A Healthy Discussion
An issue that is always top of mind in discussions I have with people across Durham is health care. We are fortunate to live in a country with one of the best healthcare systems in the world and have the peace of mind knowing excellent care is there for our family if we need it. The Canadian healthcare system is actually not a single system, but a connected network of 13 provincial and territorial systems operating across the country. Under the Canadian constitution, the provinces have jurisdiction over the administration and delivery of healthcare with financial support from the federal government. The federal government is only directly responsible for the delivery of health care for members of the military and for the First Nations. This leads to some diversity amongst the provinces on how their systems are structured and what services are covered. In Ontario, a broad cross-section of healthcare services are fully or partially covered and our healthcare professionals are amongst the most highly trained and experienced in the world. The federal government provides direct funding to the provinces for healthcare through the annual Health Transfer payment. With our aging population and ever-growing treatment options, we try to be a strong partner to the provinces by providing steadily increasing and predictable funding, so that each province can set their priorities and plan for the needs of their population. In Ontario, the Health Transfer has increased by 59% over the course of our government. By the end of this fiscal period, Ontario will be receiving almost $10 Billion more in overall transfers from the federal government when compared to levels at the time Prime Minister Harper came to office. Unlike the years when the Chretien government cut health transfers as part of its effort to balance the budget, we have been on a steady plan to balance the federal budget without any cuts to provincial transfer payments. In fact, we are increasing transfers to the provinces to record levels while keeping on track to balance the budget this year.
While the federal government is only a funding partner for healthcare delivery, one critical aspect of our healthcare system that is entirely the responsibility of the federal government is the approval and regulation of drug products. The safety of prescription drugs is a top priority for Canadians and for our government. Used properly, prescription drugs can help cure medical conditions or alleviate pain and suffering, but unsafe products or unforeseen risks from some drugs can have terrible consequences. Last year, our government passed Vanessa’s Law which helps protect Canadians by providing for a fast recall of unsafe products, by sharing more information on adverse effects from prescription drugs and by imposing tough new penalties for violations of the regulations. This important new law was called Vanessa’s Law for a good reason. My colleague and friend Terence Young, the MP for Oakville, tragically lost his young daughter Vanessa 15 years ago after she suffered a heart attack following prescription drug use. The drug was later deemed not safe and removed from the market, but the tragedy led Terence to become a serious advocate for drug safety reforms. His work as a passionate and dedicated MP, alongside Minister Rona Ambrose, led to changes that will ensure our healthcare system is even safer for Canadians. Vanessa Young’s legacy has been secured through this new law and I was very proud to be a part of these changes and very proud of my colleague. Incidentally, Terence served as a PC MPP alongside my father in 1995 and is now my colleague 20 years later. Both my father and I are fortunate to call him a friend.
Another concern that many have when it comes to prescription drugs is the risk of shortages. We all want to ensure that lifesaving medication is available when people need it most. Concerns about the availability of important drugs led our government to create a mandatory reporting system that requires all manufacturers to publicly report drug shortages in order to help provinces and healthcare professionals plan for the health and safety of their communities. We are working with industry to develop the regulations and a new publicly accessible website where drug manufacturers will post timely, comprehensive and reliable information on actual and anticipated drug shortages. At present, manufacturers are expected to voluntarily post information on all shortages on the industry-run website at www.drugshortages.ca.
Finally, with the success of social media campaigns such as last summer’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it is clear that all Canadians can play a role in raising awareness and funds for research into diseases and medical conditions and can help eliminate the stigma that is often associated with some ailments and conditions.
While I was always involved in events related to cancer research like the incredible Terry Fox Run each year in Clarington, the two years I have served as MP has also advanced my own understanding of health and wellness issues due to the excellent work by volunteers across the country and even other politicians. Just last week for World Autism Awareness Day, my friend and colleague MP Mike Lake from Alberta rose in the House to deliver his annual statement about the impact of autism on his family. This year he spoke about the impact of his son Jaden’s autism on his younger sister Jenae. Each year Mike shares his personal story – the challenges and joys – of raising an autistic child with all Members of the House of Commons. What better way to raise awareness on World Autism Day than to share his own family experience. Mike and other advocates like him inspire and educate others through their honesty. Education is the key because stigma and fear are usually caused by the unknown.
If you are interested in learning more about various health-related issues that impact the people in your community, you can check the Calendar of Health Promotion Days on Health Canada’s website, to follow the links to read more information about each initiative. This April is marked for the promotion of such health-related awareness days, weeks and months that have been announced by recognized health organizations such as- Daffodil Days: Cancer Awareness, Parkinson’s Awareness, National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness and National Immunization Awareness.