Madam Speaker, I ask that the clock be reset. From disruption to disruption, one is bound to get thrown off one's trend of thoughts.
As I was describing how difficult the situation can be for the provinces that make budgets and have a constitutional responsibility to provide frontline services and restructure the health network. That is why I would have shown much more solidarity with the motion tabled by the Tories, amongst whom I have many friends, if reference had been made to restoring transfer payments.
There is no such reference, which suggests that this government, this parliament, may be responsible for national standards. We believe it is not.
I will digress for a moment, if I may, before getting to the bottom of this matter. Look at what is going on in health care. Under the constitution, the federal government has two main responsibilities. Because of its fiduciary responsibility toward aboriginal peoples, the federal government manages the health care system for the first nations. It also has a responsibility toward the military. One has to see the bad shape in which the health care system for these two groups is.
It took the minister some nerve to get up and offer to the provinces a cost shared program for home care. I tell the minister, with all due respect “Sit down, calm down, shut up, we have heard enough. You have no business interfering in community health programs. Mind your own business and withdraw from this system”.
If the health minister wants to help, he can restore transfer payments.
Let us get that straight. For the first time in the history of mankind, the population on this side of the hemisphere—although I am not suggesting the situation is the same everywhere—is living longer than ever.
It is easy to understand that, in a society where people live longer, some will be in good health, but others will need more specialized care. This will put enormous structural pressure on our health care system. Let we give members a few examples that will help them understand.
Let us see how many years it will take before people over 65 represent 25% of the population instead of the present 12%. In other words, the time it will take before the group of people over 65 represents one quarter of the population.
In Quebec, it will take 35 years. In 35 years, one quarter of all Quebecers will be over 65. It will take a little longer in other societies like English Canada. It will take on average 45 years in English provinces. In Germany, it will take 70 years. In France, our motherland—in history books, they used to talk about Marianne—it will also take 70 years.
It is no wonder that Quebec is so vocal in this debate and so committed to it. The Quebec government will be facing, very shortly, challenges that may be less noticeable in European countries. If we want to provide quality services to our fellow citizens—and I must remind you, Madam Speaker, that you will be among the people who need those services, as well as a vast majority of MPs—now is the time to get our health care system ready to provide services to these people.
Various structural pressures are coming into play. We are $1 billion short in transfer payments for Quebec. This is not an insignificant amount of money. According to Premier Lucien Bouchard, who, it is worth repeating it, is the leader of a very good government for Quebecers, half of the $1 billion that the federal government should reinvest, put back in transfer payments should go to health care, and the other half to the other two budgetary items.
What would we do with this $500 million? Let me give a few examples. This amount of $500 million represents 25% of the budget of Montreal's hospitals.
I now want to give a personal testimony. During our week off, I met with hospitals' CEOs. I met with the CEO of the CHUM, Mr. Douville, as well as with the CEO of the Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital, Mr. Ducharme, and I spent a good hour with them.
We looked at the situation in their respective institutions. Let me tell you that, at this rate, by the end of the fiscal year, which is very near, every health care institution in Montreal will end the year with a 10% to 12% deficit. I did not take the time to check in Quebec city, or even Jonquière, but I will one day, because I suspect that the trend is relatively similar.
What does it mean? It does not mean that the management is not good, not at all. If the same thing is happening in every hospital, it means there is a basic trend. Every health care institution will end up with a $10 to $12 million deficit.
Let us take the CHUM as an example. As we know, the CHUM is the result of the merger of Notre-Dame, Saint-Luc and Hôtel-Dieu hospitals. It has a $400 million budget, which is quite a lot. On this $400 million, the shortfall in the money managers need for their various programs and do not have will be $40 million.
Therefore, Quebec finance minister Landry is quite right when he says that it is not a matter of money. Yes, we need to think about how we are going to reorganize the health care system. In the medium term, however, for the next three, four or five years, it is clear that, without a significant injection of funds into the system, there will be problems.
The Government of Quebec, with its own money—the National Assembly has done its part—will inject $2.5 billion into the system in the next few years. This, however, will not be enough. We must not assume that the public is not upset, that they are not angry at seeing the government, with its surpluses estimated at between $97 billion and $137 billion—it could be more than $95 billion—doing nothing.
Year after year, our colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, the Bloc Quebecois finance critic since 1993, has made predictions and has never been wrong.
I know that the member for Louis-Hébert is closely following, like me, the career of our finance critic, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, and that he has never been wrong in his predictions. He is much better at it than the Minister of Finance. He has never been wrong in his predictions. He thinks the surplus could be over $95 billion.
It is this government's responsibility to restore transfer payments. There are many backbenchers in the Liberal Party. There is no shame in being a backbencher as long as one is strong and can stand one's ground. I ask them to add their voices to those of the Bloc Quebecois, the Progressive Conservative Party, the Reform Party and the New Democratic Party to put pressure on the government.
Liberal backbenchers cannot be content with being what Clémence Desrochers called backing vocals. I do not know if it means anything to members, but in a signing group, there are always the lead signers and the backing vocals.
Liberal backbenchers are what Clémence Desrochers, a great humorist from Quebec, called backing vocals. They must not be content with playing second fiddle; they must express the concerns of Quebecers and also of people from the other provinces because, I will say it again, there is great unanimity with regard to health care issues.
I want to give other examples of what we would do with the $500 million that the Premier of Quebec could invest in the health care system as soon as he got it. This represents the budget of almost a quarter of Montreal's hospitals or half the budget of the whole CLSC network in Quebec.
Members know that the CLSCs are a rather unique model that we have in Quebec. People from all over the world or at least from North America come to Quebec to learn more about the CLSC network because it is a unique example of a network totally focused on the community, particularly for front line services.
What do we find in CLSCs? We find of course all the services relating to young children, specialized services for people living through a crisis, and support services for community organizations. It is therefore important that CLSCs be an effective and adequately funded network, to continue to provide services to our fellow citizens.
I want to be very clear: the $500 million we would have if transfer payments were restored would be fully used. That amount is the equivalent of the whole budget for home care services.
This is a critical component of the contemporary analysis that must be made of our health care system. We can be sure that people will no longer agree to grow old outside their community. When people get older—regardless of the community in which they live—their expectations and needs remain the same: they want to grow old within their natural community.
This is why Mrs. Marois and, before her, Mr. Rochon, her predecessor, who is an MNA from Quebec City, a colleague of the hon. member for Louis-Hébert, made the wise decision to move toward ambulatory care.
What is ambulatory care? It means telling people “You are going to hospital for an operation, but you are going back home, back to your community, as soon as possible. There are people, particularly from the CLSCs, who will help you stay in your community, in your home”. This approach involves costs.
I have here some figures which I can give about the rise of costs for Quebec to maintain home care services. Members will see that it is a huge budget item.
I will have the opportunity to come back to this. I know I still have a lot of time. Should I run out of time, knowing how generous the Chair is, I shall borrow some from her and pay her back next week.
The $500 million could be put to good use. It is four times the annual budget of the Sainte-Justine hospital for children. It is more than three times that of the Royal Victoria Hospital, and it represents one-quarter of the cost of the prescription drug insurance plan.
I say in all friendship to Liberal backbenchers that the Bloc Quebecois will not give up. We will continue to ask for health transfer payments until they are restored. I am volunteering, with the support of my many colleagues here today, to travel to every region of Quebec in May.
I will visit the riding of Louis-Hébert, Lake Saint-Jean, Laval. I will even visit your riding, Madam Speaker, if you invite me. I am aware of your tradition of generosity and hospitality. We will explain to Quebecers why it is important to invest additional resources in the health system.
I also want to address another very important issue, that is, what is happening in emergency rooms. They are often a reflection of what is going on in hospitals. It is equally important for people to understand that local community service centres are on the frontline, but that when there is a true emergency or a need for extended health care, they should go to hospitals.
I have discovered some extremely interesting things that help us to understand the structural pressure that the system has to bear.
Last year, there were 50,000 more people brought in on stretchers to emergency units in Quebec than in 1994-1995. We cannot, on the one hand, acknowledge the aging of our society and, on the other hand, think that people will not ask for health care in various locations where it is provided.
For Quebec only, and I suppose the situation is not much different in Alberta, Saskatchewan or elsewhere in Canada since the whole population is aging, there were 50,000 more people brought in to emergency units. Of that amount, 80% were 65 or older.
In conclusion, it is not up to this government to establish national health standards. The best way that this government and parliament can help people who need health care is to restore transfer payments in health care to their previous level.
I urge all members, New Democrats, Reformists, Progressive Conservatives as well as Liberal backbenchers to join the Bloc Quebecois in putting pressure on the government so that in the days to come there will be additional money for provinces.
This is the challenge we have to meet. This is the duty we have to carry out. This is the best thing we can do in the days to come.