Madam Speaker, this is my opportunity to stand to speak to Bill C-13, a bill that will establish the Canadian institutes of health research and repeal the Medical Research Council Act.
I came to parliament with health issues on my mind, and of course they have stayed with me. This is an important subject.
As we are on the subject of research, let me spend a moment mentioning some things on which Canada really stands out. My colleague just mentioned Banting and Best and their work on insulin. I cannot calculate how much of a difference that made worldwide to the treatment of diabetes.
A colleague of mine, Lorne Tyrrell, a young man who graduated in the same medical class as I, has gone on to become the dean of my medical school. I met with Lorne about a month ago. We have had an opportunity to exchange information over the years. I was fascinated to hear about his research on hepatitis B, which was conducted in a Canadian institute at a very high level. Hepatitis B is a major illness worldwide. Lorne and his research group found a treatment that is now on the market. It has gone through all the testing. This treatment will revolutionize hepatitis B care. I am proud to know Lorne and to have associated with him. I am proud to call him one of my colleagues. His name will one day be known in the same vein. It is an important part of Canadian life. The improvement to health in an area like this is really quite dramatic.
I want to spend a moment talking about research funding and how it is divvied up in Canada. I was surprised to find when I came to Ottawa from Alberta that research funds were not apportioned according to the severity of the disease. I found that research funding was apportioned in somewhat of an ad hoc way. I was dismayed by that and I made these suggestions over and over again to the research community, and I will make these proposals again today.
I believe that a portion of research funding should have basic, specific criteria. These criteria could be expanded, but they would include the severity of the disease, the number of people affected, the number of people who die from the disease and the number of people who suffer from the disease. Those would be high on the list of priorities.
These criteria would also focus on what is the research expertise like in that particular disease in Canada. I do not believe we should be recreating work that is being done in Switzerland or Germany. I believe we should look at research worldwide to figure out where Canada's research dollars would be best placed. There are diseases such as cystic fibrosis and rheumatoid arthritis that get very little funding, yet they are very close to a cure. Canada has expertise in these areas. I wish and would hope that research funds would be directed to those areas.
For comparison purposes, let me lay out some of the funding with the recent figures I have. Diabetes, which affects a vast number of people in Canada, receives $1.1 million in federal research funding. Schizophrenia, which is a disease of huge proportion, receives $300,000 in funding. Crones disease receives $100,000 in funding. One of the new diseases on the scene, which is a very significant infectious disease, AIDS, receives $41.5 million in funding. When I look at the proportions, I think they are skewed.
Then there is the issue of keeping and attracting bright researchers. I have known researchers who have left our country. I have had the opportunity to ask them why. They told me that they left Canada for three reasons. Two of them were monetary. One was the value of their income, which was substantially enhanced in other countries. The second was taxation. They found that our taxation system was onerous. These people are high earners. If they earn $100,000 and the tax man takes away $50,000 and they find another jurisdiction where that is not the case, the draw is to go where their work is more appreciated.
The final reason was support for research. The bill moves toward supporting research. That is one of the reasons that I support it. Support for research in terms of equipment, spaces at the universities and research labs is substantially lower in Canada than in many developed countries. Some of the reason for that lies behind decisions made by governments in years gone by: overspending, spending for the future and running up huge debts.
Let me digress a little and talk about some health matters that still are unaddressed. On hepatitis C, we are coming close to the second anniversary of Judge Horace Krever inquiry. Two years ago there was a major exposé on what happened to our blood system and people getting hepatitis C and HIV through tainted blood.
After all the debate, all the discussion we had in the Houses, it is interesting to note that not one single solitary penny of funds has been disbursed, not even to the people in the narrow area the government agreed to give funding to. Ontario gave funding to everyone. In Quebec it was the same. This is one of the saddest times in my time in parliament. I still shake my head over the issue of how a government that prides itself on its compassion could have been so lacking in compassion on that issue.
It is interesting to note, however, that in other countries where probes were taken not by the government but by law officers, by the legal system, charges have been laid. In France particularly there were charges laid against high officials in the government. We have an ongoing RCMP probe in Canada. Quietly behind the scenes RCMP officers are looking for the reasons that Canada was so far behind other developed countries in terms of looking at tainted blood. It is very close to opening another chapter in the hepatitis C saga.
Another point I cannot help but mention is that the Liberals made very specific promises on health care in their red book. I listened carefully and believed that their promises would come true. What did they deliver? My colleague said that they delivered $17 billion in cuts. That is not accurate. The delivery was $21.4 billion in cuts over five years.
Now the government is saying that it is doing so wonderfully it will be returning $11.5 billion in the next five years. According to simple grade 3 mathematics it is obvious we are still deeply in the hole. We have the longest waiting lists for surgery in Canadian history. We have an exodus of some of our best nurses and lab technicians and in fact very poor technology in a host of areas.
What could be done? There are people looking for creative solutions for health care. I look for things that are not system related but patient related, things like a debit card to put funding decisions in the hands of the patient, like medisave accounts and like patient guarantees to give patients the opportunity to be sure they are not on a waiting list too long. Is the CIHR a step in the right direction on medical research? In my estimation it is supportive.
In conclusion I will simply say that I will be voting for the CIHR. I do hope the specific issue of apportionment of research funding will be carefully looked at by those who will run the CIHR.