Mr. Speaker, I am proud to second the motion of the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. It is true that the clauses in Bill C-76 which the member is proposing we delete, and I am in agreement with that, represent a fundamental restructuring of the social and health system of Canada.
It certainly makes a mockery of the review done by the human resources minister in which many people participated thinking that they could have real input. It certainly makes a mockery of the national health forum that was supposedly established to set out more clearly a national system of health.
Most concerning about the clauses that are proposed to be deleted is that they change Canada in a very profound way. While social and health programs are of foremost importance to citizens of the country in their daily lives, there are important economic programs that provide a social infrastructure absolutely essential to the competitiveness of the country.
It is shocking the Liberals have joined with the Bloc and Reform parties to dismantle national programs. Rather than saying up front that they are prepared to dismantle the programs, the Liberals are prepared to do it as one article recently stated: "by erosion through stealth, by the death of a thousand cuts".
Even today the government has brought in limited debating time for an extremely serious issue. It suggests that not only are the Liberals not keeping their promises in the red book but they do not want it brought before Canadians who will look at it more carefully and see the real implications. The shift has come without a full public debate. That is why it is so important to have a full debate in the House.
On other issues, whether the use of drugs in sports or medicare, we had independent commissions. This is one proposal I have made because of the long term impact of the clauses we are now
asking to be deleted. They should be deleted until there has been further in depth study of the long term social and economic implications to the country.
The Liberal government is sending a clear message to Canadians that it is willing to abandon its responsibility to promote economic and social equality. Canadians should be reminded once again that the Liberal Party won the last election on its promise to make job creation the number one priority of the federal government. Instead Bill C-76, a financial bill, kicks the legs out from under some of the supports that have softened recessions in the past and would do so in the future.
At a time when child poverty is at the highest rate we have had in history, when the United Nations is criticizing us for our lamentable record on poverty issues and when many young people are giving up hope, the government has all but abandoned the promises that brought it here.
Does the government have a national vision in terms of these important programs. We can only judge by its actions. When Canadians look at the clauses in Bill C-76, they will wonder about a government whose only goal seems to be to complete the downward spiral of social programs and encourage the lowering of wages and benefits for Canadian workers everywhere.
The $7 billion cut to federal transfers for post-secondary education, health care and social assistance will have a profound effect in further creating the haves and have not provinces and territories. The Canadian Hospital Association and the Canadian Medical Association have expressed their concerns about specific clauses of the bill. They are experts in the field who know what the effect will be on health care should the clauses pass.
The bill is not about making a small change to social and health programs. It is about dismantling them. The block funding arrangement means that funding from the federal government will not be tied to specific programs. It suggests that the government no longer embodies a national vision of the programs. That is why I say the motion must be supported. There must be much more study and much more understanding by Canadians about very important decisions on the future of health care and social programs.
My colleague from the Bloc Quebecois says that national standards are terrible. They have guaranteed, particularly under the Canada Health Act, some equity from sea to sea to sea. There is no guarantee it will continue. There is no guarantee at all. As the funding is not just reduced but no longer available from the federal government, the federal government will no longer have a say in implementation in the provinces and territories.
Under Bill C-76 the cash transfers to the provinces and territories will run out within the next decade. Without the power of enforcement the federal government will not be able to maintain medicare as a public not for profit system.
Even Liberal members of the finance committee who studied the bill opposed the plan, because it is a betrayal of everything the country has stood for. We are in a mad rush to the bottom. I am afraid we have not seen the end of it from the government.
The Prime Minister is on record as saying that we need to get our health care spending down and that maybe the Canada social transfer is one of the ways he will do it.
Let us look at the facts. We are spending about 10 per cent of GDP on health care. The Prime Minister says that is too much. The major increases in health care costs continue to come from increasing drug costs and private health insurance for extended health coverage. We spend only about 6.8 per cent of GDP on public insurance.
The Liberal government can do something to reduce health expenditures. It can rescind and repeal Bill C-91 that provided patent protection for multinational drug companies and dramatically increased drug costs and the costs to every health plan in every province and every territory.
The United States spends far more on health care than we do. It is precisely because it has a private system that is out of control. If one charts the statistics one can see that until the late 1960s when Canada introduced its public system health care costs were rising at about the same rate in the United States and in Canada. We spent about the same proportion of GDP on health. However when our public system was introduced we began to save money. The growth rate in the United States has continued to skyrocket where ours has levelled off. Now the United States looks to us for solutions.
The government promised that it would not withdraw from or abandon the health care field but the bill breaks the promise. The government is abandoning every Canadian who trusted the government. It is abandoning poor Canadians and the unemployed. It is abandoning the ill.
I despair for the country when the government has turned its back on the people. I strongly oppose Bill C-76. I strongly support the motion of the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. I urge and indeed plead with the government to delete the clauses so there may be further discussion, public debate and open debate on the serious and fundamental restructuring of the social and health care plans.
Should the government choose to do so, it would have praise from many parts of the country. This is the opportunity for government members to vote for the motion to delete the clauses
and allow time for Canadians, not just the Liberal Party, to have a say about the future of health care and social programs.
I urge all colleagues in the House of Commons to support the motion to delete the clauses.