Liberal Candidate – Salma Zahid – Scarborough Centre

Hello,

Response to questions 1a, 1b and 1c:

As promised in 2015, the Trudeau Government, in its first budget, reduced the waiting period for all Employment Insurance benefits from two weeks to one. This important change helps to put more money in the pockets of those who need it, sooner. At the same time, we have expanded access to caregiving benefits.

But we also know we must do more. A re-elected Liberal government will go further, by immediately increasing sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks of coverage, helping to provide more to help Canadians who suffer from various illnesses, including cancer and other episodic illnesses. We will continue to work with stakeholders, experts, survivors and those dealing with illness to ensure that E.I. and other financial benefits provided by the government of Canada are responsive to the needs of Canadians.

Response to questions 2a and 2b:

No Canadian should have to choose between paying for prescription drugs and putting food on the table. While Canadians are proud of our health care system, many are still forced to make sometimes difficult decisions. These decisions are even more difficult when it comes to the health needs of children and youth, which put even greater strain on any family.

That is why we have taken historic action to reform drug prices, changes which have now been brought into law, and which will save Canadians $13 billion over the next decade.

We gratefully accept the report by Dr. Hoskins and the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. The report is an important step in laying the foundation for a universal, national pharmacare program.

We have already committed to working together with provinces and territories to create a Canadian Drug Agency that will make medications more affordable by negotiating better drug prices on behalf of all Canadians and to establish a common national formulary, based on the best available evidence. In particular, we know that the cost of many drugs for rare diseases can be astronomical, so we are putting in place a national strategy for rare disease drugs to help Canadians get the life-saving drugs that they need.

If re-elected, we will work closely with the provinces and territories, and our partners and stakeholders in order to achieve national, universal pharmacare so that all Canadians have access to the medications they need at an affordable price. Our newly announced investment of an additional $6 billion over the next four years will include dedicated funding to further the progress we have already made towards universal pharmacare for all Canadians, as guided by the Advisory Council.

Response to questions 3a, 3b, and 3c:

Tobacco use kills 45,000 Canadians every year – that’s one every twelve minutes. We share the concerns that many Canadians – particularly parents – have about vaping, which is why we took action to introduce Canada’s first-ever framework to regulate vaping. This includes protecting youth by banning vaping products for those under 18, prohibiting the promotion of certain flavours and restricting ads aimed at youth.

Earlier this year, we proposed further restrictions on vaping ads like billboards and launched a new public education campaign to inform our youth of vaping’s risks. Yet we know we can do more – that’s why we’ve proposed further restricting vaping products’ appeal and availability to youth – including flavours, designs, nicotine content and online availability.

A re-elected Liberal government will move forward with further steps to keep vaping away from teenagers and youth, and better regulate how companies market and formulate vaping products. We look forward to working closely with public health experts, stakeholders and Canadians themselves to develop and bring into place these new restrictions based on the best available evidence.

Response to questions 4a, 4b, and 4c:

The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care was established by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to develop clinical practice guidelines that support primary care providers in delivering preventive health care. PHAC provides scientific and secretariat support for them. It comprises a panel of up to 15 experts in primary care, public health, preventive medicine and guideline methodology. They develop guidelines on various health issues.

Guideline development is based on systematic analysis of scientific evidence – including looking at similar guidelines in other countries. That said, we support PHAC’s further work on the Breast Cancer screening file. They’re currently examining a range of options that seek to address stakeholder feedback, as well as strengthen PHAC’s role in helping to fill knowledge gaps in this area. As a first and immediate next step, PHAC is moving forward with organizing a “Best Brains Exchange” on Breast Cancer Screening with colleagues from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

While PHAC provided scientific support to the Task Force’s Breast Cancer Screening working group, it did not vote on the recommendations. As this is an independent process, delivered outside of the government of Canada, we will continue to let the Task Force do its work and monitor any appropriate role that PHAC can play in supporting good public health outcomes for Canadians.

Additional information worth noting

To improve federal health research that can help lead to better outcomes and healthier lives for children, we will move forward with investing an additional $30 million next year in pediatric cancer research. We will also work closely with families, experts, and researchers over the next year to develop a long-term plan to ensure pediatric cancer research has the funding it needs to be sustainable and to help families when they need help most.

 

Sincerely,

Salma
Salma Zahid. Liberal Candidate
Scarborough Centre
2075 Lawrence Ave E.
Scarborough, ON
M1R 2Z4


Our Questions

Dear Candidate/Party,

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.

Yours sincerely,

Jackie Manthorne
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