Mr. Speaker, I am supporting Bill C-95 because of the important role Health Canada plays in the life of Canadians. Too often Canadians, and even some hon. members of the Chamber, do not realize that there is more to health than the Canada Health Act. Health Canada supports unique federal roles and responsibilities. The work undertaken by the department is far reaching and important.
Health Canada not only provides the benefits of universal health insurance. It also ensures the safety of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices and consumer products. It invests hundreds of millions of dollars in health research. It monitors disease in developing pathogens and it conducts a wide variety of health promotion programs and activities.
Finally, Health Canada administers health services to First Nations, federal public servants, Canadian civil aviation personnel and Canadians in need of emergency health and social services in case of national civil disaster.
The department touches Canadians every day in all aspects of their lives. Canadians look on their health system with pride. They have an overwhelming degree of satisfaction with what the department is doing. They expect governments to work hard to adapt to changing times and priorities. They understand the need for cost effectiveness, but they demand the security of a department concerned with maintaining and improving the health of all Canadians.
The government has recognized that economically disadvantaged, unemployed or poorly educated Canadians are more likely to suffer from ill health and to have a lower life expectancy. Like governments everywhere we will strive to deal with these problems. We are committed to an equitable health care system. The vast majority of Canadians are solidly behind the efforts being made by government, professional groups and other stakeholders to improve the efficiency of the system.
Canada has a long history of commitment to these principles in serving a dispersed population in a federal system of government. We will maintain our commitment to these principles notwithstanding some difficult economic reality that we, as many nations of the world, are experiencing at the moment.
Canadians look to Health Canada for reassurance whenever there are natural or civilian disasters or threats to national health from chronic diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis or communicable diseases such as AIDS, HIV or the Ebola virus.
Within Health Canada 6,400 employees work to provide Canadians with the research data, programs, information and support they need to make positive lifestyle decisions. The business of the department is conducted in offices and laboratories, in cities and on reserves located on sites all across Canada. Just over half the department's employees work in the national capital region while the rest work in regional offices, collaborating with their provincial, territorial and non-government counterparts.
The Canada Health Act is administered by about 25 employees in Ottawa. The face of Health Canada comprises many names and many talents. Forty per cent of Health Canada staff are involved in the area of health protection, keeping Canadians safe from risks to their health arising from emerging diseases, dangerous products, the environment or unsafe food or drugs.
Defining, assessing and managing current and emerging health risks are also among branch responsibilities, along with maintaining the country's health protection infrastructure. More than 2,000 employees of Health Canada work in the area of First Nations health within the medical services branch. It is often forgotten that two-thirds of the budget of the department, excluding transfers to provinces, is devoted to native health.
Health Canada provides community health services to status Indians on reserves and to residents of Yukon through 600 health facilities across Canada. In order to help First Nations to achieve the highest possible standards of health care, the department has undertaken a variety of initiatives. These include the five-year building health communities strategy and the aboriginal head start
program aimed at children. The latter is a government red book initiative.
However the department's major focus remains the transfer of control of programs to First Nations. The first main program of Health Canada is the health promotion and programs branch involving some 525 people. They provide support to groups at risk, including children, families and seniors, and develop programs to prevent and reduce heart disease, breast cancer and other illnesses. They also work with and assist Canada's many national voluntary organizations.
It is not well known that the federal government spends about $340 million on health research annually. Altogether we estimate that in Canada we spend about $1.5 billion a year on health research. This is a very impressive number.
Each of the three program areas has staff in every province and territory. Not only are offices located in provincial capitals but members will find Health Canada staff in smaller centres like Trois-Rivières, Hamilton, Thompson, Port Qu'Appelle, the Sarcee reserve at Tsuu Pina in northern Alberta, and Prince George.
Most of the remaining thousand or so employees work in the national capital region managing the department, developing health policy and legislation, undertaking consultation and managing essential departmental services. About 250 people work in the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board and the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission.
Canadians have a strong attachment to their health system and the federal role in it. They look to the federal government to provide a viable, well managed national health care system. According to an Angus Reid poll of March 1995 almost all Canadians want national standards in health care, with 94 per cent saying such standards are somewhat or very essential.
At a time when so much is changing in Canada and in the world people need security to cope with change. They expect their governments to play an important role in that regard by providing Canadians with the best health care system in the world and by reassuring them that they will be taken care of if they are sick, that the products they use are safe and that the most advanced research goes into the measures Health Canada takes to prevent disease. The Department of Health does this to earn the trust and confidence of Canadians.
We have proven over and over again that a publicly administered health care system is the most effective, most inclusive and most successful system one in the world. Privatization of the health care system is a weakening of the system of health care. It only makes the private corporations wealthier at the expense of those who need health care and at the expense of accessibility.
This is why I support the bill and I encourage all members of the House to do so.