Mr. Speaker, on September 20, I asked the Prime Minister a question that I think is extremely important if we are to have a federal health care system in this country. The question related to the private clinics in Alberta and what action the right hon. Prime Minister was prepared to take on this contravention of the Canada Health Act. At the time the Prime Minister responded that he was committed to maintaining a system where medicare was free and portable for everybody.
Clearly what we see in Alberta is a two-tier health care system in operation. It is not hypothetical but in operation. There is no doubt that private clinics are part of the two-tier system. Certainly any research that has been done indicates that it would be a contravention of the Canada Health Act. Yet the federal government has refused to act.
At the same time we see the premier of Alberta cutting back general health care by some 20 per cent from the province's health care budget by 1997, as he has projected. While it is clear that many ordinary Albertans will have difficulty getting health care, at the same time the two-tier system is allowed to flourish.
If one looks at the current situation in Alberta, one example is that the number of hospital beds in Edmonton has been reduced by 20 per cent. These cuts have had very tragic consequences for many Albertans. Now we hear many stories coming from Alberta about the devastating effects of some of the cuts. If the transfer payment system continues as it is, federal transfers will be phased out for all provinces by the year 2015. That indeed would be the end of a truly national system.
On the one hand in private clinics patients are being charged a fee on top of what the clinic charges the government health insurance plan. Clearly it is a case of government health care plans paying and the consumer paying on top of that.
It is clearly a violation of the Canada Health Act. It is one that must be dealt with immediately and effectively if the federal government is to fulfil its commitment to have a Canada health care system and preserve the five important components of the system. Of course it will not be done if the federal government does not continue its contribution through the equalized program funding.
In answer to my question on September 20 the right hon. Prime Minister concluded by saying: "I hope that Mr. Klein will respect the laws of Canada".
I would like to raise the question again. Hoping that this breach of the Canada Health Act will be dealt with is not good enough. I repeat my question: What is the government prepared to do?