Mr. Speaker, I will keep that very much in mind.
First and foremost, this is my first opportunity to rise and address the House as a member of the 39th Parliament. I would like to take a moment to thank the people of St. Catharines and all those who worked so tirelessly in our community to allow me the opportunity to represent St. Catharines in the House of Commons.
It is a pleasure to rise and speak to this piece of legislation, one designed to improve public health in this country. The health care of our citizens, and particularly the people of St. Catharines, is an issue near and dear to my heart.
Members may know that my community is currently in the process of securing the construction of a new hospital. This hospital is planned to include a regional cancer centre and this new facility would provide state of the art health care for thousands of people in my community and allow newborns, such as Isaiah Thomas Dykstra, to get their lives started out on the right foot.
Of course we are not here this afternoon just to talk about new hospitals or the need for more family doctors. I am sure I will have plenty of time to address these issues in future debates.
As we indicated in our Speech from the Throne, our new government is committed to building a better country. We need a stronger federation in which governments at all levels come together to help Canadians realize their full potential. This includes working with the provinces and territories to protect and promote the health care of Canadians. This is why Bill C-5 is about taking action. It is a critical step in our new government's effort to promote and protect the health of Canadians.
My riding of St. Catharines is very close to our border with the United States. In 2003 when we were faced with the SARS outbreak, I watched at first hand the impact it had on the province of Ontario. As a Niagara parks commissioner, I saw the parks commission fall into a deficit position for the first time since World War II. The deficit was directly on account of the slowdown in tourism resulting from SARS. This speaks to more than just a financial deficit. It speaks to a deficit motivated by fear. That deficit represented the belief of many Canadians and Americans alike that their health and well-being were at risk.
What Bill C-5 represents is what we have learned. We have learned that we must be prepared to assist Canadians in the worst of times and we must be able to provide the international community with the assurance that we are able to protect the health and well-being of our citizens.
Providing a statutory foundation will give the agency and its Chief Public Health Officer parliamentary recognition. Dealing with health care and its issues is as old as our country itself. In 1867, Parliament was granted exclusive jurisdiction over quarantine and marine hospitals, while the provinces were granted exclusive jurisdiction over the establishment, maintenance and management of hospitals. Since that time, the federal government has had responsibility for quarantine at our borders and over the management of infectious disease outbreaks. This power has two branches: an emergency branch and a national dimensions branch.
This history has helped lead us to Bill C-5, a bill that allows for the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the confirmation of a Chief Public Health Officer. Our Minister of Health understands that. The minister witnessed the SARS tragedy at first hand and he understands the importance of granting the Chief Public Health Officer the authority to communicate directly with the public. The public health officer must be able to provide the public with information about public health, including enduring a health emergency. In my eyes, this is a key component of Bill C-5.
We all know that diseases do not respect borders. Therefore, it is imperative that our lines of communication be open, not only within our own borders but with our colleagues in other countries, including countries such as Australia and the U.K., which already have a chief medical officer in place.
In response and leading up to that, we are moving forward with Bill C-5, which is not only a measure to improve our ability to protect the health and well-being of Canadians, but a measure to show our neighbours and people throughout the global community that we understand the serious nature of public health threats as they exist in today's world. I can confirm that our new government is prepared to take the action necessary to protect our people and those who visit our country.
This notion of borders brings me to another interesting component of Bill C-5. As many hon. members will know, the Canadian health agency currently maintains the national emergency stockpile system. This system provides emergency supplies quickly to provinces and territories, including the necessary pharmaceuticals.
I feel I should take this opportunity to recognize the ongoing efforts of a small pharmaceutical company in my riding that is working tirelessly to break down the borders and help fulfill this mandate in the event of a flu pandemic. A small company by the name of Biolyse Pharma has been working tirelessly to develop a drug equivalent to Tamiflu in order to combat the avian flu. There are companies such as Biolyse that face many challenges, but their efforts should be commended across the country. I look forward to working with them.
I would like to make one final point. This bill is representative of what our new government is all about. It is focused, it is direct, and it does what it is supposed to do. Bill C-5 contains only a preamble and 24 clauses, but it is focused on protecting the health and well-being of Canadians. It delivers what Canadians expect: a stronger, safer and more secure health care system.