House of Commons Hansard #60 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Standing Orders
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 43 with the following:

  1. (1)(a) Unless otherwise provided in these Standing Orders, when the Speaker is in the Chair, no Member, except the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, or a Minister moving a government order and the Member speaking in reply immediately after such Minister, shall speak for more than twenty minutes at a time in any debate.

(b) Following any speech by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, a Minister moving a government order, or the Member speaking in reply immediately after such Minister, and following any twenty-minute speech, a period not exceeding ten minutes shall be made available, if required, to allow Members to ask questions and comment briefly on matters relevant to the speech and to allow responses thereto.

(c) Except as provided in Standing Orders 95 and 126(1)(a), following any ten-minute speech, a period not exceeding five minutes shall be made available, if required, to allow Members to ask questions and comment briefly on matters relevant to the speech and to allow responses thereto.

(2)(a) The Whip of a party may indicate to the Speaker at any time during a debate governed by this Standing Order that one or more of the periods of debate limited pursuant to section (1) of this Standing Order to twenty minutes and allotted to Members of his or her party are to be divided in two.

(b) Any Member rising to speak during a debate limited by section (1) of this Standing Order to twenty minute speeches, may indicate to the Speaker that he or she will be dividing his or her time with another Member

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 50(2) with the following:

(2) No Member, except the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, shall speak for more than twenty minutes at a time in the said debate.

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 66 with the following:

  1. (1) When a debate on any motion, except a motion for the concurrence in a report of a standing or special committee, made after the start of the sitting (after 2:00 p.m. on Mondays and after 11:00 a.m. on Fridays) and prior to the reading of an Order of the Day is adjourned or interrupted, the order for resumption of the debate shall be transferred to and considered under Government Orders.

(2) A motion for the concurrence in a report from a standing or special committee shall receive not more than three hours of consideration, after which time, unless previously disposed of, the Speaker shall interrupt and put all questions necessary to dispose of the motion without further debate or amendment, provided that, if debate is adjourned or interrupted:

(a) the motion shall again be considered on a day designated by the Government after consultation with the House Leaders of the other parties, but in any case not later than the tenth sitting day after the interruption;

(b) debate on the motion shall be resumed at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment on the day designated pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section and shall not be further interrupted or adjourned; and

(c) when no Member rises to speak or after three hours of debate, whichever is earlier, the Speaker shall put all questions necessary to dispose of the motion, provided that, if a recorded division is requested on the motion considered on a day designated pursuant to paragraph (a) of this Standing Order, it shall stand deferred to an appointed time on the next Wednesday, no later than the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on that day.

(3) Not more than one motion for the concurrence in a report from a standing or special committee may be moved on any sitting day.

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 73(1)(d) with the following:

  1. (1)(d) after not more than five hours of debate, the Speaker shall interrupt the debate and the question shall be put and decided without further debate.

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 74(2) with the following:

  1. (2)(a) The Whip of a party may indicate to the Speaker at any time during a debate governed by this Standing Order that one or more of the periods of debate limited pursuant to paragraphs (1)(b) and (c) of this Standing Order, and allotted to Members of his or her party, are to be divided in two.

(b) Any Member rising to speak during a debate governed by paragraphs (1)(b) and (c) of this Standing Order, may indicate to the Speaker that he or she will be dividing his or her time with another Member.

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 76(7) with the following:

  1. (7) When debate is permitted, the first Member from each of the recognized parties speaking during proceedings on the first amendment proposed at report stage may speak for not more than twenty minutes, and no other Member shall speak more than once or longer than ten minutes during proceedings on any amendment at that stage.

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 81(10)(a) with the following:

  1. (10)(a) In any calendar year, seven sitting days shall be allotted to the Business of Supply for the period ending not later than December 10; seven additional days shall be allotted to the Business of Supply in the period ending not later than March 26; and eight additional days shall be allotted to the Business of Supply in the period ending not later than June 23; provided that the number of sitting days so allotted may be altered pursuant to paragraph (b) or (c) of this section. These twenty two days are to be designated as allotted days. In any calendar year, no more than one fifth of all the allotted days shall fall on a Wednesday and no more than one fifth thereof shall fall on a Friday.

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Orders 81(14) with the following:

  1. (14)(a) Forty-eight hours' written notice shall be given of opposition motions on allotted days, motions to concur in interim supply, main estimates, supplementary or final estimates, to restore or reinstate any item in the estimates. Twenty-four hours' written notice shall be given of a notice to oppose any item in the estimates, provided that for the supply period ending not later than June 23, forty-eight hours' written notice shall be given of a notice to oppose any item in the estimates.

(b) When notice has been given of two or more motions by Members in opposition to the government for consideration on an allotted day, the Speaker shall have power to select which of the proposed motions shall have precedence in that sitting.

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 81(16) with the following:

  1. (16)(a) Every opposition motion is votable unless the sponsor of such a motion designates it as non-votable.

(b) The duration of proceedings on any opposition motion moved on an allotted day shall be stated in the notice relating to the appointing of an allotted day or days for those proceedings.

(c) Except as provided for in section (18) of this Standing Order, on the last day appointed for proceedings on a motion that shall come to a vote, at fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and forthwith put, without further debate or amendment, every question necessary to dispose of the said proceedings.

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 81(22) with the following:

  1. (22) During proceedings on any item of business under the provisions of this Standing Order, no Member may speak more than once or longer than twenty minutes.

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 84(7) with the following:

  1. (7) No Member, except the Minister of Finance, the Member speaking first on behalf of the Opposition, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, shall speak for more than twenty minutes at a time in the Budget Debate.

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 106(4) with the following:

  1. (4) Within five days of the receipt, by the clerk of a standing committee, of a request signed by any four members of the said committee, the Chair of the said committee shall convene such a meeting provided that forty-eight hours' notice is given of the meeting. For the purposes of this section, the reasons for convening such a meeting shall be stated in the request.

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 107(1) with the following:

  1. (1)(a) The Chair of each standing committee, together with the Member of the House from each standing joint committee who is the Chair of the said joint committee, shall form a Liaison Committee, which is charged with making apportionments of funds from the block of funds authorized by the Board of Internal Economy to meet the expenses of committee activities, subject to ratification by the Board.

(b) The Whip, or his or her designate, of any recognized party not having a member on the Liaison Committee, may take part in the proceedings of the Committee, but may not vote or move any motion, nor be part of any quorum.

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 109 with the following:

  1. Within 120 days of the presentation of a report from a standing or special committee, the government shall, upon the request of the committee, table a comprehensive response thereto, and when such a response has been requested, no motion for the concurrence in the report may be proposed until the comprehensive response has been tabled or the expiration of the said period of 120 days.

That the Clerk of the House be authorized to make necessary editorial and consequential alterations to the Standing Orders.

That these Standing Orders come into effect at 11:00 o’clock a.m. Monday, March 7, 2005 and remain in effect for the duration of the current parliament and during the first sixty sitting days of the succeeding parliament.

Standing Orders
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between the parties and I believe you would find consent to deem Government Business No. 9 carried without debate.

Standing Orders
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed that the motion be carried?

Standing Orders
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-39, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and to enact an act respecting the provision of funding for diagnostic and medical equipment, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

February 18th, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan for the Minister of Finance

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan for the Minister of Finance

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to introduce at third reading Bill C-39, which provides for $41 billion in new funding for provinces and territories under the ten year plan to strengthen health care.

Canadians are justly proud of their social programs and are determined to see them maintained and improved. In particular, Canada's publicly funded, universal health care system stands as a clear testament to its commitment to ensuring equality of opportunity for all Canadians.

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of providing growing and predictable funding for Canada's health care system to ensure its vitality. It also recognizes the importance of improving transparency and accountability of health care spending.

After all, Canadians want to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely.

In short, the government is committed to strengthening Canada's publicly funded health care system. It is committed to working with the provinces and territories to make sure that happens. As the Prime Minister has said, Canadians want solutions to health care problems, problems in their communities, problems that affect their families. Canadians also want to know that the health care system will be able to provide the services they need in a timely fashion. They also want to know that the health care system is secure for future generations.

Governments recognize the need to strengthen our health care system. We understand the challenge. It is a challenge that falls to us and we must act.

Last fall, federal, provincial and territorial governments all signed the 10 year plan to strengthen health care. Bill C-39 would implement the federal commitment supporting this plan by providing $41 billion in new federal funding for provinces and territories for health.

Indeed, the 10 year plan will strengthen ongoing federal health support provided through the Canada health transfer, or CHT, as well as to address wait times to ensure that Canadians have timely access to essential health services and to provide additional funding for diagnostic and medical equipment.

Before I outline the details of this ambitious new plan, I would like to first provide some history of recent federal health care funding in Canada.

In September 2000, hon. members will recall an agreement by first ministers for an action plan to renew our health care system. In support of that agreement, the federal government invested $23.4 billion through the Canada health and social transfer and targeted spending, including funding for medical equipment, to accelerate and broaden health renewal and reform.

Drawing on that agreement, first ministers met again in February 2003, committing to the first ministers accord on health care renewal. In response to the important reform and reporting objectives it contained, the 2003 budget increased federal support for health care by $34.8 billion over five years. It also contained an additional payment of $2 billion contingent on funds being available in 2003-04.

In January 2004, the Prime Minister announced that an additional $2 billion would be provided to the provinces and territories. This brought the total increase in federal support over the five year period of the 2003 health accord to $36.8 billion. The majority of this funding was provided to the provinces and territories through increased transfer payments, including $16 billion over five years through the new health reform transfer; $14 billion, including the $2 billion in additional funding, for increases to health and social transfers; and $1.5 billion for diagnostic and medical equipment.

The remaining $5.3 billion was allocated to meet other commitments made under the 2003 health accord, notably increased funding for health programs for first nations and Inuit; the creation of a compassionate care benefit under employment insurance; support for research hospitals; and improved health care technology and pharmaceuticals management.

The Government of Canada's investments over the period covered by the health accord, and its other investments in health and social programs, were implemented as part of a long term legislated framework of predictable and growing support for provinces and territories that includes both cash and tax transfers.

I would like to move on to the 10 year plan to strengthen health care. Last September the Prime Minister and premiers signed a 10 year plan to strengthen health care. As I have already mentioned, the plan will provide $41 billion in new health care funding over the next decade. It also illustrates what we are capable of achieving when the federal, provincial and territorial governments work together toward a common goal.

At the heart of the 10 year plan is the commitment for stable and increased funding starting with immediate funding in 2004-05, to provide an additional $1 billion in this year through the CHT as well as an additional $2 billion in 2005-06.

These investments lead me to the second step, which is the establishment of a new $19 billion base for the Canada health transfer, beginning in 2005-06. The new and higher base level of $19 billion for the Canada health transfer includes $500 million in targeted funding for home care and catastrophic drug coverage, clear priorities for many Canadians.

The plan also proposes a 6% escalator to the Canada health transfer, effective in 2006-07, which will ensure predictable and stable growth in federal transfer support, an unprecedented move to ensure predictable and stable growth in support from the federal government. This commitment fully satisfies the recommendations of the Romanow report on the future of health care in Canada. In fact, this commitment exceeds the recommendations of that report.

Just what action does the 10 year plan take to improve our health care system? It makes investments in these areas: reducing waiting times and improving access, which I know are big desires in my constituency; providing funding for medical and diagnostic equipment; and improving access to home care and catastrophic drug coverage.

I want to talk in more detail about reducing waiting times. What united all the first ministers was a commitment to a meaningful reduction in wait times for health care services. The plan provides funding of $5.5 billion over 10 years for wait times reduction so that Canadians can see tangible progress, particularly in key areas such as cancer, heart treatment, diagnostic imaging, joint replacements and sight restoration.

It is important to mention that the government recognizes that not all provinces and territories are in the same situation regarding the implementation of their wait times reduction strategies. Funding of $4.25 billion from the total of $5.5 billion will be provided through a third-party trust. Therefore, as part of the 10 year plan, provinces and territories will have the flexibility to draw on the funding according to their individual priorities in meeting their wait times reduction commitments.

The funding can be used according to the respective priorities of each province and territory, such as clearing backlogs, training and hiring more health care professionals, building capacity for regional centres of excellence, expanding appropriate ambulatory and community care programs, and tools to manage wait times.

Beginning in 2009-10, $250 million will be provided through an annual transfer to provinces and territories in support of health care related human resources and tools to manage wait times.

Now I will talk about medical and diagnostic equipment, which is also very important in my riding. No health care system would be effective without medical and diagnostic equipment to support it.

That is why, as an integral part of a 10 year plan, the government will provide to provinces and territories a further $500 million for diagnostic and medical equipment in 2004-05. This funding builds on previous investments in diagnostic and medical equipment under the 2000 and 2003 health accords. It will help the provinces and territories continue to improve access to the diagnostic services their citizens need.

Now I want to talk briefly about home care and catastrophic drug coverage. Access to home care and catastrophic drug coverage is a concern for Canadians. As I mentioned earlier, the new $19 billion base level for the Canada health transfer includes an amount of $500 million, which is specifically aimed at addressing these concerns.

It is important to mention that the first ministers were committed to improving access to home and community care services and catastrophic drug coverage. Hon. members will appreciate the importance of improving the quality of life for many Canadians and ensuring that no Canadian suffers undue financial hardship in accessing needed drug therapies.

Now I will talk briefly about reporting to Canadians on these expenditures. As I mentioned earlier, Canadians want to know that their tax dollars are in fact supporting tangible improvements in the health care system. That is why Bill C-39 contains a provision for a parliamentary review of progress made in implementing the 10 year plan.

What I have described is not all the funding that is available to the provinces and the territories. In the debate about federal health funding to the provinces and territories, it is important to remember that this is not their only source of funds from the federal government. For example, equalization payments, which have been in existence since 1957, address horizontal fiscal disparities among provinces by ensuring that less prosperous provinces can provide reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.

Hon. members will recall that last fall federal officials met with their provincial and territorial partners as part of the government's commitment to increase equalization and territorial formula funding by more than $33 billion over the next 10 years. Bill C-24, which is currently before Parliament, sets out this new framework.

This represents a fundamental reform of these programs and establishes the foundation for our commitment to bring greater predictability to the federal government's payments to the less prosperous provinces in support of key public services.

The $33 billion committed to equalization and territorial formula financing payments, when combined with the $41 billion ten year plan to strengthen health care, will result in federal transfers to the provinces and territories of $74 billion. This significant increase in federal transfers illustrates the government's commitment to provide stable and growing funding to provinces and territories.

Although the 10 year plan to strengthen health care makes it clear that money alone cannot sustain health care, the government fully understands the importance of stable and predictable funding to the provinces and territories in support of health and social priorities. In short, the $41 billion 10 year plan represents the best of what the Canadian federation can accomplish and underscores how cooperative federalism has built a country with a standard of living that is the envy of the world.

Before closing, I would emphasize the importance of the bill receiving passage by the end of this fiscal year so that the provinces and the territories can have access to 2004-05 funding and begin to plan for the future. I therefore ask that hon. members continue to provide the bill with timely consideration.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak on this very important piece of legislation, Bill C-39, an agreement worked out between the provinces and the federal government. It is the third accord we have had since 2000. We have had the 2000 and 2003 accords and now this 2004 accord, all giving money back to the provinces, money that was ripped out of the provinces' hands unilaterally by the government. In fact, the Prime Minister of this country is the only individual politician, provincial or federal, who has ever taken money out of health care over the last decade.

It is amazing to see the numbers put before us and to hear the rhetoric that I just heard coming from the government side here a few minutes ago, with the government side talking about this being all about accountability and transparency. I would like to explain why it is about neither of these.

What it is about is an amount of money going back into the health care system, which we agree with. In fact, the numbers that are put forward, the $41 billion put forward in this health accord, are closer to our numbers. They are very much identical to our numbers for the first six years, but are only half of what the Liberals promised in last year's June election. During that election, the Liberals were not being honest with the Canadian public with regard to the number of dollars available for health care, nor were they honest about the number of dollars they were going to give to health care.

As for the numbers that are here, thank goodness they are twice what was promised. These numbers are what the provinces asked for and what we suggested during that election. It is interesting to note that during the election we were criticized because we said that we would have to increase taxes before we could fulfill the promise we made to the Canadian people during that campaign.

All that aside, it is time to put our swords on the table and deal with health care in a non-partisan way, but before we can even get into a debate on health care we have to understand the situation of health care in this country.

This was not a fix for a generation, as was trumpeted by the Prime Minister. He went across the country and said that this is what we had to do, that we needed a fix for a generation to put health care on a sustainable course. Before we can do that, we have to understand that health care cannot be fixed in the next 10 years. The pressure will not even start to hit our system with the intensity that it is going to until we get to 2020, 2030 and up to about 2040, where it will begin to peak.

The pressure will intensify from now until that period of time because of the demographics and the baby boomer population that is going to hit the system. The baby boomers will be consuming large amounts of dollars during that period of time as they become elderly. It does not matter which area we want to look at in our health care system. Whether it is pharmaceuticals, cancer, Alzheimer's or heart disease, we can talk to any of the organizations across this country and they all will tell us that the high costs of these treatments, plus the numbers of patients afflicted with these kinds of diseases, including HIV-AIDS, are going to intensify over the next significantly short period of time and will continue to intensify over the next 40 years.

Therefore, how we sustain our health care system during that 40 year period becomes the true debate. Until we understand what is coming at us, we cannot possibly even start to open up an honest debate on health care.

If we are going to paint the picture honestly, and that is what I think we should do here, it is not only demographics that will inflict a significant blow on and a challenge to our health care system, but it is the obesity situation we have within our country. We have surveys showing us that almost 20% of our students are overweight, almost 8% of them at obesity levels. These individuals will be hitting serious problems, whether it is diabetes or heart and stroke problems, in their thirties, not in their fifties, sixties and seventies. When we couple this with the demographics we are headed into in our health care system, when we understand what is about to hit us, we see very clearly that the challenge will intensify because of more than just an aging population.

There has been talk of a fix for a generation. That is what the member and the Prime Minister have suggested, but we have been given nothing to change the dynamics and the paradigm of health care. We must do this. We must look not just at the health care system, which is crisis management, but upstream much further, and we must start talking about preventative health care.

Back in the early seventies, we had television advertisements stating that a 30 year old Canadian was not as fit as a 70 year old Swede. That is very much the case today. We see an epidemic of obesity in our population, which suggests that we have to do much more than crisis manage our health care if we are to sustain it over the next 40 year period.

We have talked about what is coming. However, what does the health care system look like today? Emergency rooms are absolutely crowded. Patients cannot see doctors or they wait for unbelievable amounts of time to see them. Some of them are reported as having passing away in emergency rooms while waiting for a doctor. A significant number in our population cannot obtain a family practitioner. I think 3.6 million individuals are without a family practitioner at the present time, and 2.4 million of those have given up trying to find a one. We have some very serious problems.

Let us compare Canada to some of the OECD nations, which it is important to do when it comes to diagnostics. Let us talk about MRIs. That seems to be what people like to talk about when discussing diagnostics. We do not rate very well. We rate 13th out of 20 for MRIs and 16th out of 21 for CT scanners. When we look at our health are system, we can see we have a significant problem with trying to access services.

In the papers yesterday and on headline news last night, it was reported that six doctors walked away from their practices in small town Quebec. With the amount of stress on the family practitioners and the nursing population, we can understand full well why we have these kinds of problems. We have a shortage of human resources. People have to understand that our health care system is 75% to 80% human resources.

We are told that 100,000 nurses will be leaving or retiring over the next five year period. There are only a little over 300,000 nurses in Canada today. A third of them are over the age of 50, and the average nurse retires at the age of 55. We have a crisis when it comes to the number of nurses.

To talk about nurses for a second, we have to understand that the most unhealthy workplace in all of Canada is in the hospitals. Nurses are the ones who take the most number of sick days off of any occupation in Canada. That is because of the stress they are placed under by the amount of work we ask them to do.

I was at a meeting last week with the nurses on the Hill. They explained to us that if they were asked to work beyond 55 to 60 or 65, we would have to create an environment for them so they could function well within that job. To do that, we will have to provide some relief and help for them. It is not only about paying them more dollars.

When it comes to doctors, we have a significant problem. A decade ago, when the government took the money out of health care, the ideology was that the doctors drove the costs. Therefore, if we removed the doctors from the system, we would remove the costs. The Canadian Medical Association said at that time that if we did that, in a decade we would run into trouble. We are now a decade from that time and we are in serious trouble with a shortage physicians in the system. That goes back to the kinds of headlines yesterday. More are on their way.

We need 2,500 doctors per year to sustain our physician profession. At the present time, we only educate 2,200 of them per year. We have to understand that the problem is not just educating more of them. They have to stay and work in Canada where they are needed. We have a three-prong problem. When we look at the legislation, do we address any of them? I would like to look at the legislation and ask those questions.

The government has said that it has $5.5 billion to deal with the wait list problem. The money is in a separate trust fund, and over a 10 year period the provinces can draw down on that money whenever they like. It is quite ridiculous when we look at the legislation and see how that is done. Of those dollars, $4.25 billion of those dollars can be pulled down by the provinces immediately. Why set up a separate trust? We might as well just write them a cheque because that is exactly what they will do, draw down that money.

The money is to go into waiting lists. What does that really mean? What criteria is on that money? They are to apply it to wait lists. There are two chronic problems in the health care system, and that is the shortage of human resources, the nurses and doctors, as well as the long wait lists. How do we address it? There are no criteria for how we will address it. It is a provincial jurisdiction, and I think that is appropriate.

One of the good things about the legislation is it would not tie hands, as was tried with some of the other past accords, with regard to some of that money.

However, why not be honest? Why not just be clear to the population of Canada and the health care system. Why does the government not say that it will give the provinces the money and that they should use it where they see fit in order to help the system. However, it should not say that it has a great fix for the wait list problem, which is to put $5.5 billion into a separate trust fund that the provinces can draw down.

If we are going to be transparent, let us be transparent. If we are going to be honest, let us be honest with the numbers. No longer is there any room for playing politics in health care. What I see with this accord is it is not a fix for a generation. It is a way to buy another election. That is really what it will come out to be.

If members will remember, the 2000 accord came in just months before an election. The 2003 accord was an attempt, after the Romanow report, to do something. With regard to this one, the spin is to fix it for a generation. It has nothing to do with fixing a generation, it is to do with buying another election. We are doing it with taxpayer dollars and we are doing it in a very dishonest way.

The dollars need to be there. That is why we support the legislation. However, we have to do it in a way that is clear, honest and is not confrontational.

The other thing that is so dishonest with the legislation is the idea of a catastrophic drug coverage. This was supposed to be done long before now. In fact, with catastrophic drug coverage and home care, in the 2003 accord with the provinces there were performance indicators and a timeline as to when these were supposed to be triggered.

In this legislation, when it comes to catastrophic drug coverage, it is pushes it back, and not to 2006 when the other was supposed to be implemented. The only thing that will come forward In July 2006 is a report suggesting that we might be able to proceed with some sort of a catastrophic drug coverage plan.

When it comes to home care, it is the same thing. It is pushed back again in this accord.

My hon. colleague talked about $500 million to medical equipment. The last time that a fund was set up for medical equipment was in the past two accords. When we traced that money to find out whether it went to medical equipment, we found that much of it went to, what we would say, pretty marginal medical equipment like lawnmowers and ice cube machines. We thought that if it hit the headlines, the government would put in more accountability measures if it were to trigger and target a specific amount of money to go to medical equipment.

However, in the finance committee meeting this last week I challenged the Liberals on this. No further accountability measures have been established. The way the fund is set up in this legislation is exactly the same as the other one. If we do the same thing the same way, we can expect the same kind of results. It is unfortunate that we have to play these kinds of games with health care.

I could go on and on about the significant lack of accountability within the accord. I want to just say that there is some accountability, perhaps, and that will come from the Health Council, which was struck in the 2003 accord. The Health Council of Canada is probably our best hope for full disclosure from the provinces and the federal government, with regard to what happens with taxpayer money. Whether it is provincial money or federal money, it is all taxpayer money.

My suggestion, as we move forward into health care, is to stop this nonsense of playing politics with health care. We could not afford it before and we cannot afford it now. Yet we still see the kind of spins coming from the government side.

If the Liberals are going to be honest, the first thing they should do is stand up and apologize to Canadians for the way they have treated health care over the last decade. They should give that the money back. Then they should consider how they will work together with the provinces in a collaborative way to make it happen. They should look at how we will deal with the next 40 years in health care. They should look beyond the political cycle. Politicians like to work in four year cycles because that gets us elected.

We can no longer do that with health care. We cannot do it provincially nor can we do it federally. We need a paradigm shift. We have to get away from crisis management on health care. We need to start looking at how we deal with the needs of the individual patient ahead of the system.

We think we have a great system in Canada. The World Health Organization suggests that we are 30th in the world. Every time we get into a health care debate, somebody wants to promote an American health care system. Why would we do that? The Americans rate 37th in the world. However, 30 other countries are better than us. Why do we not take some of the examples from those countries and use them pattern a health care system that will be in the best needs of the Canadian population?

We have a good health care system, but we will be unable to sustain it on the course we are on. We have to do more than just come up with one-off accords that do not address accountability or the health of the nation. They deal with crisis management. We agree with the dollars in this accord, and we will support the legislation in that respect. We are frustrated about how we got here and we are frustrated that we have a government that is not more long-sighted than this legislation.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a very great pleasure for me to take part in the debate on Bill C-39, to implement the agreement entered into last September between the federal government, Quebec, the nine provinces and the three territories.

It is even more of a pleasure for me to speak today on a bill which, you will recall, the Bloc Québécois opposed at second reading. We did so because of the provisions of the bill at that point. In fact, we pointed out one fundamental flaw at that time, and this was corrected in committee. Consequently, we will be able to support it most enthusiastically today.

I believe it would be a good idea to start with the health agreement entered into between the federal government, Quebec and the provinces and territories. We need to take a few moments in order to have a proper understanding of the nature of Bill C-39.

Obviously, additional funds have been put into the health care system by the federal government, but it must be acknowledged that they are insufficient. I will return to that point later. We must also acknowledge that the federal government has concluded a separate, specific agreement with the Government of Quebec, which stipulated the following, in particular:

—resting on asymmetrical federalism, that is, flexible federalism that notably allows for the existence of specific agreements and arrangements adapted to Quebec's specificity—.

Quebec will apply its own wait time reduction plan, in accordance with the objectives, standards and criteria established by the relevant Quebec authorities—

The Government of Quebec will report to Quebeckers—

To be certain that there could be no confusion, the communiqué went on to say:

Nothing in this communiqué shall be construed as derogating from Quebec's jurisdiction. This communiqué shall be interpreted as fully respecting its jurisdiction.

So we have to acknowledge that a specific agreement with Quebec was entered into. This was to be described—as it is in the communiqué—as asymmetrical federalism. A few days ago, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs referred to my having praised the health agreement, to having nothing but good to say about it. Let us not get carried away, here. Yes, I did have some good things to say about it, to which I have referred here, but it must also be said—and the minister took care not to—that the agreement suffers from certain shortcomings. We have expressed a number of reservations about it.

For example, reference was made to the so-called asymmetrical federalism. Let us be clear that for the provinces and territories, except Quebec—but a way including Quebec—there is an understanding that the federal government can encroach on a jurisdiction that is exclusive to Quebec and the provinces. We cannot exactly call that asymmetrical federalism. In fact, we should be calling it asymmetrical interference.

The nine provinces and three territories have had no problem recognizing from the outset that the federal government has a role to play and can interfere in their exclusive jurisdictions. In a way, Quebec has recognized that the federal government has a role to play, but that its role needs to be well defined. We could only talk about asymmetrical federalism if the federal government allowed the provinces and territories to encroach on federal jurisdictions. Only then will it be possible to talk about asymmetrical federalism.

Furthermore, this side deal has been presented as quite an extraordinary innovation. Need I remind this House that this side agreement with the Government of Quebec is not a first.

The Government of Quebec has already negotiated side deals and special administrative agreements with the federal government on immigration with the Cullen-Couture agreement, on the pension plan, or on the creation of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, to name a few. This type of negotiation is nothing new in the history of Quebec and Canada.

We also notice that this asymmetrical agreement, described as asymmetrical federalism, has yielded relatively modest results. The Prime Minister had announced with great fanfare that he wanted to resolve the problems in the health care system for a generation. We can conclude at least that the government is apply a band-aid to the problem in health care for the next few years, or maybe even months, but it certainly has not solved anything for a generation.

I want to look at the numbers simply to understand the limits of this agreement reached among the federal government and the provinces, Quebec and the territories. For the Quebec government, this represents $502 million, or 2.5% of a health budget of over $20 billion. In concrete terms, this amount will run the health care system for nine days. Thanks to this injection of federal funds, the so-called health system will be able to operate for nine days. If, to the Prime Minister, these mere nine days constitute resolving health care problems for one generation, this agreement is obviously quite limited.

It is all the more surprising since the federal government has been literally swimming in the surplus for the current fiscal year. In fact, this surplus is said to be close to $12 billion. So, it is hard to understand the government being so tight-fisted when it comes to ensuring that our constituents have access to the reasonably acceptable health care services they deserve.

I want to come back to the concept of so-called “asymmetrical” federalism. It must be concluded that this concept was strongly contested, in short order, within the Liberal Party ranks. The Prime Minister was even criticized in the newspapers by certain Liberal Party luminaries, such as John Manley and Senator Joyal. So he was criticized for apparently having been too generous to Quebec. Too generous. What an idea. The Prime Minister was too generous to Quebec.

However, what happened—as later events attest—is that a few weeks later, there was another federal-provincial conference, which was supposed to focus on the much larger issue of the fiscal imbalance, which some people, on the opposite side of the House, call the “financial pressure” on the provinces, Quebec and the territories.

The federal government, however, had first set the terms, given its habit of being very authoritarian, to ensure that this conference focused only on equalization. The federal government gave only crumbs to the provinces, Quebec and the territories. As a result, the so-called “asymmetrical federalism” proved its flaws, weaknesses, and shortcomings just a few hours or days after being celebrated amid great fanfare and praise.

The release regarding the agreement between Quebec and the federal government said that the funding made available by the Government of Quebec would be used by the Government of Quebec to implement its own plan for renewing Quebec's health system.It also said that the Government of Quebec would report to Quebeckers on progress in achieving its objectives.

Moreover, it said that Quebec's health commissioner was responsible for reporting to the Government of Quebec on Quebec's health system and that he would cooperate with the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The agreement was very clear. But when we saw Bill C-39, to our astonishment and irritation and disappointment as well, I must say, we noticed that the bill made no reference to the side deal with Quebec. To be fair, a very slight reference was made to it on page 4 of the bill, in section 25.9, dealing with parliamentary review, the only reference to this side deal with the Government of Quebec.

Naturally, the Bloc Québécois checked with the government, suggesting that there had probably been an oversight, a little something left out. The government took the matter under advisement and came back with a rather terse response, saying that it would look into it. To make sure that the government would indeed look into it, on February 10, I rose in this House to put a question to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. The answer came from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

With the arrogant, condescending and authoritarian attitude this government is known for, the parliamentary secretary rose in this House—of course, whenever remarks are made or an opinion expressed by an opposition member, the people opposite suggest we are not quite with it because, by definition, an opposition member cannot be right. So, the parliamentary secretary rose in the House and said that my concerns were unjustified. According to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, my concerns about the provisions of the side deal with the Government of Quebec not being reflected at all in the bill were totally unjustified.

This is strange. There is a side deal with the Quebec government. The bill makes not mention of it. We are saying there is something wrong, but we are told that there is no reason to be concerned, that there is no problem, and they wonder why I am complaining again! Of course, we pointed out to the government that the parliamentary secretary was probably out to lunch himself, because the bill is indeed totally silent on this side deal with the Quebec government.

So, the necessary adjustments were made in committee, at the request of the Bloc Québécois, which had identified this problem, this flaw. The government agreed to amend the bill and made the necessary adjustments, so that Bill C-39 reflects, in its essence, the agreement reached with the Quebec government, even though we realize that this agreement is not perfect.

Let us be clear here, Nirvana, it is not. We will always agree with the federal government investing more of its huge budget in health, so that our fellow citizens can have access to proper care. We will always agree with that and with the federal government respecting its own Constitution and, consequently, the jurisdictions of the provinces and territories, even though, in this particular case, this respect may be tarnished by ill intentions.

Of course, we agree with this agreement. However, we realize that it is flawed. It is incomplete.

As I said earlier, the money invested by the federal government will only last nine days in the health care system. This is not enough. The need is much greater. The Quebec government was expecting something on the order of $3.3 billion in federal transfers, for 2004-05 alone. However, as we know, the transfers are far below this figure, both under the equalization program and the health care agreement.

The result is that the Quebec government is still confronted with a shortfall of some $2.4 billion. Therefore, the agreement is not adequate. The federal government must further increase its transfers to the provinces, to Quebec and to the territories. Having said that, we are of course pleased, as I mentioned a few moments ago, that there is more money and that the federal government reached a specific agreement with the Quebec government.

However, it is very clear that the fundamental problem has not been fixed. This fundamental problem is the fiscal imbalance that some members across the way continue to call “financial pressures”. The fiscal imbalance problem has not been fixed. We are hoping that the federal government, in the budget that it will bring down next week, will correct a few things and start to redress once and for all this fiscal imbalance where the federal government collects more tax money than it needs to meet its constitutional responsibilities, while the tax base of the provinces is far too small to meet their responsibilities, such as health and education.

We have to correct this fiscal imbalance. The problem will only get worse, the result being, according to the Conference Board, that, by 2015, the federal government will have accumulated a surplus of some $166.2 billion while the provinces will be running deficits as high as $68.7 billion.

That is what the fiscal imbalance is all about. While the federal government shamelessly amasses surpluses, the provinces must scrape the bottom of the barrel or even borrow to discharge the responsibilities that are within their jurisdiction and that address directly the needs of the public in terms of health, education and welfare, for example. This is totally unfair and inequitable. Whatever happens to Bill C-39, which we will support this time, we must fix the problem of fiscal imbalance once and for all.

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10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to use my few remaining moments to congratulate my colleague on his speech.

Perhaps he could remind the House—he mentioned it at the beginning of his speech but I would like him to say more about it—how essential the work of the Bloc Québécois has been in the case of Bill C-39, and how, if there had been no sovereignists in this House, we would have seen Quebec being weakened.

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10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Joliette who, in my opinion, has shed light on a situation that should be obvious. The role of the Bloc Québécois in this matter has been instrumental, crucial and fundamental. Had it not been for the presence of the sovereignist members in this House, no one would have raised that fundamental problem in Bill C-39.

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10:55 a.m.

An hon. member

Certainly not those Liberal bumps on logs.

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10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

The doormats in the Quebec Liberal Party have not said even one word about this problem. Yes-men that they are, they have not said even one word about Bill C-39's silence on the side agreement reached with the Quebec government.

Contrary to what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health said, namely that my worries were unjustified, it took the Bloc Québécois standing in this House before the government would apply appropriate corrective measures.

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10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member has eight and a half minutes remaining for questions and comments, after oral question period, if consideration of this bill is resumed at that time.