Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Motion No. 173, which seeks to declare November as diabetes awareness month.
Conservatives support the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Health that Canada implement a national strategy, like the diabetes 360° plan. The Liberals, on the other hand, have rejected the diabetes 360° plan put forward by Diabetes Canada. This is simply shameful. The Liberal government leaves the member's motion as nothing but another empty gesture. In just 10 years, this plan would have helped prevent more than one million cases of type 2 diabetes and saved Canada's health care system and economy billions of dollars.
Eleven million Canadians are currently living with or are at risk of diabetes and pre-diabetes. There are three types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction that causes the body to kill its insulin-producing cells. This variation of the disease is still not fully understood. People with type 1 diabetes produce very little or no insulin, causing an abnormal amount of glucose to accumulate in the blood. To keep glucose levels under control, people with type 1 diabetes must administer insulin daily and carefully monitor their lifestyle habits. If those with type 1 diabetes do not have access to insulin, they will die. Between 5% and 10% of people with diabetes possess the type 1 variation.
About 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. It is most prevalent in adults, but alarmingly the incidence in children has been on the rise in recent years. Although individuals who develop type 2 diabetes are also genetically susceptible to this condition, it is largely the result of poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity, driven by environmental and socio-economic factors. Type 2 diabetes occurs when blood glucose levels increase because the body does not make enough insulin or cannot properly use the insulin that is produced. Type 2 diabetes can often be prevented by a high-quality diet and by regular physical activity. It can be treated with lifestyle measures with or without medications, including insulin.
Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy. It affects approximately 2% to 4% of all pregnancies in the non-indigenous population. It involves an increased risk of developing diabetes for both mother and child. Poorly managed gestational diabetes can mean serious health consequences, again for both mother and child.
Many patients take between three and 12 prescription medications and find the cost of equipment and supplies to be in excess of $15,000 a year. For those who require insulin pumps or continuous glucose monitoring, that cost runs to $15,000, in addition to the cost of medicine. Every day, more than 20 Canadians die of complications from diabetes, and 14 have lower limb amputations.
The World Health Organization has called for all countries to implement a national diabetes strategy. Despite having one of the highest diabetes rates in the world, Canada is still without a national strategy.
This motion being brought forward by the member is undercut by Liberal hypocrisy on this issue. Diabetes Canada came up with the diabetes 360° plan to achieve what the World Health Organization was calling for. That plan would have called for 90% of Canadians living in an environment that prevents diabetes; 90% would have been aware of their diabetes status; 90% would have been engaged in preventing complications from their diabetes; and 90% would have had a very strong possibility of achieving improved health outcomes.
Despite committing to support Diabetes Canada, the Liberals again came up short, and they come up short again today, showing just how out of touch they are on issues affecting the health and well-being of Canadians. Not only did the Liberals not support the diabetes 360° plan, but Diabetes Canada asked for $150 million and was left with zero dollars from the current government in budget 2019. We send billions of dollars abroad, yet we refuse to help our own people.
Another failure of the Liberal government on the diabetes file was the rejection of 80% of people living with type 2 diabetes from collecting the disability tax credit to help pay for these costs. When this first came to light, in May 2017, the government maintained that it had not changed the criteria or the process of approval. For months, it denied that anything had changed. However, evidence was finally produced that it had misrepresented the facts. The process had indeed been changed to discount the time spent preparing food. The 80% of individuals who were receiving the credit became the 80% denied.
After repeated Conservative challenges in question period, 58% were subsequently reapproved. However, 42% of them were later denied again, and without notice. The reason the Liberals were so keen to refuse people with diabetes from getting the disability tax credit was that one needs to qualify for the tax credit before one can access the disability pension. Of the folks with type 2 diabetes who were denied the DTC, many had $150,000 accumulated in their pension plan that the Liberals were attempting to claw back. This is unacceptable. The Liberals' out-of-control spending caused them to attempt to victimize the disabled. It is important to support people living with diabetes by making their lives more affordable.
While Conservatives support the proposal to make November diabetes awareness month, we know that Canadians need more than the Liberals' proposed lip service that “a month of recognition” would provide. Canadians living with diabetes need tangible solutions and plans for themselves, their families and loved ones who are suffering from the various variations of this disease. Canadians expect us to be a leader in diabetes awareness, but this will not happen through photo ops and self-congratulation; it will happen only when real solutions, like the diabetes 360° plan, are implemented.
The $150 million requested by Diabetes Canada will save $20 billion in prevention alone, with 770,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 245,000 fewer hospitalizations for diabetes and an estimated 34,000 fewer lower limb amputations because of this terrible disease. That is a real-world solution that makes common sense.
In conclusion, I believe it is time that the government step up and do what is right and fully implement the plan, as the health committee recommended. Canadians expect the current government to do better. While we will support the motion before us today, we call on the Liberal government to stand up and do the right thing for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians suffering from diabetes.