Mr. Speaker, I really am at a loss as to where to start. There have been many interesting comments and a sharing of ideas, and even a borrowing of ideas from one party to the other.
Where we have to start is to talk about the reality. We have parties who claim that the health care system is the best in the world, that Canada's publicly funded health care system is next to none. I think we need a reality check. We have this perception in Canada that the Canada Health Act and medicare is a universal plan. That is just not so.
To me universality means that every Canadian is treated in the same manner with regard to health care. This is just not so. There are individuals in the province of British Columbia who have no health care. They are in arrears with their health care premiums and have people from collection agencies after them to collect the health care premiums before they receive medical services.
A lot of people in the rest of Canada are not aware that there are two provinces where the citizens actually have to pay out of their pockets on a monthly basis in order to receive health care services. If they do not pay those premiums they do not receive the services. If they do not have health care insurance because they do not pay for it, they have to pay cash to see a medical doctor. In Ontario and in Saskatchewan that is not the case, but in B.C. and in Alberta if people have not paid their health care premiums they are not covered under medicare.
Some will say that does not happen, but I will tell them about this young lad whose name is Tim Jeffries. When he showed up at a local hospital with a shattered ankle he was put into the operating room for corrective surgery. Then, when they found out his health care premiums were in arrears, they removed him from the hospital room. They did not do the surgery until his mother had paid the health care premiums owed. That is not universality.
It is not universality when individuals in B.C. can be taken off operating tables because they have not paid premiums but individuals in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Atlantic Canada and Quebec can get the service without paying a cent out of their pockets. People in B.C. have credit agencies after them. People in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada do not.
Another thing we talk about is a health care medical services plan that it is portable: no matter what province one is in, one can go to another province and receive medical services. Portability, a key part of our medical system, does not exist either.
An individual from my constituency who needs dialysis was planning a trip to Ottawa to visit his son. There was no room in the public system for Mr. Rushworth to receive dialysis. He would have to go to a private clinic. Because of the difference between the cost of the dialysis and what the province of B.C. would pay, it would have cost him $1,400 out of his own pocket to be able to visit his son in Ontario. Portability does not exist.
Canadians have misconceptions about our health care system. I do not have to tell anybody about accessibility. I had a conversation with my florist while ordering some flowers. He was over in Britain when it was discovered he had a life threatening aneurysm. He waited seven months for the surgery to repair it. This was a life threatening condition.
Is it accessibility to have to wait 12 months, 18 months, two years or whatever it takes to have hip or knee replacement surgery? Accessibility does not exist.
We talk about the system south of the border and just how awful it is. I have contacts in the United States who run a public hospital system there. I know them very well. When I told them about the young man who was pulled off the operating table they were horrified. They said, perhaps for lawsuit reasons, they would never have taken anybody off an operating table.
We have a situation where the health care system Canadians think is there for them is not. Why is it not there for them? The numbers tell the story. In 1993-94 the federal government transferred to the provinces through Canada health and social and education transfers a total of $18.8 billion over a period of seven years. It actually was budgeted for a decrease to $11.5 billion, but a few years ago the Liberal government realized the crisis it had created and reversed that. The bottom end figure is $12.5 billion.
That $6.3 billion was taken directly out of cash transfers to the provinces to provide health care services to the people of Canada. With these numbers there is no question that the federal government, through the cuts to transfers to the provinces to provide health care services, is solely responsible for the crisis in our health care system.
I would like to address some of the comments being made by both the Liberal government and the New Democratic Party that Canadian Alliance wants to support a two tier health care system. It is just not true. We have always supported public health care for Canadians that delivers what it promises to deliver in a system that works. However, we are not naive enough to think that we now have a one tier health care system. Anybody who has had to make use of Canada's health care system knows it is a multi-tier system. Let us not even talk two tier.
I want to address something of interest. The New Democratic Party in my province of British Columbia has kept up the fallacy that we have a one tier system. It is also hypocritical to the point where, in conjunction with the federal government, the province of B.C. helps fund a private clinic in China. It is a private clinic for only those who can afford to go there. It is funded by the federal government and the province of B.C.
Another hypocrisy involves an individual by the name of Robert James Mason. It was not his fault. He needed surgery immediately. It was not a situation in which he could afford to wait. In our health care system everyone has to wait. Lo and behold if we did not have a union supporting his desire to have the government of British Columbia send him down to the United States, that hated country south of the border, to get the health care he needed. He could get it immediately there. He could get good health care.
The New Democratic Party, which is always ragging on the American system or anybody who says that their health care system is actually delivering good health care in a timely fashion, supported one of its union members going to the United States for service. There is a bit of irony in that and a bit of hypocrisy.
It does not stop there. We cannot use the private clinics in Vancouver or in our country if we pay with public dollars. However, the New Democratic Party in B.C. can. The cabinet uses it in B.C. The Workers' Compensation Board and the union use it in B.C. Why can some people make use of these private clinics and get quick treatment when they need it when others have to wait for 15 months or 18 months to get the services?
We have a multi-tier system. For people in the New Democratic Party and the Liberals to pretend that it is not so will not help solve the problem.
A number of things are necessary. First, we have to change our attitudes. The federal government has to stop blaming everybody else and assume responsibility. When the Liberal government in 1967-68 brought in health care it made a promise to the provinces that it would fund it at 50%. It made that promise to get the provinces to come into the Canada Health Act. What is the current percentage of funding? It will be 13%. After promising 50% funding it delivered something much less.
Why should Canadians believe the government that lives and breathes stories about the health system that are not true? Why should Canadians believe the government that made promises it cannot and will not deliver? Why should Canadians believe in the end run it will deliver on the promises it is making today through this legislation? Why should Canadians believe the government will not, when it suits its purposes, once more cut funding in transfers to the provinces?
The government seems to think this is a time for photo op politics. With a federal election looming it gives the money to the provinces and is the saviour of health care. The real story is that the government took the money out of health care. It created the crisis. It is responsible. All it is doing is putting back in some of the money it took out in the first place. What would stop the government, should it unfortunately be re-elected, from doing that again?
Priorities are funny things. The government claims the delivery of health care services to Canadians is a priority. Let me talk about the government's priorities. Many of us have seen the television ads about how wonderful the federal government is for putting back into the system some of the money it took out. That advertising cost $8 million. Believe me, $8 million could do an awful lot to put the necessary technological equipment into our health care system. That money could do an awful lot to create more training and educational positions in our universities and to help replace the doctors and nurses leaving our country.
The government spent $8 million to tell Canadians how wonderful it is. If that is not photo op politics, if that is not buying votes for an election, I do not know what is. It certainly is a case of misplaced priorities.
What is needed? Money is needed, but more than that we need new ideas. We need to encourage provinces to come up with new and innovative ways to deliver good health care that will be there for the people. Our concern should not be whether health care is here today or tomorrow but whether it will be here 10 and 20 years from now for our children and grandchildren.
What needs to be included in the Canada Health Act, and what should have been there in the first place, is a legislative commitment that the federal government will not renege on its funding commitment. The Canada Health Act needs the addition of long term funding from the federal government to the provinces. That way the provinces can plan and design a system that will work in the future.
We need ideas and plans from the federal government. The Minister of Finance has loosened up his pocketbook and provided an additional sum of money but it is not what is needed. The Canadian Medical Association has said an additional $10.5 billion is needed. This is only a drop in the bucket of what will be needed.
The point is that we need more than money. The finance minister has given us some more money for our health care system, but what new plans and ideas has the Minister of Health given us? None. What good is putting money into a system as broken as ours without some idea of how we are to allocate the funds or make sure the deficiencies in the system are corrected?
Other speakers have mentioned our shortage of doctors and nurses and our obsolete equipment. We need the new technologies out there that can be used for diagnostic purposes. Those kinds of investments can probably save dollars in the future. That is what we need. We need some assurance that the money that goes into the system will be appropriated in the right places to actually make a difference. We need to encourage the doctors and nurses who have left our country to return to Canada and provide the health care services we so desperately need here.
How do we do that? We do it by making their work environment much better and by providing them with not only the technology and equipment but also with a lower tax rate to make them competitive and put more money in their pockets.
We have to look at other areas in our country, at rural areas and aboriginal communities where the health care services they have today are not acceptable. We need to look at them in order to address how we are going to provide better health care in rural areas and in aboriginal communities.
The problems are enormous. What Canadians are looking for is leadership. They are looking for leadership from people who have new ideas, who are willing to be part of a partnership. Whether this Liberal government likes it or not, the constitutional act, the BNA Act, has given the delivery of health care to the provinces. It is a provincial responsibility.
Yes, it makes bad photo ops prior to a federal election if the federal government does not get the credit for it. I am sorry, people, but the provinces are the ones with the responsibility. The federal government's responsibility is to work with the provinces, not to threaten them, not to coerce them, not to blackmail them, but to work with them to find the solutions, to find areas in which we can better our health care system.
What we have had is a federal government that is so concerned with getting the credit that it blames the provinces for everything that has happened. It blames the provinces for the crisis in the health care system. It wants photo op politics. It will spend $8 million to get photo op politics, to get the accolades that go with saving our health care system.
It is time that we put away jurisdictions. It is time that we delivered good health care to our citizens. It is time for our federal government to acknowledge and to respond to its place in delivering the health care system, and that is to make a financial commitment that it sticks with and does not change. If that means legislating, so be it. It means that we legislate a commitment of the federal government.
If it means that the federal government does not get the credit, so be it. The main concern should not be buying votes at election time. The main concern should be that every Canadian is able to get the medical services when needed, at the time—