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View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2014-11-27 12:05 [p.9880]
Mr. Speaker, I first want to congratulate the member for Oshawa on his very thoughtful remarks. We are certainly fortunate to have a parliamentary secretary who is so engaged on the topic.
It is impossible to stand today to speak about the thalidomide tragedy and not be moved. It is a story of an unspeakable tragedy of distraught parents, and children born with challenges that most of us cannot begin to comprehend. This is a tragic event from the 1960s that reminds us of why we need to take drug safety so seriously.
Nothing could ever undo the pain and suffering that was inflicted. It is a story that changed the way we regulate drugs in Canada. It opened our eyes to the fact that while drugs can bring many benefits, by curing diseases, reducing symptoms, and prolonging lives, they can also carry tremendous risks. It also serves as a constant reminder that we as parliamentarians must do all that we can to strengthen patient safety in Canada. That is why I am very pleased to hear that the Minister of Health will be meeting with thalidomide victims and working co-operatively with them to determine what government can do to support them.
Canada now has one of the safest drug systems in the world, and our government recently strengthened that even further, giving royal assent to Bill C-17, Vanessa's law. Protecting patients is a shared responsibility, one that also rests with fellow legislators in the provinces and with provincial health departments, individual health care professionals and administrators, the colleges that regulate medical practice and other professional organizations, key partners like the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, and the Drug Safety and Effectiveness Network, and last, of course, the manufacturers of drugs.
The thalidomide tragedy of the 1960s, like no other event before or since, has impressed upon us what a truly enormous responsibility that is. While the quest for new cures is vital, it is equally important that we do everything in our power to ensure that drugs that reach the market do not cause harms that outweigh their benefits. That is why all parties in the House and in the other place united to unanimously support Vanessa's law, and why so many stakeholders and individuals endorsed that legislation.
Although many steps have been taken previously to strengthen Canada's drug safety system, we all recognize that the Minister of Health and Health Canada did not have adequate powers to protect patients from drugs that were found to be unsafe once they were on the market We, as legislators, acted decisively to provide the new tools to address this gap.
I would like to take some time today to focus on how Vanessa's law will enhance patient safety, how it will reduce the risk of tragic events like those associated with thalidomide, and how it will help Canadians to make informed decisions about the drugs they are taking.
Vanessa's law will ensure that knowledge about approved drugs and medical devices continues to be gathered and shared with the public once products enter the market. This is important because clinical trials can only tell us about how a drug will affect a particular population, the population it was tested on. They do not tell us how the drug will affect everyone who might take it once it is on the market.
When a company submits an application for market authorization to Health Canada, reviewers analyze the results of all tests and studies that are submitted. If the product is safe, effective, and of high quality, the department will give the company a licence to market a drug in Canada for a particular use. However, once products reach the market, Health Canada's ability to gather knowledge about them has traditionally been limited, and its ability to take action when problems arise has also been limited. That is why there are new provisions in Vanessa's law that represent a game changer.
Let me take a moment to describe some of them and why Vanessa's law is so crucial. One important new provision is that Vanessa's law will give the Minister of Health the ability to set the terms and conditions on an authorization and to make those terms and conditions publicly available. What this means is that, as part of the authorization, Health Canada will be able to ask a pharmaceutical company to continue to gather information in the real world, after the product reaches the market, and to make the results of the information gathering public so that Canadians and their health care providers have easy access to them.
For example, Health Canada may require the company to gather information about the impacts of a drug on patients with multiple medical conditions. Health Canada could require a company to monitor and assess the effects of drugs on patients with impaired kidney function. This may or may not have been studied in the initial clinical trial, and the approved label would indicate that.
However, this information may prove to be important as we gather real-world experience and see some patients with impaired kidney function and how the drug affects them. It may become apparent that there is no difference in the benefits and harms experienced by patients with impaired kidney function.
However, should it become clear that there may be a cause for concern, Health Canada will be able to compel the manufacturer to conduct active safety surveillance or conduct a new study specifically to address the issue. The information about what activities the manufacturers are being compelled to undertake will be made public. It will be a transparent system so that prescribers and patients will know what actions are being taken. Vanessa's law also provides the Minister of Health with the power to compel a label change for a drug and to make that information publicly available to Canadians. In the past, most companies have agreed on a voluntary basis to undertake a label change. Sometimes, however, protracted negotiations have been required, and sometimes, those negotiations were not successful. The new powers provided by Vanessa's law have changed that, so if adults or children are taking a drug, they will be able to access this new information. This will allow us, as Canadians, to make informed decisions in consultation with our health care providers.
However, not all new information comes from tests, studies, or the ongoing proactive monitoring of a drug. Sometimes, adverse events are completely unexpected and only identified through a rigorous adverse drug reaction reporting system. This reflects the reality I mentioned before, that patient safety is a shared responsibility. That is why Vanessa's law included mandatory reporting of serious adverse drug reactions and medical device incidents by health care institutions. Simply put, serious adverse drug reaction reports from manufacturers, health care institutions, health care professionals, and the public often provide the first clue about an emerging drug safety issue.
To date, adverse drug reactions have been under-reported in Canada. It has only been mandatory for companies to report adverse drug reactions related to their products. It was recognized that it is critical that we increase the reporting of adverse drug reactions so that Health Canada could take quick action when a problem is detected and share the knowledge rapidly with health care professionals and, most importantly, the public, in order to prevent further harm.
Sometimes, it may be necessary to remove a drug or particular batch of the drug from the market. Other times, it may be appropriate to change the label of a drug so that health care practitioners are aware of the new information when they make their prescribing decisions. In other situations, it may be most appropriate to require the company to conduct some active monitoring to gather further information.
I mentioned earlier the important work done by the Canadian Patient Safety Institute and the Drug Safety and Effectiveness Network. The Canadian Patient Safety Institute works with governments, health organizations, leaders, and health care providers to inspire improvements in patient safety and quality care. It acts as an advocate and catalyst for improvements in patient safety, and it invests in and brokers policy and system changes to protect the health of Canadian patients. As Health Canada works to roll out the new authorities provided in Vanessa's law, either immediately or through developing regulations, these organizations will be able to provide advice.
Nothing can undo the pain and suffering endured by the thalidomide survivors and their families, and it is truly tragic. However, with the passing of Vanessa's law, federal regulators have important new tools to enhance on-market drug safety. The legislation is a very real step to reducing the risk that similar tragedies will occur in the future, and it represents a very important federal contribution to the shared goal of patient safety in Canada.
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2014-11-27 12:16 [p.9882]
Mr. Speaker, I did sit on the health committee for several years but have not been on the committee for the last two years. I do have a keen interest in health care, and obviously this tragedy shocked all of us. It is an issue about which we all have endless concern.
The member mentioned that she is pleased that we are supporting this motion and I am glad to hear that. There is no partisanship when it comes to standing united in the face of this tragedy.
I am so pleased that the Minister of Health has announced she will be meeting with the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada. It is important to state that it is going to happen. The government will be here to provide whatever support it can in the wake of this tragedy.
Health Canada has learned from this tragedy and has made improvements that have reduced the risk of this kind of terrible event from occurring again, including an overhaul of Canada's drug and regulatory framework. That is important. We recognize the pain and suffering of the victims and we are here to support them. At the same time, we want to make sure that we learn from what happened and that Health Canada has the framework and the regulatory ability to ensure we can prevent something like this from ever happening again.
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2014-11-27 12:19 [p.9882]
Mr. Speaker, the member for Northumberland—Quinte West has made his life in public safety, and this falls into that category. This is all about public safety.
I want to touch on Bill C-17, Vanessa's law, which was raised by my colleague. It is important to recognize what this legislation will do. It is a step forward for patient safety and for public safety. Bill C-17 will bring in mandatory recall powers, so that we will not have to negotiate with big pharma companies; mandatory reporting of serious adverse drug reactions; tough new fines and jail time for companies that put Canadians at risk; and transparency for drug approvals and clinical trials. These are all critically important steps forward.
Obviously the tragic events in the 1960s remind us of why we need to take drug safety seriously. Let us be clear. Nothing can ever undo the pain and suffering inflicted on these individuals. That is why it is so important that we get it right, so this never happens again. That is why it is important that we use every power and tool within government's regulatory powers to make sure we have the proper framework in place to protect patients.
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2012-04-30 16:42 [p.7353]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the distinguished member for Calgary Centre-North who tells me that her home is referred to as awesomeness.
I am glad to rise in the House today to join my colleagues in this important debate. I am here to speak to what our government is doing to ensure that first nations and Inuit receive the nutrition they need to lead healthy lives.
We recognize the link between access to healthy food and the promotion of health, well-being and the prevention of chronic disease. One of the reasons we are modernizing our food regulations is to keep up with the needs of Canadians. The changes put forward will not only help our government maintain a high level of scientific rigour but they will allow decisions to be implemented faster, cutting red tape and delays for the approval process in providing Canadians with safe products. They will help our government respond more quickly to the pace of change in science and innovation and play its role in continuing to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
These changes will not just help all in Canada but will specifically be of benefit to first nations people and Inuit. We are making strategic investments to promote nutrition and improved access to healthy foods in first nations and Inuit communities.
Food security is linked to a variety of factors, and meeting these challenges requires the contributions of multiple sectors working together. Our government is working with aboriginal partners, provincial and territorial governments, and other sectors to look at how to best address these factors and help improve food security.
With an annual investment of $60 million, the nutrition north Canada program is one response to the complex issues facing the challenge of healthier foods for northerners. The program provides a retail subsidy that helps northerners living in isolated communities access healthy food at lower cost. The program focuses the subsidy on perishable healthy foods that have to be flown into isolated northern communities all year round.
I remember two years ago when the health committee, of which I am a member, toured Nunavut and looked at some of the health challenges. The cost of perishable goods was enormous in some of these isolated northern communities. Obviously, this is something the federal government assists with and it is a very important issue that we are addressing.
Preliminary program data demonstrates that nutrition north Canada is supporting improved access to healthier foods for northerners. Between April 1 and September 30, 2011, more than 80% of the subsidy went toward healthy foods, such as produce, milk and dairy products, meat and alternatives, and grain products.
As part of the nutrition north Canada program, Health Canada receives $2.9 million annually to support culturally appropriate retail and community-based nutrition education initiatives. These activities increase the knowledge of healthy living and eating habits, develops skills for selecting and preparing both healthy store-bought foods and country foods, and strengthens retail community partnerships.
Community activities include the promotion of healthy foods, cooking skill classes, school-based projects, in-store taste tests and grocery store tours. Health Canada has also supported communities with planning, training and developing partnerships with local stores and other community partners.
Early success is reported for the nutrition education initiatives 2011-12, which include stronger linkages with local stores, stronger nutrition and healthy eating education, cooking skills development and coordination with other community programs. Over 300 community-based activities were offered in 2011-12 and over 50 community workers were trained.
The nutrition north Canada program also subsidizes country or traditional foods when available through local stores or when bought from processing plants that are registered with the program. Even though this is a first step for nutrition north Canada, it shows that the government recognizes the importance of country foods to the health and well-being of first nations and Inuit.
A healthy way of eating that includes traditional or country food has been associated with lower levels of heart disease and diabetes. These foods contain less fat and sugar than many store-bought foods and contribute important nutrients needed for good health. Other benefits of traditional food include physical activity during harvesting and have cultural and spiritual significance.
Our government also recognizes the importance of quality nutrition in enabling children to reach their fullest developmental and lifetime potential. We are working with first nations leaders, other levels of government, partners and stakeholders to ensure access to high quality health programs that promote a healthy start in life for first nations and Inuit children.
Maternal and child health programs, like those supported by Health Canada, have been shown to have a positive effect on the physical, psychological and social development of all family members.
The aboriginal head start on reserve is one of the programs supporting the healthy growth of approximately 9,000 first nations children and their families living in over 300 first nations communities across Canada by funding community-based early childhood intervention programming that addresses the developmental needs of children from birth to six years of age. Health Canada's aboriginal head start program promotes the health and wellness of first nations children and their families through culture, language, social support, education and parental involvement programming, health promotion and nutrition.
In the aboriginal head start program, children learn how to make healthy food choices through snack programs or meals using Canada's food guide. They may go on field trips with staff, parents and other family members and participate in traditional food-gathering activities.
The maternal child health program supports home visiting by nurses and family visitors for first nation pregnant women and families with young children.
Health Canada is helping to address factors that impact maternal and infant mortality in first nations and Inuit communities by providing information on maternal nutrition and supporting the programs that aim to promote healthier lifestyles and behaviours, such as the reduction of smoking. The program also helps by increasing access to quality prenatal care and regulated birth attendants. The maternal child health program provides a co-ordinated approach to maternal and child health services with strong links to elders, nursing and other community-based programs.
Together with the maternal child program, the Canada prenatal nutrition program is working to improve the adequacy of the diet of prenatal and breastfeeding women; increased access to nutrition information services and resources to eligible women, particularly those at high risk; increased breastfeeding support; and increased knowledge and skill-building opportunities in maternal and infant nutritional health programs among those involved in this program.
The brighter futures program provides funding to first nations and Inuit communities for activities supporting improved physical and mental health, child development, parenting skills and healthy babies. Funding facilitates community-directed and designed programming that addresses local priorities. As such, communities may choose to use the funding to promote linkages among social and health programs, including education, health, child and family, and provincial systems.
With the goal of supporting healthy childhood development and overall mental health, communities may choose to use brighter futures funding to support activities such as in-school breakfast programs, traditional food cooking classes and healthy eating and nutrition workshops.
Through these programs, this government is also supporting the work to address the challenge of childhood obesity. This issue is of particular concern for aboriginal children and youth as rates of obesity are significantly higher among this group than among the general Canadian population, and aboriginal children are becoming obese at a very young age. Obesity is strongly linked to high rates of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. First nations people are three to five times more likely to experience type 2 diabetes than non-aboriginal Canadians.
Since 1999, the aboriginal diabetes initiative's main objective is to reduce type 2 diabetes by supporting health promotion and disease prevention, including healthy eating and active living, through activities and services delivered by trained community health workers and health care providers. More than 600 first nations and Inuit communities have access to health promotion and diabetes prevention activities through the aboriginal diabetes initiative.
I hope I have helped to inform this important discussion today by outlining the efforts and partnerships that our government is undertaking to build healthier first nations and Inuit communities. The issues I have outlined today point to the needs that we as a government must focus on and work together with first nations and Inuit leaders and provincial and territorial partners to support first nations and Inuit communities in having the healthiest lifestyle possible.
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2012-04-30 16:53 [p.7355]
Mr. Speaker, it is wonderful to have a Minister of Health who is a former health minister in Nunavut. She is well aware of some of these challenges, and Health Canada is addressing these with vigour.
In terms of Nutrition North Canada, Health Canada has received $2.9 million annually to support culturally appropriate retail and community-based nutrition education initiatives in 76 fully eligible first nations and Inuit communities to deal with just that. The initiative increases northerners' knowledge of healthy eating and improves their skills in selecting and preparing healthy store-bought and traditional or country foods.
To support retail and community partnerships at the local level, Health Canada is working with retailers who operate in isolated northern communities on initiatives that promote healthy choices within stores that are affordable.
As I mentioned before, I remember being just shocked when I went into a grocery store in Iqaluit at the cost of some of the perishable items. They are sometimes five or ten times the cost it would be in Ottawa or Barrie where I live.
Obviously this is an important program. The $2.9 million is very well used to support this in ensuring that healthy foods are available in these remote communities.
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2012-04-30 16:55 [p.7355]
Mr. Speaker, my opposition colleague finished up by talking about insurance and asking how this is relevant to our discussion on the Food and Drugs Act. Obviously the nutrition of Canadians is central to the Food and Drugs Act. The fact that some Canadians are in more vulnerable situations is incredibly relevant. Health Canada has always played a leadership role and under our current Minister of Health has increased its leadership in this area. I am incredibly proud of the work she and this government have done. Nutrition is of critical importance to Health Canada.
We need to ensure we do our best to protect these individuals by providing them with access to healthy food and healthy lifestyles.
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2012-04-30 16:57 [p.7356]
Mr. Speaker, what an appropriate question from such a wonderful MP for Oak Ridges—Markham. Obviously, the cuts to Ontario medical schools during the NDP government in Ontario had a devastating effect across Ontario. We still face doctor shortages today because of it. The 40% slashing to provincial transfers for health had a devastating effect on health systems across the country. I am just so happy that we have a Conservative government in Ottawa that has put a focus on the health of Canadians and done incredible work in enhancing Canada's health care system, not like the slash and burn days with the provincial NDP and federal Liberals.
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2011-10-04 12:07 [p.1816]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the extraordinary member of Parliament for Brandon—Souris.
Suicide is a tragic event that affects far too many Canadian families. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Each year, several thousand Canadians lose their lives to suicide. The World Health Organization estimates that in Canada the rate of suicide is 15 for every 100,000 people. While suicide rates vary by age, gender and ethnicity in Canada, males appear to be more at risk.
Furthermore, suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 10 to 24, according to the Canadian Psychiatric Association.
Certainly, some of the tragedies in the National Hockey League this summer of some of its alumni highlighted how prevalent this problem is, how prevalent this challenge is.
If there is one silver lining out of these enormous tragedies, it is that it will raise awareness to the critical need to look at mental health.
Our health minister , who is from the north, understands first-hand how very real and tragic this issue is in both first nation and Inuit communities. The suicide rate among first nation youth is approximately five to seven times higher in Canada than for non-aboriginal youth. In Inuit regions, suicide is 11 times the Canadian rate.
While there are many contributing factors to suicide, mental illness is a major one. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, nearly six million, or one in five Canadians, are likely to experience a mental illness over the course of their lifetime. This is why our government has taken some concrete steps to improve the mental health and well-being of Canadians. We take mental health issues seriously. We would like to recognize two important events related to mental illness that will take place this month. In Canada, this is Mental Illness Awareness Week. October 10 is World Mental Health Day. These events provide opportunities to raise awareness of mental illness and the importance of good mental health.
Studies indicate that more than 90% of suicide victims suffer from a mental illness or substance abuse problem. In addition, many of the same risk and protective factors that have an impact on mental illness can influence the risk of suicide. A recent study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that mental illness is associated with more lost work days than any other chronic condition, costing the Canadian economy $51 billion annually in lost productivity.
Mental health and well-being contribute to our quality of life. Good mental health is associated with better physical health outcomes, improved educational attainment, increased economic participation, and rich social relationships. Recognizing the importance that good mental health plays on our everyday lives, in 2007, this government created the Mental Health Commission of Canada as an independent, arm's-length organization. It provides a national focal point for mental illness. This government has invested $130 million in the commission over 10 years to advance work on mental health issues.
The commission is mandated to lead the development of Canada's first ever national mental health strategy. When released in 2012, the strategy would provide a way for the people of Canada, the mental health community, and the jurisdictions, to work together to achieve better mental health.
The commission's release, in 2009, of “Toward Recovery and Well Being: A Framework for a Mental Health Strategy for Canada” marked the completion of the first phase in developing the strategy. It set out a vision containing broad goals for transforming mental health systems in Canada. It has become an important reference point for mental health policy and practice across the country.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada is now finalizing the first ever mental health strategy that would translate the vision and goals of this framework into a strategic plan. Elements of suicide prevention are expected to be contained in the strategy. The strategy has been informed by the voices of thousands of people and hundreds of organizations with a wide diversity of points of view and experience. This strategy is expected to make a significant contribution to the mental health community.
Another important initiative the Mental Health Commission of Canada has been mandated to address is the stigma associated with mental health issues. Stigma is a major barrier preventing people from seeking help. Many Canadians living with a mental illness say the stigma they face is often worse than the mental illness itself. Mental illness affects people of all ages, from all walks of life. It can take on many forms, including depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada has launched the largest systematic effort to reduce the stigma of mental health in Canadian history, known as Opening Minds. Its goal is to change the attitudes and behaviours of Canadians toward people living with mental health problems. Through this initiative the commission is working with partners across Canada to identify and evaluate existing anti-stigma programs. Efforts to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness are currently focused at health care providers, the media, the workforce, along with children and youth. Opening Minds is serving as a catalyst in mobilizing actions of others to make a real difference in the area of anti-stigma programs.
To ensure that all the information on mental illness is accessible to the public and those in the mental health field, the commission is establishing a knowledge exchange centre. This initiative is creating new ways for Canadians to access information, share knowledge, and exchange ideas about mental health. All Canadians will have access to knowledge, ideas, and best practices related to mental illness. Furthermore, this will enhance the capacity for knowledge exchange throughout the Canadian mental health system.
The government has also taken further action to address the issue of mental health among the homeless. Mental illness and homelessness are increasingly related and there is a need for more research in this area.
Just last week in Barrie I was speaking to a nurse in the community, Nicole Black. She works at the David Busby Street Centre in Barrie. She was telling me how prevalent it is and the challenge that is faced when trying to assist with the battle to combat homelessness. It is great that the government recognizes the importance to work in this area. This is why in 2008 the government provided $110 million over five years to the Mental Health Commission of Canada to investigate mental illness and homelessness. This includes the At Home/Chez Soi initiative, which is the largest research project of its kind in the world.
The project is happening now in five Canadian cities: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, and Moncton. This research project is centred on the housing first model. This means that once a person is given a place to live, the person can better concentrate on personal issues. The innovative approach of this project has the potential to make Canada a world leader in providing services to people who are homeless and living with a mental illness.
By creating and supporting the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the government has recognized the link between suicide and mental illness and has demonstrated its commitment to help address this serious issue.
In Barrie, when I toured the Canadian Mental Health Association offices on Bradford Street and the mental health area of the Royal Victoria Hospital, where there are some of the best doctors in the region who assist with mental health issues, I certainly heard loud and clear that this is a growing concern for Canadians and that we need to do what we can to contribute as a federal government. I am so proud that our federal government, under the leadership of our finance minister, has made this a priority.
It is my pleasure to be in the House today to address this very important topic.
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2011-10-04 12:17 [p.1817]
Mr. Speaker, there are many interrelations and correlations between mental health challenges and suicide. It will be no surprise that the Mental Health Commission, which has a budget of $130 million over 10 years thanks to this government, will obviously consider that as one of the central aspects to look at when it conducts this study.
In terms of what is being done to address suicide, mental illness is a major risk factor for suicide. It is estimated that 90% of all suicide victims have some kind of mental health condition. That is why it is very important to look at them in the overall framework, together. The 90% figure would suggest that to look at mental health and not suicide at the same time would be a disservice.
Obviously the government has made it a focus to invest in mental health by virtue of the Mental Health Commission of Canada and associated monetary investments to establish and support that commission.
I certainly concur with the member that they are interrelated.
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2011-10-04 12:32 [p.1819]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his eloquent speech today and for highlighting the focus of mental health.
As I mentioned in a previous comment, one of the things that was raised at the Busby Centre in Barrie, which is a terrific place that helps with homelessness, was the interrelation with homelessness and mental health issues and the need for government to do more. That would be one of the things the Mental Health Commission could address when it looks at the many different facets of mental health.
Does my colleague from Brandon—Souris share those same concerns in Manitoba?
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2011-10-04 15:42 [p.1847]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his eloquent speech on the importance of mental health and suicides.
Earlier, his colleague, the Liberal Party member for St. Paul's, mentioned that Canada had a suicide rate three times that of the U.S. It is important to note that the information shared by the Liberal Party member is actually incorrect. We just pulled the stats from the CDC website in the U.S. and from Stats Canada and it is identical, actually. It is both 11 tragic deaths per 100,000. It is important that we do not use statistics in the House that are wrong. We hope we can ensure that is not a fallacy that is raised here.
Does the member have any specific suggestions as to how we could improve the formidable commitment that the government made with the Mental Health Commission and the funding that was quite historic in 2007?
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2010-05-04 12:30 [p.2329]
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak. I will be sharing my time with the distinguished member for North Vancouver.
I rise today to reiterate our government's commitment to ensuring elected representatives put the interests of Canadians ahead of special interests. Like all Canadians, the government makes decisions every day. It makes decisions about the kinds of programs and services it offers and about policies affecting everything from entire industries to small businesses and individuals. Like individual Canadians, the government gathers available information and weighs options before making a final decision.
Lobbyists, whether they are paid or voluntary, provide information that contributes to the decision-making process. They bring facts and an in-depth understanding of issues to the table. They contribute to the knowledge required to make the best decisions for all Canadians. In a modern democracy like Canada, lobbying provides an opportunity for different views to be considered.
At the same time, we need to ensure that lobbying is carried out in an open and transparent manner. That is why our government made it a priority when we were elected to introduce the federal Accountability Act and to ensure it included measures to toughen up the lax Liberal rules around lobbying.
Since bringing in this sweeping legislation in 2006, there are now clear rules for lobbyists to report their interactions with the government.
One of the key aspects of the Lobbying Act is that lobbyists must file monthly reports on lobbying activities they initiate with ministers and senior officials. These rules have made lobbying more transparent and open than it has ever been in Canadian history.
Today, any Canadian can find out who is lobbying ministers and senior government officials and in what context. In fact, this information is available on the Internet.
In addition to delivering on our promise to clarify the responsibilities of lobbyists, we have drawn a line between proper and improper lobbying. One of the most important changes we made was to ban key people in powerful positions in the government from lobbying for a period of five years after they leave those positions. This measure has gone a long way in maintaining the trust of Canadians in their government.
The people who fall under this rule could unduly influence the government's choice of policies, programs and services that affect Canadians directly. That is why the five year ban applies to key decision makers, including ministers, ministers of state and their exempt staff. It also applies to senior public servants, such as deputy ministers, chief executives of departments and agencies, officials in departments and agencies at the rank of associate deputy minister, assistant deputy minister, as well as those occupying positions of a comparable rank.
The five year lobbying ban also applies to other top government jobs, such as the Chief of Defence Staff and the Comptroller General of Canada. Finally, it applies to people identified by the Prime Minister as having provided support and advice during the transition period from an election to a swearing in as prime minister. All these key decision-makers are referred to as designated public office holders in the new act.
The penalties under the Accountability Act are tough. If any designated public office holder breaks the five year ban, they can be subject to stiff fines of up to $50,000 or even jail time. These rules have given Canada one of the most robust lobbying regimes in the world. They have also given Canadians the reassurance that senior government decision-makers do not use their personal connections to get special favours from the government once they leave office.
In addition to improving rules and the five year ban, the Lobbying Act includes a number of other measures to assure Canadians that lobbying is done in an ethical and transparent way. For example, the act created a Commissioner of Lobbying, who is an independent agent of Parliament. The commissioner is responsible for maintaining the registry of lobbyists, which includes information about all registered lobbyists and their activities. The commissioner is also responsible for developing a lobbyist code of conduct and has the power to carry out investigations to ensure compliance with the act and the code
As well, the commissioner must now table a report each year in Parliament on the administration of the act and the code. This is such a significant improvement because, as members will recall, there were no tools to enforce a breach of lobbying rules before. The Lobbying Commissioner now has a budget, thanks to the government, of around $4.6 million to aggressively pursue anyone who breaches these rules and regulations.
That is a significant improvement over the loose rules under the previous government when this position was considered only as a registrar. Since day one, this government has put accountability and ethics at the centre of our agenda.
Canadians need to know that the Government of Canada holds the highest ethical standards and principles and provides programs that deliver value for money. Canadians told us clearly that they wanted a government that was more open and transparent, so we introduced the Federal Accountability Act to tighten up rules around lobbying. It is also why we are now looking at bringing in members of Parliament and senators under the Lobbying Act, including the offices of opposition leaders. If the members opposite are serious about providing real accountability to the Canadian people, they will have no problem supporting this measure.
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2010-05-04 12:37 [p.2330]
Mr. Speaker, it is important that we go one step further by extending it to all MPs. We realize that much important work is done in committees of Parliament and that there will be lobbyists approaching MPs on all sides of the table, and that is why it is important that we extend this as far as possible. I assume that the Liberal Party would not have a problem with that. It will be interesting to hear whether the Liberals oppose our position that this should be extended to all MPs and the leaders of the opposition.
However, I do find it bemusing to hear the Liberals talking about changes to the Lobbying Act when it was the sponsorship scandal that led us to making these changes. One would assume that as elected officials we would not want to breach the public trust. However, we must remember that the reason we have a Federal Accountability Act was because of the theft of $40 million. Canadians kicked that government out of office because they were so disappointed that their trust had been broken.
It is interesting to see this being raised by the party that clearly did not understand what Canadian expectations were on lobbying.
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2010-05-04 12:39 [p.2330]
Mr. Speaker, the member asked what the difference is. There is a very clear difference. In the case of Rahim Jaffer, there was not a single cent of government money that was given out in an inaccurate manner. Not one dollar was lobbied successfully. If we compare that to the previous government, when there were not these rules, $40 million were stolen. So, there is a tremendous difference.
Right now we have a system in which lobbyists cannot do things unethically. We have a strong system and it is working.
It is funny when the opposition members are desperate for questions to ask that they have to complain about something where not a single cent was taken.
View Patrick Brown Profile
View Patrick Brown Profile
2010-05-04 12:41 [p.2331]
Mr. Speaker, it makes me think that the reason the Liberals are trying to avoid saying where they stand on this is that perhaps they still maintain that cozy relationship with lobbyists that they had when they were in government. I cannot understand any other reason why they would be skirting whether they want to extend this to MPs.
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