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House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

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1:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

We did not. Madam Speaker, the Liberals never listen to what the hon. member has to say. Quite frankly he could have taught them something about the health care system if they had listened.

My question is a serious one. The member talked about the immediate implementation of transfers to health care. I do not disagree with that. We keep hearing in the House all the time that it is not a matter of money. I think the hon. member spoke very eloquently to the fact that there is money and it is part of the component of health care.

We heard recently that in the province of Quebec the finance minister, Mr. Landry, had a reserve of some $800 million which was passed on to that province. As I understand from the last budget it will be put back into health care.

I would like to ask the member a legitimate question. When $800 million are spread over a period of time, all those dollars cannot be spent in one day. There has to be a somewhat reasonable expenditure of those funds. I would like the member to answer as to where and how those dollars will be put back into the system.

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1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank our colleague from the Progressive Conservative Party, who forms a committee of the whole with his two colleagues in the House, for asking me this vitally important question.

Our colleague knows that Bernard Landry is a man of substance, a man capable of thinking ahead. The $841 million to which our colleague refers is an amount placed in trust for future needs. Had it been used immediately in the government's accounting, part of it would have had to be allocated to servicing the debt. Like his colleague the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance wanted a massive allocation of resources for health, rather than paying off the debt now, since we know very well that, with the Canadian dollar as weak as it is, the debt is more or less paying itself off automatically. That is the reasoning behind the handling of that $841 million.

I can assure my colleague, and all members of this House, that the Parti Quebecois government is going to invest all resources available to it into health. As I have stated, health costs rise in the order of 4% annually. We are familiar with how that 4% breaks down. I have the figures here. Out of a total pressure of 4%, population growth accounts for 1.3% of that, technological change, 1% and inflation, 2%. This is why there is a 4% annual increase in the costs of the health system.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Murray Calder Liberal Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, the federal government has been putting money into health care. In fact we put up $1.3 billion in emergency funds for Ontario to draw from. At that point in time Ontario spent about $750 million and it still has $556 million in a savings account that it has not spent.

My question is for the hon. member across the way. I know Quebec did the same. It has $700 million sitting in a savings account in the TD bank. Could the hon. member tell me what rate of interest it is getting for that money?

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1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I am rather surprised at the question put by my colleague, whose only contact with me to date has been friendly teasing from the other side of the House. I think he looks a bit like the man from Glad, and I say this in all friendliness.

As far as the rest is concerned, I think that, had my colleague listened, he would have understood my response to his question. So, not wanting to improperly use the time of the House, I would refer him to Hansard , because I have already answered that question.

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1:30 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, following that same line, I know that the province of Quebec and the province of Ontario should be congratulated for their payments toward the hepatitis C victims. The question here is how much is being saved in interest by making non-payments.

I also know that the federal government has paid the lawyers for the hepatitis C victims. Perhaps the hon. member could tell me if he has any idea how much money in interest the federal government is making by not paying the hepatitis C victims.

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1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, that is an excellent question. I wish to thank the hon. member for such a perceptive question.

Briefly, this government, with a cowardice rarely seen, with a complete lack of sensitivity, which caused an outcry right across Canada, decided not to compensate hepatitis C victims who were infected before 1986 or after 1990.

Anyone who reads the Krever report—I have read it from cover to cover—can see perfectly well that the government has a responsibility. What is the first recommendation of the Krever report? What does this report say? I do not want parliamentarians across the way to forget this, because it is a question of compassion, of helping others. I am ashamed, it makes me sick to think that this government, with a surplus of $95 billion, was not able to compensate hepatitis C victims.

What did the Minister of Industry do for these people? What action was taken by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, normally so vociferous, so outspoken in the House? These people hid behind a mask of insensitivity—

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1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

These members let them down, when the first recommendation of the Krever report was for no fault compensation regardless of date of onset.

We will never forget this. This government carries the stain of having let down hepatitis C victims, and it can never be told too often in the House how badly it behaved in this affair.

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1:30 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to participate on behalf of my colleagues in the NDP caucus in this very important debate.

The first thing I want to say, given the time restrictions on this opportunity, is “so little time and so much to say”. There is no doubt, I am sure, in the minds of anyone in this Chamber that health care is the number one priority of Canadians, yet this place has spent so little time addressing this very urgent priority.

Therefore, I want to commend the Conservatives for bringing forward this motion because it allows us an opportunity to raise the concerns of Canadians and to hold our government to account for its dereliction of duty and negligence in the face of Canadians' priorities and needs.

We may have some disagreement with the wording of the motion, in that it may not go far enough. We would have liked to have seen a more explicit reference to our public health care system. However, we will support the motion because it does in fact take us one step closer to doing what this government ought to have done in the first place, and that is to ensure that health care today is placed on a sure footing with guaranteed, sustained, predictable funding, something which this government has denied the people of Canada.

I would be remiss if I did not single out the work of my colleague, the health critic for the Conservatives, who brought forward this motion and who has played a very active role in pursuing issues of concern to Canadians on this whole issue of public health care and health care in general. Therefore, I want to commend him for his contribution in the House today.

Having said that—and I know he will not like it when I say this, nor will any Conservative—I welcome the Conservatives back into the debate on health care. I do not have to draw too much attention to that fact because the media has been careful at scrutinizing the work of this place over the last three weeks, mentioning that New Democrats have stood alone in this place day in and day out raising the number one concern of Canadians.

We noted with chagrin and disappointment that the Conservatives, the Reform and the Bloc chose not to launch an immediate attack on the government the day after the budget was released in the Chamber, when it became apparent that the government was prepared to do no more than spend a paltry sum of taxpayers' money on their number one priority: universally accessible, publicly administered health care.

It gets a little lonely down at this end of the House. It gets a little lonely when we are raising the number one issue of Canadians and there is no one here with us.

I regret that we have not had more of a collective approach on this number one issue over the last three weeks, but it is never too late. I am therefore very grateful to the Conservatives today for bringing this motion forward because it is a very timely motion at a most critical juncture in the history of the country.

What surprises me more than anything is to hear the Liberals so clearly and vehemently opposing this motion. I cannot for the life of me understand why they would oppose a motion which is basically in line with the rhetoric and promises of the government. I cannot understand it, except that we are very used in this place to the political grandstanding of Liberals when it comes to the number one priority of Canadians.

I regret that the Liberals are playing politics with such an important issue and I regret that they cannot join with us today, all parties, and support a motion that at least gets us partway toward achieving an objective that is important to Canadians right across the country.

The other thing that is very surprising today is to listen to the Reform Party. I think this is the first defence I have heard of Bill 11, outside Ralph Klein and his cronies in Alberta. This is the very first actual public demonstration of support for that bill, which is the single most destructive initiative to medicare in the history of the country.

We know from the news that every group in Alberta, and important organizations right across the country, have rallied together to try to stop Bill 11, and for very good reason. We know that the Alberta Medical Association is opposed to Bill 11. We know that the United Nurses of Alberta is opposed to Bill 11. We know that the Canadian Association of Nurses is opposed to Bill 11. We know that the Catholic bishops in Alberta, and undoubtedly right across the country, are opposed to Bill 11. We know that the Friends of Medicare, representing many individuals, senior citizens and organizations right across the province of Alberta, are opposed to Bill 11. We even know that the executives of the oil companies in Alberta are opposed to Bill 11, maybe for different reasons than the Friends of Medicare; however, what is clear is that there has not been a single voice of support for Ralph Klein and his bill that will privatize health care and lead us down the path of two tier Americanized health care in the country.

I guess that helps to clear up the picture today, because we have been treated over the past number of years to subtle references by Reform members of the need to go forward by going backward, to go forward by allowing private sector companies to invade our health care sector and to establish a parallel, private health care system.

It helps Canadians to know, when it comes to this number one issue, where they can turn for help and support, and what kind of danger the country would be in if the Reform Party was allowed to go one step forward with its destructive, harmful agenda.

Let us be absolutely clear where Reform stands, especially now as we see the leadership race for the upcoming party, the Canadian alliance, develop in the House and hear the Reform Party critic for foreign affairs contemplate entering the race as he bases his platform on the pursuit of a parallel, private health care system. Let Canadians know what they are dealing with. That does not even touch on the sentiments that we hear coming out of the mouth of Stockwell Day.

I do not think it matters who is the candidate or who is the next leader of the Reform Party or the Canadian alliance because they all say one thing and one thing only: “Let us scrap our universally accessible, publicly administered health care system”. Whether they say it or not, it really is the case. They say “Let us move toward an Americanized two tier health care system”. If people have the money they can access quality health care services. If they do not, then they take a number and stand in line.

Canadians reject that approach from coast to coast to coast. Canadians say with one voice that we will and we can pursue, manage and maintain a universal health care system. Medicare has held us in good stead in the past and it is our model for the future. It is something which we must take forward into the new millennium.

The motion before us is about the kind of financial stability which our health care system needs. Although it was not raised in Oral Question Period by the Conservatives, it flows from the budget of February 29 when the Minister of Finance stood in the House and said that the great contribution in the face of this crisis in health care in Canada would be $2.5 billion divided between health and education, allocated on a one time basis, and spread over four years.

As we have said earlier, that is a paltry sum. Peanuts. An insignificant amount. Hardly an expenditure commensurate to the task at hand. As our leader has said time and time again, that announcement represented a two cent commitment for every dollar the government proposed in tax cuts. That is the commitment of the government and that is what all of us in the House are talking about today and raising our voices around.

We must have a commitment on the part of the federal government to restore the cash it cut out of the system in 1995 when it brought in the most regressive social policy in the history of the country, throwing out block funding for health care and education in CAP and putting in place the CHST, the Canada Health and Social Transfer. At that time it took $6 billion out of health care, education and social assistance, the biggest bite out of social programs in the history of the country, and it has only partially repaid what it cut.

We have heard what the Liberals do in the face of this. They know the reality, but they pretend something else. To use the Prime Minister's own words, the Liberals' words “do not meet reality”. There is no basis in fact for what the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health are saying when they claim that the federal government's share of health care funding in the country is up to—what did they say today? Thirty-three cents on the dollar? That is a total distortion of reality. That is totally a misuse of the expenditures allocated for health care and it is not a service to the task at hand.

We know what the government is doing. It is throwing in tax points, the cash that is left and equalization payments. It is adding it all up and saying “Look what we are doing”. The Liberals themselves have acknowledged in the past that it is only the cash that determines public spending. It is only the cash that counts. It is the cash that holds this country together. It is the cash that ensures we have a national health care system.

It is totally bogus for the government to suggest that tax points should now suddenly be considered in this formula. The Prime Minister himself acknowledged this on March 1, 1995 when he spoke on a CBC radio program. He said:

A lot of the money has been transferred over years as tax points. When you transfer tax points, you lose all leverage after that because you don't collect the money; they collect the money. You say okay, I will not collect this money, you collect. But after 10 years people don't say that it's tax points coming from the federal government. They just say this is our own tax. And when the tax points increase, the value of the tax points increase over years the cash goes down, and eventually there will be no cash that will be sent.

Canada was put in that situation because of Conservative policy leading up to the election of the Liberals as the government in 1993. Maybe this is why the Conservatives have been a little slow off the mark and why they are a little reluctant to be more explicit about salvaging a public health care system in their motion.

I do not need to remind the Conservatives what happened under Brian Mulroney. It is very important that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past so we can acknowledge where we went wrong, correct the errors and move forward in a way that makes sense for the benefit of all Canadians.

I do not need to remind the Conservatives that under the Mulroney government the finance legislation was changed three times in order for the government of the day to diminish cash payments to health care. I will quote from a report that I delivered to the finance committee in 1991. I was serving as an MLA in Manitoba and was acting as the health critic for the NDP in that province. I quote from a report dated November 25, 1991 in response, ironically and interestingly, to a bill numbered C-20. I started by acknowledging where it started in 1982. I said:

It started under the Liberals in 1982, when the then federal government removed the guarantees supporting cash payments, lumping the cash and tax point revenues together to determine the per capita entitlement. The present government—

I was referring to the Mulroney government.

—has used this 1982 change to gut the cash payment entirely, which it has done in a series of steps over the past six years. In 1985 the federal Conservatives declared without consultation that the cash entitlement under the EPF act would be restricted to economic growth minus two percentage points. Soon after, the two percentage points became three percentage points. In 1990 a complete freeze in EPF payments through the 1992 fiscal year was imposed, and now Bill C-20 will extend that freeze through the 1995 fiscal year.

The impact of these steps are well documented. Federal cash payments for health care will end, and much more rapidly than expected, if Bill C-20 is allowed to pass. Bill C-20 is in fact an admission of the long term negative impact of the federal funding formula changes and an implicit recognition of the importance of leverage that comes with the withholding of cash payments.

That is the crux of the matter: the importance of cash payments as leverage in terms of holding provincial governments to account and responsible for adherence to the principles of the Canada Health Act, the five principles of medicare.

The Liberals did learn a little from the mistakes of the Conservatives by ensuring in 1995 there was at least a cash floor. But the problem is the cash floor is down at about $12 billion. With the money added by the government in last year's budget and this year's budget, we are up to a cash floor of approximately $15 billion. That is still more than $3 billion short of what the cash transfers were for health care in 1995.

No matter what the government wants to say about 25 cents on the dollar or 33 cents on the dollar, the fact of the matter is it is 15 cents on the dollar if we really look hard. That is precisely what is wrong with the approach the government has taken. That is why we have to work together to get back to the 50:50 partnership that was behind medicare in the first place.

The abdication of responsibility by the federal government and its failure to ensure stable predictable funding for provincial health care systems have opened the door to the likes of Ralph Klein and Ontario's Mike Harris who are bent on privatization and who are determined to move forward. As soon as the federal budget was released, they hauled out the sign which said “go private”. What is inexcusable on the part of the government is that it has created the Klein monster. It is going to create the Harris monster by not acting now, by not ensuring stable funding and by acting in complicity with the likes of Klein and Harris.

Let me specifically refer to something the Liberals do not want to talk about in the House. Let us look at the 12 point agreement that was signed by the government in 1996. We all heard the former Minister of Health, the member from North Bay, say that she was being pressured into signing the agreement between Alberta and the federal government which further advanced the agenda on private clinics and she refused. She had the courage to stand up against the likes of Albertan politicians who were determined to open up our public system to private forces.

I had hoped that we would have the same kind of courage from the present Minister of Health. What did we get instead? Nothing. He is doing nothing but making broad rhetorical statements and getting into hot water with Ralph Klein who is throwing insults his way. He is not standing up with anything concrete. If he is going to be insulted for doing nothing, he might as well be insulted for doing something.

We are trying to get the Minister of Health to take a position on Bill 11. Why stall? Why neglect? As I said earlier, why do Canadians have to go to bed one more night without knowing whether their government will take action on Bill 11, and without knowing whether their treasured public health care system will be there for them and their families in the future? Why will the government not act today? The crisis is upon us. We are at a watershed in the history of this country. Let us go forward.

As I have said to the Minister of Health, act today, do not delay and stand up for our most treasured national medicare program that has served this country so well.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I must inform the House that I have received notice from the hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford. He is unable to move his motion during private members' hour on Monday, March 20, 2000.

It has not been possible to arrange an exchange of positions in the order of precedence. Accordingly, I am directing the table officers to drop the item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence.

Private members' hour will thus be cancelled and government orders will begin at 11.00 a.m.

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

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March 17th, 2000 / 1:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Madam Speaker, I was delighted to hear the compliments that the member threw at me. I have always known that she has been a big fan of mine. Now that it is on the public record, I feel that much better about it.

On a more serious note, the member in all fairness pretty well covered the waterfront. I am sure when the member for Saint John is on her feet on debate she can take her to task on some of the points we may disagree on.

One of the points which I made earlier this morning was the lack of negotiation with the provinces and the name calling and finger pointing. We have had seven years of it. There is no point in continuing along that line but I cannot see anything positive coming from the health minister and in particular the Prime Minister in terms of coming to grips with the question of fixing our health care system. All they want to do is talk and argue.

As I pointed out this morning, Madam Speaker, when I point to you and lay blame, I have three fingers pointing back at myself. But is that not the case with the health minister? He can lay blame in all the provinces but he never takes responsibility himself.

I would like the member to comment on that. In other words, seven years of inactivity on this file has left us in a very precarious position in terms of where our health care system is going.

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1:55 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I could not agree more with the Conservative health critic. I want to add to his comments by suggesting that the Minister of Health has done a great disservice to our ability as a country to go forward in a co-operative, collective, community based approach to solve the problems of our health care system and ensure we can preserve medicare.

I believe that the government, not only the health minister but the finance minister and the Prime Minister stood up in the House and tried to suggest that it was not federal cutbacks at all, that the federal government had played a very significant role in federal funding. By denying the cuts that it had enacted on this country, by pretending that it had suddenly increased tax points and taken up the slack, by diffusing the issue, the government has added to the conflict that exists at the federal-provincial table today and now we are at a very difficult impasse.

There are three steps that have to be taken before we can get beyond this. First of all we have to have a commitment from the federal government to restore the cash that it cut out of the system in 1995 to fully restore the federal cash transfer payments for health care. That is the only way we can stabilize the system and ensure that we have the co-operation of provincial and territorial governments at the federal-provincial table.

Second, the minister has to then pursue the enhancement of medicare, which involves a national home care plan and a national drug plan as promised in the government's 1997 and I believe 1993 election red books. He has to pursue those national projects. They are extremely necessary from the point of view of provincial governments and they ensure we can go forward based on a public model.

If we are truly serious about going forward, the Minister of Health has to take a firm position with Alberta. By showing leadership, firmness and clarity, he will win more support from Ralph Klein and Alberta's minister of health than is the case presently, and will provide the basis upon which to go forward. This vagueness, this hesitation, this lack of willingness to actually be precise but yet to invade our thoughts and our minds with pure rhetoric and generalizations does nothing to take us forward. That was my third point.

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1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with some interest to the member opposite pat herself on the back with respect to what she had done presumably in 1991. I was certainly interested in that.

The one thing we know about the NDP members is that they are not very good with numbers. I think we witnessed that again here today with the member's speech. NDP members have an inability to really come to grips with such a very important issue and the kinds of things that are necessary in terms of our health care.

For members of the NDP the sky is always falling. It is too bad that they get into those flights of rhetoric and try to always undermine the very system that we in Canada take for granted.

I do agree with the hon. member when she talks about the Reform Party and what it stands for. Reform members stand for a two tier Americanized system, and that is something Canadians reject out of hand.

I was somewhat disconcerted when I read in the Hansard of March 2, 2000 that the hon. member for Shefford who is a Progressive Conservative also seemed to indicate that privatization was something that should take place in Canada. I was astounded because I would have thought better of the Progressive Conservatives. This after all is their motion today.

I also noted that the member for Chicoutimi was quoted recently as saying that perhaps the Conservatives and the Reformers should get together in some sort of holy or unholy alliance. I think his words were: “Let's find common ground”. If they are to find common ground on that kind of issue presumably they will on health care as well.

I would caution Progressive Conservatives not to go down that path. They should be careful when it comes to these kinds of things. We saw them flip on the clarity bill. Heaven help us if they flip on something as important as health care.

I listened to the speech of the member opposite. Why would her leader under the platform of the NDP in the last election commit $79 billion to new spending over five years, only 10% of which or $7 billion was committed to health care? It does not add up. NDP members talk about the importance of health care yet their commitment was absolutely outrageous in terms of what they were proposing. It is unbelievable.

Let me conclude by giving the record. What Bob Rae and the NDP and Glen Clark and the NDP in B.C. did was outrageous. My question to the member is simple. Why does she not work with all of us, our provincial and territorial partners and the health minister, to try to find a solution instead of all the nonsense they keep raising and all the rhetoric they keep stirring up, all this sky is falling kind of nonsense? Why will she not commit the NDP to working with us to get a good solution for the all important health care issue in Canada?

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2 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, we have been trying to do precisely that and have been getting nowhere. I would like the member who just spoke to remember that, if he is listening.

I would like members opposite to know that we have tried to co-operate by sharing the legal opinions which show that Bill 11 is in violation of the Canada Health Act. Even after hearing the Minister of Health say that he would love us to share them with the House, his House leader said that they did not want those documents tabled. They did not want anything to do with them. What do they have to hide and what are they so worried about?

The member accuses me of poor math. I can take that. He can insult me all he wants personally, but I want to know from him whether he disputes the facts we have presented to the House. Is he prepared to say that the premiers of every province in the country are not telling the truth? Is he prepared to say that every health care organization in the country is not telling the truth?

If that does not mean anything to the member, if it is not cuts in health care spending, if it is not lack of leadership by the federal government, how does he account for the present situation of overcrowded emergency rooms, growing waiting lists for long term care, inadequate home support and overloaded health care workers? The list goes on and on.

If the member does not want to deal with the financial reality it has imposed upon us and all Canadians because of his government's policies then perhaps he can account for the critical situation in our health care system, not the—

SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am afraid the member's time has expired.

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2 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, first and foremost I thank the hon. member from Charlotte county who brought forward the motion. It tugs at my heart to look today at the empty seats on both sides of the House.

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2 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The hon. member is very well aware that we do not comment on the presence or absence of members in the House.

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2 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, this is a very serious issue that we have to deal with.

We have to deal with why so many people are lined up in our hospitals, waiting for operations and having a difficult time. I am so glad to see that the Minister of Industry is here today because I say if there is stress—

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2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point or order. You have already warned the member opposite. She is a longstanding parliamentarian in the House. She should know not to comment on the absence or presence of people in the House. By the way, I would ask her where she was the night of the clarity—

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2:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The hon. member has a legitimate point. We do not comment on the presence or absence of members in the House.

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2:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, when we look at the health care system we have to wonder what has happened and why so many ill people are on waiting lists today. When I had 4,000 men working at our shipyard back home, they were feeding their families and educating their children. They were happy. They added to the economy. Now I have them coming to my office, not just the men but their wives and their children as well. The stress they are under is affecting their health. They cannot work, go to college, elementary or preschool if they do not have their health.

It has to be a number one priority for the government of the day. I am really concerned about what is happening. When I look back at the cuts that have taken place since 1993, Mr. Hugh Scully, president of the Canadian Medical Association, stated that the increase did not take into account an increase in population, an older population, advances in technology or advances in knowledge.

I am disappointed that the government would make the cuts it has to health care. Back home in New Brunswick when the Liberal Party came into power and Frank McKenna was the premier, does the House know what he did to husbands and wives who were seniors? He brought in a policy that said if they had to go into a nursing home it did not matter where it was, that they had to take the first bed within 100 miles of where they lived. We had husbands in one home, 100 miles away from their families, and their wives 100 miles in another direction.

I had their children and relatives coming to me. They could not even go to visit their fathers or their uncles or their aunts. When Bernard Lord took over, the first thing he did was drop that policy. He said that the policy was inhumane and that if they had to go to a nursing home they would be together.

What has happened with our health care system is totally inhumane. I cannot believe it. My hon. colleague, our health critic, was the first person to bring before the House the hepatitis C issue. No one here mentions that, but he never gave up on it. Have they received their cheques? No. The only reason we were able to get any attention whatsoever was that the opposition side came together to fight for those people, but they still have not received a cheque.

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2:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Only the government's lawyers have been paid.

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2:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Yes, only the government's lawyers have been paid. What has happened to human society? What has happened to us? We are no longer there. I am really disappointed.

I happened to get a hold of the priority resolutions that the Liberal Party will consider at its convention today. I am sure, Madam Speaker, that you would not agree with the No. 2 priority resolution, the legalization of marijuana. Guess where the health care issue is on the list. It is not quite at the bottom but it is No. 9. Homelessness is No. 29, next to last.

The priorities of this present government have legalization of marijuana as second on the list and health care as ninth. What has happened?

SupplyGovernment Orders

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

What are they smoking?