Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Rona Ambrose Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee. I want to thank all of you for the work you do on the health committee. I know many of you are passionate about the issues of health, and I thank you for your commitment to that.
I'm joined by Simon Kennedy, Health Canada's new deputy minister; Krista Outhwaite, our newly appointed president of the Public Health Agency of Canada; and Dr. Gregory Taylor, whom you've met before, Canada's chief public health officer. I know he'll be here for the second half. You might want to ask him about his trip to Guinea and Sierra Leone to visit our troops and others who are working on the front dealing with Ebola. I'm sure he'll have some great things to share with you.
Michel Perron is here on behalf of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He's also new. Last time I know you met Dr. Alain Beaudet.
We also have Dr. Bruce Archibald, who's the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. I think you've met Bruce as well.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to start by sharing an update on some of the key issues that we've been working on recently. I'll begin by talking about Canada's health care system, the pressures it's facing, and the opportunities for improvement through innovation. I will then highlight some recent activities on priority issues such as family violence and the safety of drugs in food.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Canada spent around $215 billion on health care just in 2014. Provinces and territories, which are responsible for the delivery of health care to Canadians, are working very hard to ensure their systems continue to meet the needs of Canadians, but with an aging population, chronic disease, and economic uncertainty, the job of financing and delivering quality care is not getting easier.
Our government continues to be a strong partner for the provinces and territories when it comes to record transfer dollars. Since 2006, federal health transfers have increased by almost 70% and are on track to increase from $34 billion this year to more than $40 billion annually by the end of the decade—an all-time high.
This ongoing federal investment in healthcare is providing provinces and territories with the financial predictability and flexibility they need to respond to the priorities and pressures within their jurisdictions.
In addition of course, federal support for health research through the CIHR as well as targeted investments in areas such as mental health, cancer prevention, and patient safety are helping to improve the accessibility and quality of health care for Canadians.
But to build on the record transfers and the targeted investments I just mentioned, we're also taking a number of other measures to improve the health of Canadians and reduce pressure on the health care system. To date we've leveraged over $27 million in private sector investments to advance healthy living partnerships. I'm very pleased with the momentum we've seen across Canada.
Last year we launched the play exchange, in collaboration with Canadian Tire, LIFT Philanthropy Partners, and the CBC, to find the best ideas that would encourage Canadians to live healthier and active lives. We announced the winning idea in January: the Canadian Cancer Society of Quebec and their idea called “trottibus”, which is a walking school bus. This is an innovative program that gives elementary schoolchildren a safe and fun way to get to school while being active. Trottibus is going to receive $1 million in funding from the federal government to launch their great idea across the country.
Other social innovation projects are encouraging all children to get active early in life so that we can make some real headway in terms of preventing chronic diseases, obesity, and other health issues. We're also supporting health care innovation through investments from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In fact our government now is the single-largest contributor to health research in Canada, investing roughly $1 billion every year.
Since its launch in 2011, the strategy for patient-oriented research has been working to bring improvements from the latest research straight to the bedsides of patients. I was pleased to see that budget 2015 provided additional funds so that we can build on this success, including an important partnership with the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement.
Canadians benefit from a health system that provides access to high-quality care and supports good health outcomes, but we can't afford to be complacent in the face of an aging society, changing technology, and new economic and fiscal realities. That is why we have been committed to supporting innovation that improves the quality and affordability of health care.
As you know, the advisory panel on health care innovation that I launched last June has spent the last 10 months exploring the top areas of innovation in Canada and abroad with the goal of identifying how the federal government can support those ideas that hold the greatest promise. The panel has now met with more than 500 individuals including patients, families, business leaders, economists, and researchers. As we speak, the panel is busy analyzing what they've heard, and I look forward to receiving their final report in June.
I'd also like to talk about another issue. It's one that does not receive the attention that it deserves as a pressing public health concern, and that's family violence. Family violence has undeniable impacts on the health of the women, children, and even men, who are victimized. There are also very significant impacts on our health care and justice systems.
Family violence can lead to chronic pain and disease, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, self-harm, and many other serious and lifelong afflictions for its victims. That's why this past winter I was pleased to announce a federal investment of $100 million over 10 years to help address family violence and support the health of victims of violence. This investment will support health professionals and community organizations in improving the physical and mental health of victims of violence, and help stop intergenerational cycles of violence.
In addition to our efforts to address family violence and support innovation to improve the sustainability of the health care system, we have made significant progress on a number of key drug safety issues. Canadians want and deserve to depend on and trust the care they receive. To that end, I'd like to thank the committee for its thoughtful study of our government's signature patient safety legislation, Vanessa's Law. Building on the consultations that we held with Canadians prior to its introduction, this committee's careful review of Vanessa's Law, including the helpful amendments that were brought forward by MP Young, served to strengthen the bill and will improve the transparency that Canadians expect.
Vanessa's Law, as you know, introduces the most significant improvements to drug safety in Canada in more than 50 years. It allows me, as minister, to recall unsafe drugs and to impose tough new penalties, including jail time and fines up to $5 million per day, instead of what is the current $5,000 a day. It also compels drug companies to do further testing and revise labels in plain language to clearly reflect health risk information, including updates for health warnings for children. It will also enhance surveillance by requiring mandatory adverse drug reaction reporting by health care institutions, and requires new transparency for Health Canada's regulatory decisions about drug approvals.
To ensure the new transparency powers are providing the kind of information that Canadian families and researchers are looking for, we've also just launched further consultations asking about the types of information that are most useful to improve drug safety. Beyond the improvements in Vanessa's Law, we're making great progress and increasing transparency through Health Canada's regulatory transparency and openness framework. In addition to posting summaries of drug safety reviews that patients and medical professionals can use to make informed decisions, we are now also publishing more detailed inspection information on companies and facilities that make drugs. This includes inspection dates, licence status, types of risks observed, and measures that are taken by Health Canada. Patients can also check Health Canada's clinical trials database to determine if a trial they are interested in has met regulatory requirements.
Another priority of mine is tackling the issue of drug abuse and addiction in Canada. There's no question that addiction to dangerous drugs has a devastating and widespread impact on Canadian families and communities. In line with recommendations from this committee, I am pleased that the marketing campaign launched last fall by Health Canada is helping parents talk with their teenagers about the dangers of smoking marijuana and prescription drug abuse. The campaign addresses both of those things, because too many of our young people are abusing drugs that are meant to heal them.
Our government also recognizes that those struggling with drug addictions need help to recover a drug-free life. From a federal perspective, of course, we provide assistance for prevention and treatment projects under our national anti-drug strategy. We've now committed over $44 million to expand the strategy to include prescription drug abuse and are continuing to work with the provinces to improve drug treatment.
I've now met and will continue to meet with physicians, pharmacists, first nations, law enforcement, addictions specialists, medical experts, and of course parents to discuss how we can collectively tackle prescription drug abuse.
Finally, our government continues to make very real investments to strengthen our food safety system. As only the latest example, I recently announced a five-year investment of more than $30 million in the CFIA's new food safety information network. Through this modern network, food safety experts will be better connected, and laboratories will be able to share urgently needed surveillance information and food safety data, using a secure web platform. This will put us in an even better position to protect Canadians from food safety risk by improving our ability to actually anticipate, detect, and then effectively deal with food safety issues. This investment will continue to build on the record levels of funding we've already provided, as well as the improved powers such as tougher penalties, enhanced controls on E. coli, new meat labelling requirements, and improved inspection oversight.
In conclusion, those are just some of the priorities that will be supported through the funding our government has allocated to the Health portfolio. This year's main estimates, notably, include investments for first nations health, for our ongoing contribution to the international response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and the key research and food safety investments that I have already mentioned.
I'll leave it at that. If committee members have any questions, my officials and I would be very pleased to answer them. Thank you.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2015-05-07 15:46
I appreciate that.
As you speak of transparency, that takes me to Vanessa's Law, to which you made reference earlier.
Toronto doctor, Nav Persaud, made an information request to Health Canada to get clinical trials on a pregnancy drug, an anti-nausea drug called Diclectin. He tried that three and a half years ago. He finally got 359 pages, 212 of which were completely redacted or censored.
In March, after Vanessa's Law came in, he resubmitted the request for all of the 359 pages, and so far has been given nothing. I got that as recently as two days ago in a letter. The clinical trial data was something that was to be made available, as I understood it, under Vanessa's Law. His experience has been entirely frustrating.
View Rona Ambrose Profile
CPC (AB)
I sympathize with his experience.
Under Vanessa's Law, the intention is to make clinical trial information available, but still to some extent—and for legal reasons obviously—protect confidential business information. Our intention under Vanessa's Law—and it's my belief—is that we should be sharing as much as we possibly can.
On that specific one, I think that's still under way, but I know Simon is working on that.
Simon Kennedy
View Simon Kennedy Profile
Simon Kennedy
2015-05-07 15:48
Thanks, Minister.
On this particular case, the original submission was made under the access to information rules. The ministry is obliged to apply the access law, which does require a number of exemptions for business information and so on.
With new authorities under Vanessa's Law, there is this other avenue we can use to make information available where there is a health or safety threat. We've spoken to the researcher in question, and we sent him a fairly detailed letter to explain the process to make an application under Vanessa's Law. That conversation is going on and our hope would be to be able to move through that avenue to deal with the issue.
View David Wilks Profile
CPC (BC)
Thanks, Chair.
I just have a couple of questions both related to the same topic, one for Health Canada officials and then one to CIHR. They both are with regard to electronic cigarettes. As you know, this committee carried out a study of electronic cigarettes and made a number of recommendations on which the minister is moving forward, including that the Government of Canada establish a new legislative framework for regulating electronic cigarettes and related devices.
Has any of the $26.5 million in planned spending for the tobacco program been identified for developing a legislative framework toward this initiative?
Simon Kennedy
View Simon Kennedy Profile
Simon Kennedy
2015-05-07 17:06
Mr. Chair, on the issue of electronic cigarettes, this is something the department is looking at quite carefully. We're grateful actually for the work of the committee and all of the consultations that were done and the recommendations. We've been examining those quite carefully.
At this point I would say we have not dedicated specific funds to that work because we have policy staff, and analysts and so on, who are busy doing that work, but there hasn't been a necessity of, for example, hiring additional staff or setting up a dedicated office. We have specialists who look at these kinds of issues all the time who are actually doing that work.
Depending on the ultimate decision of the government in terms of how to move forward on this, it's entirely possible we would need to make budget decisions to reallocate resources. But when it comes to the policy development work, and the assessment of the work of this committee, and to develop a government response, that doesn't require the movement of money budgetarily. We're able to handle that within our existing resources.
Simon Kennedy
View Simon Kennedy Profile
Simon Kennedy
2015-05-07 17:07
I want to assure the member there's a lot of work going on to come back with a response.
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2015-05-07 17:17
Thank you very much.
I'd like to split my time with Mr. Young. First, I wanted to express my appreciation to Health Canada for all the work you've done over the years for natural health products and the world-class regulatory system.
As you may know, I still work as the minister's...part of the committee for traditional Chinese medicine. With many more Canadians today coming from Asia, looking to have the traditional Chinese medicines they're used to taking, could you explain the work you're doing with traditional Chinese medicine? What approach are you taking with traditional Chinese medicine and what kinds of innovations are you working with to make these products available to Canadians?
Paul Glover
View Paul Glover Profile
Paul Glover
2015-05-07 17:18
Thank you for the member's question.
It is absolutely correct that, increasingly, Canadians are turning to alternatives like traditional Chinese medicine. There are a number of steps the department is taking. First and foremost among them is that, under the leadership of the minister and others, an advisory committee provides advice to the department on an ongoing basis with respect to the regulation of traditional Chinese medicines, the challenges the community has faced in terms of bringing these products into the country, the practice of traditional Chinese medicine, some of the issues related to that, claims around the products, and all of those sorts of things.
We've been working closely with the Chinese government. It has been very generous in providing traditional pharmacopoeias about the different herbs and substances, and how they have traditionally been used in China, to make sure that practitioners making claims about those herbs are in line with their historic use and use patterns so there is an alignment between what is happening in this country, where these herbs come from—the medicines—and how they have long been used. Those are some examples of the range of things we are doing to work closely with that community to make sure that they understand their obligations when bringing these medicines and herbs into the country. We have a quick and efficient way to understand what it is they're proposing and see if that aligns with the traditional uses from their origins.
View Ben Lobb Profile
CPC (ON)
View Ben Lobb Profile
2015-05-07 17:23
Thank you very much.
This is going to conclude the question and answer portion of our meeting. We have one final task that we need to do. We have to vote on the main estimates. We've received unanimous consent among the three parties. What we're going to be able to do is lump our questions all together in one, and that will save us a little time.
Shall votes 1 and 5 under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, votes 1 and 5 under the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, votes 1, 5, and 10 under Health, and vote 1 under the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, less the amount approved in interim supply carry?
Mr. Murray Rankin: Is this a recorded vote?
The Chair: Yes, it's recorded.
CANADIAN FOOD INSPECTION AGENCY
Vote 1—Operating expenditures and contributions..........$537,749,431
Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$25,783,194
(Votes 1 and 5 agreed to: yeas 5; nays 4)
CANADIAN INSTITUTES OF HEALTH RESEARCH
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$47,463,563
Vote 5—The grants listed in the Estimates..........$955,287,128
(Votes 1 and 5 agreed to: yeas 5; nays 4)
HEALTH
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$1,777,987,439
Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$28,035,364
Vote 10—The grants listed in the Estimates and contributions..........$1,678,425,178
(Votes 1, 5, and 10 agreed to: yeas 5; nays 4)
PATENTED MEDICINE PRICES REVIEW BOARD
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$9,947,595
(Vote 1 agreed to: yeas 5; nays 4)
Results: 1 - 10 of 10