Madam Speaker, to get 10 minutes to talk about budget 2018, when I first got elected, I would have thought was a long time, but now it just does not seem to be that much time.
This budget was not well received by most Canadians. I am going to talk about health care, infrastructure, and some of the spending. I was always told that when one is bringing a critical message it is good to make a sandwich and say something nice at the beginning and something nice at the end. Therefore, I am going to say something nice at the beginning and something nice at the end.
The thing I will say at the beginning is that I was pleased to see that the response for science to the Naylor report was a good one. As the former science critic for our party, that was something I was looking for. I do not have anything bad to say about that, but now I will turn to the other issues.
The first topic of discussion of course has to do with palliative care. I was surprised that the word “palliative” does not appear once in this budget. After seeing the word “palliative" in budget 2017, and considering the unanimous support of the House of Commons and the Senate for my bill, Bill C-277, regarding palliative care, I was surprised that the word was not mentioned in this budget.
In 2017, the federal government proposed investing $6 billion over 10 years for home and palliative care, as well as $5 billion over 10 years to support mental health initiatives. These investments included improving home care services in Canada, as well as palliative care. In other words, there was $11 billion for mental heath, home care, and palliative care. However, budget 2018 announced different investments, specifically $11 billion over 10 years for provincial and territorial governments to support home care and mental health, but not palliative care. There is no mention of palliative care.
Palliative care is a necessary but extremely underfunded service in our country. By leaving palliative care out of the budget, the government is ignoring the needs of many desperate Canadians who need financial support not only to improve their living conditions, but also to help ease the burden on our health care system.
The second issue has to do with mental health, dementia, and PTSD. As with palliative care, budget 2018 fails to make investments in mental health care. As I mentioned earlier, only $11 billion was earmarked for mental heath, including home care. That is not enough. Canada is still in crisis, and we must do everything we can for all those in need.
To make matters worse, the federal government is investing only $20 million over five years and only $4 million a year after that for Canadians with dementia. Over 400 million Canadians have dementia, including Alzheimer's, and this disease disproportionately affects elderly women. That amount is simply not enough. Given our aging population, we need to prepare and invest in quality programs.
I would like to thank my colleague on this side of the House for all of the work he has done regarding injuries and post-traumatic stress. I believe that it is thanks to him and his efforts that investments were made in this area. However, the government is proposing to invest only $10 million over five years to create a pilot project. Research and pilot projects are important, but so are services for all those who are living with PTSD. I believe that this is a step in the right direction but that the government needs to do a lot more.
Another point worth noting is the $20-million investment, and $6 million a year going forward, to improve mental health supports for offenders in federal correctional facilities. Those funds are intended specifically to enhance supports for women inmates in those institutions.
Despite those small investments, the government is also proposing to provide $10 million over five years for the Mental Health Commission of Canada to assess the effects of cannabis use on Canadians' mental health.
The Liberal government is doing everything it can to control and limit cigarette use, yet it wants to legalize marijuana as soon as possible, despite knowing the mental damage it can cause to users. This $10-million investment proves that the government recognizes the dangers associated with cannabis, yet it is going ahead with full legalization anyway.
What really struck me in this budget is where the government put the priorities in terms of health. There is $80 million in the budget to get people to stop smoking, but there is $800 million in the budget to get people to start smoking marijuana. That seems like the wrong priority. At the same time, while people are dying across the country in the opioid crisis, there is $40 million a year being put toward that crisis. Again, in comparison to the legalization of marijuana, it just does not seem to be the right priority at all.
I talked about my disappointment that palliative care was not even mentioned in this budget. I had approached the minister with a plan for once the framework was put together to build palliative care infrastructure across Canada. When we talk about the infrastructure spending that was promised by the government at the beginning, that was the whole reason for going into deficit. However, it does not seem that the money is flowing to the municipalities. What could be a better example than my riding?
Most members know that on January 11, the Canadian Coast Guard decided not to close the channel, which it normally does when ice floes are heavy, and the resulting push from the icebreakers crushed the Sombra ferry causeway. That border has been shut since January. The Minister of Public Safety is in charge of the CBSA, which makes $3.3 million in duties from that crossing every year. I approached the minister to get the repair money to put that back together. At first there was no response, but then a denial. I approached the Minister of Transport, who has the responsibility for the trade corridor funding. Again, there was a refusal. I approached the infrastructure minister, who seems to be looking for somewhere to spend $186 billion. I only need $2.5 million. Certainly, he could spend it on the restoration of the Sombra ferry crossing, but again, that was refused.
Combat engineers in my riding said that if the Minister of National Defence decides that it is in the national interest, he could send them to repair the bridge. They had done that in Laval and Guelph, and they could do it elsewhere. Again, there was a great opportunity, but the Minister of National Defence turned me down. I have escalated this to the Prime Minister's Office, but nothing has been done. When the government states that it wants to spend money on infrastructure and the municipalities, it falls on deaf ears for me and my constituents, who feel that there is no infrastructure money for the Sombra ferry restoration in Sarnia—Lambton.
That said, at the beginning of my speech I gave some commentary about the things I thought were missing in the budget, and said that I would say something nice at the end. I have a couple of nice things to say.
I was glad to see a reference to the thalidomide issue. We know there are people who did not qualify for their thalidomide claims because they could not produce the paperwork. I have brought this to the attention of the Minister of Health, and I am pleased to see that this has been put into the budget. No dollars were associated with it, but I am trusting that money will be parcelled out to those people who deserve compensation.
Other than that, the only other happy news is that most of the spending has been pushed out into the years after the Liberal government will have been defeated.