Premier Christy Clark with Vancouver mom bloggers

Yes. I asked the Premier of British Columbia about breasts. Well, breast cancer actually. To be even more specific – breast cancer screening.

I was recently invited to participate in a mom blogger round table discussion with the Honourable Christy Clark, Premier of BC. I felt extremely lucky to be included, and thank Christine at VancouverMom.ca for passing my name along.

I understand that this is the first time a Premier of BC has ever reached out to bloggers in this way, and I would be surprised if ANY Premier from across Canada had done this before. Given the current government’s pillar of Families First, it was a good move. A risky one, because we bloggers can be fairly vocal (!), but a good move nonetheless.

The session was hosted by Director of Outreach Pamela Martin, and both she and Premier Clark took notes throughout. The first topic raised was the idea of a business-starter loan or grants program for parent entrepreneurs. That was quickly followed by a discussion on childcare, with cost of care being one of the main reasons parents opt to become entrepreneurs in the first place.

The cost of bridge tolls was also brought up, and I thought Premier Clark handled the topic extremely well, speaking eloquently with passion and conviction. She gave her opinion that the daily time saved by the new bridges and routes was worth the average $3.00 cost. An hour more per day at home with your family – what price would you put on that?

I knew all the standard parenting topics were covered by my counterparts, so I chose to ask a question that was important to me as a woman bearing down on the age of 40. A bit of background – last November a set of guidelines, or recommendations, were published by the Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health on the topic of breast cancer detection. These included NOT recommending mammograms for women between 40 and 49, NOT performing self-checks, and NOT having a health care provider do an annual clinical breast exam. I’m really not sure what option they’re leaving for women 40-49 to potentially detect a lump, unless they just expect them to wait until it’s visible?

Currently, in BC, women 40-79 can have a free regular mammogram without a doctor’s referral. We are considered the gold standard in Canada, and have the highest five-year survival rate (91.8%) of any province across the country. Mortality rates are decreasing, and this is attributed to, among other things, established screening programs. Provincial governments are taking the Task Force’s guidelines under consideration, and BC has yet to reach a decision as to whether or not they will implement the new recommendations.

I figured this was the time to ask Premier Clark – would the government ever actually consider taking AWAY the eligibility of women 40 to 49 to access screening mammography? Would they ever even entertain the notion of introducing regulations that could reduce our “gold standard” rating and potentially put women’s lives at risk?

The answer was absolutely beautiful: “Not on my watch!” replied Premier Christy Clark. “Not on my watch!”

Now, I know we were just a group of people in a room having a discussion and there was nothing official about it, but the idealist in me likes to think that maybe, just maybe, Premier Clark will remember that comment. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll be in a position to make good on the statement.

It will be interesting to see how they continue to stay in touch with us, and whether or not any developments arise as a result of our discussion. Time will tell. Whatever happens, I am grateful that I was included.