Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, vice-chairs, and members of the committee, it's an honour to be here today to present my private member's bill, along with my fellow colleague, the member for Don Valley West, Mr. Rob Oliphant.
Bill C-233, is an act respecting a national strategy for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. This bill calls upon parliamentarians to enact legislation for a national coordinated strategy for what has been termed Canada's invisible killer. Alzheimer's and dementia are major health problems that transcend partisanship and are affecting a staggering number of Canadians currently. I believe you have heard that 740,000 Canadians currently suffer from Alzheimer's, and ever more concerning is the fact that this number is expected to double in the next 20 years.
This is why I believe Canada needs to have a plan. I'm certain Mr. Oliphant will touch upon his experiences with Alzheimer's and dementia when he speaks, so I would like to take a moment to note the work on this topic by a former member of Parliament, Claude Gravelle. It's most heartening to know that in matters of concern to Canadians and their families, MPs can work together across party lines to unite and advocate for research, collaboration, and partnership, to find cures, timely diagnoses, and other support for treatment. This co-operation will lead to positive outcomes for Canadians who suffer from Alzheimer's and dementia, and will reassure their loved ones that people who are suffering from this will have the proper care. Canadians expect that their parliamentarians will work on their behalf to resolve these critical issues.
The impact on families whose loved ones are suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia is extensive. Three out of four Canadians know someone living with dementia. I can't tell you how many people have approached me over the last couple of months to tell me the stories they have experienced within their families. This not only takes an emotional, psychological, and physical toll on those who are providing support for loved ones, but it also has a severe financial effect.
In 2011, caregivers provided 444 million hours of care, representing $11 billion in lost income, and about 230,000 full-time jobs. By 2040, caregivers will be providing 1.2 billion hours of care, over two and a half times the number of hours they provide today.
Alzheimer's and dementia are no respecters of people as they rob them of their dignity, independence, memory, and time. They know no bounds and are not restricted to social or economic factors. No one is immune to these terrible diseases and the suffering that follows.
It brings to mind the late United States President Ronald Reagan. The former leader of one of the most powerful and wealthy nations on earth could not be safeguarded from the ravages of Alzheimer's. On November 5, 1994, I remember him as the 40th president of the United States, addressing the American people by writing, in part, “I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.” That journey took 10 slow and painful years. His loving wife Nancy referred to it as the long goodbye.
Far too many Canadians endure the long goodbye. My own father, who I cherished, passed away from complications due to Alzheimer's, and I am joined by many who have dealt with or are dealing with a loved one suffering from one of the various forms of Alzheimer's and dementia. Again, we know that this is going to increase.
The bill I have put before you, first of all, proposes to establish a round table to receive input from all Canadians. It would develop a national strategy, while ensuring the autonomy of the provinces remains intact. Second, it would encourage greater investment in all areas related to Alzheimer's and dementia, in addition to coordinating with international bodies to fight against the disease. Third, it would seek the assistance of the provinces in developing and disseminating diagnostic and treatment guidelines based on new research. All of these measures have been thoroughly considered to ensure the successful passage of this legislation.
Importantly, please note that this bill does not restrict timelines or financial criteria. This is a deliberate intention to remove potential barriers, such as the need for a royal recommendation. Simply put, this bill is crafted for implementation, achievement of deliverables and, ultimately, resilience at third reading. The objective is to enact legislation that would provide solutions to assist those who suffer from Alzheimer's and dementia, and to aid family members and caregivers.
The World Dementia Council was created by the G8 in 2013 as a global coordinating movement against Alzheimer's and other dementias. It's trying to harmonize those efforts and bring together global know-how.
Canada, along with its G8 partners, had convened a meeting in London, England, in December 2013. The sole purpose of that meeting was to provide a structure for a worldwide response to this crisis. It was the first time that the G8 countries had gathered together to address a health care issue. It's clear that Canada has already agreed to work with our partners to address Alzheimer's.
In order to fulfill this mandate, we have to develop similar programs here at home. Bill C-233 would help achieve this outcome through the national strategy. I would reiterate that Bill C-233 would respect the health care accountability of each province. I was very careful in the drafting of this bill to ensure that it does not require a royal recommendation.
I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge and thank the Alzheimer Society of Canada for their unwavering support of this bill. Their mandate and the objective of this bill closely align and support one another. The Alzheimer Society stated that it was pleased to see political parties working together to address dementia. It urged all members of Parliament to get behind this bill, suggesting that a national strategy focusing on research, prevention, and improved care is the only solution to tackling the impact of this disease.
I believe that support for this bill is the right thing. Alzheimer's and other dementias are major health issues that impact hundreds of thousands of Canadians, and it is a problem that is growing every day. Canada needs a strategy now, so Canadians can be prepared to take on this health crisis in the future.
Thank you for your support.
I'd like to now turn it over to my colleague, Robert Oliphant.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Make sure that's part of the record.
Voices: Oh, oh!
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Let me start off.
I'm supportive of any measures that change the Income Tax Act, quite frankly, in terms of giving credit to people who take time off to look after family members. There have been steps in that direction, and I'd certainly welcome anything further, because these things do take a great toll on families. That's one of the things that has impressed me. In fact, one of the witnesses you had here, I believe yesterday, Tanya Levesque, talked about how much time she has had to devote. What happens is that it becomes, quite frankly, a full-time job for the people who are the spouses of the individuals who are suffering from this. They need care all the time. I set out in my opening remarks the amount of time it takes health care workers when people end up in these facilities.
I'm hoping, and it's a sincere hope, that some day we will solve this, that we will get a cure for Alzheimer's, that we can do this, but it's not going to be done unless there is coordinated research into this. I'm hoping that a bill such as this would help that interchange, that exchange of information.
My colleague Mr. Oliphant spoke about the model they've instituted in his area of Toronto with respect to the treatment of people. This is exactly the kind of information we want to share. I believe that bringing together an advisory council as set out in this bill would be a step in that direction.
Thank you.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
One of the things about this is that it does not take up all the time, efforts or resources of the health minister. We're not demanding that of the minister. I know the ministers of health, whether provincial or federal, have a huge number of things. It's set out in a way where the committee is brought together a couple of times a year, and then with a clause to revisit the whole idea.
When I thought about this area of Alzheimer's and had the opportunity to look at it, I saw there was a gap in this area. It's something where, even 30 years ago, if you started talking about this, I don't know how aware I was, or anybody was, of these things. This has grown exponentially. I read in the last number of months, prior to introducing this bill, that this thing is going to be doubling. With the aging population in Canada, age is one of the criteria that you would look at, but quite frankly, it's independent of aging. We all know people who, in their forties or fifties, have Alzheimer's. I thought it would be good that we focus on this particular disease. Again, if you look at it carefully, it's not taking up all the minister's time. I think it's well worth the resources and the time.
Mr. Oliphant.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Dementia is included, but the focus of the bill is Alzheimer's. That's the bill, because, again, from what I have read on this—and I've experienced it for quite a number of years, and I've done quite a bit of research in the last six months or so—it seems to me this is something we could someday be able to cure to really make a difference. I'd like the focus to be on Alzheimer's, but of course there are other dementias, and this is a component of that. Those are my thoughts on it.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Webber, thank you for your interest in this.
This bill was unanimously supported by Parliament at second reading. As you know, that's when bills are substantially supported or not supported. I was very grateful at the time that this received the support of every single member of the House of Commons. That's what you're dealing with here, number one.
My intention was to focus this on Alzheimer's because of my belief that someday we will get a cure for this, but there should be a coordination between all those who want to do something about this disease and want to find a cure and for all those who want to care for people who are suffering from disease.
My colleague Mr. Oliphant made a very good point. If there are good practices somewhere, then let's share those.
I remember when I was a regional councillor. When we had seniors homes in the region of Niagara, they kept learning from the previous ones that were built, and they shared information. It was fascinating and heartwarming for me to see that, as each one got built in Niagara, they kept building on what they had learned or what they had heard on the best way to treat.
To the extent that we do anything to coordinate that and bring together these good ideas, we are further ahead on this. I don't want this to get lost by including all diseases. Do you know what I mean? I'd like to solve all health diseases; everyone would. But I like the focus, and I believe the focus of the bill, as it was passed by Parliament at second reading, is on Alzheimer's and other dementias.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
It's hard to say. In an effort to shorten my comments, I didn't get into all that.
I think there is a greater awareness. It's not just the G8. I think I mentioned the United Nations, in terms of kind of coordinating this information. It's a greater realization of the globalization of this world that we have to share this information, that we are not alone on any of these issues here. If you go back 50 or 70 years, research was done exclusively and it wasn't shared. There's a greater realization today, and I think it's a step in the right direction that we share information. Again, it's a function of the globalization of the world. It's what we have to do. It benefits all of us.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
I'm hoping.... We want to solve all these different issues, but I've come to the conclusion that if it is one of the focuses of governments and government coordination and internationally on Alzheimer's, we can and will make a substantial difference with respect to this particular disease. Those are my thoughts on it.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
I thought about this, as I say, about six months ago, and I remembered the bill because.... I started reading about the problems with Alzheimer's and indeed other dementias while I experienced this in my own family. When I looked at it, I thought the bill we had before Parliament would have required a royal recommendation. That was what we heard at the time. That means it wouldn't have gone forward.
The other problem with it was in regard to the timelines. If you'll notice, in mine I made it that the minister will convene a meeting within a 180 days, within six months, basically. I thought that was more realistic than a statute requiring the minister to move on this thing in several weeks. I didn't think that was realistic. Plus the feedback that I received at the time was that a royal recommendation would be needed; therefore, it wasn't going to proceed.
That being said, when I thought about it, I thought okay, if we can modify it, modify those challenges, then I believe the bill should be able go forward. My colleague Mr. Oliphant will confirm this. At the time I spoke with him about this, he analyzed the bill just on those counts alone. As it comes before you today, I don't think you've heard anybody say or had any advice that it will need a royal recommendation, because we tried to be very careful. I believe the timelines are very realistic.
At the same time, the overall concept of getting into this area, on every occasion, I have mentioned Mr. Gravelle. When I have spoken to people privately, who, as you can probably imagine, have engaged me on this, I have pointed out that this is not the first time Parliament has had a look at this. I hope that it goes forward.
Again, I asked a colleague from another political party to second this bill here. I do want it to be accepted by everyone.
Those are my comments.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
I didn't want to have anything on which the argument could be made. You know what happens on these things. People will make the argument that this is going to require money from the government, that the government is going to have to spend money. I tried to be as careful as possible, because I know there are people across this country who are prepared. You meet them all.
You talked about yourself and your contributions. I've met many people like you in my own constituency of Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Fort Erie who just contribute their time. They're volunteers. They're not in it to be paid. I believe that there are experts who would come together for this.
By putting that in there I hope to avoid the argument that this would need a royal recommendation, because I didn't want to have any technical reason for why something like this would not go ahead.
Those are my reasons.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
The voluntary sector is an inherent part of what this is all about: people who volunteer. We are trying to bring together people who have expertise, and their expertise could be in many ways. We try to be as inclusive as possible with respect to the legislation to bring together this advisory board, and this is a step in the right direction.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Yes, it's there, so it is not restrictive, and indeed the volunteer sector is huge in all aspects of looking after people who suffer from diseases such as this. Again, I use the word “remuneration” specifically, which is—and this is the lawyer in me—the payment for expertise. The expenses of getting to the meeting here, or the hotel over there, are not included in this.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
I'll give you the example of the tax credit for people who look after people. This is another issue and it's good that you raise it, because this is a huge component of it. The individual who acquires this disease suffers, but everyone around him or her suffers as well.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
I want the same thing, of course. It's important that we do focus on Alzheimer's. We know what the statistics are telling us. We know the international attempts to coordinate research into this particular area, and I don't want to lose that by all other good areas of research that we can and should be doing.
I have to make a comment as well about that Senate committee, and the criticism sometimes directed at our colleagues in the Senate. I don't want to digress from what we're talking about here, but they do come up with very good reports. In the different portfolios that I've had over the years, I very much have appreciated all the work that they have done. This is just another example of the kind of good work and good research that they produce.
Thank you.
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