House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.


ReferendumsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is refusing to talk about the downside of the referendum. So through you, Mr. Speaker, I will put the question to the Minister of Finance.

Can the Minister of Finance, who has spoken about the downside of the referendum, tell us what impact the debate launched by the federal Liberal government is having on the financial, social and economic well-being of Canada?

ReferendumsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec


Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, is there a downside to the referendum? Absolutely.

And we have experienced it in Quebec. Quebec's business community, those working in Quebec, have seen it for years, ever since the Péquistes took office.

When we look at the political uncertainty and see the impact on business and job creation, when we look at the social problems in Quebec resulting from the uncertainty surrounding the referendum, it is very clear that there is a downside, and that is why Canada will never break up.

Post-Secondary EducationOral Question Period

November 25th, 1999 / 2:55 p.m.


Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, last month the federal government announced the launch of Can-Learn Inter-Active. Can the Minister of Human Resources Development explain why Canadians need another Internet site? How is this new site different from the existing sites already offering information on learning?

Post-Secondary EducationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Brant Ontario


Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, a couple of weeks ago I was very pleased along with several of our partners, including the Canadian students association, the provincial and territorial ministers of education and the private sector, to launch the Can-Learn site.

This is a unique site that allows interactive tools such as a student financial planner, a scholarship search and a tuition fees data bank to be available to those who are looking for information on post-secondary education. I encourage all Canadians who are interested in this to look it up.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of two guests today: the hon. Pat Atkinson, Minister of Health of Saskatchewan and the hon. Helmut Giesbrecht, Minister responsible for the Public Service for the province of British Columbia.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.


Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if this is fair or not. I get one question every three weeks and the government House leader has had three today alone.

I might as well proceed with a short question for the government House leader and ask him if he would mind telling us in the House the nature and the type of legislation that we will see for the remainder of this week and what legislation we will see for next week. Perhaps he will also tell us when the House will recess for winter break.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I could answer the last question first. Hopefully, soon. In any case, the tentative date is Friday, December 17. House leaders do negotiate from time to time on such issues.

Getting back to the business at hand for the next few days, this afternoon we shall continue debate on the health institution bill, Bill C-13.

Tomorrow we will consider the tourism bill, Bill C-5, possibly followed by a resumption of the consideration of Bill C-11, the Devco bill. I intend to consult House leaders on this item a little later.

For Monday, the first item to be taken up, if necessary, will be Bill C-13. This will subsequently be followed by the Canada Labour Code amendments, Bill C-12.

Tuesday shall be an allotted day.

On Wednesday, I expect that the House will be able to turn once again to Bill C-9, the Nisga'a legislation at report stage.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, during question period today, I raised an issue with the Minister of Industry with respect to gas pricing and the Competition Act. The parliamentary secretary who responded made reference to the absence of a member during committee this morning.

I was at two committees this morning. That was not one of the three, but I did attend two. I am wondering if it is in order to comment on the presence or absence of a member in committee.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I thought about that when it came up, but I felt it was outside the House. Until I hear something in committee about it, I should perhaps advise the hon. member to bring it up in committee. If the chairman wants to bring it to the House in a report, I will look at it then.

In the meantime, I prefer that we do not comment on the absence or presence of any member. We will let that sit right there.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.


Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all the party whips and, pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), I believe you will find consent for the following. I move:

That the recorded division that is to take place at the end of the time provided for Government Orders on Monday, November 29 on second reading of Bill C-10 be deferred until the expiry of Government Orders on Tuesday, November 30.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member have permission to put the motion?

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, to repeal the Medical Research Council Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.


Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and to repeal the Medical Research Council Act.

I will draw to the attention of the House some of the positive and negative things in the bill and how they relate to other things that go on in this place.

One of the positives of Bill C-13 is that those who serve on this Canadian institutes of health research board are elected by their peers. It also has accountability and peer review. Not only is someone elected by their peers, but they are reviewed by their peers. On top of that, only 4% or 5% of the entire budget is taken up in bureaucracy, which leaves 95% or 96% to be spent on the actual things the bill intends to do and the things that the Canadian institutes of health research intend to do.

I have just talked about elected by their peers, accountability, peer review and very little waste, in the amount of 4%. What institution in this place and involved with government does this directly contradict and not match up with? I think of the other place, the Senate.

I have done a fair bit of research on our Senate as of late, being that I am the critic of that place for the official opposition. It is worthwhile to point out that Canada, in relation to countries such as Burkina Faso and Sierra Leon, still continues to appoint our senators for life. It was only a few short years ago that we said that no one could sit in the Senate after the age of 75.

That all being considered, I noticed that even in the Canadian institutes of health research act, Bill C-13, the president is to serve a term of no more than five years. We have the government agreeing to the very fundamental and basic idea of a fixed appointment, a fixed election and a specified term, not a position held for life. In comparison to the Senate, people can be appointed to the Senate at the age of 30 and sit there until the ripe age of 75. That would be a period of 45 years, nine times longer than the president of the Canadian institutes of health research would be allowed to sit in their posts.

A fair question to be put to the government is that if the president of this new board, the Canadian institutes of health research, can only sit for five years before having a formal review and is no longer allowed to sit and the position changes over, how is it that a fundamental basis of our Senate, this second House that forms part of the parliament, reviews legislation, can block legislation and can create legislation for the citizens of Canada, can have somebody sit for 45 years with no form of review.

I will tell the House what I think of that concept of having no review. We have a situation today where even if the Senate runs over budget, even if it spends more than what it has already been allotted, it cannot be called before the government operations committee to account for those things. I know this because I sat on the government operations committee. I well remember when the Senate went over budget and it wanted more money.

What happened? As members who are duly elected by taxpayers to be the watchdogs of the public purse, we tried to call representatives of the Senate to come before us in committee and we could not do it. Not only could we not do it, but the Prime Minister of this place would never take action against others in that place if he were to have trouble with them unless there was severe public pressure and condemnation by their peers?

As far as the actual terms and how long one should or could be sitting in the Senate, right now somebody could be appointed at 30, be there until 75, and serve an entire 45 years without any accountability to the Prime Minister, to the House of Commons or to any elector in any province any place in the country.

Alberta is a province that likes to generate new ideas every now and again. We did that with the Senate elections act. One of the things we did was tie senators who ran under that act to a fixed term. We set it at double the length of a municipal election term. What I mean by that is that we have elections in the province of Alberta, as do many provinces in the country, that are actually fixed election dates.

This is something the Reform Party supports in terms of this place. We believe we should have fixed election dates, that it should not be up to the whim and the caprice of the government to decide when it wants to drop the writ and when it wants to call an election.

I am advocating that we actually have fixed election dates in terms of the elections act. Right now Bill C-2 is before a committee in clause by clause consideration. Then, for example, every four years we would know when the election would be. It would not be a matter of speculation for business in terms of how it conducts its activities, for the general population and constituents, or for the benefit of the government in terms of how it purchases time, buys advertising and all the rest of the things it can use taxpayer money for its benefit in putting out a good word about the government and the things it has done.

We in Alberta decided to go ahead and take that model of fixed election dates for our municipal elections that happen every three years and said that senators should be elected in every second one of them. In the last municipal election we held a Senate election in Alberta. We had more people vote in that Senate election than anybody has ever voted for any federal politician in the House, and certainly more than in the other place because nobody has ever voted for one of those senators aside from the Prime Minister and his sole vote.

We determined that we would be holding more of those Senate elections in conjunction with the fixed election dates in the municipal elections act. That is something I wanted to point out. The government recognizes those principles and puts them into things like the Canadian institutes of health research, but we do not see it being carried forward in the Senate.

When the Prime Minister campaigned in 1990 and spent his time issuing threats to the province of Quebec about 60% majorities being required for it to make a decision on its own, he said that he believed in Senate elections, that he wanted to see people elected in that other place. If he had carried forward on the intentions he laid out when he ran for the Liberal leadership, most of the people in the Senate would be elected senators by now. That is not the case because he did not follow through on his word, his promise in 1990.

I would like to touch on the whole idea of selection by one's peers. Instead of even being judged by fellow senators, appointment to the Senate is gained by the judgment of one man. Admittedly there was a rare exception in Canadian history when it was the judgment of a woman, but for the most part it has been one man, the Prime Minister of the country deciding who gets into the Senate.

Since he has not been a senator himself, we might ask what he judges or how he judges how one gets into the Senate? Like the people who might be serving on the Canadian institutes of health research, will he look at what kind of medical accreditation they have? Will he judge how they have practised medicine? Will he examine whether or not they have the support of their peers? Is any of that being done? No.

The way that someone gains a seat in the Senate is unfortunately based on how loyal they have been to a given prime minister. Are they dependable when the Prime Minister wishes to bring forward a piece of legislation that he knows will be very difficult for the people in that place to swallow, that may go against the popular consent of those he governs, that may not carry the popular will of the day? Will they be good, loyal soldiers, strap on their jackboots and carry forward with the orders?

Maybe somebody who has been a good loyal parliamentary secretary marshalling bills through committee and shoving the will of the Prime Minister down the throats of the people of the country would be the type of person who gets put into the Senate, the good loyalists.

Another way some prime ministers have judged is not just on the basis of loyalty and being good jackboot wearing parliamentary secretaries but on how much money they have raised. Many senators in that place have broken records and set the tone for being the biggest political fundraisers in Canadian history. People are judged in terms of how to get into the Senate on how many millions of dollars they raised for a leadership campaign.

Government members recognize that accountability, peer review, minimal waste and proper selection are important but not when it comes to the Senate.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-13. I would like to take this opportunity to greet Mr. Gary Carter, who is here with us today.

I am pleased to speak to this bill that formally establishes the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. These institutes will be responsible for organizing, coordinating and funding health research at the federal level.

In his last budget, the Minister of Finance announced that these institutes would be allocated a $65 million budget for their first year of operation. This budget is to increase to $175 million the following year, in 2001-02, for a grand total of $500 million, when combined with the funding already set aside for the Medical Research Council.

We are pleased to see that the federal government is putting more money into health research since it is a crucial area. I should say from the outset that we in the Bloc Quebecois—my distinguished colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve included—will see to it that Quebec gets its fair share of those funds.

In the past, when looking at the distribution of federal funding for research and development—and we can go back 20 or 25 years—we could see that Quebec did not get its fair share, a share that reflected its demographic weight. On average, Quebec received about 14% of the federal funding for R and D, and so far, nothing has changed.

With the new funding provided by this bill and the money handed out year after year not only in various areas of medical research, but also in bio-food, high technology and other industries, we just want to ensure that Quebec is getting its fair share.

Someday, I hope the Quebec members of the Liberal Party of Canada across the way will rise and demand, as we have since 1993, that Quebec receive what it is owed. They were elected by Quebecers, but I have yet to see one of them take a single step to demand justice.

As I indicated earlier, we support the establishment of these institutes, especially since new funding will be allocated to one very crucial area, medical research.

However, we do have some concerns, which is why our eminent colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve will be moving amendments on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois. For instance, we feel that Bill C-13 stints on the role of the provinces. Of course, members opposite tend to forget, as they did these last few years and especially in the throne speech, that health is an area of provincial jurisdiction. In Quebec, the province has jurisdiction over health.

This is a fact that is barely acknowledged in the bill. And since the bill is based on the constitutional divisions of power, the provinces are given short shrift. The bill says that the provinces and all kind of people will be consulted, and so on, but nowhere does it say that health is an exclusive jurisdiction.

For example, the bill states:

—consult, collaborate and form partnerships with the provinces and with persons and organizations in Canada that have an interest in issues pertaining to health or health research;

We would have like to see a statement recognizing that the provinces are fully responsible for health and that they will be the first partners informed and consulted, particularly with regards to the defining of the different health research institutes.

I emphasize that the Quebec government is finalizing a science policy. It will identify strategic areas in health research, including mental health, cancer, human genome and biotechnology.

One of the amendments that we will certainly propose will be to the effect that the Government of Quebec, like all the other provincial governments, must absolutely be consulted and that its research priorities must be taken into account in establishing the health research institutes.

There is another problem with the provision I quoted earlier. In the bill, the expression issues pertaining to health is used more often than the word research. This bothers us because the use of the expression issues pertaining to health leaves the door wide open for the federal government to interfere in various ways in the area of health.

One amendment we will certainly put forward will be to clarify this issue and to replace the expression issues pertaining to health with the word research, because what the government wants to achieve with this bill has to do with health research and not. We hope this is a mistake and that the federal government does not intend to interfere in the area of health, which is under Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction. We will clarify that, and my distinguished colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve will work to make this bill clearer.

We support health research because it is fundamental, and this is something I cannot overemphasize. However, the few hundred million dollars that will be spent on health research over the next three years must not overshadow the fact that this government made huge cuts in the health sector. Cuts in transfers to the provinces, particularly for health care, have had devastating effects, the full extent of which is still unknown.

I always feel uncomfortable when the Minister of Finance rises in the House, which is a very solemn place, and tells us he increased transfers to the provinces for health, post-secondary education and income security, as this is not true. He did not even increase transfers. He keeps cutting them and he will continue to do so until 2003.

By then, this brazen Minister of Finance, who keeps spouting nonsense during oral question period, will have cut $33 billion in transfers to the provinces. Half or close to half of that amount would have been allocated to health. This is not peanuts. In Quebec alone, there will be a shortfall of $850 million in the health sector this year, while the cumulative cuts imposed by this brazen minister will total $6 billion of which half, in Quebec, would have been earmarked for health.

On the one hand, the minister invests a few hundred million dollars in health research, while on the other hand he is cutting billions of dollars which should have been used to help the sick, to manage hospitals and to make more beds available.

We have been talking about oncology for a while now in Quebec, Ontario, and other regions of Canada. These billions of dollars could have been used for all that. But the Minister of Finance preferred to take that money from the provinces. He is the one mainly responsible for the mess in hospitals, but that does not bother him in the least.

It takes some nerve to do what he did, particularly when he says, hand over heart, that he cares about the plight of the sick and of the poor children. This is sheer hypocrisy.

I have never seen such hypocrisy in this parliament as when the minister puts his hand over his heart while talking about poor children and sick people, when he contributed to making these people suffer even more.

The House can expect my eminent colleague, the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, to move a series of amendments to make this bill more acceptable.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to Bill C-13, a bill to establish the Canadian institutes of health research. Finally we see this government come up with a piece of legislation that deals with a very important part of our Canadian infrastructure, health care and health research.

This is the same government that bragged in the budget of February of this year that it was putting $11.5 billion back into health care. What it failed to say, however, was that the $11.5 billion was basically returning part of the $17 billion it had cut from the health care system. It is good to see that at least there is some forward movement when it comes to health care.

I cannot speak today about health care and ignore what we saw in the last year in how poorly those afflicted with hepatitis C were treated by the government and the lack of support for these people. It was something that was truly not acceptable to our party, to me as an individual and to Canadians as a whole because they felt these people were truly victims and should have been given some compensation.

Let us look at the waste and the misuse of funds by this government. Take, for example, Bill C-68, the long gun registry. The government said it would spend $85 million to set up this registry. It has spent well over $200 million. The registry is not going very well. It is still not working as it should, and crime has not been reduced because of this so-called piece of crime reduction legislation. Had those funds been spent on giving our law enforcement people better resources, better computer systems and money to increase the number of policemen on our streets, those funds would have been better spent than wasting them on something that was more of a PR effort or a tax grab.

Canadians are not strangers to huge advances in medical science. Despite our small population of some 30 million people, we have seen very notable achievements within this country in health care. I think back to Banting and Best and their discovery of insulin. I think back to Sir William Osler, who wrote the medical text book Principles and Practices of Medicine . He basically introduced the idea of clinical care in our health care system.

We see that Canada has already had some notable people in the health care field. This piece of legislation will help to bring out some other people who could make a contribution to health care and health research.

We talk about the brain drain in this country. A lot of our bright young minds are going across the border to better paying jobs and better working conditions. One of the positive things about this piece of legislation is that it will help to keep some of those bright young minds in Canada. Not only will those people stay in Canada to earn their living, but some medical advances will probably be brought to this country because of them.

Prior to my entry into politics I spent over 15 years with the Life Underwriters Association of Yarmouth, the town where I worked for the past number of years, and every Christmas season we would raise funds for cystic fibrosis research. I know how difficult cystic fibrosis can be on the families of young people which demand the extent of care that is required for these people, the constant medication that they have to take, the constant treatment and therapy that has to be given so that they can continue living. Their quality of life is often diminished. Their life is not very long because this illness kills.

Research has isolated the gene that causes cystic fibrosis. The cure has not been found, but I think what it shows is that with funding and with research we can work toward a cure for some of our most serious health problems.

When I think of my home province of Nova Scotia, I think about the IWK/Grace Health Centre, which is a world renowned children's hospital. I know that a lot of research is done there. The centre has very bright minds, good researchers and good doctors. I know firsthand how caring the centre is. My youngest daughter has cerebral palsy and we have spent a lot of time there over the past 13 years. The level of care, the level of treatment and how that centre helps people is very evident.

Yet, because of all the cuts the government has made the people who work at the centre, along with many others, have had to work hard to raise extra funds. They have a telethon every spring to raise funds, just so they can continue to operate. These institutions should have the funds necessary to provide the services that Canadians need.

We get numerous calls and letters from people saying that health care is important, that we should work to make it better and not let it erode. If we are not vigilant, I am afraid that we will end up with something similar to what they have in the United States. I am not in agreement with that. We have a health care system in Canada that is by far the best in the world, but we have to be vigilant. We have to ensure that we keep it.

This is good legislation. There are, however, some things that concern me. As any legislation, it is not perfect. One of the things we have to do is ensure that we do not have institutes that are overburdened with bureaucracy. We have to ensure that the funds go to the researchers for research purposes and that the benefits go to curing illness and not to an administration that is top heavy.

Another point that has to be looked at is the transparency in the creation of these institutes. This cannot be another political plum given to supporters of the government. We have to ensure that these are institutes which are independent, which do their work, which do not waste funds on bureaucracy, and that the funds go where they are really needed.

This is legislation that is worthy of our support. I ask all members to support it so that it can go to committee where it can be studied properly.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

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.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

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.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to raise some issues that relate to this bill. I must say at the beginning that the government has been slow off the mark. This is something that should have been done years and years ago.

One of the concerns we have in agriculture on the prairies is the lack of research that has been done in relation to GMOs. Madam Speaker, I can see you are a bit puzzled when I use the term GMOs. Let me explain that.

A GMO is a genetically modified organism. It is something that scientists are able to do with an organism through the use of gamma rays or some such technique. They are able to bombard the essential ingredients of life and in some way mutate them and develop organisms that are resistant to certain diseases and which have certain characteristics that might take a much longer time to develop naturally.

There have been genetically modified organisms all throughout history because they occur naturally. The rays of the sun will create these kinds of things. Farmers have been growing genetically modified plants for years and years.

One of the problems that is developing is the fear campaign that is being spread by certain organizations. We have seen it in Europe. It is creating the concern that these are going to somehow impact our life and cause a lot of problems. We need research in that area and it needs to be done now.

I realize that most members who have spoken so far have supported this and by and large we need this. My concern with what the government has put forward is that if the guidelines are not implemented properly, the committee that is selected may just be another patronage haven for the Prime Minister. We have to make sure there is a complete balance in the membership of the committee that selects the particular members and that selects the various projects.

Consideration must be given to some of the concerns in rural Canada, for example, research that would address the whole area of GMOs. If the question of whether or not GMOs are harmful is not answered quite soon, it will hurt the economy of our country. That is why I say this is something that should have been done a long time ago. I am glad the government is doing it now and my hope is that the type of research that needs to be done will get done.

Bloc members have been arguing that this is an area of provincial jurisdiction. Research in some areas, such as the one I have just described which pertains to agriculture and the growing of certain crops and whether those crops have a harmful or helpful effect on us as human beings needs to be done. That kind of research would transcend provincial boundaries. That is a concern in more areas and possibly one could get around the concern the Bloc has by having provinces co-operate in this.

I also have concerns, as I mentioned previously on another bill, that this could develop a huge bureaucracy that would suck a lot of funds out of the system that could have gone to research. There has to be some check, some balance in the bill to ensure that does not happen.

I agree that research is very important and we need to have public input into research. Is the government willing to make some of the amendments that Reform is suggesting in regard to this? We have to work more co-operatively even in this House.

I realize that in this bill the government has broken some new ground. There is more public accountability. It is providing for this kind of thing. Why does the government not do that in other areas?

The Prime Minister makes 5,000 patronage appointments every year. We do not just need reform in the health care research area. We need reform in many other areas where there is more public accountability and input. I hope this bill will break new ground and the government will see this is absolutely necessary in many other areas. For the Prime Minister to have that much power to control that many organizations and to have that much input is not healthy in a democratic society. That is something which I hope will be raised more and more as we go along.

I bring up the topic of gun control. Madam Speaker, you may be a bit shocked as to why I would raise this issue in the context of this bill, but I have said on many occasions that the hundreds of millions of dollars that are now being spent laying a piece of paper beside every gun in the country, referring to the gun registry, is a complete waste of time. If we want to save lives, we should begin to divert funds from some of these ridiculous, useless projects implemented by the government and put them into health research. It is a no brainer as to what would save more lives. A gun registry does not save a life. It cannot. If we put funds into the health research area, it would genuinely do something to enhance our quality of life. I hope this issue will be raised. I hope the government is listening and will address that.

My concern in relation to this bill is that the government may lay down the rules for the various projects. If it is able to make some of these appointments, there may not be a fair hearing. The people who make the rules generally call the shots. If the government gets too involved in making the rules that these various projects have to follow, that could manipulate the process and some of the best projects may never be realized. The research that needs to be done may not be done. I hope that all segments of society will be well respected.

One of the concerns raised by my constituents over and over again is that much of the research is funded by private drug companies and in doing that, they determine the outcome of the research. The person who pays the piper calls the tune. I know the government says that it will collaborate with private industry and so on but the concern is that therefore if it does that, a lot of the research that would be very helpful to Canadians will not be done. Research into health food products, organic foods and the use of herbs in enhancing the health of people may never be done.

I want to make the point forcefully that we should be looking at alternatives to the medicines being used at the present time. The emphasis on drug research is not what we need in Canada. We need to look at many other areas. People in my constituency feel very strongly that the government is not doing enough research in that area.

We talked about the brain drain today. The government has been draining the brains of this country for a long time and it is going to take a lot to reverse that. I hope something like this will improve that concern people have. I cannot emphasize enough that we have to keep our young people at home. We have to get them researching these areas and making sure some of the benefits of organic foods, health food products, herbs and so on are recognized.

I come back to what I was saying at the beginning, that these genetically modified organisms and foods people are scared about will be properly researched. I am not aware of a whole lot of research that has been done. That will take a long time to do.

I am going to watch this bill with interest. A lot of things still need to be ironed out. People have concerns about health care research. I am glad the government is addressing it, but we have to make sure that we keep on track and ensure that all Canadians have a voice in the research being done here and that it is equal and does not favour certain segments of society.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Madam Speaker, I join my colleagues in supporting Bill C-13.

When we talk about the opposition, very often we think that it is difficult for it to agree with some bills. We have an example today where the Bloc Quebecois can be in agreement.

I will talk about some flaws in this bill. One of them is that it should have been introduced as early as in 1993, when the Liberals came into office, because there is an urgent need to invest into research and development to help researchers. We know that the United States are a few steps ahead of us, and that we need to focus on research and development.

It is very laudable to help Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Unfortunately, the money is not transferred to the provinces. This is another flaw, a major flaw, I would say. Why not give this money to the provinces so they can manage it themselves?

Earlier, I heard a Reform colleague ask “Will the bureaucracy be expanded? Will the money go directly into research or into framework and administration activities?” There is always this danger. When we create something, very often a large part of the money goes into the administration and very little goes where it should. This is another flaw that I wanted to mention.

It is nice to agree that money should be provided for health research and development. But we should certainly not forget the $7 billion that were cut from transfer payments to the provinces. The government says it will be generous and give some money back, but let us not forget this $7 billion.

If the Rochon reform in Quebec did hurt—and is probably still hurting—one must look at the root cause: the $7 billion the provinces did not get. Without money, no matter how good a manager you are, you will have a hard time making the system work. Mrs. Marois, who is certainly a remarkable health minister, needs money too.

I will never say this enough: the federal cuts are the root cause of the problems faced by hospitals in Quebec. These cuts are shocking, revolting, disgusting, odious and not worthy of any government. How could they make such drastic cuts?

In the area of health care, when someone arrives at the hospital and needs heart surgery or has cancer, leukaemia or any other form of cancer, the situation is urgent. Some patients have to wait for weeks, even months. In Quebec, patients had to be sent to the United States, not because we lacked expertise—we do have expertise—but because of the federal cuts. At times, you have to make do with what you have.

These thoughtless, irresponsible cuts have gutted health care in the other provinces too, but especially in Quebec, whose problems I am more familiar with. The cuts to the health transfers are the root cause of the difficulty Quebec is having in managing its hospitals properly.

The management and staff of the hospitals and CLSC in Matane, Maria and Amqui are performing near miracles to treat patients with dignity and speed. I visited these three hospitals, which are in my riding.

We really have no idea of all the work and the efforts we ask of our physicians, nurses and orderlies. They have always given their all, but now we are asking for even more. Why is it that we keep asking more and more from these people? We know that when people with tremendous responsibilities get tired and exhausted, medical errors can occur, but fortunately, so far, these have been avoided. These people should not be blamed.

The people to blame are those who cut provincial transfers. They are responsible for the way things stand today. For the 1999-2000 fiscal year, the estimated shortfall will be about $1.7 billion. In Quebec alone, they will reach $850 million. Since 1993, cuts to health care have totalled $3.5 billion. That means that since our election to this House, cuts of $3.5 million have been made to the health care budget.

My constituents come to see me in my riding office of either Matane or Amqui and ask “Why are so many cuts in Quebec?” I tell them what I tell everyone in Quebec “Think about it. Who is responsible for this? Who is responsible for the lack of health care and the long waiting lists?” It is the federal government, and no one can argue about that. We have to keep saying this over and over again. Of course, when people go to a hospital, they are already in pain. They look around and see what is going on and, after one and two hours, they get tired of waiting and lose patience.

I have said it before, and I will say it again—because this cannot be overemphasized—if people have to wait for a week, two weeks or a very long time before an operation, it is not because of the physician or the hospital, but because the hospital is starved of resources and, as a result, the level of services has dropped. Those in charge are doing the impossible to give the best service.

Members opposite should be ashamed for their attack on the sick. Occasionally, members of the opposition in Quebec come up with special cases, but they do not have enough courage to explain why those cases do occur, and why people are on waiting lists. We know very well that inadequate budgets are the problem.

The finance minister is bragging that, in just a few years, he will have raked in a $95 billion surplus. Yes, $95 billion. People in my riding of Matapédia-Matane think it does not make any sense to have cuts in health care and accumulate a $95 billion surplus.

In my riding, many seasonal workers and forestry workers have a hard time making ends meet. In the forestry sector, summers can be very hectic for men with a family—although I am sure some women are forestry workers too. They have to get up very early in the morning, and go to bed very late at night. On top of that, they are under stress because of employment insurance, which the people in my riding and I call poverty insurance. They wonder why they have to pay into this plan, which is just stressing them out. The level of stress is incredible.

When I speak of Bill C-13, when I say that money must be put into health, people may perhaps wonder why so much money is needed. Perhaps we need to find out why people are so stressed out. It is said that one of the things that causes cancer is stress.

This government is a past master at causing stress. It ought to examine its conscience and say “It is true that research must be carried out in order to eliminate or control certain diseases”. I say that is all very fine, but what might be needed instead is a more general examination of the problem.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton, Devco; the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River, Agriculture.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian institutes of health research, to repeal the Medical Research Council Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Never let it be said that members of the official opposition oppose all government legislation for the sake of opposing. While we have an onus to oppose as the opposition in this adversarial parliamentary system, we frequently support bills which we think are in the public interest. We are pleased to lend our support to this thoughtful bill which seeks to improve the administration of grants and funding for medical and scientific research.

As we have heard in this debate, currently grants to finance medical research are administered by the Medical Research Council, an agency of the government established many years ago on the common bureaucratic model of such agencies, with a minimum of accountability and transparency and, many would argue, an excess of administrative costs and wasteful bureaucracy, money which ought to be directed toward real frontline, concrete, scientific research.

Following consultations with members of the medical research community and those involved in this field the government decided, I think correctly, to reform and streamline this process by creating the Canadian institutes of health research to decentralize the administration of these grants and the funding of this research and to make somewhat more accountable and perhaps less bureaucratic the structure of these new agencies.

The new institutes of health research will have one central co-ordinating body or governing council which will consist of a president and an advisory board of no more than 20 members. This governing council will be empowered under the bill to appoint a scientific director and advisory board for each institute, which will deal with particular areas of research, each incorporating expertise in their respective fields.

While we are pleased to see that the decentralized specific advisory boards will be appointed by the governing council and not by the cabinet or the government, we are concerned that the governing council of the CIHR will be appointed by the federal cabinet.

This is a point that we raise in virtually every bill that comes before us. We are as deeply concerned as most Canadians about the enormous, largely unchecked power of the Prime Minister through governor in council appointments to name political friends of the government to sensitive positions throughout the entire public service, agencies, crown corporations and the like.

Many objective observers have suggested that in Canada our executive branch, our Prime Minister and cabinet, exercises more power and more unchecked discretion with respect to appointments than any other parliamentary or republican government in the democratic world.

A case in point would be the recent selection by the Prime Minister through a governor in council appointment of the president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. We could look to our mother parliament in the United Kingdom where such decisions as the appointment of the president of the British Broadcasting Corporation are delegated to the board of that crown corporation rather than retained and exercised by Her Majesty in council. I would strongly suggest that the government review how it could decentralize this appointment process for the governing council of the health research institutes.

I commend the government for its commitment, in the presentation of this bill, to spend no more than 4% to 5% of the operating budget of the CIHR on administration. However we would like to see some firm guarantees that this will be the case. It is a tragedy when scarce tax dollars are directed toward important agencies of this nature and are eaten up by bureaucracy and administration. Too often we see that happen. One would say that it is almost inevitable. It is almost the result of human nature that bureaucracies will tend to grow if given the opportunity.

I propose that there ought to be a legislated maximum of administration costs. Those administration costs ought to be defined and should be verified by the auditor general who is answerable to this place. That would be an important guarantee, a step toward reforming agencies of this nature in the public sector in general to ensure that the tax dollars we allocate actually go to frontline research.

This is critically important research. I am glad to see that the importance of medical research is recognized by all parties and, I would suggest, by all people across the ideological and partisan spectra.

Sometimes members of the Reform Party are accused of opposing government per se and in toto. It is alleged that we support the libertarian night watchman state and see no role for government agencies or programs. I would say, to the contrary, that in our last election platform and in our fiscal proposals of the past several years we have consistently supported increased funding for medical research and frontline real, hard scientific research, because we think that government is in a unique position to use public resources to finance the sort of research that would not otherwise be properly financed through the private sector.

Let me be on the record as a frugal fiscal conservative in saying that even I strongly support the proposed budgetary increases from the Medical Research Council to the Canadian institutes for health research contemplated in the bill.

We understand that the government has proposed for the fiscal year 2000-01 to allocate a budget of some $374 million to be increased in the following fiscal year to some $500 million. Again we hope that every cent possible will be directed to real research of a practical nature rather than to administration and overhead.

I understand the selection committee estimates that approximately 200 more research grants will be awarded under the new institutes than will be awarded under the current Medical Research Council, which is a positive step forward.

We hope this new structure will incorporate the advice and active involvement of all so-called stakeholders in the medical research field, including academic researchers, researchers in the private sector, in pharmaceutical companies and in other health care companies, and researchers in government agencies and departments. Working together these various branches of society will be able to identify the most important targets for medical research.

We know that we have made enormous advances in the century now coming to a close, in finding cures and treatments for ailments and diseases which have plagued mankind throughout history. We see this reflected in the enormous improvement in vital statistics and life expectancy, lower infant mortality and the general quality of life that we all enjoy.

The kinds of medical treatment that have been discovered by modern medical research, which we often take for granted, were unthinkable for our ancestors who founded this country. We owe it to them and to the future to continue directing a substantial portion of our collective social resources to stamping out the scourges and diseases that remain unresolved, such as cancer and many other diseases that claim so many lives.

In closing, I am pleased to announce my support for this bill and commend the government for its introduction.