hand the value of having a Chief Public Health Officer at the federal level which, in the time of a widespread emergency or pandemic, can coordinate an appropriate response in coordination with the provinces and territories.

A federal focal point to address public health issues will benefit the constituents of Sarnia—Lambton in many ways. As a riding with so many international border crossings to the state of Michigan, including the twin Blue Water Bridges, an international health emergency would be better contained and managed through a federal focal point, including a Chief Public Health Officer.

In the chemical valley, by which my riding of Sarnia—Lambton is popularly known, the main CN line carries many hazardous goods. In my hometown municipality of Plympton-Wyoming, we see an average of one train every 20 minutes carrying hazardous freight. The comfort of knowing there will be a coordinated effort with a federal focal point should an accident happen is important to me and my constituents. The Chief Public Health Officer will provide that comfort by way of leadership.

The legislation will establish a unique dual role for the Chief Public Health Officer. Why, some would ask, is there a dual role? The legislation recognizes the Chief Public Health Officer's unique status as the Government of Canada's lead public health professional as well as the deputy head of the agency. Let me explain. As deputy head of the agency, the Chief Public Health Officer is accountable to the Minister of Health and informs the minister on policy development. Additionally, the Chief Public Health Officer is Canada's lead public health professional with authority to communicate with Canadians and publish reports on any public health issue.

Not only does the legislation clarify the rules and responsibilities of the Chief Public Health Officer, but it also responds to both Naylor's and Kirby's recommendations that the Chief Public Health Officer have a degree of independence to speak out and issue reports on public health matters.

Threats to the health of Canadians will allow the Chief Public Health Officer to engage other federal departments to mobilize health resources of the agency. The Chief Public Health Officer must submit to the Minister of Health for tabling in Parliament an annual report on the state of public health in Canada, aiding the Minister of Health in his decision making as to what are the best measures to promote better health care for Canadians, and subsequently, improve patient wait time guarantees which is a priority of the government.

Therefore, as an impartial, credible voice on public health able to communicate directly with the public, the Chief Public Health Officer will be accountable to all Canadians while respecting the Privacy Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A federal focal point will provide assurances to provinces and territories that they can lawfully share information with the federal government in light of a possible health emergency such as an influenza pandemic. Systematic monitoring and surveillance would be needed to anticipate, prepare for and respond to such an emergency in a timely manner.

The agency already maintains a national emergency stockpile system that contains everything from pharmaceuticals to beds and blankets for use in an emergency.

Additionally, the Chief Public Health Officer uses the public health network to get information from his provincial and territorial colleagues and with his authorities would be able to communicate and provide the best public health advice to Canadians in key areas such as pandemic preparedness and antiviral stockpiling. SARS has taught us all a valuable lesson in dealing with public health threats.

My several years of training through Emergency Measures Ontario have certainly taught me the value of having this national emergency stockpile system in place. It will be imperative in a pandemic situation that resources be available on a national level. In fact, the Public Health Agency of Canada has already strengthened the Canadian pandemic influenza plan by increasing its national antiviral stockpile and signing an agreement to develop a prototype H5N1 or avian flu vaccine.

Having a separate agency within the health portfolio is needed to deal with public health issues. Coherence on a national scale is what the legislation ensures when the health of Canadians is in jeopardy.

I support Bill C-5 and so will my colleagues. We want to bring greater visibility to public health issues. We made a commitment on this side of the House to improve our public health system. The legislation fulfills these objectives.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act May 1st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, certainly, as I have said before, Bill C-3 deals with all aspects of the international crossings. We will also be dealing with rail traffic and rail crossings and the tunnels. I look forward to further discussions as this bill goes through committee.

I live in a small rural municipality where, on average, there is one train every 20 minutes. I know what the sound of trains is like. I know what the pollution from trains is like. I know what the vibration from trains is like. I, too, look forward to further discussions.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act May 1st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-3 addresses all aspects of the international crossings, whether they be tunnels or bridges. That is an issue we will be discussing further as I have said. There will be further discussion on the different aspects of rail travel. Rail travel is an extremely important part of moving goods in this country. Certainly coming from a riding that has an international tunnel crossing, I fully realize the value of moving goods by train. As a government we look forward to further discussion on this issue at committee.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act May 1st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I had spoken mainly on bridge crossings. Bill C-3 certainly does cover all international crossings whether they be bridges or tunnels. The issue the member has brought forth will be discussed when the bill is before the committee. We look forward to hearing the comments from all the parties and the different areas as consultation continues.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act May 1st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, certainly the security at our border crossings is one of the very first things we need to deal with. The standardization of security at all international crossings is of utmost importance. If we do not have a standard across the country, then as far as our trade partners go, there will be a great deal of ambiguity and a great deal of concern as to which border crossing they will be dealing with. The standardization of security is one of the first things we need to deal with.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act May 1st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that Bill C-3 is an excellent bill. It will improve things greatly at all international border crossings. Although there are a lot of similarities to Bill C-44, there are a couple of differences in our bill. Certainly crossings over the St. Lawrence River and the sale and transfer affecting international bridges and tunnels are two of them. We look forward to support from across the floor.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act May 1st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have risen in this Parliament to deliver a speech. I made a statement previously, but since my time was limited then, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your very important role in the 39th Parliament.

I also take this opportunity to thank the constituents of Sarnia—Lambton who made it possible for me to be a member of this august body. Their support and faith in me is gratifying and extremely humbling. I will certainly do my utmost to represent all constituents in my riding.

I give a special thanks to my family, who has always supported me 100%: my husband, Bill, our son, my mom and my sisters and brothers. None of us get here on our own, and I am pleased to be able to acknowledge all those who helped and supported in so many ways.

I am pleased today to add my full support to the international bridges and tunnels act, not only because I feel it will be an important piece of legislation, but because one of Canada's most important international crossings, the Blue Water Bridge, is located in my riding. For those who have not had the opportunity to visit the village of Point Edward, which is surrounded on three sides by the city of Sarnia, Ontario, and on the fourth side by the St. Clair River, let me say a bit about the Blue Water Bridge.

The crossing is a major traffic and economic link between Ontario and Michigan, and serves as a critical component in our trade corridor linking Canada, the United States and Mexico. The bridges connect Highway 402 in Ontario to Interstates 94 and 69 in Michigan, which provides southerly access to Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis and the entire gulf coast, extending down through Florida to New Orleans and Mexico.

To better handle the volume of traffic, the Blue Water Bridge was twinned in 1997 with the addition of a second span. We now have the distinction of having the only twin international bridge crossing in Canada. My riding is also home to an international rail tunnel and an international ferry crossing.

The Blue Water Bridge currently ranks as the fourth busiest Canada-U.S. border crossing. In 2005, 5.5 million vehicles crossed the Blue Water Bridge. It is the second busiest crossing for the number of commercial vehicle crossings. Approximately 5,000 commercial vehicles cross the bridge daily. On busy days, this count exceeds 7,500 trucks. In 2005, 3.7 million commercial vehicles crossed the bridge, carrying Canadian exports south and bringing foreign products to Canadians. The bridge handles 12% of Canada's total trade with the United States and is the fastest growing truck crossing on the Canada-U.S. border. It is interesting to note that the Blue Water Bridge is the busiest live animal port of entry on the Canadian border. This critical piece of our transportation infrastructure is essential to maintaining our current economic stature.

We have heard that special acts of Parliament created most of our international bridges and tunnels quite some time ago. This is the situation with the Blue Water Bridge. An act to incorporate the St. Clair Transit Company was passed by Parliament on June 11, 1928, and authorized the construction, operation and maintenance of an international bridge. There were subsequent acts and amendments related to the bridge passed in 1930, 1934, 1940, 1964, 1970, 1972, 1979, 1981, 1988 and 2001.

It would seem to me that this practice of continually debating and passing special acts of Parliament is an ineffectual way for the federal government to exercise its jurisdiction over international bridges and tunnels. I therefore support the approach taken by Bill C-3 of having governor in council consider and approve aspects related to these crossings, rather than take valuable House time for the same purpose.

I gave the House some statistics relating to commercial crossings at the Blue Water Bridge. This international crossing is also very important for the tourism industry. In 2005 there were 1.8 million passenger vehicles that crossed the Blue Water Bridge. Obviously this link is vitally important to this sector of our economy as well.

The international bridges and tunnels bill contains provisions to ensure that these facilities are safe and secure. The Blue Water Bridge Authority takes safety and security very seriously. Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001 the authority was very proactive and on its own undertook a security threat assessment. It was one of the first international bridges to implement increased security measures. It has also been very cooperative in sharing its lessons learned with its sister members of the Bridge and Tunnel Operators Association. There is no doubt in my mind that the Blue Water Bridge continues to be actively concerned with safety and security measures and will continue to be vigilant in carrying out its responsibilities.

Many security improvements have been implemented over the past three years. One of the objectives is to further develop and maintain policies and procedures for emergency response, threat assessment and disaster recovery. Three security assessments have been completed and all high priority recommendations have been implemented. The bridge is also a member of the Chemical Valley Emergency Coordinating Organization.

I am concerned, however, that not all international bridges and crossings might be taking security as seriously as does the Blue Water Bridge Authority. It is for this reason that I support the provisions in Bill C-3 that would permit the federal government to pass regulations concerning safety and security measures. What good would it do Canada if not every bridge or tunnel took security as seriously as the Blue Water Bridge? A terrorist would simply target the weakest facility. That is why we need to establish a minimum level of security that every bridge would need to respect. A bridge or tunnel could exceed this standard, but at least there would be a minimum standard which all bridges would be required to attain.

The Blue Water Bridge has been able to strike a healthy balance between traffic efficiency and security. Security and medical alerts, customs contract negotiations and a general lack of capacity on the American plaza during peak traffic demand has at times created traffic congestion in Canada. With the introduction of NEXUS and the FAST program, some of this volume pressure has been relieved. The bridge authority has taken a lead role in coordinating a focus group including the Ontario Provincial Police, the Sarnia Police Service, the Ontario Trucking Association and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to implement short and long term solutions to traffic matters. The authority's master plan will reduce the potential for congestion and accidents in the long term while short term solutions such as reducing speed limits, better signage and increased police presence have had positive results.

In December 2004 the U.S. and Canadian governments consulted border operators on how to improve transit times for cars and trucks by 25% by the end of 2005. This challenge was directed at easing border congestion. The Blue Water Bridge quickly completed and implemented a traffic management system which achieved the 25% improvement for traffic coming into Canada.

Considering the importance of international bridges and tunnels to Canadian trade and tourism, it is remarkable that no law has ever been adopted that uniformly applies to all international bridges and tunnels and sets out the manner in which the federal government can exercise its jurisdiction with respect to these structures. Bill C-3 would rectify this vacuum in federal legislation.