Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to resume my speech on this important bill, a bill, as has been noted several times today, that is fully supported by the Canadian Alliance, although we do think improvements could have been made in this health accord.
The health accord does re-establish some of the money that was cut by the Liberal government over the last several years from the health care system. What it does not do is enshrine the health accord in the Canada Health Act itself so that stable, long term, five year funding is available for the provinces in order to plan their work and work their plan. That is a weakness of the bill.
It is interesting that we have now passed two bills today in their entirety. When there is not a lot of controversy about a bill and it is in the best interests of the country we want to be co-operative. We have already had a fair bit of discussion about this bill and we were given time to contact the people affected. All those things are possible. We passed two bills today that I hope will get royal assent before the week is out. It is nice to see that happen.
We think that business should continue to go ahead. However, this health accord, which should also go ahead, will be interrupted almost certainly by an election call on Sunday. We see an awful lot of crocodile tears on the Liberal side. We hear them saying “We have to approve this bill in all stages this afternoon or else basically it will not go anywhere”, or, “Desperate measures are required”, or, “We have to interrupt the rules of parliament. We cannot follow the rules of parliament”.
If there is desperation in the health care system, it has been caused by the government. Any desperation on the funding side has been caused by the cuts from the federal Liberal government. In its efforts to restore that, efforts that we approve of, it says we have to suspend the rules of parliament and pass all stages today or else the walls will come tumbling down.
This bill will get passed. It will go through a proper examination in committee where we can talk about it. Would it not be nice to talk to the Canadian Medical Association for a minute about this? Would it not be nice to make sure that the way the money is going to be distributed is in the best interests of everyone in all provinces? Of course it would.
The government is going to spend a good part of the campaign suggesting that unless it can suspend the rules of the House and pass it all today in all stages the end is near. Nobody is going to buy that argument. Everyone sees what is happening here. An election is coming and the government would like to have all the legislation disposed of in a couple of minutes here in the House as if the House does not matter.
Let me just talk about what the government is going to leave on the table. It will leave the health accord unfinished. We have said that we are prepared to come back next week and the week after and get at it. We want to do this properly and get it passed by Christmas but the government is going to call an election and suspend that.
What about some of the other things the government has left? What about the Financial Institutions Act? The banks have been looking for Bill C-38. The banks, the credit unions, the provinces, the consumers and other financial institutions want to modernize the Financial Institutions Act. We are ready to go with it. Let us debate it and get it passed.
That is not going to happen. It will get lost. The banks will be told “You are going to deal in an increasingly globalized financial world but you have to stick with the rules from the last century and that is just too bad”. That is too bad for the banks, the credit unions and the consumers, but it certainly is not because the opposition is not willing to get on with business. We want to get on with it.
What about the changes to the Young Offenders Act? That bill was brought in as Bill C-68 in the first session of parliament. After prorogation, it was renamed Bill C-3. It has been kicking around this place for years and it will die because the government cannot get its legislative act together.
Does anyone know how many bills have actually received royal assent during this fall session? I have the list here: one bill. The government feels that it might get another one passed so it might end up with two bills for the whole fall session. This health accord is certainly not one of them. The government could have brought it back the first day and we could have had a good debate on it. We could have gone right to work on it, but no, the government has been fiddling around with this, that and the other thing, with no idea of where it wants the country to go and no idea where it wants the legislative package to go.
It is as if the government wants to get all the legislation out on the table and pretend it has all been passed so that when it calls the election on Sunday it can say that it has addressed the Young Offenders Act and that the financial institutions have been looked after. Tomorrow it will give a mini-budget that will finally give the tax relief it has always promised. The government has not done it for seven years, but it will be talked about.
I have some more bills here. The international boundary waters legislation deals with the movement of bulk water sales. We support that bill. Let us bring it in and pass it next week. We will not because government members just want to talk about it. They pretend to work at the business of Canada. They pretend to care about these issues. They pretend to care about the health accord. However, when it comes right down to it, what do they do? They are all talk and no action. A title from the information commissioner's lament about the government is that it is all talk and no action.
We are going into an election without an act to amend the criminal code, dealing with cruelty to animals, disarming peace officers and so on. That bill is not going to come before the House.
How about the bill respecting marine liability, something that affects our shipping industry? We support that bill. Let us get at it today, tomorrow or the next day. Let us have it in the House for debate. We are not going to get to pass that legislation.
How about changes to the immigration system? The Liberals have been talking about it but it is not going to come. They talk and talk but no legislative bill ever makes it through the House of Commons.
What about the shipping and navigation bill? How about something as basic as the criminal code changes dealing with harassment, home invasion and the miscarriage of justice? We are ready. Let us bring that bill into the House today, tomorrow or the next day, sometime soon. Let us deal with home invasions because it is a big problem on the west coast. We want that law toughened up. We were to support that bill but we will not have the chance because it will be left on the table.
How many bills have been passed this fall? How many have received royal assent? One bill.
The government has brought a lot of bills. How about changes to the employment insurance system? That was a priority of the government. It brought in changes to the employment insurance system but it was not serious about that. It should properly be renamed “my hope to improve my chances in a certain region of Canada act”. The government has no intention of passing that legislation.
Why did the government bring in Mr. Tobin to be the minister? Why did it go to the other place and pick a senator, an unelected official, to sit in here as the minister from Nova Scotia? This is not about the issues or the legislation. It is all about the election.
How about the Eldorado nuclear limited reorganization act? It is housekeeping bill but we could pass that quickly. We could get on to business. Next week would be perfect. We could do it in a few days and it would be all over.
We could deal with the tax courts or with Bill C-43 which deals with income tax. Those are important. Let us deal with them.
How about an act to establish a foundation to fund sustainable development technology? We could have a debate in the House on that legislation but, no, the government will not do that.
How about the Manitoba claims settlement legislation? We could finish that up. The citizenship of Canada act legislation is something that the Liberals could talk about for a while. They will talk about it. They have tabled all this legislation.
If one could get elected on tabling, this government would win in a landslide. It has tabled everything but does not want to pass any of it. It is not about passing legislation. It is not about a vision for the future. It is about putting little tidbits out there hoping that enough interest groups will think the government is serious about the talk so that when the election comes the government can say that it is really serious about the sales tax and excise tax amendments. One might then say “Really? The government must have brought it to the House early and championed it hard”. The government would say “No, we just just tabled it”. It can claim 100% in tabling. If tabling were a university course these guys would get grade A in tabling.
They are not passing this list of legislation. They are only interested in the election. That is why, when the government shuffled the cabinet the other day—oh, was that just this morning? I thought I saw it being foreshadowed for several days in advance. When the government finally shuffled the cabinet, when the famous deck chairs were shuffled, what did it do? I actually watched it on TV. The government had four people sworn into cabinet. Two of them have not even been elected.
Is Mr. Tobin the best idea for industry minister that Canada ever had? It is not about that. Who cares about that? That is what the Liberals say. It is not about picking the best elected member of parliament to take that position. It is not even about expanding the gene pool, because that gene pool has been well worked over. It is a genetically modified Liberal gene pool. The Liberals all come out like cookie cutters. They do what they are told and they get a job like that.
It is interesting that the one outspoken member of cabinet, the guy we could at least count on to have a bit of backbone on occasion, is gone. The former veterans affairs minister is no longer with us, as they say in the funeral business. He has gone, not to the other place but to somewhere by the windows down there never to be heard from again. Why? Because an unelected person just took his place. In the vernacular, he is now sucking slough water while someone else is slurping at the trough. That is just what has happened. It is all about the election.
The bill on implementing the health accord that we are debating today does three-quarters of what the government should have done. Of course it should not ever have cut the funding to the extent it did to begin with, but at least the bill restores it. It is like kissing your sister: it's a kiss but it ain't everything it's cracked up to be. It is a little bit, so we will support it.
Instead of playing around with parliament like this, here is what would be a pleasure. I look forward to this, because in the byelection of our leader for the Canadian Alliance I was at a public meeting and one of the big cheers he got—and he has had many and he will get many more—occurred when he stood up and said that if he was elected prime minister it would be a pleasure, a week after the election at the press conference, to stand up and say “The next federal election will be held on October 30 of 2004”, whatever Monday that might be, four years from now. Then we would not have to go through this charade of tabling endless amounts of legislation for political showmanship and brinkmanship, which the government is practising today, the brinkmanship of “do as I say or else” something terrible will happen.
Would it not be nicer for the government to say “We have a legislative package to go through but another six months to do it in, so you can plan your life around that because these are the bills that are important to our vision for Canada. We hope you agree. If you do not, let us have a reasonable debate about it, let us pass the good stuff, amend the bad stuff and defeat the poor stuff, but you can count on it”?
There would be four years to get through the business of the House. The next party conventions could be planned around it. The Canadian people could make their election plans around it. Political activists who want to take time off work, and there are a few like that, would find it good too. The House would not be stuck in the position in which we find ourselves today, with a whole package of stuff, of legislative initiatives, some good, some bad and some correcting past wrongs like the bill we are talking about today.
At least then we will have it done in a structured way with a game plan and a House of Commons plan laid out for all Canadians. They will not have to come here three working days before the election call and say “If you do not give us everything we want, then it is the end of health care as we know it”. That is what they are going to say in the days to come.
That is a lousy way to run the country.
What a better way it would be to have a legislative package that the government is serious about, that spells out the vision for the country and that we have adequate time to deal with in the House of Commons. It would be like this: take it, win some, lose some, have some free votes on some things, and at the end of the day on a certain day four years from now the government would go to the electorate and say “Judge the record, this is the package that was completed”.
A half baked, half finished legislative calendar, like I have a list of here, is not the way to be serious about dealing with Canada's business. This is a lousy half measure, introduced in a poor, ad hoc way that is not indicative of good government.
That will change and it will change when the Canadian Alliance forms the government.