House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

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4:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member for Quebec who spoke very eloquently about the problems with the funding arrangement, which is, as we well know, at the core of the crisis in the health care system in Canada.

When we look back over the years and we see the retreat of public funding from the federal government in terms of transfers to the provinces, we see where the crisis began. As we all know, the funding level from the federal government, which used to be at 50%, is now at about 16%. We in the NDP have said that we want to see it go back to at least 25%.

If I heard the member correctly, I think she pointed out that, at the current rate, the level of government funding in another 15 years would only be at 17%. That is very disturbing.

As we know, the Prime Minister has made a big deal about how he is going to consult with the provinces. Of course, it coincidentally happens to be on the eve of a federal election. None of us have any idea what this plan of consultation is or what the Liberal plan is for longer term commitments to health care.

I wonder if the member would comment on what she and her party would like to see in terms of a commitment from the government.

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4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I shall answer the hon. member's question. Nevertheless, I would like to point out that the hon. member for Vancouver Centre spoke about the fact that her government, with the Prime Minister leading the way, was going to draw up a long-term plan.

We would have liked him to put that long-term plan on the table when he was finance minister in 1993, so that we would not be here today discussing percentages. We could be considering other things.

The Prime Minister is well aware of the urgent needs. He does not need a plan to consider all that. He does not need to organize a first ministers conference. What we would like is for the government to give the money to the provinces so that they can get certain operations rolling that are now barely surviving and sometimes nearly non-existent, because the money has not been there.

We could increase the budget by $2 billion right now, so that by 2005 there will be commitments, even before the election. That way, we will not have to wait another year because, during that time, resources will be needed, people will have health problems, and people's lives will be at stake.

Right now, he has a very good idea where the money should go. If money is given to the provinces, and if provincial jurisdiction is respected, it will be clear where the money should go. The provinces are there to judge and the public will judge the provincial premiers on their investments in health.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue the discussion with my colleague, the member for Quebec. What I hear clearly from the member is that from her perspective and her party's perspective they would like to see the money on the table and the federal government's commitment. It sounds like that is as far as it goes.

However, given the debate we have had here today, particularly the concerns about the increased privatized for profit delivery of health care services, it seems to me, and I think those of us in the NDP, that it is very important that there be some attachment in terms of a commitment to not see an increase in privatized for profit services.

I would be very interested in hearing the Bloc member's perspective in terms of the Canada Health Act and making it clear that it does not support the delivery of privatized for profit services.

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4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, our party supports having a strong and high quality public health care service in order to meet people's expectations.

Quality service would be possible if the federal government had a plan for financial commitment to the provinces in keeping with their areas of jurisdiction.

The private sector's invasion in health care is not something we want, although, at the moment, the provinces are struggling with funding in the field of health. We might consider the private sector a solution, but a public health care system is desirable, and we want to keep it to meet the expectations of the public as a whole. We want a fair and equitable service.

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4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Before resuming debate, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the right hon. member for Calgary Centre, Health.

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4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am all the more pleased to speak to the motion put forward by the New Democratic Party as I worked in health services in my region for seven years.

If I compare what was happening then with what is happening today, it is quite apparent that, at the time, the health care system in Quebec was changing considerably. We must remember that Quebec did not pass its first health and social services legislation until 1972.

That year, if memory serves, Claude Castonguay was Quebec's minister of health. From 1972 on, health care services evolved constantly, becoming much more open to the public. The Government of Quebec—as was the case with the other provinces—purchased hospitals and began to run them. Previously, religious communities and others had managed them. The Government of Quebec also bought residences for seniors. They too were operated by religious communities for the most part.

We created what are called the social service centres, today consolidated into the local community service centres. These started up in Montreal as a kind of pilot project and now are all over Quebec, replacing the former health units.

If we compare the present situation with how it was then, or even before that, we can see that making the public health system accessible to the population has contributed significantly to improving people's quality of life all over Quebec, not just in the major centres but in the regions as well. Many additions have been made over the years to the health system.

Why is the health system across Canada, including that in Quebec, being challenged today? There must be a reason for this. Costs are constantly increasing, of course, as is pressure on the system because of our ageing populations. As the number of seniors increases, there is more and more pressure on services providing accommodation for the elderly.

We have to realize that, in light of the provincial governments' inability to invest sufficient funds, the private sector is becoming more and more active within the health care system.

I have one good example to offer hon. members. In the early 1970s, there was no such thing as a private old people's home. If there was anything for this age group, it was either a rooming house or a residence that offered no support services and no health services. People in such places were totally on their own.

Today, this is no longer the case. This kind of home for the aged provides more and more health services, because the public sector does not have the funds, or does not have enough funds, to build new residences, or to expand existing ones for seniors who are facing greater difficulties. Sometimes tragedies occur. Most of these facilities provide excellent care, but we have seen recent examples of others where this was not the case.

Our population is aging and there are more and more seniors who can no longer live independently. Such people have no place to go. They do not have access to accommodation in the public system. In some types of facilities, we can see that services are deteriorating because the funds are not available to provide all the services this type of client requires.

In a region like mine we have small health institutions because we do not have the necessary catchment population. I am thinking about the Matapédia valley, Sainte-Anne-des-Monts and other places. As a result, people have to travel great distances to get health and social services. If we look at the big picture, we see that the system will be under ever greater pressure given the aging population and the improvement of equipment.

This is something very important that is very rarely talked about with respect to the cost of the health care system. Institutions are increasingly acquiring new systems. New treatment methods are discovered through research.

Accordingly, we have ever better equipment available to us. Unfortunately, such equipment is ever more expensive. With new treatment methods more services available, we artificially increase the life expectancy of the population. This creates a great deal of pressure and increases the cost of the health care system.

The real reason the private sector has a greater presence in the health care system is because public funding is inadequate.

Costs will increase significantly over the next 10 to 15 years. In 2002-03, the cost was some $72.5 billion. In 2019-20, the cost of the health care system will be nearly $100 billion. Here we have the real question.

Do we truly want to invest in a health system and do we truly want to develop it as a public system that is accessible to everyone? I believe we do.

Indeed, people my age and a little younger will recall what it was like to live without a public health care system. Hon. members have to remember that, like me, most people my age were born at home. There was no giving birth at the hospital. This was your experience, Mr. Speaker, because you are about my age. We can agree on “about”.

Why did women give birth at home at the time? There was no access to the health care system. A nurse or a midwife was available. However, people did not have the means to go to a hospital to have a child, because it cost quite a bit to go there for treatment.

These were private institutions. Even if they did belong to religious communities, people still had to pay, because the government did not contribute to the system, for a stay in the health care system.

There were a lot of tragedies because the system was not public. Many women died giving birth at home because they did not have access to a doctor or a nurse. This is the sort of tragedy we faced in our time.

When the health care system came in, of course the life expectancy of the population just exploded. Yes, but why? Because the people were getting proper services. In Quebec and all the other provinces, they had access to excellent services. The people had an opportunity to increase their life expectancy, and to fight the diseases that once had been untreatable.

That is why, when we look at what has happened since 1990 or so, we see that the federal government has been withdrawing its financing from the health care system. As has been recently stated, the federal government claims that it contributes 40% to the health care system. But let us see what that includes.

It includes direct federal expenses, including such things as health care for the first nations. There is also everything related to veterans. There are compassionate benefits. There is health protection and disease prevention, as well as research and health-related information technology.

Moreover, this year, $500 million is being invested in a health agency. The 40% includes that same $500 million. But these are not direct services provided to the public. When we talk about health services, we mean direct services to the public. When the figures say it is 16%, we are talking about direct services to the population, and that is what we need to talk about in order to have a real picture of the health care system and its funding.

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4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. deputy government whip on a point of order.

Business of the House
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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, following consultation with the parties, you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That the Government Order for consideration of Bill S-17 be discharged and that the said bill be ordered for consideration at second reading and placed at the end of the order of precedence for consideration of private members' business in the name of the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast.

Business of the House
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4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent of the House to move this motion?

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4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
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4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

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

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4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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May 11th, 2004 / 4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have listened attentively to my colleague's presentation. I myself worked in the health field for several years and I have seen how things have changed over time.

I clearly recall how, at the very beginning of the program, physician and hospital services were covered on a 50-50 cost sharing basis. Over the years, the practice of medicine has evolved. WIth the advent of new technologies, there have been additions made to the programs by various provinces, and as a result there are now disparities. Some provinces have added services, while others have not. An imbalance has resulted, one thrown in our faces constantly together with the accusation that there is an unbelievable disproportion in funding.

I was personally very pleased to hear the Prime Minister say that what was needed was to sit down with the provincial premiers and health ministers in order to ensure, in light of all that has gone on in recent years, that there is a system in place to meet the needs of Canadians for the next ten years at least. That pleased me a great deal. It is all very well to point fingers of blame, but that does not solve the problem.

I would like to hear my colleague's comments in connection with the proposed meeting this summer. Does he agree with such an approach to stabilizing our health system?

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4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not agree. There have been dozens of such meetings over the years. Meetings between the Prime Minister and the premiers or the health ministers—there have been so many of them.

We must realize that the health care system is underfunded. We must realize that we must invest in the health care system. On the other hand, it is not up to the federal government to decide how the provinces will manage their health systems.

I understand that there may be disparities. That is fine; I have no problem with the fact that there are differences or disparities. The goal is to offer adequate health services and basic health services to everyone, so that every individual gets the care he or she needs.

So there may be a difference between the delivery of services in New Brunswick and in Quebec, or Quebec may do things differently from Ontario, I do not have a problem with that. The reality is that there may be different ways of doing things. But as long as the services are being provided, I absolutely agree.

But why does this need to be wall-to-wall coverage? Is it possible for there to be differences, for those differences to be accepted and more investment made in the health system? Governments have this mania. Every time they do not want to make an investment, they decide to change the system. They change the structure rather than making investments. That is the problem. A structure can evolve gradually but not in a flash. Instead of trying to change the structure, this time, why not let the system evolve?

I have worked in politics for seven years, and during those seven years the system has changed constantly. I agree with that. A static system is not a good system,. The system must evolve and continue to change. To achieve this, we must accept that there are differences. What is important is to finance the system in response to the needs of the public and in keeping with our abilities, of course.

At present, the federal government has the ability to do this. In Quebec, the federal government collects 62% of our taxes and only returns 16% for health. Thus, there is a problem.