Hon. Rona Ambrose:
As you know, members, in the recent Speech from the Throne, our government committed to expanding the national anti-drug strategy to address this very issue of prescription drug abuse. And I know that your work here at committee will provide much needed information on this important topic.
This is my first appearance before the committee as Minister of Health, so I would like to take a few moments to discuss how I will be approaching my role in general, before getting into some priority areas.
As evidenced in budget 2013 and also reiterated in the recent Speech from the Throne, health is a key priority for the government. In my opinion, one of the keys to success is finding new and better ways of working together. I can assure the committee that fostering partnerships and building relationships with the provinces and territories, with medical associations and health professionals, will be fundamental tenets of my time as health minister. This is noteworthy because we know there is nothing more important than good health.
Federally, we play a vital role when it comes to promoting healthy living, preventing chronic diseases, protecting Canadians from harm, innovating through research, and providing leadership on national health issues. But of course we can't do any of this alone. We all have a role to play when it comes to improving the health of Canadians.
A key achievement of our government has been to increase health transfers to the provinces and territories to unprecedented levels. Our record funding will reach $40 billion by the end of the decade, providing stability and predictability to the system. These transfer dollars support the provinces and territories in addressing the health concerns of their residents and allow all jurisdictions to focus on innovative solutions to their health care needs. As the new federal health minister, I take that responsibility very seriously, and I'm committed to each aspect of the portfolio. However, today I'd like an opportunity to highlight four key areas of interest before getting into the details of the portfolio's supplementary estimates. These include addressing family violence, fostering innovation in health care, working with partners on healthy living and injury prevention, and providing Canadians with healthy and safe food.
As I have in the past, I will continue to shine a spotlight on family violence, an important issue, and encourage Canadians to be part of the solution. Family violence, as you know, can wreak physical and emotional havoc on individuals, families, and communities. Violence in any form reverberates across our society, and of course across the economy as well. According to Justice Canada, spousal violence alone costs society at least $7.4 billion annually. Of that, approximately $6 billion was spent on medical treatment and psychological services alone.
From my perspective, family violence is a health matter—just as much as a criminal one.
To help address it, as you know, we have the federal family violence initiative that connects the work of 15 federal departments and agencies. The Public Health Agency of Canada is leading this work to make sure this initiative is focused on priorities that make a difference to Canadians.
Another focal point I'd like to touch on centres around innovation, technology, and research, all of which are obviously linked. At the federal-provincial-territorial health ministers meeting in early October in Toronto, I was very encouraged to hear from my colleagues that they've expressed their desire to make health care innovation our top priority in working together. It was also obviously well received at the annual meeting of the Canadian Medical Association as a priority for physicians. Federally, our government supports research and innovation through a range of initiatives. Most notably, of course, is the fact that we are the single largest investor in Canadian health innovation.
On any given day, thousands of federally funded research projects are under way involving more than 13,000 Canadian researchers. These researchers are developing cutting-edge technologies designed to help improve our health care system. We will continue to invest in research and innovation so that together with the provinces and territories we can continue to improve the quality, accessibility, and sustainability of our system so that it's there for Canadians when and where they need it.
On another note, ensuring that Canadian children and youth get the healthiest start in life is a key priority for our government. One in three children in Canada right now are overweight or obese. On average, only 12% of Canadian children take part in enough physical activity on a daily basis. These are truly alarming statistics. In the recent Speech from the Throne, our government committed to working with our provincial and territorial counterparts, as well as the private and not-for-profit sector, to support Canadian children and youth in leading healthy active lifestyles.
Awareness and momentum are growing. We are seeing strong leadership across the country to work towards the common objective.
Through the Public Health Agency of Canada, we are now mobilizing with groups like Canadian Tire, Right to Play, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Air Miles, and the YMCA. By leveraging our resources and theirs and ideas across sectors, we're laying a foundation for sustainable change.
Another area of interest and focus that I have, and the department is working on, revolves around injury prevention, a topic of such importance that it was also specifically highlighted in the recent Speech from the Throne. Unfortunately, preventable injury is the leading cause of death for Canadians aged 1 to 44 years. Often considered accidents, preventable injuries are far more common than people think, and of course all are most often predictable and most often preventable. Preventable injury is also a concern from a health equity perspective.
An injury can happen to anyone at any time, but children, youth, seniors, aboriginal people, and those of low socio-economic status carry a higher burden of injury than other Canadians. By working together and leveraging our resources, we can reduce the number of preventable injuries in this country and make a real, tangible difference in the lives of Canadians. Going forward, we will continue to build on new partnerships, raise awareness about injury prevention, and give Canadians the tools they need to live safer, healthier lives.
I also want to touch upon the issue of healthy and safe food for Canadians and why this is such a focus for our government. As committee members know, Canadians are fortunate to have a world-class food safety system. But that said, we must always be looking for ways to improve it.
Earlier this fall our government moved the Canadian Food Inspection Agency into the broader health portfolio. This decision takes the three federal authorities responsible for food safety—the CFIA, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Health Canada—and places them under one umbrella. We did this because food safety is not only a top priority for our government, but we do feel that by better connecting these three entities, we are improving the way we manage food safety, as well as regulating, sharing information, and communicating with Canadians about food safety.
One of the accomplishments stemming from that reorganization was the recent release of the document I just shared with you: the healthy and safe foods for Canadians framework. This framework outlines the portfolio's work on food safety as it pertains to three key pillars: promotion, prevention, and protection. With this in place, Canadians can have greater confidence in the food they buy and eat.
We're also improving food recall warnings by making important information easier to understand and more accessible by tapping into such things as social media. Whether it's Facebook, Twitter, or other tools, we are also trying to provide Canadians with essential, easy to understand information whenever and wherever they need it.
Now, under the healthy and safe foods for Canadians framework, we have all the researchers, inspectors, scientists, and public health officers working together with a common goal.
As outlined in the recent Speech from the Throne, we will continue and we are committed to strengthening Canada's food inspection regimes and ensuring that our food safety and recall system remains one of the best in the world.
As l've mentioned, with respect to this appearance, the agency is seeking an additional $39.9 million to further enhance its ability to maintain increased frequency of food inspections in meat processing establishments, improve online service delivery, and fund inspection verification teams.
To conclude, Mr. Chair, l'm proud of the vital role our government plays in health care in this country.
As Minister of Health, l'm committed to investing in health promotion by working with provinces, territories, and other partners, of course, on delivery of high-quality, cost-effective health care, by promoting innovation and health research, and by providing federal leadership on the areas that matter a great deal to Canadians.
Once again, thank you for inviting me to speak with you today.
My officials and I are pleased to take any questions you may have.
Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):
Thank you very much, Chairperson. Maybe you could give me a heads up when I have about three minutes left.
First of all, thank you, Minister Ambrose, for appearing before the committee today, your first appearance as health minister. Welcome. It's a pleasure to see you.
I listened very carefully to your presentation and noted that an issue you actually didn't address, which I think is a very serious concern for Canadians, is the question of drug safety. In actual fact, Health Canada doesn't have the power to recall prescription medications. To us, that's another example on a long list of drug safety issues that have plagued your department for years. You're obviously a newcomer to it, but this is definitely not a new issue.
We've had numerous Health Canada warnings about safety and effectiveness for birth control, antibiotic, and blood pressure medications, but the concern is that there isn't actually a recall provision that exists. In addition, Health Canada doesn't follow up on adverse drug reaction reports, even when they're filed by family members when people feel that someone has died or have had a terrible reaction to a drug. There's been a lot of coverage about this issue. Some of the media have done extensive research on it, and it certainly does seem to be a major shortcoming.
My question, therefore, is when will Health Canada upgrade its drug safety protocols to ensure that medications Canadians are taking are safe, and that unsafe medications can be removed from the market immediately?
I do have one other question for you as well.
Hon. Rona Ambrose:
Thank you very much for the question. I'm very encouraged that the committee is engaged on this issue, because I think it is a very serious one.
As you've probably seen from some of the statistics, Canada is now, I think, number two in the world in prescription drug abuse. While a lot of the work lies at the provincial level, we're working cooperatively with the provinces and territories on what we can do together to address this problem. We have levers, obviously, at the federal level as well.
The abuse of certain prescription drugs I think represents a very serious health and safety issue in Canada, and one that we committed to addressing, as you know, in the Speech from the Throne. I, myself, and probably many people in this room, have seen and heard the heartbreaking stories of people who have become addicted to prescription drugs, starting with a prescription they needed for back pain, and it has literally ruined their lives. Unfortunately, we haven't had enough focus on this area, given its seriousness. I know it's a growing problem, and we are working very diligently with the provinces and territories to address it.
We do have to cooperate with them, obviously. We've committed in the Speech from the Throne to expanding our national anti-drug strategy to include prescription drug abuse, and not just illicit drug abuse, which I think is important. This action will help build on the work we've already done to tighten such things as licensing rules around drugs such as OxyContin to prevent their being illegally distributed. These include tightened controls on companies that produce drugs like OxyContin to ensure that proper care is taken when they're manufactured, but also when they are distributed.
In terms of our own policy levers within Health Canada, we've also used our public drug plan, which is run by Health Canada. We now have maximum monthly and daily drug limits, we monitor the use of certain drugs to address potential misuse, and we also have real-time warning messages to pharmacists at the point of sale when we see issues.
On top of the good and very helpful and cooperative work that we're doing with partners, I also encourage provinces, territories, and medical professionals to develop their own complementary strategies, and some of them are doing this. We all have a responsibility to fight this issue.
This includes sharing of information that demonstrates that we know—obviously I don't know the extent of the issue—that there is some evidence that some people are doctor shopping and that doctors are prescribing too much. Too much ends up in someone's medicine cabinet and sits there for months. Unfortunately, sometimes kids get their hands on it, take it to school, and sell it. We really need to raise more awareness around this.
But there also have to be measures in place to make sure that doctors are also accountable for some of the misuse. If information is known about this happening, then Health Canada needs to be informed, and if we are informed, then we can take the necessary steps to stop these irresponsible practices.
There are obviously a number of stakeholders involved here. We are working with all of them. We very recently met with a number of them to bring them together in what will be, when we move forward, the first time that all of these stakeholders will be addressing this issue together. I think that's a really good first step, and there will be great information coming out of this committee to build on that work.
Hon. Rona Ambrose:
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is really an amazing research organization, and the support they're giving to Canadian researchers across the country is phenomenal.
In my short time as health minister I've had an opportunity to see that. I'm sure you've heard on this committee from many of those innovative health researchers. It's close to 13,000 presently, and at times it has been higher. So whether it's investing in research in diabetes, personalized medicine, aboriginal health, mental health—of course, the list goes on. We've invested recently $100 million in Brain Canada for neuroscience, and we've also created the pathways to health equity for aboriginal peoples.
We have recently, not that long ago, launched the strategy for patient-oriented research, which is a great initiative, working closely with the provinces and territories, which sees additional money going to the territories to support their particular specific innovation priorities. So it's a great opportunity for the federal government to use our research capacity to support the provinces in the areas where they need help, making sure patients are getting the right kind of treatment at the right time. It also focuses on including patients in the research itself, which has been obviously welcomed by patients' advocates. I think it really helps bridge the gap between research evidence and health care practice, which has been very well received across the country. We just launched the first initiative of this kind in Alberta, and there are a number more that will follow.
Obviously, Canada has been a leader on research on HIV. Whether it's new ways to prevent chronic diseases...our support has been providing the resources needed for that work as well.
The deputy wants me to tell you that we've also invested $2.1 billion today for electronic health records. Obviously that's a huge issue for the provinces and territories because they're delivering health services on the ground, and that is a huge undertaking that has seen great success. We know that there have been a lot of challenges in different jurisdictions on electronic records, but Infoway has an impeccable record, not only from the Auditor General, but recently they just won an international award for project management. So we're glad to see the $2 billion investment actually helping people, helping those who deliver health services on the ground do it better and in a more sustainable way.
Hon. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.):
Thank you very much. Welcome, Minister.
There were some questions asked by my colleague Ms. Davies that I wanted to expand on.
The first one had to do with the SAP and the removal of the decision by the department to allow for diacetylmorphine to be used with certain patients, These patients are a very select group. They do not respond to methadone or to suboxone or to any of those other things, and they actually only seem to respond to heroin. This comes from the NAOMI trials and other trials, as well as SALOME.
Now, if these patients cannot get this, what they do is go back to heroin, which at the moment is only available on the street. So the question is, is withholding this heroin from them a good approach? It's a start to treatment and to getting them off and getting them on lower doses, which has been shown to work in Europe and in Australia and across the world for quite a long time now. This would help these people to get off the drug eventually and save their lives, because if they go back on the street, they're back to petty crime and to injections of heroin that can kill them.
This is a life-threatening problem. Can you quickly tell me about that? That's my first question.
I want to allow you to answer them all, so I'm just going to give them to you. The second one has to do with research on HIV. I think it's interesting to note that you're spending a great deal of money on research on HIV, but I wondered if you have met with and have decided that it is a good time to look at the highly active antiretroviral program going on in British Columbia, which has now been adopted by China, by Brazil, by the United Kingdom, and by France. With this program, people who are deemed to be HIV-positive are given a drug whose effect is that by the end of the first two doses they no longer create enough virus to infect others. It's known, therefore, as treatment as prevention. I know that the Canadian government has never paid any interest to this, which is kind of sad since we should be really proud of it. This is Banting and Best work that is being done. That's my second question.
My final question is this: you're taking on the food inspection agency, which I think is a good idea. I've always believed that it should be in one place and that PHAC should in fact be in charge of this. So I think it's fine, but I wondered, when you do so, are you going to look at some of the recommendations that came out of the report that the United States had asked that Canada do? This is about prevention strategies and oversight and technical training and better-trained inspectors and looking at research on preharvest ways of dealing with things. Are you going to look at how we get a faster way of getting the information to the public and collaborating with stakeholders? Those were four big areas that the recommendations addressed, and I wonder if you're going to address this when we get there, because this is a really severe problem. People could die. Fortunately, people only got sick, but people could die from E. coli or listeriosis or salmonella, any one of the things that we can find in foods. Now that it's turned over to Health Canada, we should be better able to deal with this in an appropriate and effective manner.
Can you tell me whether you are going to look at those recommendations or not?
Hon. Rona Ambrose:
Sure, I would be happy to do that.
You're right in saying mental health affects everyone. I think the more we know about it, the more we recognize that it is part of every aspect of health care. It really is, and it's an area where research grows, and the more research we have, I think the better interventions we see, which is great.
Obviously we've made significant investments in mental health, both on the research side and the promotion side. We created, of course, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which has developed a national strategy for ensuring best practices across the country.
I would say that Alzheimer's is one of the foremost challenges to mental health today, and it's been a key investment target for our government through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. We've invested more than $146 million now in research specific to Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, including nearly $27 million in one year alone, in 2011-12.
We have also created the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, which was launched in March of this year. This particular initiative brings together all of the relevant Canadian expertise and acts basically as a research hub for all aspects of neurodegenerative processes affecting cognition, including Alzheimer's.
We are also active at the international level. CIHR is very active in supporting research through what's called the international collaborative research strategy for Alzheimer's disease. This particular strategy's goal is to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's through early intervention and diagnosis. It's also focused on improving the quality of life for those who are afflicted and for their caregivers, which is interesting. As you well know, caregivers are deeply affected when their loved ones develop dementia and Alzheimer's. It also improves access to quality care and enables our health system to deal more efficiently with the rising number of affected individuals.
It seems to me, from what I've seen, that it's working. To date, we've been able to leverage an initial $13.4 million to over almost double that—actually more than double that—through international partnerships, so it helps us to partner with other countries and other organizations.
Through our federal responsibilities, which is in aboriginal communities, of course, we have also invested significantly. We've committed over $260 million annually now to target mental health issues in aboriginal communities, and our budget last year announced an additional $4 million specifically for mental health services for first nations.
So all of this, I think, plays a big part in dealing with mental health issues. These investments obviously ensure not only that our health researchers have the resources they need, but that then, of course, corresponds with innovative strategies and also on-the-ground support for those who are practitioners and physicians.
Mr. Wayne Marston (Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, NDP):
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Welcome, Minister. We're pleased to have you here with us today.
A recent report from the Public Health Agency of Canada referred to more than 200,000 Canadians acquiring antibiotic-resistant infections while seeking treatment, and close to 8,000 Canadians die of these infections annually. I have tried to put these things into frame from personal experience. Recently, you may have recalled in the House, I spoke of my wife having surgery. She was scheduled for four days and she wound up with 13 days because she picked up an infection. Fortunately, antibiotics dealt with it.
This brings me to a point I'd like to make. My background is in the labour movement, and a lot of the work I did had to do with hospital unions and their representatives. A lot of Canadian hospitals are unionized, and in that environment they have a health and safety committee. If they're going through their daily work and they find a problem with procedures, they don't have to risk a confrontation with a manager. They can go through their union, which raises it as a health and safety concern. What I'm concerned about today is there are often times that work is contracted out to cleaning services, where you have a $10-an-hour employee, a part-timer, who is reluctant to raise issues because where he's contracted, he's easily disposed of by his manager—not necessarily the hospital. It opens the door to failure within the cleaning system when we're looking at those people who have acquired the resistant pathogens out there.
Canada's chief public health officer believes that 70% of infections could be prevented, and of course where the national role comes in is with a monitoring system of some sort. There have been complaints. I understand that doctors have pointed out that the federal government has offloaded the collection of this data to the provinces. Again, as you can see, that balances off with my earlier comments. How does the government explain that there's a 1,000% increase in these infections in Canada when places like the United Kingdom have cut their infection rate by half, with the leadership of that particular government? Is the minister prepared to address the concerns these doctors have in making sure that up-to-date information is provided to them?
Hon. Rona Ambrose:
Sure, I'm happy to do that. I appreciate the question.
The legislation you're talking about with regard to supervised injection sites, the Respect for Communities Act, is being debated in the House right now. We introduced it last month.
This legislation will give law enforcement, municipal leaders, and local residents a voice, all of whom have asked for a voice before the permit is actually granted for a supervised drug injection site in the area.
This went to the Supreme Court, and in a 2011 Supreme Court ruling the justices were crystal clear. They ordered that I, or any health minister, must consider specific factors when reviewing applications that grant exemptions under our drug laws. In other words, we must look into specific factors before allowing a permit for a supervised drug injection site.
One of the five factors named in the ruling is expressions of community support or opposition. I do not, nor should I, ignore any of the factors named in the court's ruling. I think it makes good sense. I am required by the Supreme Court to consider community opinions in the process, and that information needs to be made available to me by the organization if it's seeking to build such a site.
I should say that there is no one now seeking to build such a site, but this bill also requires that these organizations submit the relevant scientific information demonstrating the effectiveness of illicit drug treatment at the proposed site as part of their application.
I think that all parties, or at least those with whom we have consulted, agree that this kind of information must be provided to decision-makers when assessing a permit of this kind. This information will be provided along with details about the resources of the proposed site and about how these resources will be used for drug treatment. Knowledge about the level of community support and the treatment options that are available will also help determine the merits of each application.
This is reasonable and it is also mandated by the Supreme Court, so that is what is in the bill. Those stakeholders who have been dealing with this issue for many years deserve a say in where these sites would be if we receive an application for them, so we are moving on this. The Supreme Court has ruled. We believe our communities deserve nothing less than to have a voice in that, and the Supreme Court has agreed.
I do encourage everyone to support the legislation and move it along.
Our government has invested quite a bit of money in drug treatment and recovery. I am of the belief that we spend a lot of time talking about a very small piece of the drug problem when we talk about supervised injection sites. There are literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Canadians across the country who are either in recovery or suffering from addictions. A lot of them feel shame and they don't want to speak openly about their addictions and their need for recovery. We need to speak more about it because they need to feel comfortable about coming forward to seek help and intervention.
That is one of the messages that I bring, as the health minister in my tenure. We need to get people out of addiction, into recovery, and into the right kinds of treatment programs. Sometimes it takes years. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts. People talk about it not working, even after two tries. Sometimes it takes 15. As a police officer, you have seen this first-hand. Eventually, though, people can get up on their own two feet, recover, and lead a productive life.
The message is to not give up on people, any people, particularly those who are most vulnerable.
Hon. Rona Ambrose:
I appreciate that comment. Not only in my role as minister for the Status of Women previously, but throughout my whole life I've been involved in this issue, advocating for more awareness around it.
Our government has had an opportunity to bring a more holistic approach to the issue of family violence, whether it's child sexual abuse or intimate partner violence or honour violence. Family violence takes many forms, but the reality is that it is a public health issue. The consequences are far-reaching, both societally and also economically.
I mentioned the Justice Canada report that came out a year ago, which found that just in terms of intimate partner violence, the cost to society is $7.4 billion, and that's just for going to the emergency room with a broken arm or seeking psychological help. Let's remember that most women do not seek medical help, and even more so do not seek psychological help.
I would say that the cost is obviously much higher. We know that aboriginal women are suffering and experiencing violence at a much higher rate than non-aboriginal women—at least 3.5 times higher. They're much more vulnerable to becoming victims of family violence. That of course has profound financial and social impacts on them, their community, and their families.
Not only does it affect physical health; it affects mental health. It puts a huge strain on day-to-day personal activities, but also business activities. It leads to loss of work. All of that affects our communities and our economy, and it obviously has a huge impact on the public health care system.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has a clear mandate in this area, with responsibility for what is called the federal family violence initiative. That coordinates 15 different departments that have a role to play in any family violence. We are working right now to make sure that we're prioritizing all of this and are focusing our priorities in the right way.
I'm glad to say that the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is also now doing research in the area of family violence, with $8.5 million over five years to look at gender-based violence and family violence and its impacts.
So we all have a role to play. I have reached out to the provinces and territories, to the medical community, to physicians, to the Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, asking all of the stakeholders what we can do together to advance awareness and prevention of family violence. I look forward to working with the committee on this issue and I look forward to the Public Health Agency coming forward with what I know will be some good opportunities to raise awareness on this issue.
You're right in saying that it affects everyone. It's one of those issues that is talked about a lot. It is finally not a private issue, but has become a public policy issue. We still don't do enough to coordinate across the country on this, and we look forward to doing that.
Thank you very much. That should conclude the minister's time. I thank the minister and her staff for being present here for an hour.
I'd also like to thank my colleagues for keeping their questions tight and to the time and for asking them in a respectful manner.
We will suspend for a couple of minutes. Those who need to leave may do so.
When we resume we'll have the departmental staff here to answer questions for about 40 minutes, and then we'll have 10 minutes to go over the supplementary estimates and vote on them.
We are suspended.
The Chair: We'll call the meeting back to order.
We welcome our colleagues who are here from the various departments throughout Health Canada.
We'll get started in just a few minutes. We're going into our five-minute rounds. Ms. Davies will start off, and then we'll rotate through our regular session.
I'd like to remind my colleagues and anyone in the audience that if you have a mobile phone, please set it to “silent” or “vibrate” so that we don't hear it ringing during the question and answer period. I'd also ask that no pictures be taken with your mobile phones during the committee meeting—just to be clear.
As I said, we'll go till about 5:20, and at that time we'll conclude this portion of our meeting and we'll go through supplementary estimates. I thank you in advance.
Ms. Davies, you have five minutes to start, please.
Hon. Hedy Fry:
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to go back to a question I had asked earlier. I gather that you didn't have the time to answer it because my time was up.
I don't think I would get disagreement from any one of the officials around the table that in fact if you are going to make good public policy, or if you are going to make any kind of good health decisions, then you have to look at evidence. Evidence drives it all. Outcome drives everything.
I had asked earlier about HAART, the active antiretroviral programs that go on in British Columbia. British Columbia is the only province in Canada that has this program.
It has caused a decrease. If we're talking about outcomes, then, what is it we're seeing in terms of evidence? The evidence is that British Columbia, since it adopted this program, is the only place—the only province, place, anywhere in North America—where the number of new cases of HIV is going down dramatically. Everywhere else, in every other province in Canada, and in the United States, it is going up, remarkably up.
In fact, I would like to tell you that in 1995 there were 18 cases per 100,000 in British Columbia. Now there are six cases per 100,000. That's a huge drop.
In Saskatchewan, for example, there were two per 100,000 in 1995. There were 16 per 100,000 in 2011.
Everywhere, in every jurisdiction, this has been proven to be important. We know that the medication stops the transmission of the virus because the virus is gone. It is not present in the blood.
I would hope that given the cost of taking care of every patient with new HIV, this would become a really important thing for the Canadian government to adopt, or for anyone to keep looking at, when this has been going on now for quite a while in British Columbia.
In fact, Brazil has adopted this policy wholeheartedly. The United Kingdom has adopted this treatment wholeheartedly. France has adopted the treatment wholeheartedly. We also see that the U.S. is already onside to adopt it wholeheartedly.
This should be, as I said, a triumph for Canada. This is a Canadian initiative, done here, built here. We should be proud of this.
No one wants to even speak to the people from the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. Well, no one at the political level; I'm sure bureaucrats have been speaking. What is it that prevents, with such remarkable outcomes, Health Canada from even looking at this in a way that...?
You can say that we're continuing to assess it, but it's been assessed. It's been assessed internationally. Peer reviews have shown that it works. The World Health Organization is saying that everyone should adopt it. China has adopted it, for crying out loud.
I just want to know why, when we could save lives and save costs in the health care system for every new case that we don't get, we are doing this. We could take that money and put it elsewhere in the system.
I just want to understand what is driving the decision to completely ignore and not adopt this when British Columbia is now being asked to international conferences. British Columbia is not Canada, but British Columbia is being asked to come and sit at the table with other nation-states.
Can someone explain this to me?
Mrs. Krista Outhwaite:
I'll perhaps just add to my previous response. It's an important question that you're raising.
I would also like to introduce our deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Greg Taylor, who may also wish to make a few comments.
There is no doubt that the work in British Columbia, the work of Dr. Montaner, is very interesting, promising, and is delivering results in that particular context.
I would say to the committee and to the member that we are not ignoring that work, not at all. In fact, it is a topic of discussion not only with our partners in the HIV/AIDS sector, the ministerial advisory committee on the federal initiative, as well as the national partners that we engage with on HIV/AIDS, but also with our provincial and territorial partners.
British Columbia is bringing the concept to the table, and it forms part of the discussion of our public health network council in terms of how to best place this, how to look at this, in the array of responses to HIV/AIDS that this country is undertaking.
As I mentioned in my previous comments, this is also a topic of conversation, as the member has pointed out, at the World Health Organization, the World Health Assembly, and we also looked at it at the International AIDS Conference.
There have been advancements in the area of HIV/AIDS. People who have this disease are living much longer than they used to, and we are encouraged by that. Also, there has been huge progress made in terms of maternal transmission. Fewer and fewer children are contracting the disease.
Okay, thank you very much. That's good. I like how everybody has come to a consensus here.
We have 10 line items. My trusty clerk has them all listed. I'll ask for the committee's unanimous consent.
Shall all the votes under the supplementary estimates (B) carry?
||Vote 1b—Operating expenditures..........$235,479,489
||Vote 5b—Capital expenditures..........$1
||Vote 10b—The grants listed in the Estimates and contributions.........$101,958,206
||Canadian Food Inspection Agency
||Vote 11b—Operating expenditures and contributions..........$27,973,639
||Vote 13b—Capital expenditures..........$4,924,955
||Canadian Institutes of Health Research
||Vote 15b—Operating expenditures..........$859,268
||Vote 20b—The grants listed in the Estimates..........$14,000,000
||Public Health Agency of Canada
||Vote 45b—Operating expenditures..........$19,719,028
||Vote 50b—Capital expenditures..........$1,081,962
||Vote 55b—The grants listed in the Estimates and contributions..........$1
(Votes 1b, 5b, 10b, 11b, 13b, 15b, 20b, 45b, 50b, and 55b agreed to)
The Chair: Shall the chair report votes 1b, 5b, 10b, 11b, 13b, 15b, 20b, 45b, 50b, and 55b under Health to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
That concludes this meeting. Thank you for your attendance and your attention.
The meeting is adjourned.