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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.
Mark Gayler
View Mark Gayler Profile
Mark Gayler
2014-04-03 9:06
Hello, and thank you to the committee for inviting me to participate this morning. It's bright and early in Vancouver.
My name is Mark Gayler. I work for Microsoft Canada. I've been working with Microsoft for more than 10 years. I'm a technology strategist for Microsoft Canada. I work primarily with municipalities. As part of that role, I'm a subject matter expert on open data and open source technologies.
I'd like to comment on a few things. First of all, I very much appreciate the comments by my colleagues David and Ms. Miller just previously.
One of the things I have experience with is working with different governments around the world, and so I've been engaged with open data projects in Canada, but also in the U.S.A.., Colombia, Japan, central and eastern Europe, and the U.K. I'd like to make some comparisons, even though I totally and fully agree with David's comment earlier on that it's dangerous to make comparisons in terms of a league table. But I think there are some insights we can gain from what other countries are doing compared with how open data has evolved in Canada today.
I'd like to start there, and then I'd like to pick up on a couple of other points that my colleagues have raised already.
What is interesting about the way open data is evolving around the world is that it's evolving in different ways based on the way that government agencies have chosen to engage it.
For example, in the U.K. and the U.S., we see a very top-down approach whereby the U.K. and U.S. governments at the very top levels of government have sponsored open data initiatives. They are driving adoption of open data throughout government departments and agencies, and we see this top-down approach as it flows downwards through the government infrastructure.
I would say that in Canada what we have seen is more of a bottom-up approach to open data. In early days it was adopted primarily by the cities, and then the provinces caught up. I think Vancouver started in April 2009, and we have seen other cities adopt open data initiatives. Then the provinces have come in, and I think the federal government has come in after some of these cities and smaller agencies had already adopted open data initiatives.
That explains why we see different countries and different initiatives at different stages of evolution, to a certain degree.
In the U.K. and U.S., I would say that open data initiatives across government are fairly mature and fairly consistent in the way open data is thought of. I would say that in Canada we see open data being adopted in different ways at different levels of government jurisdiction.
The second point I'd like to make around this is that as we look around the world, it's important to understand that open data itself is not an end point. Open data is a transition to something else. It's an enabler for other things to happen. It's an enabler for such things as economic stimulus, as we have discussed, and I'm sure we'll discuss more on that during the session. It's an enabler particularly for citizen engagement, getting citizens actively involved and participating in the business of government.
I think it also represents a cultural change internally for government and government agencies. When I've been around the world talking to national and provincial and state governments about their open data initiatives and the way we can use open data to engage citizens, particularly those parts of citizenry we may not already be engaged with, a big comment that I get at the end of my engagement with that particular government is: this is great, but now that we have this capability to share data and to collaborate, we want to do it internally as much as we want to do it externally. I think that point was made very well by my colleagues previously.
The opportunity for the Canadian government here is to provide guidance, to provide a framework to take the open data initiatives that already exist, to create opportunities to share more open data, to engage citizens and third parties and encourage them to share this data and use this data, and to enable the sharing of the data in such a way that it can easily be consumed by any of the actors in the ecosystem, be it a data scientist, a researcher, a citizen, an application developer, or a student.
But it's very important that we understand that this is a cultural change that will lead to other positive benefits; this is not just about sharing data itself. And so it's important that the government provide a framework to encourage parties to collaborate around the sharing and reuse of open data—private-public partnerships, for example—and particularly engage those parts of the citizenry with whom perhaps we are not already engaged and get them actively involved in the business of government.
Let me give you a very simple example. Two weeks ago we ran a teen hackathon in the city of Surrey. The City of Surrey is sharing its open data; they have an open data portal. They invited teens, young people from the ages of 13 to 19, to participate in this hackathon. For half a day we worked with them with technology and showed them how to produce applications. What was interesting is that at the end of it we asked for feedback and ideas, and it was amazing to see these teenagers come up with ideas about how to use transit data to better navigate through the city, how to use weather data to better understand when weather might affect particular tourist spots or landmarks.
You could look at that initially and just say that these are interesting ideas but ask whether they would ever come to any kind of fruition. But what was really interesting about the whole thing was that the city was stimulating students and young people to think about engaging the city in ways that had not previously been possible. These were young people who were thinking about actively working with the city—visitors to the city, citizens of the city. Getting them excited and engaged in looking at ways to improve city services both for visitors and for folks who already live in the city is quite transformational. This is a very simple example of transformational cultural change that can be brought about by sharing open data.
Another example I will give you, from a cultural aspect, comes from when I was engaged with the Government of Colombia. I was invited down there to provide some guidance to them about the way they would share data with their citizens. When I went down there I said I was surprised that the Government of Colombia was thinking about sharing open data, because they're not known, to an external person, for their openness or the way they might engage a citizen in a transparent way; that it might be considered to be a threat to the government.
They said that this was their entire reason for doing it. Whereas other governments say they're doing this for economic stimulus or doing it for better engagement with certain parts of society, in Colombia they are doing it deliberately to show that they're being open and transparent. This is part of their cultural change with their citizens.
The last point I would like to make is that I think the opportunity is huge for Canada to be a leader in this area. Even though we look around the world and see open data initiatives evolving in different ways, we have a long way to go with open data, to speak to David's point earlier on. There is much more that can be done and there is much more transformational benefit that can arise out of open data.
But I think the government can help. It can stimulate this by providing, for frameworks for working particularly in public-private partnerships, guidance in the sharing and openness of data, and also by providing ideas and guidance about the sustainability of open data and how it can be part of the ongoing business of government and citizen engagement, rather than just being seen as an end in itself.
Thank you very much.
View Shelly Glover Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good day to my fellow members. Thank you for having me here for the first time in my role as Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. I remember my visits to this committee when I was parliamentary secretary. My greetings to Mr. Godin who was a member of the committee at that time and is one still. All the other members have changed.
So, let us begin.
I would like to recognize this committee's achievements. Your study on immersion programs across the country is an indication of your commitment to promoting our national languages. I was, however, a little disappointed that I did not receive an invitation to appear, especially given the fact that, as the product of an immersion program myself, I have often expressed my concerns regarding the changes that have been made to programs since I was in school.
That said, the vitality of our national languages is important to me both as the minister and as a member of the Franco-Manitoban community. I am honoured to work in both Saint-Boniface and Ottawa toward the advancement of French and English, as well as official language communities.
As you know, in the summer of 2012, we undertook official language cross-Canada consultations. Canadians told us that we have made significant progress in key areas since 2008. However, they also mentioned that there was still work to be done to unleash the full potential of our linguistic duality and contribute even more effectively to developing our minority communities.
In its report on the previous Roadmap, your committee shared the concerns expressed by the general public and representatives of organizations in francophone and anglophone minority communities. In the budget tabled on March 21, 2013, our government committed to measures reiterating support for our national languages and showcasing their importance for our identity. A week later, we rolled out the Roadmap for Canada's Official Languages 2013-2018.
This new strategy for official languages translates into $1.1 billion invested over five years in education, immigration, and communities. I'm pleased to confirm that all of the road map's initiatives are now funded on a permanent basis. This is important as only three-quarters of the funding in the previous road map took the form of ongoing support. Road map 2013 to 2018 provides clear testimony of our continuing commitment to official languages in this country.
As I explained in the 2011-2012 Annual Report on Official Languages that I tabled in Parliament last November, Canadian Heritage oversees two main programs supporting official languages. One aims to develop minority official language communities. The other's objective is to promote French and English in Canadian society.
Our programs support the offer of minority-language services at the provincial and territorial level in sectors such as education, justice, culture and health. Our actions have tangible results. For example, working closely with the provinces and territories, we are supporting minority-language education. Every morning across our country, more than 240,000 students in minority communities go to school in their own language.
We support second-language learning. A total of 2.4 million young people are learning French or English as a second language in Canada, more than 340,000 of them in immersion classes. Our young people are among our greatest resources. That is why I am pleased that we were able to offer bursaries to 7,800 students in 2011-2012 that enable them to improve their skills in their second national language. We also created some 700 summer or short-term jobs for bilingual young Canadians. These jobs allow them to practice their knowledge of French and English.
The annual report also provides details about my role in coordinating official languages support within federal institutions. In 2011-12, Canadian Heritage adopted a broader approach to coordination to make the accounting process uniform among all institutions. For three years we've been using this approach, adopted jointly with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.
Some 170 federal institutions now have the opportunity to showcase their achievements, which provides Canadians with a complete picture of national efforts to promote French and English.
In the interest of efficiency, we also launched a review in 2013 of our support for organizations in official language communities. Through this review, we want to ensure that our measures effectively meet the needs of communities, particularly in key areas such as youth and culture. This review is being carried out in consultation with community organizations. Our investment levels remain unchanged. I simply want to ensure that we are achieving the best possible results.
The Commissioner of Official Languages has also acknowledged these results. In his 2012-2013 Annual Report, he applauded the efforts to date of Canadian Heritage and other federal institutions with regard to respect for official languages. We will be continuing along this path. We welcome the Commissioner's report and the recommendations in it. They will be used to inform our government's actions. I want to mention here that, last year, our government renewed the appointment of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Mr. Graham Fraser, for three years. This reappointment was applauded by numerous key stakeholders in official languages. I also want to note that I agree with the Commissioner when it comes to the importance of promoting our linguistic duality as part of large-scale events.
Let's talk about celebrations.
We are currently conducting online consultations and holding roundtables across the country to learn more about how Canadians want to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017. The consultations taking place are mindful of our commitment to promote our linguistic duality as part of the celebrations.
The Commissioner also mentioned in his report that he will be monitoring the implementation of the protocol for agreements for minority language education and second language instruction. I am very pleased that we recently renewed our co-operation with the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. The protocol for agreements that we signed with the council provides for more than $1.3 billion in federal investment over five years to support the provincial and territorial governments in the area of official languages in teaching.
we have taken concrete action to promote respect for national languages. We will continue our efforts in this regard, because our action generates results for Canadians and benefits for minority communities.
Thank you for your attention. I am ready to answer your questions.
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