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Results: 1 - 100 of 8869
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
2020-03-13 10:03 [p.1]
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I understand that there is an agreement between the parties to have some brief statements.
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View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
View Mark Strahl Profile
2020-03-13 10:03 [p.1]
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Madam Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the official opposition to offer my thoughts and prayers to the Prime Minister, his wife, all parliamentarians and indeed all Canadians who are experiencing or know someone affected by COVID-19.
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View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
View Mark Strahl Profile
2020-03-13 10:04
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I would also like to thank all public health officials and front-line health care workers who are working around the clock to keep Canadians healthy and safe.
These are extraordinary times. With the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic, it is incumbent on everyone to exercise the highest degree of caution. My colleagues and I, in direct collaboration with our friends across the aisle, have come to an arrangement to suspend Parliament while ensuring the government continues to have the authority and capability to provide our country with necessary financial supports.
There continue to remain significant questions about the Government of Canada's management of this pandemic. While we understand that COVID-19 does not respect borders, the government can consider measures to further contain the virus from spreading, such as more vigorous screening upon entry, mandatory quarantine for those who enter from high-risk countries and potentially stopping incoming and outgoing flights from high-risk areas. The government's relying on Canadians to have enough supplies to weather the pandemic is simply not enough.
Canadians need to be reassured that the government is prepared to assist and support those affected by the coronavirus. We also need to see a comprehensive plan to protect the health and safety of all Canadians.
We as the official opposition will continue to do our elected duties outside of the confines of Parliament and will continue to press the government for the answers Canadians deserve.
Stay healthy. God bless you all, and God bless Canada.
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View Yves-François Blanchet Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves-François Blanchet Profile
2020-03-13 10:06 [p.1]
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Madam Speaker, the motion I want to speak to has not been formally moved yet. I am not sure what that means from a procedural standpoint. I will proceed and the House can decide thereafter.
To all Quebeckers back home concerned about the spread of a virus that may, in some cases, be life-threatening, I wish them courage.
I wish a speedy recovery to all those who will get sick in the coming weeks, including, of course, the Prime Minister's wife.
It is also my wish that we deal with this challenge before us swiftly, wisely and carefully. I ask that we restrain our propensity for playing politics and instead become protectors of the common good. That is what the Bloc Québécois will do.
Nevertheless, the suspension of Parliament should not mean and will not mean that the Bloc Québécois will be less present or less vigilant with regard to anything that might be detrimental to the interests of Quebec. The Bloc will continue to offer proposals to better serve those interests.
In light of how vigorously and quickly the coronavirus is spreading, numerous possible responses have been proposed. Time will tell which responses were appropriate. We will have to learn from this experience.
One thing that seems to have been handled poorly and inconsistently is border crossings: protocols, equipment, training, detection, referrals, quarantine and, in some cases, some level of shutdown.
If it cannot be avoided, accelerating an economic slowdown—I realize that is an oxymoron—recession or crisis is a cure that is worse than the disease in some ways. History has also taught us that the earliest victims of a crisis are the most vulnerable members of society.
Members can see why the Bloc Québécois is pushing for major accommodations in the employment insurance system and for changes that give seniors in the regions more purchasing power as soon as possible. Parliament may not be sitting, but the Bloc Québécois will be watching closely and speaking up. We were elected to be here and stand up for our people. We understand why this has to happen, we accept it, and we were part of the conversation that led to this morning's motion. However, we will insist that lost sitting days be made up, especially given the minority government context.
The coronavirus pandemic will leave an indelible mark on our planet, on Quebec and on Canada. Our response to the pandemic will also have a long-lasting economic impact. Let us therefore choose wisely.
Finally, it is important that compassion be the main principle guiding our decisions and actions. I remain committed to working to mitigate, as much as possible, the impact and suffering this crisis might have on Quebeckers.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
View Peter Julian Profile
2020-03-13 10:09 [p.2]
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Madam Speaker, today our thoughts are with Ms. Grégoire and the 155 other Canadians across the country who have contracted the coronavirus.
In this place, Canadians often see how our parties differ, and the differences we have. They see the questions we ask each other in question period. What Canadians often see is the variety of opinions within this House of Commons.
Today, however, we see all parties and all members of Parliament coming together with the same mission. That mission is to confront the challenge of coronavirus in Canada and to do our part to minimize the dangers of this virus going further in the public sphere.
Unanimity is rare, but it is important when we face a challenge that affects all of Canada. It is important that members come together and confirm that we will work collaboratively.
Canadians come together when there are challenges. That has always been the hallmark of our character. Today, as we know, public health officials told us that it is important for members of Parliament, like everyone else in Canada, to maintain the social distancing that is so important to assure we do not see a rapid multiplication of the virus.
Our health officers across the country, and I would like to give a shout-out to Dr. Bonnie Henry from British Columbia, have been tirelessly working to ensure Canadians understand the implications of not having that social distancing. The reality of our parliamentary life is that we travel across the country. If we did not take this hiatus, we could have members of Parliament bringing the virus back to Ottawa, or taking the virus from Ottawa to their home constituencies.
We definitely need to co-operate and follow the advice of health officials, who have made it very clear that it is vital to maintain social distancing to prevent the virus from spreading.
In the meantime, we will be where we should be. We will be in our ridings assisting our constituents, pressing to make sure those workers who have to make the difficult choice between putting food on the table or going to work, when they know they should be in self-quarantine, are taken care of. We will be making sure that we are absolutely funding and investing in a health care system that is able to meet the challenges of the virus. We also have to make sure indigenous communities are not left aside, as they have been in past pandemics, and that all the resources they need are available to them.
Our role is to be in our ridings assisting the public and ensuring that we contribute to the efforts to fight the virus.
We will do our part. Members of Parliament are speaking with one voice today to say that we will do our part.
Today we are unanimous in saying that we are going to work together. We are going to take a little break to help fight the virus.
To conclude, on behalf of the NDP caucus, I would like to thank the employees and staff, the administration on Parliament Hill, the security guards who are so brave and courageous, and the staff who maintain this infrastructure that serves Canadian democracy so well. We will miss them, but we know we will be back.
We know as well that Canadians will beat this virus. We will be able to celebrate that fact when we reconvene.
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View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
2020-03-13 10:13 [p.2]
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I thank the member for New Westminster—Burnaby.
The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands on a point of order.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2020-03-13 10:14 [p.2]
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Madam Speaker, I am seeking the unanimous consent of the House to speak.
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View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
2020-03-13 10:14 [p.2]
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Does the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands have the unanimous consent of the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2020-03-13 10:14 [p.3]
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Madam Speaker, I will not take long, but as this is a unanimous consent motion, I want to put on the record that the Green Party caucus consents. These are not normal times.
We are thinking of our friends in the House who are now at risk from the virus. We are thinking of our country. We are thinking of Ms. Grégoire Trudeau and we wish her a speedy recovery. This epidemic affects everyone, all of our loved ones, friends and constituents.
We cannot tell moment to moment what lies ahead with the spread of COVID-19. I want to express thanks to the Canadian public health authorities at every level and in my own province, particularly B.C. public health officer Bonnie Henry, who has been handling what was quite clearly spreading, and the British Columbia minister of health Adrian Dix and others who have taken strong precautionary action.
I have confidence in our health authorities. I have confidence in Canadians. We gather in groups, and goodness knows, as members of Parliament, we gather in groups and travel on airplanes. It is incumbent upon us to accept that we have to stop our work in this place. Hopefully it is only for five weeks, so we again can take on the business of the nation. I think it is fair to say that as much as we travel on airplanes, we do not want to find, when history looks at what happened with COVID-19 in Canada, that members of Parliament were vectors of disease. We need to take on board our responsibilities.
Therefore, I join with all colleagues in thanking our health authorities for their diligence and the Minister of Health. We are blessed to live in a country with responsible government that does not try to make up the science as it goes along.
The Green Party consents to the adjournment and looks forward to seeing everyone again in this place, and in good health.
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View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-03-13 10:17 [p.3]
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Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today in extraordinary circumstances.
I would like to sincerely and warmly thank all the parties in the House for working with us at such an important time.
I can assure Canadians that the priority of the government and all members of the House is to ensure the health and safety of every Canadian. That is why we are moving the following motion:
That, notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practice of the House, following the adoption of this order, the House shall stand adjourned until Monday, April 20, 2020, provided that:
(a) the House shall be deemed to have adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28;
(b) for the supply period ending on March 26, 2020, the eighth allotted day shall be the final allotted day;
(c) the order for the deferred recorded division on the opposition motion standing in the name of the member for Vancouver Kingsway, considered on March 12, 2020, be discharged and the motion be deemed adopted on division;
(d) the motions to concur in Supplementary Estimates (B) for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2020, and interim supply for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2021, be deemed adopted on division and the appropriation bills based thereon be deemed to have been introduced and read a first time, deemed read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole on division, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage on division, deemed read a third time and passed on division;
(e) there shall be 10 allotted days in the supply period ending on June 23, 2020;
(f) a bill in the name of the Minister of Finance, entitled An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (special warrant), be deemed to have been introduced and read a first time, deemed read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole on division, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage on division, deemed read a third time and passed on division;
(g) currently scheduled committee meetings shall be cancelled;
(h) the order of the day designated for Monday, March 30, 2020, for the consideration of the budget presentation, shall be undesignated;
(i) if, during the period the House stands adjourned, the Speaker receives a notice from the House leaders of all four recognized parties indicating that it is in the public interest that the House remain adjourned until a future date or until future notice is given to the Speaker, the House will remain adjourned accordingly;
(j) Bill C-4, An Act to implement the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States, be deemed read a third time and passed;
(k) during the period the House stands adjourned, the House may be recalled, under the provisions of Standing Order 28(3), to consider measures to address the economic impact of COVID-19 and the impacts on the lives of Canadians;
(l) the government’s responses to petitions 431-00042 to 431-00045 be tabled immediately and questions on the Order Paper numbered Q-245 to Q-259 be made into orders for returns and that the said returns be tabled immediately;
(m) the government provide regular updates to representatives of the opposition parties;
(n) any special warrant issued under the Financial Administration Act may be deposited with the Clerk of the House during the period the House is adjourned;
(o) any special warrant issued under the Financial Administration Act and deposited with the Clerk of the House shall be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the committee shall meet to consider any warrants referred to it within 20 sitting days; and
(p) the House call on the Auditor General of Canada to immediately conduct an audit of the special warrants issued under the Financial Administration Act and that the Auditor General of Canada report his findings to the House no later than June 1, 2021.
Madam Speaker, this decision was taken to help keep all Canadians safe and healthy. We made this decision together, with all the parties, and we did not make it lightly.
Our action today demonstrates that we take this challenge seriously. I want to thank all of the health care workers and professionals.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all health care professionals, who are going through tough times at work as they help us through this crisis.
To Canadians, workers and families; to children concerned for their parents; to sisters and brothers concerned for loved ones and friends, we are all united. We will face this together, and we will get through this together.
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View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)

Question No. 245--
Mr. Taylor Bachrach:
With regard to the electoral district of Skeena—Bulkley Valley, between the fiscal year 2005-06 and the current year: what are all the federal infrastructure investments, including direct transfers to municipalities, regional district associations or First Nations, national parks, highways, etc., broken down by fiscal year?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 246--
Mr. Taylor Bachrach:
With regard to the Canada Infrastructure Bank: (a) what is the complete list of infrastructure projects financed by the bank since June 1, 2018; (b) for each project in (a), what are the details, including the (i) amount of federal financing, (ii) location of project, (iii) scheduled completion date of project, (iv) project description; and (c) what are the details of projects currently proposed for the bank, including the (i) proposed date of commencement, (ii) location of project, (iii) proposed federal financing, (iv) project description?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 247--
Mr. Taylor Bachrach:
With regard to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan: (a) what is the total amount of approved funding; (b) what is the complete list of approved projects; and (c) for each project in (b), what are the details, including the (i) value of approved project, (ii) total amount of federal financing, (iii) location of project, (iv) project description, (v) scheduled completion date?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 248--
Mr. Taylor Bachrach:
With regard to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan: (a) what is the total amount of allocated funding not yet spent; (b) what is the complete list of proposed projects not yet assigned federal funding or assigned funding, but not yet commenced construction; and (c) for each project in (b), what are the details, including the (i) value of proposed project, (ii) total amount of federal financing, (iii) location of project, (iv) project description, (v) proposed completion date?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 249--
Mrs. Shannon Stubbs:
With regard to the Trans Mountain Pipeline and Expansion Project: (a) what are the revenues generated by the Trans Mountain Pipeline, broken down by quarter, since the pipeline was purchased by the government; (b) what are the operating expenses less loan interest payments to run the Trans Mountain Pipeline, broken down by quarter, since the pipeline was purchased by the federal government; (c) what are the interest payments on the loan used to purchase the Trans Mountain Pipeline, broken down by quarter, since the pipeline was purchased by the government; (d) what is the profit or loss, broken down by quarter, on the Trans Mountain Pipeline since the pipeline was purchased by the government; (e) are the revenues generated by the Trans Mountain Pipeline covering the annual operating and interest payments on the loans the government used to buy the Trans Mountain Pipeline and Expansion; (f) on what date is the pipeline scheduled to be completed, including the month and year; (g) on what date is the pipeline scheduled to enter service, including the month and year; (h) what is the current estimated cost of construction for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project; (i) on what date was the Minister of Finance, or his office, advised in writing or verbally, by officials from either the Department of Finance or a Crown corporation or a government contractor that the estimated cost of construction for the expansion was more than $7.4 billion; and (j) on what date did the government become aware that the cost of completing the Trans Mountain Expansion Project was estimated to be greater than $7.4 billion?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 250--
Mr. Charlie Angus:
With regard to the Department of Finance and the Advisory Council on Economic Growth: (a) when and where were each of the council’s meetings held; (b) when were each of the council’s (i) in-person meetings, (ii) phone or video-conference sessions with stakeholders; (c) how much funding was allocated for (i) salaries, (ii) expenses, (iii) council operations, (iv) any other categories of funding not captured by the preceding; (d) how much was spent on (i) salaries, (ii) expenses, (iii) council operations, (iv) any other category of funding not captured by the preceding; and (e) for each of the recommendations in the council’s three reports, (i) what was the recommendation; (ii) which department or departments were tasked with actions following up on the recommendation, (iii) which team or teams within the department or departments were tasked with follow-up actions, (iv) was the action tasked further analysis of or implementation of the recommendation (e.g. feasibility studies or reports), (v) what actions were taken by these teams to implement or further analyze the recommendations?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 251--
Mr. John Brassard:
With regard to government aircraft travelling between Canada and Costa Rica between December 15, 2019, and January 10, 2020: what are the details of the legs of each flight to and from Costa Rica, including the (i) type of aircraft, (ii) date, (iii) place of departure, (iv) place of arrival, (v) number of passengers, excluding RCMP protective detail, (vi) name of passengers, excluding RCMP protective detail, (vii) purpose of flight, (viii) food, beverage, and other catering costs?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 252--
Mr. Eric Melillo:
With regard to the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor), since November 4, 2015: (a) what are the details of funding delivered by FedNor in fiscal year (i) 2015-16, (ii) 2016-17, (iii) 2017-18, (iv) 2018-19, (v) 2019-20; (b) for each instances in (a), what are the details, broken down by (i) program or funding stream, (ii) recipient, (iii) address of recipient, including the full address, city and postal code, (iv) mailing address of recipient, including the full address, city and postal code; and (c) for each instances in (b), what was the (i) total funding requested, (ii) total funding granted, (iii) description of project funded, (iv) status of project?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 253--
Mr. Glen Motz:
With regard to government statistics related to crimes committed with firearms: (a) how many homicides have been committed in Canada with an AR-15 rifle; (b) how many armed robberies have been committed in Canada where the weapon used was an AR-15 rifle; (c) how many crimes of any sort have been committed in Canada where an AR-15 rifle was present; (d) if the answer to (c) is more than 0, what is the nature of the crime that was committed; (e) how many individuals who have received a Possession and Acquisition License have been convicted of (i) first-degree murder, (ii) second-degree murder, (iii) manslaughter, broken down by year since 2010; (f) how many individuals who have not received a Possession and Acquisition License have been convicted of (i) first-degree murder, (ii) second-degree murder, (iii) manslaughter; (g) for individuals referred to in (e) and (f), how many of these incidents involved a firearm, broken down by year since 2010; (h) how many individuals who have been released on bail and are awaiting trial have been convicted of (i) first-degree murder, (ii) second-degree murder, (iii) manslaughter, broken down by year since 2010; (i) how many individuals who have been released from prison on conditional release have been convicted of (i) first-degree murder, (ii) second-degree murder, (iii) manslaughter, broken down by year since 2010; (j) how many individuals who have been found to have entered Canada illegally have been convicted of (i) first-degree murder, (ii) second-degree murder, (iii) manslaughter, broken down by year since 2010; and (k) how many individuals who have been previously convicted of an organized crime related offence have been convicted of (i) first-degree murder, (ii) second-degree murder, (iii) manslaughter, broken down by year since 2010?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 254--
Mr. Kyle Seeback:
With regard to deportation orders issued or in effect by the government since January 1, 2016: (a) what is the total number of orders issued, broken down by year; (b) what was the total number of deportation orders where the deportation was still pending as of (i) January 1, 2016, (ii) January 1, 2017, (iii) January 1, 2018, (iv) January 1, 2019, (v) January 1, 2020; (c) what was the total number of individuals deported, broken down by year; (d) what was the total number of individuals under the age of 18 deported, broken down by year; and (e) how many parents, guardians or adult family members of individuals in (d) were deported, broken down by year?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 255--
Mr. Kyle Seeback:
With regard to the Budget 2019 commitment of $1.7 billion for new funding for rural broadband infrastructure: (a) how much of that funding is projected to be spent for broadband projects in the riding of Dufferin—Caledon, broken down by project; (b) what is the breakdown of the $1.7 billion, by project; (c) what are the details of all projects in (b), including the (i) name, (ii) description, (iii) amount of federal contribution, (iv) projected completion date, (v) number of users impacted; and (d) how much of the $1.7 billion has actually been delivered to date, broken down by individual project?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 256--
Mr. Kyle Seeback:
With regard to government support programs for agriculture industries impacted by changes in trade with China: (a) in 2019, what is the total amount of government funding provided to the (i) soybean industry, (ii) canola industry, (iii) beef industry; (b) what is the breakdown of all funding in (a), by (i) program, (ii) province; (c) in 2020, what is the projected total amount of government funding to the (i) soybean industry, (ii) canola industry, (iii) beef industry; and (d) what is the breakdown of (c), by (i) program, (ii) province?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 257--
Mr. Doug Shipley:
With regard to the government’s policy on firearms: which specific makes and models of weapons that are currently available on the legal market does the government consider to be “military-style assault weapons”?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 258--
Mr. John Brassard:
With regard to the awarding of the South West Asia Service Medal (SWASM), the General Campaign Star (GCS), the General Service Medal (GSM) and the South West Asia Service ribbon by the Minister of National Defence for service in Afghanistan: (a) how many have been awarded to date, broken down by award; (b) how many requests for the SWASM have yet to be fulfilled; and (c) what are years of service in which the (i) SWASM, (ii) GSM, (iii) GCS, (iv) South West Asia Service ribbon, are eligible to be awarded, broken down by award?
Response
(Return tabled)

Question No. 259--
Mr. Blake Richards:
With regard to the January 15, 2020, Twitter post of the National Capital Commission Rideau Canal Skateway, under the Twitter handle @NCC_Skateway, entitled “Ice Ice Maybe”: (a) what was the total video production cost involved in the planning, production, editing and posting of the video, broken down by (i) work hours of public servants used, (ii) types of expenditure; (b) what are the names and titles of any persons within the government and the National Capital Commission who were involved with the production, planning, editing and posting of the video, including any ministers or ministerial exempt staff that were involved; (c) was any overtime pay granted to public servants as a result of this video, and, if so, what were the details, broken down by (i) the names and titles of managers who signed off, (ii) the total amount and cost of overtime used; (d) what are the details of all documentation on the planning, production, editing and posting of the video, including any scripts, contracts or briefing notes; (e) what are the names and titles of all persons who signed off on and had knowledge of the production of this video; (f) was any paid advertising used to promote the video on Twitter, and, if so, what were the cost and targeting metrics used; (g) were outside services procured in the production of this video, and, if so, what was the name of the company or the persons used and the total cost of any outside contracts, including the (i) date, (ii) amount, (iii) vendor, (iv) summary of goods or services provided; (h) was an outside contract procured, and was there an open request for proposals or was it a sole-sourced contract; and (i) was a music licence sought for the use of the musical likeness of the song “Ice Ice Baby” by the artist Vanilla Ice, and, if so, what were the cost and terms of the licence?
Response
(Return tabled)
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View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
2020-03-13 10:24 [p.6]
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Pursuant to an order made earlier today, the House stands adjourned until Monday, April 20, 2020 at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 28(2) and 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 10:25 a.m.)
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
2020-03-12 10:03 [p.1975]
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I have the honour, pursuant to section 38 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, to lay upon the table the case report of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner in the matter of an investigation into a disclosure of wrongdoing.
This report is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
2020-03-12 10:05 [p.1975]
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Pursuant to subsection 79.2(2) of the Parliament of Canada Act, it is my duty to present to the House a report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer entitled “The Government's Expenditure Plan and Main Estimates for 2020-21”.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
2020-03-12 10:05 [p.1975]
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Pursuant to section 15(3) of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, it is my duty to lay upon the table the list of all sponsored travel by members for the year 2019 with a supplement that is provided by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
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View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-03-12 10:05 [p.1975]
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Mr. Speaker, pursuant to subsections 21(6) and 21(5) of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, two reports.
The first is the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians annual report for 2019.
The second is the special report on the collection, use, retention and dissemination of information on Canadians.
Pursuant to paragraph 21(7)(b) of the act, I request that the reports be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
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View Marco Mendicino Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marco Mendicino Profile
2020-03-12 10:06 [p.1975]
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Mr. Speaker, pursuant to subsection 94(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the annual report to Parliament on immigration, 2019.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-03-12 10:06 [p.1975]
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Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(a), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to one petition. This response will be tabled in an electronic format.
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View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Maryam Monsef Profile
2020-03-12 10:07 [p.1975]
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Mr. Speaker, bonjour, aaniin, as-salaam alaikum to my hon. colleagues.
The great women feminists in my life, the Angelas, the Farrahs, the Lynns and my own mother, remind me that women hold up more than half the sky. A large part of that sky is above Canada. I stand here before the House on this traditional Algonquin territory as the Minister of Women and Gender Equality.
I am fully aware that my role intersects with so many of the concerns that face all of us today, such as economic development, climate change and reconciliation. Youth, seniors and those in between, in rural communities and in larger centres, are concerned with addressing and preventing gender-based violence, including domestic and sexual assaults; supporting LGBTQ2 services and equality-seeking organizations; making progress on housing and addressing homelessness; improving economic security; and representation, because representation matters.
On International Women's Day I, like so many of my colleagues, was back in my riding. In Peterborough—Kawartha I walked with Rosemary Ganley, who was in Beijing in 1995 and helped shape the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most comprehensive blueprint for gender equality.
I also walked with my 10-year-old and three-year-old nieces, Leila and Ellia. I know when they get a little older they are going to look me in the eye and ask, “What did you do while you were in power to make things better for all of us?” I want to be able to tell them that I did everything I could. I know that all my colleagues want to be able to tell the little people in their lives the same thing.
I am confident that I will be able to have a good answer for them because, first and foremost, we have an incredible team, and some of them are here with me today, who wake up every day thinking about the very same outcome. I am also part of a movement that existed long before any of us got here, a movement that will continue long after we are gone.
On International Women's Day, we have an opportunity in this House to come together across party lines and talk about why it is important to hold up those who hold up more than half the sky. The French call this day, la Journée internationale de lutte féministe pour les droits des femmes, personnes trans et non-binaire, which in English is the international day of the feminist struggle for women, trans and non-binary people's rights.
For me, here in Canada, March 8 brings opportunities to connect with amazing feminists who believe in equality for all women, men, non-binary individuals and transpeople. It reminds all of us that no one can make progress alone. Feminists across the country and around the world have taught me there is no universal woman. That is the beauty of International Women's Day. It gives us a chance to connect to our own community and to connect to women's experiences across the country as we galvanize around the work we have accomplished and the work we still have to do.
As a Canadian, I am deeply proud of our spectacular country. We are unique because of our diversity and our diversity is our strength. I am proud to be a feminist in a movement that has incorporated its shared experiences of women, including those of women who are indigenous to these lands and those of immigrants from all corners of the world.
There are women who trace their ancestry to formerly enslaved Africans who fled north for freedom, women who trace their legacy to settlers who arrived here from Europe and women who continue to arrive here as refugees, seeking safety from war and political strife. They all have stories to share. We all have stories to share.
Canada is remarkable because we strive to share these stories and to learn from them. The leadership from women from all these realities has shaped and will continue to shape this great country we all call home.
A more difficult reality to face is that the making of our nation has resulted in specific oppressions and violence against particular groups of women, especially indigenous women and girls. These are wrongs we are working to make right. Making this right includes acting on the recommendations from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which I and the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and all of our government are committed to addressing and responding to.
We will always take our lead from feminists and leaders across this country. Because we are working with them, our plan is working, and we are well equipped for the work ahead. We all know that these problems are multi-generational and, while they cannot all be eradicated in just four years, we are determined to continue to face them head-on.
In the months to come, I will once again be relying on meaningful conversations with feminists and equality seekers from across the country to develop Canada's first national action plan for addressing gender-based violence and to develop Canada's first federal gender equality plan.
Having grown up in family of strong-willed women, I do not expect we will always agree, but I am counting on the support of my colleagues and of Canadians to ensure our approach is intersectional, trauma-informed and culturally sensitive. We want to ensure that when we invest $100 million in women's organizations, which will be the single largest investment in grassroots organizations in Canada's history, we are empowering every single community across this country to become resilient and strong.
Our government will work with all willing partners to make the most of this momentum forward because, as our first openly feminist Prime Minister says, doing this work is not just the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. Our future and our economy depend on it.
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View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
View Karen Vecchio Profile
2020-03-12 10:14 [p.1976]
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Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise on behalf of Her Majesty's loyal opposition to mark International Women's Day. It is a time that we celebrate women's contributions to our country and our society and reflect on the work that still needs to be done.
We have seen women make incredible strides in their own fields. In sports it is women such as Hayley Wickenheiser, Bianca Andreescu and Brooke Henderson. For women such as Lynn Smurthwaite-Murphy, Linda Hasenfratz and Dawn Farrell, it is in their roles as CEOs of major corporations here in Canada. In politics, Agnes Macphail, Nelly McClung and Flora MacDonald Denison made incredible strides.
Although it has been almost 100 years since women were granted the right to vote and the first female parliamentarian took her seat in the House of Commons, we know there is still a lot of work to be done. We know that Canada's population is over 50% women, yet, in this House, only 29% of elected officials are women. We must continue to work further.
We know the same challenges exist for women in the STEM fields. More women are graduating from these programs but tend not to remain in their fields after graduation. Recent information published in January revealed that, on average, women earned 12% less than men just one year after graduation.
As of February 1, 2019, women accounted for 15.7% of the Canadian Armed Forces. Aboriginal women are three times more likely to be victims of violence than non-aboriginal women, and 83% of women with disabilities will experience some form of violence in their lifetime. There is still more work that needs to be done.
The question I have for everyone in this place, at home and across the country, is what can they do to achieve gender equality? International Women's Day 2020 reminds us, “We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviours and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society.”
We must continue to fight against bias, stereotypes and bad behaviour. We must continue to fight to protect the most vulnerable women and girls who are victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking. We must continue to address issues like cyber-bullying and online violence. We must continue to remove the barriers impacting women's well-being.
Words are not enough and our actions matter. How can we be part of the change? How can we open the doors for women and girls and provide them the same opportunities? What can we do to help to increase confidence, teach skills and build capacity for women?
Together we can make change. Together we can help create a gender-equal world. We can all work together toward equality if we are all paddling in the same direction, and we can do it faster.
By achieving equality, we will reduce domestic and sexual violence. We will close the pay gap, and we will create a better society for all Canadians. This year, Canada's theme for International Women's Day is “Because of You”. We are the difference. Happy International Women's Day.
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View Andréanne Larouche Profile
BQ (QC)
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
2020-03-12 10:17 [p.1977]
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Mr. Speaker, the Collectif 8 mars celebrated International Women's Day with the theme “Feminist with All of Our Might”. That might is something we still need, now more than ever, I would say, because we are all growing more aware of the inequality and injustice that women still face. The worst thing we could do is pretend that equality is within reach. I would have liked to stand here and talk about everything women have accomplished, everything our mothers, our grandmothers and countless other women before them endured and won, but I really feel I have a duty to talk about freedom. Freedom is a precious thing. Few women can say they are truly free, free to think, free to choose and free to act without always having to justify themselves.
Even in the supposedly developed countries, women were once again marching in the streets demanding the right to make decisions about their own bodies. This is the 21st century, but there are still women around the world who do not have the right to abortion. In Argentina, the United States, Chile and even France, where the March 8 demonstrations were violently quashed. That is why, both at home and abroad, we still need to recognize the courage of women who dare to speak up for themselves, who dare to stand up for a more equal world. In many cases, these women are heroes who risk their lives to show their own children the value of freedom. This society belongs to everyone, but it belongs to me too.
I want my nieces and nephews to care about other people, to be interested in the wider world and to grow up truly believing that their gender identity has nothing to do with their abilities, their ambitions or their potential. I want them to learn tolerance and respect, but every year in Canada, religious communities take their kids out of their Catholic schools to join anti-abortion demonstrations on Parliament Hill. Ten- and twelve-year-olds are waving anti-abortion signs. This is as outrageous as it is sad. What message are we sending them?
People often talk about the great women of history, those who were involved in major social disruption. Of course they must never be forgotten. However, I want to take some time today to talk about ordinary great women, those who battle entrenched realities every day: architects, nurses, mothers, pregnant women, sex workers, refugees, politicians and homeless women. They are all making history, writing it and reshaping it as they strive to get ahead.
I also want to give a shout out to all the “crazy bitches”, the “drama queens”, the “whores”, the “sluts”, the “fat chicks”, the “fat cows”, the “butches”, the “bimbos”, the “negresses”, the “lil' ladies”, the “witches”, the “stuck-up prudes”, the “babes”, and the “hey girls”. I want to talk to all of these women because every woman has been one of those things to someone at some point.
Today, I would like us to work together and I want to invite the men to join us too. We never talk about them, particularly not on International Women's Day, but they are important because, as equals, we protect each other. We respect each other as equals. We help each other get ahead as equals. I would like for men to help us help ourselves, for them to help us by helping themselves, for them to continue to want to be good role models for their sons and to show them that little girls are not less strong, less good or less courageous. They are just different, that's all. Girls have the same rights and responsibilities as boys, but, most importantly, they have the same freedom.
I would like to take this opportunity, in my privileged position as a member of the House, to say that I hope that, one day, all women will not just flirt with that freedom but fully assume it and be proud of it.
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View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 10:22 [p.1978]
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Mr. Speaker, women in Canada and around the world continue to face many barriers and challenges. I appreciate the opportunity to raise some of them here in the House today. This is, of course, in part due to the cancelling of the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
While this outbreak is having distressing impacts on people and communities around the world, like many diseases it will have a larger impact on those who are marginalized. This includes many women, particularly indigenous women and women in rural and remote communities.
This disease will also have a serious impact on unpaid and paid caregivers, health care workers who are on the front lines of this fight. Women comprise 82% of health care workers in Canada, and we need to make sure that the federal safety protocols for front-line health care workers are good enough to keep them safe and that the equipment they need is made available.
We know that our families, our communities and our country are stronger when women thrive. In Canada today, it is still all too common for women to experience discrimination and gender-based violence. We are seeing in reports that one out of two women has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
Canada and the global community have made it clear that violence and harassment in our society, including in our places of work, will not be tolerated and must end. That is why the International Labour Organization, which brings together governments, employers and workers, published a new international labour standard to combat violence and harassment for all. ILO convention 190 raises the bar, and Canada can and should be a leader as one of the first countries to ratify this agreement. It is our belief that the federal government has an important role to play in making work better, fairer and more secure for everyone.
In my community, as in many communities across Canada, there is a housing crisis. Everyone should have the right to a safe and affordable place to call home. However, for far too many women this is not a reality. Consecutive governments have neglected the housing crisis in Canada for far too long. The government makes inflated announcements, and when it comes to the actual dollars invested into housing, the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that the national housing strategy will spend 19% less on affordable housing than what was spent when the Conservatives were in power.
Housing is increasingly out of reach thanks to skyrocketing rents, demovictions and ballooning home prices. Parents lie awake at night worrying about how they can afford the family home, as costs keep going up but paycheques stagnate. Average rents rose in every single province last year, and today 1.7 million Canadian households spend more than 30% of their income on housing. This means that families in our communities are facing constant stress and impossible choices between rent or food and between living in substandard housing or relocating out of their community. Worse, they facing the real risk of homelessness, especially when they are fleeing violence.
We are seeing women who are victims of violence being turned away from shelters across Canada due to a chronic lack of resources and funding. One in five shelters reports that it has not received funding increases in 10 years or more, a situation that is unsustainable. Shelters are essentially doing the same work year after year with far less money.
Our vision of Canada is one where women's organizations have stable funding so that women can access the support and advocacy they need when they need it. The government has been promising a national action plan to end gender-based violence for many years. This plan needs to be backed by funding to ensure that shelter services and other programs are available in all regions of the country, especially areas that have traditionally been underserved. It needs to be complemented by domestic violence leave policies in workplaces and improved police training on sexual assaults, and requires universities to develop plans to end sexual violence on campuses. The government also needs to address violence against indigenous women, girls and LGBTQI2S+ people by working with indigenous peoples to implement the calls for justice from the national inquiry.
There is also an affordability crisis in child care across this country. Families are struggling to find child care spaces and are forced onto wait-lists before their children are even born. Costs are unaffordable in many cities, and parents are forced to make impossible choices between delaying their return to work or paying huge amounts for the child care they need. Every parent across Canada should be able to find child care with a licensed provider who makes a fair wage. The government needs to work with other levels of government, indigenous communities, families and child care workers to ensure that care is inclusive and responsive to the needs of all Canadian children.
So much more needs to be done to address the many systemic barriers facing women today. The New Democrats commit to breaking down those barriers and advancing gender equality. We will not stop until the job is done. We owe it to women now and to the girls growing up to make the changes they need to be safe, secure and equal in every way.
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2020-03-12 10:27 [p.1979]
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I wonder if there is unanimous consent for the hon. member for Fredericton to say a few words about International Women's Day.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Fredericton.
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View Jenica Atwin Profile
GP (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-12 10:27 [p.1979]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for the privilege of speaking today. I would like to thank the minister for her words and powerful statement and my colleagues for their words.
Ladies, life-givers, we make miracles and we are miracles. Today we celebrate sisterhood, the matriarchs, the clan mothers. We all have our own journeys. For me, I felt the most connected to my womanhood when I became a mother. I am a mom of two little boys, who see their mom working hard for Canada and giving a lot of time and attention to our citizens.
From the moment I announced my candidacy to taking my seat here in the House of Commons, the number one question I was asked is how I do it. What is it like balancing the demands of parliamentary life with the responsibilities of motherhood? The answer, as one might expect, is that it is difficult.
I know that seeing strong women in important positions makes them stronger, more balanced individuals with respect for all people of all genders. Even in saying this, I know it will not be that easy for us to set an example every day to be consistent and innovative in our approach to supporting women and creating opportunities for them all over the world.
While we celebrate women who are in decision-making positions and we acknowledge that a lot of progress has been made in reducing the wage gap, the fact remains that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Despite women's increased participation in the workforce, they continue to spend much of their time doing unpaid labour. On average, women continue to be the predominant providers of care to children and to family members with mental or physical limitations related to age or chronic health conditions. This mostly invisible unpaid labour means that working Canadian women spend an additional 3.9 hours per day performing household chores and caring for children, among other things.
While women are fighting against inequality in the workplace, they are also dealing with social expectations surrounding gender.
On top of it all, feeling like imperfect mothers and imperfect workers, women blame themselves for not being able to manage it all. Mom guilt is real. However, we sitting in the House know that good public policy and structural supports play an important role in shaping the experience of working mothers. We in the House need to pay particular attention to how achieving this balance becomes all the more difficult for low-income women, trans women, women struggling with mental illness, women with disabilities and women of colour.
When we invest in social services like long-term care, health care, pharmacare, mental health care, universal affordable child care and in protecting reproductive rights, we also invest in women. We normalize women's issues and interests, we level the playing field and we bring women closer to gender parity. I see the women of Canada, and they are spectacular.
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View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 10:31 [p.1979]
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moved for leave to introduce Bill C-240, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act with regard to voting age.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to introduce legislation that would extend the right to vote to all Canadians aged 16 and over. I would like to thank the hon. member for London—Fanshawe for seconding the bill.
The history of the franchise in Canada is one of constant expansion. At the time of Confederation, voting was restricted to male British subjects who were at least 21 years old and owned property. However, as our country progressed over the subsequent generations, voting rights were extended to women, Asian Canadians, indigenous people, those without property and those under 21 years of age. I believe it is time to give young people the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship as well.
Young Canadians are engaged, well-informed and passionate advocates for a better future, for their future. Many young people work and pay taxes, but they have no say in how those tax dollars are spent. This disenfranchisement is unjustified and must change.
I call on all Parliamentarians to make young people equal participants in our democracy by supporting this vital legislation.
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View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 10:32 [p.1980]
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moved for leave to introduce Bill C-241, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (change of political affiliation).
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to introduce a bill that would address the issue of floor crossing, with thanks to the hon. member for London—Fanshawe.
Elections are an essential opportunity for voters to express their democratic preferences, but when parliamentarians cross the floor they unilaterally negate the will of their electors. This is a fundamental betrayal of trust.
For example, in my riding of Vancouver Kingsway, David Emerson ran as a Liberal in the 2006 election, only to immediately cross the floor to sit in the Conservative cabinet within weeks of being elected. Kingsway citizens of all persuasions were incensed. They know the only people who should have the right to determine which party represents a riding in the House of Commons are the voters themselves.
This legislation would not prevent MPs from leaving their caucus or changing their political affiliation, but it would require members who wish to join another party and sit with it to either obtain the consent of their constituents or sit as an independent until the next election.
I call on all members to support this fundamental democratic legislation and protect the basic rights of Canadian voters to choose how they wish to be represented in their House of Commons.
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View Jennifer O'Connell Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Jennifer O'Connell Profile
2020-03-12 10:34 [p.1980]
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Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table a petition signed by my constituents. The petition calls on the Government of Canada to condemn the national register of Indian citizens and national population register in India, and any excessive use of force by its police. It also asks the government to demand the withdrawal of India's Citizenship Amendment Act, national register of Indian citizens and national population register.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-03-12 10:35 [p.1980]
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Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2020-03-12 10:35 [p.1980]
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Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2020-03-12 10:36 [p.1980]
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I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statements, Government Orders will be extended by 23 minutes.
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View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 10:37 [p.1980]
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moved:
That the House:
(a) acknowledge the government’s intention to introduce and implement national pharmacare;
(b) call on the government to implement the full recommendations of the final report of the Hoskins Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, commencing with the immediate initiation of multilateral negotiations with the provinces and territories to establish a new, dedicated fiscal transfer to support universal, single-payer, public pharmacare that will be long term, predictable, fair and acceptable to provinces and territories;
(c) urge the government to reject the U.S.-style private patchwork approach to drug coverage, which protects the profits of big pharmaceutical and insurance companies, but costs more to Canadians; and
(d) recognize that investing in national pharmacare would help stimulate the economy while making life more affordable for everyone and strengthening our health care system.
He said: It is a great privilege and an honour for me to rise on behalf of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party caucus and on behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada and all of those Canadians from coast to coast to coast who care so deeply about our health care system.
It is timely to note at this time that Canadians find themselves in the grip of what can fairly be called a major public health crisis. The COVID-19 public health outbreak is affecting communities across our land. The one thing that Canadians feel extremely proud of and strong about at a time like this is that we have a strong public health care system that helps keep everybody across this country healthy and responds to keeping people healthy and, most importantly, regardless of anybody's ability to pay, but rather as a birthright of citizenship in this country.
That is why it gives me great pleasure to stand today and speak to an issue that represents an immediate, urgent and critically important gap that exists in our current health care system, and that is the lack of public coverage for prescribed pharmaceuticals, the medicines that Canadians need as their doctors prescribe.
I am going to cover four basic elements in my remarks today. I am going to read the motion, I am going to discuss the need, I am going to discuss the solution and I am going to talk about the responsibility that we have as legislators in this country.
First I will read the motion. New Democrats propose:
That the House:
(a) acknowledge the government’s intention to introduce and implement national pharmacare;
(b) call on the government to implement the full recommendations of the final report of the Hoskins Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, commencing with the immediate initiation of multilateral negotiations with the provinces and territories to establish a new, dedicated fiscal transfer to support universal, single-payer, public pharmacare that will be long term, predictable, fair and acceptable to provinces and territories;
(c) urge the government to reject the U.S.-style private patchwork approach to drug coverage, which protects the profits of big pharmaceutical and insurance companies, but costs more to Canadians; and
(d) recognize that investing in national pharmacare would help stimulate the economy while making life more affordable for everyone and strengthening our health care system.
I want to briefly review the need, the context in which the motion emanates, and what is really happening in all of our communities across our country.
Right now, as we gather today, one in five Canadians, that is 7.5 million people, either have no prescription drug coverage whatsoever or have such inadequate or sporadic coverage as to effectively have none at all.
Currently, each province offers different levels of drug coverage for different populations, creating significant and profound inequalities in prescription drug coverage between regions.
Canada currently does have a U.S.-style patchwork of more than 100 public and 100,000 private drug insurance plans. One in five Canadian households reports a family member who, in the past year alone, has not taken the prescribed medicine simply due to cost.
Nearly three million Canadians per year are unable to afford one or more of the prescription drugs their doctors prescribe as important and sometimes essential for their health. Of those three million Canadians who cannot afford their medications, 38% do have private insurance and 21% have public insurance, but these insurance plans are not sufficient to cover the medicine they need.
One million Canadians per year cut back on food or home heating in order to pay for their medication. One million Canadians per year borrow money to pay for prescription drugs.
Canadian adults are two to five times more likely to report skipping prescriptions because of costs than residents of comparable countries with universal pharmacare systems, like the United Kingdom. In fact, Canada is the only country with a modern economy that has universal health care coverage and does not provide some form of universal access to prescription coverage.
A recent study from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions reveals the human costs of this problem. It has found, just studying two different serious health conditions, diabetes and heart disease, that every year up to 1,000 people die, purely because they do not have access to the medicine that would save them. That means that there are thousands of Canadians, if we include all medical conditions, maybe tens of thousands of Canadians, who die unnecessarily and prematurely because this country simply does not provide them with the medicine they need.
On the other hand, despite this horrific deficit in human terms, economically, Canadians perversely consistently pay among the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs due to our fragmented patchwork of drug coverage. In fact, prescription drug spending in Canada has increased every year since the current Liberal government took power in 2015. I am going to pause, because in 2015 the Prime Minister gave a mandate letter to then-Minister of Health Jane Philpott, and in that mandate letter he specifically tasked her, as a major goal, with reducing the cost of prescription drugs in Canada. I think Canadians know anecdotally that their access to drugs has not increased in the last five years, and they know that the price of prescription drugs certainly has not gone down.
I wanted to get the scientific answer to that question, so two months ago I wrote a letter to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, CIHI, and I asked what has happened to drug prices in Canada since 2015, when the Liberals took power. What it found was shocking. It found that on absolute terms, Canada as a country has spent more money every single year on prescription drugs since the Liberals took office and, on a per capita basis, each Canadian in this country has spent more money on prescription drugs every single year since the Liberals came to power.
That mandate, which was given in 2015, to reduce prescription costs has not only gone completely unfulfilled, it has actually gotten worse. From an institutional point of view, prescription drugs represent the second-largest category of spending in Canadian health care, surpassing spending on physician services. Only what we spend on hospitals costs us more as a nation than what we spend on prescription coverage.
What happens when patients cannot afford their prescription drugs? Besides getting sicker, which I will talk about in a moment, they access provincial and territorial health systems more often as their condition deteriorates. In 2016 about 303,000 Canadians had additional doctor visits, about 93,000 sought care in emergency departments and about 26,000 were admitted to hospital after being forced to forgo prescription medication due to cost.
HealthCareCAN, the national voice of health care organizations and hospitals across Canada, estimates that between 5.4% and 6.5% of all hospital admissions in Canada are the result of cost-related non-adherence to prescription medication, resulting in costs that they estimate to be at least $1.6 billion per year.
It has been almost one year, a Parliament and a general election ago, since the Hoskins advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare issued its report. What was the conclusion of that Liberal-appointed committee, headed by a former Liberal minister of health from Ontario, a committee that crossed the country listening to consultations from every stakeholder group across the country?
What did the committee recommend this Parliament do? It said that Canada must implement universal, single-payer public pharmacare and get started on it now. Not only that, it gave us a blueprint.
The Hoskins advisory council told Parliament to work collaboratively in partnership with provincial and territorial governments to begin the implementation of national pharmacare in 2020, right now. It advised that we should have federal legislation in place by January 1, 2022, that outlines how governments will work together and share costs. It listed federal responsibilities and said that legislation must include the steps required for provincial and territorial governments to opt into national pharmacare. That is in less than two years.
The council said that Parliament must act immediately so that we offer universal coverage for at least a list of essential medicines by January 1, 2022. That is about 20 months from now. It suggested that we implement a detailed national strategy and distinct pathway for funding and access to expensive drugs for rare diseases by January 1, 2022, and said that this country needs to offer a fully comprehensive formulary, covering all medicines that Canadians need, that are cost effective and that are required to keep them healthy and covered by a public single-payer system, no later than January 1, 2022.
Liberals often accuse the NDP of being in a hurry. Let me just pause for a moment and review the history of pharmacare. It was in 1964 that the Royal Commission on Health Services, chaired by Justice Emmett Hall, who was appointed by the Conservative then prime minister John Diefenbaker, issued a report to Canadians saying that Canada needed to offer prescription drug coverage in this country. That was almost half a century ago.
It was 23 years ago, in 1997, that the Liberal Party of Canada promised Canadians in a platform, in writing, that if the Liberals were elected and given the privilege of serving as the government they would bring in public pharmacare and they would produce a timeline in that Parliament for doing so. Incidentally, the Liberal government has had at least three majority governments since then, as well as a minority. They have had 13 years of majority government and minority government to make that happen since that time, and they have failed to do so.
Is half a century for bringing necessary medicine to Canadians too much of a hurry? Is 23 years to have a political party deliver on a promise that it made to Canadians in a solemn platform, in a public way, too much of a hurry?
Almost a year has passed since the Liberal-appointed advisory committee recommended the same thing as seven different royal commissions, task forces, Senate committees and House of Commons committees of all types have recommended and come to the same conclusion on. I want to pause and emphasize that every single body that has ever looked at this question of what is the most effective, efficient and fair way to make sure that all Canadians get the medicine they need when they need it, has found that it is through a public single-payer model.
The NDP does not just talk. We act. We do not dawdle. We work, we create and we deliver. The NDP has done the work that the Liberals promised to do and have failed to do, and that the Conservatives refused to even commit to. That is, we have drafted the very first, historic, groundbreaking legislation to make pharmacare a reality in the Canada pharmacare act. We will be introducing that legislation in the House of Commons in the weeks ahead.
What would the proposed act do? It is based on the recommendations of the Hoskins advisory council, along with the other expert reports, and we have modelled it on the Canada Health Act because prescription medicine should be covered, like every other medically necessary service, through our public health care system.
Our act would enshrine the principles and national standards of pharmacare in federal legislation, separate and distinct from, but parallel with, the Canada Health Act.
That means that the federal government would take a leadership role and ensure pharmaceuticals were delivered to Canadians just as other services are delivered, with provinces respecting the principles of universality, comprehensiveness, accessibility, portability and public administration.
Like the Hoskins report, our legislation would come into force exactly when Dr. Hoskins said it should: on January 1, 2022. The bill says that the federal government should take leadership by providing a stable fiscal transfer to the provinces that agree to respect the principles of it and make sure their citizens get the drugs that are covered on a negotiated formulary at no cost, just like they do every other medically necessary service.
I want to pause a moment and go to those who cannot afford it. Study after study, from the Parliamentary Budget Officer to academics, says that we can cover every single Canadian in this country and save billions of dollars doing so. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, using conservative assumptions, said that we would save $4.2 billion every single year by bringing in public pharmacare. Academics have said that is a low estimate and it would be billions more.
Why is that? It is because by bringing pharmacare under our public health care system, we could have national bulk buying led by the federal government for 37.5 million Canadians. We could have streamlined administration. We could take those 100,000 separate private plans and fold those into a single streamlined, efficient and effective administration program in each province. We would save money from the results of cost-related non-adherence, because we know that when Canadians do not take their medications, they get sicker, and when they get sicker, they end up in the ICU.
It has been estimated that having one diabetic in the ICU for three or four days because that person did not take his or her insulin costs more money than giving that person free insulin for life. That is the kind example I am talking about, and we would save money by having universal pharmacare.
Finally, we would save money by using a disciplined, evidence-based formulary, and by having an independent body in this country that assesses medication based on science and that gets the best value for money and efficacy. That would form the basis for prescribing practices in this country, and it would better prescribing practices.
It is time to act. Canadians cannot wait any longer for this and should not have to wait any longer. This is an essential health care policy initiative. It is essential from an economic point of view. It has been found that an average Canadian family would save $500 a year with public pharmacare and that the average employer would save $600 per insured employee. I have rarely seen a public policy that has broader stakeholder agreement than public pharmacare.
Outside of the pharmaceutical companies and the insurance companies, every single stakeholder group that appeared before the Standing Committee on Health said that it supported what the New Democrats are proposing. Employers support it because they want a healthy workforce. They know that pharmaceuticals are the fastest-growing and most expensive part of their extended private health care plans, and they cannot afford it. They know it is better to have this delivered through the public health care system. That is why Canada spends less money per capita than the United States does in delivering health care, and we cover every single Canadian.
It is time to act. I no longer want to hear the Liberal government give excuses about why it cannot move faster and it is studying the situation and has work to do. I have never heard the Prime Minister or the health minister, or in fact any Liberal health minister since 2015, utter a commitment to public health care. I have heard the Liberal finance minister tell his business colleagues that he prefers a U.S.-style private-public patchwork, but there has been radio silence from the government on public pharmacare. That ends today.
I challenge my Liberal colleagues to stand in the House today and tell Canadians if they support public pharmacare or if they support a private, U.S.-style patchwork. Canadians deserve to know. After 50 years of study after study telling us that Canadians need pharmacare, the New Democrats are going to continue to fight for patients and do what we have always done, which is to create and build public health care in Canada, just like Tommy Douglas envisioned back in the 1940s.
We are going to continue working hard until every Canadian has pharmacare, dental care, eye coverage, auditory coverage and full comprehensive coverage under a public health care system.
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View Gagan Sikand Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Gagan Sikand Profile
2020-03-12 10:57 [p.1983]
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Mr. Speaker, historically our Liberal government did implement universal health care, with input through provincial NDP, and it is one of the cornerstones of our country. However, I would be remiss if I did not ask this question on behalf of my riding.
I represent a high concentration of pharmaceutical companies, colloquially known as Pill Hill, and they want us to strike a balance as we move forward. Their concern is that if we move too quickly, we are going to end up with a subpar health care system, because we are going to stymie innovation.
My position is, of course, that we want full pharmacare, but we want to strike that balance. I would like to know if my colleague could speak to that.
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View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 10:58 [p.1983]
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Mr. Speaker, to be more precise, we have public health care in this country because of the work of NDP MPs in the 1960s who worked together in a Liberal minority Parliament, the Pearson government. However, I would say that this provides another historic opportunity today, in my view, because the Liberals and the New Democrats together have enough votes in the House to make that next important expansion of our public health care system, which was always envisioned.
I want to speak to whether we are moving too fast or not. I will reiterate that pharmacare was envisioned as a critical piece of our public health care system back in 1964. My colleague's own party pledged to Canadians that it would bring in public pharmacare in 1997, but here we are in 2020, and the Liberals are saying, “I think we're moving too quickly.”
The most pointed answer I could give to my hon. colleague is that this motion today simply calls on Liberal colleagues to follow the recommendations of their own Hoskins advisory council, which recommended a timeline and a provided a blueprint that requires us to work on legislation this year and commit to a public pharmacare system.
I still have not heard from my Liberal colleagues, but I will ask them every time: Do they or do they not support public pharmacare?
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View Tom Kmiec Profile
CPC (AB)
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2020-03-12 11:00 [p.1983]
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Mr. Speaker, I was listening carefully to my colleague's speech. He knows I have an interest in this particular file, and I have more of a comment than a question.
When the member talked about single-payer, streamlining and efficiency when referring to national pharmacare, I hope he does not envision it from the same people who ran Phoenix or the F-35 procurement and who run most of the government. The CRA typically fails at delivering the needed services for taxpayers.
I will give a specific example, because the only time the member mentioned rare diseases was when he was quoting from the Hoskins report. I have an example from my riding where the public health care system failed in my province.
Sharon Lim and Joshua Wong are users of the public health care system. There is a drug approved through CADTH, and there are approved drugs in Canada, but this one is not approved for reimbursement through a public insurer, which I think the national pharmacare system would make even worse. In their particular case, they cannot even get access through the special access program to a competing drug. This is a perfect example of a problem that is unique to the public insurance system, which will be made worse.
I heard the member talk about cost effectiveness and value for money, but those are decisions that should be made by patients and their doctors, not by bureaucrats in these towers here in Ottawa. This will affect patients with rare diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Alport syndrome and every single rare disease out there.
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View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 11:01 [p.1984]
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Mr. Speaker, I deeply appreciate my hon. colleague's concern for those with rare diseases and I absolutely agree, as the health critic for the NDP, that we need to find a better way for families suffering across this country and individuals who have rare diseases who cannot get access.
Interestingly, the example the member points out is a family who, under the current system, under the current private-public patchwork, cannot get access to the drugs they need. This is why the NDP is proposing a solution.
In the 1960s, there was a great debate in this country over public health care, and a very common argument against public medicare was that Canadians would not be able to get the services they need. That turned out to be a hollow argument.
Would Canadians today give up their public health care system and trade it for the U.S. style, the private-public patchwork? Do they think that would be a better way to access health services? No, because in this country Canadians know that every Canadian should get access to the health care they need, regardless of their ability to pay. We say the same thing should happen with prescription medicine.
It is absurd to have a medicare system that does not cover medicine. We know that the most efficient way to deliver health care services is through the public model. Study after study proves that. It is not me saying that, but academics, stakeholders and industry groups. It is renowned around the world. This is the best way, and that is why every single country does this.
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View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-03-12 11:03 [p.1984]
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Mr. Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's passionate speech.
Quebec has had a pharmacare program since 1996, and it might even be due for some upgrades. Can my colleague explain why no other province has adopted such a program since 1996?
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View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 11:03 [p.1984]
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Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to sit with my hon. colleague on the health committee.
The member pointed out that Quebec has been a leader in this country on universal pharmacare. It is the only province right now that covers all of its citizens' pharmaceutical needs.
There are some criticisms of the model that Quebec uses, because it has a hybrid model that requires employers to cover their employees, while anybody else is covered by the public system. The health committee heard evidence that we should specifically not adopt that model for all of Canada, because Quebec has the highest per capita cost of delivering prescription drugs in the country.
Consequently, New Democrats believe it will benefit the Government of Quebec and Quebeckers to remain involved in the project we propose, considering its clear benefits to the people of Quebec, but we totally respect that it is Quebec's decision to retain its own system. It could absolutely withdraw from national pharmacare and use those funds to improve its existing system.
The NDP would like to sit down with all provinces, including Quebec, and look at how we can build a national system for delivering pharmacare, similar to the way we worked together on health care. However, it will absolutely be up to Quebec to decide if it wants to opt in or opt out, with federal compensation, because we respect Quebec's ability to do so if that is Quebec's choice.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 11:05 [p.1984]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway for the motion, which is something we have talked about in this place before. As he has said many times, after many years—decades, in fact—it is high time that we got something done on this file.
I would like him to speak a little more on something that I always find strange in this debate. A lot of members from other parties routinely stand and say they want efficiency in government and less money spent overall. We know that prescription drug coverage for provinces is one of the major cost drivers in health care. Drug coverage on a federal scale is a way to drive down those prices, which are putting upward pressure on provincial budgets. It is always mystifying to me that when we come up with an idea that would, without sacrificing services, drive down the cost of something that governments are already providing, we do not see more support on the other side of the House.
I wonder if the member could speak to that phenomenon and maybe help Canadians understand how that could be.
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View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 11:06 [p.1984]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Elmwood—Transcona for the wonderful work he does on behalf of his constituents in the House. He is a fine parliamentarian.
It is so important to emphasize to Canadians the economic advantages of what New Democrats are proposing. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, taking 2016 as a model year, calculated the amount spent in the country during that time on all drugs that would be covered under a pharmacare system. He found that about $24 billion was spent that year. He then ran a model to find out what would have been spent if there had been a public single-payer system covering exactly the same drugs. He found that $20 billion would have been spent, and that is with conservative assumptions.
He attributed no savings to cost-related non-adherence. He attributed no savings to streamlining the administration. The savings came only through bulk buying and a more disciplined way of delivering these drugs to Canadians.
As I said in my speech earlier, that is low. There are academics who say we will save much more, between $6 billion and $8 billion to $10 billion per year. As an economic imperative, this is essentially a policy no-brainer.
I want to come back to the most important thing of all, and that is Canadian patients. We should not be content in this country when seven and a half million Canadians cannot get medicine. We cannot be okay with that. We cannot be content with that when we know there is a way to make sure all Canadians get the medications they need. This is imperative.
New Democrats are asking the government and the Liberals to act now, commit to public pharmacare and endorse the Hoskins advisory council's recommendations. Let us get to work and provide pharmacare to everybody.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-03-12 11:08 [p.1985]
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Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to stand today to address the motion from the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway. I congratulate him on his speech and I thank him for his work on the health committee.
The government is committed to implementing a national universal pharmacare program that ensures that all Canadians have access to the prescription drugs that they need. This is our goal, as clearly stated in the 43rd Speech from the Throne. It is a goal that we have been working towards for some time. While we are now closer than ever, it is important that we continue our measured, considered approach to implementation. We need to get this right.
This morning I will explain the steps the government is taking to make prescription drugs more accessible and affordable for Canadians. I will also explain why these actions are key to the implementation of a national pharmacare program.
Canadians should not have to choose between buying groceries and paying for medication, but for many people, paying for prescription drugs is a heavy burden and for others it is completely out of reach. Surveys show that more than seven million Canadians are either entirely uninsured or under-insured.
This means that many of these Canadians cannot afford to fill their prescriptions. They simply do without the medication they need. If their health absolutely depends on taking these drugs, they may forgo necessities, such as food and heat, so that they can pay for their prescriptions. We can no longer afford to do nothing. We cannot afford to wait.
That is why we asked Dr. Eric Hoskins and a panel of eminent Canadians to provide the government with a blueprint for a national pharmacare program. After hearing from many thousands of Canadians, the council found a consensus of opinion that everyone in Canada should have access to prescription drugs based on their need and not on their ability to pay.
The government shares this view. With national pharmacare on the horizon, addressing the affordability of drugs is imperative.
How do we do that? The first step is to update specific parts of our regulatory regime and bring them into line with the rest of the world.
Let me begin with a few words about the evolving use of pharmaceuticals in Canada and the associated increasing costs, costs that impact everyone.
Pharmaceuticals are important to the health of Canadians and a vital part of Canada's health care system. Drugs help cure or manage previously debilitating or fatal diseases, allowing Canadians to live longer and healthier lives. Diseases that were deadly 100 years ago, such as tetanus, diphtheria, polio and many others, can now be prevented by vaccination. An HIV diagnosis was a death sentence at one time. New drugs offer innovative treatments for diseases like arthritis, hepatitis C and many types of cancer.
All this innovation comes at a cost. It is part of the reason that Canadians are paying higher prices for prescription drugs than they should. Patented drug prices in Canada are the third-highest in the world, behind only the United States and Switzerland. Canadian prices are, on average, almost 25% more than the OECD median for the same patented drugs. As a result, the private and public drug plans that cover the majority of Canadians are rapidly becoming unsustainable.
Let me give an example. Diabetes affects an estimated 3.4 million Canadians and is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. Canada spends nearly $600 million annually on new oral anti-diabetic drugs. The two top-selling oral anti-diabetic drugs cost Canadian public drug plans close to $1,000 per year per patient, twice as much as in France. Imagine the savings if Canada paid France's prices for these drugs. That is a lot of money. It is money that could be used to cover the cost of drugs for people with limited or no insurance coverage.
A second example is a drug used to treat a rare soft-bone disease. This disease used to be almost always fatal, but this drug changed the prognosis. However, it is one of the most expensive drugs in Canada, costing more than $1 million per year per patient, depending on the required dosage. Unfortunately, this high price resulted in difficult decisions and delayed access to the drug for many Canadians.
If Canada paid lower prices for all drugs, there would be more money available in drug plans to provide better coverage or to provide coverage to those without insurance.
Even outside the area of rare diseases, pharmaceutical costs keep going up. Drugs are now the second-largest category of spending in health care, and biologics and other specialty drugs account for an increasing share of these total drug costs. This rate of growth in drug costs is unsustainable, and it is hurting Canadians every single day.
As a trend toward higher-cost specialty drugs continues, we cannot continue to pay higher-than-average prices for drugs. What could we do? The answer is not to spend more. We already spend more per capita on pharmaceuticals than nearly every country in the world. We need a solution to bring fair prices and sustainable drug costs for Canada.
Part of the problem was that Canada's approach to patented drug price regulations was outdated. Our previous pricing regulations were established in the 1980s. We have more than 100 different public drug plans and thousands of private drug plans, which means that drug coverage is provided by a patchwork of payers.
It was well past time to bring these regulations into the 21st century. Canada needed a modernized approach to regulating patented drug prices, one that would provide long-term sustainability and protect Canadians from excessive prices. That is why last summer the government modernized the patented medicines regulations to provide the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, or PMPRB, with the tools and information it needs to protect Canadians from excessive prices for patented medicines.
I want everyone to remember that Canada pays the third-highest costs in the world. As a comparison, we pay double what France pays on some drugs.
We will now benchmark prices against countries that are similar to Canada economically and similar from a consumer protection standpoint. Previously, the price ceilings for patented drugs in Canada were set by comparing our prices against prices in seven predetermined countries: France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The list of countries has now been updated by removing the United States and Switzerland and adding Australia, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain, for a total of 11 countries as comparables.
We then wanted the PMPRB to see the actual prices being paid in Canada, not just the list prices being published by pharmaceutical companies. When the PMPRB was created, the market prices of drugs matched the list prices. Over time, as a result of the significant confidential discounts and rebates negotiated by third party payers, actual prices paid in the market became significantly lower than list prices. Without access to this information, the PMPRB was left to regulate domestic price ceilings based on inflated list prices.
With the modernized regulations, patentees will be required to report Canadian price information as the net of all adjustments, such as rebates and discounts, so that the PMPRB is informed of the actual market prices being paid in Canada.
Finally, we wanted to consider the value that a drug offers and its overall affordability. Most other countries with national pharmacare programs already do this. When setting a price, we need to consider three things. First is the value for money: Does the drug offer a therapeutic benefit that justifies its cost? Next is the size of the market: How many people will benefit from the drug? Last is to consider Canada's GDP and GDP per capita: Can we afford to pay for the drug?
These changes will provide the PMPRB with the tools it needs to protect Canadians from excessive drug prices and bring us in line with the policies and practices of most other developed countries. This was a critical step toward improving the affordability and accessibility of prescription drugs. Taken together, we anticipate that these regulatory changes will save roughly $13 billion over the next 10 years. That is a significant saving for Canadians.
From those savings, public and private drug plans will have greater capacity to improve benefits for plan members or to consider new therapies not currently covered. All Canadians, including those with drug plans and those paying out of pocket, will benefit from lower prices for prescription drugs.
Modernizing pricing regulations complements the work already under way at Health Canada to streamline the regulatory review process for drugs by enabling priority drugs to reach the market more quickly. It supports the work already taking place under the pan-Canadian pharmaceutical alliance to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. As a member of this alliance, the Government of Canada is able to combine its buying power with that of the public plans in the provinces and territories.
It is estimated that the alliance saves public drug plans more than $2 billion a year. Successful negotiations result in more affordable prescription drug prices for public plans and lower generic drug prices for all players.
Before we can implement a national pharmacare program in Canada, we have to address the rising cost of drugs in the country by taking the steps I have outlined. Doing so will improve the viability of a national pharmacare program. National pharmacare, in and of itself, would be another step that could help us control drug prices.
I am confident that this government is on the right path. We are now exploring options as we move forward with a national pharmacare plan, and we are making significant investments.
Budget 2019 earmarked $1 billion over two years beginning in 2022, with up to $500 million ongoing to help Canadians with rare diseases access the drugs they need. This is very important. This is an investment that must be made.
Budget 2019 also proposed $35 million over four years to support the creation of the Canadian drug agency, an important step toward a national pharmacare program. We have pledged to work with provinces, territories and stakeholders on the creation of the Canada drug agency. This agency could use its negotiating power to achieve better prescription drug prices on behalf of Canadians. Negotiating better prices could help lower the cost of prescription drugs for Canadians by up to $3 billion over the long term.
I appreciate the opportunity to discuss some of the important work we are doing to prepare for the implementation of a national pharmacare program. Part of this effort involves addressing the affordability of prescription drugs, an essential building block for pharmacare. To do that, we have brought our regulatory approach to pharmaceutical pricing in line with approaches that are used in the rest of the world. The actions we have taken to improve the system will help to bring down the prices of prescription drugs.
I would very much like to thank the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway for his motion. I am pleased to say that we are moving forward steadily. Each of the actions I have described today is helping to pave the way for an effective pharmacare program.
From bringing down prescription prices to improving the management of these drugs in our health care system, we are taking the time necessary to get this right, keeping in mind that the provinces and territories will have a key role to play in determining how pharmacare will take shape.
Pharmaceuticals are an important part of Canada's health care system. That is why federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health have made affordability, accessibility and appropriate use of prescription drugs a shared responsibility.
The updates we have made to the patented medicines regulations, when taken together with the Patent Act, will provide the PMPRB with the tools to protect Canadians consumers from excessive patented drug prices.
All of these measures are important steps in our plan to prepare for the implementation of a national pharmacare program. It is critical that the government work closely with the provinces and territories, as they play a key role in the development of a drug agency, the strategy for high-cost drugs and for rare diseases. Together we are making progress toward a more efficient and effective system.
Based on these initiatives and others I have outlined today, it is clear that we are in fact moving forward with the recommendations from the Hoskins report. I am pleased to support today's motion and urge other hon. members in the House to do so as well.
We must continue to collaborate with the provinces and territories. Our government looks forward to continuing these discussions while taking the critical next step to implement national universal pharmacare.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 11:22 [p.1987]
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Mr. Speaker, we are here 23 years after the Liberals initially promised this in their platform. They have had many years of majority government since making that promise. We just came off a Liberal majority government and the Liberals have not even had a meeting with the provinces to discuss the idea, to feel them out and see where they are with this.
If the Liberals are really serious about developing a single-payer national public comprehensive pharmacare plan, when will they call a meeting with the provinces for the express purpose of figuring out what the concerns of the provinces are so they can start to develop a plan to deal with those and make an offer that would be acceptable to the provinces to move ahead on? I do not want NDP MPs standing here 23 years from now, talking about 46 years of inaction by the Liberals. They first promised it in 1997.
When is the government going to actually convene a meeting with the provinces to talk about a national pharmacare plan? When is it going to happen?
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-03-12 11:23 [p.1987]
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Mr. Speaker, a lot of work has already happened in the last couple of years. A lot of collaboration has already begun and there are a lot of positive steps.
As we move forward on implementing national pharmacare, we have to continue to collaborate with the provinces and territories. I believe there is a meeting very soon, this spring in fact. Our government looks forward to continuing these discussions while taking critical next steps to implement national pharmacare.
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary specifically referenced the cost of drugs and what the government was doing to try to address that. I would just give this feedback for the member and for the government.
I was contacted last night by Theresa from my riding, who is the grandmother of nine-year-old Ruby. Ruby has cystic fibrosis. She has to do all sorts of things that kids her age never would have to contemplate, and it is very hard on her and her family.
Theresa specifically has said that Trikafta is not available. She says:
And now we have a government who is overhauling this already cumbersome system starting with the PMPRB...who has been mandated to decide the ceiling price that will be paid for prescription medicines. However, they have not been differentiating medicines for rare diseases, like cystic fibrosis, from more common diseases. They just want to get the medicines at the lowest price they can. We all want that, however, it isn't reasonable to think that rare diseases should be decided upon the same way others are as research development for rare diseases requires a will to proceed that is a far greater commitment of pharmaceutical firms.
The member has said that his government is trying to take action on the cost, but he is actually denying access for important medicines to help children like Ruby.
Could the member explain to Theresa why his government's plan is benefiting Canadians, particularly those who are wrestling with this horrible disease?
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-03-12 11:25 [p.1988]
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Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious issue. We need to do some serious work on a rare diseases strategy for Canadians. It is very important. As it pertains specifically to Trikafta, the company has not submitted an application to market this product in Canada.
However, working toward the rare diseases strategy, budget 2019 put forward a billion dollars over two years and $500 million each year ongoing to come up with a way to solve this issue so Canadians have access and affordability.
I spoke about the fact that we paid the third-highest prices. Why is Canada paying the third-highest prices for pharmaceuticals in the world? Why is it twice as much as some countries? Why are we paying 25% more than OECD countries on average? We need to find a balance between affordability and accessibility so all Canadians can be safe and healthy.
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View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
View Louise Chabot Profile
2020-03-12 11:26 [p.1988]
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Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the government and all members that Quebec did not wait for an agreement to be negotiated with the provinces before bringing in its own program, because we believe it is important that everyone have pharmacare coverage.
I would like to focus specifically on the cost of prescription drugs. We are talking about a universal program, but the cost of medication is a serious problem. Canada has the highest drug costs in the OECD. Drug patent policies, for example, are a federal jurisdiction, and no action has been taken on that. In our health care system, drug prices have the highest inflation rates.
I would like to know how we can incorporate lower drug costs into a real policy.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-03-12 11:27 [p.1988]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
I want to congratulate Quebec on doing a great job with moving toward national pharmacare. Quebec has one of the models for our country.
As the member said, Canadians do pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, the third-highest behind the United States. We already have done more than any government in a generation to lower drug prices. We have new rules on patented drugs that will save Canadians over $13 billion. We joined the pan-Canadian pharmaceutical alliance. Now we are taking the next critical steps to implement national pharmacare. We will not rest until Canadians can get and afford the medications they need.
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View Ken Hardie Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Ken Hardie Profile
2020-03-12 11:28 [p.1988]
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Mr. Speaker, we have heard in the past that the patchwork quilt of programs available to people cover perhaps as many as 60% of Canadians. However, as has been pointed out, this leads to inefficiencies and higher prices. One concern that many would have is whether a move to a single-payer public system to cover the costs of pharmaceuticals would involve a shift of costs from private companies, which currently contribute through their individual plans, to the government.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-03-12 11:29 [p.1988]
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Mr. Speaker, I would not want to presuppose an outcome or what may or may not come to be when so much of the responsibility, so much of partnership with the federal government will be the provinces and territories. It is so important to not try to foist upon provinces and territories what the federal government wants, but to work closely with the provinces and territories to determine what is best for them and for Canadians to ensure access and affordability for all Canadians.
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View Tom Kmiec Profile
CPC (AB)
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2020-03-12 11:30 [p.1988]
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Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for laying out the government's position on this motion.
Many members know I have a lot of problems with the way we currently have our system designed. I am worried that a national pharmacare system will compound all those problems.
The parliamentary secretary did not address the fact that a lot of medications today are a substitute for surgeries and things that would have required a hospital stay in the past. He did mention CADTH and the Canadian drug agency. Therefore, I have a two-part question.
First, will the Canadian drug agency be subject to the Auditor General, to parliamentary oversight and to the Access to Information Act, the way CADTH is not today? CADTH is not subject to any type of parliamentary oversight, which was discussed once at the Standing Committee on Health.
Second, with respect to the $1 billion that has been set aside in future budgets for rare diseases, there are no details on that. I have a lot of patients in my riding with different rare diseases, such as cystic fibrosis. Cambia has been refused twice now, on October 2018 and November 2017, by CADTH, a government agency, and Trikafta is not coming to Canada. The Prime Minister even got the name of the medication wrong yesterday when he called it “trifacta”. When will cystic fibrosis patients get the medications they need? Also, will any of these agencies be subject to parliamentary oversight?
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-03-12 11:31 [p.1989]
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Mr. Speaker, this is a very sensitive and serious issue in Canada. We spoke earlier about Trikafta and how there had been no application for its approval in Canada yet. I know there are other issues.
For serious or life-threatening conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, there is the special access program. It does work and it has worked. However, we would not necessarily put specifics on what the $1 billion looks like until we form a partnership with the provinces and territories in order to move forward.
The $1 billion over two years and the $500 million ongoing each year is to ensure we can solve these problems the member has spoken about in the House before, which, frankly, are very serious and affect me personally.
I appreciate the comments of the member and the questions he has asked. We know we have to work on a rare diseases strategy. We have put the money in budget 2019 and in future budgets. We will continue to do the absolute most we can for Canadians.
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View Matt Jeneroux Profile
CPC (AB)
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
2020-03-12 11:32 [p.1989]
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Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute pleasure to split my time with the member for Mégantic—L'Érable, my seatmate and a well-informed member on this topic.
I think members from all parties can agree that we want Canadians to receive the best possible health care. However, universal or national pharmacare would have serious implications for all Canadians, without changing the status quo for most. According to a 2017 report by The Conference Board of Canada, 98% of Canadians either have or are eligible for private or public drug coverage, so we know that the vast majority of Canadians can access the medications they need without financial burden.
If we implemented a universal pharmacare program, this would not be the case. To pay for a universal system, taxes would have to be raised for all Canadians. We do not know how much that could cost, but estimates are around $15 billion annually. Under a universal system, the most vulnerable Canadians would see their cost of living go up due to higher taxes.
Canadians who currently have the coverage they need would give up some of their disposable income to fund the new system, while seeing no change to their quality of life or access to prescription medication. One thing I consistently hear from my constituents is that they cannot afford more taxes. They cannot afford higher living costs. Things are stretched tight as it is.
The government needs to be mindful of the economic times we are in. Oil prices are in free fall, COVID-19 is predicted to have significant impacts on our economy, rail blockades caused millions of dollars in lost economic development and companies are rethinking investing in Canada because of our “political climate”. Just yesterday, the TSX fell by almost 700 points, and we are now in what is called a bear market.
We are in uncertain times. Some have even called it uncharted territory. Right now, many Canadians are worried about their jobs and livelihoods. Now is not the time to implement a pharmacare program that would come at a massive cost on the backs of taxpayers. I am especially worried because of the huge deficit we already have, which is close to $30 billion. In December of last year, finance department documents showed it was at $26.6 billion and expected to keep rising. We will find out more when the finance minister releases his budget on March 30, the date we finally learned just yesterday.
We have this huge deficit, and I am still scratching my head and wondering why. We have been in relatively good economic times for the past few years. Canada was in good shape until 2015 thanks to the previous Conservative government that had the restraint to save and make tough decisions. The government has squandered that good fortune. Instead, it has gone on a spending spree and racked up unsustainable levels of debt and will leave the bill to our children and grandchildren.
Most economists know that one saves money in the good times and puts money away for a rainy day, as the saying goes. That did not happen, and now we are heading into a series of stormy days. The government cannot give any sort of clear answer on how it is going to respond to a recession. My guess is that it has no idea.
This is a crucial time for Canada. Companies no longer see Canada as a place to make a safe investment. The government has actively worked to shut down the energy industry with legislation like Bill C-69 and Bill C-48. Thousands of hard-working men and women are finding themselves out of work in my home province of Alberta, and this has had a ripple effect on the entire economy. What does all this have to do with pharmacare? As I said earlier, Canadians cannot afford higher taxes, especially in these uncertain economic times.
In last year's budget, the government pledged to work with provinces, territories and stakeholders to create the Canadian drug agency and to spend $35 million to establish a Canadian drug agency transition office. The government's advisory group was headed by a former provincial Liberal, Dr. Eric Hoskins, a man who is no stranger to endless deficits and debt. It is no surprise that the report he authored recommended the creation of a universal system. It is always buy now, pay later.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has warned the government of the impact on workers should pharmacare be implemented. Its chief economist, Trevin Stratton, said millions of Canadians would lose access to medications they have under the current plans. He said the government needs to “carefully reflect” on how millions of Canadians who already have access to prescription drug coverage would be impacted.
Some families experienced this recently when the Ontario government implemented free prescription medication for people under the age of 25. This program, OHIP+, cost roughly $500 million a year when it was implemented in 2017. Private insurance for those under the age of 25 became obsolete. Many parents complained that medications for rare diseases were not on the list of approved medications under OHIP+. These medications had been covered under private insurance.
I worry that the same thing will happen with this government when it implements a universal pharmacare system across the country. The prescription medication that many people are currently using and covering the cost of through their private insurance may become unavailable if not approved.
Not only will a universal system put more strain on Canadians through higher taxes and deficit, but access to much-needed prescription drugs may be threatened. The Liberals have been promising a pharmacare plan for decades and have done absolutely nothing about it. It was in their 1997 election platform and was promised again in 2004. Any promises to implement pharmacare are purely for political posturing. In fact, their 2019 budget contained almost no health care money until 2022, well after the election.
We on this side of the House know that one of the best things we can do to help Canadians is keep taxes and the cost of living low. Fiscal restraint is required to ensure the prosperity of our future generations. We need to make good decisions now, and I do not believe adopting a universal pharmacare program is a smart decision. As I stated, it would have serious financial impacts through higher taxes and bigger deficits. It would threaten access to medications currently covered through private drug plans. Research shows that about 98% of Canadians already have or are eligible for private or public drug coverage.
While we know that some Canadians legitimately struggle to pay for access to prescription medications, this is not the case for the majority of our population. We already have one of the best health care systems in the world, and we should be proud of the system in place.
Instead of focusing on big-ticket items like national pharmacare, the government needs to focus on the unfolding economic crisis. We need urgent action to unleash our economy. Budget 2020 must include cuts for workers and entrepreneurs to reward investment and work, a reasonable plan to phase out the deficit and reassure investors, a rule to eliminate red tape and liberate businesses, an end to corporate welfare for favoured companies and an end to the wasteful Liberal spending that we have seen over the past four years.
We are all in the House to help our constituents and all Canadians. We want to see them be successful and get ahead. Implementing an expensive pharmacare system will not achieve this. It will put more tax burdens on hard-working Canadians and it is not needed by the vast majority of our population. These uncertain economic times are not suitable for introducing a $15-billion pharmacare plan.
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View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 11:41 [p.1990]
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Mr. Speaker, according to the Hoskins report, universal single-payer public pharmacare will reduce out-of-pocket costs for families by $6.4 billion a year. That means families are saving money, families that are struggling with the high cost of housing and struggling with the high cost of child care.
Does the member opposite agree that we should be putting that money back into people's pockets and focusing on the high cost of prescription medication and the cost not only to the economy but to the day-to-day living experience of Canadians?
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View Matt Jeneroux Profile
CPC (AB)
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
2020-03-12 11:41 [p.1990]
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Mr. Speaker, ultimately that was the key component of my speech. As I indicated, yes, we do need to keep more money in the pockets of Canadians and keep our taxes low. Implementing a $15-billion pharmacare program is ultimately the antithesis to all of that.
According to The Conference Board of Canada numbers, only 1.8% of Canadians lack or are ineligible for any prescription drug coverage. To make the argument that we are suddenly putting more money back into constituents' pockets simply does not add up if we are going to spend $15 billion of public taxpayer money to do quite frankly the opposite.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-03-12 11:42 [p.1991]
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Mr. Speaker, for the first time we have a Prime Minister who understands the issues and challenges that many Canadians have with trying to decide between medication and food. Issues of poverty are very real and tangible.
Our caucus has long been advocating to ensure that medications are affordable and will be there for individuals who need them. For the very first time we have a Prime Minister who has really taken this issue head on to meet the needs of Canadians who require these types of medications. The cost of pharmaceuticals is too high.
I am wondering if my Conservative colleague across the way could give his thoughts in regard to the individuals who find this so difficult and are choosing between medication, food and often proper shelter because of the cost of their medications. Would he not agree that this issue has to be dealt with?
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View Matt Jeneroux Profile
CPC (AB)
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
2020-03-12 11:43 [p.1991]
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Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have been advocating on this for so long. It was in their 1997 election platform, yet no progress has been made. They have been in government a few times between then and now and have not been able to cross the threshold with it.
Ultimately, we all want to make sure that Canadians have access to the drugs they need when they need them. I would refer the member to The Conference Board of Canada report, which indicates that only 1.8% of Canadians, less than 2%, do not have access right now. We want to make sure we are doing everything we can for that 1.8%, but dumping $15 billion into the budget as the solution certainly does not address that 1.8%. It would also impact so many other Canadians through the cost of living regarding, as the member indicated, the price of food and higher taxes we will see with that cost.
The Conservatives say there is a better way. We can all agree that we need to address that 1.8%, but a pharmacare plan is certainly not the way to do it.
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View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-03-12 11:45 [p.1991]
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Mr. Speaker, I would really like my colleague to explain what he thinks can be done to control drug prices, given that this is a federal jurisdiction first and foremost.
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View Matt Jeneroux Profile
CPC (AB)
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
2020-03-12 11:46 [p.1991]
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Mr. Speaker, I am glad my colleague on the health committee brought up that point. Right now, we are seeing investment in drugs in Canada come to a grinding halt. The changes the government has put in place with the PMPRB, which comes into effect in July, have really had a significant impact on companies' ability to move forward with the drugs they intend to market, which means there is a lack of investment in Canada, research and product investment. That has come to a grinding halt because we are moving forward at a rapid pace.
I had the opportunity just yesterday to ask the health minister at committee whether we could pause this just a bit because patients are coming to our offices to tell us they were not involved in the consultation process. Whether it be for rare disorders, as we heard in some of the earlier debate, or for future drugs, patients really have not been at the table.
The Conservatives are asking the health minister to consider including more of those conversations. We are going to see that a lot of these drugs will not be available in Canada and will go to the United States.
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View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-03-12 11:47 [p.1991]
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Mr. Speaker, let me begin by acknowledging the excellent work of my colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton Riverbend, who is our shadow minister for health. I also want to acknowledge the work of all members of the Standing Committee on Health and the government members who are working very hard to keep Canadians informed on this major crisis we are going through as a result of the terrible COVID-19 virus.
Setting aside all the partisanship we see in the House, I think we have to recognize that we are facing a major national crisis. Whether on the government side or in the various opposition parties, a great many people are currently working hard to make sure that we can deal with this crisis in an intelligent manner and that the right measures are taken at the right time.
Again, I commend and thank all Canadians, public officials and provinces for their work and their efforts to help us cope with this crisis. I know that these people are spending an enormous amount of time trying to find the best possible solutions. I think we too must work very hard to overcome this crisis and at the very least keep these people in our thoughts.
Canadians must receive the best health care available, whether it is preventative measures, hospital stays or medications. That goes for all Canadians. Even the most vulnerable members of our society must also have access not just to common medications, but also to the most innovative drugs.
The Liberal Party included a universal pharmacare program in its election platform, but it was not transparent about the cost. It should be noted that this is not the first time that the Liberals have talked about pharmacare. It was in their 1997 and 2004 platforms, as well as in the 2019 budget and election platform. Unfortunately, nothing has been done in all that time.
We even heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons say to us that, for the first time, Canada has a Prime Minister who is interested in the pharmacare program. Is it not ironic to hear someone from that side of the House tell us that all the previous prime ministers did not really intend to deal with this issue even though it was in their election platform? I was rather shocked to hear those comments, which probably foreshadow what will once again happen with the Liberal promises.
The Standing Committee on Health spent two years studying whether a national pharmacare system could be implemented. The Liberals created a task force, which is another approach. When a government does not know what to do, it creates a committee. When it does not know what to say, it consults the committee. When no results are forthcoming, it blames the committee. That is probably what will happen once again with this other promise, this intention to implement a pharmacare program, because there is no reason to believe that this time, things will be different. The Liberals are masters at raising hopes with their promises, but they are even better at creating disappointment because they never keep their promises when it counts.
Those of us on this side of the House are well aware that many Canadians have a hard time getting and paying for prescription drugs. However, the Liberals make empty promises and blab on and on in committee and in the task force, while the most vulnerable Canadians are left to fend for themselves. Instead of looking for real solutions, the Liberals are implying that one day there will be a universal pharmacare problem, which is an empty promise that they have been making for decades.
Budget 2019 does not contain a pharmacare program. Instead, the budget proposes working with the provinces, territories and stakeholders to create a new Canadian drug agency and spend $35 million to establish a Canadian drug agency transition office. Blah, blah, blah.
The advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare published its final report and submitted recommendations to the Government of Canada. These recommendations included implementing single-payer, public pharmacare. According to the report, a program with limited coverage would cost an additional $3.5 billion in 2022, and comprehensive coverage would cost an additional $15 billion a year if implemented by 2027. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says that pharmacare would have cost taxpayers $20.4 billion if it had been implemented in 2015-16. That is a lot of money.
The Conservative Party wants to ensure that Canadians get the best health care possible, but how can we trust the Liberals when they cannot even give us the facts and be transparent? They suggest that they might do certain things, but then they go ahead and do the opposite. In 2015, when the Liberals said that they were going to run small deficits, many Canadians believed them. Five years later, they have racked up $100 billion in deficits, when the deficit should have been only about $26 billion or $28 billion for that period. The Liberals were supposed to balance the budget, but they did not. Such is the Liberal reality.
We, on this side of the House, respect Quebec's decision to institute a universal pharmacare program. Quebec had the jurisdiction to implement its own program. It did so. All Quebeckers are now covered by a public and private universal pharmacare program.
The system is not perfect and, of course, it could be improved. However, a first step was taken by a government that is responsible for caring for its people. That is the path we should take. The goal is not to put a little flag on pill bottles, but to ensure that all Canadians have access to the medication they need.
I think history has shown us that the federal government is not necessarily in the best position to implement, administer and run a program as important as this one. The economy was doing well. The global economy was doing well. During that time, the government spent freely. It put the country in debt. It used up all the wiggle room that the previous Conservative government had left behind. Now we are facing a major crisis, and there is no more wiggle room. The government does not have a penny left to pay for initiatives. We cannot trust the Liberals to manage universal pharmacare. They will lose control again, as they have done so many times already. There are plenty of examples.
I am the infrastructure critic. When we ask the government to provide us with a list of projects that have received funding from its $186-billion plan, we are told there is no list. In other words, the Liberals have lost track of 52,000 projects. That is they number they gave us.
We ask them for a list, but they cannot give us one, and today they say they are going to implement pharmacare for all Canadians. They are going to lose the game plan. They are going to lose something. This will not work. The cost will spiral out of control. This government is not capable of managing Canadians' money. We know that from experience. If it spent less time giving handouts to Loblaws, Mastercard and its buddies in the private sector, maybe it would have more time to spend on health care. It would be able to transfer more money to the provinces so that they could get started on their own agendas, as Quebec did.
In the last election campaign, the Conservatives pledged to increase and maintain Canadian health transfers and social programs. Those are logical choices that demonstrate our respect for provincial jurisdictions.
In conclusion, I want to mention an outstanding company in my riding, eTrace Medical Diagnostics. This company has developed a made-in-Quebec technology for early detection of cancer by breath analysis. That means cancer could be diagnosed earlier. This could lower the cost of treatment for all Canadians by diagnosing cancer at a very early stage just by analyzing a person's breath.
Several weeks ago, I sent the entire document to the Minister of Health to request a meeting with that company. The company does not want any money, it wants to know what it will take to get this technology deployed by Canadians for Canadians and not by foreign powers, because the company might be sold.
I received no response from the Minister of Health. I did not even receive an acknowledgement of receipt.
These are concrete measures to ensure that Canadians can get better treatment and to lower the cost of drugs. When we know that cancer is one of the worst diseases, that it affects the most Canadians and that we have a solution, I wonder why the government is hesitating and will not even meet a company that is on the verge of something that may change the lives of millions of people in Canada and around the world.
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View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 11:57 [p.1993]
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Mr. Speaker, I want to correct the record. The member's Conservative colleague said that there is a small percentage of Canadians who are without coverage, who are struggling to pay for medication. It is one out of every five Canadians who is not taking their medication because they cannot afford it. That does not take into account those struggling to pay, who are paying but then going without other basic necessities.
Over the past 12 years, Canadian expenditures on drugs have outpaced all other countries, including the U.S., with 184.4% growth in total drug expenditures. Why did the Conservatives in their time in government do nothing to stop Canadians from being gouged by pharmaceutical companies?
The member opposite has a choice: Does he want to support universal single-payer pharmacare or does he want to protect big pharma? Whose side is he on?
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View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-03-12 11:59 [p.1993]
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Mr. Speaker, I side with Canadians. My only focus here today is to ensure that Canadians can have access to pharmacare.
It is immaterial whose system we go with. Currently 98% of Canadians have access to a drug plan. It may not be a perfect system. Some people are definitely having a tough time.
Instead of trying to come up with a solution for all Canadians, why not try to help only those people who are unable to pay for their drugs and address their situation? That would be much faster than waiting for the universal pharmacare the Liberals have been talking about since 1997.
If we take care of the 2% and are able to address their situation by transferring the necessary funds to the provinces, then the issue will be resolved.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-03-12 11:59 [p.1993]
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Mr. Speaker, let me attempt to restore some faith in my colleague across the way. Colleagues want to make reference to Liberal promises over many years.
Let me remind my colleague: The Prime Minister made a commitment to Canada's middle class to reduce taxes. That was done. We made a commitment to increase GIS for our seniors who were most in need. That was done. We made a commitment to increase the Canada child benefit. That was done. We have made a commitment to ensure that medications are going to be there for those Canadians who need it. I will assure the member across the way that this commitment too will be done.
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View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-03-12 12:00 [p.1993]
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Mr. Speaker, the Liberals said they would run small deficits. The deficit has reached $28 billion. They said they would change the electoral system. We still have the system that we did back then.
With regard to credibility, I know the parliamentary secretary has been working very hard to try to restore the credibility of his Prime Minister, but Canadians no longer believe him.
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View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-03-12 12:01 [p.1993]
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Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to hear a Conservative member from Quebec say that the Quebec system and the Government of Quebec have full jurisdiction over pharmacare.
That program is currently suffering from the fact that successive federal governments have failed to take drug costs seriously and failed to take responsibility for them.
What does he propose as a means to limit and control drug prices?
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View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-03-12 12:01 [p.1993]
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Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, my colleague is a member of the Standing Committee on Health, which means that he is well informed on all of the measures.
There is clearly a serious problem with drug costs. Things evolve so quickly and drugs are becoming increasingly more expensive. Change will not come by preventing pharmaceutical companies from investing in Canada, as the Liberals are doing. Right now, the government is pushing everyone away. Not only are drugs too expensive, but we also risk losing having access to certain drugs because the Americans will keep everything for themselves. This is a very important aspect that we need to keep in mind.
Unfortunately, once again, it is not in the Liberals' nature to attract investments. They are all about rejecting investments and making sure that no one invests in Canada. When we do not have technology like the one I mentioned earlier, when we do not want to help a local company develop a product that could make a real difference, we have to live with the consequences.
Unfortunately, with the Liberals, we are losing control over our own business and racking up more bills to pay.
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View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-03-12 12:03 [p.1994]
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Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Montarville.
I am pleased to speak to the motion moved by my NDP colleagues.
To start, the motion is calling on the House to:
(a) acknowledge the government’s intention to introduce and implement national pharmacare;
(b) call on the government to implement the full recommendations of the final report of the Hoskins Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare....
I will stop there.
I am a member of the Bloc Québécois and a member from Quebec. During the last election campaign, I pledged to be the voice of Quebeckers in the House of Commons and to defend their interests. When a national assembly speaks unanimously on an issue concerning the relationship between Quebec and Ottawa, the Bloc Québécois takes notice and ensures that this consensus is echoed in the House of Commons.
I will read the motion that was adopted unanimously by the National Assembly on June 14.
THAT the National Assembly acknowledge the federal report [the Hoskins report] recommending the establishment of a pan-Canadian pharmacare plan;
THAT it reaffirm the Government of Québec's exclusive jurisdiction over health;
THAT it also reaffirm that Québec has had its own general prescription insurance plan for 20 years;
THAT it indicate to the federal government that Québec refuses to adhere to a pan-Canadian pharmacare plan;
THAT it ask the Government of Québec to maintain its prescription drug insurance plan and that it demand full financial compensation from the federal government if a project for a pan-Canadian pharmacare plan is officially tabled.
Our National Assembly is speaking with one voice across party lines. It is fair to say that, when our National Assembly, a parliament of the people, of the Quebec nation, speaks with one voice across party lines, it is Quebec that is talking.
I would have liked my NDP colleague to take into account the will of the Quebec nation in the wording of his motion, especially since the 2005 Sherbrooke declaration is part of his party's history. The Sherbrooke declaration recognized asymmetrical federalism and intended to give Quebec the systematic right to opt out. It does not sound as though the NDP wanted to take into account the unanimous voice of Quebeckers in this motion. That is why the Bloc Québécois will vote against it.
The more progressive the successive federal governments, the more they seem to get bored of their areas of jurisdiction and their responsibilities. The government wants to create social programs. That is a noble intention, but it falls outside the government's jurisdiction.
When it comes to health, the federal government would have been more help to the Quebec nation and the various provinces if it had kept its 2015 election promise to increase health transfers. More than $4 billion over four years could have been invested in the respective health networks in order to take care of our population and fulfill our responsibilities.
The federal government has a hard time managing programs like Phoenix, and Canadians are not likely to forget that anytime soon. Rather than try to assert jurisdiction over health care with respect to access to medication, the federal government should focus on controlling the cost of medication. Drug prices are soaring, and the government is being complacent by refusing to immediately enforce the new Patented Medicines Regulations, which would save $9 billion over 10 years.
I began my speech with such enthusiasm, but I must not forget to stop after 10 minutes because I am sharing my time with the member for Montarville, who is listening to me very intently right now.
The Bloc has more faith in Quebec than it does in Canada, so it is surprising that a progressive party like the NDP wants a nation that is behind the times compared to ours to tell us how to be progressive.
Generally speaking, if we compare the two, Quebec's social safety net is broader than Canada's. Quebec also has the best family policy in North America, with parental leave and child care. Post-secondary studies are easier to access in Quebec than anywhere else in North America, and we have low tuition fees and plenty of financial aid. Our tax system is the most progressive in North America because income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, is 0.31 for Quebec compared to 0.42 for the United States and 0.37 for Canada.
I would now like to talk about Quebec's pharmacare program, which has been in place since 1996. Yes, we have our own pharmacare program, and all Quebeckers are covered. It may not be perfect, but it is unique in North America.
Under Quebec's Act respecting prescription drug insurance, every person living in Quebec must be covered at all times by a pharmacare program. Workers and their families must be covered by private insurers. The rest of the population is covered by the public system administered by the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec. It is therefore a hybrid system. The public portion of the program costs the Quebec government $3.6 billion.
However, recognizing that the Quebec system is the best on the continent and emphasizing Quebec's right to make its own decisions does not mean that our system is perfect. Here is the problem. For the public part of the program, the government has managed to negotiate lower drug prices and limit dispensing fees. Pharmacists, and especially drug companies, have made up for that by inflating the prices they charge private insurers, so much so that the cost of private insurance has skyrocketed. That means more money not going into workers' pockets.
This problem is being exacerbated by a transformation in the pharmaceutical industry. It has been quite a while since the industry discovered any new molecules that could be used for a wide range of diseases. Newer medications are targeted at narrow groups of people, which means that research costs are spread over fewer people. As a result, costs are soaring.
Between 2007 and 2017, the average annual cost of treatment for the top 10 selling patented medicines in Canada increased by 800%. The number of medicines with annual per-patient costs of at least $10,000 increased sevenfold, from 20 to 135. These high-cost medicines account for 40% of new patented medicines. Fully 30% of insurer spending is allocated to these medicines, which cover less than 2% of beneficiaries.
Quebec's hybrid system may have reached the limit of what it can do for Quebeckers, but that decision is up to them. Quebeckers are perfectly able to look after their system and make improvements.
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View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 12:13 [p.1995]
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Madam Speaker, I want to clarify something. My colleague who introduced the motion was very specific and said that we absolutely do recognize that Quebec has its own system. If it is Quebec's will that it continue on with its own system of pharmacare, then that is its choice. We wanted to provide as much choice as possible to the people of Quebec.
In fact, even though Quebec is ahead of the curve with its public and private system, Quebeckers are among those who spend the most per capita on prescription drugs and 10% of them cannot afford the drugs they need.
Even though Quebec has this ahead-of-the-curve system, would it not be something that the Bloc Québécois could consider in terms of improving things for the people of Quebec, that they listen to what the NDP has to say, explore the national version and see if that actually helps Quebeckers in their province?
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View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-03-12 12:14 [p.1995]
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Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
When a program falls under my jurisdiction and the parliament of another nation compels me, through legislation, to negotiate something I did not need to negotiate in the first place, then I think that is a good reason to include such a statement in a motion.
Since that intent is not in the motion, we can say what we want. Quebec is being invited to a meeting that the Quebec National Assembly does not want to attend.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-03-12 12:15 [p.1995]
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Madam Speaker, Canada is a great nation with many different partners. We have provincial governments. The Saskatchewan government played a critical role in terms of the health care system we have today. In many ways, it played a leadership role to ultimately having a national health care system from which the residents of Quebec, Manitoba, Atlantic Canada and B.C. have all benefited.
Quebec has played a very important role on the issue of pharmacare. Like Saskatchewan, Quebec has an opportunity to play a strong leadership role, so the residents of Quebec possibly have a more enhanced program. Would my colleague not agree that given the leadership that Quebec has demonstrated in the past, it can actually play a strong national leadership role in ensuring that Canadians from coast to coast to coast, including people in Quebec, could possibly have a better program? After all, are we not here to serve first the constituents we represent?
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View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-03-12 12:16 [p.1995]
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Madam Speaker, I encourage the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to ask the Quebec National Assembly that question.
I understand that members want to improve the system, but there is a problem. If we were to insist on the 6% health transfers that Quebec is calling for, or on the 5.2% that the territories and provinces agreed upon, over a period of four years, the government would have to inject $4 billion into our health care networks. If the government just stuck to its own jurisdiction and sent that money straight to the front lines to help Quebeckers and Canadians instead of creating programs that would siphon off some of that money for overhead, then I think that would be more beneficial for everyone.
It is one thing to claim to want to start a discussion with another government, and I urge him to talk to all parties in the Quebec National Assembly, but it is a whole other thing for the parliament of another nation to force the Quebec nation to sit down at the table against its will.
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View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-03-12 12:17 [p.1995]
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Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Montcalm on his excellent speech. I could almost say that there is nothing more to add. In fact, he said it all and left me with practically nothing to say.
In any event, as the Standing Orders would have it, I will add my voice to that of the hon. member for Montcalm. There may be some overlap, but that will only illustrate that the Bloc Québécois speaks in the House with one voice, the voice of Quebec.
We have heard our NDP colleagues present the same arguments in the House a few times now, either during question period or in their interventions. I have heard some extremely compelling arguments about the difficulty many Canadians have paying for the drugs they need for their health. I have to say that I appreciate the arguments being made by our NDP colleagues and why they are making them here.
The problem is that they are making these arguments in the wrong parliament. Under the Constitution Act, 1867, and the new version that was imposed on us in 1982, which changed nothing in this area, health is the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. The federal government has a very bad habit of meddling in the provinces' jurisdictions and neglecting its own. Rather than looking after its own affairs, it seems that it is always tempted to stick its nose in the affairs of others.
We saw this, for example, in the recent crisis involving the Wet'suwet'en. Under the Constitution, the federal government still has fiduciary responsibility for first nations in Canada, but the Prime Minister continued to repeat that it was up to the provinces and police forces to intervene. It was a crisis that strictly affected western Canada and relations between the federal government and a first nation, but every day the Prime Minister repeated that it was up to the provinces and the police to intervene.
The federal government meddled in the health sector. It left a bad taste in our mouth, and we are still talking about it today. My colleague referred to this, and I would like to expand on this subject.
One day, the federal government woke up and wondered whether it would be a good idea if all Canadians across the country had the same pharmacare coverage. The provinces answered that health care is their domain. The government then offered to foot 50% of the bill, hoping that would get the provinces on board. The provinces approved and said they agreed.
Today, the federal government is covering about 17% of the bill. Right now, we have to fight tooth and nail just to get the federal government to do the bare minimum and cover the increases to system costs, since the provincial health transfer escalator is 3% a year. However, health care costs across Canada, especially in Quebec, are rising at a rate of about 5%. We would like the federal government to increase its contribution, not to 50% as initially promised, but to a mere 25%. We are therefore requesting an annual escalator of just over 5%, but even that is asking too much.
For Quebec, it is a case of once bitten, twice shy. We are not exactly eager to have the federal government put its paws all over this yet again. The Quebec government gets the money to pay for its own pharmacare plan from the overall health care budget, but this overall budget is being underfunded by the federal government.
Are we going to let the federal government put its paws all over health care again? Certainly not. We suffered through previous federal government interference in health care. Years and decades later, we are still asking the federal government to reverse the changes that were made to health transfers by the previous Conservative government, which capped them at 3% a year.
That does not cover rising health care costs. There is a shortfall because annual increases to federal health transfers have been anemic. There is a shortfall, which means that the federal contribution to health is actually shrinking. That is a fact. Do we want the federal government to do more? No, for goodness' sake, no more federal involvement. The more it does, the more harm it causes. We do not want that.
My NDP colleague said she understands that Quebec is distinct and wants its own system. Why is that not reflected in the motion, as my colleague from Montcalm requested? This is the second time this has happened. The first time, the New Democrats were so surprised that the Bloc Québécois voted against their motion. I turned to the NDP's House leader, who wanted to me support his motion today, and I asked him why the motion did not say anything about letting Quebec maintain its own drug program and giving it the right to opt out with full compensation. The NDP's latest motion says nothing about that either. Why is it so hard for them to understand?
We are not going to make any commitments based solely on our colleagues' empty words. Empty words have caused nothing but trouble for Quebec and the provinces. Provinces are still struggling with what came to be called a fiscal imbalance. The tax base they were allocated to fulfill their responsibilities was far below what they needed. At the federal level, however, the tax base exceeded the government's needs, which means that, historically, the federal government has ended up with a lot of money. Not knowing what to do with that money, it decided it would be a good idea to take it and stomp right over provincial jurisdictions.
If the government is so flush with cash to invest in health care, it should increase transfers so that the provinces and Quebec can meet their needs. We are facing a global public health crisis, yet we are still quibbling over an increase to health transfers.
I think that if the federal government wants to do something, it should focus on its own areas of responsibility. With regard to prescription drugs, there are two things that fall to the federal government. First, the federal government needs to increase health transfers. That is the first thing. As I mentioned, Quebec has its own pharmacare plan, but it is funded from the overall health care budget. If the government increases its health transfer contributions, it will give the Quebec government some breathing room, which will help the province maintain its pharmacare plan and its health care system in general.
The second thing that the federal government needs to do is something we have been long waiting for, but it always gets put off. It involves amending the regulations so that Canadians stop overpaying for drugs. Our drug prices are aligned with those of several other countries, which, for a variety of market-related reasons, traditionally set prices too high. The United States is a classic example. The government needs to amend the regulations and stop aligning Canada's drug prices with those of the U.S. That alone will substantially change the cost of medication.
Instead of trying to meddle even more in Quebec and provincial jurisdictions, you should mind your own business and do what you have to do. One thing you must do at the federal level is amend the regulations.
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View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
View Carol Hughes Profile
2020-03-12 12:27 [p.1997]
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I would remind the member to address his remarks to the Chair. I am sure that when he uses the word “you”, he does not mean that it is up to me to decide about implementing programs or anything of the kind. I would ask the member to direct his speeches to the Chair and not to the parties directly.
Questions and comments. The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:27 [p.1997]
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Madam Speaker, I think the member knows that the NDP supports the idea of increasing federal health transfers. Many Canadians, not just Quebeckers, are disappointed, not with the federal government per se, but with Liberals and Conservatives for not ensuring that the federal government pays its fair share.
Our party wants to work with Quebeckers and progressive Canadians across the country so that the federal government gives the provinces a fair amount to help them manage their provincial health care systems.
A program like the one we are discussing today has the potential to save money, something that no province can do alone. If we work together, across our great country, we can save money that we would not be able to save if every province works alone. That is the big advantage here.
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View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-03-12 12:29 [p.1997]
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Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
I am pleased that the NDP, like the Bloc, is calling for an increase in health transfers. I think that this is imperative to allow the provinces and Quebec to address a certain number of phenomena, like that of the aging population. The federal government must contribute, but its contribution is far less than what it promised from the beginning.
With regard to the national program, and by national I mean Canadian in accordance with my NDP colleague's definition, I do not see any problem with Canada setting up such a program, but it cannot do so without keeping the provinces in the loop. It cannot do so without giving the Government of Quebec the right to opt out with full financial compensation. Since that right is not included in the motion, we will unfortunately vote against it.
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View Gagan Sikand Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Gagan Sikand Profile
2020-03-12 12:30 [p.1997]
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Madam Speaker, earlier today I was speaking on behalf of my riding. As I mentioned, I have an area colloquially known as Pill Hill. That area was established in 1995 after the referendum. Many companies from Quebec came to our riding.
Since then, they re-established counterparts, probably even a larger footprint back in Quebec. From what I have heard from my riding, they want to strike a balance as we go forward. I was just wondering if my hon. colleague could speak to the counterparts in Quebec, the business case and perhaps what they want going forward.
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View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-03-12 12:31 [p.1997]
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Madam Speaker, I am not sure what the connection is between the 1995 referendum and the businesses that would have set up shop in my hon. colleague's riding.
In case he has not seen all the figures, I would say to my colleague that Quebec is currently the most economically dynamic province. The Government of Quebec is the only government that currently has a budgetary surplus.
The situation in Quebec since the 1995 referendum is not as sombre as my colleague across the way would suggest. On the contrary, there are many other provinces that are much worse off than Quebec is right now.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:32 [p.1997]
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Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Victoria.
Today, I am rising in the House once again to address the issue of pharmacare. It is unfortunate, frankly, that we are still only addressing this issue through opposition day motions. It is a testament to the fact that the government has not brought anything to the House that would advance the cause of a national pharmacare program. It is something that we know we need. We have made these arguments many times before, and Canadians themselves have a real and intense sense of the need.
In a telephone town hall in my riding, we held a straw poll of the several hundred people on the call. We asked how many people, either themselves or people they knew, close friends or family members, were cutting their pills in half, choosing to go without food, struggling to pay the rent or going without their prescription drugs because they had to choose between food and rent. We asked how many were dealing with the consequences of not being able to manage their illnesses, and it was about a third of people in Elmwood—Transcona. That is consistent with national polling that says a lot of Canadians are in this boat. Why are they?
If we look at international drug pricing, we know that Canada pays among the highest prices for drugs. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, earlier in this debate, said we need to figure out why it is that Canada is paying among the highest prices in the OECD. We know why. It is because we are one of the only countries without a national pharmacare plan. It is not a puzzle or a mystery. We know exactly why. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health was talking about how they are working at the problem around the edges and wondering why they are not having any success.
We know from report after report, going back to the 1960s, that the way to make serious progress on this issue is to cut right to the heart of the matter and have a proper national, universal, single-payer public pharmacare plan. If we were to do that, we would see Canada's standing on the OECD drug price list go down significantly. It is not a mystery. The only mystery is why a party that promised this 23 years ago in its election platform, and has had a number of majority governments since, has not been able to get it done. It is charitable to call it a mystery. It is a mystery if we do not give what I think is an obvious explanation to those who are not in a charitable mood, which is that drug company and insurance lobbyists clearly have a lot of influence on the government, and that is why we are not able to make headway on this important issue.
What we hear from the Liberals is that the NDP wants to move too fast, that it is in such a hurry. When we talk about a policy proposal from the 1960s, and a Liberal promise from over 23 years ago, I hardly think that New Democrats are moving too fast. That would be like saying that somebody who took out a 25-year mortgage on their home was moving too quickly and the person should not have amortized the home over 25 years, but longer. We can do a lot in 25 years. People have died waiting for a national pharmacare plan, and I hope there will not be any more. The evidence and the research is there. We hoped we had the conditions in this Parliament to make it happen.
Earlier in the debate today, there was talk of establishing medicare across the country and how that was a function of collaboration between a Liberal minority government under Pearson at the time and the NDP in the 1960s. New Democrats had hoped that there was the willingness on the part of the Liberals to make a bold policy move. The circumstances today are the same as then, and we are willing to work with the government.
We have drafted legislation that provides a framework and put forward the motion today. The research is already out there. Not only is it out there by the Parliamentary Budget Officer and a number of civil society and academic groups that have studied the issue, but the government commissioned its own report from the last Parliament that recommended exactly what we are proposing. The research is done. The conditions in Parliament have been obtained.
If the Liberals need somebody to blame, they can tell the insurance and drug companies, “We were trying to look out for your profits, but those bloody NDPers just would not give us a break and we had to do it.” Liberals can blame us, that is fine. We do not mind looking bad in the books of insurance and pharmaceutical companies if it means getting a win for Canadians struggling to pay for their drugs. They can blame us. That is how we have gotten a lot of good stuff done in this country.
The problem is that the government does not want a deal, and it does not want to move forward. I think the frustration here is that a lot of Canadians felt if we got a Parliament that looked like this one, we could move forward on a common-sense policy proposal.
Often when we talk about helping people out, common objections that come up are what it is going to cost and where we are going to find the money. The fact of the matter is that we can afford to not only maintain the existing level of service, but expand it to everyone and save billions of dollars at the same time. The money is already being spent. In fact, we are already overspending on prescription drugs in Canada. We have the research. We thought we had the political conditions to be able to get this done.
Part of what is happening, if we look at this and the reluctance of the Liberals to use this Parliament to make significant gains, is a little like outdated conventional wisdom. This is not grandpa's Liberal Party. It has not been the same since 1993, but there is still an image in the heads of a lot of Canadians. They think back to constructive minority Liberal governments that worked with the NDP to get good things done, but today it is like putting butter on a burn. That was something that people used to do because it seemed like a good idea.
However, when we look at the evidence that we have so far in this Parliament, and from the Liberal majority governments from 1993 onward, we can see that it is becoming a dated notion. The evidence disproves the claim that Liberals are here to do real progressive work and are willing to sign on to innovative new social policies that not only save money but also expand service for Canadians. I think that is a message that Canadians should take seriously.
There was a lot of talk in the last election about what a minority Parliament could produce, and I know that for people not just in Elmwood—Transcona, but right across the country, there was a real hope that we would be able to get this kind of collaboration. This is a starting point, as I have said. We have done a lot of work in order to make it as easy as possible for the Liberal government to move ahead. It is something that we desperately want to see. It is something that, when we look at the potential benefit to Canadians in their everyday life, is huge, and it is rare that we get that kind of benefit while saving money at the same time.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, we are talking about over $4 billion a year that we are already spending that we would not have to spend. Members can look at some of the other studies. They talk about $6 billion, $8 billion or $10 billion a year that we could be spending. I think the PBO report is universally acknowledged as being quite conservative in its assumptions.
Here we are. We have the political conditions. We have the research. We can get it done. That is exactly what we need to do, and we are waiting for that to happen.
An hon. member: You have to call for split time again. They did not hear you.
Mr. Daniel Blaikie: I know.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2020-03-12 12:40 [p.1999]
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I heard him say split time. I am sure about that.
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View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
View Carol Hughes Profile
2020-03-12 12:40 [p.1999]
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The hon. member has already indicated that he was splitting his time, so I am well aware of that.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:40 [p.1999]
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Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's enthusiasm to hear from the member for Victoria. I am looking forward to her speech as well. It is going to be an excellent speech, because it is a really important topic.
I am just going to wrap up by reiterating. It is rare that we have such a clear-cut public policy opportunity to save money and to expand services for people who really desperately need them. We spend so much time in politics listening to politicians say we need to cut the budget, we need to save money and we need to balance the budget. The biggest cost driver for provincial health budgets, which are paying for prescription drugs already, is prescription drugs. We can do something about that by mobilizing the purchasing power of the country and expanding the service for Canadians.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-03-12 12:42 [p.1999]
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Madam Speaker, the member was here when we heard the Bloc talking about the pharmacare program in the province of Quebec. Much as Saskatchewan played a very important role in our having a strong national presence on a national health care program, I think that Quebec could play a very important leadership role in terms of a national pharmacare program.
Would my colleague not agree that in order to have any form of national pharmacare program, it is absolutely critical that we work with provincial jurisdictions, given the important role that they play in health care?
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:42 [p.1999]
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Madam Speaker, in response to the member's question, I will just read item (b) from the motion:
(b) call on the government to implement the full recommendations of the final report of the Hoskins Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, commencing with the immediate initiation of multilateral negotiations with the provinces and territories to establish a new, dedicated fiscal transfer to support universal, single-payer, public pharmacare....
It is right in the motion. Of course we believe that it is important to work with the provinces. It is why we put it in the motion.
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View Tom Kmiec Profile
CPC (AB)
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2020-03-12 12:43 [p.1999]
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Madam Speaker, I have been listening to what people have been saying. I have more of a commentary on what the member said and what his colleague said when he introduced the motion this morning.
On November 25, 2019, the minister of finance in Alberta sent a letter to the Minister of Finance federally, indicating that Alberta would not participate in a national pharmacare program. In fact, Alberta would be asking for the same deal that Quebec has. I just want to make that part of the official record here, that it is an official ask from the Alberta government.
In this debate, too few members have talked about access. They have talked about prices and how difficult it is to pay for some of the latest medication and prescription medicine. Access for patients is what patients want to hear about, and too few members have mentioned it. I think the member for Montcalm was the first one to actually make a big deal out of it. For patients with cystic fibrosis and patients with chronic kidney conditions, like my children, national pharmacare is a recipe for disaster.
I look at CADTH. CADTH twice said no to Orkambi. In the patchwork system in the United States, people can get access to Orkambi. They can get access to Trikafta. They can get access to needed medication.
I just want members to be careful. When they say that it would give access to everybody, it would not. This system would not work for rare disease patients.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:44 [p.1999]
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Madam Speaker, there has been a lot of debate, discussion and research on how medication for rare diseases is a separate category and needs to be treated differently. The idea is not that a national pharmacare plan would be a panacea for every patient and for every condition. The fact of the matter is, as the member has been pointing out often in the House and not just in the debate today, people already have trouble accessing those drugs in Canada under a patchwork system. That is not a reason not to have a system that makes it a lot easier and a lot cheaper to access common drugs for most Canadians, and then work on an appropriate solution for people who are struggling to get access to medication for rare diseases.
The member sees these two things as being in fundamental opposition. I disagree. He is identifying a legitimate need that needs a policy response, but the policy response is not to negate all of the benefits of a national pharmacare plan.
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View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
View Carol Hughes Profile
2020-03-12 12:45 [p.1999]
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The member for Berthier—Maskinongé has time for a brief question.
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View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-03-12 12:45 [p.1999]
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Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague on his intervention.
I would like to ask him about the level of intervention being suggested by the NDP. Why do they fail to understand that health is a jurisdiction of Quebec?
My two colleagues, the hon. members for Montarville and Montcalm, clearly asked the NDP why they omitted from their proposal the fact that Quebec has the right to opt out with full compensation. I heard them say, off mike, that it is in their platform. I am sorry, but to us platforms are vague promises. Canada has made plenty of vague promises. I could spend 45 minutes listing those promises and run out of time. We no longer believe the vague promises.
What was the real purpose of this omission?
I am sorry to have to vote against the motion. We are in favour of pharmacare, but we are here to protect Quebeckers and the National Assembly. We will have to vote against the motion.
What is the real reason the NDP omitted Quebec's right to opt out? Did they want to come across as more progressive than we are?
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View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
View Carol Hughes Profile
2020-03-12 12:46 [p.2000]
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I must ask the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona to answer the question. When I say that we have time for a brief question, that is what I expect.
The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:47 [p.2000]
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Madam Speaker, our health critic said today that it is part of our policy and it is in our platform.
We hope to have a program that works. Quebeckers can participate in the program if they wish. We are open to them joining it if they want to. We do not want to begin the process with the assumption that they will not participate. We want to convince them to join it, but we recognize that it is up to them.
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View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 12:47 [p.2000]
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Madam Speaker, first I want to thank my hon. colleague for splitting his time and thank him for his excitement about me speaking. I am honestly in awe of his speech. He spoke eloquently and made it so clear how this is sensible and straightforward.
In Canada, we have a universal health care system and it is a source of pride for many people in our country, especially when we look south at the inequalities in the U.S. private health care system. Everyone should be able to access health care. It is not just for the people who can afford it. Health care is a fundamental human right.
However, Canada, as has been mentioned before, is the only industrialized country with a so-called universal health care system that does not include universal comprehensive public coverage for prescription medications. When it comes to medications, we are actually more similar to the U.S. than we are different. One out of every five Canadians is not taking their medication because they cannot afford it. Many Canadians are cutting their pills in half or even skipping their medication completely. Too many Canadians are ending up in the ER and in hospitals for longer stays because they cannot afford the essential prescriptions that they need. Hundreds have died prematurely every year.
Even people with private drug coverage have been seeing their employer benefits shrink, finding themselves working in more precarious jobs and feeling the squeeze on their family budget. Out of the three million Canadians who cannot afford their medication, 38% of those are on private insurance, but that private insurance does not actually cover enough of their costs and 21% have some form of public insurance that does not fully cover their costs.
Canada's currently fragmented, patchwork system of drug coverage, where each province is offering different levels of coverage with more than 100 public and more than 100,000 private drug insurance plans, is not working for Canadians. This patchwork system is also one of the main reasons why as a country we are consistently paying among the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Why is this allowed to occur when it does not make sense for Canadians?
The Liberals have been promising pharmacare for 23 years over and over again, but instead of delivering on that promise to Canadians, they have been helping deliver bigger and bigger profits to pharmaceutical and insurance companies. We recently found out that a so-called national pharmacare working group was sponsored by some of the biggest pharmaceutical and insurance companies in the world. We know that these pharmaceutical companies have been lobbying pretty effectively against single-payer pharmacare. A truly universal pharmacare system is not in the interest of these multinational corporations, but it is in the interest of hard-working Canadians. It is in the interest of small businesses and start-ups.
The federal government's own expert panel found that a universal single-payer system would save businesses over $600 per year, per employee. It would also particularly help small businesses and start-ups currently unable to afford employee drug coverage since it not only removes financial burdens from these businesses, but it also boosts productivity and results in fewer sick days.
It is in the interest of Canadians and small businesses. Health experts say that this is the way to go, but it is not in the interest of big pharmaceutical lobbyists. Who is the government going to listen to? For 23 years, over and over again, each time the Liberals say they are going to look out for Canadians, they turn around and look out for multinational pharmaceutical corporations. Last year, they promised pharmacare again, but they have taken no concrete action to make it happen.
In order to establish universal public pharmacare across Canada, Parliament must pass enabling legislation and the federal government must negotiate transfers with the provinces and territories, yet the Liberal government has remained silent on these foundational steps. Despite campaigning on pharmacare last fall, it has not committed to a truly universal single-payer system as recommended by its own Hoskins report. It also has not provided any timelines for implementation.
People are struggling now and they need action now. A resident of Victoria shared with me that he is on a disability pension and he spends about $100 a month on prescription medication. He knows he should be eating healthier food to complement his medication, but he is struggling to afford both.
This choice is all too common, choosing between essential medication and life's basic necessities. This is a choice that people should never have to make. The government has an opportunity to remedy this. The NDP is introducing this motion and, if passed, if we established a Canadian pharmacare act and provided the first steps in making universal pharmacare a reality, we could address the concerns of this resident and the many Canadians who are struggling to pay for essential medication.
Yesterday, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Once implemented, a pharmacare plan would be free for Canadians, it would make emergency wait times shorter, free up hospital beds and save the government $4.2 billion. Countries around the world are facing the possibility of having their health care systems overwhelmed. Now more than ever we need to make sure that ER wait times are shorter and that we have free hospital beds for those who really need them. We need to make sure that Canadians have access to the services that they depend on.
Canadians are struggling to access medication, and they are struggling with affordability of housing, food, dental care and child care. It is hard to make ends meet while everything is getting so expensive. This plan would save Canadians an average of $500 a year, and it would save employers $600 a year or more per insured worker.
I heard from so many of my community members who struggle to afford their medication, and I promised that I would fight for them. I promised that I would fight to take the next big step for our country with a truly universal, public, single-payer pharmacare system.
Like so many, when we are talking about health care and the cost of medication, it feels personal. My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer just over 10 years ago. At the time, the doctors told him that he had about nine months and that he should be preparing his family. At the time, he joked and said that the downside was that he had cancer so bad that they could not do anything for him. The upside was that he had cancer so bad that they could not do anything for him. Luckily they did. He was put on an experimental clinical trial with an experimental treatment of calcium flushes for the bone cancer, and he is still with us today. He still has cancer, and his medication costs have fluctuated over the years, sometimes totalling $3,000 a month. Thankfully, most of it is covered.
If members could not already tell, my dad has a dark sense of humour, like many cancer survivors. He joked with me a few months ago that, thank God he has terminal cancer so that his medication is covered. However, there is a sad seed of truth in that. Many people in our country are struggling to pay for essential medication. Nobody should have to make the choice between food and medication, between paying for their rent and keeping a roof over their head and paying for their prescriptions. We need a government that is truly committed to universal pharmacare, not one that is trying use a hodgepodge of pharmacare promises, a patchwork system and more empty words to signal to voters that they are still progressive.
Adding medication to our national health care plan cannot be another broken Liberal promise. It cannot be, “Maybe someday we'll get around to it.” This is about life and death, and we need a government that understands that. We need to think boldly again, and we need to do the hard work to continue to build a country that we can be proud of, a Canada where people have access to the services they need when they need them, where nobody is making these impossible choices, and where politicians understand that these issues are personal to so many Canadians.
To me, fighting for that Canada, it is personal. We need courageous action from our elected officials, so I urge each colleague to support the Canadian pharmacare act because it is the right thing to do for constituents. It is my hope—
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View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
View Carol Hughes Profile
2020-03-12 12:58 [p.2001]
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The time is up. I did try to allow some more time and signal to the member. I know that this is quite a passionate discussion. Maybe she could add more during questions and comments.
The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-03-12 12:58 [p.2001]
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Madam Speaker, I listened to my friend's passion on the issue. The government under the leadership of the current Prime Minister has taken significant steps toward a national pharmacare program where people will be able to get prescribed medicines that they so badly need.
I could not help but reflect on another era when we had a Liberal minority government, when there was the Kelowna Accord and a child accord to enhance day care. Because the NDP did not support the Liberals when it came to budget time, the Liberals were defeated and it virtually killed those very important accords.
What would my colleague's advice be to her colleagues if, in fact, we see an incorporation in some fashion for pharmacare continuing to move forward, in regard to the upcoming budget?
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View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 12:59 [p.2001]
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Madam Speaker, rather than advice for my colleagues, I am going to offer some advice to the member and to the Liberal Party as a whole, and that is to follow through on their commitments. It has been 23 years and drug costs just in this Parliament have gone up every single year since the Liberals took office.
Over the same period, the Liberal government has met with big pharma and insurance lobbyists more than 875 times. It is clear who the government is working for and it is not everyday people.
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View Damien Kurek Profile
CPC (AB)
View Damien Kurek Profile
2020-03-12 13:00 [p.2002]
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Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments and the story she shared about her dad's cancer is a touching one. I know I have similar stories in my family.
I would like to make a brief comment. She mentioned that pharmacare would result in free things for Canadians. The reality is that that is simply not the case. We see ballooning administration costs and bureaucracies that would keep the actual front-line services from getting the resources that they need.
My question for the member is quite simple. I have a number of small business owners, pharmacists, in my constituency who are very concerned about the current status of being able to access the medications that are prescribed to patients today. They are terrified. I use the word “terrified” because that is the word that was shared with me. These are small-town health care providers and pharmacists on the front line. They are terrified that they will not be able to access the drugs because of bloated government bureaucracy that would be the result of a national pharmacare strategy.
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View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 13:01 [p.2002]
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Madam Speaker, I think that my colleague previously spoke very well about these two different issues, one about access to specific medication for rare diseases, which needs to be addressed, and the other issue around single-payer universal health care. A year's supply of atorvastatin, a widely used cholesterol drug, costs about $143 in Canada but only—
An hon. member: There is a shortage of that drug.
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View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
View Carol Hughes Profile
2020-03-12 13:01 [p.2002]
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I remind members that if there are other questions and comments, they should wait.
I would ask that the hon. member to continue briefly, so that I can try and allow another question.
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View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 13:01 [p.2002]
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Madam Speaker, it only costs $27 in the United Kingdom and Sweden, and $15 in New Zealand, so we can see very clearly that this would save Canadians money. If colleagues just read the Hoskins report, they would see that the pharmacare strategy would save small businesses and employers money as well. This is a benefit to Canadians.
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View Michel Boudrias Profile
BQ (QC)
View Michel Boudrias Profile
2020-03-12 13:02 [p.2002]
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Madam Speaker, obviously, we agree with the substance of the motion. As we have heard, Quebec is setting an example when it comes to protection and coverage for medical care, particularly regarding pharmacare. We already have a system that works, the first in Canada, which serves as a model. We fully agree on that.
However, it is important to keep in mind that this is a provincial jurisdiction and that the federal government spends $300 billion a year. Of that amount, $100 billion goes to real services, while $200 billion in transfer payments of all kinds are used to force the hand of various governments and blackmail them.
Would my colleague not agree that the money should be transferred to the provinces so they can create their own pharmacare programs?
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View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-03-12 13:03 [p.2002]
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Madam Speaker, I share the member's concern for these issues. It is true that Quebec has its own public system. If Quebec wants to, it can continue to have that system and get compensation.
Honestly, Quebeckers are paying so much in drug costs, partially because the federal government is not doing its fair share and not fulfilling its full responsibility. We want to increase health transfers. We also want to provide the option for all Canadians to experience universal single-payer pharmacare.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 13:04 [p.2002]
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Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Bonavista—Burin—Trinity.
Today's motion is about pharmacare. Perhaps I will lead with my conclusion. I will be supporting this motion. I will be supporting it because quite frankly I am sick of knocking on the doors of seniors who tell me they have to split their medication because they cannot afford it, not only putting themselves in a difficult financial position but reducing the effectiveness of the medicine they have been prescribed.
Most of the people I talk to at home, and I dare say most Canadians, are happy with their own coverage right now. However, the golden thread that runs through the social fabric of Canada is that as Canadians, we care as much about our neighbours as we do about ourselves. It is incredibly frustrating for me to know that one in five Canadian households report that a family member is not taking his or her medication because he or she cannot afford it. I am sure that the 36 million Canadians who do not suffer from this problem are disappointed to know that one million Canadians cut back on their food or home heating because they cannot afford the cost of their pills. When my neighbours cannot afford the cost of their medication, it decreases the quality of my life to know I live in a society that does not adequately take care of its vulnerable.
One of the greatest frustrations I have as a federal member of Parliament is that the number one issue for my constituents is their health care system, whether that is access to a family doctor, the quality of mental health services, in-home care for their aging parents or a lack of access to quality medications. They sometimes end up at my office, despite the fact that health care is primarily a provincial responsibility under our Constitution. It is cold comfort for the people who bring these kinds of concerns to my office for me to say that I have to wash my hands of it because it is a provincial responsibility. What they are looking for is help in often desperate circumstances.
Despite the fact that there is this constitutional division of power, there are concrete things the federal government can do, such as transfer more money to the provincial health care systems, invest in research, invest to ensure we can do something to combat the family doctor shortage, or, yes, implement a national pharmacare program to ensure people have access to the medications they have been prescribed so they can be healthy, regardless of the financial circumstances they may have been born into through no fault of their own.
There are two categories of problems I see with the lack of access to an adequate national pharmacare system.
First is the lack of access to medication because of issues surrounding affordability. I find this to be a real problem. It discriminates against our seniors on the basis of their age, because they do have increased health care concerns as they get older. It discriminates against people who are living in poverty, because they cannot afford to access drugs.
It is heartbreaking to knock on a door that is answered by a child who has not had enough to eat that day and then to sit down with his or her parents, who explain the child has been prescribed medication to which they do not have access. It also discriminates against people who have an underlying health condition that may not be the subject of coverage through private or public insurance plans. In fact, of the people who report they cannot afford their medication, 38% have access to a private insurance plan and 21% have access to public coverage that does not cover their needs.
Second, in addition to the lack of access is an issue around the lack of systemic savings that we are not benefiting from because we have not been moving forward.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, a colleague of mine from Nova Scotia, quite eloquently has described the fact that Canada is the third most expensive country in the world when it comes to the costs of medication, ranking only behind the United States and Switzerland.
We are so proud of our public health care system and the universality of it. No matter where people come from or who their parents are, they will be taken care of when they fall ill. The same is not true, and a lot of Canadians do not appreciate this, when it comes to access to the medications they need, which are often to sustain life or remain healthy.
Part of the reason this is the case in Canada is that we have a very serious patchwork of provincial and territorial programs and over 100,000 private sector health care plans in Canada. We do not necessarily benefit from the opportunity that presents itself when we can negotiate bulk purchases of medications. Some efforts have yielded success by partnering with various provinces. However, if we adopt the Costco model and buy in greater volume, we can reduce the price per unit and extend access to people who currently cannot afford their medication.
I have seen estimates in excess of $4 billion of systemic savings that come not only from a reduced cost in the price of medication, but also fewer visits to emergency rooms, fewer hospitalizations and more seniors being taken care of in their homes because they can afford access to the medication they need to be well.
We all can appreciate that there is a problem with access to medication in Canada. Over the past few years we have been working toward solving this problem.
Just a few years ago, we appointed an advisory committee, led by Dr. Eric Hoskins, the former minister of health for the Province of Ontario. That effort led to a report that identified the path forward to a national pharmacare program. The committee flagged that it would not happen overnight, but there were certain things that needed to happen to bring down the cost of drugs so we could benefit from the systemic savings that would accrue once we implemented those steps.
One of the very first steps we thankfully moved forward with in the last federal budget, with a $35-million investment, was the creation of the Canada drug agency. This body would be able to assess the effectiveness of drugs that could be proposed to enter into the Canadian system. It would provide an opportunity to negotiate better prices because of the purchase of increased volume that could be administered through the provincial public health care systems. The creation of a national formulary would allow us to ensure we would have consistent coverage, regardless of which community of province in Canada one may live.
In addition to the creation of the Canada drug agency, we have created a national strategy for high-cost drugs and rare diseases. This is important. Quite a few Canadians live with a condition that, despite the fact they may have coverage, do not have access to the medication because of its exorbitant cost or their insurance policy may not provide coverage for their particular condition or its required medication. We have earmarked $500 million annually for this approach.
It is simply not fair that the circumstances of people's birth means they would not be entitled to benefit from the medication that could keep them alive. There are still problems in Canada. Tragic cases pop up in every corner of our country each week. However, by moving forward with this rare disease strategy, we will be able to help some of the most vulnerable Canadians.
In addition to the creation of a drug agency and rare disease strategy, we have also moved forward with changes to patented medicine regulations, changes that will save billions of dollars to our health care system. One of these changes adds additional factors that need to be considered so the cost of drugs reflect the benefits to public health care system in which they can enter. Some of the regulations will require better reporting to ensure our regulations reflect the actual cost of medication.
Perhaps most important, from my perspective, is we have changed the comparator basket of countries we look at to set drug prices for Canada by removing the United States and Switzerland, the two most expensive countries in the world, and added other comparator countries with similar economies, such as the Netherlands and Japan, which will lead to a systemic reduction in the cost of medication in our country and, most important, for Canadians who need that help.
Health care is front of mind for people back home, whether it is access to a family doctor, the fact that their parents cannot find a place in a long-term care facility or the underserved mental health services in their communities. I hear about these things non-stop because people recognize there are problems. Whether they live with those problems or not, they are equally concerned for the people who live in their communities who do not have access to life-saving services and, importantly, life-saving medication.
There is something we can do. We can implement a national pharmacare program to ensure that no matter where people live, no matter where they were born or their parents' economic situation, they will not be denied access to medication because of their financial circumstances.
It is Canada in the 21st century. Canadians expect that they and their neighbours will have access to the medications they need to be well. By implementing a national pharmacare program, we can turn that dream into a reality for the millions of Canadians who go without the medicines they so desperately need.
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