Mr. Speaker, on June 8 I asked the Deputy Prime Minister to assure Canadians that her government would maintain and enforce the Canada Health Act and, further, for her government to release the terms of reference and timetable for the promised national health care forum.
I suppose I have heard of no issue of more concern to Canadians across the country being discussed over the past few months when the House was not sitting than the future of health care. Seniors are worried about the future of health care. Others are worried about whether they will have the universal health care system of which Canadians have so rightly been proud.
One promise of the Liberal government and specifically of the Prime Minister was that he would chair a national health care forum that would deal with these many issues and the changes, I assume, although we have seen no terms of reference. I would hope such a health care forum would also deal with the change that needs to take place in our health care system.
Certainly as a New Democrat I am absolutely committed to the principles of universal, accessible health care for Canadians. However I am not adverse at all to changes within the Canada Health Act to guard the five principles of the Canada Health Act to make it more appropriate for Canadians.
Three months after I asked the question of the Deputy Prime Minister we still do not have a date for the national health care forum. We do not have a clear statement from the government as to the expectations for this forum. The Liberal Party has committed itself to upholding the five principles of the Canada Health Act, but we need to have a really comprehensive vision for health care.
The government's first budget, for example, was not a good sign of what was to come. The Conservative policy of freezing transfers to the provinces for health care continued. If this strategy continues there will be no federal funding for health care by the year 2015. Canadians want to hear the government say that it will not happen and that they will continue to have a universal health care system.
Further to the issue of the national health care forum, if it is truly to be a forum to develop a new vision of health care it would be hoped that the terms of reference would include a wide spectrum of groups that would participate on this forum. It would also be hoped that it would include all provinces and territories.
I would certainly like to know from the government spokesperson if the Prime Minister has any indication, since he will be the chair, whether all provinces will participate in a national health care forum. If not, will the Prime Minister be proceeding without the participation of all provinces?
We have seen the government allow provinces to develop systems which do directly contravene the Canada Health Act. For example, the province of Alberta with its private clinics specifically contravenes section 12 of the Canada Health Act. I have asked the Prime Minister in the House to raise the issue with the premier of Albert with whom he is meeting today. The Prime Minister refused to say that he would do so and said that it would be done at some other time in some other place.
That is not good enough for Canadians. Canadians want our national health care system to be a priority of the government and of all parliamentarians and a fundamental right as health care should be for Canadian citizens. It is also, I might add, one of the biggest supports for business in the country.
When will the national forum be? Will all provinces and territories participate? Will those provinces that are now contravening the Canada Health Act be dealt with by the government? When will we get an answer? When will the Prime Minister act?