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Results: 1 - 22 of 22
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2015-05-11 15:44
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Thank you.
Mr. Minister, in the United States there's a vigorous debate going on among the President, Congress, and civil society concerning the TPP. In the interest of transparency, American legislators of all parties are permitted access to the negotiated text of the TPP upon signing confidentiality commitments.
Will you permit the same privilege to Canadian legislators so we can foster a similar level of debate in our country?
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View Ed Fast Profile
CPC (BC)
View Ed Fast Profile
2015-05-11 15:45
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Thank you for that question.
I can tell you that we have had very robust consultations with our key stakeholders. Since the TPP negotiations were launched, we've had round tables involving over 350 different stakeholders from the economy. We have had one-on-one meetings with over 500 stakeholders during that period of time. I can assure you that those consultations with stakeholders from every sector of our economy inform the positions that we take at the negotiating table.
We will not compromise Canada's ability to secure an optimal outcome for Canadians, in the national interest, by disclosing our negotiating strategy to the other parties at the negotiating table. That's something we will not do. I can assure you that at the end of the day, the standard we have set, as I've mentioned many times in the House, is that we will not sign a trade agreement unless it is in Canada's best interest.
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View Rona Ambrose Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee. I want to thank all of you for the work you do on the health committee. I know many of you are passionate about the issues of health, and I thank you for your commitment to that.
I'm joined by Simon Kennedy, Health Canada's new deputy minister; Krista Outhwaite, our newly appointed president of the Public Health Agency of Canada; and Dr. Gregory Taylor, whom you've met before, Canada's chief public health officer. I know he'll be here for the second half. You might want to ask him about his trip to Guinea and Sierra Leone to visit our troops and others who are working on the front dealing with Ebola. I'm sure he'll have some great things to share with you.
Michel Perron is here on behalf of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He's also new. Last time I know you met Dr. Alain Beaudet.
We also have Dr. Bruce Archibald, who's the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. I think you've met Bruce as well.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to start by sharing an update on some of the key issues that we've been working on recently. I'll begin by talking about Canada's health care system, the pressures it's facing, and the opportunities for improvement through innovation. I will then highlight some recent activities on priority issues such as family violence and the safety of drugs in food.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Canada spent around $215 billion on health care just in 2014. Provinces and territories, which are responsible for the delivery of health care to Canadians, are working very hard to ensure their systems continue to meet the needs of Canadians, but with an aging population, chronic disease, and economic uncertainty, the job of financing and delivering quality care is not getting easier.
Our government continues to be a strong partner for the provinces and territories when it comes to record transfer dollars. Since 2006, federal health transfers have increased by almost 70% and are on track to increase from $34 billion this year to more than $40 billion annually by the end of the decade—an all-time high.
This ongoing federal investment in healthcare is providing provinces and territories with the financial predictability and flexibility they need to respond to the priorities and pressures within their jurisdictions.
In addition of course, federal support for health research through the CIHR as well as targeted investments in areas such as mental health, cancer prevention, and patient safety are helping to improve the accessibility and quality of health care for Canadians.
But to build on the record transfers and the targeted investments I just mentioned, we're also taking a number of other measures to improve the health of Canadians and reduce pressure on the health care system. To date we've leveraged over $27 million in private sector investments to advance healthy living partnerships. I'm very pleased with the momentum we've seen across Canada.
Last year we launched the play exchange, in collaboration with Canadian Tire, LIFT Philanthropy Partners, and the CBC, to find the best ideas that would encourage Canadians to live healthier and active lives. We announced the winning idea in January: the Canadian Cancer Society of Quebec and their idea called “trottibus”, which is a walking school bus. This is an innovative program that gives elementary schoolchildren a safe and fun way to get to school while being active. Trottibus is going to receive $1 million in funding from the federal government to launch their great idea across the country.
Other social innovation projects are encouraging all children to get active early in life so that we can make some real headway in terms of preventing chronic diseases, obesity, and other health issues. We're also supporting health care innovation through investments from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In fact our government now is the single-largest contributor to health research in Canada, investing roughly $1 billion every year.
Since its launch in 2011, the strategy for patient-oriented research has been working to bring improvements from the latest research straight to the bedsides of patients. I was pleased to see that budget 2015 provided additional funds so that we can build on this success, including an important partnership with the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement.
Canadians benefit from a health system that provides access to high-quality care and supports good health outcomes, but we can't afford to be complacent in the face of an aging society, changing technology, and new economic and fiscal realities. That is why we have been committed to supporting innovation that improves the quality and affordability of health care.
As you know, the advisory panel on health care innovation that I launched last June has spent the last 10 months exploring the top areas of innovation in Canada and abroad with the goal of identifying how the federal government can support those ideas that hold the greatest promise. The panel has now met with more than 500 individuals including patients, families, business leaders, economists, and researchers. As we speak, the panel is busy analyzing what they've heard, and I look forward to receiving their final report in June.
I'd also like to talk about another issue. It's one that does not receive the attention that it deserves as a pressing public health concern, and that's family violence. Family violence has undeniable impacts on the health of the women, children, and even men, who are victimized. There are also very significant impacts on our health care and justice systems.
Family violence can lead to chronic pain and disease, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, self-harm, and many other serious and lifelong afflictions for its victims. That's why this past winter I was pleased to announce a federal investment of $100 million over 10 years to help address family violence and support the health of victims of violence. This investment will support health professionals and community organizations in improving the physical and mental health of victims of violence, and help stop intergenerational cycles of violence.
In addition to our efforts to address family violence and support innovation to improve the sustainability of the health care system, we have made significant progress on a number of key drug safety issues. Canadians want and deserve to depend on and trust the care they receive. To that end, I'd like to thank the committee for its thoughtful study of our government's signature patient safety legislation, Vanessa's Law. Building on the consultations that we held with Canadians prior to its introduction, this committee's careful review of Vanessa's Law, including the helpful amendments that were brought forward by MP Young, served to strengthen the bill and will improve the transparency that Canadians expect.
Vanessa's Law, as you know, introduces the most significant improvements to drug safety in Canada in more than 50 years. It allows me, as minister, to recall unsafe drugs and to impose tough new penalties, including jail time and fines up to $5 million per day, instead of what is the current $5,000 a day. It also compels drug companies to do further testing and revise labels in plain language to clearly reflect health risk information, including updates for health warnings for children. It will also enhance surveillance by requiring mandatory adverse drug reaction reporting by health care institutions, and requires new transparency for Health Canada's regulatory decisions about drug approvals.
To ensure the new transparency powers are providing the kind of information that Canadian families and researchers are looking for, we've also just launched further consultations asking about the types of information that are most useful to improve drug safety. Beyond the improvements in Vanessa's Law, we're making great progress and increasing transparency through Health Canada's regulatory transparency and openness framework. In addition to posting summaries of drug safety reviews that patients and medical professionals can use to make informed decisions, we are now also publishing more detailed inspection information on companies and facilities that make drugs. This includes inspection dates, licence status, types of risks observed, and measures that are taken by Health Canada. Patients can also check Health Canada's clinical trials database to determine if a trial they are interested in has met regulatory requirements.
Another priority of mine is tackling the issue of drug abuse and addiction in Canada. There's no question that addiction to dangerous drugs has a devastating and widespread impact on Canadian families and communities. In line with recommendations from this committee, I am pleased that the marketing campaign launched last fall by Health Canada is helping parents talk with their teenagers about the dangers of smoking marijuana and prescription drug abuse. The campaign addresses both of those things, because too many of our young people are abusing drugs that are meant to heal them.
Our government also recognizes that those struggling with drug addictions need help to recover a drug-free life. From a federal perspective, of course, we provide assistance for prevention and treatment projects under our national anti-drug strategy. We've now committed over $44 million to expand the strategy to include prescription drug abuse and are continuing to work with the provinces to improve drug treatment.
I've now met and will continue to meet with physicians, pharmacists, first nations, law enforcement, addictions specialists, medical experts, and of course parents to discuss how we can collectively tackle prescription drug abuse.
Finally, our government continues to make very real investments to strengthen our food safety system. As only the latest example, I recently announced a five-year investment of more than $30 million in the CFIA's new food safety information network. Through this modern network, food safety experts will be better connected, and laboratories will be able to share urgently needed surveillance information and food safety data, using a secure web platform. This will put us in an even better position to protect Canadians from food safety risk by improving our ability to actually anticipate, detect, and then effectively deal with food safety issues. This investment will continue to build on the record levels of funding we've already provided, as well as the improved powers such as tougher penalties, enhanced controls on E. coli, new meat labelling requirements, and improved inspection oversight.
In conclusion, those are just some of the priorities that will be supported through the funding our government has allocated to the Health portfolio. This year's main estimates, notably, include investments for first nations health, for our ongoing contribution to the international response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and the key research and food safety investments that I have already mentioned.
I'll leave it at that. If committee members have any questions, my officials and I would be very pleased to answer them. Thank you.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
View Chris Warkentin Profile
2015-03-10 16:14
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Minister, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate the fact that you and your officials have made yourselves available to spend this next little while with us.
I was reading a national columnist this last week, and there was an expression of concern about the estimates process and the ability of the average Canadian and possibly of parliamentarians to understand it. Certainly he, as a member of the media, was confused by the estimates process. I think it's important for people watching this and for those who don't fully understand the estimates process that you explain in general terms how Canadians should look at the estimates. Maybe you can also explain some of the things that have been done to help people understand the estimates and some of the recent things that have happened.
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View Tony Clement Profile
CPC (ON)
This is a constant challenge for anyone who is the President of the Treasury Board, to draw the distinction between the estimates process and the budget process. Ultimately they align, but it does take some months for that to occur. Because I'm statutorily required to table the estimates to the House of Commons prior to March 1, and frequently the budget is either around the same time, or in this case just after that, they don't align perfectly at the start of the year but they certainly align perfectly at the end of the year. So parliamentarians have the estimates process and they obviously pass or not. We have the budget, and then we have the public accounts for the previous year, which are a topic of examination and debate by this committee and by the parliamentary process.
Finally, I would say that one of the things I have instituted since being named the President of the Treasury Board in 2011 is to try to get us away from paper-based estimates and public accounts, and toward the more online versions, where through hypertext and other links it will be easier for you and your colleagues to examine each program year by year, each department year by year, and that way you can compare and contrast, rather than going through three sets of books of the past three years that are a metre high.
I think it is working better, and there is certainly more that can be done, but technology is our friend and it's making it easier for the government to be accountable to parliamentarians.
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View Pat Martin Profile
NDP (MB)
View Pat Martin Profile
2015-03-10 17:01
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I'm afraid that's not a point of order, Mr. Byrne, but you have made your point, and that does come close to the time that we have for the minister with us today.
But I just want to say before you go, Minister, that this has not exactly been a triumph of scrutiny and oversight and due diligence, in that 241 billion dollars' worth of spending just flew past under our noses with the most cursory overview of one hour with the committee, and one party with political standing got exactly five minutes to question all of the spending on the main estimates and the supplementary estimates (C).
It's a bit like walking a chicken past a pot of boiling water and calling it chicken soup. It hardly qualifies as oversight, in my view.
On a point of order, Mr. Albas.
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2015-03-10 17:02
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I can challenge that notion if you like, but the point is, Mr. Chair, we all have the opportunity to hold government to account through many different vehicles. It's up to us, as individual members, to do that. While I totally understand that you do have your strong feelings on things like this, it should be done through the committee process. Therefore, if you'd like to ask the officials questions, you can give it up to the vice-chair, and I'm sure the vice-chair will gladly take the chair so you can fulfill your role and bring accountability in your way.
Thank you.
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View Pat Martin Profile
NDP (MB)
View Pat Martin Profile
2015-03-10 17:03
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Mr. Albas, I'm not sure if you were a member of this committee when we did a comprehensive review of the way the committee deals with estimates, where we made 17 very robust recommendations and a commitment to the public that we would do a more comprehensive analysis of the estimates for the very reason that it's our obligation as an oversight committee, which happens to be called the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.
A one-hour analysis of 241 billion dollars' worth of spending does not satisfy those—
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2015-03-10 17:03
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It's up to individual members of Parliament to do that, Mr. Chair—
The Chair: Well, as the chair—
Mr. Dan Albas: —and there's still a whole other hour.
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View Tony Clement Profile
CPC (ON)
Chair, in response, I offer up my officials. They can be here—
A voice: As long as you want.
Hon. Tony Clement: —day and night, night and day, to answer any questions you or the committee may have.
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View Pat Martin Profile
NDP (MB)
View Pat Martin Profile
2015-03-10 17:04
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That's very generous of you, Minister. Frankly, the buck stops with you, and it's you we would like to question.
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View Tony Clement Profile
CPC (ON)
I have a few other things on my plate, but I can offer other time. If the committee votes to bring me back, I'd be happy to be back.
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Brian Pagan
View Brian Pagan Profile
Brian Pagan
2015-03-10 17:09
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Very briefly, Mr. Chair, just by way of context and to pick up on some of the items from the last round, there was a great deal of interest in the issue of the budget and sunsetting, and the order in which information is presented, supporting, again, your point about the primacy of parliamentary control and approval of the estimates documents.
We are presenting information to you that has been approved by the Treasury Board based on an available source of funds, as confirmed by the budget. Generally, that source of funds is through the budget process. We have no control of or indication as to when that budget will be, but we do have regular intervals, regular opportunities, to update Parliament on the spending plans of departments based on the sources of funds that are provided through that budget process.
What we are presenting today in supplementary estimates (C) are all those authorities to close out fiscal year 2014-15 and the approved authorities to begin fiscal year 2015-16. We will update Parliament regularly through subsequent supplementary estimates as that situation changes with the budget and the economic update.
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Brian Pagan
View Brian Pagan Profile
Brian Pagan
2015-03-10 17:28
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Thank you for the question. I welcome this, because I think it is an opportunity to educate members of Parliament about the process and perhaps dispel some myths and misconceptions.
I spoke earlier about supplementary estimates (C) and the fact that they are tabled according to House Standing Orders at a certain point in the year, leaving just a few weeks in the fiscal year for departments to execute the programs based on the approvals provided by Parliament.
In the past, going back to the early nineties, this timing created a phenomenon known as “March madness”, whereby departments would spend the money available, because if they couldn't spend it, they would lose it. This was a practice that was criticized by the Auditor General and by parliamentary committees, so the concept of carry forward was introduced in 1993. It allowed a bit of flexibility. It simply recognized the reality of providing approval for funding very late in the fiscal year and some of the difficulty in spending this related to contracting, hiring staff, etc.
It proved to be quite successful, I think. The Auditor General supported an increase to the carry forward. It was increased to 5% in 1994-95 and has stayed at that level ever since.
A more recent development in 2007 was the creation of a central vote to provide more transparency to Parliament in terms of the use of that vote. Right now Parliament, through these main estimates, is creating a central vote for administration by Treasury Board, and we will report back—that central vote is worth $1.6 billion—at the conclusion of the fiscal year on how that $1.6 billion was allocated, department by department, in accordance with their carry forward needs and entitlements. There is a very strict process by which we determine whether they are eligible or not for that carry forward.
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2015-03-10 17:30
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Okay.
Just on this whole topic, because criticisms are raised in this place quite often, and sometimes it's good to check in with them, would you say that you're well acquainted with the supply process and the need to check in with parliamentarians throughout?
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Brian Pagan
View Brian Pagan Profile
Brian Pagan
2015-03-10 17:30
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Absolutely. This is a process that we take quite seriously. The sector exists to support the expenditure management system, and we appear regularly before parliamentary committees. We take this quite seriously.
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2015-03-10 17:30
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With that in mind, because it was raised earlier that we have only this much time at this committee, I was left with the impression that people at home might think we spend only an hour reviewing these particular things. I know you probably spend much more than just that.
Besides this committee, what other opportunities do individual members of Parliament have to hold the government to account when it comes to its spending, both informal as well as formal methods?
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Brian Pagan
View Brian Pagan Profile
Brian Pagan
2015-03-10 17:31
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Thank you for the question.
Transparency and accountability for the moneys provided to departments again are something that we take quite seriously. We have, I think, worked very constructively with this committee, with the Senate Committee on National Finance, with the Office of the Auditor General to listen and hear their needs and make real improvements to the information provided to Parliament, not only in the estimates but in a range of other documents. The quarterly financial report provides in-year reporting on how each and every department is progressing against the authorities provided to them by departments.
In just a week or so the President of the Treasury Board will table departmental reports on plans and priorities, which provide a great deal of detail by department for the moneys requested in these supplementary estimates. We have worked with departments over the last several years to improve the transparency of their documents by identifying strategic outcomes and program activities that allow parliamentary committees to better understand the aggregation of programs and how those fit with departmental mandates and government priorities.
I think that provides just a very brief summary of the work that we've done, and I can assure you it is an ongoing exercise. I think Canada can be very proud of the way its public finances are managed, but we are always striving to identify and implement improvements, and we would welcome recommendations.
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2015-03-10 17:33
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I just want to clarify. The reports on plans and priorities I think was what you meant to say, not the departmental reports. Is that correct?
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Brian Pagan
View Brian Pagan Profile
Brian Pagan
2015-03-10 17:33
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There are two documents that comprise part III of the estimates. The report on plans and priorities is tabled in the spring to support main estimates, and then at the conclusion of the fiscal year a departmental performance report is tabled, which provides that backward-looking view.
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View Pat Martin Profile
NDP (MB)
View Pat Martin Profile
2015-03-10 17:33
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Thank you, Mr. Albas.
Just to take a second, I think it would be useful for new members of the committee to see the helpful chart that Mr. Matthews put together for us to help us understand the continuity of the flow of supply, which included everything from estimates to budget to DPRs. It helped me at least to have that graphically illustrated to understand that flow of supply.
Mr. Byrne.
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