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Liberals to Talk Health at Biennial Convention 

New revelations of Chinese interference and intimidation take over the agenda yet again in Ottawa, and the WHO drops its declaration of COVID-19 as a global health emergency as Liberals descend on Ottawa for their biennial convention. On that, and more, here is your Syntax Weekly Health Round-Up.

In the House

  • The House continued to be distracted from its sprint to the end of session this week, as new revelations regarding Chinese interference in Canadian affairs emerged at the beginning of the week. Media reporting revealed that Conservative MP Michael Chong’s family had been targeted with intimidation threats by a Chinese diplomat who remains in Canada to this day. The Prime Minister’s response has proven to be insufficient and potentially misleading to date, resulting in an increasingly hostile Question Period. This follows reports that Chinese officials sought to influence Canadian nomination races and elections and immediately precedes the Liberal biennial convention in Ottawa, where there will be much talk of Pierre Poilievre and his attempts to whip up fear among Canadians. 
  • At the Liberal Party’s biennial convention, a number of policy resolutions will be debated and considered for adoption by the Party, several of which relate to health. Of note, Liberals will consider resolutions to invest in innovative healthcare systems and to modernize the Canada Health Act to increase access to primary care. Liberals will also hear from panel discussions on building a fairer, more equal, and healthier Canada; strengthening Canada’s universal public healthcare system; and strengthening mental healthcare across Canada. 

At Committee 

  • The Standing Committee on Health continued its studies on the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) and on the Oversight of Medical Devices (Breast Implants). On PMPRB, it’s worth noting that following some fiery exchanges with the Minister of Health last week, PMPRB Executive Director Douglas Clark revealed that PMPRB reached out to the Minister’s Office numerous times via email and text but received no response, leading to the Minister’s letter asking for the consultations to be paused. It’s also worth noting that the Liberals appear to be working with the Bloc Québécois to keep that study contained. 
  • Meanwhile, we have learned that the Committee’s report on its Children’s Health Study is anticipated to be tabled later this month. That report is likely to include evidence and recommendations emanating from the Committee’s short study on over-the-counter pediatric medications undertaken last fall amidst the surge of COVID-19, RSV, and the seasonal flu. 

Around Cabinet

  • Ministers of Health, and Mental Health and Addictions, Jean-Yves Duclos and Carolyn Bennett, celebrated mental health week. Of note, Minister Bennett announced an investment of $6.5 million over five years for six projects funded through the CIHR’s Mental Health in the Early Years (MHITEY) initiative. The funded projects for children and youth will help to advance Canada’s mental health strategy by identifying solutions for safe and equitable programs and services for diverse populations, and through adopting, adapting, and improving the use of evidence-based practices in clinical, community, and public health settings.  
  • Minister Bennett also announced $8.5 million in funding to expand the Canadian Red Cross's Friendly Calls program which pairs a trained Red Cross team member with an adult who could benefit from greater connection or may have limited social and family links. 

Around the World 

  • The WHO has announced it no longer classifies COVID-19 as a “global health emergency.” In making the announcement, the WHO noted that despite the change in how it views COVID-19, it is here to stay, noting it remains a “global health threat.” This results from its view of pressures easing on health systems around the world due to increased immunity from vaccination and past infections. 

Around the Dominion 

  • In Atlantic Canada, the Atlantic Physician Register was launched on May 1 across the four provinces, allowing physicians to practice in any other Atlantic province by opting in to the Atlantic Physician Registry. The new registry delivers on a commitment made by Atlantic Premiers and Registrars from the four Atlantic Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons to make it easier for physicians to move around Atlantic Canada, supporting efforts to improve healthcare services for Atlantic Canadians. 
  • Ontario has invested nearly $33 million in 2022-23 into over 100 mental health and addictions supports and programs designed to meet the needs of Indigenous communities across the province. Up to $25 million in funding has gone directly to Indigenous organizations and communities to deliver 93 unique initiatives to help create new spaces for mental health and addictions programs, upgrade infrastructure and equipment at existing facilities, and support the purchase of health and safety supplies. 
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