House of Commons Hansard #127 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls upon parliament to allow the continuation of Canadian forces Snowbirds 431 air demonstration squadron through both funding and legislation.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, the next petition calls upon the government to ensure emergency compensation be immediately delivered to farmers who have not been served by AIDA and immediately launch an international campaign against foreign subsidies.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, the next petition calls on parliament to repeal gun control Bill C-68 and to redirect the hundreds of millions of dollars to education and health care.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, the next petition requests that parliament revisit the issue of hepatitis C compensation and that the government offer a fair, compassionate and humane compensation package to all who received infected blood.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, the next petition calls on parliament to advise the government to mandate the Canadian Wheat Board to deliver its grain shipment to the port that offers the most advantageous cost to producers.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition which requests that the government amend the Canada pension plan to create a separate disability plan to ensure the long term sustainability of the CPP and the financial security of both seniors and disabled persons.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, in the last petition the petitioners call upon parliament to give Canadian taxpayers a break by instituting tax relief of at least 25% in federal taxes over the next three years starting with the next federal budget.

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

October 5th, 2000 / 11:15 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson for the Minister of Finance

moved 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.

Mr. Speaker, it is truly a great honour for me to present for second reading Bill C-45, the Canada health care, early childhood development and other social services funding act.

The legislation stems directly from the historic landmark agreement reached by Canada's first ministers on September 11 in our nation's capital. I say landmark because the meeting involved 14 governments of different political affiliations and ideologies collectively agreeing on a plan to renew health care, to improve the support system for early childhood development and to strengthen our other social programs.

As its contribution to these agreements the federal government is providing $23.4 billion in new federal investments. Most important, the first ministers committed to the key goals of Canada's health system for the future, namely to preserve, protect and improve the health of Canadians, to ensure that Canadians have timely access to health services anywhere in Canada based on need, not on ability to pay, and to ensure the long term sustainability of the health system so that care services will be available to all Canadians in future years.

It is important to note that the first ministers gave Canadians their commitment to strengthen and renew health care services through partnership and collaboration, with the federal government as an equal partner in this renewal.

An agreement was also reached in the area of early childhood development. I should point out that while the premier of Quebec has expressed some reservations about this agreement, he shares the same concerns and principles as his counterparts regarding early childhood development.

The bill implements four federal funding commitments in support of the agreement. First, it increases the Canada health and social transfer by an additional $21.1 billion to provide the provinces and territories with stable, predictable and growing funding over the next five years, funding for health, post-secondary education, early childhood development and other social programs. Of this $21.1 billion, $2.2 billion will be invested in early childhood development.

Second, the accord provides that $1 billion will go to a new medical equipment fund to enable provinces and territories to purchase modern, much needed diagnostic and other medical equipment. These funds will be available as soon as the bill is passed.

Third, we are investing $500 million in an independent agency mandated to accelerate the adoption of modern information and communications technologies, including electronic patient records to provide better health care to every one of us.

Fourth, $800 million will go to the health transition fund to support innovation and reform in the area of primary health care.

As members know, the federal government, along with the provinces and territories, plays a supportive role for the health system and other social programs.

The provinces and territories offer their own health care, education and social services. Federal transfers bring a growing financial contribution to these basic programs and the federal government abides by the principles of the Canada Health Act, to which all the premiers reiterated their support in that historical agreement.

Prior to this accord on September 11 the transfers to the provinces were at an all time high. For the CHST it was $30.8 billion. In addition, we have equalization to the provinces and territories which totals $10 billion, for a total in transfers to these other jurisdictions of over $40 billion. Since this accord, in addition to this $40 billion we have the additional funds of $23.4 billion over four years.

Looking at the CHST, which is the largest federal transfer, it provides the provinces and territories with cash payments and tax transfers in support of their social programs. The CHST also gives them the flexibility to design and administer their own programs provided, however, that the principles of the Canada Health Act and the prohibition on residency requirements for social assistance are upheld and respected.

Since 1995 the federal government has strengthened the CHST four times. In the 1996 budget we established an annual CHST cash floor of $11 billion. The 1998 budget raised the annual CHST cash floor to $12.5 billion. The 1999 budget announced an additional $11.5 billion investment over five years in funding specifically for health care. The last budget provided an extra $2.5 billion in cash over five years for health and post-secondary education.

This $14 billion funding increase in the last two budgets raised the cash component of the CHST by 25% over its 1998-99 level. It helped the provinces and territories deal with the immediate concerns of Canadians regarding health care, including the problems of waiting lists, crowded emergency rooms and the lack of diagnostic services.

I want to discuss the bill's specific measures in detail. The new funding commitments for the CHST build on the previous increases in the CHST transfers. The $21.1 billion of additional cash that we bring forward for the CHST provides stable, predictable and growing funding for the CHST over the next five years. This is the largest investment ever made for health, higher education and social services. The provinces and territories can now give top priority to accelerating the changes we need in order to give Canadians the high quality health care they deserve, to provide new supports to early childhood development and to strengthen our other important social programs.

With this additional money, CHST cash transfers to the provinces and territories will rise to $18.3 billion in 2001-02, to $19.1 billion in the next year and to $21 billion in 2005-06. By then CHST cash will be fully 35% above its current level of $15.5 billion. Moreover the value of the CHST tax points will grow to $18.8 billion over the next five years. Altogether the federal transfers to the provinces and territories through the CHST for health, post-secondary education and social services will grow to $40 billion by the year 2005-06.

The current CHST legislative framework will be extended to provide a new five year funding plan and will be extended again in three years to provide an ongoing five year plan. The new funding commitment establishes an unprecedented planning stability and certainty for the provinces, to allow them to go forth and help renew our health care system.

This brings me to the federal government's sizeable investment in early childhood development, which is the focus of this bill.

As members know, the early years are crucial to a child's development. Governments realize that they need to invest in the services that support children during their early years in order to help them reach their full potential.

The federal government has already made a number of major investments in early childhood development through initiatives such as the national child benefit supplement, the Canada child tax benefit, the child care expense deduction, the GST credit and extended EI parental leave for working parents.

The federal, provincial and territorial governments are now involved in an important initiative for early childhood development which would get Canadian children off to a good start in life at a critical stage in their development.

In support of this new initiative, the federal government will contribute $2.2 billion over the next five years. The governments of the provinces and territories have agreed to use these credits to promote healthy pregnancy, birth and infancy, improve parenting and family supports, strengthen early childhood development, learning and care, and strengthen community supports.

These new investments, together with the incremental investments of the provinces, will provide families with better access to services such as prenatal classes and screening, preschool programs and child care, and parent information and family support.

All governments have agreed to report publicly on what they are doing so that their progress can be tracked by Canadians. Canadians will know how much money is being spent, how well services are being delivered and what this means to the health, well-being and development of our children. Whether through partnership with provincial governments and territories or through federal initiatives, governments are working to ensure that all Canadian children are given the best possible start in life.

On the subject of health renewal, first ministers agreed on a shared vision of health and stated in their final communique:

Canadians will have publicly funded health services that provide quality health care, and that promote the health and well-being of Canadians in a cost effective and fair manner.

The first ministers are committed to strengthening and renewing Canada's health care services through partnership, through collaboration. They agreed on an action plan that focuses on access to care, health promotion and wellness, primary health care, the supply of doctors, nurses and other health personnel, home care and community care, pharmaceutical management, health information and communications, and health equipment and infrastructure.

Most important, they agreed that all governments must be accountable to Canadians for their health care spending.

As part of those accountability provisions of the agreement, provincial and territorial governments will report on how they have invested these funds in health renewal and medical equipment.

To deal with immediate pressures, the government is providing funds to upgrade medical equipment and invest in new technologies to provide Canadians with more timely access to high quality care. Through this bill the government is investing $1 billion in a medical equipment fund with which the provinces and territories can acquire and install much needed diagnostic equipment and treatment equipment, such as MRIs and CAT scans, over the next two years. Again governments will be expected to report on how this money is spent. Provinces and territories will be able to draw on these funds as soon as this bill is passed.

The government will also provide $500 million through an independent corporation which will be mandated to accelerate the development and adoption of modern information communications technology systems such as electronic patient records. This will allow the sector to keep up with other sectors of our economy in adopting the new information and communications technologies. It is a key ingredient to building a health infrastructure in Canada.

More specifically the development of electronic health records will ensure our ability to guarantee Canadians that even with these electronic records, which will do a great deal of good in streamlining the system, there will be stringent measures in place to protect the privacy, confidentiality and security of health care information. Canadians can be assured that their personal health information will be strictly guarded.

This co-ordinated approach has many benefits. Duplication will be reduced. Efficiency in the exchange of information between health care providers will be improved. There will be better access to services and increased service delivery.

In conclusion, Canadians can now be assured of the unwavering commitment of their governments to renewed health care, to support for early childhood development and to support for other social programs. This bill provides CHST funding for the provinces and territories that is growing, stable and predictable so that they can plan for their future. It provides provinces with immediate funding for buying medical diagnostic and treatment equipment. It provides all governments with the funding growth and the stability to significantly step up their efforts to renew and modernize Canada's health care services.

Above all, Canadians will have an accountability framework, report cards, to better help them judge the results for themselves of how money on health care, early childhood development and medical equipment is being spent.

In this accord we see 14 governments with shared goals and priorities, 14 governments which have given these measures their blessing. They have made Canada truly work for the benefit of all our citizens. I believe that when history is written it will cite this landmark accord as among the truly great accomplishments of our time.

I believe that history will cite the role of extraordinary leadership provided by our Prime Minister. Without his determination, wisdom and immense ability, this accord, this shared vision of the future of health care for all Canadians with all levels of government working together, would not have been possible. In conclusion, I salute that role of extraordinary leadership.

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

11:35 a.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I ask leave to share my time with the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

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

11:35 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the House give its consent for the sharing of time between the hon. members as indicated?

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

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

11:35 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Elk Island will have 20 minutes.

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

11:35 a.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to enter this debate today because it is an issue of great importance to Canadians. As we rush headlong into an unnecessary and unwarranted election, we are being asked to quickly push the bill through so the Liberals can look a little better than they do right now.

Why is there such a notable health care crisis in this country? Where did it come from? I have been sitting here thinking about the different things that have happened over the last number of years.

I remember way back in 1961, when most of the members in the House were not even born, my brand new wife and I left Saskatchewan, the home of medicare, and moved to Alberta. There was no public health care in Alberta. It was a privately operated system called MSI, Medical Services Incorporated. We paid a small premium every month and received excellent medical care.

Those were the days before the technological on-off switches for having babies, and soon after we were married, within the mandatory 10 months, our first daughter was born. Our new daughter and her mother received excellent care. I remember being very pleased with the care they received. Later on my wife had some complications and she had to go to Calgary where she received prompt, efficient and excellent care.

I now think back about 20 years, and it is amazing that it is already 20 years, when my dear wife again had a severe medical challenge. It is called cancer. She had a biopsy on Wednesday, a final diagnosis on Friday and surgery on the following Monday. It was amazing, just like that; quick, quick, quick. It worked. That was in 1980.

Now I am told that people with the same kind of medical emergency are on waiting lists for up to four months for the same operation. People with cancer cannot wait. That is deplorable.

I spoke to a young man in my riding not very long ago. Relative to my age he is young but I guess he is old to some of the youngsters in the group here. He has a medical challenge which requires some diagnostics. While he is waiting anxiously, and I must emphasize the word anxiously, the hospital is telling him that he can get in some time near the end of October. It was a couple of weeks ago when I was speaking with him.

There is a crisis in health care. Where did it come from? With all this blowing that the Liberal government wants to do now, where did the crisis come from? I can tell the House where it came from.

I have in my hand here, and I will hold it so that it cannot be seen as a prop, the budget 2000 document that was tabled in the House by the Minister of Finance. It just so happens that in this document the Liberals are bragging about improving the quality of life of Canadians and their children.

I look at this document and I see the amount of cash transfers for health from the federal government to the provinces. In 1993 it was $18.8 billion. In 1994 it was $18.7 billion. I will not keep reading the years but the amounts are $18.8 billion, $18.7 billion, $18.5 billion and $14.7 billion. These figures are right in the minister's own document.

The Liberal government administered cuts to health care and we are surprised that there is a health care crisis. The Liberal government took the money away and now it is giving some of it back and it wants all of us to cheer. It is like the guy who robs me of my wallet and asks me to thank him because he gives me money for bus fare home. It is absurd.

The Liberal government has literally cut billions of dollars out of the health care budget for the provinces. It is administered by the provinces. Now it is gingerly giving some of it back and it wants a bunch of praise because we expect this unanticipated election this fall.

By the way, just to digress a little, if the election is this fall it will have been called even earlier than the early call in 1997, just a little over three and a half years into the mandate. I do not know whether members are aware of it, but if there is an election every three and a half years instead of every four years, it increases the cost of the elections by over 12%. Why would we not use that money for health care instead of having needless elections? The only purpose of the election is that the Liberals want to get re-elected.

As another aside, I cannot help but mention that this week our party started running some ads. How did we finance them? I and a whole bunch of Canadian Alliance members across the country have donated money to the party in order to run the ads.

I noticed also this week the Liberal Party has started running ads. Who has paid for them? The same guys. We have paid for them because they are tax funded ads with the Government of Canada name on them.

The government is talking about all this wonderful money that it is putting back into health care. I have to be kind, so I will simply say gently that it is a myth. The Liberals have taken so much out and now they are gingerly putting some of it back and they want everyone to cheer and vote for them again. I am offended by that.

As far as I am concerned those ads are inaccurate. They do not communicate truthfully to Canadians what has actually happened. As far as I am concerned they are nothing but blatant election advertising at taxpayers' expense prior to the writ being dropped. I am very offended by that and so should every Canadian be offended by that, because it is so wrong to do that.

I mentioned the numbers. Over the years the government decreased the numbers and then it started adding to them. The Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions, who gave the speech on behalf of the government, talked about the $11.5 billion which the government put back in. Again that is messaging. It is really gross messaging in terms of shading the truth.

If the government says it is putting in $11.5 billion, almost all Canadians assume, because we deal with annual budgets, that it is $11.5 billion per year. Well, it ain't, if I can use that English inaccuracy to make a point. It just ain't true. The fact is $11.5 billion was projected. Most of it has not been paid yet. It was projected over the next five years, so it is just a little over $2.5 billion a year.

That is the same as a policeman who stops me for speeding and asks how fast I was going. I could say I was going 400. The purpose of my trip was to go 400 kilometres. If I said that I was going 400 he would give me a whopper of a ticket but actually I was going 100, planning on doing that for four hours and doing my 400 kilometre trip. The same thing is true here. We are talking about rates of expenditure of public money for health care. It is so much per year.

The government is doing the same thing again in Bill C-45, which proposes to put all this extra money into health care. It did it again by saying it is spending $21.1 billion on health. What a wonderful number. What years are we talking about? It starts on April 1, 2001. The Liberals are going to win an election on it, but they are not even talking about putting any money into health care. They are in other parts of the bill. In the part about the $21.1 billion it begins April 1, 2001. The next payment is April 1, 2002, the next April 1, 2003 and then it goes to 2004 and to 2005.

From the years 2001 to 2005, the Liberals are going to put in a total of $11.2 billion, around $2 billion to $2.5 billion a year on average. It is way in the future but they are advertising it on TV as if the money is here now. They are not stating that it is way in the future. They want Canadians simply to be duped into believing that they are doing wonderful things for health care so they will vote for them again because they want power. I find that offensive and we should put an end to it. It is very disturbing to me that this has occurred.

I am not talking too much about the health care system per se because I am primarily a finance critic. However, I would like to talk a bit about the history of the Liberal government. I did a little math. I love math. I get out my calculator and play with numbers for recreation. Other people bore themselves to death by doing things like golfing. I like solving little math problems.

I have already described how since 1993 the funding for health care went down and then went up again. After 2005 it actually will be higher than it was in 1993. However, after 2001, with the total amount of money that will be put into health care, it will still be less than the amount that was being transferred in 1993. It went down so low that this bill will not even bring it up to the 1993 levels.

What I did was take the numbers from 1993 all the way to the projections for 2005, a total of 12 years. I will not read the numbers, but members can check with me later if they want them. I did a calculation to find out how much the amount had increased. By the year 2005 the government will actually be putting in more than in 1993, 12 years earlier.

That works out to an increase of 11.7% over 12 years. That is an average increase, compounded annually, of 0.9%, less than 1% per year. Our population has grown bigger than that. We are falling behind per person. We are putting less and less into health care per capita and the government wants to applaud itself. I am sure that anyone who knows the facts will not applaud. The government needs to applaud itself because that is the only applause it will get, I am sure.

I cannot help but think about the government's concern for children. It loves to talk about children but it is missing the most important thing. I am very grateful that when our children were young we could afford, with sacrifices, to live on one income. In our family it happened to be that I was chosen to earn the income and my wife was a full time mom. Now two of our children who are married have children. We have four wonderful grandchildren. I am very grateful that they each have a full time mom. I assure members that is not without sacrifice.

The term Liberal government is an oxymoron. Liberal comes from the same root word as liberation and freedom. Instead, the Liberals tax us to death and control our lives. It is shameful. The Liberal government thinks that it does best by taxing people so heavily that both parents have to work, then it wants to be kind and give money back for social services to look after children who really do not have an effective home to live in.

Would it not be better if we so arranged our fiscal affairs that families would be taxed at a level where they could actually afford to make that choice? The operative word is choice. We know that easily two-thirds of families, when given a free choice, would choose to spend time at home with their young children. That is not a choice under the contradictory term of Liberal government. That choice is taken away.

I have to emphasize again that under the programs of the Canadian Alliance, not only would we fund health care adequately, working together with the provinces in harmony, giving them the authority to operate the health care system efficiently, but we would also reduce taxes for families so that those choices would be real and viable.

I could go on and on but I choose not to because I know we are eager to hear what my colleague has to say in terms of the health care system. He will talk more about that part of it.

I simply want to conclude by emphasizing that what the Liberals say and what they do are two different stories. The ads on television this week and what is actually happening is not the same story. One is designed to win the next election. What they are actually doing, by their policies and actual practices, is putting health care at serious risk in this country. It is time to replace these Liberals and put into power a government that thinks clearly about these things, communicates clearly with the Canadian people and will fix the problem.

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

11:50 a.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Elk Island and the House for allowing me to speak on an issue that is very close to all our hearts.

Bill C-45 is five years too late. Everybody in the House knows and understands the problems we have, not only in our health care system but in our education system and in the welfare programs that we have today.

We have a situation today in health care where there is an increasing disparity between the resources that we have to pay for and what we ask for. As time passes, as we get older, as our demographics change and as the demands on our health care system increase, that gap between what we have to pay for and what we demand of our health care system will increase and widen. The result will be extraordinary pain and suffering for Canadians from coast to coast.

While we support the addition of $5.5 billion into the system, as my colleague from Elk Island so eloquently stated, this is but a drop in the bucket. This will do nothing and it is little more than an election ploy.

Sadly, the bill should have been put forth five years ago because it will only get us back to 1995 levels. The public may not know or understand this, but when the funding actually comes in it will only get into the sharp edge of health care one and a half years from now. What will happen to all the patients who sit and suffer in quiet pain and suffering at home? People are suffering and waiting for timely access to health care, the timely access that the Minister of Health likes to stand up and crow about. He says that all Canadians must have timely access to essential health care services and that the government is doing that. That is bunk. That is absolutely untrue.

Let us talk about the truth. Let us talk about what is going on in health care in Canada today. For more than five years the government has removed funding for health care on the one hand, while on the other hand, it has restricted the provinces from giving their patients, the sick people in their provinces, the chance to get the care they require. The provinces have been hamstrung. Their hands have been tied behind their backs and they have been unable to be innovative because of the federal government.

It is disingenuous of the government to say on the one hand that it will uphold a system. We all want to ensure timely access to essential health care services in a public system for all Canadians. Canadians should not have to pay out of their own pockets for health care or be refused health care as a result of having no money in their pockets. No one in the House wants that, least of all us, but for heaven's sake we should not use politics and try to stand up and be the great white knight defending people's health care when in reality we are actually restricting the ability of people to get health care when they need it.

All of us here have a common interest in ensuring that our public health care system is strengthened. However, since the Liberal government came to power it has been restricting the provinces' ability to do this.

A lot of the words in the bill are good. The bill talks about collaboration, about commitment and about the desire to have a publicly funded, sustainable health care system where people have timely access to health care services. However, they have been talking about that for seven years. The reality can best be illustrated by the story of Mrs. Marilyn Slater, who lives on Vancouver Island. She is a 64 year old who recently had her hip replaced.

Mrs. Slater was paralyzed with pain because of her hip and desperately needed an operation. About two years ago she went to see her physician. He told her that she would get a hip replacement within two years. She waited in pain for two years to get her hip replaced. This was the health care system that was supposed to give her timely access to essential health care services. Was it timely? No. Was it essential? Yes. Did she suffer? Yes. Is this what the Canada Health Act or the government is supposed to uphold? No.

It is completely unfair to allow people like Marilyn Slater and so many others across this country to suffer.

In the hospital where I sometimes work, a situation has occurred over the last year. People are on waiting lists for a little over two years before they can get in to see an orthopedic surgeon. Because of a lack of money, the hospital told the orthopedic surgeons, knowing they were working only one day a week in the operating room, that, although the hospital was sorry, it would have to cut the operating room time to a half day a week. This pushed the waiting lists for a patient to be seen in this community, which serves half of British Columbia, to three and a half years. A three and a half year wait to see an orthopedic surgeon for patients in severe pain has nothing to do with health care and everything to do with being inhumane. It is torture.

There are ways of dealing with this, but for heaven's sake, putting forward a bill that will put money into the sharp edge of health care, some of it a year and a half from now, and ultimately put us back to where we should have been five years ago, is not good health care.

When the bill goes through and the money goes to the health care system, we will still have people suffering, like Marilyn Slater and the people in northern British Columbia. This is happening all over the country. Barrie and Peterborough hospitals routinely close down their emergency departments because the hallways are filled with people on gurneys and they cannot fit any more in. Why are those people there? They are there because they cannot get a bed in a hospital. The hospitals are saying that they do not have enough money to pay for nurses and open up beds. That is not good health care and it is happening across the country.

If anybody says that we have timely access to health care, I would like to know where, because it does not happen too often. It happens to people who are acutely injured, to be sure. It is only because of the bravery and courage of our medical health care workers in the field that they are able to do this.

We need solutions. We have a manpower crisis. The government gives vague concepts of how to relieve this but where are the specifics? The specifics need to be talked about now because in the next 10 years we will have a lack of 112,000 nurses in Canada. The average age of the physician population right now is about 45 to 46. There is a crisis today in virtually every medical specialty, whether it is in neuropathology, neurosurgery or general surgery. The list goes on. We need an effective plan.

I want to propose one plan to the government, speaking personally. The government should work with the provinces to allow an expansion of the number of people not only in medical schools but in nursing colleges and technology schools. Let us not forget the medical technologists who are an integral part of our health care team. Many of them are working one and a half jobs just to fill in for the lack of personnel.

One option may be for the government to pay 10% to 15% toward a student's tuition fees and in return the student would serve an equal number of years in an underserviced area. That would relieve the maldistribution problem that we have. We know that if a medical worker goes into an urban setting during a period of time it is very difficult to attract them to an underserviced area; in fact it rarely happens. What we have to do is catch them when they get out of school.

Speaking personally, this plan would allow people to have their tuition fees paid for the amount of time they are in school. In return they would provide an equal number of years in a rural, underserviced area. That is what is done in military training. It can be done in health care. If that is done it will provide some access to people who are desperately in need of care in rural settings.

Another aspect I want to talk about is education. The situation now is that post-secondary education has been completely gutted for a number of years. Students are having a very difficult time making ends meet and have had an onerous burden placed upon them.

Certainly it is true they have to pay for their tuition, but what is happening now is very interesting and actually violates a sense of egalitarianism the government likes to profess to have. Money has become a significant factor in preventing people from gaining access to professional schools. In the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto it costs about $10,000 a year to become a doctor. I could not have become a physician if those had been the fees when I was going through.

That is a major restriction now to people of low to middle class means. They cannot afford to send their children to professional faculties any more. Now those faculties are becoming the purview of the children of the rich. That is not right. No one in the House would like to see that happen.

As our party and our former leader have in the past, let us talk about an income contingent loan replacement scheme. Our scheme would enable students to put back the money they have taken out in loans. Those moneys would be put back in a way that is fair to them and fair to taxpayers. We have encouraged and have tried to put the government on notice in this regard for a number of years. We have indicated that these students have suffered. Some of them had to end their studies because they could not afford them. The plan our party has put forth would enable them to study and it would be fair to taxpayers.

On the issue of children, my colleague from Elk Island spoke very eloquently about the need for strengthening the parent-child bond. We cannot have an inequitable tax regime such as we have today, which does not enable parents to spend more quality time with their children. This has to change.

For years we have been asking the government to ensure that there is tax fairness between parents who choose to go to work and parents who stay home. It is not difficult. It could be changed simply. Let us change it. We need to do that. The tax system of today also restricts the ability of many parents to stay at home. As a result parents are forced into the workplace.

We also need to consider, if we are to engage in a childhood development scheme, something that will work well. The Minister of Labour has been a leader, as has the minister responsible for children, on how we can ensure the basic needs of kids are met. As the Minister of Labour knows through her program in Moncton, strengthening the parent-child bond very early on will have an enormous, profound, positive effect on the development of a child into adolescence and into adulthood.

In fact someone won the Nobel prize for showing that the developing brain in a child is like a sponge. If we subject a child to sexual abuse, violence, improper nutrition, a lack of proper parenting or a lack of discipline, we find the child's brain does not develop properly and his or her cognitive abilities and emotional strength built early in life do not necessarily happen. We need to look at the body of evidence that actually works and to work with parents to ensure that takes place. It has to start early on.

BC Reports contained a very good front page article, in the last two weeks, on the issue of fetal alcohol syndrome, the leading cause of preventable brain damage in the country today. Almost half of all people in jail today have fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects. It is an entirely preventable problem. It is devastating problem for children. Their cognitive abilities are destroyed. Their average IQ is 68. They have difficulty with interpersonal relations. Unfortunately many of them, as we have found, go into lives of crime. It is preventable. In order to prevent it we have to start before, in the prenatal phase. An effective head start program that strengthens the ability of parents to be good parents would work to prevent that.

Let us imagine if we were able to do that not only from a humanitarian basis but from a total cost basis. One of those children costs the system almost a half million dollars a year up to age 18, and it is preventable. Let us imagine the savings if a child does not go to jail, which costs $100,000 a year in a juvenile institution. As someone who has worked in jails for a number of years, it is terrible to see. It is a waste. It is a waste for the taxpayer. It is a waste for the human being. It is a waste for society.

I could only encourage the government to follow along with the lead of my colleague, to work with what it knows is effective to strengthen the parent-child bond and to look at the tax regime. If something is to be implemented, it should not be a national day care centre but a program that strengthens the parent-child bond so that the parents can be better parents to their children. We know that is the most effective way. Also we must ensure that children get proper nutrition and that parents have the means to do that.

On the welfare system, another aspect of CHST, we know there are two populations on welfare: those people who will never be able to take care of themselves, but thankfully we have a system that allows us to do that, and another population that would like to work but for reasons cannot.

One of the biggest complaints we receive from people on welfare is that they do not want a handout. They want a hand up. What really aggravates them is that they want to get some skills, some training, and they need a bit of help to enable them to do that. However what they find is that they are penalized when they try. They are penalized when they say they want to work a bit, to get back into the workforce and to develop the skills that will enable them to provide for their families.

In the way the current welfare system is structured it rewards people for staying at home and not working. It actively penalizes individuals who are trying to get the necessary skills to stand on their own two feet.

I know that is not the objective of anyone in the House, but we have not seen leadership on the part of the government to work with the provinces, because it is a provincially managed program, to reform our welfare system so that we can give people who want to work the tools and the skills to enable them to stand on their own two feet. They would be so grateful for that, that votes, money and accolades would go to whomever does it. That is what we need. We need leadership in these areas and we need reform of the system.

The Minister of Health said on November 27, 1999, and this can be ascribed to education and to welfare, that medicare would soon be unable to provide Canadians with timely access to medical care unless major reforms are undertaken.

I have not seen, and I do not know if anybody else has seen them, those major reforms coming down the pipeline. We certainly see nice words in the bill. There is a commitment to some funds that will put it back to 1995 levels, but we do not see the major structured reforms of leadership that will be required on the part of the government to make those reforms relevant and effective for the 21st century, be it health care, be it welfare, be it education.

There rests on the shoulders of the government an extraordinary opportunity in leadership. Why does it not call the first ministers together again? They should be locked in a room along with the relevant ministers and told that the problem has to be fixed. At the end of the day they all have the same interests. We need to have the interests of the public at heart. They should put away the nonsense, the political drivel, and sit down to fix the problem, given effective solutions that already exist in the country today. They exist. Good solutions from not only our country but from around the world exist.

We could look at the German model for health care. We could take the best from Moncton, Michigan and Hawaii for children. We could look at welfare programs in other parts of the world that give people a handout to give them a hand up.

We could look at manpower solutions that would address a problem that if not dealt with today would result in the deaths of many Canadians tomorrow. It is not something that we could deal with tomorrow, because this problem affects us today. It takes four to twelve years to train the people we need after high school.

I could only beg on the part of myself and my colleagues that the government takes Bill C-45 and implements it but gets back to the drawing board now to help people who are suffering in quiet desperation and enduring years of pain unnecessarily. Let us get together and do that. Let us implement the solution. Let us not wait five years to make any changes. Let us do it this year.

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

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues here for unfailingly supporting my actions.

First off, I want to say that we are extremely happy with the agreement negotiated after a hard fought battle with the provinces. I will have an opportunity to mention it again, but I want to say to this House that, at a later stage of our work, either in committee or here in committee of the whole, if that is how our work is to be done, I will table two amendments, which I will explain in the course of the debate.

My first amendment concerns the section of the bill dealing with the acquisition of medical equipment for which a trust will be set up with an injection of $1 billion in resources. It was agreed in fairly detailed terms that the use of this amount for the provinces would be broken down. We would like to introduce an amendment that would clarify this even further by setting out in clause 2 how the amounts of money will be distributed.

In the 40 minutes allotted me, I will explain it in greater detail, but we will be introducing an amendment to clause 3 as well, on funding for communications technologies. This refers to the part of the agreement concerning the pooling of data relating to health care, the whole health information network the premiers have agreed to set up.

The Bloc Quebecois finds something particularly revealing in the agreement before us. Members will recall that at the first of the Minister of Finance's budgets containing cuts to the transfer payments the Bloc registered its objection. It warned the government against—one of the means available to the government—making this federalism dysfunctional. Furthermore, as of 1994, we felt the federal government might destabilize the provinces' public funds.

Today, although a draft agreement provides some relief by injecting $23 billion over five years into transfer payments, we cannot forget that between 1994 and the Minister of Finance's latest budget the provinces have been deprived of a total of $42 billion.

On the subject of Canadian federalism, when they say it is a system with two levels of government, that each is supposed to be autonomous, as constitutional law teaches—