Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today on second reading of Bill C-237, an act to establish a national framework for diabetes, which would require the Minister of Health to develop a national framework to support diabetes prevention and, of course, treatment.
It is important for me to participate in the second reading of this bill given that my family is touched by this disease. My son, André was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 17. He, my wife and I had to adapt to his disease and help him understand his new limitations, but celebrate, of course, his strengths.
We were lucky, if that is the right word, in that we came into this at a later age, where André was more than capable of taking over his care and express how he was feeling.
I can only imagine what it would be like with a toddler or a younger child. A friend of mine used to tell me what it was like 30 years ago without modern strip testing, trying to get a ketone reading from her toddler's diaper. How far we have come, considering a lot of diabetics now use continuous testing, where we can just swipe our smart phones near to get a reading. However, we still have a long ways to go.
Due to this disease connection, I am involved with various organizations that support patients with diabetes, such as the JDRF, one of the many organizations that work tirelessly to support people living with diabetes and their families until a cure is finally found.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. This year, I should add that next year, 2021, will mark the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin by Dr. Charles Best and Dr. Frederick Banting.
In Canada, diabetes affects more than three million people, or 8% of the total population, and is considered a national epidemic. When pre-diabetic people, caregivers and families of people with diabetes are considered, this number rises to 11 million Canadians, or about 30% of the total population.
It is important to note that these numbers are increasing year after year. Even if people with diabetes manage to live what they call a normal life, we must continue to work for the prevention of diabetes and its consequences until a cure is found. Since diabetes affects so many people in Canada, we need to be in a better position and have legislation that responds adequately to the needs of people living with diabetes and pre-diabetes with the development of a national framework.
Bill C-237 seeks to respond to diabetes in Canada by improving awareness, prevention, treatment, research, data collection and training. It also wants to follow up on the Canadian diabetes strategy that was created in 1999, which aimed to prevent, detect early and self-manage diabetes and its complications, as well as national surveillance. This has, since 2005, integrated the healthy living and chronic disease strategy to promote the health of all Canadians, reduce the risk of chronic disease related to high-risk individuals, and support detection and early management of chronic diseases.
According to a 2013 report by the Office of the Auditor General, despite numerous efforts to better manage diabetes, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research believed that, although diabetes prevention and control activities existed, they were not coordinated well enough to ensure the success of the Canadian diabetes strategy.
This report led to studies at the health committee and, following the last study in 2019, a report was tabled. Entitled, “A Diabetes Strategy for Canada“, it strongly recommended that the government proceed with the development of a national strategy on prevention and management of diabetes.
Having spoken with many representatives of various organizations supporting people living with diabetes and those who support research, I know that this bill has been expected for some time now, and I do see it as a positive step forward.
However, I have some concerns with the bill in its current form, which gives the Minister of Health the authority to prepare a report on establishing a national diabetes framework without parliamentarians being made aware. This is concerning, since there will be many financial implications related to the collection of data and the research that the bill will require, which we will not know before voting for it.
It is important to remember that during the first reading of the bill last February, before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we already knew that the Liberal government had reached record deficits and debts.
We on this side of the House were very much looking forward to the tabling of the Liberal budget in March, which of course never happened. The Liberals' lack of transparency left all Canadians in the dark regarding their country's public finances. It is concerning knowing that two years will have passed before the government finally tables its budget in March 2021.
Government spending has hit record highs. Yes, money had to be spent to fight the pandemic, but we also know that some of that spending was not in Canadians' best interest. Some of it reeks of scandal.
Having said this, despite the good intention of the bill, it is difficult for me to vote in favour of it without knowing all the financial implications that go along with it. I find it unacceptable and irresponsible for the government to continue to lack transparency when it comes to our country's finances.
The establishment of a national framework for diabetes is without a doubt very important, but I wonder about the other diseases that also deserve to benefit from such a national framework. I think of people who suffer from cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's. Which of these diseases also deserve a national framework?
Unfortunately there is a weakness in the bill that I must highlight. As drafted, Bill C-237 does not clearly demonstrate, even though the Minister of Health would be responsible for establishing a framework and implementing it at the national level, who would respond to the problems and expectations, or even how, of diabetics in Canada.
We have to take into account the fact that health programs are essentially the responsibility of the provinces and that approaches to health care vary from one province to the next.
For example, for people with type 1 diabetes, Ontario has the assistive devices program, the ADP, which helps diabetics pay for their insulin pumps, while elsewhere in the country, financial support at the provincial level is less generous or non-existent. Accordingly, a consultation with the provinces and territories is needed.