House of Commons Hansard #73 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was institutes.


Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario


Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to two petitions.

Order In Council AppointmentsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario


Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, a number of order in council appointments recently made by the government.

Pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 110(1) these are deemed referred to the appropriate standing committees, a list of which is attached.

Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-463, an act to amend the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act and the Interpretation Act.

Mr. Speaker, with all the confusion that has been going on around the definition of marriage, I thought it was appropriate to introduce a private member's bill that will amend the Marriage Act and the Interpretation Act.

It will say that a marriage is void unless it is a legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife and neither the man nor the woman was married immediately prior to that union.

I believe with these amendments it will give guidance to the supreme court if there is a challenge in the future and it will clarify the issue once and for all.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Evidence ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-464, an act to amend the Evidence Act.

Mr. Speaker, my bill has to do with the expression of dates numerically. For example, 02/03/99 could mean either February 3, 1999 or March 2, 1999. That ambiguity has always been there, but now that our year numbers are also less than twelve there is a great multiplication of ambiguities possible.

My bill would set it out so that if it is not explicitly stated, the numeric designation would be year/month/day and it would end all these ambiguities.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Endangered Species Sanctuaries ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-465, an act respecting the creation of sanctuaries for endangered species of wildlife.

Mr. Speaker, there are over 300 species in Canada today that are in danger of imminent extinction. What is the greatest failure in our not dealing with that? It is the failure to protect habitat.

This private member's bill will do just that through four mechanisms. The first is an objective identification of species at risk using COSEWIC, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, which will recommend to the minister those species that are in imminent danger of extinction.

The second is to provide for the establishment of sanctuaries on federal land and for agreements with both provinces and private land owners.

The third is to provide for expropriation or restrictive cognizance to be placed on those lands when there has been a failure to negotiate in good faith. When that has occurred, compensation would be given to both the provinces and private land owners at fair market value.

The fourth is that it enables individuals to donate land that has been deemed to be sensitive habitat and they would get an income tax break for doing so. I hope the bill passes. It would go a long way toward protecting endangered species in Canada.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of some 250 people from the St. John's area who are very concerned with the issue of child pornography.

The petitioners want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the British Columbia Court of Appeal on June 30, 1999, dismissed an appeal to reinstate the appropriate section of the criminal code making it illegal to possess child pornography.

They quite rightly make the point that the well-being and safety of children are now in jeopardy as a result of that ruling. They call upon government to invoke section 33 of the charter of rights and freedoms, the notwithstanding clause, to override the B.C. Court of Appeal decision.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Réginald Bélair Liberal Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today. The first one deals with breast cancer.

Canada has the second highest incidence rate of breast cancer in the world, second only to the United States. The United States has had a mandatory mammography quality assurance standard since 1994. Canada has no legislation for mandatory mammography quality assurance standards.

Therefore the petitioners call upon parliament to enact legislation to establish an independent governing body to develop, implement and enforce uniform and mandatory mammography quality assurance and quality control standards in Canada.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Réginald Bélair Liberal Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, my second petition has to do with rural route mail couriers.

These couriers often earn less than the minimum wage and have working conditions reminiscent of another era. Rural route couriers have not been allowed to bargain collectively to improve their wages and working conditions.

Therefore the petitioners are asking parliament to repeal subsection 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act in order to allow these Canadian workers to earn descent wages and to collectively bargain their rights as workers.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario


Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Willowdale Ontario


Jim Peterson Liberalfor Minister of Health

moved that Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, to repeal the Medical Research Council Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies Québec


Yvon Charbonneau LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Health, I am very pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian institutes of health research, at third reading stage.

Last week, on the very day that this House completed debate on the report stage of this bill, members of Canada's health research community gathered together to bid farewell to the Medical Research Council, and to greet the new era of the Canadian institutes of health research.

Farewells are often tinged with sadness. But that is not at all an accurate description of the prevailing mood. Instead of sadness, there was excitement. Instead of regret, there was tremendous optimism and hope.

Throughout the day, at the MRC-sponsored symposium, researcher after researcher spoke about the tremendous gains in knowledge that had been made by Canadian researchers under the Medical Research Council, and about the potential for new knowledge, for new discoveries, under CIHR.

The CIHR concept brought together the largest coalition of interests in the history of Canada's health research community. This concept was not imposed from above by government, but created and developed as a direct result of the efforts of so many members of the community from across the country. It would not be fitting to let this occasion pass without paying tribute to Canada's health researchers who took up the Prime Minister's challenge to excel in our areas of strength, in particular, members of the original task force on CIHR, as well as members of the interim governing council of CIHR. The interim governing council devoted tremendous time and energy meeting together and engaging the broader health research community in discussions to ensure that CIHR would meet the priorities of the health research community, of Canadians and of Canada as a whole.

Special mention must be made of the truly special efforts of Dr. Henry Friesen, president of the Medical Research Council, and chair of the interim governing council and the IGC vice-chairs Dorothy Lamont and Eric Maldoff.

The Canadian institutes of health research is an achievement that was brought about by the hard work and deep commitment of a great number of people

To the 75 men and women who served on the task force persuading the Government of Canada that this concept could become a reality and to the 35 members of the interim governing council who have worked so very hard to find solutions to the challenge of expressing that vision in legislation and addressing the tough issues of structure, processes and accommodation between diverse disciplines, I want to express my gratitude and my admiration.

As we all know, every great cause needs a leader, and a leader in the work to create these institutes was Dr. Friesen. Dr. Friesen had already secured his place of honour as a result of the remarkable leadership that he had provided as president of the Medical Research Council since 1992. He saw the possibilities and seized the opportunities as only a true leader can.

Let us not underestimate the size and complexity of the challenges that he overcame. In designing and defining the institutes, he must have sometimes felt that his task was like building an airplane in the air. Somehow he made it fly and somehow he has brought it safely to ground.

On behalf of Canadians and the health research community, I want to express our sincere appreciation to all these individuals for their tremendous contribution.

With Bill C-13, the Medical Research Council hands on the torch of health research to CIHR. Over the past 40 years, the MRC has been a godsend for researchers, providing them with the support they needed to devote themselves to research full time.

It is very easy to say that Canada's health researchers are among the best in the world. As I reflect on the MRC's legacy of excellence, from the early days, with Wilder Penfield and the surgical treatment of epilepsy developed in Montreal, to more recent achievements, such as the discoveries of Jude Poirier and Peter St. George-Hyslop in connection with Alzheimer's, May Griffith and her artificial cornea, and Arthur Prochazka and his bionic glove, I marvel once again at the talent and creativity to be found in our universities, hospitals and other research institutions.

Canadian researchers are making a difference in health, in the well-being of Canadians and of people the world over.

Today there are many reasons for all of us, no matter what our role, to feel a strong sense of occasion. We are, after all, sharing a moment of history as one great Canadian institution is retired to make way for another. What a past to celebrate.

For 40 years the Medical Research Council has nurtured and enabled the Canadian research community that has pursued excellence expanding human knowledge, improving human conditions, putting worldclass standards at the service of humanity both here in Canada and around the world.

Our purpose today is not only to celebrate that legacy and to honour that tradition. It is also to savour the new opportunities that are upon us and to prepare for a limitless future. We are about to embark on a new era in health research in this country. The Canadian institutes will transform our research enterprise providing a new and even better way to carry on the process of discovery, to broaden its scope and deepen its worth, to quicken its pace and to enrich its value.

We shall now move beyond medical research to health research linking investigators in the biomedical sphere to those who pursue inquiry in the clinic setting, connecting that work with those who would better understand how to deliver health services, and grounding it all in a better understanding of how illness can be prevented and how good health can be promoted. New and better treatments, better strategies for health protection and promotion and for managing the health system, all of these things will be crucial to improving and sustaining Canada's health system and the health of our people.

The concept of the institutes is as novel as it is simple. It will create a network of knowledge linking investigators who tackle similar issues from different angles.

I recall reading some months ago a simple explanation of how collaboration can enrich inquiry. An investigator wrote to a colleague in the following words “I give you my idea. You give me yours. Now we each have two ideas and together we have four”. That is the arithmetic of a shared inquiry, adding in order to multiply, sharing information in order to accelerate discovery.

The nature of modern health research is changing and the issues that arise are more difficult than ever. Today these issues cover a vast array of disciplines representing many perspectives and approaches.

The CIHR is a direct response to these contemporary challenges. It is based on a new integrated approach to health that is focused on understanding the factors underlying health and illness.

The CIHR will create a link between researchers in a broad variety of disciplines, enabling them share their knowledge and work towards common goals.

It will transform the manner in which health research is conducted in this country by giving a national character to Canadian efforts. By promoting the acquisition of new knowledge, CIHR will help to improve Canada's health care system and the health of Canadians. It will help make Canada's research community a community of hope and encouragement where the grants awarded to researchers will be comparable to those awarded in other countries. The CIHR will be the principal Canadian health research enterprise of the next century.

Thanks to additional large investments by the federal government, CIHR will do more than support excellence in existing research in Canada. It will promote new synergies among researchers, helping to resolve complex and difficult health issues through comprehensive, collective and multidisciplinary approaches.

The CIHR will build on research in Canadian universities, health institutions and research centres, provincial and federal government teaching hospitals, and the volunteer and private sectors.

The integration of health research into a network of virtual institutes will make it possible to address important health issues more effectively by using resources from four intersecting health research approaches: basic biomedical research, applied clinical research, research into health care systems and services, and research into the social factors underlying health.

The institutes will serve as centres for the transfer of knowledge to local communities and the monitoring of Canadians' social and health environment, as well as to present related reports.

For a new generation of researchers, this new orientation will result in the creation of training and innovation opportunities in Canada. As a result, Canada will be among world leaders in health research.

The creation of CIHR is a direct response by the federal government to the opinions expressed by health research directors, who were calling for change and modernization generally of this activity in Canada.

And they are not alone. There is also a vast coalition of researchers representing all views and disciplines in Canada. These researchers know that CIHR is the most innovative and best integrated approach to health research in the world.

Let me cite the enthusiastic and eloquent comments of our Minister of Health:

We believe that CIHR will help us to attain the health research policy objectives supported by Canadians throughout the country. It will improve the effectiveness of our health care system, further enhance Canada's image as a world leader in health research, create new jobs in key sectors of the new economy and, finally, curb the departure of our best researchers and clinicians. Above all, CIHR will help improve the health of Canadians.

CIHR will change the way we fund and carry out health research in Canada. It will make the main priority of all research endeavours in the country, first and foremost, about improving the health of Canadians. A closer examination of the objectives of CIHR as set out in its mandate reveals just how profound the change will be.

The main aim of CIHR will be to co-ordinate and support multidisciplinary health research across Canada. The legislation states that CIHR's mandate is “to excel according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system”. How will it do that? The legislation says that it will meet its objective by forging an integrated health research agenda across disciplines, sectors and regions.

CIHR brings together researchers from across regions and disciplines. It includes all four key areas of health research: biomedical; clinical; health systems and services; and population health research. It is an approach that will see research travel from laboratory to bedside and to communities.

Health research in Canada already involves a multitude of bodies with partnership potential. These are: the federal research councils, charitable organizations involved with health, universities, teaching hospitals, community groups, research institutes and private industry.

Associated with greater financial resources, this more integrated and more dynamic research framework that the institutes represent will generate new knowledge, which will result in improving the health of Canadians and improved health care, earlier discovery of new treatments, and enhanced possibilities of effective political intervention.

The institutes will foster the establishment of an integrated health research program which will make it possible to make discoveries earlier in identifying new health threats and their treatments. They will deal with the increasingly numerous statistics indicating that some of the most significant health factors are not being addressed by clinical and biomedical interventions.

The institutes will provide a far better liaison for the health research partners already in place, and will encourage co-operation with the volunteer, community and private sectors.

Hon. members will have understood that the role of these institutes is not, first of all, to invest in bricks-and-mortar structures, but rather to put into place in the form of a network in synergy with researchers in other disciplines with different horizons, within the framework of what we have already named the virtual institutes around various themes.

To give one example, in a research institute focussing on asthma, basic genetic research might be carried out in a hospital in Quebec, while clinical trials and evaluations of asthma treatments might be carried out in Saskatchewan or Ontario. Research assigned to social science specialists or public health authorities might be done in rural areas of Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador. Finally, evaluation of such a pilot project with a view to determining the best treatment approach might be done in another part of Canada, British Columbia or PEI, for instance.

Thus the institutes are intended to bring together researchers in the social sciences into a solid national network, which is then, in turn, part of a broad international health network. This national network would work in conjunction with scientists in other disciplines of health research, with researchers in such areas as sociology, psychology, education, social work, nursing, psychiatry, economics and public health, demographics, epidemiology, and public administration. All of these could be associated with health research in one way or another, according to the role planned for the institutes.

I would also like to point out that a number of organizational principles will guide the selection of institutes. First of all, there will not be just one model of institute.

Each institute will be able to take a different path as far as its programs, its structures and the number of projects funded are concerned, depending on the determined needs of the community. Second, all health researchers will have the opportunity of a place within the institutes.

Identification of the institutes, which will be 10 to 15 in number, will be based on several criteria, including their fundamental capacity to contribute to improving the health of Canadians.

The structure of the institutes must be simple and cost-conscious. Finally, the institutes will encourage interdisciplinary research in the four key health sectors already referred to.

A key element of CIHR's stated objective is to facilitate the Translation of knowledge into better health services and a better health care system for Canadians. Research has little value if its result cannot somehow be applied whether into new directions for further research, new ways to maintain the health of individuals and communities, new treatments and cures for disease or a new understanding of how best to deliver health care to Canadians.

By building the translation of knowledge gained from research into practical applications right into CIHR's legislative agenda, we are ensuring that we achieve the utmost value for our research investment.

There is another key element in the institutes' agenda. Promotion of research projects and assistance in their completion must be according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence. Peer review is the best guarantee available to government and to the Canadian public that taxpayers' dollars are being directed to science of the highest quality.

The institutes will build on a longstanding tradition in this country of rigorous evaluation of research proposals to ensure that we may continue to meet international standards of scientific excellence and take into account the special requirements of the institutes' expanded mandate.

The legislation before us provides as well that the institutes will carry out their mission by assuming a leadership role in Canada's research community and by co-operating with the provinces, volunteer organizations and the private sector.

Having the institutes organized by theme will bring together all the principal stakeholders—researchers, donor agencies, research users—to develop a strategic research program promoting researcher creativity while meeting the needs and priorities of Canadians. Herein lies the test of real leadership.

This leadership, need I point out, will be exercised in co-operation with the provinces, whose responsibility it is to provide health care to Canadians. This leadership will be exercised in the respect of provincial jurisdiction. We consider such federal-provincial-territorial co-operation vital not only to the advancement of health research but to the promotion, dissemination and implementation of new knowledge with a view to improving the health care system and services.

Canadians take a special sense of pride in their publicly funded health care system. They believe that leadership in the areas of health care, research and education are key elements of the Canadian advantage that will help us maintain a quality of life that the United Nations continues to consider the best in the world.

The government shares that belief. The institutes are part of a deep and abiding commitment that we have made to supporting health research in this country.

The Government of Canada understands that it must do its part if the new enterprise is to succeed. By next year in relation to 1998 we will have doubled the annual federal funding for health research in Canada to a total of almost $500 million per year. If as we expect the institutes' promise is fulfilled, that will not be the final point, it will be a new point of departure. The CIHR is only part of a determined effort by the Canadian government to encourage and reward innovation.

Over the past three years, we have invested more than $5 billion in direct and leveraged funding. We have continued to fund and expand the network of centres of excellence, seven of which focus on health related topics.

In 1997, we established the Canada foundation for innovation, and, this year, we contributed an additional $900 million to it. A total of $1.9 billion is helping to modernize and improve the research infrastructure in our hospitals, universities and other research institutions. We also established the Canadian health services research foundation to provide us with the data we need of how to deliver excellent, efficient and cost-effective health services to Canadians.

In the latest federal budget, presented a month ago, the Minister of Finance announced the creation of 2,000 Canada research chairs, a $900 million investment intended for researchers at the peak of their careers and the most promising researchers still at the start of their careers. As well in this budget the Minister of Finance announced a special one-time allocation of $160 million to Genome Canada to fund five genome science centres in Canada.

On top of all these initiatives, in two years, government investment in the institutes will be double the amount it had invested in the MRC. And this is only the beginning. We fully expect that, in future years, the federal government's investment in health research through the institutes will continue to grow. The end result of these investments will be a country where researchers see opportunities for support and innovation throughout their careers. A country others throughout the world see as the place to be for health research. A country which offers its citizens the very best in research and health care based on a solid foundation of excellence in this field.

I want to reiterate that our government understands these kinds of investments must continue to ensure that Canada can cultivate, keep and attract the very best and brightest. By creating an environment for research excellence where good people take up challenges with enthusiasm and confidence, we strengthen the vitality of our country and we enhance our economic dynamism and competitiveness in a shrinking world. We have produced results particularly when we speak of health research which makes our communities and families healthier and happier.

Someone once said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. I believe that is what those who have developed the institutes have done. Our future will be assured because of the hard work we are doing now which will be to the benefit of generations to come. What is more, the institutes will be an exercise in national solidarity linking not only scientists but also Canadians with each other in a common cause.

The institutes represent the most deliberately innovative and integrative approach to health research. They form a structure uniting individuals and networks of researchers in a broad range of perspectives on health research. I sincerely believe that the institutes will set the example for the world.

As the Prime Minister of Canada has said, the institutes will truly make Canada the place to be for researchers in the field of health.

The Standing Committee on Health heard from a wide range of witnesses during its hearings into Bill C-13, representing different regions, different areas of health research, different perspectives. Despite their differences, though, there was one constant point of similarity. Every individual, every group appearing before the committee began by expressing their strong support for the establishment of this new vision for health research in Canada.

I would like to salute these witnesses and thank them enthusiastically for their support and their contribution to the advent of the institutes. The expression of such unanimity during hearings for a piece of legislation is extremely rare, we must confess, but this is the extent of the support shown by the health research community: researchers, volunteer organizations, universities and the private sector.

In conclusion, I would like particularly to thank my colleagues, the members of the Standing Committee on Health, who made a considerable commitment to their work. In addition, I would encourage the members of this House—including those of the various opposition parties, whose co-operation during the examination of this bill I wish to recognize—to show the same commitment to excellence in health research in Canada through their unanimous support for this bill.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Reed Elley Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-13, a bill which would create the Canadian institutes of health research.

As the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan and the deputy critic of health for the official opposition, the Canadian Alliance, I am pleased to state that we will be supporting this bill. However, before I go into the actual body of the bill and give a bit of a critique on the substance of it, I would like to say a few words about our health care system in Canada today.

If we look at the most recent opinion polls asking Canadians the question “What is the most important issue that you believe this country faces today?”, health care comes out on top. Health care is the most important issue to Canadians. Why is that? We do not have to look very long or very hard to see why this would be the case. Simply put, we have a health care system that is in crisis.

When we look at why the health care system is in crisis we can see that part of the reason is the lack of funds. While the provinces are responsible for the delivery of health care services, we can see that the majority of this problem rests with the federal government. Over the past five years it has cut back transfer payments to the provinces which would have supported the provincial health care systems by some $2.5 billion.

The government has made a great deal about the fact that it is going to put back into health care some $14 billion over the next four years. If I have done my math correctly, that still leaves a considerable shortfall.

This shortfall will be downloaded to the provinces, which will then force the provinces to prioritize their spending. They will have to take spending from other places, like education, road building and things like that, and they will have to put the money toward health care, which is the number one concern of Canadians across the country.

It puts the provinces in a tremendous dilemma. How will they prop up, fix or change a health care system that is in crisis when they do not have the money to do it?

If we think that there is a health care crisis now, wait for the next 10 years or so when baby boomers start to demand the kind of health care that is needed when people reach the age of sixty-five. We know what happens. That little bit of arthritis in the knee or the hip joint gets worse and pretty soon a hip operation is needed. Or, in the worst case scenario, the cough that is persistent turns out to be lung cancer.

As those things come on in later years as we grow older, we become more of a burden to the health care system. There are 9.5 million people who will put an incredible strain on the health care system. There will be a need for more facilities, more nurses, more doctors and more innovative research, all the things that go into making a good health care system.

Over the last number of years as the deputy health critic of the Reform Party, now the Canadian Alliance—and I am very proud that we have become the Canadian Alliance, with a huge mandate from reformers across the country—I learned a great deal about health and health care. I have come to have a deep admiration for the many people who operate and run our hospitals and our clinics: our very dedicated doctors, nurses and medical researchers.

We all know that care is not something which comes out of a bottle or a box. We simply cannot prescribe care. It is not something we can send by courier. It comes from within the people who interact and attempt to make life better for the patients in our health care system.

Time after time during the past number of years the federal Liberals have attempted to talk about health care in strictly monetary terms. The health minister or the finance minister will stand during question period and refer to the millions of dollars which they will put back into the health care system. Like the compensation package that was offered to the hepatitis C victims, we have not seen a great deal of it yet.

What they fail to acknowledge is that the Canadian people are not as gullible as the Liberals would like to think. Canadians know and understand that the Liberals have taken away far more than they have returned.

Let us examine some of the facts in a bit more detail. In 1993 when the Liberals took power the Canada health and social transfer per taxpayer was $1,453. In the 1999 budget the Canada health and social transfer was $1,005 per taxpayer. That means that the federal government is giving each province $448 less per taxpayer for health and social programs. That is a 31% drop in federal transfers to the provincial governments.

In fact, since 1966 when universal health care was introduced in Canada, the Liberals' financial commitment to health care has dropped from 50% to 9.4%. How can the system be sustained on that kind of funding? It cannot.

We know that health care delivery is a provincial matter. Unfortunately, paying for it has also become a provincial responsibility. The Harris government in Ontario pays more annually to health care in that province alone than Ottawa does for the whole of Canada.

Let me repeat that. Ontario pays more annually to health care in that province alone than Ottawa does for the whole of Canada. There is something deeply wrong with the Liberal commitment to health care with those kinds of statistics.

Taken as a cumulative total, in 1993 the Canada health and social transfer was $18.8 billion. In the 1999 federal budget, even with the so-called new money, the new total was $14.5 billion, a difference of $4.3 billion. That is money taken out of the national health care system. It represents $143 for each person in Canada today.

It is not just in dollars that the Liberals have failed. They are responsible for violating the universal health care system of this country in many ways.

We all know that there are five main tenets which make up the universal health care system: accessibility, portability, comprehensiveness, universality and public administration. While I could speak at length to all of them, I would like to give two examples of where the government has failed to meet these principles.

First, I would like to speak to accessibility. Where the system is to be equally accessible to all Canadians, the British Columbia NDP government, which has a pristine record of being in favour of a universal health care system, regularly sends it Workers' Compensation Board claimants with knee injuries to the United States or to a private clinic in Alberta. This amounts to nothing less than queue jumping, sanctioned by government, promoted and paid for by a quasi-governmental body. This sounds a lot like two tier health care, the same two tier health care which the government loves to rant against when indeed it is responsible for the creation of it.

Second, I would like to speak to portability. The universal health care system is not intended to penalize any province against another. Full and equal services are intended for all. However, the province of Quebec—and it is not the only malefactor—will only reimburse other provinces $450 per day for Quebecers who are in other provincial hospitals. The rate for a day of hospital care in Ontario is about $745. Based on this rate difference, Quebec owes millions of dollars to the other provinces. This goes on all the time across the country. The federal government allows this to take place and allows the violation of the principle of portability under the Canada Health Act.

In reality, who has created two tier health care in this country? The Liberal government. Our hon. colleagues across the way do not like to hear that, but when truth stares them in the face they have to admit it.

How does this affect you and I, Mr. Speaker? We are the ones who pay for this. When our knees get to the point where we have to have an operation, when the arthritis is too bad, what are we to do? What is the net effect of this loss of money to the system?

One of the first things that we see is the waiting time that many Canadians experience when they or a loved one needs a health care service. For instance, in 1993 if a person wanted to see a specialist, on average he or she would have waited 3.7 weeks to see a specialist in Canada. In 1998, five years later, the average waiting time would have increased 38%, up 1.5 weeks. Is that acceptable in a country which is purported to have the best health care system in the world?

Many of us may have experienced even longer waiting times, as these times vary from region to region and according to the specialist who is required. We have all heard the horror stories of the cancer patient who needs radiation treatment and is forced to wait 10, 12 or 14 weeks, and in some cases much longer, for treatment to begin.

I recently heard a gentleman on a radio talk show which originated in Vancouver at CKNW. The program spent a whole week on the health care system in Canada. This gentleman phoned in and told the very sad story of his wife who, at one point in her life, had been discovered to have a very small spot on her liver. The waiting time between the time she could get to a specialist and then eventually get treatment for her disease was so long that she died in the process. That is the sad story, repeated time and time again across Canada, because of the inadequacies of our health care system. It has to change.

It is at that personal level when it actually affects people that the federal government loses its credibility. While it looks at the money it has failed to recognize the human quotient. The cancer patient, the person waiting for an organ transplant, the elderly family member who is immobile and requires a hip replacement are people who have feelings. They may be in pain or their quality of life may have been diminished. They have family members, loved ones around them. They may be missing work and therefore unable to fully provide for their families and contribute to the economy both locally and nationally.

The real impact of the serious health care crisis in Canada is not just monetary. It is flesh and blood. As people are forced to new levels of stress, they are forced to make difficult choices for their loved ones.

There are lots of ways to split up the problem. We could look at the number of hospital beds that have closed. We could acknowledge the doctor shortage in rural areas, the inadequate pay level of nurses and the conditions that many of them work under. We could tabulate the tax level and the effect of the brain drain and losing some of our best and brightest medical people to south of the border.

However the Liberals will never acknowledge that this is a problem of their own doing. This is a problem they have created by wantonly cutting the Canadian health and social transfer and failing to keep the principles of universality without realizing the full effect upon the people who need to use the health care system.

As the official opposition we believe it is important to address all these issues, to get them on the table, and to have this huge consultation from coast to coast with medical people, with professionals, with researchers and with Canadians. We need to find new and better ways to cure the diseases that affect those around us: our loved ones, our friends, and in some cases ourselves.

As we enter the 21st century communication and technology are moving at an unprecedented pace. As we all know, it is now possible to do work, research and communicate worldwide through the benefits of Internet and e-mail.

This brings us directly to Bill C-13, a bill to create the Canadian institutes of health research. In spite of the concerns I have about the government's handling of health care, I acknowledge that this is a good step forward on behalf of the government, and that is why we support it.

The technology available today allows an individual or a small company the opportunity to work and communicate with a major university, a public institution or a private company. I believe the sharing of data, theories and information between large and small parties, regardless of location, has the potential to be of enormous benefit to all Canadians, and indeed citizens of the world.

While I support the bill I believe, however, that there are ways that the bill could be improved. We are always in need of improvement. Mr. Speaker, I am sure you would agree that you are not perfect. I am not perfect and none of the bills in the House are perfect.

I would like to draw the attention of the House to several issues. I believe the bill should have a new section, for instance, limiting administrative bureaucracy to a maximum of 5% of the total budget of the CIHR.

While the scandal continues over the HRDC grants and the damning audits pouring out of the department of Indian affairs, the EDC and other financial fiascos will undoubtedly be added to the list, it is imperative that transparent and accountable financial controls be placed upon all government spending.

I suggest that Bill C-13 should contain directives that the governing council must ensure that no more than 5% of its annual budget is directed toward administrative expenses, using definitions that are normally applied to departments by the treasury board.

I believe, if handled appropriately and based upon the positive results received through research, that the CIHR should strive for partial or complete self-sufficiency based upon funds raised through new medical technology, through the use of patents, licensing, copyrights, industrial designs, trademarks, trade secrets or other like property rights held, controlled or administered by the CIHR. There exists the opportunity for the Canadian institutes of health research to recoup a portion of the public dollars invested in research institutes. It is a novel idea. Imagine a government agency that actually recovers financial resources rather than simply spends them.

I also believe that it is an opportune time to ensure that the selection of the research that will be funded through the CIHR will be based upon scientific merit. The allocation research funding should be based upon the validity of the project, not on the basis of employment equity groups or one province versus another. Funding should be upon merit alone.

If the goal of the CIHR is to strengthen and ensure that we have improved health for Canadians through more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system, there must be a transparent and accountable process using standard acceptable accounting procedures. The research must be valid and likewise the financial accountability must be clear as well.

I also believe that this act and the Standing Committee on Health itself missed an opportunity to strengthen the section of the bill dealing with ethics. Topics such as biomedical research, reproductive technology, gene therapy advancements and other future ethical issues will be a part of future medical research.

While not all solutions may be determined now, the framework for an ethics board will provide future direction. The preamble should state that it will take into consideration ethical issues with special attention to the highest value and dignity accorded to human life. This is an issue that will be fraught with contention in the future and a resolution process should be included.

As we have witnessed most recently with the HRDC debacle, political patronage cannot and must not be part of the decision making process. The research that is done must be seen to be without political interference. The decisions must be seen as being valid and necessary and with the broad based support of Canadian medical researchers. Without this support the CIHR will only be viewed as another Liberal slush fund.

The CIHR should be subject to a parliamentary review every five years. While I support the premise of the CIHR, there may come a time in the future that it needs to be revisited, revised, modernized or perhaps eliminated together with something better that comes along. That is exactly what we did with the Canadian Alliance. We now have the opportunity to ensure that we undertake such a review on a regular basis.

If the CIHR remains the most appropriate venue for conducting health research then we should endorse the program and ensure that it continues. If it can be improved we need to take the necessary steps to improve it for the next five years. We should always look ahead to the future, never looking backward.

As with any organization consistency is appropriate. However I also believe that positive gains could be made by bringing in new council members. By having a maximum of three terms for each council member, there is sufficient time to ensure consistency over the long term and yet allow a regular planned turnover of council members, thus ensuring a steady influx of new thoughts and ideas. Furthermore, for the same reasons I believe each member of the advisory board should serve a term of no more than five years and a maximum of three terms.

If the CIHR is to begin and remain non-political, I would support the premise that all governor in council appointments be ratified by the Standing Committee on Health by a two-thirds majority. The accountability process must extend to all aspects of the CIHR. In order to achieve this level of transparency the membership should be ratified by more than just the government majority on the Standing Committee on Health. Such appointments should move beyond the partisan politics of the House and ensure that the health of all Canadians is maintained.

Another aspect of transparency should extend to the companies and individuals that grants and resource funds are allocated to. At no time should there be a connection between members of the governing council, institute chairs and the recipients of the resources. To do otherwise does not ensure that the allocation remains transparent. Canadians are demanding full government accountability.

In order to achieve financial accountability and transparency through the CIHR I believe the report of the auditor general should be made public, for without public accountability all the measures in the world are for nought.

With the use of the auditor general and his reporting mechanism to all Canadians we can be assured that the highlights and low lights of the financial accountability of the CIHR will be seen by all.

My final point on the bill is to enshrine a method of rebuttal within the CIHR. The governing council should develop a subcommittee that can act as an ombudsman for complaints brought forward by researchers or their private sector partners. We all recognize that disagreements will occur. Rather than wait for a problem to arise, let us put a dispute resolution process in place. It would take so little effort now, and yet the bill does not contain this kind of allowance.

I am in favour of the intent of Bill C-13. I believe the bill has the potential to partially address the problems of our medical brain drain. We need to be sure to attract and keep our best and brightest. Our loss of these people is definitely some other country's gain. We cannot allow this to continue.

Of course a major part of this problem involves taxes. However I will save that particular part of my argument for another day. Bill C-13 is an improvement over the Medical Research Council. Throughout the committee hearings we heard from numerous medical and associated groups which asked that the bill be passed at our earliest convenience, and I agree with their comments.

The bill could be better, as any bill could be better, but the comments I have offered today could improve Bill C-13 in the future. In the broader perspective the Canadian Alliance and I personally are very happy to support the bill.

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11:10 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to pull myself together, even though I am not in a great mood, and begin by saying that we agree with the principle of the bill, but we will not be able to support it at third reading.

We tabled amendments, on which I will elaborate later on and which would have greatly improved this bill and made it much more acceptable. More importantly, these amendments would have made the bill extremely compatible with the scientific policy statement proposed by the Quebec department of science and technology, while also making it respectful of Quebec and of its policies in the area of science and technology.

Be that as it may, committee members from both the government and the opposition worked very hard. I do not think I missed a single committee meeting and I took a great interest in this issue, which involves research and a major concern to us, namely health.

Let us begin by the beginning. If we wanted to look at the historical background of this legislation, we would go back to 1994. At the time, I was a young member of parliament full of idealism, an idealism that is not totally gone. A report published by the OECD indicates that Canada lags far behind when it comes to public spending on research. During the pre-1994 years, Canada was far behind the other OECD members.

Not only is Canada far behind in terms of public spending and initiatives to promote research, but research is also fragmented, there is a lack of co-ordination and the myth of Professor Calculus, whom our young pages will surely remember, a researcher who works in isolation in his laboratory and has little interaction with the other members of the scientific community, was somewhat pertinent here in Canada, in the early nineties.

This is why we support the bill in its intent, which is to put researchers in contact with one another and to establish virtual research networks from very precise thematic orientations so that they can communicate their results to one another.

A few months ago, the government established a board of directors consisting then and now of really interesting people from all walks of life. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their involvement in the scientific community, because some of them have been involved for many years.

I am thinking of Dr. Henry Friesen who, as everybody knows, chaired the Medical Research Council of Canada. The bill before us will abolish this council. I am thinking, of course, of Michel Bureau, from the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec, who also worked very hard to guide the interim board of directors. I am thinking of Andrée Demers, the director of the research group on the social aspects of prevention, of Eric Maldoff, who is a lawyer, which goes to show that one may be trained in law and be interested in research, of Dr. Yves Morin, professor emeritus at the faculty of medicine, of Cameron Mustard, the director of research at the Institute for Work and Health, of Dr. Louise Nadeau, an associate professor, and of Dr. Neda L. Chapel.

I also want to thank Maria Knoppers, an assistant professor at the University of Montreal faculty of law, who is a specialist on ethical issues relating to research protocols and on the precautions to take to ensure that research complies with the ethical standards that we are entitled to expect.

I will make a digression to point out that it is rather strange to see that research work has been done in Canada for over 50 years but the government has never felt the need to put in place a policy on ethics in research. There are of course granting agencies such as the Medical Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council that came together and drafted a common policy. The fact remains however that the government itself has failed to do it.

I think of course of Paul Lucas, whom I know, as I have been very interested in the whole question of drug patent review, who is the chairman and chief executive officer of Glaxo in Mississauga. I think of Robert Mackenzie, who is the dean of advanced studies research at McGill University; of Murray Martin, the chairman of the board of the Vancouver Hospital; of Robert Perrault, a medical consultant in heart health; of Robert Pritchard, from the University of Toronto, and the list goes on. We must remember, however, that a provisional governing council has suggested directions.

The intent of the bill before us is to get researchers into a network so that the whole scientific community can benefit from the results of the work done by a particular group of researchers.

This is not what we have a problem with, and I will have an opportunity to revert to this point. What we do have a problem with is the fact that—and we find this quite strange—the provinces have not been associated with this bill. We will have some numbers to provide on this later. We know there is a great deal of catching up to do in Quebec, in the field of intra muros research, research done in federal laboratories.

For example, Quebec, which is developing a science policy, has provided $400 million over two years. Quebec, which represents 25% of the population, has managed to provide in its budget $400 million for research over two years, while the federal government will provide $500 million for all of Canada, at the most important point in the establishment of Canadian institutes of health research. It seems to me it would have been interesting to associate the provinces with this, to agree to take their recommendations into consideration.

It is especially important to recognize that health care is a provincial jurisdiction. The fact still remains that, when the government was seeking to establish the Canadian institutes of health research, it called on a number of actors. It called on people from industry, representatives of consumer groups, colleges and universities, which are responsible, as we know, for most health research; it also called on the hospitals. As I said, the provinces were consulted very weakly, very reservedly and very timidly.

To show where things stand in health research, I will take the year 1998 as an example. I will take great care to speak slowly. I realize that, in the past, I have made things a bit difficult for the House interpreters; I was criticized for it and, in the next few months, I intend to adjust my speed.

Members of the House will surely join me in applauding the interpreters who work very hard for us. Thus, it is important that we keep delivering our speeches calmly, which makes them easier to understand anyway.

I was saying that, according to available data for 1998, which is therefore fairly up to date, $2.3 billion was spent on health research. For clarity sake, here is a breakdown of how the responsibilities were divided: 27% of health research was carried out by companies and 7% by provincial governments. This is a national average. Understandably, British Columbia , Ontario and Quebec invest more; an average being a measure of the central tendency, this can reflect a biased reality.

The federal government invested 16% of the funding available for research, while the others, namely private lenders, invested 18%; foreign sources, 8%; private non-profit organizations, 12%; and hospitals, universities and institutes, 12 %.

We can see that it is primarily the private sector that is funding research in Canada, when the total of $2.3 billion is broken down by source.

However, if we were to apportion intra-muros research mandates, namely the research being done by public institutions—as opposed to extra-muros research which is done in the private sector—by various federal laboratories and by various governments, the breakdown would be as follows: hospitals fund 18% of research and private non-profit organisations, 6%.

During the 1990s, the OECD reminded us that the federal government, which funds only 3% of the research, had to make a effort to catch up.

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Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

This is truly shameful.

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Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

This is truly shameful. I agree with my colleague from Chambly, who is a trained notary. I like to point that out because I know he has pleasant memories of his training years on the North Shore, if I am not mistaken—

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Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

At Laval University.

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Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

At Laval University. If memory serves, he also hated administrative law, yet it does not prevent him from having an interest for politics.

Furthermore, provincial governments fund 1% and the private sector, through mandates and partnerships with the public sector, funds 27%. The most interesting information I want to point out is the fact that hospitals and universities fund 45% of research.

Close to 50% of health research is performed in hospitals and universities. It is therefore important to have a bill which will take this fact into account.

If I asked who is responsible for health institutions and hospitals, who has jurisdiction constitutionally, I believe that we would all be tempted to answer that it is, of course, the provinces.

We are facing a situation we have questions about. The federal government wants to invest in research and development. I remind the House that the Bloc Quebecois, an eminently responsible political formation, has always asked an investment be made in research.

I wish you had been there in 1993 during the electoral campaign led by an extraordinary campaigner, Lucien Bouchard. The current Premier of Quebec and his team of candidates asked the federal government to put an end to our historical lag in the area of research and development, with data to support that request. We repeated the request in 1997.

But it took two electoral campaigns, masterfully led by the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec, for the federal government to finally understand this request and to invest in research. The government is to be thanked for investing in research, but there is a problem.

I am convinced that my colleague, the member for Chambly, will agree. Let me digress for a moment just to say that, according to the referendum results, the riding where participation was the highest in 1995 is Chambly. I know that down deep the member for Chambly must be very proud of that fact.

Getting back to the subject at hand, I was saying that we hope there will be some major investments in health research. However, could we not be led to believe—I ask the question to my colleagues who all seem extremely interested in that bill—that what we have here is a nation building bill? By presenting this bill on Canadian institutes of health research, is the federal government not looking for greater visibility?

If its main objective were to consolidate biomedical research and to promoters greater interaction between researchers who work in that field, it could have allocated money to the provinces. Members should not forget that Quebec has its Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec, chaired by Dr. Bureau. Quebec has had a policy for several years already and has been investing in research and has defined major directions.

There is a paradox in the bill. There is an insistence on nation building and, yet, there is a divorce between where the research will be conducted and the responsibility the Canadian government wants to have confirmed by this bill.

This is not to say that historically research is exclusively a provincial jurisdiction. No. We know better on this side of the House than to suggest that. What we say, however, is that it might have been more interesting, for efficiency's sake and out of respect for the provinces, to allocate money to existing initiatives, especially considering that half of the medical research is done in universities and hospitals, which are themselves agents of the provinces.

The Government of Quebec is not comfortable with such a bill. Things would have been a lot simpler if the government had accepted the amendments moved by the opposition.

We said “Yes, let us establish institutes of health research.” I will, if I may, digress, because if people take a cursory glance at the bill, they may get the impression—and the minister said this many times publicly—that 15 institutes will be established.

The government says that there will a budget of $240 million to begin with, that $500 million will be provided at the most crucial phase, in 2001-2002, that the Canadian institutes of health research will have a thematic focus.

Each institute will have four major research focuses: bio-medical research, clinical research, research to improve people's health of populations and research on our health care system. Yet, because I have been extremely vigilant in examining this bill, I noticed that there will be only one institute and that the governing council is very centralized.

This centralized institute will oversee 15 other institutes that are not really independent. They will not have genuine operational independence, at least not according to what is provided in this bill. This is a trap and is of concern to us.

Just to show that there is no genuine operational independence, the bill provides that all equipment acquired shall remain the property of the federal crown. All research projects submitted to the different advisory committees in each institute and approved by them will have to get the approval of the governing council. I think members will agree that we have seen better instances of operational independence.

There is another paradox. The chairperson of the governing council and the chief executive officer are the same person. I hope that the parliamentary secretary, my friend from Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies, with whom I share a passion for Montreal, will remember that we asked him questions about that in committee. We asked him why the two functions were performed by the same person.

I will give an example for the enlightenment of my colleague, the parliamentary secretary. Let us take the Régie des installations olympiques—$500 million is a lot of money—whose board of directors recently had a new roof made for the stadium. This organization has a budget of less than $500 million. Yet, as is the case with most crown corporations and other public organizations, it was felt that the chairperson of the board and the chief executive officer ought to be two different persons.

Such a distinction is important and, according to philosopher Montesquieu, it is essential in order to have checks and balances. The chief executive officer must make decisions for the day to day administration of the health institutes so they can fulfil their terms of reference.

The role of the chairperson of the governing council is one of supervision and control, that of a watchdog. Are we to conclude that this role of monitoring, of control, this eminently desirable watchdog role when the public's money is concerned, can be properly exercized when we realize the chairman of the board and the CEO are one and the same person? Really now, that makes no sense.

The government has failed in its duty. I repeat, we are in favour of the principle of this bill. We acknowledge the government's desire to create links, forums for interaction, for exchange, for focusing researchers' efforts. We agree that this is the path modern research needs to take, but we believe this bill has a certain number of flaws, and have sought to improve it.

I must admit, however, that the government has unfortunately turned a deaf ear to our amendments. It has not, in fact, accepted a single one. We introduced about thirty of them, each one more relevant than the last, and these were amendments which witnesses had called for. Unfortunately, the government turned a deaf ear to them. That is its prerogative, but I am forced to say that the bill would have benefited considerably from them.

Before going into any further detail on the research institutes, I would like to point out that, on February 14, the Government of Quebec, the government of Lucien Bouchard, through Mrs. Marois, the Minister of State for Health, and Jean Rochon, whose name is always mentioned with pleasure in this House because of his past accomplishments, wrote to the Minister of Health, over the signatures of the two ministers but on behalf of the entire government, to express its opposition.

I will read the letter in question, if I may, for the sake of transparency. I will also say that we moved 33 amendments of every nature, and that it would have been desirable for the government to agree to them. I will now begin reading the letter:

This is pursuant to the introduction in the House of Commons, on November 4, 1999, of Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, to repeal the Medical Research Council Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Your government had already announced, in its February 1999 budget, that this new structure would be responsible for distributing $240 million to fund research projects until the year 2001-2002.

Therefore, it is no surprise that Bill C-13 was welcomed by the scientific and research community which, needless to say, was severely affected by the federal cuts made in recent years.

I will continue reading this letter, but I want to take this opportunity to remind the House that the federal government cut $33 billion in cash transfers and in transfer payments to the provinces. Obviously, when the government makes cuts to transfer payments, it affects the provinces' ability to support the research efforts of the various granting agencies for which they have primary responsibility.

The next excerpt is very important. I do not know if my comments can be heard in dolby or in stereo, but I hope they will be clearly heard in the House, particularly by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, who is here with us today.

While the Government of Quebec shares and understands the satisfaction expressed by the research community in Quebec in that regard and recognizes that it is necessary for our two governments to co-operate in the area of research, it is troubled—

The term used here is quite strong, and meant to be. Could someone give me the Latin root of the word troubled? Does the hon. member for Chambly remember?

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11:35 a.m.


Yvon Charbonneau Liberal Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

It comes from the word trouble.

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Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

It comes from the word trouble, as in troublemaker. The Government of Quebec is troubled. I will go back to the letter:

—by the fact that Bill C-13 seems, unfortunately, to reflect the federal government's determination to exceed its jurisdictions by trivializing those of the provinces and by distorting the sharing of powers provided for under the Canadian Constitution.

The fact that a government would use such strong wording as constitutional powers is quite something.

The letter further states:

Health is an area under provincial jurisdiction. In fact, what successive governments in Quebec have always claimed has indeed been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in various matters, including in Bell Canada v Quebec.

The Government of Quebec reminds the federal government that health is first and foremost an area under provincial jurisdiction, as recognized by the supreme court. In that context, certain aspects of your bill reflect a centralizing vision and a desire to reduce the provinces' powers and responsibilities, with regard to health, which we cannot accept.

In other words, the Government of Quebec wants funding for research, but it has some concerns about the fact that this bill could open the door to interventionism and interference. With regard to research, the letter says:

The approach based on networking, interdisciplinarity and the pooling of knowledge and experience is part of a trend that already exists in Quebec, where researchers in several areas are already used to working as part of a network on an interdisciplinary or inter-university basis.

Of course, the Government of Quebec, which, each year, allocates more than adequate budgets to research funding, supports the objectives of this networking approach.

The federal government must not think that there is anything new in asking researchers to do team work. It is a practice that the Government of Quebec has enshrined in its research policies.

I apologize if sometimes I do not keep still, but by way of historical background, I will remind the House that Henri Bourassa, whose last nationalist speech was delivered in the eastern townships, used to move or walk about a lot when he was a member of this House. I have read that in the archives. I will stay close to my microphone, because technology is much more advanced now, but that does not mean that we are not inspired by Henri Bourassa.

He was an ultramontane. He was also a very committed nationalist who opposed the conscription bill motion tabled in this House, as the member for Chambly undoubtedly knows since he is a scholar.

The Quebec government blames the federal government for not consulting it. I read further and I hope you will get the gist of the letter:

However, by giving the institutes a leading and centralizing role in health research and by mentioning the development and implementation of an integrated health policy, Bill C-13 reflects a federal government's desire to assume responsibilities it does not have in that area under the Constitution.

I mentioned Henri Bourassa for a reason. We have had young nationalists, like Henri Bourassa and Armand Lavergne, who were great orators. Why is there a strong sovereignist movement constantly striving to assert itself, which is about to succeed? Because throughout Quebec's history, and that of Canada, the roles assigned to each level of government have systematically not been respected.

It is very important to note that this government's health department alone employs more public servants than all the provincial departments, whose primary responsibility is health.

This is typical of Canadian history. The history of Canada is riddled with encroachments, all unjustified constitutionally, on other jurisdictions.

If I may, I would like to quote again Ministers Rochon and Marois:

There is cause for concern to have a bill which, while recognizing the provinces' role in health, tries to relegate them to the level of actors, just like any other Canadian or foreign individual or organization that have an interest in health.

This is quite something. Clause 4 of the bill puts the provinces and voluntary organizations on an equal footing. We have nothing against voluntary organizations. We believe on the subject of Canadian institutes of health research, all sectors having an interest in research, namely consumers, voluntary organizations and industry, should be heard.

I am sure members will agree that there is nevertheless a distinction between the voluntary and community and the various governments. The bill pays lip service to co-operation between the federal government and the provinces, despite the fact that health care is primarily a provincial jurisdiction.

I believe that the Government of Quebec is right to be concerned by this bill and that we were also right in moving more than 30 amendments to the bill.

The letter goes on:

The Government of Quebec can only welcome any action taken by the federal government to increase the funding of health research, as long as such action does not encroach on Quebec's responsibilities and role in this area as well as in other areas which it considers a priority.

However, it is totally unacceptable for your government, under the guise of action taken in the area of research, through agencies under its control, to seek to have an influence on the directions, the management and the implementation of health care services and programs over which, it must be pointed out, the federal government has no jurisdiction.

I believe members get the point of this letter. At the end of my speech, I will seek unanimous consent of the House to table this letter so that every member can benefit from of it.

I also want to emphasize that the Quebec government has priorities. It has identified areas where it has developed know-how, a specific expertise.

I am referring to the whole area of genome, heredity and genetics. I am referring also to AIDS. AIDS is part of the large family of concerns that is virology and immunology. Quebec has concentrated on its territory a number of researchers extremely conversant with broad international trends in that field of research. I am also thinking of cancer, which has taken an enormous toll, as we know.

I dare hope that in establishing the Canadian institutes of health research the government will take into account the strengths and the weaknesses of every province.

Mr. Speaker, you are indicating that I have only three minutes left. That is unbelievable; it feels like I just started to make a number of important points. I will have to speak quickly of the amendments we have put forward. I have only three minutes left, but it is not totally unthinkable that I could get the unanimous consent of the House to continue my speech. In the interests of good relations, it would certainly be possible to obtain such consent, as ought to be the case, obviously.

I would like to recall five of our amendments. We would have liked to have the following in the preamble:

Whereas Parliament recognizes the full jurisdiction of the provinces over health services—

Had the government agreed to incorporate this amendment in the bill, we would have voted for Bill C-13. We think it important in the field of health to establish clearly that the provinces have the primary responsibility.

We also would have liked to amend clause 4 as follows:

—by replacing lines 23 to 26 on page four with the following:

(iii) have the provinces participate in the choice of directions and decisions for research; and

This takes no special talent. It seems to me there is nothing outlandish in that.

In another type of amendment we would have liked to see agreed to, with regard to clause 5, we said that there was a need to: b .1) involve the provinces in the choice of directions and decisions and form partnerships with them;

This means more than just co-operating. It recognizes the central role of the provinces, which must be involved in the choice and in the directions.

The most significant I would have liked to see agreed to, in addition to the recognition that this is a matter of provincial jurisdiction, is the one in which we said:

7.1 The Governor in Council shall appoint the President of the CIHR and the—members of the governing council from lists of names provided by the provinces.

Would this not have been a good example of co-operative federalism, as the provinces could make proposals? Not only would they make proposals, but the federal government would agree to draw, for the appointments to the various governing councils and in the various institutes of health research, on the lists provided by the provinces.

In view of the wild enthusiasm my speech elicited, I wondered, Mr. Speaker, if you could make sure that the letter sent to us by the Quebec ministers of health and research be first made public for the benefit of all parliamentarians.

I will conclude on three points. This is a nation building bill. We would have been pleased to vote for it had the responsibilities of the provinces been recognized. Despite all, we are pleased the federal government is investing in research. I hope as things unfold that the federal government will involve the provinces and their networks of researchers.

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The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent of the House to allow the hon. member to table the documents to which he has alluded?

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Some hon. members


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Some hon. members


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11:50 a.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity on behalf of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party to express all our concerns about Bill C-13.

There is no question we are talking about a bill that makes progress in terms of health research in this country today. The New Democratic Party from day one has indicated that we support the principle of the bill.

We support the idea of increased dollars for health research. We support the idea of transforming the country's health research agenda to ensure that it includes the whole range of health concerns, that it approaches health care and health research on a holistic basis and that it looks not only at biomedical research and applied research, but also at the soundness of our health care system and those determinants of ill health so much at the heart of everything we are dealing with today.

I want to make it perfectly clear that we support the idea and spirit of the bill. However, at the outset when the bill was before the House at second reading we said that we had serious concerns which we were prepared to raise at committee and would propose serious and constructive amendments. We looked to the government to listen to those concerns and to respond where those concerns were clearly identified and reinforced by testimony from witnesses.

I have to say with some anger and bitterness that we were not successful for one second in moving the government to consider any changes to the bill. From the beginning of the committee process right through to the completion of report stage yesterday, we did not have the ear of the government. We did not have any kind of interest on the part of Liberal members in improving the bill to address those concerns.

We are very disappointed and disturbed at the arrogance of the government in its refusal to broaden its approach to allow for democratic participation on the part of Canadians everywhere. It is with profound regret that today we stand in the House to express our opposition to Bill C-13.

Let me put it in the context of the health care system as a whole because one cannot, as some have tried to do in the House today, separate our health care system from our health research agenda.

All members in the House know that we have very deeply felt concerns about the general direction of our health care system. Time and time again we have raised the degree to which our health care system is being privatized. We have asked the government time and time again to provide leadership and direction to ensure that the private sector is not the major dominant force in our health care sector.

It is no coincidence that today we are dealing with Bill C-13 at the height of Canadians' concerns on the future of medicare and our health care system. It is interesting to note that today as we debate this bill there are Canadians all over this city and in this place, the House of Commons, talking to, lobbying and pressuring Liberal members of parliament to rethink their direction on health care and for the government to come to its senses on what Canadians treasure the most and what needs to be done. Privatization of the health care system on the one hand cannot be considered separately from what is being done by the government in terms of health research on the other hand.

From the beginning we have had four or five major concerns with Bill C-13. We have tried to seek changes in those areas. We have been unsuccessful so our concerns remain. Let me clearly outline those major concerns with the hope at this last minute of having the ear of the parliamentary secretary and other members of the Liberal government. It is hoped that we will be able to make some changes at the last moment or at least work toward redressing these serious issues in the future.

The first concern is the degree to which our health care system is being privatized and commercialized. This bill is about research. It is about the role of the Canadian government in advancing public health research. The bill is about how we can actually address the causes of ill health and move to make our system more efficient and equitable. One of the measures of a bill is the extent to which it ensures that the public good is preserved and that there is no explicit reference in legislation to allow the private sector to take precedence over the public agenda.

Our concerns have been very clearly outlined in the House and at committee on a number of occasions. Those feelings, sentiments and opinions have been reinforced by dozens of witnesses who appeared before the committee and made representations to the government.

Obviously, if we are concerned and interested in advancing the public research agenda in the country today, we have to take extra special steps to ensure that the public good is protected at all costs.

This bill, however transformative in nature, does not address the fundamental question of ensuring that the public good is paramount at all costs. The bill leaves open the question of the degree to which commercial efforts, private health sector forces, can have control over the health care agenda and the health research agenda in the country today.

Many of the reputable organizations that appeared before the committee raised those concerns. I do not need to go through the whole list, but I remind members that this is not an opinion coming from one small part of the country. It is not just coming from the New Democratic Party members. It is a concern that was raised by professionals, health activists and ordinary citizens from one end of the country to the other. When it comes to health research, the role of the government should be to protect the public interest and advance the public good.

While this bill makes progress in terms of transforming our health research agenda, it does not address that fundamental question of ensuring the public good is paramount. If we look at the bill we will clearly see the reference to commercialization as part of one of the objectives of the new Canadian institutes for health research.

Our objective at committee was straightforward and simple. While acknowledging the role of the private sector in Canada today and the role of the government in ensuring the commercial advantage of Canadian businesses in society, we felt that the bill should specify that the public good was paramount. We tried to convince the government to take a simple step and acknowledge that concern and eliminate any ambiguity in the bill. We called for the government to entrench in this legislation words that would show that any commercialization of research would be secondary to the public interest.

We presented some 15 amendments, all of which were turned down by the government. They were hardly considered for a moment by the government. We suggested that the government could have, in all seriousness, changed the wording of the bill and improved it by adding the words “consistent with the public interest”. Does this not sound simple? It only had to add the words “consistent with the public interest” so that there would be no ambiguity and no doubts remaining about who was controlling the agenda.

Liberal members on the committee gathered together, brought their members out and defeated that straightforward proposition to ensure that the public interest was protected.

How in good conscience can we support a bill that could not even ensure that a fundamental principle was attached to the content? How can we support the government's move to change the research agenda if it is not prepared to be upfront and clear about the direction in which it is taking the country? I do not think we are asking too much by requesting the government to remove that ambiguity and protect the public interest. I do not think it is too much given the kinds of incidents and situations we are dealing with on a day to day basis.

I do not have to remind members about the situation facing Dr. Nancy Olivieri, a scientist who did considerable research on a particular drug dealing with—