By Melissa Heald
Feb. 13, 2014
Before she became a member of the federal government, Green Party leader Elizabeth May knew she wanted to choose a national issue that would be non-partisan.
From the beginning, she chose the issue of Lyme disease, a complicated illness that is difficult to treat and diagnose.
Her private member’s bill, C- 442, is an attempt to build a national strategy that will not only bring awareness to the disease but also a program of action.
May said many people in her own riding are suffering from Lyme disease and there is growing concern over it.
May said prevention is a key element to the bill but she also wants to establish best practices among provinces and doctors.
“Some provinces have a better understanding of Lyme disease than others and some doctors have a better understanding than others.”
Lyme is caused by a bite from a tick infected with bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi.
Due to climate change and migratory birds, the risk of Lyme disease is on the rise in Canada as ticks expand further into the country in areas previously considered low- risk.
The first symptoms are flu – like and a bull’s eye rash can appear in the area where the patient has been bitten.
Often times physicians, especially if they live in an area thought to be low – risk for ticks, don’t know how to identify the symptoms of Lyme. If caught early, it is very treatable, but if left untreated can lead to neurological illnesses, including paralysis, and becomes increasingly difficult to treat.
Bill C – 442 is asking for the federal health minister to convene with his provincial counterparts as well as the medical community and patients’ groups to develop a strategy to address the challenges of diagnosis and treatment. It is also asking the minister of finance for funding to help implement any legalisation to establish that strategy.
The bill had its first reading in June 2012 and is up for second reading in the House March 4.
May said both members of the NDP and Liberals are onboard with the bill and hopes members of the Conservative party would be supporting the bill as well.
May said she wants Islanders to reach out to Egmont MP and fisheries minister Gail Shea and let her know the importance of this bill passing.
Shea was contacted for a comment but a representative from her office said the minister wouldn’t be giving a comment at this time as Bill C – 442 was up before the House for consideration.
P.E.I. Liberal MP Sean Casey said he and many of his Liberal colleagues would be supporting the bill. He also feels there is enough cross – party support for the bill as well, which is rare.
“Developing a national strategy just makes good sense.”
Casey said he has spoken with a family on the Island and a patient on the Hill dealing with Lyme disease.
Casey said both felt utterly frustrated because the health care provider they saw was unfamiliar with Lyme, which led to the disease not being properly diagnosed due to a lack of knowledge.
“They felt let down by the system that didn’t know how to handle Lyme disease patients.”
Casey said Bill C – 442 is a call to action for the federal government not just to fund a strategy but also to come up with a plan to deal with Lyme disease.
“One, I hope it passes and two, I hope it’s acted upon and not just shoved to the side.”