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

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Scarborough Centre
Ontario

Liberal

John Cannis Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, yes, we have a Minister of Industry and allow me to offer my congratulations this morning.

I was very pleased that the Alliance Party member for Peace River expressed himself on the bill. We all heard him speak in support of the bill. It is really a housekeeping bill as he clearly stated. On our side we fully appreciate the fact that there is good co-operation on the bill. He referred, for example, to the BC Tel act, which was enacted in 1916. We certainly have to modernize things, and that is what we are trying to do.

He touched upon some of the most important issues. I will not go into the nitty-gritty, but through Bill S-26 we are trying not only to modernize but to create a level playing field so that telecommunications companies have an opportunity to compete, to remain strong and to grow. Not only will they offer excellent service but at the same time will create opportunities for Canadians locally and abroad.

I thank everyone for co-operating in moving the bill forward. It is also important to take this opportunity to talk about some issues with which we are faced today.

The member for Peace River touched upon some very important points. He talked about technology and how we had moved forward. I stand here proudly as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry to talk about our connecting Canadians program and our computers for schools program which put our country above every other nation. We are probably the most connected nation in the world, offering high speed Internet and low cost. As Canadians we feel very proud of it.

The member raised one very important issue. He talked about how we had better policy to deal with our international partners than we do within the provinces. He is right.

The federal government cannot simply stand and say it wants to do something. Provincial jurisdiction has to be respected. We have to work with our provincial partners. I know the member agrees; we have talked about it personally. I am sure he feels that by working together we will slowly, hopefully, overcome those barriers as quickly as possible for the good of each Canadian.

I will touch upon some of his points. He talked about companies and people moving. In a global economy, in the global village we live in, there is a lot of mobility. There is a great shortage of high tech people in Canada because it is one of the fastest growing industries.

Not too long ago I read an article in the local papers in which applications had been put out for lab technicians. About 80% of the individuals who applied were Canadians wanting to come back to Canada for several reasons: the fact that we have invested in research and development and that we have made some very positive steps in the last budget in how we treat, for example, our stock options in terms of capital gains, which the member for Peace River so eloquently touched upon.

We know what has clearly been addressed in the budget in terms of how we address options to motivate people to invest in our country. That has been happening in a very healthy way. Steps have been undertaken.

All statisticians and pundits out there, not us, have been saying that we are going to lead. We have been leading the G-7 in economic growth and in job creation. We were the first to balance our books and we were the first ones to show a surplus.

Just the other day I read in an article a comment made by Mr. Klein, the premier of Alberta. He is now basking in the surplus he has. He is now reinvesting it back into his province, and I am glad for that. He said Alberta did not want to go back to 1993 or 1994 when it had to make tough decisions. Now he is able to reinvest in his province and he is able to give out some bonuses, as did the premier of Ontario, for example. That is their prerogative.

It is important at this stage to talk about the tough decisions that we as a government had to make in 1993. We had a growing deficit after nine years of the Conservatives not being able to meet one of their budget targets. We had a growing debt that was out of control. Thanks to the Canadian people we carried out our commitment and balanced the books. We are lowering the debt consistently, and now we are in the same position as Mr. Klein, thank God, to reinvest in our country. Part of that reinvestment is looking at the high tech sector—

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

They do not want reinvestment; they want taxes down.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

I am glad the member for Peace River is talking about taxes. If we do not have the money, we cannot support the system, lower the debt and lower the deficit at the same time. That is voodoo economics. That is skidoo mathematics.

The government took a very responsible position, headed by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Industry and the new Minister of Industry. We made those tough decisions in a compassionate way. Yes, we created a lean government but it was not a mean government. We went to the people with commitments and promises we have kept. We are very proud.

The member touched upon payroll contributions. In 1993 they were pegged at $3.30 per $100. My colleague sits on the industry committee with me. He is a great participant with whom I have enjoyed spending time on the committee. They prefer to refer to payroll contributions as taxes, but as a former employer I call them contributions, as did the former leader of the Reform Party.

It is on record year after year that payroll contributions have been going down. Members opposite fail to accept this and ask why we have revenue. Let us talk about revenue. In 1993 we had 11.4% or 11.6% unemployment. We were having to put money out to support these people. Today we have over two million people working who are not taking out of the system but who are paying into it.

They talk about revenue and economic growth. I stand here proudly as I look at the Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and the minister responsible for northern development who has invested in the north and created jobs. These people are working hard to put people to work.

The hon. member talks about tax equality. When I go to the doctor and I have an ache in my arm, he will start from that point and work his way. We did everything within our means to deliver compassion to the nation. I stand proud that the high tech industry the member talked about is growing by leaps and bounds.

There has been the creation of 2,000 21st century research chairs across country. The United States has MITs. Can we imagine having 2,000 MITs across our country? That is what it is all about. The government and the Prime Minister chose not to build monuments for the 21st century. They chose to invest in the future of the country, our youth, by creating the Canadian millennium scholarship endowment fund which is preparing our youth of today for the economy of tomorrow. That is one of the best investments we have made.

Let me close by saying that we have followed a very balanced approach. This is reflective of what we are doing by modernizing legislation permitting Canadian companies to compete locally and internationally. The member for Peace River referred to provincial barriers. I am hopeful in the future and with their co-operation we can move toward working with the provinces to bring down interprovincial barriers so that we can have mobility.

With our health care system we have sent a very strong statement to Canadians across the country that the Liberal federal government is adamant about protecting health care. It will enforce the Canada Health Act. It has put its money where its mouth is and we intend to continue in that direction.

In closing let me thank all the parties that co-operated to fast track Bill S-26 for the good of the country, for the good of Canadian people and for the good of Canadian companies.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the rather enthusiastic comments of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry this morning. Normally he is a very quiet individual, a thoughtful, low key and humble kind of man. Today he is not.

I wondered what would cause my friend to have a different approach today. Then I remembered that he is a hard working and determined guy who is dedicated to the Department of Industry. When he heard the Minister of Industry was leaving, I suspect he probably thought he would get an appointment, a better job.

What does the Prime Minister do? He reaches out into a provincial legislature, picks a guy who promised to serve out his term in Newfoundland and places him as Minister of Industry. Talk about Machiavellian politics. This has to be a case study in manipulation and so on.

I assume the enthusiasm of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry is a masking an extreme disappointment that he has been overlooked and our friend from Newfoundland has been brought back into cabinet in this eleventh hour cynical move. However that is the way the world is and there is not much we can do about it.

In his comments, my friend talked about the government's restoration of health care funding. What he failed to mention is that when all of the restoration takes place, it will only lift the federal contribution to the level it was at in 1994. I want to tell my friend this is not 1994. It is not 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 or 1999. It is the year 2000. In other words, to feel great about this whole thing and to pat himself on the back with both hands, to say that we have increased funding to the 1994 levels when we know populations have increased, when we know inflation has increased, is not really that great a contribution.

I will just say to my hon. friend, we are still looking for a little bit more, but the point is still well taken.

He also mentioned the investment the government has done. I will be the first to say, yes, in a balanced approach, there have been very useful investments in the high tech sector. We are a relatively well connected country, perhaps even, as he says, the most connected country in the world, but let me also remind my friend of other investments made. They were not investments in social housing because the government says that we do not have any money for social housing, but we do have money for luxury hotels and resorts and we do have money for golf courses all over central Canada.

To make the record clear, when my friend says we are investing in the economy, yes, he is investing in golf courses, hotels and resorts, but the government has not invested a single cent in social housing.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

An hon. member

That is not true.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

That is absolutely true. Since the government took office in 1993 not a single cent has gone into social housing in this country. The government has abandoned that program.

Those members can talk later and explain where I am wrong.

The point is, we have people on Parliament Hill today from the women's march who are reminding us of this. Every single MP is being lobbied today. These people are saying “Please put some money into social housing”. The reality is that the government has not.

Let us just make it clear. There is government money for golf courses, hotels and luxury resorts but no money for housing that is much needed in all parts of the country. I could go on to identify other sectors as well.

What he did not mention either was the incredible growth of food banks. Not only have the national chartered banks done very well, the food bank business is also booming, and that we should be much ashamed of.

My hon. friend also did not mention the money that has not been invested in children. While we woke up this morning to come to a parliament that is about to end, 1.4 million children woke up this morning living in poverty. The reason they woke up living in poverty is not that only they are living in poverty but their parents are living in poverty. Is this not some form of societal child abuse? For a country as wealthy as Canada to permit, year after year, hundreds of thousands of children to live in poverty is a form of societal child abuse. Quite frankly, we should be ashamed of this record.

Does the government announce any major initiatives in regard to child poverty? No, but if someone needs money for a golf course in Atlantic Canada there is money, apparently, and if someone needs money for a luxury resort, there is money. However there is not enough financial support to deal with child poverty.

I could go on in regard to a number of issues but we are not actually supposed to be talking about them.

My friend also mentioned balancing the books. He forgot to mention that one of the ways in which the government balanced the books was to take money out of the EI that employers and employees contributed in anticipation that they were going to get some return on their insurance investment. The government dipped into their fund to take out the money and dipped into the pension fund of the federal public service as well.

It is important that we remind ourselves, in a more balanced way, of why the books of the country have been balanced. It is because money put into the employment insurance fund has now been siphoned off.

I have two quick points. Today we are talking about telephone services. I think we would all agree that communication is crucial in a knowledge based economy, crucial today in an ever shrinking globalized world and absolutely fundamental in terms of economic development in the future.

As we talk about this legislation, there are parts of Canada that do not have any telephone service. I know some members will be surprised to hear this, but there are parts of Canada that have no telephone service at all. As a matter of fact there are some parts of my own riding that do not, to be specific, the East Barrière Lake area and the Red Lake area. There are others. A lot of people who live there have been trying to get the telephone companies to provide service but to date they have not been able to do so.

I want to make that point clear as we are getting ourselves excited about how connected we are. There are still a lot of people who do not have even fundamental telephone services.

As we talk about balancing off this sort of equal playing field, which is what this legislation is all about, and talk about providing a level playing field for all players, let us also remind ourselves that as we speak we have the softwood lumber agreement that the Government of Canada agreed to which prohibits Canadian lumber exporters from exporting lumber into the United States. This is up for renewal on March 1. I do hope the government, if it actually espouses the fundamental belief in free trade, abandons this forum of managed trade which, quite frankly, militates against western lumber producers.

I appeal to my Liberal friends across the way. When companies are making the case that we should have free trade in lumber, when the members of the IWA say they want to have free trade in lumber, I appeal to the government to actually agree to have free trade, particularly as this is free trade with the United States. I thought we actually had a free trade agreement with the United States but when it comes to softwood lumber we do not have a free trade agreement. I find it rather perverse and almost amazing that we would allow this to occur but we have. Hopefully we can undo this damage in the next number of weeks.

To get back to Bill S-26, others before me have indicated that this is actually a pretty straightforward piece of legislation. It is a bit unusual when one thinks about it. The British Columbia telephone company special act was enacted back in 1916 by this parliament. The purpose of this special act was to federally incorporate the British Columbia Telephone Company and place it under federal jurisdiction. At the time this special act was created, the Canadian telecommunications industry consisted of monopoly service providers, including fledgling provincial crown owned corporations just beginning to be established in the prairie provinces.

Today this special act is inconsistent with the open and competitive Canadian telecommunications industry where all other Canadian owned telecom companies are free to compete in every Canadian jurisdiction. This places Telus at a competitive disadvantage for a number of reasons.

Rather than go into those reasons, I think it is obvious that when one company has to seek permission from the CRTC every time it wants to make a major corporate decision whereas other companies it is competing with do not and can simply do it within their own corporate structure, we are asking Telus to compete in the marketplace with its hands tied behind its back, so to speak.

In summary, we in the New Democratic Party support the updating of the legislation. We also support, as we indicated earlier, the rapid movement of the legislation through all stages so we can complete it today. It has already gone through the stages at the Senate, which has done due diligence on this legislation. It is appropriate that we move expeditiously as well to enable the legislation to be proclaimed prior to the dissolution of this parliament.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to state briefly the position of the Bloc Quebecois on Bill S-26, whose aim is to treat Telus the same as the other companies. This company is governed by the Act to incorporate the Western Canada Telephone Company, which dates from 1916.

The objective of this very short bill is to not subject it to a specific law, but to treat it like the other companies and have it governed by the Canada Business Corporations Act, which will enable it to continue its activities throughout Canada on the same footing as the other companies.

It is not a matter of not governing this company any longer, but of affording it equal treatment. Accordingly, we will not debate this at length, since everyone is in agreement to pass this bill as quickly as possible.

Since this bill does not involve any contentious issues, we will co-operate in passing it quickly at second reading, at report stage and at third reading today. We will support Bill S-26.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, considered in committee, reported, read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from October 5 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 / 11:25 a.m.

Reform

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I really do appreciate the opportunity to speak to this bill. Over the course of my parliamentary career of three and a half years, which hopefully will be extended in the next election, I have had a great interest in this area, both as the deputy critic for health for the Alliance Party and as the vice-chairman of the health committee for the House of Commons.

I am usually quite delighted to be able to rise and bring the concerns of my constituents of the riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan before the House of Commons, but unfortunately I rise today being forced into bringing forward their concerns because I do not think we really need to have this debate in the way that has been lined up for us.

Canadians know and cherish the health system in Canada. For many years we have had a made in Canada solution which ensures that all Canadians have access to quality health care. Generations of Canadians have grown up expecting that their loved ones, their families and they themselves would have adequate health care available to meet their needs.

Thanks to the Liberal government Canadians no longer can be assured of that. The stark, cold reality is that over the last few years the health care system of yesterday has been steadily destroyed by the Liberals of today and will not meet the health care requirements of tomorrow.

I would like to describe the problems that have resulted from the Liberal government's uncaring approach to health care. For the record, I and the other members of the Canadian Alliance will be supporting the bill. However, let me be perfectly clear on our measure of support for it. We are supporting it because finally the Liberals are rectifying past Liberal mistakes that have needlessly hurt many Canadians in the process, need never have been implemented, and would not have taken place under a Canadian Alliance government.

In 1993, when the Liberals came to power, the federal portion of the Canada health and social transfer was $18.8 billion. Within four short years the heartless Liberals slashed away more than $6.3 billion annually. Today the federal Liberals are still $3.3 billion lower than in 1993.

Prior to this bill the Liberals had stripped away $24.7 billion from the health care system in Canada. Their earlier budget plans called for the removal of another $9.9 billion over the next three budget years. Were it not for the pressure of the official opposition, the provinces and indeed Canadians themselves, the Liberal government would have gouged an incredible $34.6 billion out of Canada's health care system over a projected 11 years. That was what it was intent on doing.

That $34.6 billion represents more than $1,100 less in health care for every man, woman and child in Canada today. Can we imagine what another $1,100 of health care spent on every person in each riding would do to alleviate the pain, suffering and discomfort many feel?

In my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan there are approximately 100,000 people. That translates, if my math is correct, into 110 million missing health care dollars. That $110 million could have been used to hire more nurses and maintain and reopen operating rooms. It could have been used to ensure that more people were not subject to longer than necessary waiting lists and to give the opportunity to upgrade or purchase new medical technology equipment.

Not a region in the country has not been negatively affected by the callous financial approach the Liberal government has inflicted upon Canadians from coast to coast. A case in point is the Cowichan District Hospital in Duncan, in my riding, where a dialysis unit sat idle. What was the primary reason it sat idle? Simply put, there was not enough money in the system to hire trained personnel to operate the equipment.

I ask my hon. colleagues to imagine the concern and the pain in the hearts of parents whose children require a dialysis machine to stay alive and who know that because of funding the equipment in the hospital has never been used. This is not an academic subject for me. I know that feeling. I have a daughter who could have been one of those who required dialysis. She has only one kidney. Even though the dialysis unit was only 15 minutes from our home, the stark reality was that if her one remaining kidney had shut down we were over an hour away from the nearest dialysis unit. For her to use the pediatric dialysis unit we would have had to take her to Vancouver.

A dialysis unit costs approximately $630,000 to purchase. The annual operating cost for 36 patients totals approximately $1 million. Let us imagine if a portion of the $110 million the Liberals have ripped out of the system in my riding alone could have been used for dialysis in the Cowichan hospital. Then let us imagine the sense of relief a parent or patient would feel when the unit was finally opened and put into operation. Unfortunately this unit is already approaching capacity. It is expected that in less than one year new dialysis patients will once again be required to make the one hour trip to Victoria for the dialysis treatment they require.

In 1991 in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, Mr. Pat Carson donated $861,000 toward the purchase of a CT scanner. That is what the health system in the country has come to. There is a critical need for new technology and modern equipment. The government does not have the money to pay for it. Individuals who know of this crying need are coming forward to pay for this equipment.

Mr. Carson's wife had cancer. Unfortunately she died of it. While there are no guarantees, it was thought that earlier treatment for her could have been initiated through a faster diagnosis by a CT scan.

Hon. members are wondering how well the scanner is now working. Has it saved lives? I am sad to say that the scanner is still not in operation. The money has now accumulated to over $1.3 million. Only now, after the promise of more federal money and nine years after this very generous public donation was made, is the CT scanner coming online. How many lives would have been changed or even saved if the CT scanner had been in place years ago? Simply put, a lack of funds claims lives in our health care system every day. The Liberal government must accept much of the blame.

If these were the only stories, the story of health care in Canada today would not be such a tale of woe. Unfortunately this is only one of thousands of stories from across the country. Through the remainder of the day we will hear from others about surgery waiting lists, cancelled surgeries, long waiting periods to see specialists, pain, suffering, and even death.

In my home province of British Columbia we have had patients lying on gurneys in the hallways and in linen closets, if we can believe that. Cancelled surgeries at the hospitals in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan are a daily occurrence. We can and we must do better than this. We have done so in the past.

The track record of the Liberal government speaks loud and clear. In the last few months the health committee has had meetings and at each opportunity I raised the issue of the committee studying the overall system of health care in Canada. What happened when I raised that issue at committee? The Liberal majority simply said no. During the discussion at the agenda planning subcommittee one Liberal member actually had the audacity to state that health care was too big a topic for the committee to study.

Let us imagine that: Canadian health care is too big for the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health to study. If the Standing Committee on Health cannot study the health situation in Canada, may I ask who should?

A recent report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information stated:

The number of health professionals from 1988-1997 did not keep pace with Canada's population growth, resulting in fewer health professionals per capita in 1997.

Over that 10 year time period “the number of professionals per 10,000 population declined by 1.7%, from 185 to 182”. Based on these numbers, we are short 9,000 health professionals.

I would further ask hon. members to consider our aging population. We are all getting older. We cannot reverse that trend, unfortunately. According to Statistics Canada demographics in 2001 about 13% of our population will be 65 years of age or over. By the year 2026, just a few years down the road, this same age group will rise to 21% of our overall population. In real numbers this is a rise from 3,945,700 to 7,759,700, almost a complete doubling of this age group.

I remind hon. members that with few exceptions this includes each and every one of us here. It includes our peers, our personal friends, our neighbours and many family members. Without an end to the serious damage inflicted on our health care system by the Liberal government I am afraid the health care system may not be available to those of us who may require it the most in the future.

Although I know some hon. members will scoff at this premise, let us consider a few facts within the various fields of professional health care. Currently the Canadian Medical Association has noted with concern that the number of doctors leaving Canada is roughly equivalent to the graduating classes of six medicals schools per year. That amounts to almost 40% of our medical school graduates. To my mind that is simply unacceptable.

It now takes half the output of all Canadian medical schools to replace the physicians who leave the country annually. One reason is the cost of medical education. The president of the CMA asserts that the debt of a graduating medical student could rise as high as $140,000. Other reasons as given by the former director of research at the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges of Canada include health care cuts and plunging morale.

Here are some other facts. In 1996, 731 doctors left the country. In 1997, 659 left. That totals 1,390 doctors in just over two years. Doctors moving south of the border represent just a quarter of all medical personnel leaving the country every year. Most of those leaving are nurses. We are told, and I believe it to be true, that we face a chronic shortage of nurses.

A 1997 study of 489 orthopedic surgeons graduating between 1985 and 1994 showed that fully 25% have moved to the United States and 70% of the rest were considering it. The most common reasons were restrictions on operating time, unavailability of beds and other frustrations with practice restrictions.

The CMA has also stated that there is a severe shortage of high tech physicians capable of reading the results the latest medical technology gives us. There currently is a shortfall of 150 full time radiologists in Canada, with an expected shortfall of 500 over the next four years.

Let us not forget that it takes a great deal of time to train the doctors and nurses we need in Canada. Regular training for a general practitioner takes at least seven years. Specialist training takes 13 or 14 years. We are short of trained staff now, not in seven or thirteen years. A crisis looms on the horizon, and still the government remains intent on destroying rather than renewing our stressed health care system.

The government claims it is treating the health care system with compassion. We hear that word from our hon. colleagues across the way quite often. They say they are a compassionate lot, with compassion oozing out of their pores. Last month in Montreal the Prime Minister stated that he had “invested in health care”. The Minister of Health laid claim to this being a “compassionate government, leading the way for those among us that require health care”. The 1997 Liberal red book stated that they “would not abandon the health care field and that predictable and financial certainty was essential for our health care planning”.

Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth if we take a look at what the government has done. I have been calling for a serious review of the Canadian health care system for over three years now. The government has done nothing like that. It has cut the transfer payments. It has chastised the provinces for attempting to find real solutions to real health care problems. It has made federal-provincial relationships completely untenable, and still it attempts to make the claim that it is upholding health care in Canada. On the eve of an election in the country finally it does something about it. Surely Canadian people can see through that.

I believe the federal Liberal government will be forever remembered in history as the destroyer of our present health care system. The facts are indisputable. It has permitted the rise of two tier health care on its watch, across the country.

The Prime Minister, the Minister of Health and all their minions can bluster and rant all they want, but the truth is crystal clear: the Liberal government has failed all Canadians when it comes to health care. It has permitted, even encouraged, the failure of the health care system that Canadians have come to enjoy and count on. Canadians all across the land know it. They will not forget the Liberal government's actions when the next election comes.

Canadians are not as gullible as the Prime Minister would like us to believe. I believe Canadians know where the blame rests for the unacceptable status of our health care system. It rests firmly at the feet of both the Prime Minister and Minister of Health.

Canadians are looking for someone to champion health care. Canadians are looking for a political entity that will put things right in this country, beginning with health care itself. Canadians are realizing that the Liberal health care talk has no substance, has no meaning and has no depth.

The Liberal government has attempted to make the claim that they are the only party willing to support the five tenets of the Canada Health Act.

In 1997 the red book stated that the Liberal “commitment is to the five fundamental principles of our medicare system and on our commitment to the continuing role in financing and other aspects of the federal government in health care”. That is a very noble statement, but have they lived up to it? When it comes right down to it, have they attacked this problem at the provincial level where the delivery of services actually takes place? How far from the reality of today, when the government is truly the architect of the demise of the Canada Health Act.

All across this country there are examples of abuses of the Canada Health Act. If someone hurts a knee on the job and the Workmen's Compensation Board is paying for it, there is no problem. That person gets to go to a private clinic and jump ahead of everyone else waiting for knee surgery. It may be legal but it is not right, and the government should fix that kind of queue jumping.

Does anyone need an MRI? There is a three week lineup. If someone pays $800 cash at a private clinic they will avoid the lineup. If they do not like the wait time involved they can take their credit card and head south of the border. There are a lot of Canadian doctors and nurses there already. Maybe it will seem like a Canadian reunion.

Has the Liberal government attempted to resolve these issues? I do not think so. Certainly not while I have been around this place. Rather than working with the provinces and attempting to ensure that all Canadians have quality health care, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health prefer to antagonize and cause dissension rather than build unity. Canadians see past the Liberal smoke and mirror show and they are really tired of it all.

Canadians are turning to the Canadian Alliance to right the wrongs that this Liberal government has forced upon all Canadians. Corrective actions cannot be implemented immediately but they can begin immediately.

My colleagues and I recognize, of course, that money alone is not the whole solution to this problem. However, we cannot deny that many of the problems were caused by the government's significant reduction in funding, funding that this Liberal government has simply slashed out of health care among other things. Many of the solutions will require funding, yet further efficiencies can be found in the system.

Yes, we need more trained professionals. Yes, we face challenges that we have not previously encountered. Certainly we have an aging population. Yes, the delivery of health care services remains a provincial responsibility. We know all these things to be true. However, what positive role has the federal government played in this? To date, none. It has been irresponsible in its lack of solutions to the health care crisis that now faces Canada. Many of the problems are systemic and there has been no plan from the government to attack the systemic problems in our health care system.

Canadians look to government for leadership. They have not found it here in this place with this Liberal government as far as health care is concerned.

We do need changes in the health care system. We need a system that shows we are truly getting results. We need a system where governments work together. We need a system that provides funding on a regular basis consistently over the years working co-operatively with the provinces. That is what a Canadian Alliance government offers to Canadians when it comes into office. What we will do for the health care system is what the Liberals have failed to do. They have acted irresponsibly. Putting this kind of money back in at this point will simply be a band-aid solution to a growing problem.

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

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Gordon Earle Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand as the member for Halifax West and speak on behalf of my constituents to Bill C-45. I should indicate at the outset that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys.

Bill C-45 is 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.

The bill came about as a result of the September 11 health deal that was reached between the federal government and the provinces. The bill is in two parts. The first part provides authority to make expenditures into a special $1 billion medical equipment trust, as well as a $500 million fund for information technology.

The second part of the bill authorizes an increase in transfer payments through the Canadian health and social transfer for social programs which are defined in the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act as programs in respect of health, post-secondary education, social assistance and social services, and early childhood education.

While the September 11 health deal is a step forward, and we admit that it is a small step forward, it really does not go far enough. When I say that it does not go far enough, I am not just giving my opinion on this. I have knocked on well over 1,000 doors within the past few months talking to the constituents of Halifax West. Many of the people to whom I have spoken have indicated to me that health care is still the number one issue for them. They feel that the present agreement of restoring the kind of funding that has been put back in does not go far enough to deal with the kinds of concerns and problems they have. They do not see any immediate relief to the many problems that they are facing: waiting for needed surgery, long line-ups, trying to obtain needed medications and so forth. They do not see any immediate relief to those problems in the deal that was worked out between the federal government and the provinces.

As an example of this I will tell the story about what happened at one of the doors that I knocked on. It was on a beautiful day just last week. The sun was shining and there was beautiful colour in the leaves in the maritime provinces. It was a nice day to go around getting to know the people within the riding of Halifax West. Up until the point when I knocked on that door, I was feeling pretty good.

After I had knocked on the door, a young man answered. I asked him if he had any special issues he wanted to discuss that related to the federal government or its programs. He said “Yes. Step inside for a minute”. I entered and right off the bat he started to tell me about his concerns with the health care system. He introduced me to his wife who was lying there. This young man was probably no more 30 years of age and his wife was probably around the same age. When he introduced his wife I saw this lady lying on a couch and the look of her belied her age. She looked much older than I knew she was. This was because the woman was dying of cancer at such a young age.

To hear this young man tell his story about his involvement with the health care system, about the trials and tribulations that he has gone through and about his concerns for his wife, just about brought tears to my eyes.

The interesting thing about this young man's story was that he was telling me his story not so much because he thought it would help his wife, as he knew her days were limited, but in the hope that it might help other people who find themselves in a situation where they need health care.

These are the kinds of things that we are seeing right across the country, the kinds of problems that we see coming because of the short-sightedness of the government in dealing with our health care system.

I can tell another story, about an elderly woman. She is the widow of a veteran who served our country proudly. On one occasion my wife and I visited this lady. We had a wonderful time having a cup of tea and chatting with her. Not too long ago I decided to call her up to see how she was doing. She told me “I am not doing too badly. I just came back from the hospital. I had been in the hospital for a while but now I need to have permanent nursing care on a daily basis. I need someone in my home with me on a daily basis”. Up to that point this lady had lived by herself in her home, a beautiful home in the Bedford area along the shore. She said “I do not know what I am going to do because I cannot afford this kind of care. I wonder if there is any way I can get any help”.

Since she was the spouse of a veteran I thought I could refer her to the veterans independence program under which she may qualify for some assistance. I gave her the name and the phone number and asked her to call. I asked her to let me know how she made out. Some time later I had not heard from her so I gave her a call just to see how things had worked out. She said “Well, the news is not so good. Unfortunately, my income is just beyond the threshold at which they cut people off for such assistance.” That is not a very high threshold. She then told me that she did not know what she was going to do. She said that she needed to pay for the service but that she would probably end up losing her home because she could not really afford the service.

When we look at Bill C-45 we see that it does not really deal with the kinds of concerns that Canadians have in the health care system. It does very little to address an overall plan for health care, and specifically, there are no initiatives pertaining to national home care, which is what this lady would benefit from, and pharmacare, which so many of our seniors are in need of.

When we talk about home care, I must say that even though the current government has gutted the health system and has not really put back the amount of money that is required, the amount of money that is being put back is less that it was in 1994, and this is the year 2000.

With that kind of gutting of the system, I must take my hat off to the people who are working in the system day in and day out with commitment and dedication and working against adverse circumstances to try to provide health care for their fellow human beings.

When I think about home care workers, I am honoured to indicate that Nova Scotia has dedicated this week as Home Support Workers' Week. Many people are recognizing and expressing their appreciation to the home care workers who help thousands of Nova Scotians get the quality of care service that they need in the comfort of their home and close to their family and friends. Home support workers are an essential part of the fabric of the health care in Canada.

As we look to reshape health care in Canada and hopefully begin to undo the damage wrought by years of health care cuts administered by Liberal and Conservative governments, we need to ensure that home care is properly funded, that the workers are properly supported and paid properly, and that they work in decent conditions.

The financial support for those needing home care—and I think of the lady I mentioned—must be made available. Home care workers offer experienced care, support, compassion and dignity to people within our communities. They are an integral part of the health care system, taking a lot of the responsibility and the weight off much needed hospital beds in today's system.

Those are some of the areas that Bill C-45 does not address. Those are some of the things that we must give attention to if we are going to make this health care system one of which we can continue to be proud.

While the bill is necessary, I guess, in the final analysis, and while the NDP does support the bill as a step in the right direction, it is really a small step forward in light of the giant steps backward taken by the Liberal government. Let me also make it perfectly clear that we feel the Liberal government has missed a golden opportunity to present a vision for the future of medicare and to advance a plan that would preserve and strengthen universal public health care.

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

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's very eloquent presentation and I must say that it is probably one of the most thoughtful presentations I have heard in the House for some time. I commend him on his thoughtfulness and the thoroughness of his research.

I will give a speech later in the day so I have some notes here. There must be a mistake in my notes because I remember that a few years ago there used to be a 50:50 balance. The federal government would put in 50% of the funding for health care and the province would put in 50% of the money. My notes say that the federal government now has reneged so much that it only allocates 13% of the total, which means the provinces have to pick up 80 some per cent and the federal government only picks up 13%.

Would my friend at least tell me my notes are wrong? If in fact the feds are only giving 13% of health care funding, that would be absolutely scandalous.