House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

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1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, could we have some order? I feel so upset. I am a sensitive man and I need serenity to be able to work.

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1:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Order, please. I ask hon. members to listen very attentively with me to the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve.

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1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I ask that the clock be reset. From disruption to disruption, one is bound to get thrown off one's trend of thoughts.

As I was describing how difficult the situation can be for the provinces that make budgets and have a constitutional responsibility to provide frontline services and restructure the health network. That is why I would have shown much more solidarity with the motion tabled by the Tories, amongst whom I have many friends, if reference had been made to restoring transfer payments.

There is no such reference, which suggests that this government, this parliament, may be responsible for national standards. We believe it is not.

I will digress for a moment, if I may, before getting to the bottom of this matter. Look at what is going on in health care. Under the constitution, the federal government has two main responsibilities. Because of its fiduciary responsibility toward aboriginal peoples, the federal government manages the health care system for the first nations. It also has a responsibility toward the military. One has to see the bad shape in which the health care system for these two groups is.

It took the minister some nerve to get up and offer to the provinces a cost shared program for home care. I tell the minister, with all due respect “Sit down, calm down, shut up, we have heard enough. You have no business interfering in community health programs. Mind your own business and withdraw from this system”.

If the health minister wants to help, he can restore transfer payments.

Let us get that straight. For the first time in the history of mankind, the population on this side of the hemisphere—although I am not suggesting the situation is the same everywhere—is living longer than ever.

It is easy to understand that, in a society where people live longer, some will be in good health, but others will need more specialized care. This will put enormous structural pressure on our health care system. Let we give members a few examples that will help them understand.

Let us see how many years it will take before people over 65 represent 25% of the population instead of the present 12%. In other words, the time it will take before the group of people over 65 represents one quarter of the population.

In Quebec, it will take 35 years. In 35 years, one quarter of all Quebecers will be over 65. It will take a little longer in other societies like English Canada. It will take on average 45 years in English provinces. In Germany, it will take 70 years. In France, our motherland—in history books, they used to talk about Marianne—it will also take 70 years.

It is no wonder that Quebec is so vocal in this debate and so committed to it. The Quebec government will be facing, very shortly, challenges that may be less noticeable in European countries. If we want to provide quality services to our fellow citizens—and I must remind you, Madam Speaker, that you will be among the people who need those services, as well as a vast majority of MPs—now is the time to get our health care system ready to provide services to these people.

Various structural pressures are coming into play. We are $1 billion short in transfer payments for Quebec. This is not an insignificant amount of money. According to Premier Lucien Bouchard, who, it is worth repeating it, is the leader of a very good government for Quebecers, half of the $1 billion that the federal government should reinvest, put back in transfer payments should go to health care, and the other half to the other two budgetary items.

What would we do with this $500 million? Let me give a few examples. This amount of $500 million represents 25% of the budget of Montreal's hospitals.

I now want to give a personal testimony. During our week off, I met with hospitals' CEOs. I met with the CEO of the CHUM, Mr. Douville, as well as with the CEO of the Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital, Mr. Ducharme, and I spent a good hour with them.

We looked at the situation in their respective institutions. Let me tell you that, at this rate, by the end of the fiscal year, which is very near, every health care institution in Montreal will end the year with a 10% to 12% deficit. I did not take the time to check in Quebec city, or even Jonquière, but I will one day, because I suspect that the trend is relatively similar.

What does it mean? It does not mean that the management is not good, not at all. If the same thing is happening in every hospital, it means there is a basic trend. Every health care institution will end up with a $10 to $12 million deficit.

Let us take the CHUM as an example. As we know, the CHUM is the result of the merger of Notre-Dame, Saint-Luc and Hôtel-Dieu hospitals. It has a $400 million budget, which is quite a lot. On this $400 million, the shortfall in the money managers need for their various programs and do not have will be $40 million.

Therefore, Quebec finance minister Landry is quite right when he says that it is not a matter of money. Yes, we need to think about how we are going to reorganize the health care system. In the medium term, however, for the next three, four or five years, it is clear that, without a significant injection of funds into the system, there will be problems.

The Government of Quebec, with its own money—the National Assembly has done its part—will inject $2.5 billion into the system in the next few years. This, however, will not be enough. We must not assume that the public is not upset, that they are not angry at seeing the government, with its surpluses estimated at between $97 billion and $137 billion—it could be more than $95 billion—doing nothing.

Year after year, our colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, the Bloc Quebecois finance critic since 1993, has made predictions and has never been wrong.

I know that the member for Louis-Hébert is closely following, like me, the career of our finance critic, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, and that he has never been wrong in his predictions. He is much better at it than the Minister of Finance. He has never been wrong in his predictions. He thinks the surplus could be over $95 billion.

It is this government's responsibility to restore transfer payments. There are many backbenchers in the Liberal Party. There is no shame in being a backbencher as long as one is strong and can stand one's ground. I ask them to add their voices to those of the Bloc Quebecois, the Progressive Conservative Party, the Reform Party and the New Democratic Party to put pressure on the government.

Liberal backbenchers cannot be content with being what Clémence Desrochers called backing vocals. I do not know if it means anything to members, but in a signing group, there are always the lead signers and the backing vocals.

Liberal backbenchers are what Clémence Desrochers, a great humorist from Quebec, called backing vocals. They must not be content with playing second fiddle; they must express the concerns of Quebecers and also of people from the other provinces because, I will say it again, there is great unanimity with regard to health care issues.

I want to give other examples of what we would do with the $500 million that the Premier of Quebec could invest in the health care system as soon as he got it. This represents the budget of almost a quarter of Montreal's hospitals or half the budget of the whole CLSC network in Quebec.

Members know that the CLSCs are a rather unique model that we have in Quebec. People from all over the world or at least from North America come to Quebec to learn more about the CLSC network because it is a unique example of a network totally focused on the community, particularly for front line services.

What do we find in CLSCs? We find of course all the services relating to young children, specialized services for people living through a crisis, and support services for community organizations. It is therefore important that CLSCs be an effective and adequately funded network, to continue to provide services to our fellow citizens.

I want to be very clear: the $500 million we would have if transfer payments were restored would be fully used. That amount is the equivalent of the whole budget for home care services.

This is a critical component of the contemporary analysis that must be made of our health care system. We can be sure that people will no longer agree to grow old outside their community. When people get older—regardless of the community in which they live—their expectations and needs remain the same: they want to grow old within their natural community.

This is why Mrs. Marois and, before her, Mr. Rochon, her predecessor, who is an MNA from Quebec City, a colleague of the hon. member for Louis-Hébert, made the wise decision to move toward ambulatory care.

What is ambulatory care? It means telling people “You are going to hospital for an operation, but you are going back home, back to your community, as soon as possible. There are people, particularly from the CLSCs, who will help you stay in your community, in your home”. This approach involves costs.

I have here some figures which I can give about the rise of costs for Quebec to maintain home care services. Members will see that it is a huge budget item.

I will have the opportunity to come back to this. I know I still have a lot of time. Should I run out of time, knowing how generous the Chair is, I shall borrow some from her and pay her back next week.

The $500 million could be put to good use. It is four times the annual budget of the Sainte-Justine hospital for children. It is more than three times that of the Royal Victoria Hospital, and it represents one-quarter of the cost of the prescription drug insurance plan.

I say in all friendship to Liberal backbenchers that the Bloc Quebecois will not give up. We will continue to ask for health transfer payments until they are restored. I am volunteering, with the support of my many colleagues here today, to travel to every region of Quebec in May.

I will visit the riding of Louis-Hébert, Lake Saint-Jean, Laval. I will even visit your riding, Madam Speaker, if you invite me. I am aware of your tradition of generosity and hospitality. We will explain to Quebecers why it is important to invest additional resources in the health system.

I also want to address another very important issue, that is, what is happening in emergency rooms. They are often a reflection of what is going on in hospitals. It is equally important for people to understand that local community service centres are on the frontline, but that when there is a true emergency or a need for extended health care, they should go to hospitals.

I have discovered some extremely interesting things that help us to understand the structural pressure that the system has to bear.

Last year, there were 50,000 more people brought in on stretchers to emergency units in Quebec than in 1994-1995. We cannot, on the one hand, acknowledge the aging of our society and, on the other hand, think that people will not ask for health care in various locations where it is provided.

For Quebec only, and I suppose the situation is not much different in Alberta, Saskatchewan or elsewhere in Canada since the whole population is aging, there were 50,000 more people brought in to emergency units. Of that amount, 80% were 65 or older.

In conclusion, it is not up to this government to establish national health standards. The best way that this government and parliament can help people who need health care is to restore transfer payments in health care to their previous level.

I urge all members, New Democrats, Reformists, Progressive Conservatives as well as Liberal backbenchers to join the Bloc Quebecois in putting pressure on the government so that in the days to come there will be additional money for provinces.

This is the challenge we have to meet. This is the duty we have to carry out. This is the best thing we can do in the days to come.

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1:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I will ask a question of my hon. colleague so he can use some of the three minutes that he lost for the quorum call.

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Murray Calder Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Did the Conservatives call for a quorum?

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1:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

We did not. Madam Speaker, the Liberals never listen to what the hon. member has to say. Quite frankly he could have taught them something about the health care system if they had listened.

My question is a serious one. The member talked about the immediate implementation of transfers to health care. I do not disagree with that. We keep hearing in the House all the time that it is not a matter of money. I think the hon. member spoke very eloquently to the fact that there is money and it is part of the component of health care.

We heard recently that in the province of Quebec the finance minister, Mr. Landry, had a reserve of some $800 million which was passed on to that province. As I understand from the last budget it will be put back into health care.

I would like to ask the member a legitimate question. When $800 million are spread over a period of time, all those dollars cannot be spent in one day. There has to be a somewhat reasonable expenditure of those funds. I would like the member to answer as to where and how those dollars will be put back into the system.

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1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank our colleague from the Progressive Conservative Party, who forms a committee of the whole with his two colleagues in the House, for asking me this vitally important question.

Our colleague knows that Bernard Landry is a man of substance, a man capable of thinking ahead. The $841 million to which our colleague refers is an amount placed in trust for future needs. Had it been used immediately in the government's accounting, part of it would have had to be allocated to servicing the debt. Like his colleague the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance wanted a massive allocation of resources for health, rather than paying off the debt now, since we know very well that, with the Canadian dollar as weak as it is, the debt is more or less paying itself off automatically. That is the reasoning behind the handling of that $841 million.

I can assure my colleague, and all members of this House, that the Parti Quebecois government is going to invest all resources available to it into health. As I have stated, health costs rise in the order of 4% annually. We are familiar with how that 4% breaks down. I have the figures here. Out of a total pressure of 4%, population growth accounts for 1.3% of that, technological change, 1% and inflation, 2%. This is why there is a 4% annual increase in the costs of the health system.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Murray Calder Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, the federal government has been putting money into health care. In fact we put up $1.3 billion in emergency funds for Ontario to draw from. At that point in time Ontario spent about $750 million and it still has $556 million in a savings account that it has not spent.

My question is for the hon. member across the way. I know Quebec did the same. It has $700 million sitting in a savings account in the TD bank. Could the hon. member tell me what rate of interest it is getting for that money?

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1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I am rather surprised at the question put by my colleague, whose only contact with me to date has been friendly teasing from the other side of the House. I think he looks a bit like the man from Glad, and I say this in all friendliness.

As far as the rest is concerned, I think that, had my colleague listened, he would have understood my response to his question. So, not wanting to improperly use the time of the House, I would refer him to Hansard , because I have already answered that question.

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1:30 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, following that same line, I know that the province of Quebec and the province of Ontario should be congratulated for their payments toward the hepatitis C victims. The question here is how much is being saved in interest by making non-payments.

I also know that the federal government has paid the lawyers for the hepatitis C victims. Perhaps the hon. member could tell me if he has any idea how much money in interest the federal government is making by not paying the hepatitis C victims.

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1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, that is an excellent question. I wish to thank the hon. member for such a perceptive question.

Briefly, this government, with a cowardice rarely seen, with a complete lack of sensitivity, which caused an outcry right across Canada, decided not to compensate hepatitis C victims who were infected before 1986 or after 1990.

Anyone who reads the Krever report—I have read it from cover to cover—can see perfectly well that the government has a responsibility. What is the first recommendation of the Krever report? What does this report say? I do not want parliamentarians across the way to forget this, because it is a question of compassion, of helping others. I am ashamed, it makes me sick to think that this government, with a surplus of $95 billion, was not able to compensate hepatitis C victims.

What did the Minister of Industry do for these people? What action was taken by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, normally so vociferous, so outspoken in the House? These people hid behind a mask of insensitivity—

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1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

These members let them down, when the first recommendation of the Krever report was for no fault compensation regardless of date of onset.

We will never forget this. This government carries the stain of having let down hepatitis C victims, and it can never be told too often in the House how badly it behaved in this affair.

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1:30 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to participate on behalf of my colleagues in the NDP caucus in this very important debate.

The first thing I want to say, given the time restrictions on this opportunity, is “so little time and so much to say”. There is no doubt, I am sure, in the minds of anyone in this Chamber that health care is the number one priority of Canadians, yet this place has spent so little time addressing this very urgent priority.

Therefore, I want to commend the Conservatives for bringing forward this motion because it allows us an opportunity to raise the concerns of Canadians and to hold our government to account for its dereliction of duty and negligence in the face of Canadians' priorities and needs.

We may have some disagreement with the wording of the motion, in that it may not go far enough. We would have liked to have seen a more explicit reference to our public health care system. However, we will support the motion because it does in fact take us one step closer to doing what this government ought to have done in the first place, and that is to ensure that health care today is placed on a sure footing with guaranteed, sustained, predictable funding, something which this government has denied the people of Canada.

I would be remiss if I did not single out the work of my colleague, the health critic for the Conservatives, who brought forward this motion and who has played a very active role in pursuing issues of concern to Canadians on this whole issue of public health care and health care in general. Therefore, I want to commend him for his contribution in the House today.

Having said that—and I know he will not like it when I say this, nor will any Conservative—I welcome the Conservatives back into the debate on health care. I do not have to draw too much attention to that fact because the media has been careful at scrutinizing the work of this place over the last three weeks, mentioning that New Democrats have stood alone in this place day in and day out raising the number one concern of Canadians.

We noted with chagrin and disappointment that the Conservatives, the Reform and the Bloc chose not to launch an immediate attack on the government the day after the budget was released in the Chamber, when it became apparent that the government was prepared to do no more than spend a paltry sum of taxpayers' money on their number one priority: universally accessible, publicly administered health care.

It gets a little lonely down at this end of the House. It gets a little lonely when we are raising the number one issue of Canadians and there is no one here with us.

I regret that we have not had more of a collective approach on this number one issue over the last three weeks, but it is never too late. I am therefore very grateful to the Conservatives today for bringing this motion forward because it is a very timely motion at a most critical juncture in the history of the country.

What surprises me more than anything is to hear the Liberals so clearly and vehemently opposing this motion. I cannot for the life of me understand why they would oppose a motion which is basically in line with the rhetoric and promises of the government. I cannot understand it, except that we are very used in this place to the political grandstanding of Liberals when it comes to the number one priority of Canadians.

I regret that the Liberals are playing politics with such an important issue and I regret that they cannot join with us today, all parties, and support a motion that at least gets us partway toward achieving an objective that is important to Canadians right across the country.

The other thing that is very surprising today is to listen to the Reform Party. I think this is the first defence I have heard of Bill 11, outside Ralph Klein and his cronies in Alberta. This is the very first actual public demonstration of support for that bill, which is the single most destructive initiative to medicare in the history of the country.

We know from the news that every group in Alberta, and important organizations right across the country, have rallied together to try to stop Bill 11, and for very good reason. We know that the Alberta Medical Association is opposed to Bill 11. We know that the United Nurses of Alberta is opposed to Bill 11. We know that the Canadian Association of Nurses is opposed to Bill 11. We know that the Catholic bishops in Alberta, and undoubtedly right across the country, are opposed to Bill 11. We know that the Friends of Medicare, representing many individuals, senior citizens and organizations right across the province of Alberta, are opposed to Bill 11. We even know that the executives of the oil companies in Alberta are opposed to Bill 11, maybe for different reasons than the Friends of Medicare; however, what is clear is that there has not been a single voice of support for Ralph Klein and his bill that will privatize health care and lead us down the path of two tier Americanized health care in the country.

I guess that helps to clear up the picture today, because we have been treated over the past number of years to subtle references by Reform members of the need to go forward by going backward, to go forward by allowing private sector companies to invade our health care sector and to establish a parallel, private health care system.

It helps Canadians to know, when it comes to this number one issue, where they can turn for help and support, and what kind of danger the country would be in if the Reform Party was allowed to go one step forward with its destructive, harmful agenda.

Let us be absolutely clear where Reform stands, especially now as we see the leadership race for the upcoming party, the Canadian alliance, develop in the House and hear the Reform Party critic for foreign affairs contemplate entering the race as he bases his platform on the pursuit of a parallel, private health care system. Let Canadians know what they are dealing with. That does not even touch on the sentiments that we hear coming out of the mouth of Stockwell Day.

I do not think it matters who is the candidate or who is the next leader of the Reform Party or the Canadian alliance because they all say one thing and one thing only: “Let us scrap our universally accessible, publicly administered health care system”. Whether they say it or not, it really is the case. They say “Let us move toward an Americanized two tier health care system”. If people have the money they can access quality health care services. If they do not, then they take a number and stand in line.

Canadians reject that approach from coast to coast to coast. Canadians say with one voice that we will and we can pursue, manage and maintain a universal health care system. Medicare has held us in good stead in the past and it is our model for the future. It is something which we must take forward into the new millennium.

The motion before us is about the kind of financial stability which our health care system needs. Although it was not raised in Oral Question Period by the Conservatives, it flows from the budget of February 29 when the Minister of Finance stood in the House and said that the great contribution in the face of this crisis in health care in Canada would be $2.5 billion divided between health and education, allocated on a one time basis, and spread over four years.

As we have said earlier, that is a paltry sum. Peanuts. An insignificant amount. Hardly an expenditure commensurate to the task at hand. As our leader has said time and time again, that announcement represented a two cent commitment for every dollar the government proposed in tax cuts. That is the commitment of the government and that is what all of us in the House are talking about today and raising our voices around.

We must have a commitment on the part of the federal government to restore the cash it cut out of the system in 1995 when it brought in the most regressive social policy in the history of the country, throwing out block funding for health care and education in CAP and putting in place the CHST, the Canada Health and Social Transfer. At that time it took $6 billion out of health care, education and social assistance, the biggest bite out of social programs in the history of the country, and it has only partially repaid what it cut.

We have heard what the Liberals do in the face of this. They know the reality, but they pretend something else. To use the Prime Minister's own words, the Liberals' words “do not meet reality”. There is no basis in fact for what the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health are saying when they claim that the federal government's share of health care funding in the country is up to—what did they say today? Thirty-three cents on the dollar? That is a total distortion of reality. That is totally a misuse of the expenditures allocated for health care and it is not a service to the task at hand.

We know what the government is doing. It is throwing in tax points, the cash that is left and equalization payments. It is adding it all up and saying “Look what we are doing”. The Liberals themselves have acknowledged in the past that it is only the cash that determines public spending. It is only the cash that counts. It is the cash that holds this country together. It is the cash that ensures we have a national health care system.

It is totally bogus for the government to suggest that tax points should now suddenly be considered in this formula. The Prime Minister himself acknowledged this on March 1, 1995 when he spoke on a CBC radio program. He said:

A lot of the money has been transferred over years as tax points. When you transfer tax points, you lose all leverage after that because you don't collect the money; they collect the money. You say okay, I will not collect this money, you collect. But after 10 years people don't say that it's tax points coming from the federal government. They just say this is our own tax. And when the tax points increase, the value of the tax points increase over years the cash goes down, and eventually there will be no cash that will be sent.

Canada was put in that situation because of Conservative policy leading up to the election of the Liberals as the government in 1993. Maybe this is why the Conservatives have been a little slow off the mark and why they are a little reluctant to be more explicit about salvaging a public health care system in their motion.

I do not need to remind the Conservatives what happened under Brian Mulroney. It is very important that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past so we can acknowledge where we went wrong, correct the errors and move forward in a way that makes sense for the benefit of all Canadians.

I do not need to remind the Conservatives that under the Mulroney government the finance legislation was changed three times in order for the government of the day to diminish cash payments to health care. I will quote from a report that I delivered to the finance committee in 1991. I was serving as an MLA in Manitoba and was acting as the health critic for the NDP in that province. I quote from a report dated November 25, 1991 in response, ironically and interestingly, to a bill numbered C-20. I started by acknowledging where it started in 1982. I said:

It started under the Liberals in 1982, when the then federal government removed the guarantees supporting cash payments, lumping the cash and tax point revenues together to determine the per capita entitlement. The present government—

I was referring to the Mulroney government.

—has used this 1982 change to gut the cash payment entirely, which it has done in a series of steps over the past six years. In 1985 the federal Conservatives declared without consultation that the cash entitlement under the EPF act would be restricted to economic growth minus two percentage points. Soon after, the two percentage points became three percentage points. In 1990 a complete freeze in EPF payments through the 1992 fiscal year was imposed, and now Bill C-20 will extend that freeze through the 1995 fiscal year.

The impact of these steps are well documented. Federal cash payments for health care will end, and much more rapidly than expected, if Bill C-20 is allowed to pass. Bill C-20 is in fact an admission of the long term negative impact of the federal funding formula changes and an implicit recognition of the importance of leverage that comes with the withholding of cash payments.

That is the crux of the matter: the importance of cash payments as leverage in terms of holding provincial governments to account and responsible for adherence to the principles of the Canada Health Act, the five principles of medicare.

The Liberals did learn a little from the mistakes of the Conservatives by ensuring in 1995 there was at least a cash floor. But the problem is the cash floor is down at about $12 billion. With the money added by the government in last year's budget and this year's budget, we are up to a cash floor of approximately $15 billion. That is still more than $3 billion short of what the cash transfers were for health care in 1995.

No matter what the government wants to say about 25 cents on the dollar or 33 cents on the dollar, the fact of the matter is it is 15 cents on the dollar if we really look hard. That is precisely what is wrong with the approach the government has taken. That is why we have to work together to get back to the 50:50 partnership that was behind medicare in the first place.

The abdication of responsibility by the federal government and its failure to ensure stable predictable funding for provincial health care systems have opened the door to the likes of Ralph Klein and Ontario's Mike Harris who are bent on privatization and who are determined to move forward. As soon as the federal budget was released, they hauled out the sign which said “go private”. What is inexcusable on the part of the government is that it has created the Klein monster. It is going to create the Harris monster by not acting now, by not ensuring stable funding and by acting in complicity with the likes of Klein and Harris.

Let me specifically refer to something the Liberals do not want to talk about in the House. Let us look at the 12 point agreement that was signed by the government in 1996. We all heard the former Minister of Health, the member from North Bay, say that she was being pressured into signing the agreement between Alberta and the federal government which further advanced the agenda on private clinics and she refused. She had the courage to stand up against the likes of Albertan politicians who were determined to open up our public system to private forces.

I had hoped that we would have the same kind of courage from the present Minister of Health. What did we get instead? Nothing. He is doing nothing but making broad rhetorical statements and getting into hot water with Ralph Klein who is throwing insults his way. He is not standing up with anything concrete. If he is going to be insulted for doing nothing, he might as well be insulted for doing something.

We are trying to get the Minister of Health to take a position on Bill 11. Why stall? Why neglect? As I said earlier, why do Canadians have to go to bed one more night without knowing whether their government will take action on Bill 11, and without knowing whether their treasured public health care system will be there for them and their families in the future? Why will the government not act today? The crisis is upon us. We are at a watershed in the history of this country. Let us go forward.

As I have said to the Minister of Health, act today, do not delay and stand up for our most treasured national medicare program that has served this country so well.

Business Of The House
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I must inform the House that I have received notice from the hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford. He is unable to move his motion during private members' hour on Monday, March 20, 2000.

It has not been possible to arrange an exchange of positions in the order of precedence. Accordingly, I am directing the table officers to drop the item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence.

Private members' hour will thus be cancelled and government orders will begin at 11.00 a.m.