Mr. Speaker, I had forgotten that for the moment, and I thank you for reminding me.
Another comment which was made during the meetings I held was “Will there be any infrastructure money for us?” We note that the government announced in its budget that there will be an infrastructure program, probably similar to the one that was carried on previously, and we applaud that move as a very positive move. However, our concern is that the details have not yet been worked out. We understand that it may not be until 2001 before some agreements are worked out with the provinces to get this in motion. We need the infrastructure now. We need these programs to move in favour of the communities.
There are many small communities in my riding which would benefit immensely from a good infrastructure program. We hope that these programs will not be focused only on major infrastructure projects like highways, but that the programs will reach into the communities to assist them with the goals and objectives which are meaningful to them, such as community centres and structures to assist our young people and our children, the real heartthrob of our country, to give them the recreational and educational opportunities that are needed.
We want to watch that infrastructure very closely. The question from the constituent, “Will there be any infrastructure money for us?”, is very valid because sometimes we know that these programs are administered in a way in which, far too often, there is much political manoeuvring around who gets what and how it takes place, and that should not be the case. We see the very result of that in the House today with the many questions regarding the administration of the HRDC grants and how they went to various ridings. We hope this will not become an issue with the infrastructure program. With regard to the budget, we certainly feel that the infrastructure program is important and we hope it will be carried out prudently.
The health care system is a mess. I have spoken about this already. This issue was raised time and time again by many people in my constituency who were concerned about the health care system. I am glad to see that the government is now looking at discussions with the provinces on how to move forward on some of the very vital issues. We know that this must be more than window dressing. It has to be sincere and it has to show that the government is putting forth the kind of support that is needed. Unfortunately, the fact that the federal government is contributing so little to the health care system compared with what it contributed years back is indeed something that has caused a lot of problems, long waiting lines, a lot of difficulties with our health care system.
The budget did not really address two very important aspects of the health care system, home care and pharmacare. These are very important issues. Many elderly people in my riding say to me “On my fixed income I cannot afford the cost of the drugs that I have to buy”. This is a very real problem for many people, particularly seniors. We in the NDP feel the government has strongly ignored aid and assistance to our senior citizens in its budget.
Our seniors have contributed a lot to their communities and when they get to their golden years, they should not have to be concerned or worried about their next meal. They should not be concerned or worried about needing medication and balancing their budgets and doing without some necessity in order to get their medicine. I know of many senior citizens who are going without their medication because it is not available to them with our present health care system. I have many comments I can make about this issue.
One comment that came up time and time again was the fact that the government does not listen. There is a feeling among the public that when politicians campaign at election time, they will say anything and everything to get elected. Once elected, they become obsessed with power and do not listen to those who elected them. In some cases, constituents never see their elected representatives. The feeling is that government does not listen to people. It does what it wants when it wants.
Another issue was the announcement by the government that it was going to provide assistance to professional hockey teams. In this case, perhaps the government did listen when people spoke out loud and clear and said “We don't want it”. The government backed off rather quickly because there was quite an outcry from the public.
I quite often tell people in my constituency that they have power in their voices. If they combine their voices with that of others they can get some change. I have told them not to be afraid to speak out on issues. I encourage people to make sure they direct their concerns to the government or their MP when they have these kinds of concerns. We have to make the government listen. It is our future. It is our country. It is our destiny.
Who can live on a $575 per month CPP disability pension? Over and above the issue of the amount that is available for this pension, people also find they have difficulties when they apply for this. Many people in my riding come to me with obvious disabilities and will never be able to work again. Yet, they have trouble getting the disability pension. When they do get it, it is only $575 per month. There is very little one can do with $575 per month with the cost of housing and food. There is not much left over. This issue was sadly lacking in the budget. There was nothing to address the concerns of our senior citizens, those who are living on disability pensions or those with limited or fixed incomes.
What happened to the debt? Is the government not worried about it? I am afraid of what we will be leaving our children with in terms of the debt. That is a very important comment. What will we be leaving our children? What will our legacy be to our children? Will we just be passing on to them a system of two-tier privatized health care where if they are not fortunate enough to be earning enough money, they are not going to be able to get access to the best medical treatment or will we be leaving them a system which is universally accessible to all, one that we can be proud of?
This is what we in the NDP are fighting for. This is what we feel the government should maintain. Unfortunately, we see the government moving in an opposite direction. The government is tolerating the setting up of private clinics and the operation of “private hospitals”. I put it in quotes because people will say they are not hospitals. The reality is when persons are sick or their leg is broken and they go for service, they are not questioning whether it is a clinic or hospital. They look at whether or not that service is available to them. What kind of system are we leaving to our children?
I will share another comment with the House because I like this one in particular. It states “I don't understand why people will not give the NDP a chance”. I think that is a good one. I think it is time for people to start looking at their options and realize that there is a voice out there speaking for them which is concerned about many of these issues.
I will keep your admonition in mind, Mr. Speaker, about calling people by names. I will leave out the name but another comment states “It took Mr. X more than one year to answer my letter regarding CPP”. This person was writing to a minister of the government about her CPP.