Kevin Lamoureux on the National Lyme Disease Strategy Act (Bill C-442)

Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure I rise today to support Bill C-442. On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I would indicate that we do support the bill and want to see it ultimately passed, go through our committee process and, obviously, third reading.


I was encouraged to hear from the leader of the Green Party that she is open to having some possible amendments which would not change the intent of the bill but, quite possibly, make it a bit more practical, in terms of its implementation.

Lyme disease is a very serious issue, as it has been talked about at length in the last 45 minutes. I thought I would emphasize it from a different perspective, from more of a personal perspective, in terms of what I believe is likely the most important issue facing this particular disease; that is, the whole sense of public awareness.

There are different regions in Canada, some more affected by Lyme disease than others. In Manitoba, it is a very serious disease. Many people are aware that in Manitoba we have beautiful, wonderful summers. Many of my friends have cottages out in rural Manitoba. There are all sorts of youth camps in the province. In some regions of the province of Manitoba, in particular, in the southeast, there is a higher risk factor of Lyme disease, and we need to ensure that there is a higher sense of public awareness.

I have found, over the last, maybe, three or four years, there seems to be a higher sense of a public awareness, but even today, I do not believe enough is being done, in terms of promotional educational material and the government taking a proactive approach to ensure that there is a high sense of education with respect to this particular disease.

That is one of the aspects of the bill that I do support in its entirety: the fact we need to recognize that and incorporate it. I am glad that it is actually in the legislation itself.

I have gone through all the different trails, for example, at Pelican Lake, which is in the southeast part of Manitoba. I have spent many days with, in particular, my daughter. When we get back to the cabin after a half day of going through the trails, we might have a dozen or so ticks on us. Even though we have taken the precaution to wear long-sleeved tops and tuck our pant legs into and put on some form of repellants, somehow the ticks have this ability to cling onto our clothing. It does not take much.

We make sure we do what we can to get rid of the ticks if we see them on us.

However, what amazes me, when I have had the opportunity to talk to people about Lyme disease, is the amount of people who do not know what Lyme disease is. They know what a wood tick is and have often had them on their body, but they do not know what Lyme disease is. I find that to be actually quite tragic. These are individuals who I thought would have known: some of the more regular cottage-goers.

I made reference to youth camps. We have young people who participate in camps throughout Canada. I made comments with respect to southeastern Manitoba. We have had cases identified in most provinces of Lyme disease. Every year we will have literally tens of thousands of children participating in outdoor activities in summer camps and so forth.

As the leader of the Green Party pointed out, we want to encourage our young people, and all people ,to appreciate and enjoy outdoors, but it is very important that we recognize the advantages of being proactive, in terms of material on this particular disease because of the debilitating impact on someone acquiring Lyme disease.

Most would say that it takes two or three days before the symptoms are seen. Quite often that is in fact the case. However, it can often take a week or so. It has been suggested and recorded to have appeared months, if not a couple of years later, after an original infection from a tick.

Symptoms range from fatigue, fever and headaches. The sign of tick infestation is a bull’s eye-type rash. People need to be aware of, and to look for, these symptoms.

One of the first priorities in terms of the whole consultation process, from my perspective, is to come up with a program that is inclusive and ensures there are strong educational and promotional components to fight this disease. I believe that is absolutely critical.

The role of the federal government is to work with the provinces and territories. That needs to be expanded to include the medical professions, as well as the other stakeholders, and in particular, the school boards, as well as vested groups, non-profit groups and groups that promote the outdoors. There are all sorts of outdoors groups, cottages, ATV and jogging clubs. We need to heighten the sense of awareness of this particular disease. This is critical.

When we talk about mandating the federal government to start looking at bringing stakeholders together, I would like to think that we would take a very holistic approach of who it is that has something to offer in terms of the development of this overall strategy.

I recognize that the federal government has a strong role to play in terms of best practices. That is something we need to take seriously. That is where we can complement the different provincial and territorial jurisdictions.

I do believe we need to make sure the resources are there. At the end of the day, if we can be more proactive on the front end, we will dramatically impact the spread of this disease. What we have realized is the number of reports is on the rise. Lyme disease is something that is growing.

Bill C-442 wants the federal government to convene a conference with the provincial and territorial health ministers and different stakeholders, and is looking for the establishment of a national medical surveillance program to use data collected by the Public Health Agency. I made reference to the educational component. The bill is calling for the developing and reporting of the strategy to be tabled here in Parliament, such strategy to be reviewed for effectiveness after five years.

I believe this is a bill that is worth supporting. We in the Liberal caucus do support it in anticipation that is only a question of time before it ultimately passes.