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?
The issues you have discussed, the questions you have raised and the solutions you have proposed are all important and deserving of consideration. The Liberal Platform is very much concerned about the health and wellbeing of all Canadians and has built a platform that works to address gaps in our safety net that cause individuals undeserved hardship. We recognize that this is an ongoing process with much left to do but we welcome these observations which will help us to figure out the fairest and most
equitable way to sort through demands on available resources.
The Liberal Party recognizes the hardship individuals and families suffer when impacted by serious illness. We are committed to moving forward to offer increased help to workers who have fallen ill and need help to pay bills during their recovery – such as those recovering from cancer treatment – with an extension of Employment Insurance sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks.
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) calls for a universal public Pharmacare program that is portable, accessible regardless of ability to pay and regardless of residency, and recognizes 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?
The Liberal government has recognized the need to ensure that all Canadians have access to medications they require and established the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National
Pharmacare to make recommendations on how to proceed. The Council recently delivered its compelling report and a Liberal government will move forward to take the critical next steps to
implement a universal Pharmacare program. Because the implementation and success of a universal program depends upon collective effort and collaboration among the provinces and territories our first critical step will be to engage the provinces and territories, along with indigenous governments and representative organizations, to consider the best way to implement such an important program. As with all Liberal government policy we will seek credible evidenced based information upon which to make our decisions.
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?
Recent media coverage of the growing number of incidences (particularly in the USA) of sudden, life threatening and unexpected lung illness in youths is of grave concern. Information available today suggests that although the direct cause of the lung damage is not clear, vaping or the products being vaped are suspected. The Liberal government has already taken action to protect our youth by banning vaping products for those under 18, prohibiting the promotion of certain child attractive flavours and restricting ads aimed at youth. But we recognize that more needs to be done. We support the ongoing efforts to determine the cause of the emerging incidences of lung illness and – based upon evidence based information – will take all necessary steps to protect our Canadian youth.
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 recognize that there is controversy around the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care’s guidelines on breast cancer screening. A Liberal government will always attempt to secure evidence based information from experienced individuals when considering policy based decisions – particularly those involving the health of Canadians. We also recognize that over time thinking and opinions may evolve and new studies may be undertaken and that these circumstances can impact the conclusions upon which government policy is based. We are committed to maintaining the relevance and credibility of information upon which all Liberal government policy is based and will seriously consider and respond to all concerns about such information.
We thank you for your attention to these important matters.