Tuesday May 22, I spoke in the Manitoba Legislature about Multiple Sclerosis on the occasion of the recognition of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. My comments are below and can also be seen on video at this link.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, as has been pointed out, Canada has the highest incidence of multiple sclerosis in the world, and within Canada, Manitoba has among the highest incidence and prevalence rates. It is therefore very important that we, in Manitoba, pay a lot of attention to multiple sclerosis and to those who have this condition. There are an estimated three and a half thousand Manitobans living with MS, and the direct costs of these are considerable, both personally and of course for the provincial government.
Fortunately, there are many hard-working, devoted Canadians and particularly with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada who are working tirelessly to do better in both preventing and treating multiple sclerosis. An example of recent work shows that levels of vitamin D and sunlight, when they are low, have been associated with multiple sclerosis for many years, but recently it's been found that genetic work showing individuals with genetic changes resulting in lower levels of vitamin D have a higher incidence of multiple sclerosis, linking this vitamin even closer to the development and progression of multiple sclerosis.
We need to be investing in the research to improve the treatment and to improve the prevention of MS. Preventive research can be most effectively done in jurisdictions where the incidence of multiple sclerosis is highest. Manitoba needs to be a participant in trials looking at improved therapy and improved prevention.
There's an important role for our provincial government in funding the research, given the scale of the trials which will be needed to look at effective preventive approaches. Manitoba should be a leader.