Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to address Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian institutes of health research and to repeal the Medical Research Council Act.
At the outset of my brief remarks I rise in qualified support of the legislation. My arguments in support of the bill are focused on improving the health of Canadians through research. Who could possibly be opposed to that premise?
My problems with the bill are based on the difference between the fundamental beliefs of the Liberal government and my beliefs as a Reform member of parliament. While our goals are the same, to improve and lengthen quality of life for all Canadians, the differences lie in how to obtain this goal.
I note that we are coming at this from two different directions. The government's approach certainly appears to be how to perpetuate and protect the existing health care industry. In other words it views it as the system. It believes that we have to hold on to and stand fast with the Canada Health Act, not look at making any changes, even though the government fully recognizes and is in agreement with opposition parties that the health care system is rapidly deteriorating. Its present form is failing Canadians and failing to address their needs in the area of health care.
In contrast to that the official opposition has said that we have to change the focus from the system and from the industry of health care to that of the patient. We have to broaden our research and the way in which we look at the whole issue of health care, with the intention of focusing on the individual, on the patient, and what is best for him or her, not on what necessarily is best for our so-called universal health care system.
When it comes to health care, currently the provinces are paying almost 90% of health care costs. Yet Ottawa continues to defend the Canada Health Act to the extent that it should dictate the terms, the levies and fines to provinces which are trying to accommodate the ongoing legacy of the government cutting billions of dollars from health over the last number of years. In the last year or two, once the government achieved a balanced budget and started to run surpluses, it put back a few billion dollars, a mere fraction of the billions that it cut from the Canada health and social transfer.
The government expects some applause from Canadians for doing that at a time when Canadians are suffering under the weight of a taxation system which has seen them as the most heavily taxed we have ever been as a society, as a country and as Canadian taxpayers in our history.
What a legacy for the Prime Minister. What a situation for Canadians to find themselves in as they go into the next millennium. We will turn that corner in about a month's time and will find that we are the most heavily taxed we have ever been in our history. At the same time Canadians are an aging population which has to rely more and more on health care and faces the reality that the health care system is failing and is deteriorating.
I welcome the opportunity to speak to the bill today. I want to broaden the context of it. There is no point in trying to have a debate when we agree with something. What we have to do is try to focus on what we do not agree with. I have already laid out the difference in the approach of the official opposition to that of the government. I also want to talk about the so-called two tiered health care and the fearmongering on the part of the government every time the official opposition, the Reform Party of Canada, brings forward new or innovative ideas about health care and how to address the needs of Canadians in the whole area of health care.
We are immediately bombarded with the comments that we want to change it, that we want to destroy the universality of the Canadian health care system. Nothing could be further from the truth, but unfortunately that gets lost in the very heated and emotional debate we face every time we try to bring forward ideas.
I note that some of the most innovative thinking in the last while has been by the provinces. As I said earlier in my comments today, they are struggling under the weight of the cuts the government has instituted and the cuts they have had to face in administering health care to Canadians, to provincial taxpayers, their citizens.
Certainly much to the disappointment of the official opposition, when a premier or provincial health minister comes up with an innovative plan on how to address the needs of Canadians in the area of health care, instead of some co-operation from the government we see that it attacks the provinces and the individual who brings forward some innovative and new thinking on the issue.
We are all in agreement that we need more funding and more focus on research in the area of health care. We could go down a long list of debilitating and life threatening diseases that require some urgency in the area of research. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that we should be concerned about priorities and how scarce tax dollars are spent.
The solicitor general announced the other day that he would institute under tremendous pressure from the official opposition a research facility at the cost of $2 million to $2.5 million to look at the whole area of drug addiction, how it relates to prisons and the prison system, how it relates to crime and recidivism rates, and why people do what they do in the area of crime if they are under the influence of drugs.
Certainly we have been pushing for a national drug strategy. We have been drawing the attention of Canadians to the fact that drugs are more rampant and readily available in prison than they are outside prison. I have to question the sanity that would go into announcing supposedly never ending research into this issue and having it headquartered in Prince Edward Island, in the minister's riding.
Why take a vitally important issue to Canadian society and denigrate it by making it into a patronage issue? He has announced that he will temporarily house the research facility until such time as a new federal building can be built, which will just happen to be in his riding, to house the 20 permanent staff members he envisions to look into the drug issue.
Unfortunately I am almost out of time. All of us, especially my colleagues in the Reform Party, in the official opposition, could go on at great length talking about the issue of priorities, how the government spends scarce tax dollars, and our concerns in that regard. I only had time to briefly highlight one issue.
With all the empty federal buildings across the country, I am sure the government could have found one, heaven knows, in areas that have serious drug problems in prisons such as the lower mainland of Vancouver or in and around Toronto. That might be a better location for a facility such as this one.
I sum up by stating that the Reform Party prime health care objective is to improve the quality and length of life of all Canadians. For that reason my Reform colleagues and I support the legislation, as I said. I must state unequivocally that we in the Reform Party do not support the government's irresponsible approach to managing Canada's health care system. The government has gutted funding for health care, yet it has increased taxes every year since coming to power. If Canadians are sick of anything, they are sick of paying more and getting less.
The bill will provide increased moneys for medical research, but will Canadians get their money's worth? I do not think so. Canada has some of the world's best research and development. However, our incredibly high level of taxation leaves Canadian companies little or no money left for research, and a substantial tax cut for Canadians, including Canadian businesses, will improve the lives of Canadians, create jobs and keep our kids at home. We often hear about the brain drain.
I believe this is in line with the wishes of Canadians who want to pay less and get more from their government, instead of the current Liberal system which is exactly the opposite; paying the highest taxes in history while facing a deteriorating national health care system. What a legacy for the Prime Minister.