Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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Gregory Taylor
View Gregory Taylor Profile
Gregory Taylor
2014-11-19 16:51
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you for giving me an opportunity to discuss with you the amendment to the Public Health Agency of Canada Act—which is presented in Bill C-43—and my role as Chief Public Health Officer of the Public Health Agency of Canada.
As you know, that amendment aims to redefine the role of the chief public health officer so that it would focus exclusively on the public health needs of Canadians. This amendment also aims to create a position of president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, who would be in charge of managing the agency.
I strongly support this amendment. My unique journey has allowed me to gain a lot of experience and come to this conclusion.
I started my medical career as an M.D. in a private small city practice. As a family physician I experienced the challenges of holding two jobs much like the position of chief public health officer. On one hand I was helping patients improve their health and essentially managing a business on the other, often causing tension between the two.
In the 20 years since, I've held progressive leadership positions in the federal government, specializing in public health, and I've watched the agency grow from a branch of Health Canada to a global leader in public health. Today with an ebola epidemic in the public spotlight, we're reminded why the country needs its leading public health professional to focus exclusively on one major task: public health.
Since the agency's inception, the competencies and experiences to lead national public health issues have grown, as have the skills needed to manage a growing public sector organization. The Public Health Agency of Canada now has over 2,000 employees across the country. It's annual operating budget is over $600 million.
For years now it's been clear to me and my colleagues that the CPHO role must evolve and complement that growth in a way that makes sense. Division 20 of this bill will allow my position to focus on moving Canada forward in public health issues, providing advice directly to the Minister of Health and to Canadians, collaborating with all partners and interacting with multiple key players including the Canadian public. At the same time, a dedicated agency president will provide focused strategic management and corporate leadership for a world-leading, vibrant and strong organization.
The president, as deputy head of the agency, will assume some of the management responsibilities currently assigned to the CPHO including accountabilities for finance, audit, evaluation, staffing, official languages, and access to information and privacy. These are all important functions requiring the attention of a senior leader.
The changes proposed do not diminish the role of the chief public health officer, they enhance it. In essence, they associate internal management and capacity issues with a dedicated agency head and direction on public health issues with the CPHO. It makes good management sense and good public health sense to make these changes.
It's a structure that works well for many provinces and territories, and for countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia. In fact, we've been moving this way as an agency for some time now and have, in fact, adopted this type of management structure since 2012. At that time we began to separate out the roles and responsibilities of the CPHO on an interim basis. My appointment as CPHO on September 24th of this year—the date of the agency's 10th anniversary—reflected the first step needed to move public health forward in Canada.
The next step will ensure we have the right people in the right positions focused on the right tasks for Canadians. I'm very proud of the agency's maturation. The agency has become a world leader in public health, and just as its profile of importance has grown, so have public expectations of our work. We need to enhance our public health connections globally.
After 10 years and many high-profile public health success stories, the agency and the position of chief public health officer are no longer young. We now need to adapt and advance in a way that makes good management and public health sense.
Mr. Chair, committee members, for these reasons I strongly support division 20 of Bill C-43 before you today that will amend the Public Health Agency of Canada Act.
The associate deputy minister and I believe these changes are the right thing to do for the health of Canadians. I thank you for inviting me today.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2014-11-19 17:30
Thank you to the witnesses for coming.
I'd like to ask Dr. Taylor a question. When you confront a public health issue like ebola, are you free to speak out publicly if, as, and when you wish?
Gregory Taylor
View Gregory Taylor Profile
Gregory Taylor
2014-11-19 17:30
I speak very often to the public. I speak to the media. I speak to parliamentarians on a regular basis. I speak very frequently.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2014-11-19 17:31
The reason I ask is that with this new arrangement, with the president and yourself, clause 256 only talks about you providing advice to the minister and the president on public health matters.
Do you consult with the ministry first before you provide advice? Are you free to go out on your own if you wish?
Gregory Taylor
View Gregory Taylor Profile
Gregory Taylor
2014-11-19 17:31
When I'm speaking to Canadians, I'm speaking on behalf of the Public Health Agency. Part of the role of the CPHO has always been speaking to Canadians and that will continue. There's also an annual report, the CPHO report, that goes directly to parliamentarians.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2014-11-19 17:31
I'm familiar with the annual report but this section changes now, and only contemplates speaking and giving advice to the minister. I wasn't sure, do you have a communications protocol or something to confirm your ability to speak independently to the media?
Gregory Taylor
View Gregory Taylor Profile
Gregory Taylor
2014-11-19 17:31
It's advice I give to the minister that goes to the president, the cabinet, and the Prime Minister. Speaking to Canadians is continually a clear role that happens, and as I say, I'm speaking on behalf of the entire agency and oftentimes on behalf of the entire government.
When I'm speaking on behalf of the government, I confer within the agency and confer that we're having the right message consistent with other departments, for example.
Gregory Taylor
View Gregory Taylor Profile
Gregory Taylor
2014-11-19 17:32
No, nothing changes that. I will still be the spokesperson for public health for the federal government.
View James Rajotte Profile
CPC (AB)
Merci, monsieur Caron.
I'll take the start of the next round, and if I have time, I think I'll share with Mr. Allen.
Dr. Taylor, I appreciate your being here, and I appreciate your clarifying it, because I think there were some issues raised about some of the changes. I think there was a lack of clarity with respect to the changes that were here, whether you supported them or not. Some of the commentary seemed to indicate that it would diminish your role, that it would diminish the influence you would have, that it would diminish the advice. I'm glad Mr. Rankin clarified the issue with respect to the fact that you still will be able to speak directly to Canadians. I appreciate that very much.
I just want to ask if you can state clearly again that these changes will not in any way diminish your role as chief public health officer.
Gregory Taylor
View Gregory Taylor Profile
Gregory Taylor
2014-11-19 17:43
Not at all; in fact I report directly to the Minister of Health, so I'm on equal footing with the president. The two of us report, so we now have two people working full time to run the agency and run outbreaks, for example.
If anything, it will enhance the role of the chief public health officer, because I can exclusively focus on ebola, on public health issues, on speaking to Canadians, on international connections, with the provinces and territories.
View Mike Allen Profile
CPC (NB)
Yes, I would, Chair.
I want to follow up with Mr. Taylor with a question specifically referencing your remarks where you said:
...we've been moving this way as an agency for some time now and have, in fact, adopted this type of management structure since 2012. At that time we began to separate out the roles and responsibilities of the CPHO on an interim basis.
Can you comment about the conflict during that two-year period? It sounds to me as if you've been doing some of the administration and everything else. What percentage of your time has been allocated to what we'll call the back-office things, as opposed to the things we really want you to do?
Gregory Taylor
View Gregory Taylor Profile
Gregory Taylor
2014-11-19 17:46
During that period of time, which was precipitated by David Butler-Jones' stroke and his stepping down, Krista Outhwaite continued as the acting deputy head and I was the deputy chief public health officer. So we separated the role and I focused on the content of the CPHO role and she focused on management. In essence we've been functioning like this for the last two and a half years, which I think has been very effective. I think I've been able to focus on a number of issues as the deputy chief public health officer, H5N1, etc., as we've been moving forward.
All this does in the current situation is stratify and formalize that role of the new CPHO.
View Andrew Saxton Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Chair.
I just want to clarify that the chief public health officer is not losing any influence or advising powers when it comes to health issues with regard to division 20.
Sylvain Segard
View Sylvain Segard Profile
Sylvain Segard
2014-11-05 17:38
That is correct. The measure simply separates the authority for management and moves that over to the new president's function, whereas the CPHO will continue to have the same responsibilities and ability to advise directly the minister or Canadians on all matters related to public health.
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