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House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was defence.

Topics

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Reform

Val Meredith Reform South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague read out a number of bills that the government has introduced but has done nothing about.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague if he is aware of the various advertising programs that the government has gone through in the last three months, namely, a little booklet that went out to all seniors telling them about all the wonderful things the Liberal government has done. I wonder whether or not some of the tabled bills that have not been passed and have not gone through the system have been alluded to in that little booklet. I wonder also about the cost of that little booklet. I am also wondering about the cost of the $8 million ad campaign telling Canadians how wonderful the government is for solving the health care problems that it created. Are these costs also incurred through this multi-list of tabled bills that the government has put forth?

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if we will ever know the costs in this parliament because of course those costs will no doubt be picked up by the auditor general in the next parliament. I expect that in the next parliament the auditor general is going to say that he has reviewed the spending bulge that took place during the pre-election period and that the advertising budget of the federal government suddenly had a giant need to communicate to Canadians in the month and a half preceding the federal election. It was practically a cosmic force that forced the Liberals to spend $8 million to advertise the Canada health accord that has not yet passed the House of Commons. However, that never stops the government. It spent $8 million to tell Canadians what we all read in the newspaper. It is all couched in terms that the government loves us and the government is here to help us. It is one of those things that no one really believes.

It was the same thing with the booklet that perhaps 30 million people got in the mail telling them about the 1-800 number they could phone if they had a problem with the government, because the government loved them.

I would expect that in the next parliament the auditor general will talk not just about the March madness, which is the spending that occurs every March when the government departments all have to feather their nests, but he will also talk about the little spending splurge of millions of dollars that the advertising department of the federal Government of Canada spent telling Canadians what they already knew from newspaper reports. That will be a shame. That money should have been spent on health care, education and research.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-45, the bill dealing with health care funding.

The bill would ratify and implement the deal between the provinces and the federal government. We respect the fact that the provinces did reach an agreement with the federal government to increase funding and we support that. The Canadian Alliance supports increasing funding for health care, but we do not pretend that will solve the problem with health care. We do not believe that is the case.

Just because we support the bill does not mean that we will just let it pass all in one day. The Prime Minister in question period today said that if the bill did not pass by Friday, because the opposition wanted to talk about it or maybe some government MPs wanted to talk about it, then we were against health care. That is not the case.

Opposition members and government members want to speak on the bill because we have things we want to say on health care. We want to make the point that more money will not completely solve the problem. We want to make the point that the amount of money the government has agreed to put back into health care through the legislation and through its agreement with the provinces will not restore health funding by the amount it has cut over the last few years. It is absolutely absurd for the Prime Minister to say that if we do not agree with the bill and if we do not pass it immediately then we are against health care.

I remind the Prime Minister of a few facts about the legislation. One fact is that a bill of this magnitude has received less than six hours of debate in the House. Yet the Prime Minister said that if we did not pass it today we were against health care. The Prime Minister really does not understand the democratic process. He does not understand that the House is a place for debate. This House is a place where we should bring out different views on issues, especially on important issues like health care.

Debate on the bill was first called for on October 5. This was less than three and a half years into the government's mandate. The government has been in place for seven years. Yet the Prime Minister said if we did not let this pass we were against health care. We will tell that to Canadians. That is not right.

The Prime Minister is asking for the members of the House to break the rules of the House. That is what he called for in question period today. That is not right. We should have time to talk about the bill. We should not just pass it on through. We should give Canadians a chance to know what this piece of legislation is about.

The legislation is about ratifying the provincial-federal agreement on health care. It is about returning only part of the funding that the government reduced over its seven year mandate. It is not as wonderful a thing as the government makes it out to be. There is no increase in funding. This only returns part of the funding that the government cut over the past few years.

Does that mean we will hold up this legislation? Absolutely not. In fact, as far as I am concerned we can allow this to pass second reading in the next few minutes and get on to the rest of the process.

There is no reason that we cannot pass this bill over the next few weeks. We do not want to hold it up. We respect the fact that the provinces have reached an agreement with the federal government. The legislation would ratify the agreement so that the money could be paid out, but we are looking for proper debate on the issue.

It is ironic that the Prime Minister said that if we did not agree to pass this legislation immediately we were somehow against health care. If we look at the government's legislative calendar for the next three weeks, Bill C-45 is not even on the legislative calendar. That is the level of priority the Prime Minister gives to this piece of legislation. If the Prime Minister feels that the bill is important, as I think it is, and wants the bill to be dealt with in a quick fashion, then he should talk to the House leader and get him to put it on the legislative calendar as a top priority item. He has not done that.

Again, we are here to talk about ratifying this deal. Does the Canadian Alliance support passing Bill C-45? Yes, we do. We believe that restoring some of the funding which the Liberals cut from the provinces to fund health care is the right thing to do. We say they should restore all of the funding that they cut from the provinces over the past seven years of their mandate. We say this deal is not good enough. We say it is only a start.

When we form the government it will only be a start. We will not only focus on funding, we will focus on actual solutions to the problems in health care. We respect the jurisdiction of the provinces in health care. Under the Canadian constitution the provinces have jurisdiction over health care. We also respect the Canada Health Act.

Today in question period, the Leader of the Opposition said “Let us add a sixth pillar to the Canada Health Act”. That pillar would be guaranteed funding for the provinces. The provinces could then rely on getting a certain level of funding committed to and guaranteed by the federal government so that the federal government could not decide some time in the future to cut back, slash and burn health care funding. That is what the Liberals have done over the past seven years. We want a sixth pillar to health care which says we will guarantee funding over the long run.

How many Canadians know that when medicare was first agreed to back in the 1960s, the level of funding of the federal government was more than 50%? The provinces signed onto the deal because the federal government was committed to this level of funding. Have successive Liberal and Conservative governments respected that commitment? No, they have not. Now the federal government only funds somewhere around 13% of the cost of health care. It has absolutely reneged on the deal that a Liberal government committed to back in the sixties.

The Liberals reneged on the deal that the Liberal government committed to in the sixties. They reneged on the commitment to the Canadian people and to the premiers of the provinces back when the provinces agreed to publicly fund health care. That is just not right. That is why the Leader of the Opposition today stood in the House and said “Let us put that sixth pillar of health care in place”, and that would be—

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to interrupt my friend's comments on health care but I think he made a serious error in saying that only 13% was covered by the federal government. Surely his notes must be incorrect.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

That was a sneaky point of order.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I respect the comment of the hon. member from the New Democratic Party. He is absolutely right. In fact the level is not 13%. It is only 11% right now. It will be 13% if this bill passes and if that funding is actually put in place. I am sure that is what the member was referring to. I was using rough figures and I know the reality is even worse than the picture I had painted.

It was really not a point of order and I appreciate your decision on that, Mr. Speaker. I will try to get back to my presentation now.

The Canadian Alliance really does respect provincial jurisdiction. We think that when the provinces come up with an idea within the Canada Health Act that will improve health care they should be listened to. I think every province probably has an idea that it can implement in its own province that will improve our health care system. I do not think the federal government has all the good ideas when it comes to health care.

I hear a lot of heckling from across the floor. It truly is the arrogance showing through, with the Prime Minister, in his arrogance, saying “This is our bill and you should just pass it”. We saw that in question period. Now we see the members across the floor showing their arrogance and not even allowing us to make our points on the issue. What they are saying in effect is that they have all the answers, that they are right, that they may have slashed health care funding over the last seven years but what they want to do now is to restore part of that, and that they are heroes for doing so.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

What the member has dribbled over the airwaves is nonsense. It is arrogance. He has no respect for the Canadian people if he believes that they are going to believe what he put out.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

The hon. member across the floor really ought to listen a little. He could learn something. It is really quite difficult for me to make my presentation with that kind of interference from across the floor.

This arrogance flows way beyond this piece of legislation. Let us talk a little about the Prime Minister's record—

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Would you ask the member for Lakeland whether it is his intention to not allow the bill to proceed and to not allow the bill to be presented by this Friday to the other chamber so that we can reflect the will of the premiers and the Prime Minister as they have indicated in the agreement of September?

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

That also is not a point of order but it was an interesting way to get a point of view injected into the debate.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is that kind of arrogance that we have seen from the government for some time now.

He stands and says “If you are not going to pass this by Friday then you are just not doing the right thing”. Why Friday? I think we ought to talk about this. We ought to have the debate on it. We could probably get this through the House in the next two or three weeks. I do not see a problem. Certainly that is not my intent.

With this kind of rhetoric coming from across the House and this kind of interference, I do want to point out the Prime Minister's record in the House. It goes beyond the bill and beyond the member saying that if we do not pass it quickly we are against health care.

Let us look at what the Prime Minister has done. What did he do on Bill C-68, the gun bill? We had somewhere over a dozen Liberal MPs whose constituents told them to vote against the gun bill. They were going to do that and some did at the earlier reading. However, when it came to third reading what did the Prime Minister say? I will never forget what he said. He was in Atlantic Canada somewhere.

What did the Prime Minister say? He said “If you dare vote against our bill, even if your constituents want you to, we will punish you. I will not sign your nomination papers the next time if you want to run in the next election”.

Does that sound like a democratic Prime Minister? No, that is not democracy. It is that kind of arrogance we have seen over the past five years. It is just not right. We will not sit here and take this kind of arrogance, these anti-democratic feelings and expressions of the Prime Minister, and just let them go.

On the GST, the member for York South—Weston said “You ought to respect the promise you made in the 1993 election to eliminate the GST”. That is what the Liberals promised. The Prime Minister himself said on several occasions that he would get rid of the GST. Probably that helped him win that election.

When it came time to do something about it, the member for York South—Weston in talking about it asked what happened. He was kicked out of the party. He is sitting as an independent now. That is the way the democratic process works in the House.

In question and comment period another member mentioned the advertisements that are on television right now. They are funded by taxpayers, not by members of the Liberal Party. They are trying to say how wonderful their record on health care is when in fact it is dismal. It is disgusting that they would use taxpayer money to fund partisan ads saying what a great job they are doing.

The brochures they sent out to seniors were disgusting. That is not the democratic process working properly. That is not an acceptable expenditure of taxpayer money. We will not stand by and allow these kinds of things to happen without raising them.

In terms of Bill C-45, my colleagues and I are certainly willing to let it go through quite quickly at second reading. We will get on to committee stage and third reading stage. Let us see what we can do to have proper debate on it and make sure that it is implemented properly. That is all we ask.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to raise a couple of issues about Bill C-45 with my colleague from the Alliance Party. Let me preface my comments by saying that I had expected by now we would be at work during committee of the whole trying to improve the piece of legislation.

So anxious was I that I almost amended the wrong piece of legislation. It had been our understanding that we would be using this afternoon to consider the bill clause by clause to improve it as much as possible within the limitations imposed upon us.

I share the concerns of my colleagues with respect to the haste with which the matter has been put before us and the lack of opportunity to have a comprehensive debate. Certainly it is a very disappointing situation when we have had so little opportunity to debate health care in the House to date.

We all understand that the legislation which implements the September 11 deal at the first ministers level is a small step in the right direction. Certainly there has been an indication to all of us that the first ministers across the country would like to see this step taken so that we can get on with the further work required to improve our health care system. Being uncertain about the time-line available to us, it is important for us to put that on record.

Members of the Alliance have clearly expressed their concerns about the bill. They have a platform document that does not go much beyond what the Liberals have presented, which is a base of $18.7 billion for health care. Certainly it is hardly commensurate to the task at hand and needs to be addressed.

Therefore, would members of the Alliance consider supporting our efforts to try to amend the bill so that at least the base level of funding moves beyond the $15.5 billion outlined in Bill C-45?

Would they work with us to ensure that the increase in transfer payments allocated through the bill is at least added to the base so that by the year 2005, when the agreement is over, the base would have been raised to $21 billion? This would provide us an increase in baseline funding and ensure greater responsibility on the part of the federal government for the overall burden of health care costs.

That is the amendment I was hoping to propose today. I am not sure if I will have an opportunity in the near future to discuss this in committee of the whole, but I would like to know, given the previous Alliance policy statements and presentation of the issues during this debate, if it would agree to support us in advancing this improvement to the bill.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, just to answer the hon. member very directly, we would certainly support that. The Canadian Alliance and the Reform Party before it called for increased funding to health care in every election platform we have ever run under.

Although it is important, we do not think that spending will solve the problem of health care. We have to find some new and innovative ways to improve the system, to allow the provinces to do that and not stand in their way at every opportunity. It is unfortunate the member is one of the people who has stood in the way of new ideas for improving health care along with the government. That really does not lead to making things better.

In terms of her question on whether we would support their amendment, we do support it. It is something for which we have been calling. Let us go beyond that.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I have been sitting here listening to this debate. Members on the opposite side talk about the need to debate the bill, but I have not heard any substantive issues debated or any problems, proposals or constructive suggestions for the bill. It has been rhetoric.

The member for Winnipeg North Centre talked about her amendment which does not call for any additional cash compared with what is in the bill in front of us. The member for Lakeland agrees to support that. It provides no additional cash from what is in the bill as it stands.

Apart from being on television, on CPAC and whatever, what are their motivations? While Canadians are waiting for a billion dollars in a medical equipment fund that could buy needed medical equipment if the bill were passed, members opposite discuss abstract innuendo and rhetoric. I have not heard one significant critique of the bill, not one decent suggestion, not one substantive issue raised about it.

I come back to the member for Lakeland. If he is so concerned about the bill, I ask him to give us one constructive suggestion.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, talk about crocodile tears. If the member had done his homework he would know that this amendment would increase funding beyond what is in the current legislation.

The member wonders why he has not heard points of useful debate. It is because he has been too busy talking to listen. He is still talking rather than listening. If he would listen to what we are saying he would hear some points which are worth bringing out, which do add to the debate, and which will help inform Canadians about what is going on here and about what we are considering.

When the government came to office in 1993, federal funding to the provinces for health care was $17.5 billion a year. It gutted that so that in 1994 it cut funding to $14.5 billion a year with the plan it implemented. That is what his government did. Where has he been for the last seven years?

If and when the legislation passes it will return the funding level to $15.5 billion a year. That is all it does. It does not even increase it to the level of funding when the government took office.

He has the nerve to say that what we are proposing will not increase spending from what they are proposing. That is not true. That is not accurate. I would ask the member to do his homework in the future.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have just a brief comment. When the member talks about not listening, one of the main reasons we are moving so aggressively on the bill is that the vast majority of Canadians told us to forget our political alliances and get this thing done, get it fixed. The member is also forgetting that tax points were transferred to the provinces.

Let me close with saying why we want to move the bill forward. We are concerned about their position. The member from Calgary, the finance critic, stated unequivocally that he supported private health care. Their current leader, while a member of the provincial government, advocated private health care. As long as we are in government that will not happen.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, where has the member been throughout this debate? Why have there been no Liberals speaking in this debate, or very few, until just now when something they do not like to hear tweaks them? The Canadian public is being told facts that they do not like to hear.

The absolute fact is that since 1993 the government has cut $36 billion in health funding. The fact is that this deal returns only $23 billion of that amount. Why are these members not standing up in the House and talking about that?

The member talks about tax points. Why has he not been standing in the House explaining what these tax points are? I would certainly welcome him doing that.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is the House ready for the question?

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from October 16 consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2000 / 5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It being 5.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment relating to the business of supply. Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 1426Government Orders

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the amendment carried.

The next question is on the main motion, as amended. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the main motion, as amended?

Division No. 1426Government Orders

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed