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

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

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March 17th, 2000 / 1:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Charlotte, NB

Madam Speaker, I was delighted to hear the compliments that the member threw at me. I have always known that she has been a big fan of mine. Now that it is on the public record, I feel that much better about it.

On a more serious note, the member in all fairness pretty well covered the waterfront. I am sure when the member for Saint John is on her feet on debate she can take her to task on some of the points we may disagree on.

One of the points which I made earlier this morning was the lack of negotiation with the provinces and the name calling and finger pointing. We have had seven years of it. There is no point in continuing along that line but I cannot see anything positive coming from the health minister and in particular the Prime Minister in terms of coming to grips with the question of fixing our health care system. All they want to do is talk and argue.

As I pointed out this morning, Madam Speaker, when I point to you and lay blame, I have three fingers pointing back at myself. But is that not the case with the health minister? He can lay blame in all the provinces but he never takes responsibility himself.

I would like the member to comment on that. In other words, seven years of inactivity on this file has left us in a very precarious position in terms of where our health care system is going.

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1:55 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I could not agree more with the Conservative health critic. I want to add to his comments by suggesting that the Minister of Health has done a great disservice to our ability as a country to go forward in a co-operative, collective, community based approach to solve the problems of our health care system and ensure we can preserve medicare.

I believe that the government, not only the health minister but the finance minister and the Prime Minister stood up in the House and tried to suggest that it was not federal cutbacks at all, that the federal government had played a very significant role in federal funding. By denying the cuts that it had enacted on this country, by pretending that it had suddenly increased tax points and taken up the slack, by diffusing the issue, the government has added to the conflict that exists at the federal-provincial table today and now we are at a very difficult impasse.

There are three steps that have to be taken before we can get beyond this. First of all we have to have a commitment from the federal government to restore the cash that it cut out of the system in 1995 to fully restore the federal cash transfer payments for health care. That is the only way we can stabilize the system and ensure that we have the co-operation of provincial and territorial governments at the federal-provincial table.

Second, the minister has to then pursue the enhancement of medicare, which involves a national home care plan and a national drug plan as promised in the government's 1997 and I believe 1993 election red books. He has to pursue those national projects. They are extremely necessary from the point of view of provincial governments and they ensure we can go forward based on a public model.

If we are truly serious about going forward, the Minister of Health has to take a firm position with Alberta. By showing leadership, firmness and clarity, he will win more support from Ralph Klein and Alberta's minister of health than is the case presently, and will provide the basis upon which to go forward. This vagueness, this hesitation, this lack of willingness to actually be precise but yet to invade our thoughts and our minds with pure rhetoric and generalizations does nothing to take us forward. That was my third point.

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1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with some interest to the member opposite pat herself on the back with respect to what she had done presumably in 1991. I was certainly interested in that.

The one thing we know about the NDP members is that they are not very good with numbers. I think we witnessed that again here today with the member's speech. NDP members have an inability to really come to grips with such a very important issue and the kinds of things that are necessary in terms of our health care.

For members of the NDP the sky is always falling. It is too bad that they get into those flights of rhetoric and try to always undermine the very system that we in Canada take for granted.

I do agree with the hon. member when she talks about the Reform Party and what it stands for. Reform members stand for a two tier Americanized system, and that is something Canadians reject out of hand.

I was somewhat disconcerted when I read in the Hansard of March 2, 2000 that the hon. member for Shefford who is a Progressive Conservative also seemed to indicate that privatization was something that should take place in Canada. I was astounded because I would have thought better of the Progressive Conservatives. This after all is their motion today.

I also noted that the member for Chicoutimi was quoted recently as saying that perhaps the Conservatives and the Reformers should get together in some sort of holy or unholy alliance. I think his words were: “Let's find common ground”. If they are to find common ground on that kind of issue presumably they will on health care as well.

I would caution Progressive Conservatives not to go down that path. They should be careful when it comes to these kinds of things. We saw them flip on the clarity bill. Heaven help us if they flip on something as important as health care.

I listened to the speech of the member opposite. Why would her leader under the platform of the NDP in the last election commit $79 billion to new spending over five years, only 10% of which or $7 billion was committed to health care? It does not add up. NDP members talk about the importance of health care yet their commitment was absolutely outrageous in terms of what they were proposing. It is unbelievable.

Let me conclude by giving the record. What Bob Rae and the NDP and Glen Clark and the NDP in B.C. did was outrageous. My question to the member is simple. Why does she not work with all of us, our provincial and territorial partners and the health minister, to try to find a solution instead of all the nonsense they keep raising and all the rhetoric they keep stirring up, all this sky is falling kind of nonsense? Why will she not commit the NDP to working with us to get a good solution for the all important health care issue in Canada?

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2 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, we have been trying to do precisely that and have been getting nowhere. I would like the member who just spoke to remember that, if he is listening.

I would like members opposite to know that we have tried to co-operate by sharing the legal opinions which show that Bill 11 is in violation of the Canada Health Act. Even after hearing the Minister of Health say that he would love us to share them with the House, his House leader said that they did not want those documents tabled. They did not want anything to do with them. What do they have to hide and what are they so worried about?

The member accuses me of poor math. I can take that. He can insult me all he wants personally, but I want to know from him whether he disputes the facts we have presented to the House. Is he prepared to say that the premiers of every province in the country are not telling the truth? Is he prepared to say that every health care organization in the country is not telling the truth?

If that does not mean anything to the member, if it is not cuts in health care spending, if it is not lack of leadership by the federal government, how does he account for the present situation of overcrowded emergency rooms, growing waiting lists for long term care, inadequate home support and overloaded health care workers? The list goes on and on.

If the member does not want to deal with the financial reality it has imposed upon us and all Canadians because of his government's policies then perhaps he can account for the critical situation in our health care system, not the—

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2 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am afraid the member's time has expired.

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2 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, first and foremost I thank the hon. member from Charlotte county who brought forward the motion. It tugs at my heart to look today at the empty seats on both sides of the House.

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2 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The hon. member is very well aware that we do not comment on the presence or absence of members in the House.

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2 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, this is a very serious issue that we have to deal with.

We have to deal with why so many people are lined up in our hospitals, waiting for operations and having a difficult time. I am so glad to see that the Minister of Industry is here today because I say if there is stress—

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2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point or order. You have already warned the member opposite. She is a longstanding parliamentarian in the House. She should know not to comment on the absence or presence of people in the House. By the way, I would ask her where she was the night of the clarity—

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2:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The hon. member has a legitimate point. We do not comment on the presence or absence of members in the House.

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2:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, when we look at the health care system we have to wonder what has happened and why so many ill people are on waiting lists today. When I had 4,000 men working at our shipyard back home, they were feeding their families and educating their children. They were happy. They added to the economy. Now I have them coming to my office, not just the men but their wives and their children as well. The stress they are under is affecting their health. They cannot work, go to college, elementary or preschool if they do not have their health.

It has to be a number one priority for the government of the day. I am really concerned about what is happening. When I look back at the cuts that have taken place since 1993, Mr. Hugh Scully, president of the Canadian Medical Association, stated that the increase did not take into account an increase in population, an older population, advances in technology or advances in knowledge.

I am disappointed that the government would make the cuts it has to health care. Back home in New Brunswick when the Liberal Party came into power and Frank McKenna was the premier, does the House know what he did to husbands and wives who were seniors? He brought in a policy that said if they had to go into a nursing home it did not matter where it was, that they had to take the first bed within 100 miles of where they lived. We had husbands in one home, 100 miles away from their families, and their wives 100 miles in another direction.

I had their children and relatives coming to me. They could not even go to visit their fathers or their uncles or their aunts. When Bernard Lord took over, the first thing he did was drop that policy. He said that the policy was inhumane and that if they had to go to a nursing home they would be together.

What has happened with our health care system is totally inhumane. I cannot believe it. My hon. colleague, our health critic, was the first person to bring before the House the hepatitis C issue. No one here mentions that, but he never gave up on it. Have they received their cheques? No. The only reason we were able to get any attention whatsoever was that the opposition side came together to fight for those people, but they still have not received a cheque.

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2:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Charlotte, NB

Only the government's lawyers have been paid.

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2:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Yes, only the government's lawyers have been paid. What has happened to human society? What has happened to us? We are no longer there. I am really disappointed.

I happened to get a hold of the priority resolutions that the Liberal Party will consider at its convention today. I am sure, Madam Speaker, that you would not agree with the No. 2 priority resolution, the legalization of marijuana. Guess where the health care issue is on the list. It is not quite at the bottom but it is No. 9. Homelessness is No. 29, next to last.

The priorities of this present government have legalization of marijuana as second on the list and health care as ninth. What has happened?

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2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

What are they smoking?