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View Sherry Romanado Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Chair, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to these supplementary estimates and to the health portfolio.
It is no surprise that the supplementary estimates (A), 2020-21, were largely influenced by our government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This unprecedented crisis called for an unprecedented, timely, global and coordinated response. Our government took action on several fronts, but public health was one of our top priorities. The organizations in the health portfolio were instrumental in these efforts.
Early in the crisis, Health Canada responded quickly to support the Government of Canada's response. In total, these initial measures cost more than $9.2 million dollars and included support for specialized health services, drugs and medical devices, and funding for operations and coordination.
Since that time, the department's response has expanded and evolved. One of its top priorities has been keeping Canadians informed and helping them protect themselves during the pandemic. To do this, Health Canada has developed a number of digital tools to provide timely, reliable information to Canadians where and when they need it. This includes the Canada COVID-19 app, which provides up-to-date information on the pandemic, a symptom tracker and a self-assessment tool. It also includes the Wellness Together Canada portal, which links Canadians to mental health and substance use supports.
Innovative tools like these empower Canadians to stay healthy and to stop the spread of COVID-19. Health Canada is requesting a total of $240.5 million in additional funds to support these initiatives.
Right now, there is nothing more important than making sure Canada's health care system has the right tools to fight COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, medication and essential equipment, such as personal protective equipment, have been in high demand around the world. As a regulatory body, Health Canada has found innovative solutions to source and ensure access to these essential supplies.
The department implemented a temporary measure to facilitate access to hand sanitizer, disinfectant and other PPE. In addition, the Minister of Health signed a number of emergency orders that facilitated access to tests, drugs and medical supplies.
Health Canada will continue to take measures like these if necessary, to ensure that Canada has the drugs and medical equipment it needs to fight the pandemic. The department will also continue to do the operational work needed to coordinate our COVID-19 response.
In total, Health Canada is requesting $12.8 billion in additional funding for this work.
Of course, even during the pandemic, Health Canada continues to carry out its regular activities, as it works to protect the health of Canadians. That includes supporting medical research. As part of these supplementary estimates, Health Canada is requesting more than $15 million for the Terry Fox Research Institute and Ovarian Cancer Canada. This investment will advance precision medicine in cancer, including ovarian cancer, for which there is still no reliable screening test and no vaccine to prevent it, even though it has the lowest survival rate of all other cancers in women, a fact that my family unfortunately knows too well.
The department is also requesting an additional $1.5 million to support a safe and non-discriminatory approach to plasma donation. Specifically, this funding will go toward research on reducing barriers to plasma donation by men who have sex with men.
Altogether, these supplementary estimates will increase Health Canada's statutory spending forecast by $262.6 million and its voted spending authorities by $16.6 million.
I will now turn to the Public Health Agency of Canada, or PHAC.
As members will recall, on March 11, the Prime Minister outlined Canada's whole-of-government response to COVID-19 by establishing the COVID-19 response fund.
As the agency responsible for preparing for and responding to public health emergencies, PHAC has played a key role in this response. As such, these supplementary estimates increase PHAC's statutory spending forecast by $2.3 billion and its voted spending authorities by $42.3 million. Of this, $177.1 million will support PHAC's early work to respond to COVID-19. This includes the immediate public health response and the acquisition of supplies for the provinces and territories. It also includes support for communication and public education initiatives.
An additional $74.7 million will be allocated to a more long-term response to the pandemic, which includes isolating travellers entering the country and strengthening the testing capacity of the National Microbiology Laboratory. Furthermore, $7.5 million will be allocated to the Kids Help Phone, which is providing mental health support to young Canadians during this difficult time. The Public Health Agency of Canada is also asking for $1.8 billion to procure protective gear and medical equipment.
With regard to the new funding, PHAC is asking for support to prepare for future pandemic-related challenges. For example, $37 million will be used to establish a Canadian supply of respirators and surgical masks. An additional $5 million will be allocated to the national medical research strategy. This initiative includes COVID-19 tracking and testing and the development of vaccines and treatments. It also includes strengthening Canada's capabilities in biomanufacturing, vaccine research and clinical trials, in co-operation with Health Canada; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; the National Research Council of Canada; and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Of course, the effects of COVID-19 are not limited to health care. This pandemic has had an impact on almost every aspect of our society. That includes the agri-food industry, which is dealing with unique pressures.
Throughout this crisis, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, or CFIA, has been working diligently to protect the integrity of the food system to ensure that Canadians continue to have access to safe, high-quality foods. These supplementary estimates include just under $20 million in additional funding for the CFIA to carry out this important work. For example, the CFIA has been increasing the number of inspectors, reassigning staff to high-priority areas and finding innovative ways to conduct remote inspections.
As the organization responsible for supporting critical research to inform governments' actions in public health crises such as COVID-19, CIHR is receiving over $151 million in 2020-21 from the fiscal framework for COVID-19-related initiatives. Of this amount, over $147 million is being funded through these supplementary estimates, while CIHR is also allocating close to $4 million of existing funding. Following the Prime Minister's announcement of March 11, and in partnership with a number of provinces, CIHR was able to invest an additional $25.8 million in 53 more research grants.
We understood that we needed to do more to guarantee the best health outcomes for all Canadians dealing with the pandemic. That is why, on April 23, the Prime Minister announced additional funding for a solid research plan, a response to the pandemic and health emergencies.
Almost overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we live our lives and put exceptional demands on our health care system and institutions. It is a challenge unlike any we have seen in our lifetime, but together we are rising to meet it. It has never been more important for us to work together as a government and as a country.
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