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View Louis Plamondon Profile
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Madam Chair, members of the committee, I am very excited to be here today. What is happening is historic: this is the first time this kind of bill has been introduced. We are here in committee to debate it, and I hope our debate will show how important it is to vote for it.
Bill C‑216 is ultimately very simple. It would add to the powers, duties and functions of the Minister of Foreign Affairs the obligation to defend the supply management system fully by removing the minister's authority to negotiate those principles in future international trade negotiations. The minister would thus have no authority to sign a treaty under which tariff rate quotas would be increased for supply-managed goods or to reduce the tariff applicable where imports exceed the set tariff rate.
It is strange that Bill C‑216 should be so controversial since it has received unanimous consent on several occasions since my former colleague André Bellavance first introduced it in the House of Commons on November 22, 2005.
Since then, following every free trade agreement, the Bloc Québécois has sought to confirm Parliament's support for supply management by introducing motions for unanimous consent. On every occasion, members have supported those motions, and, every time, the government flip-flopped and did the opposite. Hence the importance of including these provisions in an act rather than a motion.
On September 26, 2017, during the NAFTA negotiations, the Bloc Québécois introduced a motion urging the government to protect markets subject to supply management. However, little more than a year later, on November 30, 2018, the government reneged on its promise and signed CUSMA, which would replace NAFTA.
On February 7, 2018, during negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we introduced a motion seeking protection for the supply management system under that agreement. One month later, on March 8, 2018, the government once again went back on its word and signed the new treaty.
Then, on the last day of debate on third reading of Bill C‑79, An Act to implement the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Bloc requested and obtained parliamentarians' unanimous consent for the government to pay full compensation to supply-managed producers for the breaches contained in the three agreements. That was on October 5, 2018, and compensation was subsequently provided in part.
Lastly, on March 10 of this year, a majority of members from all parties voted in favour of the principle of Bill C‑216, which is even more significant than a motion.
I would simply like to remind members of the committee of what a vote on second reading means from a procedural standpoint. When members rise in the House to support the adoption of a bill on second reading, they are supporting the principle of the bill, by which I mean its idea and general scope. As members of the committee, you are therefore bound by that vote. According to the 2000 edition of Marleau and Montpetit's House of Commons Procedure and Practice, chapter 16, "If the bill has already received second reading, the committee is bound by the decision of the House and may not amend the bill contrary to its principle."
Consequently, we are not here to debate the pros and cons of supply management; the principle has already been adopted in the House. We are here to consider whether Canada should protect certain segments of its agriculture industry from foreign competition based on the rules of the World Trade Organization's agreements because, I would remind you, the supply management system complies with those rules.
Nor are we here to consider whether we have a right to do so. We already know. Provisions were set forth in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the GATT, before the WTO was even established.
Furthermore, many countries have invoked those provisions. We are not the only ones protecting certain goods. Everyone does it, even the United States, which criticizes us, because, since it has always been protected, it wants to invade what remains of our milk, egg and poultry markets.
From what do we ultimately want to protect our products? First of all, we want to protect them from unfair competition. Our main partner, the United States, violates many international trade rules while demanding more access from us. They subsidize their farmers illegally to the tune of several billions of dollars a year, which lowers producers' production costs and enables them to sell their goods locally and elsewhere at lower prices, which is strictly prohibited by the WTO. It constantly challenges aspects of our agricultural and forestry policies, as we recently saw in the softwood lumber and milk quotas cases, despite previous decisions by the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body. It is one of the most protectionist countries in the G20, but one of those most demanding of market access.
Other agreements are currently under negotiation, notably the agreement with Mercosur, which consists of Latin American countries, and other agreements will inevitably be discussed.
Incidentally, the first 16 free trade agreements Canada signed never addressed supply management in any way. So it's possible to discuss trade without involving supply management.
The supply management system has been vastly weakened by the latest concessions made by supply-managed sectors, which will now have to reorganize. We can't allow the United States or any other countries to force us to abandon our agricultural policies and practices.
I don't know what you think, but I think it's utterly ridiculous for one state to tell another what it's entitled import or export and at what price. And yet that's what's happening under the new NAFTA.
Quebec and Canada are exporter nations. That's undeniable; this has absolutely nothing to do with increasing protectionism. What we want is to be able to maintain a system that has proven itself for nearly 50 years and that still delivers reasonable revenues throughout the production chain, supports families in our regions and enables us to use our land.
Canada, as it should, has diversified policies and strategies to enable producers to live off the land and feed our people in accordance with the agricultural model they choose. Supply-managed producers, and even the entire agricultural sector, whether it be the Canadian Federation of Agriculture or the Union des producteurs agricoles, are simply asking us to preserve their agricultural model.
Thank you.
I will now be pleased to answer questions from members of the committee.
Mario Dion
View Mario Dion Profile
Mario Dion
2021-05-28 13:02
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you very much for inviting me to appear as you consider the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's submission for the 2021-2022 main estimates.
As many of you were not involved in the committee until last year, I will quickly describe the goals of my office since its creation 14 years ago.
Our primary goal is to help regulatees, that is, public office holders and members of the House of Commons, know and follow the rules in the Conflict of Interest Act and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons.
In order to help the individuals subject to the rules, we continually improve how we communicate and engage with regulatees. This not only supports our primary goal, but also helps build trust in the office. It is important for us to work together with regulatees to help them comply with the Act and the Code as much as possible.
It is important that a continuous dialogue take place to avoid breaches. There must be trust between elected and appointed officials and their advisors in the office based on mutual respect and professionalism.
Over the years, a solid information management system has been created as it is key to providing the informed advice we try to give to regulatees. It also improves our efficiency because we don't have to reinvent the wheel each time advice is sought. It also ensures that we provide consistent advice from one individual to the next.
Our already established movement towards a digital office helped us tremendously when we moved to a virtual office in spring 2020 due to the pandemic. The process was nearly seamless for us.
The office operates with a total of 51 indeterminate positions. Most of the office's resources are dedicated to our primary goal, helping regulatees meet their obligations under the act and code. These resources are not just in our advisory and compliance division, although this is where almost one-third of our employees work, including your advisers, but it's also located within the communications group that provides educational documents and develops presentations for regulatees.
We also have a legal services and investigations division, which offers the legal opinions we rely on and, of course, conducts investigations. Finally, our corporate management division handles blind trusts, in addition, of course, to providing us with all the HR, information technology and financial support that we need.
In the past two years—and I use two years because I haven't been before this committee since May 2019—the number of reporting public office holders has increased by 7%. The office helps them, as well as the MPs, as well as the other public office holders. We have a total group of about 3,200 people we serve. In the vast majority of situations, we help them through email and telephone. This was the case already before the pandemic, so that's why it was relatively easy for us to switch to that mode when the pandemic hit.
Requests for presentations have dropped obviously because, of course, the pandemic has caused people to focus on their real delivery priorities, so we've had fewer presentations given in the last fiscal year. However, requests for advice were up through the pandemic, particularly in the last two quarters. We have already revised the presentations and have placed the focus recently on very specific, high-interest subject matters, such as recusals, outside activities and post-employment, that appear to reflect the most concerns for regulatees.
I had a session on recusals a few months ago, which was very well attended by over 300 [Technical difficulty—Editor]. On June 8 and June 16, I have already invited all the reporting [Technical difficulty—Editor] holders to a session on offers of outside employment and post-employment obligations.
Requests from the public for information have also increased 27% over the last fiscal year. There has been a steady interest from the media in the work of our office. Given the restrictions placed upon me by the act, we've worked hard to ensure that we are as open and transparent as possible with both the public and the media. Our approach has included more active use of Twitter to share information and updates. We have over 3,000 Twitter followers at this point in time. Last year we increased by 52% the number of tweets that we sent out in order to be of interest to our followers.
Since I was last before you, I have issued nine investigation reports under the act, and four under the code. We've always been able to complete our analyses and conclusions in less than one year, which was one of my initial goals when I was appointed back in early 2018. I set out this goal to complete—unless it was exceptionally complex or unless there were exceptional circumstances—any study, any review and examination that we do under the code or the act within one year. We've managed to do that in the 13 reports issued in the last two years, and 18 since I've been in my position in January 2018.
I hope you will share my view that we have produced quality work each time.
I'm here today, and I'm pleased to let you know that we currently have no investigations ongoing under the act—no backlog. Therefore, we're ready to accept the next complaint or the next situation where I have reasonable grounds to start an investigation. We have a couple still ongoing under the code. In fact, I'll be tabling a report before the House rises as a result of an investigation under the code.
We receive a fair volume of complaints and information, if you wish, from the public, from the media, so we've reviewed over 100 files, 100 situations, where my staff reviewed incoming information to determine whether we should investigate. There is a good flow of information that comes in all the time.
I will now talk about the budget, since that is what brings us here today.
This year, we are operating with a budget of $7.67 million. That represents an increase of about 2% over last year. That is what I requested. Last year, we also secured funding for three additional communications advisor positions and to keep our information technology system up to date. Since the office was created 14 years ago, the budget has grown by about $1.6 million over the original budget.
Let's talk a little about the pandemic. Obviously, that is what's on everyone's mind; as we heard earlier before the meeting started, the patios are opening tonight.
The pandemic hit us suddenly, as it did everyone else. Personally, I had a medical condition two or three years ago that made me more vulnerable. So I remember very well leaving the office not knowing, like all of you, when I was going to come back and how. We all thought it would be a few weeks. However, we had to take steps gradually.
We were lucky, because our employees already had tablets and could work from home. In addition to our policy to provide equipment in a controlled manner to facilitate telework while ensuring ergonomics, we took steps with each employee regarding Wi-Fi availability. For 51 employees, supplies cost $28,000, from equipment to paper, pencils, and so on. Those costs were offset by decreases in other costs, such as printing. We have saved a lot of paper and a lot of trees. We also achieved significant savings on mail-outs.
In general, employees really like being able to telework. So we have a positive workplace. We use technology, as Parliament has, to keep channels open and have a constant dialogue with employees.
All this work, of course, has been accomplished because of the 50 people who work with me, who have been very good throughout the pandemic.
We did not actually measure productivity, because we have no backlog, in any respect, anywhere in the organization. We've been able to cope with the volume of work in spite of the pandemic, while trying to minimize problems and help employees as much as possible vis-à-vis the maintenance of a good balance and a good mental health situation.
That's what I have this afternoon. I would be pleased, of course, to answer any questions that members might have.
View Patricia Lattanzio Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Commissioner Dion, for joining us today.
I understand that the budget has been increased, but despite that, what are the main monetary challenges? Of course, $1.6 million has been accrued in the budget or otherwise, but what is the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner facing over the short and medium terms?
Mario Dion
View Mario Dion Profile
Mario Dion
2021-05-28 13:20
I think our greatest challenge is still to properly communicate, to explain to MPs and to public office holders their obligations under the code and the act. These instruments, these documents, are complex, and the vast majority of people who are regulated by the act and the code have a relatively shallow understanding because it is complex.
Unlike me, they don't spend their lives thinking about these things, so we're trying to find better ways to provide guidance through documents we've put on the web, through videos and through webinars, because I believe, first of all, that each MP and public office holder is the first person responsible for making sure they comply with these instruments, but our job at the office is to assist them in doing that. The best way to avoid problems is to make sure that we have an educated group of people who are able to identify the situations where they should consult with us.
We receive a fair volume of consultations as it is. We had 2,000 consultations by public office holders in the last fiscal year, and 500 from MPs, but sometimes MPs call about things that are menial and maybe don't call about things that are really important. You need to have the reflex to identify those issues.
I understand that the member is a lawyer. I don't know if the member has had a chance to go through the documents. They are short, but relatively complex, and vague as well at times. That's the greatest challenge that we still have: to demystify, explain, vulgarize.... I don't know what other words to use to describe what I'm trying to get at.
View Patricia Lattanzio Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Maître Dion.
You have identified the difficulties, perhaps, that are incurred on a daily basis in terms of making distinctions. Also, I think number one is a confusion with regard to the distinction with the act and the code.
That being said, how do you plan on measuring the progress in this regard in terms of making more people aware and maybe making more people cognizant of what their responsibilities and obligations are?
Mario Dion
View Mario Dion Profile
Mario Dion
2021-05-28 13:23
We do measure attendance at the events we organize, educational events such as the ones I mentioned during my opening remarks. I was very pleased when we attracted 302 people to a session in each French and English to deal with the subject matter of recusals a few months before we published the “Trudeau III Report” and “Morneau II Report”. It was topical. People registered in large numbers.
That's one way: attendance. The second way, of course, is the degree of contravention.
We'll have to see how it evolves. If we have a wave of contraventions, it will probably indicate that we're not very successful in our efforts. On the other hand, if we have very few contraventions, it's one factor. That's why we do education—in order to prevent problems.
Also, we will do a survey at one point in time of the regulatees to determine whether we are using the proper means to communicate with them as well.
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for the invitation to return to committee.
As you mentioned, I'm joined today by officials from Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, CFIA and CIHR. We are here to update you on the main estimates for the health portfolio.
We know, as we continue to respond to COVID-19, that some areas in Canada have seen an increase in cases, some areas in Canada have had to apply additional public health measures and some areas in Canada have seen increased hospitalizations. We remain focused on one goal, and that's to help Canadians through COVID-19—to help provinces and territories reduce transmission in communities, to decrease the number of people getting sick, and of course to decrease the number of people ending up in hospitals and, sadly, passing away as a result of COVID-19.
We know that this is a lot of work on behalf of all levels of government, and indeed not just government but community organizations, unions, employers and everyone working together in a team Canada approach. The most important things for us to remain focused on now are to reduce community transmission, increase access to vaccination and make sure that we stay focused on increasing vaccine uptake. We need to make sure the vaccines are available to people in a variety of different ways so that they can access them when it's their turn.
I have to say that we've been so impressed by Canadians' desire to be vaccinated and their willingness to step up when it is indeed their turn. As we can see, as more vaccines have been arriving in Canada week over week, we are now a leading G20 country, the second in the G20 in terms of administering the first dose. That's good news, Mr. Chair, because we know that vaccinations save lives and reduce the spread in communities, along with the other things that we know all too well.
In terms of actual hard numbers, that means nearly 13 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered. I have good news, and it's reflected in case rates and death rates. Eighty per cent of those aged 70 to 79 and 86% of those aged 80 and over have received vaccination. I can tell you that there is a sense of relief, especially among people in those age groups who have felt so worried and so scared, and of course among the people who love them, that they are protected as provinces and territories work together to reduce transmission in communities.
Of course, as all of you in HESA know, Canada is focused on a population health approach to vaccination. What does that mean? It means using vaccination as a powerful tool to reduce cases in communities and to stop people from getting sick and dying.
We have two overarching goals: to stop the spread and to save lives. Because of this strategy, there are more Canadians protected now than a month ago. We are looking forward to a very busy month of May. This month alone, millions of doses will arrive in the country and go directly into arms through the strong partnership with provinces, territories, local public health officials and other really important partners like pharmacists and family physicians.
While vaccination programs are scaling up, we have to continue to be cautious and vigilant about following local public health guidance. That does mean the things that we know help prevent the spread of the virus. As we have learned, that means physical distancing; the wearing of masks, especially in crowded and indoor settings; being mindful of how and where people gather; really thinking of each other during this time; and continuing to pull together as Canadians to make sure that the entire community remains safe. If there's something I've learned, Mr. Chair—or been reminded of, I think is more appropriate—it's the importance of collective action to fight a virus like this. It's that we cannot do this alone, that communities can't do this alone, that people can't do this alone, but that together we can actually get a lot further.
Today we will share the health portfolio's spending plans for the months ahead.
As you know, budget 2021 proposes significant investments in a number of health priorities, from increasing research and biomanufacturing to improving long-term care and continuing our investments—significant investments, I would say—in mental health and substance use supports.
These investments will help us finish the fight against COVID-19 and will help Canadians to see, in a healthier and more equitable way, a healthier future in their communities.
Maintaining Canadians' health and safety continues to be my priority—indeed, all of our agencies' priority—in the months to come. The main estimates I'm presenting today reflect this, and they outline the work we are doing to achieve these goals.
Over the next year, Health Canada will work with the provinces and territories to help improve health systems for all Canadians. This work includes measures to strengthen the health care sector through investments in long-term care and supportive care settings. We will also address mental health and problematic substance use through continued investments in home and community care and in mental health and addiction services, including specific investments to help Canadians during COVID-19.
I want to give a particular thank you to the many organizations that work with people who are struggling with a variety of mental health issues and a variety of problematic substance use issues. These community organizations and providers have been there for Canadians during this dreadful time, and their work is tremendously valuable to all of us.
Our world-class regulators will continue their work to get Canadians the medicines, vaccines and medical devices they need. That work includes creating a critical drug reserve to assist with COVID-19 treatments.
For the past year, the Public Health Agency of Canada has been focused on the pandemic response. Whether it's on vaccines, on research or on specific COVID-19 supports, the agency has been working day and night—all of the folks in the agency have been working day and night—to protect Canadians. This work will continue well beyond the pandemic.
The safety of our food supply is also always a priority in a pandemic, and of course beyond. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency protects Canadians from food safety risks, supports our food supply chain and safeguards the health and safety of people working in the food manufacturing and distribution industries. I want to thank all of the workers at CFIA for their ongoing work, oftentimes in very challenging situations, as we know. In meat packing plants, where there have been significant challenges to prevent the spread of COVID, I know that inspection agents and many other professionals have been working to make those workplaces safer and to keep food safe for Canadians.
After a year of living with COVID-19, the importance of investing in health and medical research, if it wasn't evident before, is now, Mr. Chair. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is supporting Canadian research and researchers, and our investments will make sure that they have a strong and central role in ensuring that science returns to a place of prominence in government policy-making.
I am so relieved, Mr. Chair, that our government made those investments in 2015, after a decade of attack on scientists and researchers. We made those investments in 2015, and they turned out to be critical. We're going to continue to strengthen Canadian research through the CIHR, through the researcher community that they support, to make sure that we have access to the best evidence and the best science on a range of health issues.
Mr. Chair, my priority is Canadians' health and safety. As we face this wave of the virus, as we see the finish line, we know there's more work to do. The plans I'm talking about show what we have to do, how we have to invest and how we have to continue to pull together. I know that Canadians will get through this, but we have to work together to get through it so that we can save lives, stop the spread and protect Canadians' health throughout COVID-19 and beyond.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I look forward to your questions.
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I'll just give my remarks in English to go easy on the interpreters, given this virtual environment. I will say that I'm very happy to be here with you all, and I thank the committee for the opportunity to share an update on our work to protect Canadians against COVID-19.
Of course, many people have used the word “unprecedented” to describe this pandemic. In fact, around the world, we've talked about the unprecedented nature of a global pandemic of this sort. Besides being unprecedented in its scope, it is obviously also unpredictable, as the virus has changed and shifted and as we've attempted to keep ahead of our knowledge on how best to protect people from COVID-19.
As we see case numbers rising across the country, Canada and indeed the world have worked hard to manage COVID-19 and to protect our citizens in each of our jurisdictions. Every step of the way, since January 2020, our government has responded and adapted to information as it has evolved. Information is coming to us in real time. On many fronts, we learn as we go, and I want to take a moment to thank the scientists, the researchers and the public health officials who have worked non-stop to better understand this virus, to better understand measures to protect against this virus, and to better understand how it's affecting the many communities in our country.
Mr. Chair, it's important to establish that context as we address the important questions before us today. All levels of government are racing to ramp up vaccination, to suppress the rapid spread of variants of concern and indeed of the virus itself, and to help bring the pandemic under control. As of April 16, more than 12 million vaccines have been distributed to the provinces and territories, and we delivered over 10 million doses by Easter weekend, which exceeded our initial goal of six million doses for the first quarter of this year.
As of now, more than nine million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Canada; 81% of people 80 years of age and over have received their first dose, and 10% have received both doses. The Government of Canada is going to continue to do its job to make sure more and more doses are delivered throughout the country, and will also be there for provinces and territories for any additional support or resources they might need.
We're also going to continue to provide advice to Canadians about vaccination and about how to protect themselves against COVID-19 as we see the virus accelerate in many jurisdictions across the country. We work with real-time data, and Health Canada carefully reviews any new information that becomes available so that our advice continues to evolve and be based on the best and latest science.
As the vaccine rollout continues, we continue to work with partners in industry and the not-for-profit sector to increase testing and screening capacity across the country. Testing and screening continue to be the foundation of slowing the spread of COVID-19, although of course it's very important that provinces and territories also manage people well and in a supportive way who have tested positive for COVID-19. Mr. Chair, it's important to know if people are sick, and it's important to support them when they are. That's the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19.
On testing, as of April 8, 2021, more than 25 million rapid tests had been shipped to provinces and territories. That's 25 million, Mr. Chair. When combined with the federal allocation, over 41 million rapid tests have been distributed across the country. Not only have we delivered those tests, but we've also been working with provinces—
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'll begin at the testing section and talk about testing.
As the vaccine rollout continues, it's important that we continue to test and contact trace, support people who have been infected with COVID-19, and isolate in order to contain the spread of the virus as we do that important work. The government has been working with partners in industry and in the not-for-profit sector to increase screening and testing capacity across the country.
As of April 8, 2021, more than 25 million rapid tests had been shipped to the provinces and territories. When combined with the federal allocation, over 41 million rapid tests have been distributed across the country. We've supported the provinces and territories, along with the private sector, to ensure that rapid testing can help identify the spread of COVID-19 in essential workplaces and in congregate living settings. In fact, in pandemic spending, eight dollars out of every $10 spent on our national response have come from the federal government.
Recently, the Province of Alberta announced that more than two million rapid tests will be available for businesses in Alberta, and this is an expansion of a program that has already successfully rolled out more than 1.2 million rapid tests to long-term care facilities, schools, hospitals and homeless shelters. In this next phase of Alberta's program, test kits will be provided to employers and service providers, with priority given to organizations that work with vulnerable people. This will give employees a sense of security and comfort when they go home to their families at night after working with the public all day.
There's no silver bullet to fighting COVID-19, but adequate rapid testing and appropriate contact tracing and isolation are layers of protection to keep essential workers safe as they stay on the front lines for all of us. From border measures to mandatory quarantines to digital tools to the establishment and funding of safe isolation sites, the Government of Canada has been working with the provinces and territories every day to keep Canadians safe. We're going to continue to use all the tools at our disposal to help the country through the pandemic. We will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to protect Canadians.
I would like to conclude with a few words about the report recently published by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.
As you know, it raises issues concerning the Public Health Agency of Canada's response to the emergence of COVID-19. We have accepted every recommendation from this audit, and work is under way to respond to these recommendations. We have to keep the health and safety of Canadians our top priority across government.
That's why the Government of Canada has provided significant funding and resources. As I said, eight dollars out of every $10 in the pandemic response has come from the federal government. This includes, recently, $690.7 million in the fall 2020 economic statement to strengthen the Public Health Agency of Canada's response and surge capacity.
The agency has grown tremendously. It has expanded by more than 1,000 new employees to bolster our capacity to have more people able to support and protect Canadians across a number of areas. The agency continues to grow to support our response to COVID-19. In October, the agency implemented a national COVID-19 public health data portal to support data collection, sharing and management, something we know that we need to get better at all across the country. Also, I've asked for an independent review of Canada's global public health surveillance system, commonly referred to as GPHIN, and a final report and recommendations are expected later this spring. These measures will help us improve Canada's pandemic preparedness and response capacity.
There have been financial supports for Canadians through the CERB and the CRB, wage supports for businesses through the CEWS, and wage top-ups for health care workers. Through my portfolio, there have also been things like safe isolation sites for communities; Canadian Red Cross personnel, field epidemiologists and other experts; contact tracers; and mental health supports that are free and directly deliverable to Canadians through Wellness Together Canada. This is along with $19 billion through the safe restart agreement; supplies and resources, fully paid, for the provinces and territories to test, track and treat COVID cases; treatments for COVID-19; and millions upon millions of vaccines. Every step of the way we have stopped at nothing to support the provinces and territories to deliver on their responsibility to provide health care to Canadians in their jurisdictions.
As we see this third wave threaten so many lives, we know we have to keep working together, with all hands on deck. This is a team Canada moment. We have to keep working together and working with our partners, because Canadians want us to do that. They need us to do that. They need us to continue to be collaborative and to look for ways to help. They want us to know that they need us to work together and that we are going to get through this together.
To my colleagues here today, I hope that you will use your platforms, your ability to communicate as leaders in your communities, to encourage Canadians to get tested, to stay home when they're sick, to wear face masks, to isolate when they're close contacts, to restrict their movements and indeed to get vaccinated when it's their turn. It's very important that we are all speaking from the same page on this.
Thank you very much. I look forward to your questions.
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank the committee for inviting me to speak here today—
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
I understand the sense of urgency with which this meeting has been convened. The government has been dealing with this crisis for over a year now. Canada is in the third wave of the virus, and my department, Public Services and Procurement Canada, has been working around the clock since the beginning—
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Public Services and Procurement Canada is working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to secure the goods and services needed to help Canada get through the pandemic.
Our primary goal at PSPC has been to meet the needs established by the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada as they worked—and continue to work—with the provinces and territories to support Canada's health care professionals on the front lines.
Early on, we focused on buying urgently needed PPE in what proved to be a hyper-competitive global market, with huge international demand for a finite supply of goods. My team accelerated procurement processes, and in some instances established completely new international supply chains to ensure that Canada had access to the most vital PPE from overseas as well as right here in Canada.
Indeed, we tapped into the ingenuity of Canadian companies. We put in place contracts with those who answered our call to action and stepped up to deliver what they could.
At the same time, our government made significant investments in domestic production of much-needed personal protective equipment, or PPE, helping several Canadian companies retool and expand their production lines.
To date, my department has now procured some 2.5 billion pieces of equipment, which we are continuing to receive, with a substantial amount of that equipment being made right here, at home.
We have also procured other vital supplies and services on behalf of the Public Health Agency of Canada, such as rapid tests and medical equipment.
As the members of this committee well know, our focus now is on vaccines—getting them into Canada and into the arms of eligible Canadians as soon as possible. We are also supporting the Public Health Agency of Canada and all provinces and territories with the supplies necessary, including the low-dead-volume syringes.
Moving to vaccines, Mr. Chair, our work from the outset has been to follow the advice, in our procurements, of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the COVID-19 vaccine task force. On their advice, we began by building a diversified portfolio of vaccine candidates as soon as they began to show promise. As soon as we received the advice of the vaccine task force, we began signing agreements in principle with potential suppliers. That was as early as July 2020.
Our objective was to place Canada in a solid position to take delivery of doses as soon as vaccines were deemed safe and effective—and that is precisely what we have done. We gained access to more than 400 million doses of potential vaccines from eight different manufacturers, resulting in one of the most diverse portfolios in the world.
This diverse portfolio is giving Canadians some security in what continues to be a volatile marketplace for vaccines, and it is thanks to this diverse portfolio that we are seeing inoculations happening across this country. We have four approved vaccines. We have received more than 12 million doses in this country since December. Millions more are arriving on our shores every week. We are working directly with our suppliers to keep them coming.
At the same time, we continue to negotiate for earlier deliveries from vaccine suppliers. Indeed, the Prime Minister and I just announced that we have secured the delivery of an additional eight million Pfizer vaccine doses. The first four million additional doses are scheduled to arrive in May. Two million doses a week are coming to Canada in May. That is double the amount of Pfizer doses that we had previously expected.
Indeed, in June we will also see more than two million doses arriving per week. Then, in July, there will be two million more doses, so Mr. Chair, Pfizer has really stepped up in order to ensure that we get vaccines into Canadians' arms as soon as possible.
All of this means that from April until the end of June, we are set to receive at least 24.2 million doses of Pfizer and, by the end of September, Canada will have received 48 million Pfizer doses. This is in addition to the other shipments of vaccines that are coming in from Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
This is tremendous news for Canadians. It means more Pfizer vaccine doses sooner, on top of the millions of other vaccines we already have coming.
I can also now provide an update on our anticipated deliveries of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine.
We expect an initial shipment of approximately 300,000 doses during the week of April 27, with more substantial deliveries coming in the latter part of this quarter and into the third quarter.
For AstraZeneca, Canada is scheduled to receive 4.1 million doses from various sources by the end of June, with further deliveries in the third quarter.
In total, prior to the end of June, Canada will receive between 48 million and 50 million doses of vaccines.
Mr. Chair, as we have said many times, by the end of September, we will have more than enough doses so that every eligible person in Canada will be able to be fully vaccinated.
Once again, this is good news for Canadians, but it doesn't mean our work is done. Our government continues to work with suppliers and our international partners to ensure the steady flow of vaccines into this country, and we are continuing to push for earlier delivery of vaccines from our suppliers.
Mr. Chair, this is the most important work that I have ever undertaken in my professional career. Like many of you around the table and Canadians across this country, I am worried about the third wave, and I am working—
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
Let me begin by acknowledging that I am meeting with you from the territory of many first nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinabe, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples.
With me today I have Deputy Minister Bill Matthews and others from our team.
I am very pleased to be here to contribute to this committee's study on the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the first days of the pandemic, my department has worked around the clock to procure essential personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to protect our frontline health care workers.
Given the rapidly evolving and uncertain nature of the pandemic, we proactively procured a vast range of equipment and supplies so that Canada would be prepared for any eventuality, including worst-case scenarios.
We fought hard in a hypercompetitive global market to secure urgently needed equipment and supplies. We have procured in total about 2.7 billion items of PPE across a range of supplies, and 1.5 billion of those items have been delivered to date.
At the same time, Canadian companies across this land answered our call and began to ramp up domestic production. Last year at this time, N95 masks were not produced in this country. Now Medicom in Quebec is producing N95s. It has produced 100 million masks to date. Medicom in Quebec is joined by 3M in Brockville, which has produced one million N95s to date.
Forty per cent of our PPE contracts, by dollar value, are with Canadian companies. Having these diverse supply chains operating simultaneously was one of the key items in our strategy relating to the procurement of PPE.
Despite the very best efforts of so many Canadians to follow public health advice and make so many personal sacrifices, we are in the midst of the third wave of this pandemic. Our PPE procurements prepared our supply accordingly, and we will continue to support the Public Health Agency of Canada and the provinces and territories as we make our way through to the other side of this pandemic.
We know that the only way to conquer COVID-19 is for us all to continue to follow public health advice alongside a successful vaccine rollout.
When securing doses of safe and effective vaccines for Canadians we took the same aggressive approach as in our personal protective equipment procurement. We initiated a science-based strategy to secure as many vaccine doses as possible.
We approached manufacturers early, negotiating aggressively to build a portfolio of the most promising vaccines to protect the health of Canadians. My department also procured supplies, such as 175 million needles and 262 million syringes to administer the vaccines, as well as hundreds of freezers for use across this country.
Mr. Chair, we laid the groundwork for the largest inoculation campaign in this country's history, and our portfolio of vaccine candidates is now delivering for Canadians.
We originally were promised six million doses of vaccines before the end of Q1. We exceeded this target by 3.5 million doses and reached 9.5 million doses by the end of Q1. That is an excess of 3.5 million doses for which my department and I negotiated aggressively.
Now Canada is in the top three G20 countries in terms of the rate of people who have received at least one dose of vaccine and in the top four for total vaccines administered to date by population. Twelve million doses of the Health Canada-approved Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines have been delivered to provinces and territories as of today, with 8.8 million vaccines administered to date.
Every day more and more Canadians are rolling up their sleeves and getting their shot. At the same time, my department and I continue to negotiate for earlier and earlier deliveries from vaccine suppliers. We have been successful in doing so. To be very clear, it is my role to get these vaccines to Canada as quickly as possible, and that's exactly what I'm doing.
Our most recent efforts are bearing significant results. Between April and June, we will now be receiving 18 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine rather than the originally scheduled eight million doses. Altogether, we have accelerated 22 million doses to earlier quarters—22 million doses earlier than what was otherwise targeted.
In addition, Moderna has confirmed that in addition to the shipment we received this week, we should expect just over 1.2 million doses to arrive at the end of April and more than 2.8 million doses in May. We have also negotiated for millions of AstraZeneca doses to arrive, and they will be continuing to come into this country.
As a result of the successful negotiations, Mr. Chair, by the end of September or before, we will have more than enough doses for every eligible person in Canada.
In closing, the Government of Canada continues to provide information about the number of doses coming into the country. We have exceeded our targets, but we are far from finished.
While supply chains are stronger, vaccines are moving directly from production to shipping so any manufacturing issues have a direct impact on delivery timelines.
To help mitigate these potential schedule disruptions, we are working very closely with suppliers and, through the Public Health Agency, with provinces and territories so that information is shared in real time.
As I mentioned, I am personally pushing our suppliers every day for even earlier delivery of vaccines.
Mr. Chair, our government will keep doing whatever it takes to get Canadians through to the other side of the pandemic. At PSPC, we will support this effort through our procurements.
I look forward to taking your questions.
Thank you.
View Sonia Sidhu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and colleagues.
It's my pleasure to speak today on my private member's bill, Bill C-237, an act to establish a national framework for diabetes.
Before I begin, I want to thank all members immensely for your support of this initiative at second reading. I'm glad to know we share the goal of fighting diabetes.
This year we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin by Sir Frederick Banting and his partners at the University of Toronto. It was also at U of T that stem cells were discovered in the 1960s. These have led to promising research that may lead to a cure.
Since Canada has been home to these great inventions in the fight against diabetes, we should also have a comprehensive strategy to help those living with this disease.
We have 11 million Canadians living with diabetes or prediabetes. The number of diagnoses doubled in the last 20 years, and every three minutes, another Canadian is added to this list. In my own community of Brampton, almost every sixth resident lives with diabetes or prediabetes.
In my 18-year career as a health care professional, I saw patients with cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, amputations or high blood pressure and diabetes was frequently an underlying and complicating condition. That is why a strategy is so important. By effectively fighting or preventing one disease, we will make an impact on many others.
When you consider the expense to the public health care system and to individuals living with diabetes, it represents a massive financial burden. Every dollar spent fighting and preventing diabetes means greater savings down the line.
It is one of the most common chronic illnesses in Canada and the rate is only growing. Some Canadians are at increased risk of diabetes, such as South Asians, Black and indigenous Canadians. We also know that diabetes disproportionately affects Canadians with low income and education. Diabetes rates are three to four times higher among first nations than among the general Canadian population. Furthermore, indigenous individuals are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at a younger age than other individuals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Canadians with chronic diseases, including diabetes.
For all these reasons, we need a cohesive national plan to respond to diabetes, one that coordinates funding for awareness, prevention, research and treatment, and that ensures equal access to treatment across Canada.
Mr. Chair, we can learn from Canada's past diabetes plans and programs, and we can make sure that the framework called for in Bill C-237 is data-driven, accountable and engaged with stakeholders such as Diabetes Canada, JDRF and others.
A national framework for diabetes would provide a common direction for all stakeholders to address diabetes, and by extension, other chronic diseases with the same risk factors. It would enhance coordinated efforts across federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions and provide a mechanism for tracking and reporting on progress.
The framework would allow for the identification of gaps in present approaches, strengthen action to address health inequities in diabetes and decrease the duplication of efforts by coordinating across jurisdictions.
The bill calls for promoting research, data collection and treatment. It would offer an opportunity for indigenous people and organizations to engage in federal, provincial and territorial strategies using a distinctions-based approach.
It would make a difference in the lives of millions of Canadians. Back in April 2019, this committee conducted a study and released a report on this very issue.
Mr. Chair and Mr. Davies, you were both part of the committee at that time. The comprehensive report already outlines the steps the government should take in the fight against diabetes.
The number one recommendation in this report was that the Government of Canada, in partnership with the provinces and territories and in collaboration with stakeholders, plan and implement an approach for the prevention and management of diabetes in Canada through a national diabetes strategy. Bill C-237 mandates the minister to do just this.
The HESA report made 10 other recommendations. Among them were that the government explore options to reduce diabetes-related stigma and improve public awareness and education on diabetes; provide funding through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for research into preventing and treating diabetes; hold discussions with the provinces and territories to explore possible approaches to providing uniform coverage for diabetes-related medication, supplies and equipment across Canada; work with the provinces and territories to explore possible approaches to improving access to health care for individuals living with diabetes in rural, remote and northern communities and address the difficulties faced by many Canadians in accessing a family physician; and work with the provincial regulatory bodies to ensure that health care professionals receive comprehensive education and training to properly identify and manage diabetes and diabetes-related complications in their patients.
I believe that with more coordination among all levels of government and stakeholders, we will be a better position to win the fight against diabetes. I know that the government will give full consideration to the HESA report and the dozens of witnesses who shared their expertise and experiences to help shape the recommendations. For example, I personally think the Diabetes Canada 360° proposal is an excellent one.
This past November I went to Banting House in London, Ontario, where the Flame of Hope, a perpetually burning torch that serves to honour all who have been affected by diabetes, is located. It is a reminder that we must still work for a real cure. It will only be extinguished when one is discovered.
The discovery of insulin is remembered as one of the greatest medical achievements of the 20th century. It was the first time the Nobel Prize for medicine went to someone outside Europe. It went to Canada. The best thing we can do as a country to honour this discovery is to recommit to helping everyone battling this chronic disease, whether they are patients, doctors, researchers or loved ones.
Mr. Chair and fellow committee members, Canadians have always been leaders in the fight against diabetes. I want to thank you all again for the support you have shown for this bill, which I hope will eventually lead to the day when we can extinguish that torch at Banting House. Canada gave insulin to the world. Why can we not lead the way?
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I will do my speech in English to avoid having to flip back and forth between the channels.
I appreciate the invitation to appear before the HESA committee. I will let you know that I have many departmental officials joining me today, including Dr. Stephen Lucas, deputy minister; Iain Stewart, president of the Public Health Agency of Canada; Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer; Major-General Dany Fortin, vice-president, vaccine rollout task force, logistics and operations; Dr. Siddika Mithani, president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency; and Catherine MacLeod, acting president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
When I appeared before the committee last month, I provided an overview of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy. Today I would like to begin with a brief update on COVID-19 vaccinations and the situation in Canada right now.
So far we've delivered more than 3.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to provinces and territories. More than two-thirds of these—a total of 2.6 million doses—have already been administered. We expect these numbers to rise quickly as deliveries from vaccine manufacturers continue to ramp up this month and in the months to follow. The recent authorizations of the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines by Health Canada give us two more tools in the fight against the pandemic.
Following the authorization of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement announced that Canada has secured two million doses through an agreement with Verity Pharmaceuticals Inc., Canada, and the Serum Institute of India. This is in addition to the 20 million doses already secured through an earlier agreement with AstraZeneca.
The Janssen vaccine is administered in a single dose and can be stored and transported at regular refrigerated temperatures. Canada has an agreement with Johnson and Johnson for 10 million doses of this vaccine between now and September.
Although we've seen a decline in COVID-19 activity from mid-January through mid-February, daily case counts have since only levelled off, and COVID-19 variants could threaten the progress we have made if we relax public health measures too soon. That's why we all need to keep following public health measures that we know help identify and stop the spread of COVID-19. This includes testing, screening, contact tracing, and of course isolation. We also need to keep doing our part to protect each other. That means continuing to wear masks and limiting our interactions with other people.
Canada also has strong restrictions for travellers arriving in the country. In addition to being tested for COVID-19 before they arrive, travellers must now take a test on the day they arrive in Canada, and another on day 10 of their quarantine. All positive tests are evaluated to determine whether there are variants of concern. These strengthened requirements help protect the most vulnerable Canadians, and I want to thank the many Canadian travellers who are doing their part to protect their neighbours by following these new rules.
From the very first day, this pandemic has required us all to adapt and change our behaviours to protect public health. Canadians as individuals have had to do it, and so too have governments. As the pandemic has evolved, the federal response has evolved as well, and our budgetary needs reflect this.
I will now provide you with a financial overview for 2020-21 as set out in supplementary estimates (C). Through this exercise, I'm seeking $684.5 million on behalf of the health portfolio, which includes Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. This increase over the 2020-21 main estimates will complement work that is already under way in a number of important areas.
Beginning with Health Canada, I'm seeking an additional $603.1 million. This will increase the department’s statutory spending by $553.6 million and its voted spending authorities by $49.5 million. This funding will be used to address pressures associated with Canada’s COVID-19 response, as well as our obligations under the Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2020. This includes investments in long-term care, mental health and substance use in the context of COVID-19, as well as supporting innovative approaches to COVID-19 testing.
For the Public Health Agency of Canada, I'm requesting a total increase of $66.5 million. This reflects an increase of $5.634 billion in voted authorities, which is offset by a decrease in statutory spending of $5.567 billion.
The increase in voted authorities will go towards innovative research and the procurement of testing technologies related to the pandemic, surge capacity and support for mental health and substance-use initiatives.
For the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, or CFIA, I am seeking $13 million. This will increase the agency's statutory spending by $1.8 million and its voted spending authorities by $11.2 million. The majority of this funding will go towards improving existing domestic and import safety control systems through increased surveillance and inspection, supporting Canadian exports through the inspection and certification of goods, and the ongoing digitization of the agency's internal and public-facing business.
Another $1.5 million will support the Canadian food safety information network, which will improve confidence in the food safety system by connecting authorities and laboratories across jurisdictions.
Finally, for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, I'm seeking $2 million. This will decrease its statutory spending by $126.7 million and increase its voted spending authorities by $128.7 million. These research investments will contribute to our overall understanding of COVID-19 and will continue to inform Canada's public health approach.
Mr. Chair, it has been a long road, but with vaccination under way across the country, we are closer than we have been in a long time to a more hopeful future. The Government of Canada is working steadily towards that future with actions that protect Canadians and safeguard the progress we've made.
Health Canada and the agencies of the health portfolio are proud to lead these efforts. Our resourcing plans reflect our commitment to ensuring the health and safety of Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. My colleagues and I will be happy to take your questions.
Thank you.
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