Two weeks ago, something remarkable happened. Dr. Robbin Lindsay, a research scientist with the Public Health Agency of Canada, said he feared a "disease explosion" in regards to Lyme disease, a serious tick-borne infection now found throughout southern Canada.
Climate change has created more hospitable habitat for ticks that carry Lyme disease and, increasingly, infected ticks are found in higher numbers and in areas they weren't found before.
Lyme disease is a serious infection. If a person bitten by an infected tick is treated promptly and robustly with antibiotics, the disease can be stopped in its tracks. However, if the disease is left untreated or misdiagnosed, the bacteria moves quickly out of the bloodstream into joints, cartilage and even into the brain, becoming an entrenched infection that can leave people in wheelchairs.
Given the dearth of political leadership by the B.C. government, it was welcome news that Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May introduced a private member's bill, C-442, in June of this year calling for a made-in-Canada strategy on Lyme disease. Working closely with the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, the bill calls for greater awareness and improved diagnosis and treatment of this debilitating illness, not only in B.C. but right across Canada.
Outsiders have long viewed Canada as a pristine wilderness destination replete with moose, mountains, and Mounties who always got their man. Recognizing the tourism value of that somewhat dull but wholesome image, successive Canadian governments — both Liberal and Conservative — were content to promote the stereotype in brochures, magazine advertisements, and TV commercials.
In June, former Conservative Member of Parliament Bob Mills took the extraordinary step of holding a press conference with the Green Party criticizing the government for killing the National Round Table on the Economy and the Environment, established in 1988 by former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
"I've always said that if you're smart, you surround yourself with really smart people," said Mills. "And if you're dumb, you surround yourself with a bunch of cheerleaders. We don't need cheerleaders. What we need are smart people. And in the Round Table, a collection from all walks of life, all different political stripes, it didn't matter — but they were pretty smart people."
When Salt Spring’s Terri Bibby noticed a bite that developed a red rash after a hike in 2009, she never imagined that she would find herself becoming part of a major medical controversy, requiring years of expensive medical treatment and having to cope with the life-altering symptoms of Lyme disease.
As in the case of many other Canadians in her situation, Bibby was unable to receive a proper diagnosis because of the medical community’s ongoing discord about the disease’s prevalence, diagnosis and treatment. “There is no Lyme in B.C.,” she recalls being told at the Victoria hospital where she was taken by ambulance.
The introduction of a private member’s bill by Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May on June 21 has offered some hope that others faced with potential infection won’t have to undergo the same sense of isolation and frustration experienced by Bibby and countless others.
Local Lyme disease researcher John Scott strongly supports federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May’s private member’s bill calling for a national strategy to fight the spreading ailment, which is as close to Guelph and Waterloo Region as Turkey Point on the north shore of Lake Erie.
“I’m all in favour of what she’s trying to do,” said Scott, the Fergus-based research scientist for the Lyme Disease Association of Ontario. At the University of Guelph, he’s involved in genetic “bar coding” of disease ticks he’s collected over many years.
May is pushing for a federal conference of health officials to create a Canada-wide means of preventing, quickly diagnosing and treating the emerging ailment, spread by black-legged ticks carrying Borrelia bacteria.
Among the more notable things the numbers show, Graves said, is the jump in support nationally for the Green party.
Since the May 2011 federal election, EKOS numbers show the Green party has gone from 3.9 per cent support up to 9.5 per cent.
Graves said that could be a reflection of a general “wariness with all the traditional parties,” and that the Greens don’t “carry the same baggage on that.” But, he said, much of it could be due to sole Green MP, Elizabeth May.
“May has been doing a pretty good job, punching above her weight, a single MP and she seems to be getting a fair bit of air time,” Graves said. “That looks to me that it’s being favourably for the public.”
Despite drizzly weather on Saturday, the lineup for Sidney’s community barbecue stretched around the block — and at least $2,000 was raised for the local food bank, organizers say.
“It’s bringing tears to my eyes,” said Robyn DoSouto, head manager of Thrifty Foods in Sidney. The store sponsored the event for the first time, donating all the food. A minimum $5 donation was made by each person, but people often donated more to the Sidney Lions Food Bank, Dosouto said.
Elizabeth May, Green party MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, was on hand as a volunteer, dishing out food. She said this year had an unprecedented turnout.
“It’s an inter-generational event, and everyone is enjoying themselves,” she said.
As a member of a country that has roughly a one-third majority party leading the federal government, I would expect that roughly one-third of the actions they take would be supported by Canadians.
As recently as last week, and many times before, our federal government has given me reason to believe they do not care about Canadians' concerns outside of fiscal management.
As a result of the strong economy we emerged from the recession with, we Canadians would have expected proper conduct regarding our commitments. Instead, we get Bill C-38, a budget implementation bill that will, "attempt to hide changes to over 70 laws under the guise of an omnibus budget bill," says Green Party leader Elizabeth May.
John Robson seems to think my private member’s bill for a Genuine Progress Index is something I invented. In fact, the growing call for more meaningful indices of progress has been championed by Nobel Prize winners in economics Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen.
Their report, originally commissioned by the former Conservative government of France, has now been supported by the OECD.
Contrary to the impression created by your columnist, the idea is not fanciful, nor designed to measure happiness. It is designed to avoid the mistake of failing to measure natural capital, such that the last cod harvested off Newfoundland and Labrador in 1993 registered as positive to the GDP — even as 30,000 people were thrown out of work and the fishery was shut down.
Goldhawk Fights Back: Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, answers questions about her private member’s bill that would help develop a national strategy for fight back against Lyme Disease.
Elizabeth May, Green Party leader and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP, returned from budget bill discussions in Ottawa to a supportive crowd at the Victoria International Airport on Friday. June 22.
Green Party supporter and North Saanich resident Jack Thornburgh said the group gathered at the airport to commend May on her actions in Ottawa during the Bill C-38 budget discussions.
“Her courageous opposition to the C-38 bill was amazing, so we wanted to appreciate her strong showing,” Thornburgh said. “She put so much effort into it, she was one of the only five people who stayed for all the votes, so we just think her commitment and her stamina is stunning. So we came here today to say thank you, welcome home and we support you.”
Green Party leader Elizabeth May introduced a Private Members Bill to create a National Lyme Disease Strategy, June 21 .
May presented the bill in response to the growing threat of the disease in Canada. She is calling for a national conference of public health officials, researchers, and patient advocates as the first step to developing a comprehensive strategy for the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
“Scientific studies have been warning us that with climate change the number of vector-borne – birds, insects – diseases is on the rise,” May stated in a news release. “Lyme disease, spread by certain types of ticks, is one of them. I have many friends and constituents who are living with this terrible disease. We need to make absolutely sure that all Canadian doctors are equipped with the tools and knowledge to effectively diagnose and treat patients suffering from Lyme. ”