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Results: 1 - 15 of 126
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
Thank you.
Good afternoon, everyone.
Madam Chair and members of the committee, it's a pleasure to be back here to discuss the main estimates for the health portfolio. With me today are Glenda, Krista, Dr. Greg, and James. I believe this is the last appearance for James before this committee. He will be retiring on Friday.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
Hon. Leona Aglukkaq: I'm sure he's quite happy about that, so give him a good time today and don't be too hard on him.
Over the past year, the committee has discussed and considered many of this country's most important health issues. During my last appearance before the committee, in November, I highlighted our government's efforts to reduce the deficit, and our emphasis on protecting the front-line health care services within the health portfolio. I am pleased to report that we have honoured and continue to follow through on these commitments.
Madam Chair, we remain committed to sound financial management. Building on budget 2012 commitments, we are increasing effectiveness and efficiencies across the portfolio. We're reducing redundancies and aligning efforts, where possible. As well, we are focusing on core mandates to help us meet emerging demands and adapt to new realities.
The main estimates for the health portfolio represent a net decrease of $104.9 million over last year. This decrease is mainly due to the savings identified as part of our economic action plan 2012, and sunsetting programs. However, for a more complete picture of the future direction of the health portfolio, we also need to consider the government's investments in health, as outlined within the economic action plan 2013.
As highlighted in economic action plan 2013, our government invests over $2.4 billion annually for first nations and Inuit health, including primary health care for on-reserve communities, as well as non-insured health benefits. On top of this investment, economic action plan 2013 provides $52 million over the next two years to improve access to quality health services for first nations and Inuit. This funding will help expand electronic health services, including telehealth within the remote and isolated first nation communities, and it will expand the number of accredited health care facilities on reserves, as well as mental wellness teams.
The funding is on top of the $90 million in main estimates that will also be dedicated to the continued implementation of both the residential school settlement agreement and the first nations water and wastewater action plan. Once these funds are added in the future supplementary estimates, the health portfolio planned spending for 2013-14 will increase over the 2013 main estimates level.
Our government has once again confirmed that health remains a key federal priority. As confirmed in economic action plan 2013, this government will not balance the books on the backs of the provinces and the territories. We are on a sustainable, long-term track for health transfers to the provinces and the territories that will see funding reach a record high of $30.3 billion this year, and it will continue to grow. This will help ensure health care services are there for Canadian families, when needed.
Federal action on health doesn't stop at annual transfers. The federal government remains the largest single investor in Canadian health innovation, primarily through the grants made by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. We are supporting ongoing health innovation with advanced research through an additional ongoing investment of $15 million per year for Canada's strategy for patient-oriented research. Again, this will help ensure patients are placed at the centre of care.
The federal role in health extends far beyond health care services. This week I delivered a keynote address about how our government is supporting Canadian families. I announced several important new initiatives that demonstrate how we are strengthening the safety of consumer products, food, and drugs.
Today, I would like to echo those remarks in the context of the estimates and our priorities moving forward.
Health Canada is always on the lookout for emerging threats to health. For example, it's clear that some products containing small powerful magnets pose a danger to children. These magnets are found in some novelty sets and some children's toys. If more than one magnet is swallowed in a short period of time, the results can be very serious or even fatal. Under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, Health Canada is taking actions to identify these dangerous products and contacting companies to have the products removed from the marketplace.
Our government wants to make sure that playpens remain safe, which is why Health Canada is proposing to strengthen regulations for playpens, including adding new requirements for playpen accessories, which will result in the application of even higher standards for their construction and safety features.
I also noted this week that the safety of our medication is also of vital importance to Canadians and their families, which is why we're improving safety standards. We're ensuring that hospitals have strong systems in place for reporting adverse drug reactions. We're working with industry to improve drug-naming practices to reduce the number of products that are confused because their names look or sound alike. This will help Canadians to better understand what they're taking and prevent dangerous mix-ups of drugs, particularly among our seniors.
With regard to natural health products, we have listened to the industry and consumers, and we have streamlined our approaches while maintaining safety as our top priority. This means that Canadians will benefit from access to over 60,000 authorized products.
Canadians need to know that the products they buy, use, and eat are subject to strict safety standards. They need to know that their government can detect and correct problems quickly, and they need to know that the information and labelling that they see are helpful and accurate. This is particularly true with food safety. For people with food allergies, for example, proper labelling is essential. Now when people shop for groceries, they will find more straightforward ingredient labels. These labels declare allergens and gluten sources that may not have been disclosed in the past. It's about helping Canadian families to get the information they need to make healthy, safe choices.
In terms of emergency preparedness, we continue to be prepared to respond to a range of public health issues. More recently we have been monitoring events in China related to the H7N9 virus. While the risk to Canadians remains low at this time, we continue to share information with the public, communicate with our public health experts in China, and work in close collaboration with our many partners.
l'm also proud to report that we're expanding our food-borne illness surveillance program, known as C-EnterNet, with a third surveillance site. This is one way we're able to track food-borne illnesses and their sources, and to help prevent diseases from occurring. Through close collaboration between the Public Health Agency, Health Canada, and all our food safety and surveillance partners, we are committed to providing Canadians with the best possible food safety protection.
We've also demonstrated our commitment to protecting families when and where they need it. In partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, we're going where Canadians are, to help ensure safe environments that are both active and healthy. For example, earlier this year Prime Minister Harper announced a four-year initiative to support the installation of automated external defibrillators in hockey arenas across Canada. It's one way we're reaching Canadians in their communities. This is technology that we know works, is easy to use, and can help save lives.
We need to be there for Canadians when they want advice or guidance, and that's why our government is also tapping into the power and reach of social media. HealthyCanadians.gc.ca allows even the busiest parent to stay informed. The latest alert on unsafe products, information on food, and tips on nutrition or quitting smoking are all on the HealthyCanadians site, as a one-stop shop.
Madam Chair, families, and all Canadians, want their government to be that kind of a partner in their health—not to lecture them, not to interfere in their daily lives, but to be there when they need it, to make sound policy decisions based on solid research, and to provide practical and clear advice as the world around them changes.
Today l've outlined some of the ways we're partnering with families across the country. As we look to the year ahead, l'd like to thank all members for their hard work and their shared commitment to Canadians.
I would be happy to take your questions this afternoon.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
The Health Council of Canada was established under the accord. The 10 years will expire this coming year, and that will be the end of that council.
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
Oh, the interpreter made a....
The Canada Health Act? Absolutely.
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
The provinces and the territories deliver health care. Under the Canada Health Act, the federal government provides health transfers to the provinces and the territories. Each of these governments makes the determination in terms of its own priorities on where it wants to spend health care funding, based on its own needs.
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
Madam Chair, that is a question for the provincial and territorial health ministers, in terms of how they deliver their health care.
In terms of our obligations under the Canada Health Act, we provide transfers to the jurisdictions. There are different provincial and territorial governments in place. They are elected, and they make their own determinations in terms of how and where they will spend their health care dollars, based on their own provincial or territorial needs.
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
The Health Council's mandate is to monitor and to report health care renewal commitment under the health accord. The 2004 accord is ending in 2014. It was a 10-year accord.
It makes sense for the government to wind down its funding to the council over the next two years. The government will provide the council with sufficient funding for the completion of the council's mandate, including its final report on progress under the accord.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
I'll start with Health Infoway, Madam Chair. Yes, we'll continue to fund Health Infoway.
I'll ask the deputy to respond to the internal funding allocations.
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
I'm not really clear in terms of which voluntary recall. Can you clarify further? Maybe it didn't come across through the translation.
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
Thank you for that question.
Our government is committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadians, and I have instructed Health Canada's officials to look into the issue and to assess whether the processes were followed and were sufficient within the rules that we do have in place.
In this case, Apotex indicated the recall of one lot, prior to advising Health Canada, based on their own assessment of the health risks. We encourage this with industry, based on their assessments, to do recalls as well. Once Health Canada's risk assessment was conducted, Health Canada immediately posted this information to the Healthy Canadians website.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
Okay.
Our government recognizes that Canadians want to be able to choose from a wide range of safe and effective natural health products, so we have introduced a new approach for NHPs, which enables more efficient processing of applications to increase consumer access to safe and effective products.
Review times for applications are now based on how much we know about each product, relying on the library of information collected from the licensing of over 60,000 natural health products. NHPs about which we know the most are reviewed in a shorter period of time than are those we don't know much about or those that are more complex. So the administrative burden for bringing lower-risk products to the market is reduced. Our target is now to have these applications reviewed in 30 days or less, with the majority of them being done in 10 days.
That means that our efforts can now be focused on the lesser known or more complex products. The target in that area is to have those reviews completed in 180 days or less. Ultimately the improvements have provided a stable and predictable approach to the industry, and these changes are having a very positive impact. The new approach played a key role in eliminating the backlog of over 10,000 NHPs, so we are making huge progress in processing those NHP applications in Health Canada.
Thank you.
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
Infoway and electronic health records are having a positive impact in many of the remote, isolated communities in Canada. I'm a big believer that we need to start looking at technology, e-health, or Infoway to address getting better services into our remote, isolated communities.
How can we use telehealth, for instance, to provide mental health counselling to individuals who require assistance or support that may not necessarily be there? There are examples of pilot programs out there through which psychiatrists can provide services to youth who require support. In isolated, remote communities, we're able to do assessments of X-rays and what not from the high Arctic with hospitals, etc.
Going forward, I think this technology has to be an integral part of our discussion in terms of how we are going to improve primary health care services, particularly in the most isolated communities in Canada.
That was a great question. Thank you.
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
The good thing about this one, for us in Health, is that there is long-term stable funding for transfers to provinces and territories, first of all. The second is in our primary responsibility, which is first nations' health. We have the budget for long-term predictable funding in this area. We have resources to provide more innovative services to first nations within that—accreditation is an example. Those, I think, are the highlights for us—a long-term stable area.
Other areas relate to better integration of our own services within the Public Health Agency and Health Canada, and in how we can better collaborate and work with similar resources internally, cutting down some of the red tape to provide better services. We've been able to make some improvements in that—in reducing red tape in processing applications, as an example.
So there are a number of great investments in health care.
At the same time, I think it has been very well received by the provinces and territories that they have long-term, stable, predictable funding that allows each jurisdiction to provide their own investments in areas of their priorities.
The other area is research. We have research funding. CIHR is providing funding to more than 10,000 research projects in our communities. That will also be very helpful in addressing some of the challenges we have in health care, particularly around tuberculosis. As an example, the pathways to health equity program is to basically bridge the health gaps between aboriginal people and the rest of Canadians. That program focuses on areas such as obesity, diabetes, oral health, suicide, and mental health, as well as tuberculosis.
This is the first time research investments are being made in partnership with aboriginal people. One key element that has changed is that we're not approving research projects in which aboriginal people are being studied from afar. It requires a partnership of health care researchers partnering with aboriginal people on the ground, so that we can bridge between traditional knowledge and modern medicine in how we address some of those challenges.
That area is very exciting, and it's new. I look forward to making some announcements around some of the proposals that are coming forward.
Thank you.
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
On the issue of tobacco, Canada is a world leader in tobacco control impact. According to recent reports by the Canadian Cancer Society, Canada's world ranking for cigarette package warnings rose to fourth in 2012.
When flavoured little cigars became increasingly popular, we took immediate action in the House of Commons by cracking down on tobacco marketing for children. We'll continue to do that—
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
The new tobacco regulations, which are also requiring health warning messages that are new as well, increase to 75%. This year there is also a pan-Canadian toll-free “quit line”, which we introduced in partnership with the provinces and the territories. Again, that was introduced in the last year.
Our government is quite proud of the record we have related to the rate of tobacco use in Canada, which is currently the lowest ever, at 17%. Only 8% of Canadian youth aged 15 to 17 smoke—another record low. Those are significant results from the investments we have been making.
Thank you.
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