Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-284 today, an act to amend the Canada Health Act, sponsored by the member for Winnipeg-Transcona.
The purpose of the bill is "to incite the provinces to make sure that the health care insurance plan of a province provides for the obligation for hospitals to disclose to emergency response employees who provide emergency medical or rescue services to a patient, the name and nature of an infectious or contagious disease that the patient might have transmitted to them". The essence of this bill is to ensure the safety of those who work in medical or rescue operations who are at risk of being exposed by an infectious or contagious disease.
The dedication of the people to whom this bill is addressed is to be commended and admired. I have talked with different emergency response workers and know their dedication and the risk they face each time they respond to an emergency. These professionals are police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
I can agree with the intent of the bill. However, I disagree with the the means by which it seeks to accomplish and implement that purpose. Specifically, the bill seeks to amend the Canada Health Act by adding additional criteria to the list.
I must agree with the Liberal parliamentary secretary that the Canada Health Act is not the vehicle for this. I will go on to explain why.
Clause 2 of the bill amends section 7 of the Canada Health Act. Section 7 outlines the principles of the Canada Health Act. These are public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability and accessibility. The bill would add an additional criteria to that list and that is the disclosure of infectious or contagious diseases.
The Reform Party has consistently demonstrated how the Canada Health Act has allowed the federal government and others to play a carrot and stick game with the provinces. The carrot is the money that the federal government transfers to the provinces for medicare. The stick is the heavy handedness of the Canada Health Act that allows the federal government to financially penalize the provinces.
Sections 14 and 15 of the Canada Health Act allow the federal government and the health minister to financially penalize provinces if the minister has found that the province is in violation of sections 8 to 13 of the act. These sections deal with the five principles, as I have mentioned, of public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability and accessibility and finally, the conditions for the cash contributions or payments to those provinces.
The bill adds an additional criteria to a list that Reform members feel is intrusive already. It adds the disclosure of infectious or contagious diseases. By adding it to the program criteria of section 7 of the Canada Health Act, it would create another basis for the federal government to financially penalize these provinces. We have just gone through a recent example of how the federal government imposes its will on provinces with the issue, debated in this House, of private clinics in Alberta and other provinces.
Although the purpose and the intent of the bill is commendable, I disagree with the way it is designed to legislate that purpose.
Reform has a different and fresh philosophy to approach medicare in Canada. Our approach, and we call it medicare plus, contains the following: first, we reaffirm that the value of medicare is the best health care safety net in the world. Second, we would define medicare as Canada's comprehensive set of core national health standards, publicly funded, portable across Canada and universally accessible to all Canadians, regardless of their ability to pay. These are essentially the principles that now exist in the Canada Health Act.
We differ from the Canada Health Act and from the view of the government and the approach taken in this bill by removing the restrictions and the ability of the federal government to penalize provinces within these criteria. That is the plus of medicare plus and the third of our proposals. We would give provinces greater flexibility to administer and deliver the health services within their own respective jurisdiction. That is our general philosophy and our approach to federal involvement in medicare.
It would apply to Bill C-284 as well. We believe the provinces should decide whether or not to pass legislation on the disclosure
of infectious or contagious diseases rather than be compelled by a federal government through the Canada Health Act.
As my colleague mentioned today, in June there was a federal-provincial notification protocol established in this area. This dealt with blood borne diseases and took into account the confidentiality concerns and the procedures that would result. I commend the government for proceeding in this direction.
One question I have today of the government, as my colleague also had, is why this was not proceeded with and then the information given to the people discussing the bill today? Again this is a reflection of the inactivity in the House or the lack of proaction on real measures that need to be addressed within this place. This is unfair to Canadians, specifically to the emergency response personnel for instance within this very bill.
Bill C-284 illustrates once again the failure of the government to proceed with substantive steps in the proper areas where Canadians need things addressed.
Generally my philosophy would be that it is grassroots not Ottawa that must reform an ailing health care system in terms of the Canada Health Act. Bill C-284 speaks to increased federal control over a medicare system that is increasingly unaffordable at the federal level. Ottawa's share of our medicare system was originally 50 per cent and is now down to approximately 24 per cent or less. Its share will likely disappear within 10 to 15 years.
The symptoms that we see are bed closures. In my own provinces hospitals have closed. There are long waiting lists, up to seven to twelve weeks for procedures. There has been a de-listing of medical services so that each province may have a different base from which to work. There is reduced medical coverage for Canadians travelling abroad. As important as any of the others, there has been an exodus of some of our expert medical personnel from our land.
Reform says that the five program criteria should be maintained but we have to re-examine the definition of those program criteria. We have to allow room for provinces to exercise administrative jurisdictions over the funding and delivery of our health care system. The crisis in our country is not what is done but of federal government intrusion into provincial jurisdiction.
Today, we think of Canada as a grand old house that has fallen into a serious state of disrepair. Today I stand with great trepidation as I see the foundations of that house facing a great test. It is true that the house of our nation has an unsustainable mortgage. It has a cracked foundation. It has serious problems with some of the ways that the walls are fitting together and how the communications work within that house.
However, within the last few days I have seen many Canadians speak out with a great love and a newly discovered feeling of the importance of this country to them. This is all the more reason that I feel today it is time for the government to recognize that there has to be a new relationship within this House, new federal-provincial relationships outside the Constitution. Our own party has suggested 20 ways where we can bring provinces and the federal government together so that as a nation we can stand together today and tomorrow in order to make this country work.
Decentralizing those powers includes a medicare system that works for all Canadians, that is sustainable and that will be here today and tomorrow. I challenge the government to change at our medicare system so that it will work. I also challenge the government to look at many other things, as we have suggested, so that we have a Canada today and tomorrow.