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 health.

Topics

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10:45 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am afraid that is not a point of order.

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Allan Rock Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I would be delighted to table the document which is publicly available from the Canadian Institute of Health Information.

I want to make one other point on funding before I leave it. The platform of the Conservative Party in the last federal election was that all transfers to the provinces by Ottawa should be by tax points without cash. That is its policy. If we were to do such a thing we would remove entirely the influence of the Government of Canada and its ability to enforce the principles of the Canada Health Act. It would be ruinous for the future of a national health care system in the country.

This motion is wrong because its premise is fundamentally flawed. The government is already doing what it said it would do and what it was called upon today to do which is to develop a plan in partnership with the provinces and commit to long term financing for our health care system. We have called upon our provincial partners to work with us to fix the single most important feature of Canadian life, which is our medicare system, and to marshal and mobilize a national will to achieve that purpose.

If the status quo is not acceptable, neither is the prospect of private-for-profit health care. The American style system is not acceptable in this country, and so we reject the position of the Reform Party. We say that is not the answer to the problems we confront.

There is a third option. The third option is to work constructively with partners toward solutions that will work, solutions that will improve access and quality of care. If we are to succeed in that we must put aside partisan politics and work in common cause on an issue that is bigger and more important than any one of us.

The Prime Minister has now written to the first ministers. He has suggested a meeting among first ministers late this year. He has asked health ministers to develop an interim plan by June.

The Prime Minister has given us a timetable. Canadians have given us a mandate. The provinces have shown that innovation can work. It is now up to us to get behind that innovation, to turn it into a long term plan to assure long term financing and to fix this cherished national asset.

Let me close by saying that this is something we can do. The answers are available to us. We need the political will. We need the focus. We need the commitment that is necessary. A nation that had the wit to invent it can find the will and the ways to save it.

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10:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Obviously there is a lot of interest in asking questions of the minister, so I will ask you to limit your questions to one minute.

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10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am sharing my time with the Minister of Health. I appeal to the House, so that my speech would not be interrupted, that I could proceed right after question period. That would give an extra three or four minutes for the question period, if the House would agree to that.

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10:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Very well, there is no problem but there are still five minutes left for questions and comments.

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10:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Charlotte, NB

Madam Speaker, when I started out in this debate I was hoping we could avoid, although not completely, the idea of throwing back and forth who said what, who funded what and those percentages.

The minister's speech reminds me of that old axiom “Figures lie and liars figure”, because we totally disagree on those numbers, as did the member from Winnipeg. Those numbers are not real. If it evolves into that type of debate, which it often does, nothing happens. It goes back to finger pointing: him pointing at the provinces and the provinces pointing back at him.

What we are talking about is fixing a system that is broken and his government did it. We are looking for solutions, not name calling and finger pointing, and who did what, who said what and whose figures are real.

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10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Allan Rock Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, if we are going to have a debate, which the member started with his motion today, then let us do it on the facts.

When I hear his colleague suggesting that Ottawa is contributing 15 cents on every dollar to health spending, that is plain wrong. Let us put the facts on the table and let us have this debate framed by reality.

The Government of Canada contributes one-third to all health spending every year in this country. Let us get that straight. These are not figures we are pulling out of the air. As I said, they come from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. It tracks actual spending on health in this country.

I went beyond figures and talked about what we need to fix the health care system. I encourage the member and his party to join us in that effort.

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10:50 a.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, one of the figures that is really difficult to argue with is the percentage of spending per capita. That is the figure that is accurate and reproducible.

I wonder if the minister would, from this document, because these figures are in this document, go to 1993 and look at the federal cash contribution per capita in Canada and compare that with the same figure, the cash contribution from the federal government per capita today. Those are the two figures that tell the tale. Because those figures are in that document, I ask the minister if he would present them to us.

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10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Allan Rock Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to table the document and the member can look at it from any angle he would like to.

One message emerges clearly from that document, and it is that for their own purposes some people understate the contribution of the Government of Canada. I insist that we tell the truth. I also insist that we look at the last four years in which in every budget we have increased the transfers to the provinces for health; a 25% increase over the last four years. Transfers this year to the provinces are at an all time high. Those are the facts.

As I have said, it will take two things to solve the problems facing medicare: First, a long term plan with the changes we will need; and second, a commitment to long term financing. Let us focus on both. We are ready to get to work on each of those elements.

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10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to what the Minister of Health had to say. He asked the provinces to show their willingness to restore the health system.

It is fine for him to tell that to the provinces, but is he undertaking to engage in dialogue with the provinces? Is he undertaking to restore provincial transfer payments to the 1993-94 level? Is he undertaking to do something to make up to the provinces the shortfall since 1994-95? Is he also undertaking to respect provincial jurisdiction over service to the public?

I ask him what he wants to do. Provincial governments are more than willing, but let us not forget that it is because they have seen their payments slashed by the federal government and been forced to go through what they have gone through in the health care system in the last few years.

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10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Allan Rock Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the government has already stated its position on this. We have stated our commitment to be there over the long term to fund the health care system with the provinces. We have already stated our commitment to be there to take part in the changes necessary in the delivery of services in order to support the provinces in introducing the necessary reforms.

I cited Bernard Landry, who said himself a few days ago that it is a question not just of more money but also of how our health care system is run.

Responsibility for the delivery of services is in the hands of the provinces, and the Government of Canada also has a role to play in co-ordinating the changes and supporting the provinces in their efforts.

In reply to the questions put by the hon. member for Jonquière, we have already stated our intention to honour our responsibilities in this regard.

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10:55 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my questions are simple. How is it that the health minister is not able to come forward with a legal opinion after four months since Ralph Klein introduced Bill-11 and two weeks since he has known about the actual contents of the bill?

If he is now saying “wait for the regulations”, is the Minister of Health in fact saying that he is waiting until Ralph Klein puts the last nail in the coffin of public health care before he acts?

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10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Allan Rock Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have had this exchange before. Let me remind the hon. member what I said to her. I said that if she has a legal opinion with respect to Bill-11, I wish she would share it with us.

The second thing I said to her was to wait until we found out what the bill is all about. The premier himself is speaking about amendments. We do not have the regulations. Let us find out what the bill contains before we pronounce a final position.

Finally, I have not been shy about expressing the government's grave concern. We do not agree with the policy of private for profit clinics. It will not help with costs. It will not help with waiting lists. We have urged the premier to reconsider, as he has done twice in the past.

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11 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, on several occasions the minister has asked us to table the documents containing legal opinions. Yesterday his House leader refused the unanimous consent necessary to do so.

Will the Minister of Health now agree and assure that unanimous consent is achieved for the tabling of these—

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11 a.m.

The Speaker

Let me understand. The Minister of Health would not make this decision; the House would. Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to table the document?