The Parliamentary Secretary to the federal Minister of Labour paid a visit to the Port Alberni campus of Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences (PCU-WHS) on Sept. 9.
Cathy McLeod, Member of Parliament for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, has undertaken a study of workplace health policies and practices across Canada on behalf of Labour Minister Kellie Leitch.
She was accompanied by Assistant Deputy Minister Mr. Kin Choi, who also serves as Chairman of the Board of Governors for the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
“I’ve met with a number of the WCBs, I’ve been to round tables, met with some of the academics from SFU and UBC, with the [Canadian] Mental Health Commission – one of my priorities has been around mental health, and it was always said that I had to come here,” McLeod said.
Leitch, who is a practicing pediatric orthopedic surgeon, was appointed to the post in July 2013.
“I have a nursing background. So we come to this portfolio with perhaps a little different background,” McLeod said.
The MP’s visit came just one day after the formal launching of degree-program instruction by the university. PCU-WHS Vice-president
Academic, Dr. Lynn Shaw, provided the MP with a summary of the Bachelor of Arts (Disability Management) curriculum and plans for future graduate degree programs.
McLeod said her visit to PCU-WHS was a reminder that while mental health issues are critical, her ministry must maintain a focus on a full spectrum of workplace health concerns. She feels the university could take on a major role in coordinating the efforts of employers and governments as they seek to improve their delivery of services to workers and reduce the financial burden of workplace injury and illness.
“Sometimes I think what we have is wonderful things happening in silos that different people don’t know about, even in Canada,” she said. What is needed is someone to put all those pieces together.
“For example, I know the Canadian Mental Health Association does a marvelous job in supporting people with mental health issues.
“But I had no idea they also do some very good programming in [workplace health] and creating a supportive environment. I see you as a big connector in taking in all those pieces.”
PCU-WHS president Wolfgang Zimmermann said he is optimistic that the new emphasis on return-to-work and workplace mental health within the Labour Ministry will create new synergies and new opportunities for the university.