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View Rona Ambrose Profile
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.
Nancy Cheng
View Nancy Cheng Profile
Nancy Cheng
2013-03-05 15:32
Mr. Chair, thank you for the opportunity to meet with your committee today to discuss chapter 7 of our fall 2012 report, on long-term fiscal sustainability. Joining me at the table is Richard Domingue, the principal responsible for this audit.
Long-term fiscal sustainability refers to whether the government can finance its activities and debt obligations in the future without imposing an unfair burden on future generations. Factors like changing demographics can put pressure on Canada's fiscal position in the long term.
After the financial turmoil in 2008 and its negative impact on the government's fiscal outlook, long-term fiscal sustainability became even more important. In this context, analyses that provide a long-term budgetary perspective would help parliamentarians and Canadians better understand the fiscal challenges we face.
Our audit objective was to determine whether the Department of Finance Canada took into account the long-term fiscal impact when proposing budget measures and policies, and whether it reported this type of information publicly.
We first selected six recent budget measures to determine if the Department of Finance Canada analyzed the long-term fiscal impact of these measures and considered the results when recommending them. To protect the government's fiscal position in the long run, it is important that policy makers understand the future budgetary impact of decisions made today.
Based on our audit, we concluded that the Department of Finance Canada had the capacity and tools to carry out long-term fiscal analyses. We found that such analyses were carried out when the department considered it to be relevant. For changes to the Canada Health Transfer and Old Age Security, the department analysed the long-term fiscal impact of the proposed changes on the federal government, and on the provinces and territories. We noted that the results of those analyses were used to make recommendations.
We then looked at whether the department reports projections on Canada's long-term fiscal position. Although the department analyzed the impact of individual budget measures, it is also important to make available, before concluding the budget process, an overall assessment of their combined impact on the government's long-term fiscal position.
We found that Finance Canada does prepare an analysis of the overall long-term fiscal position of the government. However, it is not prepared or provided to the minister before the budget process is concluded.
For example, we found that an analysis of the long-term overall impact of the March 2012 budget was given to the minister in August 2012, five months after the budget was tabled.
At the conclusion of the 2012 budget measures, senior management and the Minister of Finance had not been informed of the measures' combined impact on the government's long-term fiscal position.
We recommended that the minister be informed of the overall impact of budget measures before final choices were made and approved. Finance Canada agreed with the recommendation. Starting in 2013, it plans to provide the minister with this information before decisions are finalized.
In its 2007 budget, the Government of Canada committed to publishing a comprehensive report on fiscal sustainability and intergenerational equity. We found that the government had not followed through on this commitment. In the absence of publicly available information—and to illustrate the overall impact of the 2012 budget on the government's fiscal sustainability—we prepared 40-year projections by replicating the economic and fiscal conditions at the time when those decisions were made. As we illustrate in exhibit 7.5 of our report, our projections showed that the 2012 budget will have a significant positive impact on the sustainability of public finances for the federal government.
Within hours of our report being submitted, the department published the government's first long-term fiscal report. In response to our recommendation, the Department of Finance committed to publishing long-term fiscal analyses for the federal government annually. It is commendable that the government implemented this recommendation so quickly. As a result, Canada joins a good number of OECD countries that have published long-term fiscal sustainability analyses.
In addition to reporting at the federal level, we also recommended that from time to time the department report an analysis for all levels of government combined, including the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. We note Finance Canada has the capacity and the information to prepare a combined report. A comprehensive report would provide a complete long-term fiscal outlook for Canada.
We note the International Monetary Fund recently urged Canada to publish a fiscal sustainability report covering all levels of government. We encourage the government to take steps to analyze the fiscal position for all of Canada and to report it periodically.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my opening remarks. We would be pleased to answer questions from members of your committee.
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