House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was destruction.

Topics

Speech from the Throne
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, I find that regrettable. I went to Rivière-du-Loup on several occasions; I visited the member's riding on several occasions. People tell me “Mr. Coderre, we want solutions that will make us feel like full-fledged citizens. We too have our place in the sun”.

As for the future former member for Rivière-du-Loup, I think he would do better to look at what is going on in his riding than try to play politics. We are doing serious work here.

When it was time to vote on this bill, he again opposed it, because the Bloc Quebecois is now motivated less by passion than by pension, and is focussing on temporary effects in an attempt to make political hay out of them.

Speech from the Throne
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

You betrayed the public.

Speech from the Throne
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

We have betrayed no one here. Madam Speaker, I ask that the member be made to withdraw the word “betrayed”. There is no traitor on this side of the House.

Speech from the Throne
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I would ask the member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques if he wishes to withdraw the word “betrayed”.

Speech from the Throne
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I maintain that the minister betrayed the public by not honouring this commitments. He was told this in Chicoutimi by 2,000 people, who allowed us to speak on their behalf, while you people did not even dare to come out of your hotel because you were too afraid.

Speech from the Throne
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member may continue debate, because this is a debate; he said “betrayed the public”, and this is not an attack on a member or a minister.

Speech from the Throne
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time.

I have represented my community in every throne speech debate since the 1993 election. The Liberal pattern has been to tantalize with messages to make Canadians feel good as offer generalities and hints of a political direction. On the surface, many of these former throne speeches have created some temporary hope for national achievement. Then subsequent administration has not fulfilled that anticipation.

I want to applaud the government for mentioning national economic fundamentals for I have always said that a strong economy is the foundation of a strong society. The government must also provide the right balance of programs for people, such as health care and education. However I wonder if some advocacy groups today will be very happy with the throne speech.

For example, in a previous throne speech in January 2001 there was given an expectation, which today we can observe was not fulfilled. Here we go again. I quote from a January 2001 commentary about a former throne speech. It says:

The speech from the throne is the signal that this government plans to ensure that all Canadians share the prosperity of Canada, and especially those people who have been shut out from the prosperity time and again.

We were particularly pleased by the emphasis on promoting a healthy democracy in which leadership can come from everyone. In the view of the National Council of Welfare, making sure that all Canadians share in Canada's riches must include the highest possible level of public participation.

That was a quote from nearly two years ago. Where are we today? What has changed for the better? The government cannot hide how poor they have been. This throne speech was just too predictable. Called “The Canada We Want”, the speech does not reflect the government we need. It is a pedestrian laundry list of intentions and largely a repeat of much of what was needed to be done. High priority items were not mentioned. Many of the points should and could have been done years earlier. This statement certainly will not inspire Canadians. They must be saying, “Is that all there is?”

The biggest cost item is the Kyoto protocol. Parliament will be forced to vote on it without any sound basis of cost. There will likely be no cost benefit analysis laid before Parliament. The government will go forward on mostly environmental goodwill and emotion looking for the votes rather than working for Canada's fundamental international interest. Is the average family better off economically this year? Do we have more participatory democracy?

We do not have that, but what we do have now, I am sad to say, is a lot of talk about legacy rather than leadership, promises rather than policy. We are no further ahead. In fact we have slipped and continue to slide on the United Nations index of nations. On the world market our dollar buys less than it ever has before. The dollar value benchmark is one that the government cannot hide from or explain. It is the world's judgment about our economy now and our future prospects. The low dollar represents the undeniable failure of the government to meet the people's needs.

Significantly, in the throne speech there is no clear ultimatum to finally fix medicare once and for all, but just more talk and deliberations with the provinces. It has always been my community promise to compliment and help the government when it appears to be going in the right direction. It is my parliamentary duty to hold the government accountable when it strays and falls short. It is also my commitment to a vision that I provide constructive alternatives and improvements for the betterment of Canada.

I oppose the throne speech and the government today because Canada can do better. I hope that I will again be elected as the official opposition vice-chair of the House Standing Committee of Government Operations and Estimates. There we anticipate breaking new ground with this committee, to greatly enhance the accountability of government spending plans and examine the efficacy of much of the spending that is statutory and does not come before Parliament each year. It is about accountability and also about doing the right things. It is what a throne speech should be all about.

Parliament needs better oversight of where most of the taxpayer money is going. We have not had that under the former finance minister since 1993. In fact he is so out of it that he even voted in a lark for the Tobin tax on an NDP motion.

That is an esoteric international socialist idea to tax international monetary flows and redistribute world income. Heaven help Canada if this rogue has his way as prime minister in view of his past performance.

His one claim to significance was even a borrowed policy from us to balance the national books. However he did not have the wherewithal for the whole package, balanced budget legislation or programmed pay down of the national debt.

Even as we as a country stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies, it is necessary that we are not diverted from protecting the Canadian way of life. We must balance national security needs with the Canadian Alliance long term agenda for building a more prosperous, inclusive and democratic society.

Regardless of the mediocre government leadership we have had, Canada is still one of the world's success stories. We enjoy prosperity and a higher quality of life compared to many on the globe. We have grown from a small agrarian people at Confederation to a complex, multicultural economic powerhouse. However we recall that we were not touched on our shores by World War II and we emerged at that time on top of the social and industrial world order. Sadly our great leadership position has been squandered since then and now we can count ourselves lucky just to remain in the G-8 of countries.

In the global knowledge economy our world position will depend upon innovation as we invest in the future of science and research and skill development. We must do better to invest in the new technology but also help young Canadians to get a head start. With a more principled government, it could be envisioned that someday our people would find a culture of freedom and inclusion. More than ever we need a skilled workforce and an innovative economy for everyone.

Innovation is the bridge between today and tomorrow; between fresh ideas and new opportunities for all Canadians. Canada must become more debt free, keep inflation and unemployment low and become more internationally competitive in tax and regulatory structure. The barriers to greatness as a nation are often ones of our own making, such as the socialist bad habits, the politics of envy and regional resentment.

What I am saying is that Canada's fall from international leadership is Canadian made. Our missed opportunities or also-ran status as a nation is a legacy of Liberal and Conservative governments. What we really need is more freedom. We need the basic freedom to move goods, capital and labour. We need the freedom to learn, through investments in education and skill development. We need the freedom to become, through participatory democracy and support for rights.

I love my country. We are a blessed nation and there is no better place to live. Indeed we are a great country but we have accomplished much, not because we have had great governments. Our achievements have not come from great political leaders. We are favoured because it is the Canadian people who have built a great society. Canadians have overcome geography. We have made cultural and language differences an advantage rather than a problem. It is the people who paid the price for peace and justice. Graves of brave Canadians around the world is the testament.

The many waves of arrivals to our shores made their contributions. First, aboriginals came in successive migrations. Then the Europeans and Asians came in many waves. We became a destination of hope and opportunity. We now have a rich cultural mix which gives us an international advantage.

However Canada remains below its potential. We are poorly led and not wisely governed. The old habit of electing either a Conservative or Liberal federal government is not good enough any more. Canadians can do better. Canada can earn its way to the top if we forsake our old ways of voting.

We must vote for our children's future, rather than old prejudice. We must vote greater democracy, rather than Liberal and Conservative special interest.

Canadians can free themselves by electing a Canadian Alliance government. Canada has everything it needs to be the best.

Our task in the next two years is to give us a government worthy of the good Canadian people. We must vote to build, rather than just to avoid risk. We must vote for achievement, rather than old loyalties. Canadians must vote to give themselves a prosperous democracy that includes everyone, where no corner of the land is left behind.

The best is yet to come for Canada. I believe that it is not overreaching to say that we can be the world leader, to make a truly peaceful and sustainable world.

Speech from the Throne
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege and a pleasure for me to speak in response to the throne speech as the hon. member for Yellowhead and as opposition health critic.

As Parliament resumes, the minds of Canadians are on the state of the beleaguered health care system. What they see and what too many Canadians have experienced is a system that is under decay and under a tremendous amount of stress. Look at the strikes going on from coast to coast right now, or the acute problems with wait times, which are absolutely phenomenal, or the nursing shortage or human resources problem.

On the nursing shortage we can say that projections for growth in that field are such that we will need 113,000 new nurses by 2011. That will hinder patient care in tremendous ways, ways in which we have no idea at the present time.

When we look at how we are doing in comparison with other OECD nations, we see that we rank 18th when it comes to access to MRIs. We are 17th in CT scanners and 8th in radiology equipment. It is no wonder and no surprise that Canadian confidence in the health care system is decaying and waning at the present time.

An example of this is that in 1988 a study was done and 43% of Canadians said that they thought the system was fundamentally flawed. Last year the same study was done again and an astounding figure of 77% came forward. Clearly the patient is ailing.

The Liberal health care legacy of underfunding and neglect has come home to roost. The Prime Minister and the former finance minister presided over the massive cuts in the middle of the 1990s and the consequences of that action at the time are being felt now in today's health care system.

The Prime Minister and the former minister of health announced the Romanow commission almost two years ago. It was a desperate attempt by the Liberal government to just buy more time. That is exactly what happened. Then they sat back and comfortably waited while somebody else tried to do the dirty work and wrestled with the tough problems of reforming the health care system. We are waiting for the report in November of this year.

It is not the first time we have seen this action by the Liberal government. We remember the National Forum on Health in 1997. Its report sits on the proverbial shelf collecting dust. We can see that this is a ploy the government has used once before.

There are some things the Liberal government does do well. It studies health care. We asked the Library of Parliament how much money had been spent by the Liberal government since 1993 just to study health care. A figure of $243 million came back. The Liberal government has shown a grave lack of leadership when it comes to health care over the last 10 years. All the problems I just mentioned lay right at the feet of the Liberal government. Nobody else can take responsibility for them.

The health highlight of the throne speech was the announcement of the forthcoming first ministers conference early next year and the necessary federal funding that would have to go into investments in the long term security of our health care system. I say better late than never, but did we really need a throne speech for that announcement?

Most of the other health care items offered in the throne speech consisted of vague promises on health protection, prevention and aboriginal health. Many of these are just recycled ideas. We have heard them many times before in previous throne speeches. We could go through the last eight or ten throne speeches and there are similarities in all of them.

Here is just one of the examples. I quote, “The government will take further action to close the gap in health status between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians”. That is a worthy goal, but we have heard that many times before. It is no wonder the aboriginal community is thinking that this government speaks with a forked tongue on that.

Some alarming numbers came out earlier this week. They show that the rate of diabetes among first nations peoples is two to three times that of the Canadian population as a whole. The amount of tuberculosis on native reserves is eight to ten times higher than for the Canadian population.

The government should acknowledge that its current aboriginal policies are failing. It should announce firm targets for improving aboriginal health and life status.

I was particularly concerned about the government's pledge to speed up drug safety approval. We have a drug problem in the country and it is a serious problem. Up to 10,000 Canadians die each year because of avoidable prescription drug reactions. Up to 46% of our seniors receive at least one inappropriate prescription per year.

The Vanessa Young inquiry cited a number of problems in Health Canada's drug safety regime. The minister's rebranded Marketed Health Products Directorate still cannot remove drugs from the market.

Do not get me wrong. We are not opposed to bureaucrats working faster or more efficiently to speed up drug approvals. There are some very good benefits in that. However this is clearly a matter of the cart going before the horse and announcing faster drug approvals before adequately addressing the drug safety concerns that we have across this nation.

One glaring omission in the throne speech was the mention of the government's plan of dealing with the possible bioterror attack. Last year the government promised to obtain the smallpox vaccine for every Canadian. The government still has not obtained that vaccine. Where is the long-range plan that the government promised Canadians? By the way, where is the reproductive technology bill that was also promised? It met the same fate once before of dying on the order paper, so it is not the first time that has happened.

Canadians could be forgiven for having expected some leadership on health care this week from the government. However on most fronts, they were very sorely disappointed.

The government will soon be reviewing the recommendations of the Romanow report. As it prepares to do so, the official opposition should offer some principles and proposals that would guide its deliberations.

The Canadian Alliance is clear about its values on health care. Our policy states our commitment to ensuring that “timely, quality and sustainable health care is available to every Canadian, regardless of their financial means”.

The Canadian Alliance supports adequate, stable funding and transparent funding for health care. More funding will be required to shore up our ailing health care system and to place it on a firmer footing for the years and decades ahead. I am pleased to see an acknowledgment of this in the throne speech. However the federal transfer for health care has only now surpassed what it was back in 1993 and 1994. In the meantime, we have a population growth of 8% and an increase of over 15%, and our population is also growing older at the same time. Therefore, the federal government's contribution is 14¢ on every dollar right now. That is a far cry from the fifty-fifty split of a generation ago.

In putting more funding into health care, the government should resist its natural urge. Guess what that is? To raise taxes. Canadians do not want to pay any more taxes. Believe it or not, we would not want to see the finance minister jump from that Peace Tower. However, the government has chopped $25 billion from the CHST, but has left $16 billion a year in questionable grants and contributions. This is all about priorities or the lack of them.

It must be noted that more money, in the absence of other reforms, is not a viable or long term solution. This has been the recognition of many of those who have taken a look at our health care system over the last couple of years, whether it be Fyke, Mazankowski, Clair, Kirby or Romanow.

In return for more funding there must be a greater accountability of how that money is spent. The government must use this opportunity of another cash injection to encourage health reform and efficiencies.

We also reiterate the call for stable funding for health care. To prevent the kind of unprecedented, unilateral cuts inflicted by the Prime Minister and the former finance minister in the mid-nineties, we must entrench the commitment in the Canada Health Act for stable funding.

The Canada Health Act needs to be modernized. All five of the act's principles are routinely compromised. Moreover, there is a growing recognition that the act does not make provisions for important contributions such as quality, timeliness, sustainability or accountability. New provisions need to be added in the act.

The delivery of health care has changed dramatically since the act was passed in 1984. Through the development of new technologies, drug therapies and new treatment options, what constitutes medically necessary needs to be revisited in an era of new medical technologies and those therapies. A view of the scope of the services covered under the public system should be undertaken as a viable component of the first ministers consultation after Romanow.

I want to address the controversial issue of the private involvement in our public health care system. The provinces should have the maximum flexibility around health care delivery within a universal health care system, and I stress within a universal health care system.

The Canada Health Act discourages private payment of medically necessary health care services but does not prohibit nor does it discourage private delivery of those services. What is important is not who provides a service but that the service is provided and that it is provided in a timely and a quality fashion regardless of the individual's financial means to pay.

As our leader pointed out yesterday, the government monopoly is not the only way to deliver health care to Canadians. The federal health minister cannot stop the provinces from acting within their jurisdiction nor should she. Let me be clear. No province, no federal party, including the Canadian Alliance, is calling for a private parallel system.

Finally, the government owes it to Canadians to act quickly and responsibly once the Romanow commission report is called. Health care reform is too important to place on another waiting list. The government should act within 90 days after receiving the Romanow report.

Health care is the number one public policy priority of Canadians. It is clear that our system is in need of renewal. Health care requires innovative ideas and approaches in order to address the pressing challenges of increased expectations, escalating costs and aging population.

The Canadian Alliance will continue to engage the government in vigorous debate on the reform of the health care in this country. We will work--

Speech from the Throne
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I am sorry, the hon. member's time is up.

Business of the House
Government Orders

October 2nd, 2002 / 4:45 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, there have been a number of consultations among all parties in the House. I am pleased to say that there is agreement for the following motion, and I will explain the purpose of it. This evening we were to have a debate, which would have lasted a long time, on a very important issue involving Iraq. The motion allows us to have a shorter debate this evening and to have one tomorrow evening to permit people to speak at hours that are more reasonable. In exchange, there would be no quorum calls either evening. I move:

That the final paragraph of the Order of September 30, 2002, respecting the take-note debate with regard to Iraq, be amended to read as follows:

That, at the ordinary time of daily adjournment on October 2, 2002 and 2003, the House continue to sit in order to resume the said debate, provided that, during the said debate, the Chair shall not receive any quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent to propose any motion, and that, at 12:00 a.m. during the sitting of October 2, 2002, the debate shall be adjourned and the House shall adjourn and that, at 12:00 a.m. during the sitting of October 2003 or when no Member rises to speak, as the case may be, the motion shall be deemed to have been withdrawn and the House shall adjourn.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Speech from the Throne
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Madam Speaker, could the hon. member tell me if he believes that there is, as was mentioned in the throne speech, a paved and a speedy process for drugs, both illicit and prescription drugs? Would he explain what he thought of that particular clause in the throne speech?

Speech from the Throne
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, it is difficult to know exactly what is in that throne speech because the words are so vague.

There is some reference to illicit drugs. We all know the problem of illicit drugs in the country. It is acute, regardless of what our friends in the Senate. They perhaps would like to see marijuana legalized. I believe we have a serious problem with illicit drugs, but that was not the question.

The question refers to speeding up the process for prescription drugs. That is something we should take a serious look at because there are some up sides to that in the sense that faster, newer drugs and newer technologies have some benefits.

As we go into the 21st century drug therapies will be much more used than we have seen before. However, if we approve more before we deal with the abuses that are within the system right now, we will be making a terrible error. We have to look after the problem of abuse of prescription medications. It is an epidemic out there. It is something that we have talked about very little in the House and it is high time we started to do that.