The question is who stopped it. The Liberals would like to pretend they stopped it. I will put the facts on the record. The Liberals came into office in 1993 with the promise to address this critical situation, to restore funds for health care and to restore confidence in medicare.
What did they do in 1995? They introduced the Canada health and social transfer, the most regressive social policy in the country. In one fell swoop they took $6.8 billion out of programs for health, education and social assistance. They eliminated the requirement that provinces live up to expenditures in those specific areas. They completely abdicated responsibility in terms of ensuring a viable health care system, quality public education and any semblance of a Canada assistance plan.
In taking that huge chunk out of transfer payments to the provinces, the Liberal government put medicare on very weak ground. As a result of the failure to maintain its commitment, to keep its promise to Canadians, we are dealing with the health care crisis we have today.
We have gone from the days when funding for health care was done on a 50:50 basis to where today the federal government at the very best is responsible for 20%. We have gone from 50:50 to 80:20. That is even stretching it. If we look only at the cash portion of the transfer payment the federal contribution is down to 10% or 13%. With that kind of loss in federal support, with that kind of abdication of responsibility, with a total lack of federal leadership, we have a very serious situation.
We now have a government that is prepared to pretend its cancelled cut will save the day, but it fails to tell Canadians that it is still a $6.8 billion cut. We have a government that does not have the wherewithal to enforce the principles of the Canada Health Act.
We have a government that has basically thrown up its hands and said “Let whatever happens happen. We are not responsible”. That is contrary to the traditions of the country. It is contrary to the vision of the pioneers of medicare. It is contrary to the intentions of the Canadian people.
Let me remind the Liberal government and the Reform members that Canadians have a very clear idea of what they want in terms of health care. They want a single payer, universally accessible, publicly administered health care system. They do not want the two tier health system being proposed by the Reform. They do not want the federal government to abdicate from its responsibility. They want a partnership, which is all we are talking about in our opposition to the bill.
We presented an amendment to the bill that would have allowed the government at least to show some good faith and report back to parliament about the adequacy of cash transfers to the health care system to enforce the principles of the Canada Health Act.
Did the government accept that amendment? Did the Reform Party accept that amendment? No. They would not even agree to a simple official process for accounting back to parliament and to the Canadian people. Where is their support for medicare? Where is their vision for the country? It was a small gesture to be made and they could not even go that far.
We know there are difficulties surrounding this issue on the Liberal benches. We know that there is clearly a battle going on between the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health. We know there is a battle going on between the Minister of Health and the Minister of Industry.
Why else would we end up with the most unusual situation of the Minister of Health going on national radio and saying what he said? He said:
But on that point, let me say that, you know, in Ottawa now, as you mentioned at the top, we just balanced the budget. We're entering sort of a new and unprecedented area where we're going to have a debate like we haven't had in memory about what to do with the surplus. And people are going to be arguing, for example, that the surplus should be used for tax cuts; others will argue that it should be for other programming. Health is going to be contending with other priorities for the available dollars. So if, as you said, Canadians support increased investment in health care, then I think that we should make it clear that those who want to see surpluses go to health should let their voices be heard.
I have not seen anything this unusual in the whole time that I have been in politics. It is absolutely incredible to have a minister of health stand publicly, dissociate himself with the government policies of the day and ask for Canadians to support him in his efforts to advocate for health care. I think that says it all and why we need—