House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker.

Why did the finance minister of the day have to correct what was happening? It was clearly because a government, a Conservative government, by the way, had the same theory that the member for St. John's West supports today, a theory that had driven the country into such debt that we had a terrible time trying to deal with it.

The question is not whether we should we have made changes. The question in my mind is this: Why did the Tory government of the day almost bankrupt the country and leave us with very little resources outside the billions required to pay down the debt and the deficit?

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1:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, let me give the hon. member a lesson in history and economics.

The Tory government left power in 1993 with a deficit of $43 billion. However, when that Tory government came into power, the deficit that it inherited from the Trudeau era was between $36 billion and $38 billion of that.

What happened? During the years that the Tories were in power history will show and Hansard will show that the Tory government, even though it was high in debt, did not try to balance its budget based on cutting from the people who needed help, based on cutting health and education funding.

What did the Tory government do when it ran a deficit and interest rates were at 23%? It still did not cut social payments. The Tory government developed a plan to address the deficit. The plan included free trade and it included the GST, two topics that those members over there benefited from. They campaigned against bringing in such programs. They got elected on that basis. They deceived the Canadian public and then benefited from free trade, the GST and, because of that, the lower interest rates--

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1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order, please. We have somewhat deviated from the subject at hand.

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1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, speaking of management by the federal government, I would ask my colleague for his opinion.

I mentioned that, in 1994, there was $8 billion in unpaid taxes; in 2000, $1 billion was lost in human resources; in 2001, $400 million in income supplements were not paid to seniors; in May 2002, there was the sponsorship scandal, and now it seems that the cost of the firearms registry is almost up to $1 billion.

Does he think that the government deserves the criticism that he just expressed?

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1:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is so right when we look at what has been done. I talk to seniors. I am picturing one couple and it could bring tears to my eyes. The gentleman has developed Alzheimer's. The only consolation they had was that they could drive out to their little cottage on weekends. The costs of the drugs he required, which are not covered by health care, were so great that they had to sell the car in order to be able to buy the drugs. No longer could they travel out to the little cottage.

I see seniors who are charged hundreds of dollars for prescriptions and do not have drug cards to cover it. We are now suggesting to the Canadian people that if they need better health care they had better be prepared to pay for it. I suggest to the Canadian government that if it managed its budget properly and eliminated the billion dollar overspending on gun control and the costs of funding its friends--

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1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order, please.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.

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1:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, it certainly is a pleasure to rise and follow my colleague from St. John's, who I think has given an important history lesson with respect to how we got to where we are today.

The importance and the timing of the motion could not be better. I want to similarly congratulate my colleagues in the Bloc for having brought forward the motion. What it deals with is certainly the obligation that the federal government has to fund health care but as well the responsibility it has to respect the provinces' role in administering it, which is of course something that continues to escape most members, including the member opposite who is chirping right now.

The administration of health care within the Canada Health Act is certainly what Canadians benefit from collectively. Canadians expect and deserve to have the issue of health care financing addressed. The problem is that ever since the federal government slashed transfer payments to the provinces in 1995 those provinces have been frantically struggling to keep up with the growing demands of health care.

Health care now commands 54% of the entire provincial budget of Prince Edward Island and 47% of all program spending here in the province of Ontario. It is not an exaggeration to say that health care spending is crowding out the provinces' ability to focus on other issues such as income support, social services and housing. We see provinces struggling to keep their financial heads above water and they face the real possibility that some may fall back into deficit if the health care financing issue is not resolved.

In my home province of Nova Scotia, I am very proud to say that the Progressive Conservative government led by Premier John Hamm has balanced the budget, for the first time in 40 years. The government has had to make some very tough decisions, obviously, but it was backed into that corner by the fact that this federal Liberal government has been choking off the provinces by cuts to transfer payments.

The issue of fiscal imbalance is being quite hotly debated among economists. Let me quote from the caledon commentary from this past summer. Joe Ruggeri, of the University of New Brunswick, stated:

...if cost pressures in health care spending are moderate and CHST cash payments increase in line with the growth of nominal GDP, the provinces and territories as a group would experience potential surpluses in the future, but much smaller than federal surpluses.

There is not much encouragement for provincial finance ministers in this forecast, because this is really what I would describe as a best case scenario. It is based on health care cost pressures being moderate. We already know that this simply is not the case in most, if not all, provinces. In a number of areas such as drug costs, nursing care and home care, we have seen phenomenal increases in costs, and that is before we address the demographic challenges of an aging population.

My colleague from St. John's also referred to the very significant issue of out-migration from rural Canada, particularly in Atlantic provinces, I would suggest,and in fairness, in all provinces.

In my constituency of Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough in Nova Scotia, hospitals, like all those in rural Canada, are under extreme pressure and strain. The Guysborough hospital, St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish and the Aberdeen Hospital are being completely put under the gun to try to provide basic health care services. They are doing their best by being innovative and original and in many cases just simply making do.

The other question that is still not being addressed by the federal government is the shortfall from the federal cutbacks of 1995, which was not restored in 2000. The impact of that shortfall continues to be felt by the provinces and is the very reason that they are feeling the pressures that we see in the health care system today, pressures that are being experienced nationwide.

My point here is that it is really difficult to address other significant social policy issues when these larger issues of health care financing and the fiscal imbalance between a federal and a provincial government are outstanding.

There were some very important points made in the Romanow report and it is a welcome addition to the national debate. The ability to quarterback and in some ways implement some of the recommendations is now clearly in the lap of the federal government. Its ability to do so is something that we in opposition, and I suspect many in the country, question, because of the proposed reforms requiring tight cooperation with the provinces and the ability of the federal government itself to help coordinate that effort, and knowing that it is really the architect of the disaster and that the health care crisis is a net result of the $25 billion that was taken out of the CHST.

It becomes a question of credibility. It becomes a clear question of how can we expect the federal government to play its important coordinating role as the cash cow, as the source of funding, when it is in essence the architect of this. The government is the one that has put the provinces in this position. Therefore it lacks credibility. It lacks any significant ability to rally around with the provinces. It is tantamount to a pyromaniac coming into a person's living room, setting a fire and then saying that he will call the fire department.

To come back to the important issue here, the clear intention of Mr. Romanow's report is to look at the health care issue. It was an engaging exercise. It was something that Canadians certainly took part in. There were 25 million hits, as I understand it, on Mr. Romanow's website, coupled with the significant effort to travel and consult. It cost $15 million. We can put aside the issue of how many MRI machines that could buy or how that money might have been spent on health care. Yet many of Mr. Romanow's recommendations touched on the area of provincial jurisdiction, which is the focus of the Bloc motion.

There is a focus as well on the need for a strategy and the need for an allotment of money for specific areas. What we saw in other reports like the Kirby-LeBreton report that originated in the Senate and the Mazankowski report was a significant addition and contribution to this debate. What those other reports did that the Romanow commission report does not is they left open the issue of public funding of health care being enhanced by private sector participation by buttressing the public health care system, of course always done within the principles of the Canada Health Act. We will be watching what the current government does with the recommendations of all of these reports.

The constitutional division of powers must always be respected. The provinces have already balked at the issue of strings being attached. We are open to the idea of redefining and clarifying the principles of the Canada Health Act. We will closely scrutinize details of the definitions put to Parliament by the government.

As for the subject of the motion before us today, there is no disagreement from us about the fact that the current federal government is not doing its share in health care funding. We absolutely agree with the call for stable federal funding. During the 2000 election campaign my party proposed to add a sixth principle to the Canada Health Act, that is, one of stable funding for health care. We see now that the government is contemplating doing this. We know it is not opposed to poaching ideas; it has made a living out of doing that.

Our colleagues in the other place recently released the latest chapter in their study on the state of our health care system. Their conclusions, presented simply and straightforwardly, were that we need funding and structure. The health care system is not sustainable. If funding problems are not addressed and if serious reforms are not implemented, the system will continue to fail Canadians.

Our colleagues did not stop there. Rather than dance around the difficult issues, they have provided the government with concrete options to save our health care system, something that I would suggest is lacking in the Romanow report.

When it comes to the question of funding and the tool of funding, we are quite prepared to consider unbundling the CHST in the interests of transparency and accountability.

Finally, we do not object to a pan-Canadian agreement which includes provincial jurisdictions which are negotiated by the provinces and not dictated to by Ottawa.

We cannot emphasize enough that without stable funding, all of the other principles of the Canada Health Act are undermined.

Postcards for Peace
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize the efforts of grade six students from Queen Elizabeth School in Leamington, Ontario.

During Veterans Week in November, these grade six students, under the direction of their teacher Paul Forman, participated in the Postcards for Peace initiative. Each student took the time to write letters of thanks and appreciation to the men and women of Canada who served or are currently serving, calling them brave, calling them heroes, telling them, “We are proud of you and what you have done for our country”.

These efforts are testimony that our students are being taught good Canadian values and history. In times of peace, I think that is great.

I also want to take the opportunity to wish all the veterans and members of the armed forces, both at home and abroad, a safe and happy holiday season and the very best in the new year.

Queen's Jubilee Medal
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I recently had the great honour to award the following constituents of Edmonton North with the Queen's Golden Jubilee medal for their outstanding contributions to our community: Jim Acton, Kirk Bevis, Bill Bonner, Tom Braid, Lisa Clyburn, Martin Garber-Conrad, Marcel Hemery, Louis Ho, Rev. James Holland, Gerald Marshall, Lori Reiter, Shelley Tupper, Harry Vandervelde, Sandy Walsh-Schuurman, Ron Zapisocki, Auxiliary Constables Gloria Sawchuk and Brent Palowy, Lieutenant-Colonel Pat Stogran, and Marc and Marley Léger.

Marc's medal was awarded posthumously for his ultimate sacrifice as one of the four Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. His wife Marley is an example of hope, poise and perseverance in the face of tragedy and loss. She is celebrating her birthday today. Although this will be a difficult day for Marley, I want her to know that there are many of us who are thinking of her.

Congratulations to everyone, and happy birthday, Marley.

Jean Dupéré
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Gérard Binet Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I heard the sad news that Jean Dupéré, the major private employer in the region, a great and unwavering defender of chrysotile asbestos, and an expert on mining, died at the age of 57.

Full of ideas, and a man of action and conviction, he loved to get things moving. He left an indelible mark with his expertise, know-how, determination and commitment. The region never would have survived the asbestos crisis without him. He was a great man and he will always be recognized as a model of determination. He fought tirelessly until the end.

The Frontenac—Mégantic community joins me in extending our sincerest condolences to his wife, Michelle Dupéré, his sons Mathieu and Simon, his daughter Catherine, and his many friends and loved ones.

I thank the Chair for allowing me to express my feelings and condolences here, in the House of Commons.

Queen's Jubilee Medal
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is the International Day of Volunteers. I rise to pay tribute to the thousands of Canadians who dedicate their lives serving others here at home and abroad.

For their outstanding contributions to my community of York West, I presented 20 special citizens with the Queen's Golden Jubilee medal. They are: Carolynn Armstrong, Uliana Badiali, Michael Colacci, Norm Cornack, Veena Duta, Rose Ibarra, Marianne Iozzo, Leila Jackson, Iginio Lanzarro, Sharon Lustig, Julie Molinaro, Stephanie Payne, Michael Perreault, Mario Pipia, Antonietta Ramundi, Pabla Gurdal Singh, Paramsothy Sothymalar, Valarie Steele, Leslie Walmer, and Sophie Zeber.

I join with all members of the House to celebrate the extraordinary commitment that they and others like them made and continue to make to enrich our communities.

Zimbabwe
Statements By Members

December 5th, 2002 / 2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, Zimbabwe is in crisis. It now has one of the highest torture rates in the entire world. Half the population is starving to death, not because of inclement weather but because of a deliberately engineered famine created by Robert Mugabe to kill half of the population.

To make matters worse, Mugabe and his thugs are preventing international food aid, aid that we contribute to, from getting to the starving people. Behind this are state sponsored camps where torture, gang rape and murder are commonplace.

Our government for nearly two years has touted its African agenda, yet in the face of the genocide that is taking place right now in Zimbabwe and which will kill up to seven million people, our government has maintained a hypocritical, stony silence. Next year when the pictures on CNN show the carnage in Zimbabwe and the millions of people who needlessly lost their lives, will the Liberal government merely wring its hands or will it say “Never again” and act?

The answer is to act now. The government must act to save lives in Zimbabwe or it will be culpable in the murder of seven million people.

Parliamentary Internship Program
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize two groups of remarkable young Canadians.

This week, eight interns from the Ontario legislature internship program in Queen's Park have come to Parliament Hill for their annual study tour, hosted by the parliamentary internship program that places 10 young graduates here with MPs during the parliamentary year. They are intelligent, eager, bring fresh energy and ideas to Parliament and their presence here on the Hill and in Queen's Park is an asset to us all.

These interns will be Canada's leaders of tomorrow. I ask members to join me in welcoming the eight Queen's Park interns and at the same time salute the 10 interns who are currently serving with MPs on both sides of the House. I am proud that we will all benefit from their experience.

Yukon River Salmon Agreement
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, yesterday after 17 long years of negotiations the United States and Canada signed the Yukon River Salmon Agreement.

I had the pleasure of accompanying the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to Washington, D.C. where he officially signed the agreement with the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, Paula Dobriansky.

Key elements of the agreement include the formation of the bilateral Yukon River Panel, Yukon River Joint Technical Committee, abundance based harvest sharing for upper Yukon chinook and chum salmon, and the Yukon River Salmon Restoration and Enhancement Fund. Additionally, this agreement provides direction for coordinated management, rebuilding plans, habitat protection, restoration and enhancement.

As the minister said, this agreement is an important achievement as it will provide long term certainty and stability for salmon fishing in the Yukon River.

I would like to thank the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Foreign Affairs for their hard work in achieving this agreement. It bodes well for the future of Yukon residents and our American friends and neighbours.

Jean-Pierre Perreault
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday evening, a star of contemporary dance passed away in Montreal. According to former dancer Vincent Warren, Jean-Pierre Perreault was the greatest choreographer of his generation.

He took an interest not only in dance, but also in architecture, the sacred arts, and costumes, to understand how they influence dance. In his vision, human beings interact with one another and with the space they inhabit, which also contains them.

For Chantal Pontbriand, the director of the International Festival of New Dance, there is a dimension to Perreault's work that is typical of Quebec, that reflects a unique connection to the earth; in his art, all movement, in relation to the ground and to mass, is an expression of Quebeckers' endeavours to break free of the anonymity of the time, which still exists, as they try to develop their own model.

We mourn the loss of a humanist. The Bloc Quebecois extends its condolences to the family of Jean-Pierre Perreault, his friends and the dance community, particularly the contemporary dance community.