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 health.

Topics

Business Of The House
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business Of The House
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business Of The House
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-45, an act respecting the provision of increased funding for health care services, medical equipment, health information and communications technologies, early childhood development and other social services and to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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

October 17th, 2000 / 4:35 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to resume my speech on this important bill, a bill, as has been noted several times today, that is fully supported by the Canadian Alliance, although we do think improvements could have been made in this health accord.

The health accord does re-establish some of the money that was cut by the Liberal government over the last several years from the health care system. What it does not do is enshrine the health accord in the Canada Health Act itself so that stable, long term, five year funding is available for the provinces in order to plan their work and work their plan. That is a weakness of the bill.

It is interesting that we have now passed two bills today in their entirety. When there is not a lot of controversy about a bill and it is in the best interests of the country we want to be co-operative. We have already had a fair bit of discussion about this bill and we were given time to contact the people affected. All those things are possible. We passed two bills today that I hope will get royal assent before the week is out. It is nice to see that happen.

We think that business should continue to go ahead. However, this health accord, which should also go ahead, will be interrupted almost certainly by an election call on Sunday. We see an awful lot of crocodile tears on the Liberal side. We hear them saying “We have to approve this bill in all stages this afternoon or else basically it will not go anywhere”, or, “Desperate measures are required”, or, “We have to interrupt the rules of parliament. We cannot follow the rules of parliament”.

If there is desperation in the health care system, it has been caused by the government. Any desperation on the funding side has been caused by the cuts from the federal Liberal government. In its efforts to restore that, efforts that we approve of, it says we have to suspend the rules of parliament and pass all stages today or else the walls will come tumbling down.

This bill will get passed. It will go through a proper examination in committee where we can talk about it. Would it not be nice to talk to the Canadian Medical Association for a minute about this? Would it not be nice to make sure that the way the money is going to be distributed is in the best interests of everyone in all provinces? Of course it would.

The government is going to spend a good part of the campaign suggesting that unless it can suspend the rules of the House and pass it all today in all stages the end is near. Nobody is going to buy that argument. Everyone sees what is happening here. An election is coming and the government would like to have all the legislation disposed of in a couple of minutes here in the House as if the House does not matter.

Let me just talk about what the government is going to leave on the table. It will leave the health accord unfinished. We have said that we are prepared to come back next week and the week after and get at it. We want to do this properly and get it passed by Christmas but the government is going to call an election and suspend that.

What about some of the other things the government has left? What about the Financial Institutions Act? The banks have been looking for Bill C-38. The banks, the credit unions, the provinces, the consumers and other financial institutions want to modernize the Financial Institutions Act. We are ready to go with it. Let us debate it and get it passed.

That is not going to happen. It will get lost. The banks will be told “You are going to deal in an increasingly globalized financial world but you have to stick with the rules from the last century and that is just too bad”. That is too bad for the banks, the credit unions and the consumers, but it certainly is not because the opposition is not willing to get on with business. We want to get on with it.

What about the changes to the Young Offenders Act? That bill was brought in as Bill C-68 in the first session of parliament. After prorogation, it was renamed Bill C-3. It has been kicking around this place for years and it will die because the government cannot get its legislative act together.

Does anyone know how many bills have actually received royal assent during this fall session? I have the list here: one bill. The government feels that it might get another one passed so it might end up with two bills for the whole fall session. This health accord is certainly not one of them. The government could have brought it back the first day and we could have had a good debate on it. We could have gone right to work on it, but no, the government has been fiddling around with this, that and the other thing, with no idea of where it wants the country to go and no idea where it wants the legislative package to go.

It is as if the government wants to get all the legislation out on the table and pretend it has all been passed so that when it calls the election on Sunday it can say that it has addressed the Young Offenders Act and that the financial institutions have been looked after. Tomorrow it will give a mini-budget that will finally give the tax relief it has always promised. The government has not done it for seven years, but it will be talked about.

I have some more bills here. The international boundary waters legislation deals with the movement of bulk water sales. We support that bill. Let us bring it in and pass it next week. We will not because government members just want to talk about it. They pretend to work at the business of Canada. They pretend to care about these issues. They pretend to care about the health accord. However, when it comes right down to it, what do they do? They are all talk and no action. A title from the information commissioner's lament about the government is that it is all talk and no action.

We are going into an election without an act to amend the criminal code, dealing with cruelty to animals, disarming peace officers and so on. That bill is not going to come before the House.

How about the bill respecting marine liability, something that affects our shipping industry? We support that bill. Let us get at it today, tomorrow or the next day. Let us have it in the House for debate. We are not going to get to pass that legislation.

How about changes to the immigration system? The Liberals have been talking about it but it is not going to come. They talk and talk but no legislative bill ever makes it through the House of Commons.

What about the shipping and navigation bill? How about something as basic as the criminal code changes dealing with harassment, home invasion and the miscarriage of justice? We are ready. Let us bring that bill into the House today, tomorrow or the next day, sometime soon. Let us deal with home invasions because it is a big problem on the west coast. We want that law toughened up. We were to support that bill but we will not have the chance because it will be left on the table.

How many bills have been passed this fall? How many have received royal assent? One bill.

The government has brought a lot of bills. How about changes to the employment insurance system? That was a priority of the government. It brought in changes to the employment insurance system but it was not serious about that. It should properly be renamed “my hope to improve my chances in a certain region of Canada act”. The government has no intention of passing that legislation.

Why did the government bring in Mr. Tobin to be the minister? Why did it go to the other place and pick a senator, an unelected official, to sit in here as the minister from Nova Scotia? This is not about the issues or the legislation. It is all about the election.

How about the Eldorado nuclear limited reorganization act? It is housekeeping bill but we could pass that quickly. We could get on to business. Next week would be perfect. We could do it in a few days and it would be all over.

We could deal with the tax courts or with Bill C-43 which deals with income tax. Those are important. Let us deal with them.

How about an act to establish a foundation to fund sustainable development technology? We could have a debate in the House on that legislation but, no, the government will not do that.

How about the Manitoba claims settlement legislation? We could finish that up. The citizenship of Canada act legislation is something that the Liberals could talk about for a while. They will talk about it. They have tabled all this legislation.

If one could get elected on tabling, this government would win in a landslide. It has tabled everything but does not want to pass any of it. It is not about passing legislation. It is not about a vision for the future. It is about putting little tidbits out there hoping that enough interest groups will think the government is serious about the talk so that when the election comes the government can say that it is really serious about the sales tax and excise tax amendments. One might then say “Really? The government must have brought it to the House early and championed it hard”. The government would say “No, we just just tabled it”. It can claim 100% in tabling. If tabling were a university course these guys would get grade A in tabling.

They are not passing this list of legislation. They are only interested in the election. That is why, when the government shuffled the cabinet the other day—oh, was that just this morning? I thought I saw it being foreshadowed for several days in advance. When the government finally shuffled the cabinet, when the famous deck chairs were shuffled, what did it do? I actually watched it on TV. The government had four people sworn into cabinet. Two of them have not even been elected.

Is Mr. Tobin the best idea for industry minister that Canada ever had? It is not about that. Who cares about that? That is what the Liberals say. It is not about picking the best elected member of parliament to take that position. It is not even about expanding the gene pool, because that gene pool has been well worked over. It is a genetically modified Liberal gene pool. The Liberals all come out like cookie cutters. They do what they are told and they get a job like that.

It is interesting that the one outspoken member of cabinet, the guy we could at least count on to have a bit of backbone on occasion, is gone. The former veterans affairs minister is no longer with us, as they say in the funeral business. He has gone, not to the other place but to somewhere by the windows down there never to be heard from again. Why? Because an unelected person just took his place. In the vernacular, he is now sucking slough water while someone else is slurping at the trough. That is just what has happened. It is all about the election.

The bill on implementing the health accord that we are debating today does three-quarters of what the government should have done. Of course it should not ever have cut the funding to the extent it did to begin with, but at least the bill restores it. It is like kissing your sister: it's a kiss but it ain't everything it's cracked up to be. It is a little bit, so we will support it.

Instead of playing around with parliament like this, here is what would be a pleasure. I look forward to this, because in the byelection of our leader for the Canadian Alliance I was at a public meeting and one of the big cheers he got—and he has had many and he will get many more—occurred when he stood up and said that if he was elected prime minister it would be a pleasure, a week after the election at the press conference, to stand up and say “The next federal election will be held on October 30 of 2004”, whatever Monday that might be, four years from now. Then we would not have to go through this charade of tabling endless amounts of legislation for political showmanship and brinkmanship, which the government is practising today, the brinkmanship of “do as I say or else” something terrible will happen.

Would it not be nicer for the government to say “We have a legislative package to go through but another six months to do it in, so you can plan your life around that because these are the bills that are important to our vision for Canada. We hope you agree. If you do not, let us have a reasonable debate about it, let us pass the good stuff, amend the bad stuff and defeat the poor stuff, but you can count on it”?

There would be four years to get through the business of the House. The next party conventions could be planned around it. The Canadian people could make their election plans around it. Political activists who want to take time off work, and there are a few like that, would find it good too. The House would not be stuck in the position in which we find ourselves today, with a whole package of stuff, of legislative initiatives, some good, some bad and some correcting past wrongs like the bill we are talking about today.

At least then we will have it done in a structured way with a game plan and a House of Commons plan laid out for all Canadians. They will not have to come here three working days before the election call and say “If you do not give us everything we want, then it is the end of health care as we know it”. That is what they are going to say in the days to come.

That is a lousy way to run the country.

What a better way it would be to have a legislative package that the government is serious about, that spells out the vision for the country and that we have adequate time to deal with in the House of Commons. It would be like this: take it, win some, lose some, have some free votes on some things, and at the end of the day on a certain day four years from now the government would go to the electorate and say “Judge the record, this is the package that was completed”.

A half baked, half finished legislative calendar, like I have a list of here, is not the way to be serious about dealing with Canada's business. This is a lousy half measure, introduced in a poor, ad hoc way that is not indicative of good government.

That will change and it will change when the Canadian Alliance forms the government.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
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4:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, during the hon. member's comments he referred to the incoming new minister from Newfoundland and the outgoing minister from Newfoundland. I wonder if he would tell us what he thinks of a government who sends to the far corners of this House a minister who always looked after the people of Newfoundland and brings in somebody who has always looked after himself. What does it say about a government that would do something like that?

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4:50 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it says quite a bit and most of what it says is not too complimentary.

I do want to say, however, that the former minister of veterans affairs is not exactly as pure as the driven snow either. A week or so ago he was promising $10 million to move some jobs from one part of the country into his riding. This is the very sort of thing that we have been on about all day during question period, that is, it is the wrong way to run a country.

I will say this about the former veterans affairs minister, I think he is right. When necessary, and it happened throughout his career from time to time, he stood up to the government and said the way things should be.

On the health accord, as an example, it would be far better to have people on all sides of the House speak their minds in a way that moves the agenda forward rather than doing what they are doing over there today, which is political brinkmanship. They are going to say, and I heard it today from the Prime Minister during question period, “If you do not pass this thing in all stages today, then you are against health care”.

If the government would do everything we asked them to do today, we would have tax relief, parliamentary reform, a justice system that worked and equality for aboriginals. On and on it would go. If the Prime Minister would do everything we asked for today, I guess we would be further down the road, but we would have a Canadian Alliance government if that happened.

I do not expect that he is going to do that. What the Prime Minister is doing today is trying to paint a picture for the upcoming campaign. He is going to hang his head in sorrow at one of these press conferences and say “Woe is me. I could not get it through the House of Commons because I asked everyone else to suspend the rules of the House of Commons to get something through and they said that we should play by the rules”.

All we are asking for is that the government play by the rules. Let us get this thing done, but we can finish it next week. There is no panic about it. Everybody knows it will go ahead. We are all going to support it. I hope that today it will at least get through second reading. There is no reason we cannot finish this bill and finish it easily next week.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
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4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Before we get to the next questioner, for a moment I did not realize what bill we were on. This is Bill C-45, the health bill, so it would not be a bad idea to once in a while touch on the content of the bill, particularly in questions and comments.

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

4:55 p.m.

Reform

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, for the member for Fraser Valley, within the context of health care spending, while other countries are using their taxation policy as a lever for economic growth, our current government is content with the status quo. The status quo gives Canada the dubious distinction of having the highest personal income tax rate in the seven most industrialized countries and the second highest corporate taxes in the OECD.

Even the Liberal government's spending priorities do not rank any better. In fact, its own pollster, Pollara, revealed that in a recent survey of 5,300 Canadians, 73% of those polled thought the government was spending on the wrong priorities. We certainly have to look at the fact that without the EI surplus there would be a deficit of $6.8 billion in both 1999-2000 and 2000-01. It is about misplaced priorities: wise health care funding versus the current Liberal administration.

The health care bill is before us today. We must realize that any budget surplus comes not from the government but at the expense of overtaxed Canadians. What should we be doing here instead of rushing this kind of spending bill through the House at the last minute, at the dying end of parliament?

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
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4:55 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is all about priorities. When we talk about balancing the budget, it is balancing the budget at what level of taxation? That is a good debate to have. We could have it here in the House. Maybe it will start tomorrow when the minister makes his statement. He is going to say that revenues are higher than expected so Liberals are going to find ways to spend it. It is the old story. The government takes our money. We send our money to Ottawa, the government deducts 50% for handling and then spends it on pork-barrel projects we never asked for. That is the government's idea of management.

What we have said is that government has a legitimate role but it should be majoring in the majors, such as health care funding, research and development, higher education and certainly encouraging common education throughout the provinces as well.

It was interesting to note the comments of the member when he talked about the EI surplus. On the EI surplus there was just a little thing the government passed the other day, the tricky dicky move of the week. The government passed a little order on the government side that said the EI surplus belongs to the government, that EI surplus the EI commissioner says should be given back to the workers and the employers who contributed to the EI plan in benefits and in reduced rates of levies against employers, that combination. Instead the government says that it has just changed the rules and that it now owns the surplus.

It is just gone. The surplus just went into never-never land. To be used where? We will find out about some of it from the finance minister tomorrow. Tomorrow the finance minister will tell us that he has extra money. Some of it will be from the EI surplus. It is interesting how the government says that all this extra money from the high level of taxation has given it a surplus. The government says it will give us back a little of it in tax relief but then it has a whole bunch of government programs.

Let us not forget the health accord, because the government is going to mention the health accord in every other breath for the rest of time, I would say, as if it is new money. The government has that health accord but is forgetting to mention that the taxation level of personal income tax in Canada is the highest in the G-7. Have a nice day. I wonder why 65,000 Canadians left Canada last year primarily for the United States and a fairer tax regime.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
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4:55 p.m.

Reform

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague read out a number of bills that the government has introduced but has done nothing about.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague if he is aware of the various advertising programs that the government has gone through in the last three months, namely, a little booklet that went out to all seniors telling them about all the wonderful things the Liberal government has done. I wonder whether or not some of the tabled bills that have not been passed and have not gone through the system have been alluded to in that little booklet. I wonder also about the cost of that little booklet. I am also wondering about the cost of the $8 million ad campaign telling Canadians how wonderful the government is for solving the health care problems that it created. Are these costs also incurred through this multi-list of tabled bills that the government has put forth?

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
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4:55 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if we will ever know the costs in this parliament because of course those costs will no doubt be picked up by the auditor general in the next parliament. I expect that in the next parliament the auditor general is going to say that he has reviewed the spending bulge that took place during the pre-election period and that the advertising budget of the federal government suddenly had a giant need to communicate to Canadians in the month and a half preceding the federal election. It was practically a cosmic force that forced the Liberals to spend $8 million to advertise the Canada health accord that has not yet passed the House of Commons. However, that never stops the government. It spent $8 million to tell Canadians what we all read in the newspaper. It is all couched in terms that the government loves us and the government is here to help us. It is one of those things that no one really believes.

It was the same thing with the booklet that perhaps 30 million people got in the mail telling them about the 1-800 number they could phone if they had a problem with the government, because the government loved them.

I would expect that in the next parliament the auditor general will talk not just about the March madness, which is the spending that occurs every March when the government departments all have to feather their nests, but he will also talk about the little spending splurge of millions of dollars that the advertising department of the federal Government of Canada spent telling Canadians what they already knew from newspaper reports. That will be a shame. That money should have been spent on health care, education and research.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
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5 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-45, the bill dealing with health care funding.

The bill would ratify and implement the deal between the provinces and the federal government. We respect the fact that the provinces did reach an agreement with the federal government to increase funding and we support that. The Canadian Alliance supports increasing funding for health care, but we do not pretend that will solve the problem with health care. We do not believe that is the case.

Just because we support the bill does not mean that we will just let it pass all in one day. The Prime Minister in question period today said that if the bill did not pass by Friday, because the opposition wanted to talk about it or maybe some government MPs wanted to talk about it, then we were against health care. That is not the case.

Opposition members and government members want to speak on the bill because we have things we want to say on health care. We want to make the point that more money will not completely solve the problem. We want to make the point that the amount of money the government has agreed to put back into health care through the legislation and through its agreement with the provinces will not restore health funding by the amount it has cut over the last few years. It is absolutely absurd for the Prime Minister to say that if we do not agree with the bill and if we do not pass it immediately then we are against health care.

I remind the Prime Minister of a few facts about the legislation. One fact is that a bill of this magnitude has received less than six hours of debate in the House. Yet the Prime Minister said that if we did not pass it today we were against health care. The Prime Minister really does not understand the democratic process. He does not understand that the House is a place for debate. This House is a place where we should bring out different views on issues, especially on important issues like health care.

Debate on the bill was first called for on October 5. This was less than three and a half years into the government's mandate. The government has been in place for seven years. Yet the Prime Minister said if we did not let this pass we were against health care. We will tell that to Canadians. That is not right.

The Prime Minister is asking for the members of the House to break the rules of the House. That is what he called for in question period today. That is not right. We should have time to talk about the bill. We should not just pass it on through. We should give Canadians a chance to know what this piece of legislation is about.

The legislation is about ratifying the provincial-federal agreement on health care. It is about returning only part of the funding that the government reduced over its seven year mandate. It is not as wonderful a thing as the government makes it out to be. There is no increase in funding. This only returns part of the funding that the government cut over the past few years.

Does that mean we will hold up this legislation? Absolutely not. In fact, as far as I am concerned we can allow this to pass second reading in the next few minutes and get on to the rest of the process.

There is no reason that we cannot pass this bill over the next few weeks. We do not want to hold it up. We respect the fact that the provinces have reached an agreement with the federal government. The legislation would ratify the agreement so that the money could be paid out, but we are looking for proper debate on the issue.

It is ironic that the Prime Minister said that if we did not agree to pass this legislation immediately we were somehow against health care. If we look at the government's legislative calendar for the next three weeks, Bill C-45 is not even on the legislative calendar. That is the level of priority the Prime Minister gives to this piece of legislation. If the Prime Minister feels that the bill is important, as I think it is, and wants the bill to be dealt with in a quick fashion, then he should talk to the House leader and get him to put it on the legislative calendar as a top priority item. He has not done that.

Again, we are here to talk about ratifying this deal. Does the Canadian Alliance support passing Bill C-45? Yes, we do. We believe that restoring some of the funding which the Liberals cut from the provinces to fund health care is the right thing to do. We say they should restore all of the funding that they cut from the provinces over the past seven years of their mandate. We say this deal is not good enough. We say it is only a start.

When we form the government it will only be a start. We will not only focus on funding, we will focus on actual solutions to the problems in health care. We respect the jurisdiction of the provinces in health care. Under the Canadian constitution the provinces have jurisdiction over health care. We also respect the Canada Health Act.

Today in question period, the Leader of the Opposition said “Let us add a sixth pillar to the Canada Health Act”. That pillar would be guaranteed funding for the provinces. The provinces could then rely on getting a certain level of funding committed to and guaranteed by the federal government so that the federal government could not decide some time in the future to cut back, slash and burn health care funding. That is what the Liberals have done over the past seven years. We want a sixth pillar to health care which says we will guarantee funding over the long run.

How many Canadians know that when medicare was first agreed to back in the 1960s, the level of funding of the federal government was more than 50%? The provinces signed onto the deal because the federal government was committed to this level of funding. Have successive Liberal and Conservative governments respected that commitment? No, they have not. Now the federal government only funds somewhere around 13% of the cost of health care. It has absolutely reneged on the deal that a Liberal government committed to back in the sixties.

The Liberals reneged on the deal that the Liberal government committed to in the sixties. They reneged on the commitment to the Canadian people and to the premiers of the provinces back when the provinces agreed to publicly fund health care. That is just not right. That is why the Leader of the Opposition today stood in the House and said “Let us put that sixth pillar of health care in place”, and that would be—

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5:10 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to interrupt my friend's comments on health care but I think he made a serious error in saying that only 13% was covered by the federal government. Surely his notes must be incorrect.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

That was a sneaky point of order.