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.


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

12:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

None. The government is basically running by the seat of its pants on seeds sown and work done by previous administrations, including, to give him credit, some of the work done by Mr. Trudeau. It is just running on the past, devoid of ideas, because when we go out and do something new and challenging, it means that we are going to lose some popularity, that we are going to spend some of our political capital. These people could never be accused of spending political capital. These people are always the cynical sort, where it is “make it up, write the cheque”.

To conclude, this is a cheque book approach to governing. These people are taking out the cheque book to plug every hole in the dike.

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

12:40 p.m.


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

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—

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

1 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think it is inappropriate in the House to allege that the government is buying votes. It is unparliamentary.

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

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Your point is well made. I was paying attention to that. The allegation was made in the obtuse. It was not directed at any one individual or at any one ministry. It was an obtuse suggestion and as such I did not consider it unparliamentary.

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

1 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I find it very interesting that the government would be so sensitive to that fact and yet see nothing wrong in spending $8 million on advertising to the Canadian people who is responsible for saving medicare. If that is not vote buying, then I would be interested to know what is.

The reality is that the federal government has made a commitment to the Canadian people and the big question is from its past delivery, its past governance: can Canadians trust it to deliver? I would say no, Canadians cannot.

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

1 p.m.

Durham Ontario


Alex Shepherd LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the dissertation of the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley and a number of things escaped me. She talked about the loss of money in the envelope for health care spending. It is quite common that people forget about tax points.

I know I will not be able to sell the country on tax points, but I would like to draw members' attention to the concept that the provinces and the federal government came to an agreement on years ago. Rather than transfer cash payments to the provinces, the federal government would transfer a combination of cash and taxing room. In other words, the provinces would be allowed to tax more and the federal government would tax less in the area of income taxes.

During this same period revenues have increased. In fact the propensity for provinces to gain more revenue to support the health care system is also part of this arithmetical formula. It serves the opposition to simply ignore that fact of reality as if Confederation and other things in this country had never happened, but that is reality.

This member likes to use examples. She constantly alludes to what a great system the Americans have and gave a number of examples about people in her own communities and so forth who are without health care.

I would just like to give an example. I can remember being on a dock in Florida. Beside me were an American doctor from Illinois and a fellow who had a heart attack while fishing. In cardiac arrest, lying on the dock, is this man of about 63 or 64 holding onto this doctor's hand and saying “Do not send me to a hospital. I cannot afford it. I will lose my house”. That is the kind of health care system that the Alliance would like us to have here in Canada.

The Alliance constantly talks about the provinces' responsibility for health care. Yes, under our constitution the provinces are responsible for the administration of health care, but the Alliance then turns around and says that it is inefficient and that it is the federal government's responsibility. The Alliance cannot have it both ways. If the provinces are responsible for the administration of health care, the provinces are responsible for the inefficient use of that money.

Finally, it is interesting that the hon. member talks about the province of Alberta and the fact that people have to pay premiums there. If they do not pay them they cannot get access. Her own leader was the treasurer of the province of Alberta. That is the kind of health care system the Alliance wants to bring to Canadians.

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

1:05 p.m.


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

I do not ever recall saying that I thought we should have an American health care system. I do not believe that and neither does the Canadian Alliance.

What we are concerned about is that when we send Canadians to the U.S. to have their treatment because we cannot provide it here, it costs, in the case of this one individual, $60,000 to the health care system of B.C. or Canada to pay for this service in the States. That $60,000 U.S. is not helping to support our Canadian health care system. It is helping the public health care system in the United States. That is what I object to. We are using our Canadian health care dollars every time we send one of our patients south of the border.

It is happening all the time. I have newspaper clippings here. The third patient in a week went to Seattle. This was a trauma patient who was turned away from three hospitals in the lower mainland and got shipped to Seattle to get trauma care after a motorcycle accident in which the guy's spleen was split wide open. These sorts of things should be treated immediately. He was sent to Seattle.

Guess what? Our Canadian dollars are supporting that medical system in Seattle. They are not in Canada supporting our health care system and that is the responsibility of this government because it took the money out of the provinces' hands and the provinces cannot deliver the care citizens require. It is the responsibility of the government. The government took $6 billion-and-something out of the health care system, no one else. That is its responsibility. It ought to assume that responsibility instead of trying to pass it on to the provinces.

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1:05 p.m.


Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, in my own community in Calgary West, some of the constituents I have door-knocked have talked about some of the practical, real, front line implications of these cuts the government has made to health care over the last while. I have seniors in my community who have of course contributed to the growth and the building of this country. They are the foundation upon which we stand and yet they are in lineups for hip replacement surgery. For these people, frankly, every single day they have left is precious. Health complications like these only make it that much more difficult.

I wonder if the hon. member might be able to comment, for example, on how the government cuts have resulted in people having to line up for hip replacement surgery.

I would also like the hon. member to comment, for example, on the case of my grandmother who received eye surgery. She went to a clinic called the Gimbel Eye Centre, in Calgary. The reason she went there, of course, was that the public system was not able to handle her for months. Instead of operating on both eyes at once, they would have done one eye at a time with regard to her developing cataracts. If that were the case, my grandmother would have been deprived of her sight for months. As well, the public procedures in terms of the facilities in Calgary were actually less effective than those of the centre.

I know the government was trying to do its best to make sure that my grandmother could not get access to those things. The government would force a woman in her eighties to go to the United States to get that type of surgery. I would like the hon. member to comment on that.

The member talked about $8 million in ads. I wonder whether the $8 million the government has put into ads to try to pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians would be better spent on doctors and nurses.

What about the 50:50 commitment there used to be with regard to health care in Alberta? Alberta was paying 91% of the health care bill in our province. I wonder what it is like in the member's native province of British Columbia.

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

1:10 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I think we need to clarify something for the listening audience. When I talk about a $6 billion cut I am talking about each year. Collectively over the five years it was budgeted for, we are talking in the neighbourhood of $30 billion. That is the enormity of the actual loss in funding that the provinces have had to operate under.

I would like to talk about private clinics versus publicly administered health care services. I do not imagine that there is a province in Canada that does not have some type of private clinic. Some clinics are for eyes, some for general practice, some for laboratory work, some are abortion clinics and so on. There are a lot of private clinics out there.

Here is the concern Canadians should have. Because of the failure of our public system to handle the demand for hip surgeries, cataract operations and whatnot, Canadians who can afford it are taking to the United States the dollars that could be supporting a Canadian health care system of private clinics, public services or whatever. That money is supporting American public health care.

I have good friends in Mount Vernon, south of the border, who run a public hospital, from birth to death. They have a public system for people who cannot afford insurance. People who come into their emergency room are looked after whether they can afford it or not. My friends are overjoyed with the Canadians using their services, because Canadians are subsidizing that public service they give to their own American people.

How does that make any sense? In Canada our people are waiting 15 or 18 months for hip surgery but if someone can afford to use an American clinic, he or she can have surgery next week.

That is the concern Canadians should have. Our dollars are supporting the American health care system, not the Canadian health care system. We have to stop that. We have to make our system work by a commitment, followed up on by the federal government, to put funding in place which the provinces can count on to be there, and that funding cannot be taken away unilaterally when it serves the purpose of the federal government.

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

1:10 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill C-45 is to implement certain of the Government of Canada's commitments in respect of health care and certain early childhood development commitments arising from the meeting of the first ministers held in Ottawa on September 11, 2000.

The bill provides funding for the acquisition and installation of medical equipment and funding for health information and communication technologies. The amendments to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act provide for increased funding over five years to the provinces and territories through the Canada health and social transfer for health, post-secondary education, social assistance and social services, including early childhood development.

Canadians have to ask themselves why the Liberals have to be so reluctantly dragged into reality. In view of the bill before us, the angle I am going to take for the moment is to put in perspective children's and human rights legislation, entitlements versus privileges and health care spending.

While the UN declaration of human rights recognizes that all beings are born free and have equal dignity, it gives minimal recognition to the unique nature of childhood. Most of its articles refer to everyone, but article 25(2) states:

Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

There is no other reference to childhood and age is notably absent from article 2 in the list of human characteristics for which discrimination is precluded.

The 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms also makes no reference to children per se, either their specific freedoms or any limitation of them, except to recognize age as among the human conditions for which discrimination is specifically precluded.

Neither of these declarations mentions any responsibilities that adults should or must have toward children when asserting or using their rights. Article 3 of the charter states that every citizen of Canada has the right to vote and to be a qualified member of a legislative assembly. Since children cannot be members of a legislative assembly it seems possible they were overlooked in the legislation. Their special vulnerabilities were certainly not acknowledged.

The 1991 Canadian ratification of the 1989 UN convention on the rights of the child was thus of key importance for Canadian children. The convention challenges the signatories to seek to attain benchmark behaviours toward the needs, rights and freedoms of children. As a co-signatory the Canadian government is obliged to report on its progress toward full implementation of the convention.

In 1999 the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children reported on compliance to convention articles in six selected areas. These areas are education, fundamental freedoms, treatment of abused and neglected children, refugee children, children with disabilities, and Canada's response to its international obligations with regard to children.

A number of articles were assessed for this compliance: article 4, which is international co-operation; articles 13, 14 and 15, which prescribe fundamental freedoms; article 19, which requires protection from maltreatment, abuse and neglect; article 23, which outlines the rights of children with disabilities; articles 28 and 29, which are directed to ensuring access to education; and article 22, which requires countries to offer protection and humanitarian assistance to refugee children.

Examination of these articles has shown seven areas where children's rights are being systematically violated in Canada. Action is required in 26 situations before compliance can be said to be achieved. This lack of compliance is clear. One example is the lack of both adequate national data on the extent of disability in childhood and resources for children with disabilities and their families.

In Canada the rights of children under the UN convention are not fully recognized in many other ways. Article 3 requires that the best interests of the child shall be of primary consideration. When much of the information is examined in the light of the best interests standard, it is clear that in many instances it has not been attained. The lack of environmental standards specifically directed to the protection of the fetus and growing child is an obvious example. Likewise, data on school age children and youth reflect the difficulties they encounter with regard to violence and sexuality.

Article 17, while recognizing the social and cultural value of the mass media, also directs states to develop appropriate guidelines for the protection of children from information and materials injurious to their well-being. A day spent watching television or surfing the Internet confirms that such injurious material is readily available to developing children, reflecting the extent to which adult rights and freedoms continue to be exercised without regard to the possible impact on the child.

Article 18, while recognizing the responsibilities of parents for the upbringing and development of the child, also asks states to ensure that children of working parents have the right to benefit from child care services and facilities for which they are eligible. Clearly we have performed indifferently in this regard. The Liberal record is very poor.

Article 24 recognizes the right of children to enjoy the highest attainable standards of health. Article 24(e) seeks to ensure that all segments of society, especially parents and children, are educated and supported in such basic aspects as health, hygiene, sanitation, prevention of accidents, nutrition and breast feeding. While the rates of injury have fallen over the years, the relatively high rates that persist among young children reflect the continuing attitude that the young child must adapt to the adult world, oftentimes a developmentally impossible task.

While the advantages of breast-feeding are today more widely known, rates of breast-feeding rapidly diminish in the weeks following birth through the lack of ongoing support for this natural process. Similarly the record of Canadian hospitals in adopting the World Health Organization 10 step breast-feeding support program can only be described as abysmal.

Article 26 recognizes the right of every child to benefit from social security. Article 27 calls on states to recognize the right of every child to a standard of living that is adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. It also states that while parents have primary responsibility to secure these standards, states will assist where necessary through material assistance and support programs, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.

With food banks that serve thousands of individuals, with extensive dependency on clothing exchanges and donation programs for those in need, with school nutrition programs essentially dependent on non-government agencies, and with the number of homeless children and families increasing in large cities, it is clear that Canadian governments have much work to do before compliance with these articles is achieved.

Under article 31 children are entitled to rest and leisure and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic and recreational leisure activities. Chapter 7 demonstrates that such activities are viewed not as universal entitlements in Canada but as privileges dependent upon adequacy of family income.

Sexual abuse of children and adolescents is all too common, especially for those who have disabilities or who live on the street. Article 34 charges states to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse and includes in this protection from inducements or coercion. Measures must be taken to protect them from prostitution, unlawful sexual practices and exploitative use in pornographic performances and materials.

The apparent acceptance of high rates of prostitution as a means of survival among the youth living on the street, the horrendous revelations regarding official suppression of evidence of sexual abuse of children in both residential schools and recreational and sports activities, and the 1999 decision on the possession of child pornography in British Columbia are all examples of our delinquency as a society toward children and of the consideration of adult freedoms over children's rights. It is a record of the Liberal government's failure.

Many of the articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child challenge the age-old attitude to children that regards them solely as parental property. This is a particular tension in North American society, reflecting attitudes that must be questioned in today's rapidly changing family demographics.

A comparison of the facts of the health of Canada's children with the provision for child health and well-being in the UN convention is a sobering but worthwhile exercise. It becomes clear that the rights and freedoms of children are generally dependent upon the goodwill of adults. When this fails, children often lack ready mechanisms to redress situations of concern. The old style Liberal government has failed the country.

While Canada has ratified the UN convention, it unfortunately is not part of domestic law, has yet to be used in Canadian courts and is not legally respected. These circumstances leave many children in society still lacking in many basic human rights. We have a government that has failed children and should be denounced.

The Canadian Alliance supports the increased funding of health care for Canadians, especially children, but it does not believe just putting more money into the issue will solve all the problems in our health care system, again, especially the situation for children.

While the funding is welcomed by our party we also oppose the Liberal government's opposition to attempts by the provinces to find new, different and more creative ways to deliver services within the Canada Health Act. Our party has greater respect for provincial jurisdiction of health care under the constitution and would work with the provinces to find more effective and efficient ways to deliver health care services.

The current Liberal government cannot continue to denounce the provinces for trying to establish less top heavy, bureaucratically inefficient, Soviet style health care delivery systems. It is a position of the Canadian Alliance that more money does not necessarily solve all the problems that arise from inefficient delivery models. Restricting how the provinces may use the money does nothing to help heal our health care system.

My community wants better governance than we have had. I will continue to be their voice for higher standards, a more comprehensive consideration for families and children, and an accountable, optimistic vision for the 21st century.

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

1:25 p.m.

Mississauga South Ontario


Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is suggesting that the government has done nothing for children and families. Although I was not prepared to speak on this, I wrote down a couple of items that perhaps the House would like to be refreshed on.

First, there is the increase in the Canada child tax benefit to the advantage of all families with children. Another $2.5 billion included in there means an aggregate of $9 billion annually goes to families with children.

On January 1, 2001, there will be an increase in maternity and parental leave benefits. Parents can choose to provide direct parental care to their children up to a full year. Families with children will benefit from the $1 billion for that program.

The child care expense deduction was increased in 1998 from $5,000 for a preschool child and $3,000 for a school age child up to $7,000 for a preschool child and $4,000 for a school age child.

There is also the deindexation of the Income Tax Act and the increase in the basic personal amount available to all Canadians. This puts more money into the pockets of Canadians so that they can choose to provide the kind of care their children need.

These are just some of the examples of the work the Government of Canada has done on behalf of all Canadians to invest in children, who are our future. I would ask the member to simply clarify his remarks with regard to the investment we have made in children.

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

1:25 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I tried to very quickly go through details to try to provide a different perspective on the general conversation around health care. I tried to say that concerning our international commitments, when we compare what we are doing with the commitments we have made under the UN convention of the child, Canada comes up very short.

What the member has talked about goes a bit in the right direction but is still very short of what could have been delivered in the current fiscal envelope. Under our solution 17 package the child care expense deduction is still there and the child tax benefit is still there, but where is the standard deduction for children that is not means tested, that as a society recognizes the value of children, and that provides freedom and opportunity for parents to decide how they will look after their own children?

I think I have painted quite a stark picture of how Canada boasts internationally and makes proud commitments but within these domestic borders falls very short.

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

1:25 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby spoke about early childhood development. That is one of the aspects of the bill. I suggest that there is no greater need for early childhood development than in the area of health care, where we see huge lines of very young children waiting for surgery. That is a travesty in terms of early childhood development.

I would like the hon. member to comment on the $8 million pre-election ad campaign the government is running these days. In my riding they could not get funding for an MRI diagnostic equipment machine. It costs about $1 million. The $8 million the government is wasting on its ad campaign would have bought eight MRI machines. To buy the machine they had to raise the money locally, within the constituency, because there was a shortage of funding as a result of the $30 billion the government cut from the health care system through its drastic cuts in transfers to the provinces over the past five years.

Would the member see that as being of detriment to the early childhood development he is talking about today?

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1:25 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has made the point. I do not need to repeat it. However I can add to what he has said.

Typically when governments are heading into elections government departments spend taxpayer money on soft advertising or image building for government services. People understand that as being quasi-political advertising.

I will give another example of that. We have these soft, warm, fuzzy commercials that talk about how we are glad that the family law system and child maintenance are there because children are first. Then there is the web page number and so on.

I look at the expense of producing those commercials and at how many thousands of dollars it costs every time those commercials are run, yet the government has done nothing to implement the joint Senate-House of Commons committee report on child custody and access and has done nothing to reform family law.

Instead of fancy commercials to make us feel warm and fuzzy about the federal government, that money should have been put into providing real services to children, to establish unified family courts across the country and all kinds of relief that could be directly provided to children and families.

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1:30 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, to pick up on the last point the member brought forward about the joint Senate-House of Commons committee on our children, the child custody issue and the recommendations that were given to the federal government by a joint all party committee of both the Senate and the House of Commons, I know the member spent a lot of time travelling the country and taking part in those committee hearings.

I had someone in my office again last week asking about the 45 recommendations. He was a divorced dad who was trying to get access to his children, trying to look after his children and trying to pay his child support.

I wonder if the the member could briefly describe what he thinks should have been done. Could he also give us some of the key recommendations of the child custody report that he spent so much time working on, and tell us what has happened to children at risk because of this government's lack of action on that front?

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1:30 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, many other countries have gone through the same agony of trying to update their divorce and separation laws. Certainly Canada is far behind developments in the western world on that issue.

The road map is there, but the response of the federal government is that it is just one more study in the ongoing debate. The federal government has absolutely no political commitment to take action on the review of family law.

No matter where we go, from province to province, there is an agenda out there in the public, that is, the family law system is broken and in a mess and it needs leadership from the federal government, not an excuse saying that it is a complicated problem of shared federal-provincial jurisdiction and we must discuss it further.

I want leadership from the justice minister and the government with regard to taking some action and bringing the provinces along. We can restore the balance and fairness in family law.

Where appropriate, we can make family law much more child focused. We can develop shared parenting plans instead of seeing children as property. We can work with the shared jurisdiction of the provinces to enhance conflict resolution, non-court processes and unified family courts across the country.

We can implement specifically the recommendations of the report “For the Sake of the Children”, including the specific principle of shared parenting and mutual parental responsibility.

We have to improve the process whereby grandparents have to go through an extra barrier if they feel they have to get legally involved with the situation.

We also have to get the courts to enforce their own orders.

We have to deal with the issue of false allegations in the whole family law context.

There is a tremendous agenda but unfortunately the Liberal government has a track record of no commitment to getting anything done in the family law area.

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1:30 p.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words on the bill before the House today, the bill that is putting more money back into health care. I want to state the obvious, which is that even with the additional money, we will still not be back to the levels we would have been at if the government had not touched the bill in the first place back in 1995 in the budget of the Minister of Finance.

When the history of this period is written, we will find that there has been no government that has taken as much money out of social programs, particularly health care, as the conservative government across the way. I say conservative because it is more conservative than the Conservative government was when it comes to restricting programs for people.

Now of course we have an election campaign that is about to be announced. The Prime Minister will drop the writ this weekend for November 27. One wonders what that campaign is all about.

I think this campaign is more about the Prime Minister's fear of the Minister of Finance than his fear of the opposition parties. He is afraid of the Minister of Finance and afraid of a rebellion on the backbenches of the Liberal Party.

Here is a government whose cabinet has recommended no election this fall. Here is a government whose caucus recommends no election this fall. Here is a government whose pollster has recommended no election this fall. Here is a government that knows the Canadian people do not want to waste $100 million to $200 million on an election campaign this fall. Here is a government that is only three years and a few months into its mandate.

Here is a government that does not want a campaign, but there is a Prime Minister who wants a campaign because he is afraid of the Minister of Finance and a rebellion in the backbenches of the Liberal Party. That is what politics has been reduced to.

I wanted to say those words in the debate today because the Prime Minister has been trying to fast track absolutely everything so that he can drop the writ come Sunday of this particular week.

Some of my friends in the Liberal Party—and there is one behind the curtain now—are quite embarrassed by the Prime Minister in terms of how he is trying to engineer an election for his own purposes because of his fear of the Minister of Finance.

The Prime Minister of course is bringing in the premier of Newfoundland to be a minister in the government. The premier of Newfoundland is not a member of parliament and, God help us, not even a member of the other place, the Senate.

The Prime Minister is setting a really dangerous precedent. He did this with the minister for trade and the minister for intergovernmental affairs a few years ago. He put them in the cabinet and called a byelection to get them elected. They were not even members of parliament but were given cabinet positions. The same thing has happened with the premier of Newfoundland. He has been put in cabinet and is not a member of parliament.

The last time I remember that happening before this Prime Minister was back in the days when, I believe, the leader of the today's Conservative Party brought in a fellow named René de Cotret and put him in the cabinet. He later ran in Ottawa Centre. I think it also happened when former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau appointed Pierre Juneau way back in the 1970s or early 1980s.

Here we have a Prime Minister in the modern age taking someone who is not elected. He has done it three times. He is setting a very dangerous precedent by putting three people in cabinet with no election, without going to the people. I do not think that should be done. If someone wants to serve in the cabinet, he or she should be elected to the Parliament of Canada. The Prime Minister has not done that.

We should have a very healthy debate about all these issues. They are all very important. I believe we should have set election dates. We should have elections every four years unless the government falls on a confidence vote. We should have a set parliamentary timetable with a set time for a throne speech, a budget and a beginning and an end to a session so that the Prime Minister cannot manipulate the timetable for his own partisan political differences.

Some of the people most frustrated with this are the Liberal backbenchers themselves. When they walk out of the House they tell me how frustrated they are with a Prime Minister who runs a one man show with the support of one or two ministers and a few bureaucrats in his office, including one of my friends who I see across the House here today.

The system has to change. We need a government and a parliament that listens to the people of Canada. If we had that we would not have had the big cutbacks in health care in 1995 to begin with.

There are Liberals hanging their heads in shame. Their government has cut absolutely billions of dollars out of health care. They were a bunch of nervous nellies who were afraid of a Leader of the Opposition at that time who was advocating massive cutbacks in health care and in social programs. The Liberals cut back more than any other government in the history of Canada. They should be very embarrassed by their government's position.

Someone across the way said that it would be a dinosaur who would advocate more money for health care. I do not know where some of those Liberals have been but they should talk to the ordinary people in this country. Canadians want an investment into programs for people. They want the social deficit eliminated. They want the opportunity to have health care regardless of their incomes. Those are the things Canadians want but the government is cutting back on them.

Health care came into this country through a courageous fight many years ago waged by people in Saskatchewan. It began back in the 1940s with hospitalization and in the 1960s with health care. It was people like Tommy Douglas who brought health care into the country.

If we look at the Canadian population we will find that there is no program as popular in Canada as health care, yet we have Liberals across the way laughing about it, saying that it is an old-fashioned thing, that it is out of touch, a thing of the dinosaurs. I wish they would get up in the House and say that publicly rather than just heckling.

Last week I was talking with a number of people in the inner city of Regina who were very concerned about losing health care. They were very concerned about the government's massive cutbacks in all social programs. They were concerned about the government putting all the money on paying down the national debt while forgetting to invest in people and paying off the social deficit.

Where are the great progressive Liberals, those great left wing Liberals who used to stand in the House and advocate programs for people, advocate the redistribution of income and wealth in the country, advocate a vision of a country that is based on sharing, co-operation and greater equality? Now they seem to be Alliance people in a hurry. There is not much difference between the two parties in terms of their tax programs, paying down the national debt and forgetting about the fact that we need money and programs for the people.

There will be a choice in the election that is coming up. There will be a couple of different visions in the election. There are two parties, the Alliance and the Liberals, that share a very similar vision as to how they want to organize the economy. There is an argument as to whether or not they should put more money into the debt and deficit or put more money into helping wealthy people pay down their taxes.

The Alliance Party has a 17% flat tax that it is advocating in its second term, a flat tax that would be a big cutback for millionaires in the country. How much different is the Minister of Finance? A lot of his tax breaks have put a lot more money into the pockets of wealthy people in Canada as well.

I want to point out to the Canadian people that the Liberal Party across the way will leave a legacy of being the most conservative government in our post-war history: more conservative than the government of John Diefenbaker, more conservative than the government of Brian Mulroney and certainly more conservative than the governments of Pierre Trudeau and Lester Pearson.

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1:40 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario


Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if Canadians watching the debate today would be shocked to know that we are debating a bill that would put $23.5 billion back into the Canada health and social transfer to the provinces for health care and early childhood development.

If this bill passed, money in the medical equipment fund, a $1 billion fund, could flow tomorrow. We have members standing in the House denying Canadians the right to that medical equipment.

Let me give an example. In regard to the province of Saskatchewan, $33 million could be available tomorrow if its member would support this bill and get it through the House.

There is a member opposite from British Columbia, where $132 million could flow in the next few days for medical equipment such as MRIs and CAT scanners.

I have lost touch with the cost of an MRI or a CAT scanner, but if we are looking at $1 million or $2 million, Saskatchewan could have 30 of them in the next few days, and we sit here and debate this.

The bill would enact $23.5 billion in addition to $14 billion in the last two budgets that would be transferred to the provinces through the CHST for health care, post-secondary education and social programs.

How can the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle deny the residents and citizens of Saskatchewan access to this $33 million medical equipment fund?

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1:40 p.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, did I hear the parliamentary secretary correctly? Did he say that in the next few days we will have 30 more MRIs in the province of Saskatchewan? Is it a commitment on behalf of the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance that in the next few days there will be 30 more MRIs? If that is the commitment, would he please get up and tell us that is a commitment by the Government of Canada. If it is not a commitment, then why does he say it?

He is complaining that I spoke for about eight or nine minutes in the House of Commons. The government could have put money into the health care system in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000. However, the government cut back its funding of the health care system by billions and billions of dollars making people suffer and making sure that hospitals closed from coast to coast in this country. Now he complains that we speak for 10 or 20 minutes in the House of Commons. Where is his common sense?

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1:45 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find it quite interesting to listen to the parliamentary secretary when he said that if this bill does not pass today at all stages hell will freeze over and the end is upon us.

The parliamentary secretary knows full well that in discussions with the government House leader, we were told absolutely, point blank, that this bill must be passed by March 31 and I certainly hope it will be. It would be under a Canadian Alliance government. We were told that the funding is not in jeopardy and that the provinces will not be disallowed the right to buy MRIs or other equipment.

The government knows full well that the deal is going ahead. All the parties in the House of Commons are going to support it. We will support it. We want to make sure it goes ahead. The provinces can carry on in full confidence that the $1 billion in the technology fund which he talked about will be theirs. The agreement spells that out. Everyone in the House knows that is a fact.

This is the way the Liberals do business. They say either we agree with them and agree with them on their terms or we will be punished.

I would like the hon. member from Saskatchewan to describe for us what he thinks about being held to ransom by the Liberals. They are saying that we are not even allowed to talk about this issue because if we do it we are somehow anti-health care. What does he think of the Liberal tactics here this afternoon?

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1:45 p.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, those are typical Liberal tactics. That is why I speak so much about reforming the parliamentary electoral system so people can have input, so there is proper debate and proper participation in how we spend the money that belongs to the taxpayers of the country.

When we debate an issue of importance like health care for a few minutes, they get upset because we are going to stall things. That is the same party, by the way, that has promised a home care system and pharmacare in this country. Where is pharmacare? Where is home care? We should be raising those questions in the debate today.

I remember my grandfather telling me years ago that the Liberal Party promised medicare in 1919 and fought for it. It did not come in until the 1960s. It only came in after it was started in Saskatchewan under the leadership of the CCF and Tommy Douglas. Can we believe the Liberal Party? That is its track record.

We need serious parliamentary reform in this country so we can hold ministers accountable, so we can have proper debates and so the people of the country can have their voices heard. If we do not do that we will find ourselves sleepwalking right into a crisis in democracy. We are seeing that today with the snap election call coming on Sunday by the Prime Minister. We are seeing it in the way he brought Brian Tobin, the premier of Newfoundland, into cabinet without a seat in the House of Commons. That is really shameful and cynical political behaviour on the behalf of the Prime Minister of Canada.

We know it is a fact that the Liberal Party does not want this election campaign. The cabinet has been advising against it. The caucus has advised against it. The Liberals' own pollsters advised against it and yet the Prime Minister is trigger happy and wants to call an election campaign. Is that democracy? Is that the kind of system where we have checks and balances, where ordinary people's voices can be heard, where people are empowered and where we have a democratic system? Should one man be able to call an election whenever he wants regardless of what is happening in the country and regardless of what bills are before the House of Commons? My answer to that is no.

We have a country where the Prime Minister appoints the head of the army, the head of the police, the head of the supreme court, all the justices, all the senators, all the cabinet ministers and makes every major appointment in government without any proper checks and balances by the House of Commons. This is something that should be changed. We need a political system that is democratic and that empowers people.

Finally, we need a change in the electoral system to bring in a measure for proportionate representation where everybody's vote counts and votes are not wasted. That is the kind of agenda we need in this country.

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1:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague from the NDP to refer to some of the remarks that were just made by the Liberal member a few moments ago. Let us be honest. The only reason we are debating this health care accord is not because of the federal government, it is because of the leadership that the provinces provided. They pretty much dragged the federal government kicking and screaming to the table to negotiate this particular accord.

Does the hon. member agree with the Progressive Conservative sentiment that this bill should be reclassified as the post-dated cheque bill, given the fact that none of the dollars that were initially cut by the federal government for health care will be restored immediately? It will be done partially next April, but the dollars that were cut will not hit the 1994 levels for over three years. Would the hon. member support that this was a provincially led initiative that the government had to accept because it was a take it or leave it deal?

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1:50 p.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I think it absolutely is. Most of the money will start flowing well after the bill has passed through the House. The money will go out next year and the year after and the year after that but not in the immediate future.

Once again, and I think the parliamentary secretary knows this, it was the leadership that came from the provinces, particularly from premiers like Premier Doer of Manitoba, the chair of the premiers this year, and Premier Romanow of Saskatchewan, who started to put this on the agenda a number of years ago. This forced the federal government to act. The federal government was a very hesitant player in terms of putting more money back into health care.

This is the most important issue in the country. The money is there. It is about time we reinvested more money into health care.

I would like to enquire via questions and comments, where is the promise on pharmacare? Where is the delivery and promise on home care? I see Liberals hanging their heads and not getting up to respond to that.

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1:50 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to enter into this debate on what I think Canadians think is a very important bill. It is a bill that the Canadian Alliance is pleased to support. We do not think it is perfect but we are supportive of it in the sense that it restores some of the gutting of the Canada health funding, which took place under this Liberal government, and restores, at least in part over the next few years, what the government took away.

It reminds me of a famous political story in British Columbia. B.C. had a premier who people said would put rocks in shoes for the entire time he was in office. However, just before the election he would pull out two or three rocks expecting that everyone would say thanks for the relief and that his party would be re-elected. That premier is long gone so we will not talk about him. This reminds me of what the Liberals are up to today.

When it comes to health care, it is interesting and instructive to go right to the platform that the Canadian Alliance Party will be campaigning on in the weeks ahead. It is pretty straightforward and in a capsulated form on the right hand side of a document that can be found at www.Canadian

First, our plan for the health care system is to maintain Canada's medicare vision and the five principles of the Canada Health Act.

Second is to replace federal-provincial confrontation with a more co-operative approach. We should not have to drag the federal government to these meetings. It should be co-operative. Let us try to work together on health care.

Third is to maintain funding commitments to health care with a built in funding escalator to allow for increases in population, changes in demographics and so on. That will be built into our plan.

Improved funding will increase access to quality care for the family. That is a given and everyone knows that. We will also guarantee in law long term funding to the provinces so we can rebuild our health care system with confidence. That is the big thing.

Our plan also says that right now the Canada Health Act does not impose any obligation on Ottawa to maintain funding levels. The health accord that we are talking about today does not obligate the federal government in the long term to give strategic long term funding in health care. It is a short term agreement and is good as far as it goes. However, it does not commit the federal government in legislation that the provinces can count on the funding for the future. Our plan goes on to say that the Canadian Alliance thinks it is wrong that the health act does not include that right now. We will amend the Canada Health Act to ensure that the federal government cannot unilaterally cut health care funding again. We propose to entrench five year funding agreements, negotiated with the provinces, in the Canada Health Act.

The reason this is important is that the federal government, and we saw some of it here this afternoon already, will go into this next campaign and it will say all kinds of things, particularly about our party, I believe. They brought in Mr. Tobin from Atlantic Canada. They needed a rat pack organizer and brought in the king of the rat pack to do it. He will be the king of the drive-by smear. Whatever is said about the Canadian Alliance, his job will be to paint an evil picture of it.

It reminds me a little bit of something our leader said in a speech the other day when we launched our platform campaign in Kitchener. Close to 2,000 people came out to hear this. He talked a little bit about the health care funding. I remember it well and it is something to remember for this coming campaign. He had some advice for the Liberals, which was to try telling the truth all the time.

It is so innovative for the Liberals that they might actually find it is something worthwhile. Instead of saying, for instance, that the Canadian Alliance will do away with the Canada Health Act, maybe the Liberals would like to pick up the document, turn to page 15 and say that we will maintain Canada's medicare vision in the five principles of the Canada Health Act.

When the Liberals speak the truth, it might even feel good to them. Instead of smearing other people, instead of spreading lies, spreading innuendo, spreading nonsense that they know is not true, what if they actually got up and spoke the truth?

There is an old saying that the truth shall set us free. What it means is that it is a very freeing thing to tell the truth, even about someone we may oppose politically. Instead of attacking someone individually, instead of going childishly off into the distance, painting on campaign signs and literature and thinking it is funny, why do they not try just telling the truth that the Alliance will maintain the Canada Health Act, will enshrine five year funding agreements with the provinces, will give Canadians back what the Liberal government took away and will do it in spades?

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1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I know the House will look forward to the continuation of the hon. member's remarks later today. I should advise him and the House that there are 15 minutes remaining for him to complete his speech.