Mr. Speaker, some of the steps the member outlined, particularly his phrase, “we must all come together”, speaks to the need to get on with this.
I am concerned that the member for Kitchener Centre and the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin have already decided that the “notwithstanding” clause should be implemented, and that the member for Vegreville—Wainwright already thinks there is not enough time and that the Conservatives need an extension.
Could the member explain to me why it is important for not only for his caucus to have a proper conversation? Why can we not do what Preston Manning has said and let the the people speak in Parliament in a transparent way so we can get this right? What would be the way to all come together and listen to Canadians, rather than a conversation in some backroom with where Conservative members of Parliament are told what to do?
Order. Before I go to the hon. member, I would remind this member and all others to direct their questions and comments to the Chair rather than directly at their colleagues.
The hon. member for Vegreville—Wainwright.
The hon. member for Vegreville—Wainwright, a short answer please.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the speech by my colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright today, for the most part.
Similar to what I said earlier, he pointed out that Canada is refining more than it uses already, and we are probably going to be refining and upgrading more in the future. Even if we do that, how does he propose to move it if there are no pipelines? That highlights the illogic of the New Democrats' point of view. They are pretending that they support jobs, but if one listens to anybody who works in the industry, as I did recently when I was in Calgary, they will say that there is already a slowdown. Things are not happening now in terms of job creation in upgrading and so forth, the things that create jobs here in Canada, because of the lack of access to markets. Yes, we need the energy east pipeline, but they also tell me that the Keystone pipeline is very important.
I do not think it helps when the Prime Minister goes to the U.S. and says that we will not take no for an answer. Maybe my colleague could tell me what he thinks the Prime Minister was saying. What will he do if it is a no? Is that some kind of threat? Is that really a logical, rational approach, to tell the U.S. that we will not take no for an answer?
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-5 today.
I would like to let members know that I will be splitting time with my hon. colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright, who was just re-elected as the chair of the natural resources committee yesterday in a hard-fought election, and I am sure he will continue on with his good work as part of the natural resources committee. I want to welcome all my new colleagues to the natural resources committee as well.
The genesis of Bill C-5 is a story from way back in the late 1990s about an accident. Due to a faulty door design, a worker was tragically killed in that accident. When we moved on—and there were court cases and other things going on—we realized that there was a gap in the oversight.
On one side, we had the operational aspects, which were looked after by the accord acts between Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada, as well as Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada. The other side of it, the occupational health and safety aspects of this, which covered the workers and the workplace, was typically governed by provincial legislation. So here we have a set of legislation to look after one piece of this and another side looking after the other piece when it was in the offshore. However, there was a gap as to just exactly which piece of legislation covered this particular incident where this worker was tragically killed.
With that in mind, I will fast forward a few years to where the provinces and the federal government started to actually discuss how to close that gap. The only way to do that, which was agreed to between the provinces and federal government, was to decide to put jurisdiction under the accord acts for the occupational health and safety when it came to the offshore. In that way the rules would be clarified, and this legislation is very much targeted to fix the ambiguity in that legislation.
We have a piece of legislation here that is 263 pages long, and it is very technical. To look further into the background of it, pages 26 to 118 and pages 147 to 239—almost 200 pages of the 260—are associated with moving the occupational health and safety legislation into the accord act to make sure it would be covered and that the ambiguity would be eliminated.
The provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador now have undertaken and passed legislation in their legislatures, and it has received royal assent. The provinces have done their part on this. Bill C-5 is our part to bring this up to speed.
As the speaker from Halifax noted, this has been a 10-year process between the provinces and the federal government. It began way back in the 2002-03 timeframe when this was meant to be negotiated.
As many of us have learned in the House, even some who have not been here very long, when it comes to negotiating these agreements between the provinces and the federal government, sometimes it takes a little while to do, especially when we think of moving a whole piece of occupational health and safety regulation, or any other piece of legislation, from provincial to federal jurisdiction, or possibly vice versa. Those were some very important things that had to be done as part of this legislation, as well as the negotiations, which had to take place over those 10 years.
We know that working offshore, workplace health and safety has to be paramount. We have to create a situation where it is safe for the workers.
I have never worked on or even been on an oil rig, but I know members of our caucus who have, and it is a challenge. There are many things we can control and many things we cannot. Out at sea on an oil rig, weather conditions and the remoteness of the workplace are just two of the challenges that come to mind.
To address these safety concerns as well as the equipment, on the east coast all offshore activity is regulated by one of two offshore boards. It is either the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board or the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. No oil and gas activity can occur unless the responsible board is satisfied that the planned activities are safe for the workers and for the environment.
Companies must clearly demonstrate that they have identified all health and safety hazards associated with exploration or production activities. They must also show these risks have been carefully evaluated and that they can be properly managed.
I have heard a few comments in the House earlier with respect to some of the powers. The chief safety officers would actually work under the offshore boards, but when we read through the bill we see that the powers they would have are tremendous. Having been involved in construction projects, working with safety officers in those environments, I have no question that if there is ever one person on a construction site who can shut it down for a reason, it is a safety officer. If there are safety concerns for any of the employees, they are paramount. Obviously, if we do not have employees, we will not get the work done.
When I was working on a construction project in my utility days, I knew safety officers who took great delight in some cases that they could actually shut projects down if they were not safe. That is very important for us to remember. Not only do they have those powers, but they are also able to investigate, to compel information from the producers and to get warrants to search places such as personal spaces that may be available on work sites. Those are all very important things that chief safety officers can do, and there is an appeal mechanism in place as well.
The proposed changes are going to address these long-standing gaps, but the accord acts are still the cornerstones. They have been in place for 20 years. They started out with revenue sharing and so on, but now they are responding to these issues based on that one accident.
We worked closely with the provinces on this, in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, to identify the gaps in the current legislation, and these amendments are top priority for the government and our provincial partners, as evidenced by the provinces already passing this legislation.
By modernizing these occupational health and safety provisions of the accord acts, we are working continuously to further strengthen Canada's robust offshore regime, and we must continue to work at that. It is a never-ending process. As technology changes, as new types of exploration happen, we have to make sure our safety and our environmental regulations keep up. That is the responsibility of the government, a responsibility we take seriously.
Furthermore, these changes would help protect offshore workers by investing within the accord acts a strong occupational health and safety regime. Most importantly, it would help us develop a modern new safety regime, one that is clear and that is uniquely tailored to the needs of Canada's offshore industry.
We are making good on our commitment. The provinces have made good on their commitment by already passing this legislation in May. I am really pleased to hear in earlier speeches in the House that members of the opposition will be supporting this going to committee. It is a very technical bill. As I mentioned before, it is more than 300 pages, and there are a lot of occupational health and safety aspects in it, very important things that are going to be good for workers, that will make it a safer environment for them to work in, including the transportation to and from the rigs. I am really pleased to hear that, and I look forward to receiving the bill at committee.
Mr. Speaker, I apologize for the interruption, yet I am compelled by circumstances to rise on a point of order related to the special order paper you just tabled in this place and specifically to government business Motion No. 2.
This highly unusual and complex motion puts 13 separate questions before the House, all of which are capable of standing on their own and all of which should be debated and voted upon separately. The omnibus motion is very lengthy, but I will mention just a few items to give a sense of the broad, sweeping nature of what is before us, and I will offer some argument of the rules that guide Parliament, along with the convictions that Conservatives themselves had when they sat in opposition.
The first part of the motion would allow the government to reinstate any and every bill it passed in the previous session to the last stage completed before the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament, essentially attempting to de-prorogue and return to the legislative agenda that his prorogation cancelled.
A second aspect is that the government would then link the remaking of the special committee on indigenous women that had been studying the critical issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
It would also attempt to give direction to the procedure and House affairs committee to begin its vital work on making the members' expenses disclosure regime more open, mandatory, and consistent.
Last, it would direct the House to not sit on November 1 in order to accommodate the Conservative caucus and its upcoming policy convention.
The sponsor of this motion, the government House leader, is fully aware that the official opposition supports the last three aspects of this motion. To flip a now infamous quote on its head, the government simply will not take yes for an answer.
The government House leader is also fully aware that we are strongly opposed to the first clause that would allow for an across-the-board reinstatement of all government bills, a legislative carte blanche to attempt to undo the natural consequences of the Conservatives' own decision to shut down Parliament. We find it particularly offensive for the government to use a solemn, non-partisan study on missing and murdered aboriginal women as a playing card in its attempt to try to force the opposition to grant it the power to reinstate its old legislative agenda.
In addition to being ethically worrisome, the manoeuvre also runs counter to the rules of this House. Perhaps the government members are not swayed yet by my arguments, so allow me to use some of their own in support of my case.
The Prime Minister will remember what his House leader, Carol Skelton, argued in 2002, when the Liberals tried this exact same tactic. She said:
If this motion is allowed to stand as is, members will be forced to vote for the reinstatement of [bills] to ensure prebudget consultations and to save the good work of the special committee. The motion is wrong procedurally and is wrong ethically.
Given that O'Brien and Bosc's second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice had not yet been published, she quoted the following from page 478 of Marleau and Montpetit:
When a complicated motion comes before the House (for example, a motion containing two or more parts each capable of standing on its own), the Speaker has the authority to modify it and thereby facilitate decision-making for the House. When any Member objects to a motion that contains two or more distinct propositions, he or she may request that the motion be divided and that each proposition be debated and voted on separately.
In 2002, Ms. Skelton referred to a case from June 15, when the Speaker concluded as follows:
I must come to the conclusion that the motion before the House contains two propositions and since strong objections have been made to the effect that these two propositions should not be considered together, it is my duty to divide them.
In 2002 we even heard from the current member for Vegreville—Wainwright, who said:
I would suggest that this is an opportunity for the government to demonstrate that it is serious about trying to make the House democratic by dividing this motion so that members of the House can vote on each motion separately. The current motion does not allow that.
The current members for Cariboo—Prince George and Central Nova, our new Minister of Justice, also made submissions in opposition to this kind of motion.
Eleven years later they seem to have learned nothing from the failures of the previous government. I would ask that you, Mr. Speaker, review the precedents on this, review the motion placed on the order paper that you have just tabled, and come back to the House, as quickly as you are able, to divide the motion for both debate and votes.
It is therefore your duty, Mr. Speaker, to rule on this kind of tactic. This is completely contrary to our rules and precedents and to the spirit of respectful negotiations that allows this institution to function properly.
As a sign of good faith to my friends across the way, perhaps I can help speed up the passage of clause (m) of government business Motion No. 2, the one I have referred to. This is the part of the motion that changes the schedule of the House to allow the Conservative caucus members to get to their party convention in Calgary. This is a courtesy that is often extended, as you know, Mr. Speaker, to all major parties in the House when their conventions conflict with the sitting schedule of the House.
Therefore, I seek the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion, which is taken word for word from the government motion on today's order paper:
on Thursday, October 31, 2013, the hours of sitting and order of business of the House shall be that of a Friday, provided that (i) the time for filing of any notice be no later than 6:00 p.m., (ii) when the House adjourns it shall stand adjourned until Monday, November 4, 2013, and (iii) any recorded division in respect of a debatable motion requested on, or deferred to, October 31, 2013, shall be deemed to be deferred or further deferred, as the case may be, to the ordinary hour of daily adjournment on November 4, 2013.
The coupling of the government's attempts to ram together all of its previous legislative agenda to something as important as the study and the pursuit of justice for missing and murdered aboriginal women, we find offensive. The government has the opportunity to decouple these statements and allow for a free and fair vote that is in line with our rules and the ethics of this place. I put that motion before you now, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Chair, I share the opposition members' enthusiasm for the minister's performance here tonight. It has been great. We want to thank he minister for sharing his evening with us in such an effective way.
I also would like to acknowledge Mr. Dupont and Mr. Arora for the time that they have spent here tonight and the expertise that they bring on this file as well, and I know there are other people who have worked hard to present the natural resources case for this country.
I also want to acknowledge my colleagues who have spent the evening here with us. Most of them have spoken and have spoken extremely well. I think of the chair of the natural resources committee; the member for Vegreville—Wainwright; my colleague from Tobique—Mactaquac; my friend from Wetaskiwin, who spoke a bit earlier; the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt; the member for Yukon, who even sent a “hi” out to his mother there; and the member for Calgary Centre, who spoke so effectively.
I also want to acknowledge the member for Blackstrap, who has been here with us all night tonight because resources are important to Saskatchewan. She is an important member of the cabinet and an important member from Saskatchewan. It is great that she was able to be with us as well.
We have been talking about numbers all night tonight, and there are some numbers that I find a bit disquieting and intriguing. We have talked about the 630,000 jobs that are projected to be created by the oil sands over the next 25 years and the hundreds of thousands of other jobs that are going to be created by the resources sector across this country. Unfortunately, again tonight it seems that we have heard the New Democrats say one more time that they want to say no to those jobs.
It bothers me, when I come from a resource-based province, to hear that kind of thing. As I mentioned earlier, it seems that they oppose everything about natural resources. We heard the member for Edmonton—Strathcona, from Alberta, the province where the oil sands are so important, who came in here and opposed oil sands. We heard my colleague from Calgary Centre talk about the Kearl project and how those greenhouse gas emissions now are similar to what is being produced from regular oil production. Certainly the opposition members should be welcoming that news, but they do not seem to be willing to do so.
We have heard in the past how they have opposed offshore. They do not like offshore and the development of offshore. We hear how they do not like pipelines. Some of them do not like pipelines and some of them seem to. They keep changing their position. I had to appreciate my colleague this afternoon in what seemed to be grudging support for the west-to-east pipeline, although last week his leader changed his own position on that, so we wish them luck in trying to convince their leader that he actually needs to represent all of Canada and just not small interest groups in particular areas across this country.
We are concerned, as I read in a quote a bit earlier, that the NDP opposes all things nuclear. The New Democrats' leader was straightforward about that here in the House. He said that they are just going to oppose it. I can hear my colleague across the way saying that they of course oppose that, that they certainly do oppose that.
There is shale gas, the latest and greatest development around the world that is going to change the way energy is produced and used on this globe, and the New Democrats again come up dead against it.
We also see their opposition in so many ways to mining across this country. My colleague from Yukon and other colleagues from the north are particularly concerned about their opposition up there as they try to develop their economies and begin to get some of the same advantages that the rest of us have.
It was interesting to hear about the impact that the development of natural resources will have on our aboriginal communities. Those of us from the west, and particularly from Saskatchewan, know that we need to get our young aboriginal people involved in the economy and that probably the quickest and best way to do that is through the resource sector. It pains me to have to ask again why the New Democrats stand so strongly against that when it is so important in so much of our country.
At the natural resources committee today we were excited to hear from some folks from Montreal who were talking about the importance of the west-to-east pipeline and the re-reversal of that pipeline so that it can create opportunities in Quebec and further east, as far east as my colleague from New Brunswick. He looks forward to having some of those opportunities as well.
I wanted to talk about the New Democrats' great commitment to the carbon tax and the $20 billion that it would take out of Canadians' pockets. We have not mentioned much about that tonight, and they certainly do not want to bring it up anymore.
However, we look forward to continuing to be the government in this country, continuing to develop resources across this country, continuing under the great leadership of the Minister of Natural Resources, and being able to do that in spite of what the New Democrats want to do to our resource communities, our resource jobs and so much of our resource-based economy.
That will complete the opening round. Now we will proceed into the first rotation.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Vegreville—Wainwright.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Vegreville—Wainwright was a little off base when he said that the leader of the Liberal Party has not said anything about this budget. Maybe the member for Vegreville—Wainwright has not been listening. I do not know.
Every day that the leader of the Liberal Party has asked questions in the House, he has talked about the middle class. He has talked about the damage the Conservative Party is doing, through this budget and other measures, to the middle class in this country. He has said things such as that $550 million annually is coming out of the small business sector, which supports the middle class and is, indeed, the middle class. There is a $600-million payroll tax hike in this budget, which is hurting the middle class. The member may have slapped aside the leader of the Liberal Party, but he is absolutely wrong. The leader of the Liberal Party is standing up for the middle class.
The member said quite often that we should find it in our hearts. Once when I was in London, England, I came out of a facility and a guy asked if I could find it in my heart to lend him a copper. Could the member find it in his heart to support the middle class?
Mr. Speaker, the control freak nature of the government is really extraordinary. Conservatives announce a program without negotiating it with anybody, then they start advertising the program without discussing it with anybody and they are actually spending less than they were spending in 2008-09.
I would like to ask the Prime Minister this. Is this why his members from Vegreville—Wainwright, Langley and from other ridings are now coming into the House and expressing concern that they are not allowed to speak their minds? He will not let the provinces speak their minds. Why will he not let his own members speak their minds?
Order, please. I know there are other members. We have five minutes for questions and comments, so we will need to go to the response now and the hon. member for Vegreville—Wainwright.
A self-fulfilling prophecy, Mr. Speaker. That is right. I would like to know what the government's end plan is, the conclusion. Where does that lead us when we undermine the ability of governments to play an active role? I do not know who we leave it up to.
In the context of this legislation, the legitimate concerns brought forward in the previous Parliament were accommodated by committee and they were stripped away. Why should we believe the government? The Conservatives ask why we have to be up until midnight. If we are serious about moving the bill forward, we will let it go to committee. They say they will let it move forward. We do not believe them. They have not earned our trust or our confidence. There are no tacit agreements. There are no deals. There are no handshakes in this Parliament. The 41st Parliament is handshake-free. That is a real shame and a real loss.
I am starting to sound like an old guy. I lament and I miss the common sense of purpose that we enjoyed at one time when we were all elected to Parliament, yes to different parties, but moving forward, paddling our canoe in the same direction in the best interests of the country, especially in this matter, in the best interests and the well-being of our men and women in the armed forces. Surely this is one example of where we could extend the goodwill to make this particular bill work. We have been burned in the most egregious possible way.
I was wondering how I was going to use my time in this debate. To understand why we behave the way we do, we have to scratch the surface a bit and back up and take a look. I hope members can understand the level of frustration.
I represent a lot of armed forces personnel in my riding: the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry that was at the Kapyong Barracks until recently when it was moved to Edmonton and the Cameron Highlanders Reservists at the Minto Armoury in my riding. A lot of people do not realize that Winnipeg has a navy but the HMCS Chippawa is based in my riding of Winnipeg Centre. The 17th Wing Air Command is in Winnipeg. The Sgt Tommy Prince Cadet Corps, Canada's newest cadet corps named after the most decorated soldier in the Canadian armed forces, a first nations man named Tommy Prince affiliated with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, is in Winnipeg.
When I enter debates about the military I like to make reference to my own father who was a lieutenant colonel by the end of his career and secretary treasurer of a Canadian military intelligence association, what he called his spy agency. He served in Italy in the liberation of Holland. He often spoke about the veterans who came home from war and were promised so much and treated so badly. It was a recurrent theme throughout his life. He spoke of the veterans as we licked the envelopes, all of us kids around the dining-room table stuffing envelopes for the dues for the Canadian military intelligence association. That is how I started as an organizer, I think.
He often commented on the “deemed never to have served” for the 14,100 veterans of the Second World War. In the demobilization of a million-some-odd soldiers, some of them did not get to the office in the correct period of time to hand in their papers. In fact, when some went, the lineup was so long that they were told to come back in a couple of months. They went back to the farm and did not return in time, so they were deemed AWOL.
The way the government solved that problem was that instead of dispatching military police to round them up, the government passed an act of Parliament to deem them never to have served. Their military records were erased and their benefits were erased, 14,100 of them. It was a terrible injustice.
Many had to come back to try to have their service recognized now that they were not 21-year-olds any more. They were getting married and having children, and they wanted the benefits due to a veteran, whether it was housing or education. Of course, by then Parliament had deemed them never to have served.
My father was adamant that this was one of the greatest injustices to his colleagues in the Second World War. I am trying to imagine what he would have to say on this today. Colonel Drapeau reminds me of my dad physically and in the types of issues that he champions.
I believe that an awful lot of World War II veterans, were they alive today, would be of the same mind as the debate that we heard on this side of the House for the last couple of hours. The idea of the morale of the armed forces being compromised, undermined and jeopardized by a system that is simply not fair and the lack of a grievance system that meets the test of natural justice and the justice afforded to people outside of the armed forces would be galling to the sensibilities of anybody who served and wore the uniform.
I am a trade unionist. The combination of things that describe me in my CV are the things that the Conservatives probably most loathe. I am a socialist, a trade unionist and an NDP member of Parliament. I served as a union leader, to make me even more unpalatable to my colleague for Vegreville—Wainwright.
I was a union boss, I guess one could say, so I know the need for a fair system to deal with grievances in any kind of institutional setting, be it a large workforce or the Canadian military. There is not only an advantage but also a need to have an avenue of recourse for those who feel that the system has not treated them fairly.
That avenue of recourse has to meet certain tests. It cannot be arbitrary and it cannot be biased. It has to meet the same tests as our justice system. The very system that use to measure the health and well-being of our democracy is the health and well-being of our justice system.
How can anybody think that the current system is fair if it is one's commanding officer or one of his subordinates who rules on the grievance? There is no arms-length in the process.
These legitimate issues, brought forward by some of the most respected jurists in the land, led to the amendments in two previous incarnations of the bill. One was the Rt. Hon. Antonio Lamer, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and another was Patrick LeSage of the Superior Court of Ontario.
These people know what they are talking about, and their observations and recommendations deserve implementation. They do not deserve to become a political football, subject to whims and vagaries. They should be handled better. This is one example in which I urge the government of the day to perhaps try something new.
We have three years that we have to live together before the next federal election. If the Conservatives continue with their bully tactics, they are not only doing irreparable harm to the integrity of our democratic institutions, they will watch themselves plummet even further in the polls.
Canadians have pretty much had it with these guys. Canadians are getting fed up with the way they conduct themselves. That is starting to resonate. Now that people are getting some idea of who these people they elected really are and how they conduct themselves, they do not like it.
The impression is that they are a bunch of bullies and thugs. They may not realize that. Some of them are nice people. Individually, they are nice people. I am the first person to admit that. Collectively, the persona they have put forward to the Canadian people is that they are a bunch of thugs who will get their way and they do not care what they trample on or who they trample over to get it. They will never accommodate a single issue or a single legitimate concern by the opposition because they view it as a sign of weakness and that is not the way these guys behave.
Order. The time for government orders has expired. Therefore, the questions for the hon. member for Vegreville—Wainwright will take place when this matter returns before the House.
Madam Speaker, I am very honoured to stand in support of Motion No. 274 to enable multiple sclerosis patients and their families to have access to information to make informed decisions. I want to thank the member for Vegreville—Wainwright for bringing forward this very important issue.
The reason I am in support of the motion and eager to speak to it tonight is that in Burlington, my home is located on a small block with maybe 25 or 30 houses, and three women on the block have MS. It is vitally important that we make sure we have the appropriate information for them on all the treatments, particularly the Zamboni treatment that has been well promoted over the last number of years, so that they can make the right decisions based on the actual science that is available. That is what this motion is talking about and that is what this government is doing.
The motion asks that we ensure that Canadians living with MS, along with their families and caregivers, have access to the information they need to make informed decisions in the management of their condition. I would like to thank the member for bringing this motion forward. MS touches the lives of friends and family of each and every one of us and we need to move on this issue.
MS is a neurological disease that can affect vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. Unfortunately, there is no known cure. The current treatment is geared toward managing symptoms and slowing down the progression of the disease.
An estimated 55,000 to 75,000 Canadians currently live with MS. Women are more than three times likely to develop the disease. Canada is faced with one of the highest rates of MS in the world. By understanding more about the disease, its progression and the use of treatments in Canada, we can more effectively plan care and identify best practices for MS treatment.
Many members have heard about the chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, CCSVI, procedure, which is more commonly known as the Zamboni procedure. It is named after the Italian surgeon who proposed that blocked veins in the neck may cause MS. The procedure is a surgical technique to open those blocked veins with the objective of relieving MS symptoms. It is not a cure, but the objective is to relieve the symptoms.
It has raised significant interest from MS patients and patient associations, but it has also raised calls for better understanding of the safety and efficacy through scientific research. Through information sharing and research, our knowledge and understanding of MS, its progression and possible treatments can evolve.
Good information is essential when weighing the benefits and risks of treatment options. Patients, through discussions with their physicians and their families, must have the ability to make informed decisions on the management of their condition. However, information is still missing. There is much we do not know about this procedure and so much we could collectively share and learn by taking advantage of the information that currently is collected in MS clinics and creating a nationwide resource.
Motion No. 274 encourages governments, patient groups and medical associations to address these gaps. The motion before us today supports the need for Canadians living with MS, along with their families and caregivers, to have access to up-to-date information necessary to make informed decisions in the management of their condition.
I am pleased to say that working with our partners, the Government of Canada has announced two key national initiatives that will help Canadians get the information they need about MS and its treatment: the Canadian MS monitoring system and the clinical trial on the CCSVI procedure. Both are addressed in the motion before the House and both will arm MS patients with the information they need about the issues of utmost importance to them: their care and treatment.
Today I would like to take the opportunity to discuss in detail the new initiative, the Canadian MS monitoring system, which is being driven by a strong collaborative effort. The goals of the monitoring system are consistent with Motion No. 274, to obtain better information about MS in Canada, including those who have undergone the CCSVI procedure.
With support from the Government of Canada, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, or CIHI, is developing the system. CIHI is working in close collaboration with the Canadian Network of MS Clinics, the MS Society of Canada and provincial and territorial governments. This unique collaboration is bringing together political and technical experts from across Canada, as well as patient input for the benefit of those coping with this disease.
CIHI is an independent, not for profit corporation that provides essential and relevant information on Canada's health system and the health of Canadians. The Canadian Network of MS Clinics was established about a decade ago by health professionals to advance collaboration and information sharing on MS across the country. We are fortunate in Canada to have such dedicated and highly trained doctors and nurses working together to support people living with MS and to help them achieve the maximum quality of life possible.
The MS Society of Canada is also a key partner in this initiative as it is the only national voluntary organization in Canada that supports both MS research and services for patients and families. The MS Society is focusing on the priorities and interests of patients and the development of the system and will ensure that the information that is collected is shared with patients, families and their caregivers. The provinces and territories are also engaged in working with the federal government in developing the system and participating in its design.
The vision driving this collaboration is of a longitudinal, observational monitoring system for all of Canada. By working in partnership, we are building on the strength of multiple perspectives in developing this comprehensive national information system with the best interests of patients top of mind.
Consistent with Motion No. 274, advisory and technical committees have been established to guide the development of the system. Through these committees, provinces and territories, as well as people living with MS, provide valuable input and advice on the development of the system. This ensures its relevance to the needs of those who are intended to benefit from its use.
Overall, the system will collect clinical, demographic and health status information of patients from participating in MS clinics on a voluntary basis. It will operate according to stringent privacy protection policies.
Why is this important to patients? To begin with, we do not have the adequate pan-Canadian information on MS rates. We do not have any coherent way of sharing how patients cope with their disabilities, what works and what does not work for their quality of life. More important, we are not taking full advantage of what is being learned in MS clinics across the country about the care and treatment for MS.
This system helps fill the gaps. It will also collect information on patients who have undergone the CCSVI procedure abroad.
This information will help us to better understand trends in MS and the use of treatments, support the delivery of care, monitor patient outcomes over the long term and identify future needs and resources. As a national data centre, the monitoring system will offer a broader view of MS in Canada.
This motion is very important in terms of gathering the information and using information that exists but is not attached to anything so that we are able to give proper information to patients, caregivers and families. MS is important, not only on my street but in my community. I have been active with the MS Society of Canada for a number of years. April 22 is the walk for MS in my community which raises a little over $86,000 every year. I am the MC for the day at the event.
I encourage everyone watching today to get involved with the MS Society, help those in need, join in the walk and do whatever they can to improve people's quality of life. The MS Society does great work in this country. The Canadian Institutes for Health Research is doing great work in this area. I want everyone to get behind this cause. I thank the member for moving the motion.
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her well-thought out speech and her position on this motion.
This is obviously a very contentious and emotional issue for a lot of people. We are here tonight to talk about Motion No. 274. I would encourage MS sufferers and their families to get involved in this debate, to get involved in the gathering of the information, to make sure they are out in the public telling their stories and that they are lobbying governments so their issues are treated very seriously.
My colleague across the way talked about the need for urgency and acceleration. We certainly believe that things need to be done as quickly as possible and at the same time safely in order to deal with these issues.
I am here tonight to speak in support of Motion No. 274.
I want to recognize a young lady in my riding who has been very courageous in this fight that has gone on in the last few years.
Her name is Michelle Walsh. She lives on a ranch in Beechy, Saskatchewan. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1991 when she was only 18 years old. She now has secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. She found herself in a situation where she was bedridden before she underwent this therapy in Bulgaria in July 2010 and then in California the following January. She has been a very outspoken supporter and advocate of CCSVI in Canada. She is one of the ladies who has kept my office very informed about the meetings and the new information regarding MS. I just want to recognize her and her persistence and the work and time that she has put into this issue.
I want to thank my colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright for moving this important motion. It is focused on providing information to Canadians living with multiple sclerosis.
MS patients, their families and caregivers must be able to make informed decisions about the management and treatment of this disease.
MS is a devastating disease that impacts many Canadians, yet it is one that we are still trying to understand. Access to timely and accurate information is critical. Getting that information to MS patients, their families and caregivers requires effective collaboration by many different partners.
The provinces and territories are responsible for health care delivery. Scientific experts carry out the research and make new discoveries. Health care professional associations and national voluntary organizations such as the MS Society provide support and resources and so much more. The federal government also plays an important role in funding research and in helping to ensure that Canadians are informed and that all partners are on the same page for the benefit of MS patients nationwide.
I am proud to say that the Government of Canada has already launched important initiatives that support the motion before us. I will expand on these initiatives shortly, but first I will take a few moments to highlight why this is an important issue.
MS is a disabling chronic disease of the central nervous system. The effects of it are significant. It affects vision, hearing, memory, balance, mobility. It remains unknown what exactly causes MS to happen. It is commonly thought that environmental, viral and genetic factors may be involved in triggering MS.
Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. As many as 75,000 Canadians are currently living with this disease. Every year millions of Canadians are affected by MS personally, through a family member, a friend or a neighbour. As my colleague pointed out, MS usually strikes young adults, with women three times more likely to be diagnosed than men.
Anyone close to a person with MS knows how difficult it can be to live with this condition. MS patients and their families show tremendous courage in the face of such an illness.
There is no known cure for MS at this time, but we do know there are treatments that can help slow down the progression of the disease, control symptoms and help maintain quality of life. We know that good information and support are essential for people living with MS.
Advances in science, new studies and new treatments offer hope for patients. Obviously the most public and controversial issue is also referred to in this motion, and that is CCSVI.
As members may know, in 2009, Dr. Paolo Zamboni proposed that vein blockage, a condition he labelled chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI, could be the cause of MS. He suggested that opening up the blocked veins in the necks of MS patients would relieve those symptoms. The liberation treatment, the Zamboni procedure, the CCSVI procedure are all terms used in the media to describe this medical procedure.
His procedure has had mixed results. Experts tell us that more research needs to be done on the safety and effectiveness of the Zamboni procedure, as well as to find out whether blocked veins are linked to MS at all.
This motion tries to bring together the information on this and other treatments and opinions in one place.
For people living with this crippling disease, new emerging information can be both confusing and exciting. Information about the Zamboni procedure is important to Canadians living with MS. This is in part why the motion is timely and significant.
Patients and their caregivers need to have the best information available. They need to understand what is known and what questions still need to be answered through scientific research. They need to know that their governments, MS organizations, researchers and doctors are working together to shed the most amount of light possible on treatment options. They need to be able to take comfort and security in the knowledge that they are not making decisions alone, that they are doing so with the best available evidence and information.
In collaboration with its many partners, the federal government is already helping Canadians living with MS to get that information through two key initiatives. First, the federal government is supporting the development of the Canadian MS monitoring system. Second, it has launched a clinical trial on the safety and efficacy of the CCSVI procedure. Both of these initiatives align with Motion No. 274.
I will speak first about the monitoring system. This system will help make available good information on the treatment of Canadians living with MS.
Canada's premier health information organization, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, is leading the monitoring system development in collaboration with the provinces and the territories, the Canadian Network of MS Clinics and the MS Society of Canada.
Some provinces have already moved on some of these issues. In mid-January the Government of Saskatchewan under Premier Brad Wall announced plans to spend over $2 million to cover costs for patients selected to participate in a two year clinical trial in Albany, New York. British Columbia has set up a B.C. CCSVI registry in the province. It is operated by the MS clinic at UBC Hospital at Vancouver Coastal Health. Alberta has set up what is called the Alberta Multiple Sclerosis Initiative, or TAMSI, in order to gather evidence to improve the understanding of CCSVI. Provinces are already beginning to move, and nationwide we are moving as well.
The goal is to measure and monitor the evolution and treatment of MS in Canada, including patients who have undergone CCSVI. Over the long term, this system will monitor patients' outcomes and help identify the most effective therapies in the treatment of MS. It will give Canadians living with MS, health care professionals, researchers and policy-makers better access to information on disease patterns and the use of treatments across Canada.
Specifically, CIHI is working with partners to put in place a national system that will collect patients' clinical and demographic information from participating MS clinics, including information on the CCSVI procedure. The monitoring system will operate according to CIHI's stringent privacy protection policies. Participation is voluntary. Information from this system will be available to patients through regular reports.
For the first time Canada will have a truly national source of data on MS that will support those living with MS as they work with their doctors to consider management and treatment options.
As the only voluntary organization in Canada that supports both MS research and services for people with MS and their families, the MS Society will play an important role in bringing patients' views to the table.
The other key federal initiative that will provide information on MS is a national clinical trial on the CCSVI procedure. There have been, and I think we all acknowledge this, mixed results from this process. The number of complications reported by Canadian MS patients who have undergone the CCSVI procedure abroad reinforces the importance of further research on this procedure. The procedure is not a simple one. We must ensure that it is safe and that it does and can work.
For this reason the federal government asked the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to put the clinical trial in place. The launch of a national clinical trial was based on scientific evidence and recommendation from CIHR's scientific expert working group on CCSVI, made up of domestic and international MS experts. The clinical trial is looking at the scientific evidence on the safety and efficacy of the CCSVI procedure. To this end, CIHR is putting the necessary measures in place to advance the clinical trial.
A competitive and rigorous peer review process to select the research team will be completed by the end of March 2012. There is a sense of urgency but we want to make sure that we protect Canadians as we move ahead.
Provinces and territories, along with U.S. and Canadian MS societies, have shown interest in conducting this important research.
The results of the clinical trial will provide information concerning the risks and benefits of CCSVI.
It will also provide Canadians, health professionals, caregivers and patients living with MS with new research evidence to better understand the condition, including this treatment option as well as other possible treatments.
Like many diseases, we cannot prevent MS and we do not yet know what causes it. Yet a significant percentage of Canadians must cope with its unpredictable, lifelong impact.
Canadians need to know there is help available for them to make informed decisions. That is the spirit of the motion. Consistent with Motion No. 274, both initiatives I have discussed are helping to fill information gaps related to multiple sclerosis.
Madam Speaker, I regret the fact the mover of the bill gets the last five minutes and ends up taking time from the last speaker. I certainly appreciate the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine's comments, and I will say a little more about them later.
I want to talk about some of the other comments we heard today. I am really grateful for the support of all members, as I am sure Cassidy Megan is as well, the young lady from my riding of Halifax West, who was spoken of so often today.
I enjoyed all of the speeches today. My colleague from Kingston and the Islands spoke of a young woman from his riding who came to him to talk about this issue. For her it was an issue of overcoming the stigma of having seizures and people's reactions to, and lack of understanding of, them. He, like all of us, I think, has learned more about epilepsy from hearing about it and speaking on this topic.
My colleague from Oshawa, the parliamentary secretary for health, spoke very touchingly about his personal experience with epilepsy, because he has petit mal epilepsy. He also spoke of a person he talked to who had lost friends because of their seizures when he was a kid and who talked of the impact of that. Imagine what that would be like, how awful that would be for a young person.
I also appreciated the comments made by the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas, who spoke about the importance of making people aware of epilepsy and how it works.
I also thought that my colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright spoke very touchingly and powerfully. He said that greater awareness, we hope, will lead to greater action, greater government action, greater action from all of us. That is very much the idea of this bill. He also talked about the personal experience of his own child and the isolation that she has sometimes felt because of a hearing impairment. I appreciate that, as looking forward to his motion on MS, which I congratulate him for moving.
The member for Pontiac spoke about the difficult situation that people with epilepsy are in and of the lack of resources and support. He also spoke about the discrimination and stigmatization that they face.
The member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine said let us not turn our backs on the 300,000 Canadians living with epilepsy. It is valuable for us to be reminded of how many Canadians actually are affected by this and what it can mean for all of them.
I want to close, though, with my thoughts and my appreciation of all members, but particularly to Cassidy Megan, the young girl who started all this, of whom I am so proud. This means a great deal to all of us and I look forward to this bill succeeding and I appreciate the support of members.
The electoral district of Vegreville--Wainwright (Alberta) has a population of 111,427 with 83,038 registered voters and 233 polling divisions.
This action requires you to be logged into Politwitter. No regisrtation is required, just authenticate using your Twitter account.