House of Commons Hansard #255 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Department Of Health Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—Woodbine, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am supporting Bill C-95 because of the important role Health Canada plays in the life of Canadians. Too often Canadians, and even some hon. members of the Chamber, do not realize that there is more to health than the Canada Health Act. Health Canada supports unique federal roles and responsibilities. The work undertaken by the department is far reaching and important.

Health Canada not only provides the benefits of universal health insurance. It also ensures the safety of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices and consumer products. It invests hundreds of millions of dollars in health research. It monitors disease in developing pathogens and it conducts a wide variety of health promotion programs and activities.

Finally, Health Canada administers health services to First Nations, federal public servants, Canadian civil aviation personnel and Canadians in need of emergency health and social services in case of national civil disaster.

The department touches Canadians every day in all aspects of their lives. Canadians look on their health system with pride. They have an overwhelming degree of satisfaction with what the department is doing. They expect governments to work hard to adapt to changing times and priorities. They understand the need for cost effectiveness, but they demand the security of a department concerned with maintaining and improving the health of all Canadians.

The government has recognized that economically disadvantaged, unemployed or poorly educated Canadians are more likely to suffer from ill health and to have a lower life expectancy. Like governments everywhere we will strive to deal with these problems. We are committed to an equitable health care system. The vast majority of Canadians are solidly behind the efforts being made by government, professional groups and other stakeholders to improve the efficiency of the system.

Canada has a long history of commitment to these principles in serving a dispersed population in a federal system of government. We will maintain our commitment to these principles notwithstanding some difficult economic reality that we, as many nations of the world, are experiencing at the moment.

Canadians look to Health Canada for reassurance whenever there are natural or civilian disasters or threats to national health from chronic diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis or communicable diseases such as AIDS, HIV or the Ebola virus.

Within Health Canada 6,400 employees work to provide Canadians with the research data, programs, information and support they need to make positive lifestyle decisions. The business of the department is conducted in offices and laboratories, in cities and on reserves located on sites all across Canada. Just over half the department's employees work in the national capital region while the rest work in regional offices, collaborating with their provincial, territorial and non-government counterparts.

The Canada Health Act is administered by about 25 employees in Ottawa. The face of Health Canada comprises many names and many talents. Forty per cent of Health Canada staff are involved in the area of health protection, keeping Canadians safe from risks to their health arising from emerging diseases, dangerous products, the environment or unsafe food or drugs.

Defining, assessing and managing current and emerging health risks are also among branch responsibilities, along with maintaining the country's health protection infrastructure. More than 2,000 employees of Health Canada work in the area of First Nations health within the medical services branch. It is often forgotten that two-thirds of the budget of the department, excluding transfers to provinces, is devoted to native health.

Health Canada provides community health services to status Indians on reserves and to residents of Yukon through 600 health facilities across Canada. In order to help First Nations to achieve the highest possible standards of health care, the department has undertaken a variety of initiatives. These include the five-year building health communities strategy and the aboriginal head start

program aimed at children. The latter is a government red book initiative.

However the department's major focus remains the transfer of control of programs to First Nations. The first main program of Health Canada is the health promotion and programs branch involving some 525 people. They provide support to groups at risk, including children, families and seniors, and develop programs to prevent and reduce heart disease, breast cancer and other illnesses. They also work with and assist Canada's many national voluntary organizations.

It is not well known that the federal government spends about $340 million on health research annually. Altogether we estimate that in Canada we spend about $1.5 billion a year on health research. This is a very impressive number.

Each of the three program areas has staff in every province and territory. Not only are offices located in provincial capitals but members will find Health Canada staff in smaller centres like Trois-Rivières, Hamilton, Thompson, Port Qu'Appelle, the Sarcee reserve at Tsuu Pina in northern Alberta, and Prince George.

Most of the remaining thousand or so employees work in the national capital region managing the department, developing health policy and legislation, undertaking consultation and managing essential departmental services. About 250 people work in the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board and the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission.

Canadians have a strong attachment to their health system and the federal role in it. They look to the federal government to provide a viable, well managed national health care system. According to an Angus Reid poll of March 1995 almost all Canadians want national standards in health care, with 94 per cent saying such standards are somewhat or very essential.

At a time when so much is changing in Canada and in the world people need security to cope with change. They expect their governments to play an important role in that regard by providing Canadians with the best health care system in the world and by reassuring them that they will be taken care of if they are sick, that the products they use are safe and that the most advanced research goes into the measures Health Canada takes to prevent disease. The Department of Health does this to earn the trust and confidence of Canadians.

We have proven over and over again that a publicly administered health care system is the most effective, most inclusive and most successful system one in the world. Privatization of the health care system is a weakening of the system of health care. It only makes the private corporations wealthier at the expense of those who need health care and at the expense of accessibility.

This is why I support the bill and I encourage all members of the House to do so.

Department Of Health Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we are considering Bill C-95, an act to establish the Department of Health.

This bill contains a number of disturbing clauses, and the Bloc members who spoke before me in this debate pointed out that the provinces will have to pay close attention to how the federal health minister implements these clauses, because they give the federal government an opportunity to encroach on an area of provincial jurisdiction.

I think that our concerns are totally justified; I would like to go beyond the clauses themselves and look at how the Department of Health has been positioning itself for some time now.

As hon. members will recall, in the throne speech almost two years ago, the government announced the national forum on health with great fanfare. What has happened since then?

I would like to think about this because I think it puts the bill before us in a special light and allows us to express a number of reservations with arguments that everyone can understand better.

This forum on health officially started its operations on October 20, 1994, under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister and the vice-chairmanship of the Minister of Health. The mandate of this forum is to improve the health of the Canadian people, increase the effectiveness and efficiency of health care services, and make recommendations to help the government achieve these goals.

We should point out here that the federal government does not miss any opportunity to interfere in the area of health. The federal government therefore decided to participate in the debate and even to initiate the consulting process to assess the Canadian health system, despite the fact that this is an area of exclusive provincial jurisdiction, while setting future priorities in order to improve the quality of health care.

The federal government is making a lot of claims. As you will recall, it turned down the request by provinces to participate fully in the work of the national forum on health. Instead, the Liberals decided to let the provinces attend the forum but only as observers.

How, I ask you, could the federal government disregard the main stakeholders in the area of health, namely the provinces? On September 27, 1994, the current Minister of Labour, who was then Quebec's Minister of Health, told La Presse : ``The federal government's conduct does not make any sense. How can they contemplate reviewing the health care system without the partici-

pation of the provinces, which must provide the services. It is simply unacceptable".

Senator Thérèse Lavoie-Roux said, in the other place, on May 31, 1994, that the government was headed in the wrong direction by overlooking the role of the provinces. She said, and I quote: "Are the provinces not considered major partners? Why were they not invited to participate in the forum? Does the leader find it appropriate for the government to be acting unilaterally on a matter of provincial responsibility?"

Needless to say that the federal government went ahead with its national forum on health, in spite of the strong objections of the key players in the health sector, namely the provinces.

On October 21, 1994, during question period, the Prime Minister said, and I quote: "We in Canada cannot afford to lose our health insurance system because we did not take the time to plan for the future".

That statement from the Prime Minister is telling in more ways than one. First, the federal government sets itself up as keeper and promoter of the quality of health care services provided to the public. According to the Prime Minister, it is thanks to the federal government if the health care system, as it exists, is the pride of Canadians.

Following a meeting with provincial officials in Victoria, the health minister said, in a press release: "The October 15 date is final. However, I believe we can reach an agreement to end extra-billing by clinics to cover essential medical services. It was never my intention to penalize the provinces, but I firmly intend to preserve and to protect Canada's health care system".

Meanwhile, the federal government is careful not to mention the dramatic consequences of its financial withdrawal which, for Quebec alone, will have resulted in a shortfall of over $8 billion between 1982-83 and 1994-95. That is a lot of money, considering that the government claims to be the keeper of health care in Canada.

The government is also trying to give the impression that it is the only one able and willing to propose efficient solutions to solve the thorny issue of funding for our health care system, as it currently exists. The federal government goes so far as to assume the responsibility of defining priorities to preserve the future of quality health care services.

The Prime Minister's statement shows to what degree the federal government sees itself as the "great thinker" regarding Canada's current and future health care systems, as well as the one which can ensure that it remains accessible, free and universal.

Let me quote an excerpt from a document on the federal-provincial perspective prepared by Thomas Duperré on behalf of Quebec's commission of inquiry on health and social services: "By using several programs gradually put in place over the years, the federal health department tends to give itself overall responsibility for health and social services, and it does not hesitate to describe itself as the main architect of the implementation and smooth operation of Canada's health system. It should be noted that, for the Canadian government, health services (and, to a lesser degree, social services) in this country form, to a large extent, a nationwide system. Indeed, Ottawa sees provincial governments as mere health care providers, and provincial programs, which never seem to form a global structure, as mere elements of the national system. Provinces, and particularly Quebec, sometimes find it hard to understand the federal government's attitude in the health and social sector. This is because they forget that, rightly or wrongly, the central government gives itself a much larger role than the one provided in the constitution".

Nevertheless, it is obvious that the provinces constitute the ideal sociopolitical agent for health system reform. According to the distribution of powers under the 1867 Constitution Act, only the provinces have the power to create, deliver and administer health and social services to the public.

Let us look at the example of the various actions undertaken by the government of Quebec to transform, modify and improve the health system over the past ten years. Let us think of the Rochon Commission, which took a critical look at the entire health system in Quebec. Each component of the system was placed under scrutiny and a number of groups involved in the health field spoke before public Commission hearings, in order to make known their concerns, their anguish, and their suggestions for improving the irritants inherent to the system.

After this brief review, I hardly need point out in connection with Bill C-95 that the provinces and Quebec are the ones best placed to intervene directly and knowledgeably in the system of health care and services. Who better than the provinces to know what the true issues are, and what solutions are required, to keep the health system accessible, universal and free of charge?

The better solution by far would be to hand over to the provinces all taxes earmarked for health care, allowing them to provide their populations with appropriate and suitable health services. Interaction between the provinces would result in agreements to ensure the delivery of services that, while homogeneous and equivalent,

were tailored to the specific requirements and means of each province, Quebec in particular. I shall close on this note,Mr. Speaker. Thank you for your kind attention.

Department Of Health Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Vancouver Centre
B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments.

The hon. member spoke about the health forum. He said the health forum is encroaching on provincial jurisdictions. The health forum is a dialogue by Canadians who form the forum and who were chosen from every province. They have an ongoing dialogue with Canadians to see Canadians' vision for health system as we move into the 21st century.

I believe it is appropriate for the health forum to do exactly that because Canadian medicare is Canadian medicare. It is pan-provincial. It is a Canadian institution. Eighty-nine per cent of Canadians from every province agree and support medicare as something they treasure as a Canadian system of values and as being completely Canadian in its context.

The provinces deliver services. Nothing in the dialogue the health forum is having with Canadians should interfere with that. These are Canadians speaking with Canadians to get a vision of their health care and reporting back to the Prime Minister on what they believe in. It is appropriate for the federal government to meet and speak with the Canadian people. We talk about a bottom up approach to health care. Everyone agrees we need to know what people think.

Decisions in health care have always been made between governments and through discussion among governments in the health ministers' forum. It is very rare that the people of Canada get an opportunity to have an ongoing dialogue. This is putting the health care system into the hands of the people and letting them describe a vision for Canada as opposed to governments describing a vision for health care in Canada. I believe this is extremely appropriate.

Nothing in this interferes with the parallel meetings that occur constantly between deputy ministers of health in every province and the deputy minister of health in the federal government, and between ministers of health of every province and the federal Minister of Health. They are parallel. They are government to government. They discuss what governments can do.

This is important. Health care is a three-legged stool. That stool comprises of the consumer, the Canadian public, who uses those services, the provincial governments which provide, manage and administer those services, and the federal government which has been given the mandate under the Canada Health Act to ensure the five principles of Canadian medicare are kept. One leg of that stool has been pretty shaky. No one has bothered to talk to that leg for a long time.

The Prime Minister has said it is important for the people of Canada to speak about their vision. This is extremely appropriate if we see Canada as one country.

Department Of Health Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, you will permit me to disagree completely with my hon. colleague's remarks.

Health is a provincial matter. If the federal government wants to keep an eye on all the provinces, it should not go through the people of the provinces, but through the governments, whose job it is to administer the system within their province. When you start short-circuiting the authority of the individual provinces and going directly to individual citizens, you are short-circuiting a process that is normal, natural and desirable, because it is practical and necessary. You mess up the whole thing.

In June 1994, a journalist called me and asked me about the forum. I said it was window dressing. I say the same thing today, almost two years after the speech from the throne, this forum has served absolutely no purpose. We have not made any progress, and the provinces are increasingly aware that they are being given responsibilities and deprived of the means to carry them out. This is both unfair and inefficient, and, in the final analysis, the provinces will have the last word, because common sense always prevails.

Department Of Health Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

My dear colleagues, it being two o'clock p.m., we will now proceed to statements by members.

Canadian Veterans
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Hickey St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the past year we watched Canadian veterans return to the Netherlands to places they had fought and where many of their comrades laid down their lives in the defence of freedom. These veterans were greeted as the heroes they are. Dutch children have been taught about the Canadian sacrifice to liberate their country.

It is imperative for Canadian children to learn those same lessons. This week is National Veterans' Week. My home province of Newfoundland has also signed a proclamation declaring this Remembrance Week, the first province to do so. The flag of remembrance will be flown outside schools and municipal and provincial buildings across our province.

These tributes are important. We must take the time to remind ourselves and to teach our children about the courage and sacrifice of Canada's veterans.

In wartime and in peacekeeping missions around the world they have left a legacy of which we can be extremely proud.

Canadian Armed Forces
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the latest information on the practices of the former Airborne Regiment in Petawawa is distressing. The revelation of more and more repugnant practices by former members of the Regiment not only tarnishes the reputation of Canada's armed forces, but indicates that a significant change must take place within the armed forces.

How could anyone tolerate a celebration of the anniversary of the massacre of 14 innocent women at l'École polytechnique? These sordid celebrations are an insult for and an attack on all women.

I call on the Minister of National Defence to act quickly to put an end to the unacceptable behaviour of the Canadian armed forces, which, it would appear, took place with the approval of higher ranking officers. Women are entitled to a public apology.

Armed Forces Pensioners/Annuitants Association
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Jack Frazer Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Armed Forces Pensioners/Annuitants Association contracted a group dental insurance plan, but only under the proviso that monthly premiums be deducted at source.

The request to do so went to Treasury Board in October 1993. Only after many follow-up inquiries did the minister, almost two years later, finally agree to consider the pension deductions.

However, planned implementation could be no sooner than the summer of 1996 and at an estimated cost of "no less than $100,000" for system development.

Treasury Board already processes payroll deductions for income tax, union dues, United Way campaigns, Canada savings bonds and other insurance plans. The software programs are in place and do not require the massive rewrites suggested by the minister.

The association is willing to pay reasonable administrative charges so there would be no cost to the taxpayer. Rather than letting his bureaucrats place unreasonable impediments in the way, the minister should direct Treasury Board to provide this service to a group of people who simply wish to protect their dental health.

Canadian Unity
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Jag Bhaduria Markham—Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the people of Quebec for the patriotic and historic decision they took last week by opting to remain in Canada. Fellow Canadians living outside Quebec are grateful for this expression of confidence.

At this time I also express my personal gratitude to the constituents of my riding who travelled with me by bus to Montreal on Friday the week before, and to the more than 50,000 South Asians living in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec who worked with me over the past two months on the Canadian unity campaign. To all of you I say your efforts are deeply appreciated by all Canadians. The dedication and tireless efforts to serve your host country will long be remembered.

Finally, it was a pleasure to work with the various South Asian community leaders in Quebec during the referendum campaign. In a true sense you have made Canada strong and free.

Take Our Kids To Work Day
Statements By Members

November 6th, 1995 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Nault Kenora—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, as members may be aware, this Wednesday is Take Our Kids to Work Day.

Sponsored in part by the federal human resources department, 150,000 grade nine students from across Ontario will spend the day at the job of a parent, relative or other adult. This program is an integral part of the grade nine program and is supported by a majority of school boards across Ontario. Through direct experience it shows young people how important skills, training and education are to their success.

Today I have a constituent, Natalie Martz, shadowing me on the job. I am pleased to participate in such a valuable program and I encourage all members who have the opportunity to do so.

Radarsat
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Carleton—Gloucester, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada has just launched Radarsat, its first earth observation satellite. With Radarsat, Canada undertakes a new international business venture using satellite imagery to monitor our environment and manage our natural resources.

In addition to providing us with exclusive images of our planet, Radarsat will allow us to follow the movement of ice in the Arctic, monitor the risks of forest fires, and detect pollution in coastal waters.

Radarsat is among the first symbols of the evolution of our knowledge-based society. It also provides concrete evidence that space science can have major commercial benefits on earth.

Anne Beaudry-Gourd
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Albina Guarnieri Mississauga East, ON

Mr. Speaker, last Friday, the audience at Place des Arts in Montreal witnessed the triumph of the human spirit and the overcoming of physical barriers to success.

At 75 years of age, Anne Beaudry-Gourd became the oldest graduate of the University of Quebec in Montreal when she received a Master's Degree in death studies.

This great achievement comes after Mrs. Beaudry-Gourd raised nine children, cared for a sick husband, hosted the radio program Au pays des livres in the Abitibi region for several years, founded the two municipal libraries in Rouyn and Noranda, and won a literary prize with, among other things, an article on the German writer Gertrude von Lefort.

Mrs. Beaudry-Gourd succeeded thanks to her great determination and tremendous potential. Congratulations to a much loved and admired woman.

New Brunswick Premier
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, Premier McKenna is on a mission in western Canada. He wants to explain to his colleagues that the distinct society clause to which the Prime Minister of Canada and he himself are referring is indeed the meaningless concept set out in the Charlottetown accord, even though this accord was rejected by a majority of Quebecers and Canadians.

To support his arguments, he can also remind those unfamiliar with constitutional wrangling of the key role he played in killing the Meech Lake accord. Despite Mr. McKenna's assurances on the purely symbolic value of the distinct society clause, the premiers of Ontario and western Canada are incapable of recognizing, even half-heartedly, the existence of the people of Quebec.

Since we know that two out of three Canadians do not want to reopen the constitution, Quebecers will quickly realize that the vague promises of change and the McKenna-style machinations in favour of distinct society are nothing but a ruse, and that real change can only be achieved through Quebec sovereignty.

Prime Minister
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, in opposition Jean Chrétien told minister Kim Campbell that-

Prime Minister
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I ask the hon. member to refer to present members in the House by their riding or title.