By Darrell Cole
Amherst Daily News
AMHERST – Former member of parliament Bill Casey has asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper to appoint some Atlantic MPs to the standing committee on health.
Casey, who is a spokesman for the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute, said he planned on approaching the committees Atlantic MPs to lobby for support for a fairer share of federal cancer research funding.
“There are currently 12 MPs on the committee representing all regions of the country except Atlantic Canada,” Casey said in his letter to the prime minister. “It makes no sense that one single province like Ontario has five MPs on the health committee and the Atlantic province have no representatives from any party.”
This is not the first time the former Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP has gone to bat for the region. Casey was ejected from the federal Conservative caucus in June 2007 after voting against the budget because of changes it made to the Atlantic Accord.
Nova Scotia, he said, has the highest rate of melanoma in the country, while Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of colorectal cancer, New Brunswick has the highest rate of prostate cancer, and P.E.I. has the highest cancer mortality rate among women.
Casey successfully beat both malignant melanoma and prostate cancer and is part of a campaign by the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute to increase federal funding for research programs in the region.
“With the highest rates of cancer in Canada, it is important that the Atlantic region have a voice on the health committee,” said Casey, adding by definition the committees are supposed to reflect the makeup of Parliament. “Having this region not represented on this committee certainly does not reflect that there are 32 MPs from Atlantic Canada in Parliament.”
He also questions why there is only one MP – Nova Scotian Geoff Regan – on the standing committee on industry, science and technology while there are seven from Ontario.
Casey said the average level of federal cancer research funding in Atlantic Canada is $2.10 per person – much lower than Ontario and Quebec, where it is as high as $9 per person.
“We have the highest rates of cancer and the lowest rates of federal cancer research funding,” Casey said. “A good start to address this oversight by all parties would be to assign MPs from this region to the committee to ensure that the health concerns of the four Atlantic provinces are voiced. Hopefully this will result in a more fair distribution of federal government cancer research funding going forward.”
Present MP, Conservative Scott Armstrong said standing committee membership is determined by the party whips. With 26 standing committees in the House of Commons and 14 Conservative MPs in the region, it’s difficult to guarantee regional representation on all committees.
“It’s a numbers game. There aren’t enough MPs to make sure every region is represented on every committee,” Armstrong said. “We have 14 Conservative MPs in Atlantic Canada and 26 committees.”
Armstrong has not seen the numbers when it comes to research, but said most of the larger research facilities are in central Canada. He’s also not sure how much funding is being applied for from this region.