Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise after the speech by the member for Québec and speak to Bill C-13 on Canadian Institutes of Health Research at report stage.
This bill presents us with a paradoxical situation and I think that the member for Québec has expressed it very well. The Bloc Quebecois agrees with the principle of the bill as drafted, but will not be able to support it because it runs counter to certain fundamental aspects of the Canadian constitution.
I was listening to the comments on the bill by the member from the Ottawa area who spoke just before me.
I would say that, purposely or otherwise, the government has had an incomprehensible memory lapse when it comes to a document that I think is fundamental and essential: the Canadian constitution. It is the mother of all statutes, the ground rules under which we operate.
The Liberal party is approaching the debate as though this basic document governing our daily lives did not exist.
According to the Liberal government, there is one way of thinking in this country, the Liberal party way, one way of doing things, the Liberal party way, and one way of acting, the Liberal party way.
As a background to Bill C-13 and with all due deference, I am going to remind the House of the existence of the document written and adopted in 1867, which was reworked and re-adopted without Quebec's consent in 1982.
As the member for Quebec pointed out, and as the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve so eloquently explained, we are not opposed to the principle of Bill C-13, but to its basic values.
The government is proposing to replace the Medical Research Council with Canadian Institutes of Health Research. We noticed that and it is fine with us. This consensus is based on recommendations made by an interim committee composed of 34 members of the scientific and academic community.
I am sure neither our critic nor any Bloc Quebecois member would ever want to suggest that we know the conditions that should govern the Canadian institutes of health research better than the 34 leading experts who looked at the issue.
Our objections concern the legal and constitutional aspects of the bill, not with terms, because these 34 people coming from the scientific community and academia have done a tremendous job.
The Bloc Quebecois also cannot help but welcome, as my colleague from Québec said, the budget increases for research and development. We think that this bill is innovative in many regards, particularly with regard to ethical discussions that promote a multidisciplinary approach.
The governing council will have enough freedom to adapt easily and quickly to the constant changes in the area of research, which are occurring at an ever increasing pace, due to innovation. The legislation required should not provide a very rigid framework but some room for manoeuvre, and we should trust the Canadian leading experts who did a tremendous job in that regard.
At long last, the government is acting to increase its investments in research and development, as the OCDE had been asking since 1993. However, as I explained earlier, the Liberal government is ignoring provincial jurisdictions; it wants to intrude in these jurisdictions, not only in Quebec but also in all the provinces of Canada. We are simply asking the government to comply with section 92 of the Constitution of Canada, which deals with power sharing.
As my colleagues from Québec and Hochelaga—Maisonneuve said earlier, this bill has forgotten provinces by not recognizing their authority in their own jurisdiction.
In 1867, it was easy to leave health to the provinces because it was an expensive area which did not bring in any money. Today, now that health has become a priority for the public, the federal wants to come back. We are only asking that it comply with the constitution.
With this bill, the role of the provinces is being reduced to that of mere actors, like any other stakeholder. The provinces—and I repeat it for the Liberals, who unfortunately tend to forget it—have a specific jurisdiction in the area of health, yet they are treated like any other health organization or stakeholder.
The creation of health research institutes is not the problem. The Bloc supports the increase in funding for research and the establishment of health research institutes. However, Canada does not invest enough in research and we ought to invest more if we want to remain competitive and be leaders in research and development.
I wish to underline the excellent performance, both in medicine and research, of the University of Sherbrooke, which made a clean-sweep of all Canadian first awards in the medical area. It must be recognized that, in medicine as well as in research, Canada and Quebec are doing pretty well. But we must make sure that the necessary financial resources are made available, because the human resources necessary to carry on are already available.
Again, the problem is the serious risk of direct encroachment on provincial jurisdiction in the area of health services to the population, without any consultation with the provinces.
With the establishment of the Canadian institutes of health research, the federal government is clearly grabbing the power to impose its priorities and views in health matters and is going well beyond the area of research. It is imperative for the government to respect the specific expertise and strengths of the research scientists in each region, to allow them to use their skills in their area of expertise and to be as successful as possible.
That is why the Bloc Quebecois has moved a series of amendments whose purpose is to reaffirm the primacy of the provincial jurisdiction in health matters; it also stresses the importance of respecting the jurisdictions. Many organizations in Quebec applied for grants to the interim council of the Canadian institutes of health research, and it is extremely important that Quebec get its fair share of research and development funds.
We must be on the leading edge in these areas to move ahead into the 21st century and to ensure the growth and economic development of Quebec and Canada. The federal government must address the problem of the inadequate funding of research, by making more funds available to research scientists and academics to allow them to complete their work.
We, in the Bloc Quebecois, have said repeatedly that we support the idea of new investments in research and development and we want even more such investments. But there is one thing we cannot accept, and that is the establishment of Canada-wide standards and the infringement on provincial jurisdictions. If the federal government wants to interfere in provincial matters, it is imperative and necessary that the provinces be fully involved in the selection and management of the institutes.
The government claims that it wants to promote the health of Canadians, but one must not forget that, in the past, it cut transfer payments to provinces for health, education and social services, but mostly for health. We agree that investment in research is important, but let us not forget that a lot of money has been brutally and irresponsibly taken from the provinces. That funding must be restored to them immediately.
The government says it is reinvesting in health services offered by the provinces—I do not want to talk about the billions and billions of dollars bandied about, because the public has difficulty understanding the full scope of the cuts that were made. I will put it this way: it is as if $100 worth of cuts were made or will be made, but then we were told “We will give you back $20 and we will cut only $80”. And we are supposed to be happy because we got back $20 on the $100 that were cut without our permission.
We cannot let the federal government invade provincial jurisdictions again, and we cannot continue to ignore the cuts to transfer payments that are causing very serious problems in the area of health.
I hope that the House will pass the amendments moved by the Bloc Quebecois so that our researchers and scholars will have access to the funds they need so much and that, I repeat, in conclusion, provincial jurisdictions will be not be invaded.