Libby speaks in support of motion to prevent anaphylaxis

House of Commons


May 8, 2013

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House today to speak to Motion No. 230, which has been put forward by the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook, and I thank him for that.  I know the member had a similar motion in the last Parliament, but it did not go further because of the federal election, and so we are debating the issue again. It is always good to see members continue to press on with their issues.

Unfortunately, the vote we just had on sodium reduction was lost, but I am very committed to working with the 50-plus organizations across the country that supported the bill. Even though the vote was lost, we will continue to press very hard because sodium reduction in our country is a major public health issue.

As the health critic for the NDP, I am pleased to speak in support of the motion before us. The question of anaphylaxis is a very critical issue. It affects about 500,000 Canadians and 50% of Canadians know of someone who has at least one food allergy. In our own personal experiences we can all think of someone we know who has a serious allergy and who has to be very careful of where and what that person eats.

The motion before us begins to address the issue anaphylaxis, which affects a growing number of Canadians. The NDP is supportive of the motion, but we will demand an accounting from the Conservative government on its health care track record.

The motion asks the House to recognize the importance of taking steps to ensure that Canadians with anaphylaxis have a certain quality of life. However, as we have seen with a number of these motions, this motion is very general and does not go further into precise measures. Therefore, while we support the motion, in as far as it goes, this is an opportunity for us to debate the issue and to keep pressing the government for much better accountability on health care generally and on something like this that does affect so many people.

One of the issues with anaphylaxis is that even the purchasing of the auto-injectors is an added cost for many families, and there are families that cannot afford this kind of injector. However, I find it curious that in the budget bill, which was approved at second reading and which was rushed through the House under another time allocation motion, and will be rushed through the finance committee in five meetings, one of the provisions is taxing hospital parking lots.

I do not know if anybody listened to the CBC story recently. In fact a couple of stories have been done. One of the biggest responses is from people who feel outraged that when they go to a hospital to visit a friend or family member who is sick, they get hit with exorbitant parking fees. Now, to add insult to injury, this budget, the latest omnibus bill from the Conservative government, will add taxes on to hospital parking.

Why I am raising this issue now in this debate on the private member’s motion? It is because, while on the one hand we see these sort of window-dressing kinds of motions coming through from the Conservatives, and I appreciate their intent, the fact is there are so many significant issues that are going unaddressed in our health care system. The government has fallen down on or simply retreated from its role on health care. I wanted to get that bit about the hospital parking tax in there because it is something that really grates. The Conservatives have the gall to talk about being the government of tax reduction and yet on something that is as basic as hospital parking, where people are basically a captive audience and have no choice but to pay these exorbitant cost, they will now be hit with a tax. Why would the Conservatives do that? It seems unconscionable.

While I am happy to be debating this motion, as far as it goes, I do want to shed light and illuminate the bigger picture around health care in our country.

Unfortunately, we have seen the federal government basically walk away from the table. The Conservatives made a unilateral decision about health care funding that has now left the provinces and territories about $36 billion short over the longer term. The government has failed to implement the health accords. Therefore, while we support the motion, we have to look at it in the context of the bigger picture. The government has a miserable failing record, an F, on health care.

As the health critic for the official opposition, the NDP, I do a lot of work with organizations across the country. People are just chomping at the bit. They want to see a stronger federal role or any federal role in health care.

In the House, we have had issues around drug safety and drug shortages. We have seen the abysmal health status of aboriginal people and cuts in Health Canada. The list is enormous. We need to put this on the record and hold the government to account. While I am sure the Conservative members in the House will support the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook, which is good, they need to question themselves on what is happening to our health care overall. Why have not made any progress on a national pharmacare program? Why have not made any progress on a home care and long-term program?

All these issues were discussed in 2004 and supported by the federal government and the premiers across the country. We believed, and Canadians believed, that we would see some way forward and that we would see some progress on these issues. However, nothing has happened, and not only has the status quo remained, even worse, the government disbanded the Health Council of Canada, which was the body that monitored the progress and implementation of the health accord. It is a pretty dismal picture, which I am sure we can all appreciate. I really want to draw it to the attention of members in the House.

I encourage Conservative members that when they bring forward a private member’s motion, such as the one we are debating today, they need to link it to the broader health issue. They need to think about what about the public health interest. It is very disappointing that they chose to defeat the bill on sodium reduction, which had incredible support across the country, yet I am sure this motion will go through.

At the health committee, we have had a number of these such bills and I have supported them. That is fine, but we in the NDP do have a plan for health care. We want to see our health care system improve its accessibility. We want to see the kinds of things that people need, like pharmacare, home care and long-term care. We want to see progress made on those very critical health issues.

We are very determined, as we move toward 2015, that there is an alternative on health care that we can present to the Canadian people. If the people want medicare 2.0, we know what that is. We are actually out there, consulting with Canadians on that on a daily basis. I know many of my colleagues get emails and work with local constituents. We know health care is really the number one issue about which Canadians are concerned. On any poll that is done, health care is always at the top of the list.

I thank the member for presenting the motion. It is very important to draw awareness to this issue, which affects about 500,000 Canadians, and what it means to face a severe allergy. Let us recognize that we need a federal government that will be responsive to the health care needs of Canadians and willing to be at the table with the provinces, territories and first nations. We need a federal government that is committed to implementing the accords that were signed in 2004 and to bringing in new accords and a new vision for medicare that is based on the Canada Health Act, accessibility, portability, public administration and universality.

We in the NDP are committed to that. We stand for that. We are the party of medicare. We are proud of the work that we have done and the work we continue to do.

While we support the motion, we know that it is just a bit of the big job that needs to be taken on. We are taking on that job.