As a member of the Green Party of Canada and a physician, the issues raised by your questions are all important aspects of health care. Without further ado, the answer to all is “yes”.
I would have dearly loved to have responded to these questions personally but arriving as they did during the weeks at the end of our six week campaign trail, I have not had the time to respond. There have been dozens of similar letters from other organizations about everything from the Dairy Producers of Canada to Air Passengers Rights.
Approximately 220,400 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in Canada in 2019, and 82,100 will die of the disease. Lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer will account for about half of all cancer diagnoses and deaths in 2019. About 1 in 2 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetimes and 1 in 4 will die of the disease. This life-threatening illness affects entire communities, especially families, friends and co-workers. In addition to the physical and emotional hardship a cancer diagnosis brings to an individual and the family, a financial burden can devastate patients (1).
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network (CCSN) is a national healthcare charity that works to connect patients, survivors and other stakeholder groups with decision makers and the wider community to engage in discussion and to act on evidence-based best practices to alleviate the medical, emotional, financial and social costs of cancer and encourage research on ways to overcome barriers to optimal cancer care and follow-up for survivors in Canada.
The Federal government has an important role to play in making sure that Canadians diagnosed with cancer receive more financial support during diagnosis and treatment.
We invite you to respond to the following questions related to cancer care and healthcare. Your responses will be circulated to cancer patients and survivors, posted on our website, www.survivornet.ca, disseminated to our 10,000 e-list subscribers, and on our social media.
Question 1: Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits
The Employment Insurance Program in Canada offers temporary financial assistance to unemployed workers. This assistance includes providing sickness benefits to employees unable to work because of sickness, injury or quarantine and who would otherwise be available to work, with sickness benefits up to a maximum of 15 weeks. More than 350,000 Canadian workers claim sick leave through the EI program every year (2). However, most cancer patients spend more than 15 weeks receiving or recovering from cancer treatment. The estimated cost of raising the number of weeks from 15 to 50 would only raise the EI premium by a total of 6-cents from the baseline rate of $1.62 per $100 of insurable earnings (3).
If elected, will your government:
A. Recognize that there is a need for a new process that recognizes that some patients, including cancer patients, experience extended periods of treatment and recovery, and hold open consultations with Canadians about how this process will be developed and implemented?
B. Use the results of these consultations to lengthen sickness benefits for Canadians undergoing treatment for cancer as well as other serious illnesses that require long periods of treatment or recovery so that Canadians who are ill are not penalized by the current limit of 15 weeks of sickness benefits?
C. Cancel the two-week waiting period for EI Sickness Benefits so that sick Canadians are not penalized?
Question 2: National Pharmacare Program
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network believes that all people residing in Canada must have timely, consistent, equal and equitable access to safe and effective therapies, including treatments and medications, as well as the information, diagnostics, care and support that they need (4). The Pharmacare Council’s Final Report (5) called for a universal, public Pharmacare program that is portable, accessible regardless of ability to pay and residency, and the importance of working together with patients and citizens as key stakeholders.
A. What is your party’s position on the creation of and timeline for a universal public pharmacare program with a national formulary that would be developed by an independent group of experts that would assess the safety and cost-effectiveness of medication?
B. Will your party support a new federal equalization payment for national pharmacare so that all provinces are able to cover the same comprehensive range of prescription drugs, with timely new additions on a regular basis?
Question 3: Youth Vaping
A new study published in the British Medical Journal by Canadian researcher Dr. David Hammond has reported a sharp increase in the rate of youth vaping by 74% in one year following the May 2018 adoption of Bill S-5 which legalized e-cigarettes with nicotine. The study also found that cigarette smoking among 16-19 year-olds in the same 2017 to 2018 time period increased by 45%, from 10.7% to 15.5%. This alarming increase of youth smoking has not been seen in decades of data collection.
Public consultations by Health Canada proposed regulations that would set out new and updated requirements for the labelling and containers of vaping products. The proposed Vaping Products Labelling and Packaging Regulations would require that all vaping substances be labelled with a list of ingredients. In addition, vaping products containing nicotine would be required to display a standardized nicotine concentration statement and a health warning about the addictiveness of nicotine. The proposed regulations would also mandate child-resistant containers and a toxicity warning. (Question contributed by the New Brunswick Anti-Tobacco Coalition.)
If elected, will your government:
A. Take immediate actions to address a significant and troubling increase in youth vaping and smoking in Canada?
B. Use the results of the recent public consultations on new vaping regulations to strengthen controls over packaging, promotions and nicotine content?
C. Move to accelerate the process of banning all flavoured vaping products in an attempt to lessen their appeal to a youth market?
Question 4: Breast Cancer Screening
The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care’s guidelines on breast cancer screening have a direct impact on up to 9 million Canadian women aged 40-74 (6). These guidelines disregard expert input and place the lives of women in Canada at risk. They ignore the importance of screening women in their 40s (7) (8), the relative benefits of additional screening (9), the significant benefits of early cancer detection (10), the findings of modern relevant data (11) (12), and the risks of breast density (13) (14) (15). Over 130 breast cancer experts have strongly criticized the guidelines, and over 67,000 people have signed a petition urging the Health Minister to reject them (16). (Question contributed by Dense Breasts Canada)
If elected to government, will your government:
A. Ensure that the Task Force’s guidelines are revised by relevant experts in the field?
B. Disband the Task Force if its design flaws and lack of accountability can’t be remedied under the current structure?
C. Reject the 2018 guidelines and, if needed, create a new Task Force which accurately incorporates relevant expert opinion?
We thank you for your attention to these important matters.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Cancer Survivor Network
In partnership with the New Brunswick Anti-Tobacco Coalition, the Manitoba Health Coalition, and Dense Breasts Canada