House of Commons Hansard #16 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

Health Care System
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague should know that we have a problem globally with recruitment and retention of professional health workers, be they doctors, nurses or in other categories. This is a global phenomena.

We are challenged and I suppose in days to come we will receive more reports that will help us to better focus on where we should go. It is not necessarily the issue of resources, it is the issue of priorities and this is definitely a priority.

Canadians should know that other organizations can speak to this better than us here in the House, one being the aboriginal physicians association. I have met with that organization since I became a member of Parliament 14 years ago.

It is true that many professional aboriginals have entered the field but more are needed. We need more health professionals in the mainstream, not just aboriginal professionals.

There was definitely a focus in previous budgets as well in the throne speech. I am presuming that the reports that have been put out and the ones that will come later will put greater emphasis on the need for health professionals.

The member is correct in saying that we share that concern. I know there will be a focus on that. I know we are doing a good job but we will continue to work harder for all Canadians.

Health Care System
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, the hon. Secretary of State for Children and Youth knows that it costs a tremendous amount to operate the health care system in our country. It would cost less if we had fewer people using the health care system. Fewer people would use the health care system if they were healthier and better educated.

We do not hear anyone talking about prevention. Does the secretary of state not think that if the government invested more in our youth so that every young Canadian had the opportunity to receive a solid education that we would significantly reduce the cost of health care in Canada?

Health Care System
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I have been in cabinet for nine years and over those nine years most of the programs we undertake with young people are preventive and early intervention. These programs are geared to give children a healthier start. The national child benefit is one of those, prenatal nutrition, aboriginal head start, Inuit and first nations child care. All of those programs are designed to provide an earlier and a healthier start for children.

We know we have to be at the front end delivering the kinds of services to ensure a healthy start by building a foundation. Most if not all of the government programs are geared to that end. I think we are heading in the right direction and we will continue to do that.

Health Care System
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and a privilege for me take part in this take note debate. However I have to question why we are even debating this. It is startling to me that we have a government that has been in power for a decade, with three majorities and three mandates, and it has put nothing more on the table on how to deliver health care. Here we are in the House at the government's call to debate health care.

I have no problem debating health care. In fact I really enjoy it and it is long overdue that we have a debate not only on health care but on health care reform and how to sustain it. That is needed and it is long overdue.

I listened very intently when my hon. colleagues from the Liberal Party put forward what they thought was rational debate on health care. I have failed to hear any new, innovative ideas about which we could have a true debate. It is very frustrating to me. We have been asked to come here to debate new ideas about reforming health care so we can sustain it into the 21st century and the government really has nothing on the table to debate.

I would like to talk a bit about what is going on with health care and what needs to be done to sustain it. In the throne speech we thought we would get a glimpse of the vision of the government and its plans for the future of health care. We saw absolutely nothing. There was very little vision and virtually nothing when it came to health care reform.

What do we see from the government? We see more studies. The Kirby report was delivered on Friday of last week. We have the Romanow report coming up next month. It is interesting that, since 1993, the government has commissioned enough studies that amount to $243 million and absolutely no reform. It is something that has to stop. We absolutely have to do more than just study health care. We have to implement it.

Some of the reforms and studies that have been going on in the provincial jurisdictions amaze me. I can point to the Clair Commission out of Quebec and the Fyke report out of Saskatchewan. Ontario, New Brunswick and B.C. are doing their own. Then there is the Mazankowski report of Alberta. It is frustrating to see the opposition coming from the federal side when we talk about some of these reports, especially the one in Alberta because it is the only one where we have seen a government actually implement the report.

We saw the report of the national forum on health in 1999, but it has sat on a shelf and nothing has been done. It was not that good things could not have happened in 1997, but they did not. Whether we will get somewhere with the Kirby Commission and the Romanow Commission has yet to be seen. It depends on whether the government will actually implement them. We hope that happens. What is actually happening in the meantime?

I just received a note, Mr. Speaker, I will be slitting my time with the hon. member for Peace River.

The Environics Research Group released a study two weeks ago. It said that eight out of ten Canadians want significant reforms to Canadian health care. That is absolutely amazing.

The Canadian Alliance Party felt that something had to be done in health care as well so we commissioned our own study after the last election because we did not think any government or any party really hit the nail on the head when it came to health care. We did that over the last couple of years. We came up with what we feel is a very clear policy that coincides with what we think Canadians are feeling.

Canadians are saying they want a timely health care system, one they can access in a timely way; one that is of high quality when we get to access it; one that is sustainable for their kids and their grandkids; and one which they can access regardless of their financial means. That system should take its eyes off itself and put them on the patient it is there to serve. It has to be a patient driven system. We need a government that realizes that the patient comes first because the patient is the one who is paying the bill. This needs to be looked at as we sustain health care in the future.

I talked a little about the Liberal legacy. The Liberals pulled money out of health care and watched the system drift into a crisis. We have seen the cracks get so wide in health care that it is shameful. The most unhealthy place to work in the country is within our facilities where moral is poor and the stress of the workplace is unbelievable. At the same time, waiting lists for people trying to get into the system are unacceptably high. We have over a million people on waiting lists right now who are trying to get into the system.

We have nurse shortages that have grown to unbelievable proportions. We know that we will need 113,000 new nurses between now and 2011. We need 2,500 doctors a year just to keep up with the present demand and that demand is growing more and more.

Just by watching the news media every evening, we see week in and week out the problems in health care, whether it is the lack of doctors in emergency rooms or ambulances that are held and are unable to deliver services according to their mandate, as one article stated last week. Every week one hears something new and astounding.

On top of that there are the cracks in the system where the employees of that system are frustrated. The nurses unions and health sciences people are striking. Doctors are striking in different provinces. We are seeing major problems.

Canada ranks 18th of the OECD nations in the number of MRIs, 17th in CT scanners and 8th in radiology equipment. If we cannot be first, I would like to know why. We should be first. That should be the goal. We should be striving for that. Canadians deserve to have the best health care system in the world, and they can have it. There is absolutely no reason why we are not.

In a 1988 poll, 43% of Canadians thought the health care system was fundamentally flawed. Last year that same poll was taken and that 43% had risen to 77% of Canadians who thought it was fatally flawed, and it is. Our health care system is ailing.

The Kirby report came out on Friday. I would like to make mention of a couple of things on which that committee worked hard. It tackled some complex problems that were politically charged. It was very thoughtful about its deliberations and we should applaud that 300 page report and some of its aspects.

Romanow was commissioned to do another report. The Kirby committee started two years ago. Romanow happened after that. In fact, we scratched our heads and wondered why the government would do that? Why would it spend another $15 million on a commission when it already had a Senate committee doing a very comprehensive study? Nonetheless, another $15 million has been spent.

The big question is whether it will actually be implemented? Will it go anywhere? Those are the questions we have to ask as we go forward.

Some things that have come out in the Kirby report are health care related. He has tried to sustain the health care system in the long run and has tried to expand it. I will mention a little more about that in a few minutes.

The thing that really puzzles me about the report is the new money that he has asked be put into it. Romanow likely will ask for the same thing. We said that back in 1997 when we said that it needed an injection of $4 billion a year. That is not new. What is amazing to me is we had a Liberal Senate committee struck to look into health care, yet it came forward and suggested we needed to raise taxes. When it comes to the kinds of changes that are needed for health care, that is fair ball. However I guess a leopard does not change its spots. When a committee dictates that we should raise taxes for this new money, then all of a sudden that puts on a political hat, and we dare not play politics with health care anymore.

It very frustrating to see the Kirby committee recommend a 1.5% increase in GST or national health care premiums. Where it gets the money is up to the government in power, not to Mr. Kirby. How that money is raised or where it comes from should be decided by the government in power. Throwing money into a broken system gives us a larger broken system, so that is not a solution we should be embracing.

It is absolutely amazing to see this kind of a report come forward when no study was undertaken even within the Kirby committee's deliberations to study from where the money should come from, yet this is one of the recommendations in the report.

If we do not add accountability into our system, if we do not reform it to a place where we hold the users and the providers more responsible and actually implement some of the reforms needed in our system, we will lose it. A health care system needs that efficiency. Any new money that goes into health care needs to have that as its ultimate goal. If not, we will lose it within a very short number of years.

It is very important that we keep that in mind when we look at implementing some of the changes that have been brought forward by the Kirby commission. We dare not allow another thing in health care, and that is what happened in the mid-1990s when we had unilateral cuts by this government in health care. It destabilized health care and put an unbelievable burden on the provincial governments to provide health care, which is their mandate.

My time is going very quickly and I would like to just make mention of what needs to take place when it comes to fixing the system.

When we fix the system, we do not expand a broken system to fix it. One thing Kirby also mentioned was that we should go into a pharmacare, home care and palliative care. Although those are limited within his report, we need to get the fundamentals right and we need to fix the system before we expand it and make it weaker. We really have to be careful of that.

When it comes drugs and what is happening with the Canadian drug problem, first, we do not debate that in this House. We do not debate the kinds of massive problems we have with addiction to prescription drugs, which is a reality that we need to talk about much more in this House. If the government had come with that as something to debate today, we would have had a really solid debate on some of the changes that need to take place.

However we agree with some of the things that are in the report, which are more placements for medical school and health care technologists. We absolutely need that. We also agree that there should be some sort of guarantee to the patients. He is focusing more on patients and the importance of putting patients first in his report. We have been saying that is long overdue.

There is absolutely no question that we have to get on with reforming the system, but we have to do it in a way that is sustainable to the system. One of the flies in the ointment of the Kirby commission is that most of what he talks about is provincial jurisdiction and that instead of taking the big stick approach with the provinces, we have to take the collaborative approach. What will be interesting, when we come to implement this, is to discern the difference between the provincial jurisdiction and the federal jurisdiction.

Looking forward, the government owes it to Canadians by acting quickly on these reports. We are calling for the action to take place within 90 days of Mr. Romanow's commission. That absolutely must take place. We dare not put these reports on a shelf and debate health care without recognizing the need to implement these reports.

Health Care System
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I noticed that the member said the patient was the one paying the bill. I suspect he did not mean that exactly as I have said it. At least I hope he did not. I hope he meant that the patient, being one of the taxpayers, was one of the people paying the bill. It is my sincere hope that I am never sufficiently sick for all the taxes that I have paid into the health care system to be used for my bills. I am delighted that any addition to my taxes goes to pay for other people, and I strongly support a public system.

The member mentioned things like MRIs, radiology, drug plans and expensive things like that. He is obviously very concerned about the costs because he went on to discuss increased taxation and things of that type.

When I made a presentation to the Romanow commission on behalf of our rural caucus, I made the point that in rural areas not only was the standard of health lower than the rest of the country, the standard of health service was lower than the rest of the country, so the gulf between the two was particularly great. We emphasized prevention. We emphasized maintaining health so that we would not need the MRIs and that kind of thing, or at least that we would need them less; immunization programs; checkups for children in the schools, for example, physical checkups and dental checkups; and exercise programs, particularly for young children, being building into school programs. I know the member will say it is a provincial jurisdiction, but it is the sort of thing which if we start it earlier in a person's life, we can save billions of dollars and with the result of people living much happier and healthier lives.

What does the member think about prevention in health care?

Health Care System
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. First, I would like to clear something up. Our party is not calling for and never has called for a parallel two tier system. My reference to the patient paying was as a taxpayer. We all collectively pay. That is a Canadian value that we adhere to and that we support 100%. We asked for a timely, quality, sustainable system regardless of one's financial means. I want to make that very clear. I hope that answers that part of the question.

When it comes to prevention he is absolutely right. We have major problems in the country with the amount of obesity or cigarette smoking. The way to curb that is in the school system. The earlier we can catch the problem, the earlier we can educate our youth, and the better off we would be. Prevention is one of the fundamentals that we must do more about than just talk about it. We have talked about it for the last 20, 30, 40 years. It sounds really noble. It sounds like a wonderful thing, but if we are just going to talk about it and not really do anything about it, we are going nowhere. We must do more than that.

Health Care System
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, as we know the private sector has its hand in car insurance. I would like to take the example of New Brunswick, the province I come from. Car insurance companies are saying that the people who insure themselves have too many accidents and now they have to double the price of premiums to make profits. What is the Canadian vision for the private sector that would make money on the backs of people who are sick? Would it not be better to have a public sector take care of it in order not to profit off of sick people?

Health Care System
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member may be referring to profit as being a dirty word. That is something we must careful of. When it comes to a single entity, whether it is a monopoly by the public system or private system, it is inefficient and does not work. We need competition to keep it healthy. Our health care system right now is 31% private. Whether it should be more or less, that is a provincial jurisdiction, but it should have some freedom to be able to explore that.

What we are saying is that if the private sector can do it and provide the efficiencies to do it for the same price, it should have the freedom to do it. Patients do not care who is providing the service. They are more concerned that the service is there for them when they need it. That is where we must go as Canadians because that is a Canadian value.

Health Care System
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I along with many MPs have talked to Canadians about the health care system. My colleague as health critic has probably talked to more Canadians than most of us.

People have a real anxiety about the fact that often when they or a family member are ill they cannot get the tests that they need quickly. Sometimes they cannot even see a doctor because the doctors are so overworked. When they do go to hospital they find nursing staff that are stretched to the limit and do not have time to respond to them on a timely basis. They do not feel that if they need health care that it is there. I hear this more and more. Some people are happy with their experience when they become ill or their family member becomes ill but a lot of people are not happy and they do not find that they receive the kind of service, and the kind of response that they feel is appropriate.

Would my colleague address the fact that under the Liberal government this has become a bigger problem? How can we fix it so that when people get sick they will receive the care they need and deserve?

Health Care System
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. This is one of the things I said earlier and that is why when we did a poll last year we found that 77% of Canadians were prepared to reform the system. They were not reforming the system because it was comfortable, they were reforming the system because it was not doing what they expected it to do.

We also see that when two-thirds of our general practitioners are so swamped and overworked that they are not accepting any new patients. I talked to one individual from just down the street here who said he was going over to Hull to get an appointment to see a doctor. When I asked what the problem was he said it was not a problem he was just going to see if he would be accepted as a patient. That is a big problem when we see that happening in Canada.

We need to understand that $100 million was spent by Canada on approved procedures for health care in the United States in the last two years. These were approved. We sent patients there because we could not provide the health care. That is nothing. There are many individuals who go down and access services there because they cannot get it here in a timely way. That number may reach $2 billion a year. When we see those kinds of things happening we get a sense that the cracks in the system are wide and deep and will continue unless something is done.

Taxation
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is much talk these days about oil sands companies such as EnCana and Syncrude. This oil sector alone generates 22% of the greenhouse gas emissions by the fossil fuel industry. In addition, the extraction of petroleum from tar sands depends on the use of billions of litres of precious water every year.

Furthermore, the oil sands industry enjoys generous tax concessions amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. In other words, our tax system presently increases the production of greenhouse gas emissions and the depletion of water which in turn disturbs habitat. Handouts of this magnitude are in conflict with a free enterprise economy and with Canada's efforts to reach the Kyoto goal.

This practice should be stopped, hopefully in the next budget, by phasing out perverse tax subsidies to the oil sands industry.

Member for LaSalle--Émard
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, is the former finance minister running a leadership campaign for the Liberals or the Canadian Alliance? I know he was elected as a Liberal but he seems to be walking our walk and talking our talk.

Our party spent years developing policies which are now part of our platform. We would think that he would at least give us some of the credit. In any other field, what he is doing would be plagiarism. Free votes, making more private members' bills votable, independent ethics counsellors, and electing chairmen of committees by secret ballot, are but a few of our policies and we have had them for years.

Now we find that the former finance minister believed in these policies or has he been recently converted? If we look at his record and what he is saying now, it looks to me that we have ourselves a modern day Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Human Rights
Statements By Members

October 28th, 2002 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have been witness for some time to a revolution in human rights, where human rights has emerged as the new secular religion of our time. The whole inspired by a revolution in international human rights law where, in particular, more has happened in the last five years in international humanitarian law than in the previous 50, and where the United Nations, whose founding we commemorate, has been the linchpin of that revolution. Regrettably, however, the refugees of humanity, the agony of Africa, the brutalized child, the preventable genocide in Rwanda, each can be forgiven if they think that this human rights revolution has passed them by.

It is important now that we reaffirm the founding principles of the UN, of the equality of all states, large and small, so that no states are singled out for discriminatory treatment while major human rights violators enjoy exculpatory immunity; of the universality of human rights so that economic, social and cultural rights, the rights of the disadvantaged are seen as authoritative norms; of the guarding against undue politicization of the UN wherein the UN becomes an arena for the waging of conflict rather than for conflict resolution; of gender mainstreaming within the decision making of the UN; and of the protection against mass atrocity organized around a culture of prevention rather than belated intervention.

Farmers
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to acknowledge the extraordinary campaign of solidarity that was conducted in the Eastern Townships to help those farmers in western Canada who had nothing to feed their cattle due to the prolonged drought.

Generous farmers from my riding, Shefford, and that of Compton—Stanstead rallied and pulled together to arrange transportation, while in the riding of my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi, more than 1,300 bales of hay were collected. This campaign was a success. I am very proud to live in a region where people get involved in their communities and roll up their sleeves to help other Canadians.

We too received help during the ice storm and we know how much comfort and hope this kind of sharing can bring.

I want to stress the outstanding work of numerous volunteers and the generosity of our farmers. They have just given us a fine example of solidarity and altruism.

Nunavik Marine Region
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, representatives of the Makivik Corporation, namely President Pita Aatami, Johnny Peters, and several Inuit people from Nunavik, as well as the hon. Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and Liberal member for Kenora—Rainy River and the team of negotiators met on October 25, in Montreal, to sign the preliminary agreement concerning the Nunavik marine region.

This agreement in principle deals with an offshore region claimed by the Inuit of Nunavik and known as the Nunavik marine region.

The area is under the jurisdiction of the governments of Nunavut and Canada. It includes part of the islands and waters of Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay. It covers an area of 250,000 square kilometres.

This marine region is of vital importance to the Inuit of Nunavik, because nearly 85% of the wildlife harvesting takes place in that region.