House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was defence.

Topics

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Reform

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, many other countries have gone through the same agony of trying to update their divorce and separation laws. Certainly Canada is far behind developments in the western world on that issue.

The road map is there, but the response of the federal government is that it is just one more study in the ongoing debate. The federal government has absolutely no political commitment to take action on the review of family law.

No matter where we go, from province to province, there is an agenda out there in the public, that is, the family law system is broken and in a mess and it needs leadership from the federal government, not an excuse saying that it is a complicated problem of shared federal-provincial jurisdiction and we must discuss it further.

I want leadership from the justice minister and the government with regard to taking some action and bringing the provinces along. We can restore the balance and fairness in family law.

Where appropriate, we can make family law much more child focused. We can develop shared parenting plans instead of seeing children as property. We can work with the shared jurisdiction of the provinces to enhance conflict resolution, non-court processes and unified family courts across the country.

We can implement specifically the recommendations of the report “For the Sake of the Children”, including the specific principle of shared parenting and mutual parental responsibility.

We have to improve the process whereby grandparents have to go through an extra barrier if they feel they have to get legally involved with the situation.

We also have to get the courts to enforce their own orders.

We have to deal with the issue of false allegations in the whole family law context.

There is a tremendous agenda but unfortunately the Liberal government has a track record of no commitment to getting anything done in the family law area.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words on the bill before the House today, the bill that is putting more money back into health care. I want to state the obvious, which is that even with the additional money, we will still not be back to the levels we would have been at if the government had not touched the bill in the first place back in 1995 in the budget of the Minister of Finance.

When the history of this period is written, we will find that there has been no government that has taken as much money out of social programs, particularly health care, as the conservative government across the way. I say conservative because it is more conservative than the Conservative government was when it comes to restricting programs for people.

Now of course we have an election campaign that is about to be announced. The Prime Minister will drop the writ this weekend for November 27. One wonders what that campaign is all about.

I think this campaign is more about the Prime Minister's fear of the Minister of Finance than his fear of the opposition parties. He is afraid of the Minister of Finance and afraid of a rebellion on the backbenches of the Liberal Party.

Here is a government whose cabinet has recommended no election this fall. Here is a government whose caucus recommends no election this fall. Here is a government whose pollster has recommended no election this fall. Here is a government that knows the Canadian people do not want to waste $100 million to $200 million on an election campaign this fall. Here is a government that is only three years and a few months into its mandate.

Here is a government that does not want a campaign, but there is a Prime Minister who wants a campaign because he is afraid of the Minister of Finance and a rebellion in the backbenches of the Liberal Party. That is what politics has been reduced to.

I wanted to say those words in the debate today because the Prime Minister has been trying to fast track absolutely everything so that he can drop the writ come Sunday of this particular week.

Some of my friends in the Liberal Party—and there is one behind the curtain now—are quite embarrassed by the Prime Minister in terms of how he is trying to engineer an election for his own purposes because of his fear of the Minister of Finance.

The Prime Minister of course is bringing in the premier of Newfoundland to be a minister in the government. The premier of Newfoundland is not a member of parliament and, God help us, not even a member of the other place, the Senate.

The Prime Minister is setting a really dangerous precedent. He did this with the minister for trade and the minister for intergovernmental affairs a few years ago. He put them in the cabinet and called a byelection to get them elected. They were not even members of parliament but were given cabinet positions. The same thing has happened with the premier of Newfoundland. He has been put in cabinet and is not a member of parliament.

The last time I remember that happening before this Prime Minister was back in the days when, I believe, the leader of the today's Conservative Party brought in a fellow named René de Cotret and put him in the cabinet. He later ran in Ottawa Centre. I think it also happened when former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau appointed Pierre Juneau way back in the 1970s or early 1980s.

Here we have a Prime Minister in the modern age taking someone who is not elected. He has done it three times. He is setting a very dangerous precedent by putting three people in cabinet with no election, without going to the people. I do not think that should be done. If someone wants to serve in the cabinet, he or she should be elected to the Parliament of Canada. The Prime Minister has not done that.

We should have a very healthy debate about all these issues. They are all very important. I believe we should have set election dates. We should have elections every four years unless the government falls on a confidence vote. We should have a set parliamentary timetable with a set time for a throne speech, a budget and a beginning and an end to a session so that the Prime Minister cannot manipulate the timetable for his own partisan political differences.

Some of the people most frustrated with this are the Liberal backbenchers themselves. When they walk out of the House they tell me how frustrated they are with a Prime Minister who runs a one man show with the support of one or two ministers and a few bureaucrats in his office, including one of my friends who I see across the House here today.

The system has to change. We need a government and a parliament that listens to the people of Canada. If we had that we would not have had the big cutbacks in health care in 1995 to begin with.

There are Liberals hanging their heads in shame. Their government has cut absolutely billions of dollars out of health care. They were a bunch of nervous nellies who were afraid of a Leader of the Opposition at that time who was advocating massive cutbacks in health care and in social programs. The Liberals cut back more than any other government in the history of Canada. They should be very embarrassed by their government's position.

Someone across the way said that it would be a dinosaur who would advocate more money for health care. I do not know where some of those Liberals have been but they should talk to the ordinary people in this country. Canadians want an investment into programs for people. They want the social deficit eliminated. They want the opportunity to have health care regardless of their incomes. Those are the things Canadians want but the government is cutting back on them.

Health care came into this country through a courageous fight many years ago waged by people in Saskatchewan. It began back in the 1940s with hospitalization and in the 1960s with health care. It was people like Tommy Douglas who brought health care into the country.

If we look at the Canadian population we will find that there is no program as popular in Canada as health care, yet we have Liberals across the way laughing about it, saying that it is an old-fashioned thing, that it is out of touch, a thing of the dinosaurs. I wish they would get up in the House and say that publicly rather than just heckling.

Last week I was talking with a number of people in the inner city of Regina who were very concerned about losing health care. They were very concerned about the government's massive cutbacks in all social programs. They were concerned about the government putting all the money on paying down the national debt while forgetting to invest in people and paying off the social deficit.

Where are the great progressive Liberals, those great left wing Liberals who used to stand in the House and advocate programs for people, advocate the redistribution of income and wealth in the country, advocate a vision of a country that is based on sharing, co-operation and greater equality? Now they seem to be Alliance people in a hurry. There is not much difference between the two parties in terms of their tax programs, paying down the national debt and forgetting about the fact that we need money and programs for the people.

There will be a choice in the election that is coming up. There will be a couple of different visions in the election. There are two parties, the Alliance and the Liberals, that share a very similar vision as to how they want to organize the economy. There is an argument as to whether or not they should put more money into the debt and deficit or put more money into helping wealthy people pay down their taxes.

The Alliance Party has a 17% flat tax that it is advocating in its second term, a flat tax that would be a big cutback for millionaires in the country. How much different is the Minister of Finance? A lot of his tax breaks have put a lot more money into the pockets of wealthy people in Canada as well.

I want to point out to the Canadian people that the Liberal Party across the way will leave a legacy of being the most conservative government in our post-war history: more conservative than the government of John Diefenbaker, more conservative than the government of Brian Mulroney and certainly more conservative than the governments of Pierre Trudeau and Lester Pearson.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Etobicoke North
Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if Canadians watching the debate today would be shocked to know that we are debating a bill that would put $23.5 billion back into the Canada health and social transfer to the provinces for health care and early childhood development.

If this bill passed, money in the medical equipment fund, a $1 billion fund, could flow tomorrow. We have members standing in the House denying Canadians the right to that medical equipment.

Let me give an example. In regard to the province of Saskatchewan, $33 million could be available tomorrow if its member would support this bill and get it through the House.

There is a member opposite from British Columbia, where $132 million could flow in the next few days for medical equipment such as MRIs and CAT scanners.

I have lost touch with the cost of an MRI or a CAT scanner, but if we are looking at $1 million or $2 million, Saskatchewan could have 30 of them in the next few days, and we sit here and debate this.

The bill would enact $23.5 billion in addition to $14 billion in the last two budgets that would be transferred to the provinces through the CHST for health care, post-secondary education and social programs.

How can the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle deny the residents and citizens of Saskatchewan access to this $33 million medical equipment fund?

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, did I hear the parliamentary secretary correctly? Did he say that in the next few days we will have 30 more MRIs in the province of Saskatchewan? Is it a commitment on behalf of the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance that in the next few days there will be 30 more MRIs? If that is the commitment, would he please get up and tell us that is a commitment by the Government of Canada. If it is not a commitment, then why does he say it?

He is complaining that I spoke for about eight or nine minutes in the House of Commons. The government could have put money into the health care system in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000. However, the government cut back its funding of the health care system by billions and billions of dollars making people suffer and making sure that hospitals closed from coast to coast in this country. Now he complains that we speak for 10 or 20 minutes in the House of Commons. Where is his common sense?

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find it quite interesting to listen to the parliamentary secretary when he said that if this bill does not pass today at all stages hell will freeze over and the end is upon us.

The parliamentary secretary knows full well that in discussions with the government House leader, we were told absolutely, point blank, that this bill must be passed by March 31 and I certainly hope it will be. It would be under a Canadian Alliance government. We were told that the funding is not in jeopardy and that the provinces will not be disallowed the right to buy MRIs or other equipment.

The government knows full well that the deal is going ahead. All the parties in the House of Commons are going to support it. We will support it. We want to make sure it goes ahead. The provinces can carry on in full confidence that the $1 billion in the technology fund which he talked about will be theirs. The agreement spells that out. Everyone in the House knows that is a fact.

This is the way the Liberals do business. They say either we agree with them and agree with them on their terms or we will be punished.

I would like the hon. member from Saskatchewan to describe for us what he thinks about being held to ransom by the Liberals. They are saying that we are not even allowed to talk about this issue because if we do it we are somehow anti-health care. What does he think of the Liberal tactics here this afternoon?

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, those are typical Liberal tactics. That is why I speak so much about reforming the parliamentary electoral system so people can have input, so there is proper debate and proper participation in how we spend the money that belongs to the taxpayers of the country.

When we debate an issue of importance like health care for a few minutes, they get upset because we are going to stall things. That is the same party, by the way, that has promised a home care system and pharmacare in this country. Where is pharmacare? Where is home care? We should be raising those questions in the debate today.

I remember my grandfather telling me years ago that the Liberal Party promised medicare in 1919 and fought for it. It did not come in until the 1960s. It only came in after it was started in Saskatchewan under the leadership of the CCF and Tommy Douglas. Can we believe the Liberal Party? That is its track record.

We need serious parliamentary reform in this country so we can hold ministers accountable, so we can have proper debates and so the people of the country can have their voices heard. If we do not do that we will find ourselves sleepwalking right into a crisis in democracy. We are seeing that today with the snap election call coming on Sunday by the Prime Minister. We are seeing it in the way he brought Brian Tobin, the premier of Newfoundland, into cabinet without a seat in the House of Commons. That is really shameful and cynical political behaviour on the behalf of the Prime Minister of Canada.

We know it is a fact that the Liberal Party does not want this election campaign. The cabinet has been advising against it. The caucus has advised against it. The Liberals' own pollsters advised against it and yet the Prime Minister is trigger happy and wants to call an election campaign. Is that democracy? Is that the kind of system where we have checks and balances, where ordinary people's voices can be heard, where people are empowered and where we have a democratic system? Should one man be able to call an election whenever he wants regardless of what is happening in the country and regardless of what bills are before the House of Commons? My answer to that is no.

We have a country where the Prime Minister appoints the head of the army, the head of the police, the head of the supreme court, all the justices, all the senators, all the cabinet ministers and makes every major appointment in government without any proper checks and balances by the House of Commons. This is something that should be changed. We need a political system that is democratic and that empowers people.

Finally, we need a change in the electoral system to bring in a measure for proportionate representation where everybody's vote counts and votes are not wasted. That is the kind of agenda we need in this country.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague from the NDP to refer to some of the remarks that were just made by the Liberal member a few moments ago. Let us be honest. The only reason we are debating this health care accord is not because of the federal government, it is because of the leadership that the provinces provided. They pretty much dragged the federal government kicking and screaming to the table to negotiate this particular accord.

Does the hon. member agree with the Progressive Conservative sentiment that this bill should be reclassified as the post-dated cheque bill, given the fact that none of the dollars that were initially cut by the federal government for health care will be restored immediately? It will be done partially next April, but the dollars that were cut will not hit the 1994 levels for over three years. Would the hon. member support that this was a provincially led initiative that the government had to accept because it was a take it or leave it deal?

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I think it absolutely is. Most of the money will start flowing well after the bill has passed through the House. The money will go out next year and the year after and the year after that but not in the immediate future.

Once again, and I think the parliamentary secretary knows this, it was the leadership that came from the provinces, particularly from premiers like Premier Doer of Manitoba, the chair of the premiers this year, and Premier Romanow of Saskatchewan, who started to put this on the agenda a number of years ago. This forced the federal government to act. The federal government was a very hesitant player in terms of putting more money back into health care.

This is the most important issue in the country. The money is there. It is about time we reinvested more money into health care.

I would like to enquire via questions and comments, where is the promise on pharmacare? Where is the delivery and promise on home care? I see Liberals hanging their heads and not getting up to respond to that.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to enter into this debate on what I think Canadians think is a very important bill. It is a bill that the Canadian Alliance is pleased to support. We do not think it is perfect but we are supportive of it in the sense that it restores some of the gutting of the Canada health funding, which took place under this Liberal government, and restores, at least in part over the next few years, what the government took away.

It reminds me of a famous political story in British Columbia. B.C. had a premier who people said would put rocks in shoes for the entire time he was in office. However, just before the election he would pull out two or three rocks expecting that everyone would say thanks for the relief and that his party would be re-elected. That premier is long gone so we will not talk about him. This reminds me of what the Liberals are up to today.

When it comes to health care, it is interesting and instructive to go right to the platform that the Canadian Alliance Party will be campaigning on in the weeks ahead. It is pretty straightforward and in a capsulated form on the right hand side of a document that can be found at www.Canadian Alliance.ca.

First, our plan for the health care system is to maintain Canada's medicare vision and the five principles of the Canada Health Act.

Second is to replace federal-provincial confrontation with a more co-operative approach. We should not have to drag the federal government to these meetings. It should be co-operative. Let us try to work together on health care.

Third is to maintain funding commitments to health care with a built in funding escalator to allow for increases in population, changes in demographics and so on. That will be built into our plan.

Improved funding will increase access to quality care for the family. That is a given and everyone knows that. We will also guarantee in law long term funding to the provinces so we can rebuild our health care system with confidence. That is the big thing.

Our plan also says that right now the Canada Health Act does not impose any obligation on Ottawa to maintain funding levels. The health accord that we are talking about today does not obligate the federal government in the long term to give strategic long term funding in health care. It is a short term agreement and is good as far as it goes. However, it does not commit the federal government in legislation that the provinces can count on the funding for the future. Our plan goes on to say that the Canadian Alliance thinks it is wrong that the health act does not include that right now. We will amend the Canada Health Act to ensure that the federal government cannot unilaterally cut health care funding again. We propose to entrench five year funding agreements, negotiated with the provinces, in the Canada Health Act.

The reason this is important is that the federal government, and we saw some of it here this afternoon already, will go into this next campaign and it will say all kinds of things, particularly about our party, I believe. They brought in Mr. Tobin from Atlantic Canada. They needed a rat pack organizer and brought in the king of the rat pack to do it. He will be the king of the drive-by smear. Whatever is said about the Canadian Alliance, his job will be to paint an evil picture of it.

It reminds me a little bit of something our leader said in a speech the other day when we launched our platform campaign in Kitchener. Close to 2,000 people came out to hear this. He talked a little bit about the health care funding. I remember it well and it is something to remember for this coming campaign. He had some advice for the Liberals, which was to try telling the truth all the time.

It is so innovative for the Liberals that they might actually find it is something worthwhile. Instead of saying, for instance, that the Canadian Alliance will do away with the Canada Health Act, maybe the Liberals would like to pick up the document, turn to page 15 and say that we will maintain Canada's medicare vision in the five principles of the Canada Health Act.

When the Liberals speak the truth, it might even feel good to them. Instead of smearing other people, instead of spreading lies, spreading innuendo, spreading nonsense that they know is not true, what if they actually got up and spoke the truth?

There is an old saying that the truth shall set us free. What it means is that it is a very freeing thing to tell the truth, even about someone we may oppose politically. Instead of attacking someone individually, instead of going childishly off into the distance, painting on campaign signs and literature and thinking it is funny, why do they not try just telling the truth that the Alliance will maintain the Canada Health Act, will enshrine five year funding agreements with the provinces, will give Canadians back what the Liberal government took away and will do it in spades?

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I know the House will look forward to the continuation of the hon. member's remarks later today. I should advise him and the House that there are 15 minutes remaining for him to complete his speech.

Auditor General's Report
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I have the honour to lay upon the table the supplementary report of the Auditor General of Canada to the House of Commons, volume II, for October 2000.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(e), this document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Miss India-Canada Pageant
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past summer the 10th annual Miss India-Canada pageant was held in Toronto. It gives me great pleasure to rise today to congratulate the winner, a resident of Ottawa Centre, Miss Ritu Jalhan.

The Miss India-Canada pageant provides young Canadian women of Indian origin a platform to display their grace, talent, community contribution and knowledge.

Miss Jalhan, a 20 year old student who is currently studying anthropology at York University, was encouraged to enter the pageant by her friend.

I am sure my colleagues will join me in offering congratulations to Miss Jalhan.

Federal Election
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Derrek Konrad Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, it appears that the momentum for an election has gathered a life of its own and that a fall election is now inevitable.

I may not be here after the election to take part in the debates in the House but I do want to go on the record as saying that it has been a meaningful experience.

When I ran for election in 1997, I believed that some of the most important things I could do would be to fight for equality among all Canadians and work toward an egalitarian society, one that did not categorize its people on the basis of race. I also believed that it was necessary to restore respect for all human life from conception to natural death.

I leave without having accomplished either goal, but when I was campaigning I made only one promise, which was to be faithful and to make a good effort. I believe that I have honoured that commitment by contributing to the debate.

Aside from those two larger issues, I have enjoyed serving the people of Prince Albert. I thank them for entrusting their federal affairs to me over the past three and half years. I look forward to what the future holds for me. I wish you well, Mr. Speaker, and all of my colleagues as well.

Performing Arts Awards
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, on October 12, the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation announced the award winners for the year 2000. This is the ninth year these awards have been given in recognition of an illustrious career in the arts.

Each of the recipients has left his or her own individual mark and continues to inspire generations of Canadians. This year's winners of the Governor General's awards for the performing arts are: Janette Bertrand, Fernand Nault, Teresa Stratas, Stompin' Tom Connors, Christopher Newton and Donald Sutherland.

Two other prestigious awards were also announced last Thursday. The Ramon John Hnatyshyn award for volunteerism in the performing arts was awarded to Mr. Walter Carsen.

The National Arts Centre award went to the Cirque du Soleil.

I would hope the House will take this opportunity to thank all of the winners for their remarkable contribution to the growth of the arts in Canada.

The Francophonie
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, the secretary general of the Organisation internationale de la francophonie, His Excellency Boutros Boutros-Ghali, is visiting Quebec from October 16 to 18.

He will give a speech on the new political, economic and cultural dimensions of the Francophonie. Later in the week, he will address the theme of the Francophonie and democracy.

By placing emphasis on this important visit, Canada and Quebec are strengthening their ties with other parts of the world that share the same ideas on the protection and growth of the French culture. In addition, we are continuing in our determination to share the wealth that comes of living in French with the people of the Francophonie.

We therefore extend a welcome to His Excellency Boutros Boutros-Gali in the knowledge that Quebec will continue to take the lead in its role as home of the Francophonie in North America.