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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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Ian Hargreaves
View Ian Hargreaves Profile
Ian Hargreaves
2012-06-12 8:46
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Thank you.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak with you today.
I will speak, I think, for a little less than eight or nine minutes, simply to give you the background and key points in the review on IP issues that I conducted for the U.K. government. That review was commissioned in October 2010. It reported in May 2011, so just over one year ago. The government broadly accepted the ten policy recommendations of the review, and has subsequently been engaged in detailed pre-legislative consultation, which is not yet complete. The parliamentary aspect of the carrying forward of the review's recommendations remains before us, and therefore subject to the usual uncertainty of that process.
The review itself was commissioned by Prime Minister Cameron, who said that he wanted a review of IP issues that specifically addressed the interface between IP law and its effects on innovation and growth in the economy. So it was a relatively tightly focused review, which we were given six months to complete.
The main points arising from the review were at the cross-cutting level, as it were: the observation that a good deal of decision-making on IP matters in the U.K. has, in my judgment, not been based upon the best evidence available for those decisions and to urge government in the future to avoid that being the case.
There were recommendations in the review on the unitary European patent. That is making very laboured progress through the system in Europe. There were recommendations on the access of smaller firms to IP law advice and systems to support their effective podification in the IP-based economy, and there are some recommendations around the issue of design rights, which the review suggests, in the U.K. context at least, has been a relatively neglected area in IP. But the aspects of the review that have caused most public discussion, because these are the aspects of the review where the conclusions are strongest, are that, in my judgment, U.K. law on copyright no longer fits the purpose, it last having been redrafted prior to the Internet era and therefore, not suprisingly, now showing significant signs of unfitness for purpose in what remains a very boisterous digital age.
The specific sets of recommendations around copyright involve urging the U.K. government to take more advantage than it has in the past been inclined to in terms of activating exceptions to copyright coverage available in the framework of European law within which U.K. law sits. That's one set of recommendations, a set of recommendations designed to release the very substantial buried treasure of orphaned works in different media and various ideas at different levels of legislative difficulty in terms of seeking to find ways of both making copyright law in practice more readily adaptable to further technological change, but also seeking to ensure that copyright law itself is able to be actioned satisfactorily by rights holders whose rights are being infringed through breach of copyright.
The argument that I used on the latter score is that I don't think we are going to get to a position again where copyright infringement ceases to be a major problem, unless and until we also address the respective working of markets in digital content, and to that end, I suggested a major change in approach that actually doesn't require any legislative action, which I called the creation of a digital copyright exchange.
That idea is simply to build upon the very considerable amount of work that is already being done to ensure that in the world of digital content across different media there are interoperable databases that will make it easier, quicker, and lower cost to find out who owns rights, and on what terms they may be licensable, and then to move from that to a database-based trading system. That already exists in some parts of these markets, but it would be to seek to accomplish this on a thorough and cross-media market basis.
The argument of the review is that if these changes are carried forward there will be measurable benefits for the U.K. economy. The economic impact assessment that was done at the time of the review by a small group of economists who were invited to do that estimated that the effect on the U.K.'s gross domestic product will be to add between 0.3% and 0.6% per year of growth to the British economy. This is a set of figures that of course has been much debated. It's a range. It's based on economists' assumptions. But I don't think there has been any serious challenge to the idea that reform of this kind would be economically positive if successfully carried through.
That concludes the remarks I wanted to make before inviting questions from your committee, sir.
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View Mark Adler Profile
CPC (ON)
View Mark Adler Profile
2012-05-03 9:34
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Could you just jump back to the CF-18 maintenance contract and how that really skewed not only the political environment, but how Winnipeg really suffered and the industry really suffered in Winnipeg for that political decision?
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Rénald Fortier
View Rénald Fortier Profile
Rénald Fortier
2012-05-03 9:34
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Politics do play a role and you have large players like Bombardier. In the United States it's the same thing. You have “senators from Boeing”, they're called, probably behind their backs. There's a lot of lobbying that takes place. In some cases, some areas of the country will come up in second position.
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Joe Sardinha
View Joe Sardinha Profile
Joe Sardinha
2011-10-20 15:32
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Thank you very much for this opportunity. Through the miracle of modern technology we're able to participate in these consultations, something I would like to do in person, but unfortunately I'm still harvesting my apple crop here in B.C. It's a little bit late this year, so that has kept me at the farm.
In terms of science and innovation, I believe the right mix of investment in research will lead to innovation at the farm level, resulting in a more competitive and, more importantly, a profitable farm sector. We need to get it right. We also anticipate that the risk management tools we have today and are developing for the future would experience a decline in demand if we do get that basic research flowing correctly throughout the industry.
Research is a vital part of agriculture's unbroken record of improvement in quality and productivity. It is particularly important to Canada as a nation of exports with vast agricultural capacity. Canada has a stake in advancing farm productivity, with research as a key component.
Food security may not be an issue in Canada but it is an issue as food supplies tighten. In Canada we're looking more at the issue of rising food prices than food shortages. Comparing this to the Canadian agricultural sector, where the road of productivity is allowed to slide compared to other competing jurisdictions, we know that other world areas have higher yields than Canada, and we have to continue on the research and innovation front to maintain our competitiveness in that regard.
The value of inventions that are created in Canada can alone compensate for the investment in productivity enhancement. This is particularly important to the tree fruit industry in terms of variety development or the plant breeding programs we currently have. It's key to the innovation in the tree fruit sector.
I want to address a question that we developed here. It states, what are the interests of agricultural producers, especially tree fruit growers in research? Growers are most keenly interested in improvements to horticultural practices, for example, more efficient irrigation, more efficient pruning/thinning, picking, grading, and storage of produce, using automation and computer technology. As I've said, the development of new varieties that are suited to our northern climate is extremely important, as is more environmentally friendly pest control, which builds on successes of integrated and area-wide pest management, enabling producers to manage both current and emerging pest and disease issues. We are an importing nation and seem to be landing new insect and disease species on our shores on an ongoing basis.
What is the reality? We've seen with Growing Forward 1 that the delivery of research programs to high-value Canadian horticulture needs to be upgraded so that we are competitive and build value for Canadians.
The switch that established national research science clusters was well intentioned but poorly implemented. It took longer that expected to launch and the criteria and eligibility of research projects changed up to the final moment.
The Canadian Horticulture Council assumed the role of administrator of the edible horticultural science cluster and has done a commendable job in dealing with the many changes to the science initiative since its inception. Under the CHC's guidance, the Canadian apple industry, a very big part of which I am in, invested substantial effort in synthesizing provincial research priorities into national research priorities. The industry then worked to develop its top three project proposals, as did other commodity representatives of the CHC. Application deadlines were met, but the guidelines changed after the fact, and two of the industry's three proposals were turned down because they involved federal research employees at AAFC research centres—some of the criteria that was not spelled out from the outset of the industry developing its research priorities.
The process really undermines the industry's confidence in investing all this time and effort when projects are rejected for what we feel are new and inconsequential reasons.
Following that debacle, the CHC was informed just this past summer that additional unallocated funding existed for the horticultural science cluster. It was a last-minute scramble by all to submit new project proposals in a very short timeframe to take advantage of this additional funding that no one knew anything about prior to the government's announcement. The apple industry did submit for a new project, but this was done in a very ad hoc way and it didn't really follow the priority-setting process that we had used in identifying our previous three projects.
So was it the right project for our scarce resources? Perhaps not, but it certainly exposed some inadequacies in the funding process, and certainly all the changes we've been hit with in the cluster initiative have led to much confusion.
If agricultural associations are willing to commit their share of research investment, it's perhaps time that government programs are made more transparent at the outset, and certainly the science cluster initiative could have used more transparency and better program development because we saw far too many changes throughout the implementation of the program. We need less bureaucracy so as not to sideswipe industry’s efforts to capitalize on research that I believe will ultimately enhance the competitiveness and profitability of the agricultural sector.
We do have some Growing Forward 2 recommendations that we'd like to propose to your committee. The government has increased other types of agriculture and processing research at the expense of horticultural practices, often referred to as primary production research. We recommend ensuring the level of funding for research and horticultural practices be balanced with other research needs.
The government has let key research positions go unfilled when retirements occur or are imminent. In a round of consultations a few years ago, this was a high priority to resolve, yet no strategy is emerging, and the erosion of our science capacity continues.
For tree fruit, we recommend that a weed scientist, a post-harvest physiologist, and a plant breeder be hired to replace recently retired or soon to be retired scientists at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland.
We recommend that advisory committees for research stations, composed of producers nominated by provincial commodity associations, be re-established, with meaningful input into business plans, including succession planning for researchers and adequate and balanced resources required for senior researchers and technical staff to ensure a balance between horticultural and other types of research.
Lastly, we recommend that the federal government provide incentives for consolidation of research. We believe that research can take on a more focused approach throughout research stations across Canada. We recommend that Agriculture Canada's research branch take strong measures to re-establish consolidation of research activities, such that we may not have a model where we're doing horticultural research at every station across Canada, but we will have what I believe will be centres of excellence for applied research that will deal with horticultural issues, grain, grains and oilseeds issues, and animal and livestock issues--so it is more targeted, much more efficient, and we can have the appropriate expertise placed at those positions.
I would like to thank you for this opportunity to present. I did want to speed it up, so if there are any questions, I would be more than willing to answer them.
Thank you.
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