House of Commons photo

Last in Parliament May 2004, as NDP MP for Dartmouth (Nova Scotia)

Won her last election, in 2000, with 36.28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Excise Tax Act May 12th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak tonight to Bill C-456, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act to exempt cloth and disposable diapers from the GST. I appreciate the bill put forward by the member for LongueuiI. I also appreciated her comments at the beginning of the debate. I hope that her two boys are watching their mom on CPAC, or whatever the equivalent is in Quebec. I hope they are watching their mother speak out on an issue which is very important to families.

I think, if anything, this bill speaks to the reason why we need a lot more women in the House of Commons. We see issues that are very down to earth and essential to our families. They need to be discussed here in order to bring forward practical solutions. This is as good an example as any why we need a lot more women in the House of Commons.

I support this bill and I believe that New Democrats support this bill. We are trying to come up with ways of eliminating more of the hardships facing Canadian families all over this country and helping people deal with the rising costs of raising children. It will make a difference. It will bring relief on a dollar per dollar basis of the amount that goes out every week on essentials, such as diapers. That is a really positive benefit of this bill.

The member for Longueuil mentioned that Quebec is more progressive when it comes to measures to assist families. I have always looked to Quebec and the kind of day care assistance it gives to families. I have wished very much that we could offer the same kind of assistance for all families in Nova Scotia, where I live and where I represent people.

I think that Quebec has also been working to assist families deal with escalating costs of raising children in other ways. I read that effective March 31, the Quebec sales tax is no longer applicable to the following items, and these are again important items involved in child raising: children's diapers and training pants, breast and bottle feeding equipment, waterproof pants worn over washable diapers, absorbent liners, and biodegradable paper used with children's diapers.

The goods and services tax continues to be applied to these items, but the Quebec sales tax, QST, has been removed. This is an important progressive step. The NDP believes in this kind of step to remove these consumer taxes on items that are essentials in daily life.

In February, my colleague, the member for Winnipeg North Centre, introduced a private member's bill to eliminate the goods and services tax on feminine hygiene products. That is another important elimination of a consumption tax on essentials. At that time, she said that charging the GST on feminine hygiene products clearly affects women only. It unfairly disadvantages women financially, solely because of our reproductive role.

If a proper gender based analysis had been done when the GST was introduced, this discriminatory aspect of the tax would never have been implemented. I agree with the member for Winnipeg North Centre.

I would say that applying the GST to diapers unfairly disadvantages people who have children. I would hope that this is certainly not the intent of the government. It certainly is not the intent of anyone in the New Democratic Party. The NDP finds this kind of consumption tax on essentials unacceptable.

The NDP has been at the forefront in speaking out on child poverty in this country. A decade ago the House of Commons gave unanimous support to an NDP motion made by our leader at the time, Ed Broadbent. It was a resolution to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. At the present time, one in five children still lives in poverty.

There is a direct relationship between child poverty and poverty facing parents in this country. Last week I had the opportunity to speak with people from Campaign 2000, a group speaking out about child poverty. I heard some astounding statistics. More than 60% of single mothers living in poverty earn less than $10 an hour.

Canada is a very low wage country among industrialized countries in terms of our wage scale. We are second only to the United States. One in four wages in this country is under $10 an hour. Into that mix are added on some very expensive consumer taxes to essential products such as diapers and feminine hygiene products. It is unacceptable that we have such low wages and unacceptable that so many people are living in poverty. It is also unacceptable that we further penalize people by putting on these kinds of consumption taxes.

I appreciate and support the bill put forward by my colleague from Longueuil. I hope that the bill will have the support of everyone else in the House.

Supply May 11th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, any Canadians I know, if asked where we should draw the line as to what is medically necessary, would say that this. People who require medical assistance on a regular basis throughout the course of the day because of an illness or other condition, such as a post-operation situation, is medically necessary and they require the health care. Canadians believe that is the system for which we want to pay. We want to that system for all vulnerable people in our society.

It is important to note that the Canada Health Act has to be an evolving act. We have to look at our health care system, our future health prospects and our challenges, environmentally and medically. Certainly the New Democrats are very eager to do that. Roy Romanow in his report was very eager to do that. We have to look at new ways, smarter ways and more effective ways of delivering health care within our communities, in shared clinic situations and in preventive medicine situations. There are ways and we believe we can do it together as a nation.

Supply May 11th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, what we seem to have witnessed over the last two terms in the House of Commons is a connection of disturbing proportion between the government side and the official opposition. There seems to be a consensus that it is acceptable to allow for profit health care to take place. Roy Romanow and many studies around the world have shown that for profit health care does not provide effective, efficient or reasonably priced health care benefits for the population.

The idea is to allow for profit companies to get into our health care system and make that additional 15%. That is the money we all hear is the sacred trust that private companies have to make at the end of the day. That additional money comes out of the pockets of individual Canadians in user fees. Some people cannot even go to hospitals or to doctors because they cannot afford those additional costs.

As profits in for profit health care companies increase, we see a decrease in the health status of Canadians

Supply May 11th, 2004

I apologize, Mr. Speaker.

If the Prime Minister's 10 year health care plan is something that we should be taking seriously, we should have a look at his last 10 years of growing privatization and ignored innovation. That seems to me to be the record that we have to be taking to the people in the next few weeks in terms of an election.

I will return to the issue of home care for a minute because that is an issue that is critical to people in Dartmouth and in all of Nova Scotia.

Canadians made it very clear in the Romanow submissions that home care services were too important to be excluded from the definition of insured health services under the Canada Health Act. Much of the care that was once provided in a hospital or in physician's office has moved to a patient's home. The care is still medically necessary but is provided in a different setting.

Why do the Liberals think that type of care should not be covered, or worse, why do they think it should be provided by for profit businesses?

Statistics show that for profit delivery of health care, regardless of the setting, results in reduced outputs for the patients.

I want to read from the Romanow report. It states:

--a comprehensive analysis of the various studies that compare not-for-profit and for- profit delivery of services concluded that for-profit hospitals had a significant increase in the risk of death and also tended to employ less highly skilled individuals than did non-profit facilities

In his report, Roy Romanow called home care the next essential service. It is the fastest growing component of the health care system and provides comfort and independence to the people who use it. It costs less than equivalent care in a hospital or in a long term care facility while improving the care and quality of life of patients.

The NDP wants to implement a public non-profit system of home care based on the successful Manitoba model. Since care in a hospital can cost from $9,000 to $16,000 more per patient per year than community based home care, this plan makes economic sense.

In my role as NDP critic on the status of persons with disabilities, I have heard over and over how important our health care system is to persons with disabilities. Groups, such as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, have asked for a national system of disability supports, including home care or support to help people with disabilities with their quality of life.

Right now, many people with disabilities cannot access adequate home support for their needs. In some provinces, home support is only available after an acute health emergency. People with disabilities literally have to be sick enough to go to a hospital before they can get any support in their homes, and then the home care only responds to the acute medical emergencies, not an ongoing disability.

In other provinces, there is a monetary limit to how much home care a person can use per month. People with a disability must pick and choose which services they will give up each month so that they do not go over their limit.

In other situations, access to home care is linked to eligibility for other programs. For example, someone who is injured at work can access a home care program as part of workman's compensation, while a young person with a disability who wants to live independently in his or her own home is not able to.

There are many startling examples of people with disabilities finding today's health care system insufficient to meet their needs. This is the true danger of a not for profit system of health care. People with disabilities are disproportionately poorer than other Canadians, so if for profit health care costs increase, it will affect them more than ever.

The NDP is very clear and passionate about its commitment to a not for profit, publicly delivered health care system which will include pharmacare and home care in its new evolution in the years going onward.

Supply May 11th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to mention that I will no longer be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver East. Instead, I will be sharing my time with the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore.

Some of the things to which we have been speaking very passionately and to which we will be speaking in the upcoming election are, first, the issue of restoring 25% of federal funding to health care; and second, the issue of a comprehensive home care program and pharmacare program for Canadians.

The NDP believes that we should be preventing future illness by restoring funding to participaction and banning trans fatty acids, a significant risk factor in heart disease.

Along with its health platform, the NDP will be working on its environmental platform, previously released, to provide cleaner air and reduce health care costs through renewable, pollution free energy and sustainable funding for public transit and rail.

Another one of our major issues is the idea of changing the law to stop public money paying for the private for profit delivery of health care and plugging loopholes in the law that allow more diagnostic services to be provided privately for profit.

Halifax is home to a new private for profit MRI clinic that opened in 2002. The clinic was not opened by the Leader of the Opposition. It was opened under the Liberals, just like private for profit MRI clinics in Quebec, private for profit home care in Ontario, private for profit hospitals in Alberta and rapidly expanding private for profit clinics in British Columbia.

It is a fact that the Liberals have allowed private for profit delivery to grow by neglect when they cut health care funding and ignored Roy Romanow's practical solutions. Liberals have allowed private for profit delivery to grow by design; by changing the Canada Health Act and refusing to enforce it, and by agreeing to some of Ralph Klein's radical privatization in Alberta.

Upon being appointed Prime Minister, the Prime Minister appointed a parliamentary secretary for P3 privatization and a former corporate lobbyist for private for profit health care providers to key positions in his government. He also, in both the throne speech and the budget, refused to mention public delivery of health care or the Romanow commission. We feel that those are very telling absences.

If Canadians want to see Paul Martin's 10 year plan for health care they should look at the last 10 years of growing privatization and ignored innovation. Nobody is going to be fooled by another vague promise from Paul Martin's Liberals because if Liberal promises--

Supply May 11th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Vancouver East.

It is a pleasure to take part in the debate today, especially on the day when the NDP leader, Jack Layton, is in Halifax delivering the health care platform for the New Democrats for the upcoming election. I would love to have been there but I am here instead taking part in this important debate that condemns the private for profit delivery of health care that the government has allowed to take root since 1993.

For the last 10 years, Canadians have been telling the Liberal government that they want innovative public health care that they can count on. I hear it all the time in Dartmouth. People do not want the long waiting lists. They fear the rising cost of drugs. They do not want to be put on a long waiting list for an MRI or for other kind of treatment. They want health care that they can count on and health care that will be there for them, their children, their grandchildren and their grandparents when they need it. That is a very simple and straightforward request.

There is no ambiguity in their statements and yet the Liberals have not listened to what people have asked over the last 10 years. They have been listening clearly to someone else. They have allowed for the private for profit delivery of health care to grow and, for practical solutions, to be ignored.

Today the NDP's platform has been released. We are saying that it is time to put new energy into health care and come up with practical solutions to fix the system and improve it, similar to the way Roy Romanow suggested changes and created solutions just over a year ago.

Included in the NDP's health platform are practical solutions for an innovative health care system that is improved through new ideas and investment, not privatization and not for profit delivery. The NDP is calling for restoring the federal government's capacity to act as a partner for innovation and practical delivery by increasing funding for health care to 25%, up from 16%, as recommended by the Romanow commission.

We are calling on government to prepare for the aging population and to relieve the burden on hospitals and families through a national home care program based on public and non-profit delivery. We are calling on implementing a pharmacare program to ensure Canadians have access to prescription drugs, starting with low income Canadians and people with catastrophic illnesses, and cutting health care costs through bulk buying of prescription drugs and clamping down on patent abuses by drug corporations.

Supply May 11th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments and for telling us of his mother's situation and the importance of, in his own life, the passing of the Canada Health Act and what that meant, and of the kind of duress his family was under financially. I do not think anyone could have said it better.

I think the problem is that many Canadians now feel that they are heading back to those bad old days and that they are actually experiencing them themselves. People feel that they can be just a step away from being wiped out financially because of the high cost of drugs. They do not have any drug insurance and they are in fact incurring huge costs that are taking years to repay.

In many parts of the country, and mine being one of them, there is no health care coverage for seniors in nursing homes. They are paying their own health care costs in nursing homes so that at the end of their lives they are finding themselves having to eat up absolutely every penny of their savings to pay for health care coverage that is available in hospitals for other Canadians across the country.

There are so many examples of people who do not feel they are protected in the way that some feel they once were protected. I would like the member to address the strong concern that Canadians have across the country with the state of our present health care plan.

Supply May 11th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her comments about private for profit delivery. One of the ways provinces struggle with the cuts to health care funding is very clearly to put their money into such things as P3 facilities. We have seen this happen across the board in terms of schools. We now have public-private partnership schools and public-private partnership health care clinics. That allows the provincial governments to put off the payments until a later date and to get them off the books.

Everyone is struggling with the financing of both education and health care. The point is it is just putting the costs off. They pay now or they pay later. With these public-private health care clinics, we see an increase in long term care for people, an increase in user fees and an increase in hospital support services that the private companies need to put in place simply to get their profits. Could the member comment on the phenomena of P3 health care services?

Supply May 11th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her comments and commitment to public health which I believe is very real.

I am trying to understand as I listen to the thousands of comments that are now flying around about health care. All Canadians have the same concerns. They have concerns about the lack of diagnostic services, about waiting lists, about the lack of cancer treatment, about the fact that we have a sicker population, about the fact that we have an unequal level of services across the country.

All of those problems are deeply embedded in our very troubled health care system which has been underfunded for many, many years. I do not believe that money is the only thing that is required at this point in time but it clearly is one of the things that is needed to bolster our system.

In light of the huge structural problems that now exist, how is it that the government can actually stand up and say that it is going to do this and this without putting forward a significant dollar figure? That figure at this point is way above what is going to be available from what I am hearing from the member.

Question No. 78 May 10th, 2004

What funds, grants, loans and loan guarantees has the federal government issued in the constituency of Dartmouth for each of the fiscal years 1999-2000, 2000-2001, 2001-2002, 2002-2003; and, in each case where applicable: ( a ) what was the department or agency responsible, ( b ) what was the program under which the payment was made, ( c ) what were the names of the recipients, groups or organizations, ( d ) what was the monetary value of the payment made, and ( e ) what was the percentage of program funding covered by the payment received?

Return tabled.