Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this afternoon to speak to Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and to repeal the Medical Research Council Act.
The part of the bill dealing with the objective clearly states:
The objective of the CIHR is to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system—
I read through the bill quickly. It will warrant further scrutiny. I realize that its intent is good, but we have a lot of work ahead of us. That is normal. We are at the second reading stage and we have to debate the bill for a number of hours. Then, in committee, we will hear the views of individuals, groups or organizations concerned. That represents a lot of work.
It means that it is important to stress now, for the benefit of those who are watching and take an interest in this issue, the good points and those we see as more problematical, so that the organizations and the individuals who feel they can shed some light on our examination can do so in due course.
Scientific research is something at which Canadian and Quebecers excel. We have world class researchers, particularly in the health field.
I too am from a Quebec City area riding. There are world class research institutes and pharmaceutical research centres in our area. They have made discoveries and they are keeping on their good work. They can hold their heads just as high as anyone else.
At the same time, if we want to maintain this level of performance among our scientists, our researchers and our research institutes, we have to give them the resources they need. Often, it is money they need. Research is expensive.
It is expensive because researchers need well equipped laboratories. It is expensive, also, because the scientists who do this research deserve a decent salary; otherwise, they will go elsewhere to get it.
Let us be perfectly clear. These researchers, these Canadian and Quebec scientists, were born here. They studied here. They have were trained here first. Then, many of them have gone abroad to get greater skills and broader knowledge. They now work here and they accomplish a lot. If we want this to continue, we have to take certain steps.
The purpose of this bill is to establish measures dealing with some of these points, including funding, but not only funding. But I will come back to that later on.
The Bloc Quebecois agrees with the principle of the bill and even feels a certain degree of enthusiasm, seeing that this bill will support the advancement of scientific research in the area of health—and we certainly know how important it is.
However, there are some problems with this bill. For example, it is unfortunate that, in the preamble, instead of recognizing the provinces' exclusive jurisdiction over health, the government only recognizes the fact that they have some role to play in that area.
Health is exclusively under provincial jurisdiction. If we are to have a bill to improve scientific research, we certainly should make an effort to eliminate jurisdictional irritants.
This bill should not open the door to any potential jurisdictional conflicts because scientific research is far removed from all these jurisdictional issues.
In fact, the second whereas in the preamble to this bill, unfortunately, reads as follows:
Whereas Parliament recognizes the role of the provinces in health care and that the Government of Canada collaborates with provincial governments to support the health care system and health research;
This is a weak statement. It minimizes the inherent responsibility of the provinces, including Quebec, with regard to health. It should have been specified—and I hope an amendment will be made to that effect—that the provinces are responsible for managing health services within their boundaries and that it is necessary to obtain their agreement to do certain things.
I want to make a general comment that has obvious implications in our daily lives and particularly in hospitals.
Health research is not only about finding new drugs; it is not only about inventing new treatments or about designing new medical devices. It is also about planning for future needs in terms of personnel, institutions, skills, facilities in order to be able to take care of the people who will need medical attention in the coming weeks and years.
At present, in Quebec—and I am mentioning this only as an example—we have a problem with oncologists. There are not enough of them, but it takes six years to train one. Consequently, it is six years ago that we should have addressed the issue but, as we know, the shift to ambulatory care had been put on hold by the Liberal government of the day in Quebec, forcing Mr. Rochon to proceed with it, with all the delays that implies.
Health research is also, therefore, about knowing how to determine future needs. And since health is a provincial responsibility, if this bill does not recognize it, we will experience this kind of problem again. I know that everybody wishes this problem to be solved. This bill should ensure that.
I should like to make another comment that is relatively simple, but that is important. Bills are written in both official languages, French and English. And both versions have force of law, independently of one another.
Now, when the two versions are not equivalent, we have two acts that are interpreted, not one by the other, but independently of one another. In the French version, at line 10 of the preamble, we read the word “centralisé”, and I will read the whole sentence to give you the context.
Attendu que le Parlement estime que des Instituts de recherche en santé doivent être créés en vue de coordonner, de centraliser et d'intégrer la recherche en matière de santé selon les principes suivants:
Co-ordinating health research is fine; nobody is against that. Integrate health research is also fine. But to centralize health research? The English version of the bill says focus, but the French version says centraliser. But, we must ask, centralize it where?
When I saw that, I thought it made no sense at all. Then I looked at the English version, which says:
Whereas parliament believes that health research institutes should be created to co-ordinate, focus and integrate health research.
Centraliser does not mean to focus. The English version says that the research effort will be focused on chosen subject matters, whereas the French version says research will be centralized. To centralize means to physically gather in one place. This is bad translation; we end up with two different pieces of legislation.
There is lots of work to be done before this bill can actually produce the expected results and before we can be sure that our first class scientists have all the necessary tools to do their job, because we really need those results, as the issue here is our health.