Madam Speaker, as my colleagues who have spoken before me have indicated, the Reform Party will support Bill C-13.
Canada has a long and honourable tradition of medical research. However, it is ironic that in the land of Frederick Banting and Charles Best we have seen a long, slow decline in the level, if not the quality, of our research. I do not know the causes for that, but I suspect they may have something to do with internal bureaucracies or perhaps bureaucracy emanating off of the Hill.
There is no question that we need an accountable, well administered health research institute. That appears to be what is going to come out of this legislation, at least that is our fond hope. The projected 4% to 5% administrative cost is certainly commendable. I hope that goal can be reached because there are not too many organizations that can operate within parameters of that nature.
I am very pleased that this institute will operate at arm's length from government, from the politicians and the bureaucracy. It will be run basically by the people directly concerned, the researchers, and in this respect it should be as useful as many other professional organizations which have existed in this country for decades without direct government interference.
I would like to diverge a bit, since I have already stated that I support the legislation, and talk about the gradual long term decline, not just of medical research, but of the entire health care system which, to a great extent, is tied to the research establishment.
I want to talk about the lack of reasonable distribution of the fruits of medical research within this country. We hear talk across the way about the danger of Canada slipping into a two tiered medical system. I wonder where these folks have been living for the last 15 or 20 years. We probably have a multi-tiered medical system, but for a rural person like myself, boy, do we ever have a two tiered system.
If people try to access modern, state of the art medical technology in my riding, I wish them luck, because we simply do not have it. If people want decent medical attention they either have to go to one of the major centres in Canada or, unfortunately, sometimes for efficiency and for expeditious treatment, they head south to the United States. There is a bit of an epidemic, a good medical term perhaps, in the flight to seek better medical care.
I would like to give members an example of the sort of thing I am talking about. Magnetic resonance imagery units are ubiquitous in the United States. Any small or medium sized city in the United States will have one or two of them. In Canada we have to go to a major medical centre and wait in line sometimes for months, depending on the seriousness of our need, to have access to one of these machines.
I do not understand why we have to live in the past with our medical facilities. I say that I do not understand it, but actually I do understand it to a point. The problem is that the government has gutted the medical system. It has taken billions and billions of dollars out of it and thrown the responsibility to the provinces to maintain the level of service. Therefore, we do not have access to the good stuff. By the way, MRI units are not really state of the art now. They have been around for quite a while, but we have not caught up.
I do not see any reason, other than the bloody mindedness of the government, for which we could not have state of the art medical treatment all over the country, instead of a two-tiered system which gives it to the urban areas, and the devil take the rural folks.
We cannot blame the provinces. Under the Canada Health Act we started with a 50:50 sharing of the cost of medical care. It is now about 85:15. The provinces are digging and scratching. That is simply unfair. It is indecent. The federal government made a deal 30 years ago. If it made a deal it should stick to it. This will have historical ramifications.
By all means, let us have a better developed medical research organization in this country. Let us encourage research. Let us fund research. That is something which really has not been mentioned much in this debate, but we cannot do medical research without something in our jeans to pay the bills. We have to fund this research. We have to encourage it. We certainly should encourage the new organization.
There are a few problems in the bill with respect to how the organization will work. There are a lot of details that have to be worked out, which can be managed in committee. That is what committees are for. I am hopeful that in this instance, since there is no debate about the desirability of the bill, perhaps the government will allow the committee to function as committees were designed to function and let it actually have some real input into the legislation, instead of having the whip sneak over to make sure that the good little boys and girls do not stray. I hope the committee will actually be able to do a bit of thoughtful work. I think this is a great opportunity.
Madam Speaker, I thank you for being so patient and not cutting me off when I diverged. I hope the people out there in TV land will take note of the fact that there are some people in Ottawa who realize what is going on with health care, and we are those people.