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House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition, an entirely different one, which calls on parliament to reject the plan of the Department of National Defence to abolish the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada or to amalgamate them with another militia regiment.

These petitioners from Winnipeg believe that Manitoba's only highland regiment should be retained. They believe that the Camerons are useful to all citizens of Manitoba. They believe that a strong militia is the basis upon which capable national defence is built.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to present which is signed by a number of people from across the prairies.

The petitioners are calling upon the House of Commons to abolish the unelected Senate. They are saying that the Senate is undemocratic. It is not elected. It is not accountable. It actually costs taxpayers some $50 million a year. It is now redundant. It undermines the role of members of parliament.

They say we need to modernize our political and parliamentary institutions, and because of that they say we should begin the process of the abolition of the undemocratic Senate.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to table two petitions signed by 588 people who are calling on this House and on parliament to quickly pass legislation making it mandatory to label all foods that are wholly or partially genetically modified.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

I have two other petitions calling on this House and on parliament to take all necessary action so that Canadians and their representatives are consulted on the principles of importing MOX plutonium.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations and if you would seek it I would hope you would find unanimous consent for the following motion dealing with the tabling of committee reports: Provided that on any day prior to June 30, 2000, if the Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Government Operations has a report ready for presentation in the House, the said report may be deposited with the Clerk of the House and shall be thereupon deemed tabled in the House.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order arising out of question period and arising out of many other question periods.

I would like to ask the Chair to take some time over the summer to reflect on the advisability of a practice which has grown up in question period of the Chair ruling or observing that questions are out of order and then asking ministers of the crown whether or not they would then like to answer the questions that are out of order.

If the Chair rules a question out of order, it seems to me that should be the end of the matter. It is not a question of the question being out of order and answering it anyway, or he may answer it anyway. It puts the minister on the spot. If the question is out of order, if it is so ruled, that should be the end of the matter. The time of the House should not be consumed with ministers answering questions that have been ruled out of order.

I would ask the Chair to consider that matter over the summer. Perhaps a new practice, depending on what conclusions the Chair arrives at over the summer, might be implemented in the fall.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Reform

Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I noticed the same thing as the hon. member for Winnipeg—Transcona. I also noticed that on the first question the Speaker ruled out of order the Prime Minister was signalling to the House leader of the government to answer it. The Speaker did not allow an answer at that point.

On the second question ruled out of order, the House leader for the government was on his feet, very anxious to answer the question. I do not think that it was a discretion of the Speaker at all. It was a matter of the minister asking for an opportunity to answer the question.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Winnipeg—Transcona raises a point that obviously has been of some concern to the Chair on occasions in the past. As the hon. member knows, it is not that often that the Deputy Speaker is in the chair for question period, so I do not normally have to deal with this matter. On Fridays members are so well behaved that I very seldom have to rule a question out of order.

However, today, as the hon. member for Wetaskiwin has pointed out, on one occasion the question in my view was beyond the competence of the government and I did not permit an answer. In my view it was an improper question and should not have been asked.

On the other two questions that I thought were out of order, they were out of order because of the language in the questions and not because of the content. In those cases I allowed the government to respond, particularly in the one case where the minister exhibited considerable enthusiasm for responding, not just to the one that was out of order but to the second one which was out of order because of in my view the language. That is why I permitted a response.

I am happy to contemplate this matter in the summer. I know I will spend many nights lying awake thinking about what to do the next time I get one of these questions.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Only you would.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

As the hon. member says, only I would. I suspect there may be others who would do the same. I suspect he may be one of them. I know he will have more advice for the Chair on other occasions, and I appreciate the advice. I know my fellow chair occupants appreciate the advice of all hon. members on these difficult questions.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege. I am asking you to rule on whether MPs may have been wilfully deceived by the Department of Justice because of a document received on MPs' desks just prior to the June 6 vote on Bill C-206, which falsely attributed to the privacy commissioner the expressed concern that opening up 30 year old records would make vulnerable to disclosure personal information, including income tax returns, unemployment insurance records, charitable and political donations, and income investment information.

While this document emanated from government, the comments on the privacy commissioner's position can be traced to a justice department talking points document to cabinet of May 26, which reported that the privacy commissioner considered Bill C-206 to be a “serious threat to the privacy of Canadians” and cited as an example the release of “personal income tax returns which would include information on dependants, charitable and political donations, not to mention income investments and so on”.

The problem is the privacy commissioner was not in official communication with the Department of Justice on Bill C-206 until 10 days after the May 26 memo outlining his position and never described his concerns as a “serious threat” nor ever gave the example cited in the document above.

At issue here is whether it is a breach of privilege if the officials of a ministry are found to have given advice to MPs, both the government and MPs in their places in the House, that negatively characterizes legislation based on statements, expressed and implied, that were improperly attributed to an officer of parliament.

I have a number of documents which I wish to table for your examination. The first we will call exhibit A. It was found on every MPs desk at the commencement of the vote on Bill C-206 and comprises 14 pages in English and French consisting of three documents: a one page excerpt from the privacy commissioner's 1999-2000 report mentioning Bill C-264, the predecessor of Bill C-206; a letter dated June 5 from the privacy commissioner to the justice minister outlining his concerns with respect to Bill C-206; and a covering two page government note entitled “Summary of Bill C-206”.

You will note that the letter to the justice minister is dated June 5. The vote took place in the evening of June 6. Thus it could not have been received by the justice minister much earlier than 24 hours before. Also, and very importantly, the privacy commissioner assures me that this letter is the only official exchange of correspondence between him and the justice minister or between his office and the justice ministry pertaining to Bill C-206. We need look no further for the sum total of the privacy commissioner's position on Bill C-206.

I might also say the sponsor of Bill C-206, which was myself, put no document on MPs' desks, relying on his colleagues to know the bill through the debate that occurred in the House and by letters he had sent to their offices. That is a point you might also wish to contemplate.

The paragraph in the government covering letter that I wish to draw to your attention is that subtitled “Privacy Concerns” which then attributes to the privacy commissioner the concern that making 30 year old records accessible could result in the potential release of personal information. Privacy commissioner and personal records are boldfaced for emphasis.

Then it goes on to give examples of personal information that because of the 30 year provision would be “vulnerable”: income tax returns, unemployment insurance records, charitable and political donations, and income investment information.

These examples had a tremendously damaging impact on opinion of the bill. Two MPs, the member for Carleton—Gloucester and the member for Broadview—Greenwood, told me afterwards that the examples influenced them to vote against the bill. I am sure many other MPs likewise reacted and may have voted accordingly, but nowhere in any official communication from the privacy commissioner will you find reference to a concern linking the 30 year provision to tax returns, unemployment insurance records, political donations and income investment information. Moreover, the privacy commissioner has assured me that he has never personally used these examples, period. Indeed well he would not. The political donations of individuals are already readily available from the Elections Canada website.

It turns out, however, that the damaging examples in this document that was put on MPs' desks have a history. I refer now to exhibit B. This is a justice department's talking points memo to cabinet dated May 26 which says that, and I give you the entire sentence, “The privacy commissioner believes Bill C-206 is a serious threat to privacy”. That is the exact quotation.

The privacy commissioner assures me that although he takes all issues of privacy seriously, neither he nor his staff has ever said that Bill C-206 is a serious threat to privacy. Indeed, if you examine his letter of June 5 you will find that he says that his “greatest concerns can be met with by amendments” and that he is looking forward to “outlining his concerns to the appropriate committee”.

I should say that it is directly the privacy commissioner's mandate to consider all legislation that gets on the order of precedence for its Privacy Act implications. He expresses concerns on legislation all the time, and those concerns are supposed to be dealt with as the legislation makes its way through committee and report stage.

Further in these talking points to cabinet which were shared with some MPs, which is how I got this document, you will see the statement that the privacy commissioner believes “For example, the release of personal income tax returns would include information on dependants, charitable and political donations, not to mention income investments and so on”.

The privacy commissioner assures me he did not say that, and yet three days after the date of these talking points the sponsor of Bill C-206, that is myself, was summoned before the Deputy Prime Minister, the justice minister, the treasury board president and the government House leader and for the first time asked to account for the fact that the privacy commissioner says that Bill C-206 is going to open up personal income tax forms, personal investments and so on more than 30 years old.

Despite my thorough knowledge of the bill and despite my explanations, how could I make convincing argument against the supposed word of the privacy commissioner expressed in a document that was not then shared with me?

Two days later the government announced to the Liberal caucus that it was not supporting Bill C-206. Then, for the next four days before the vote, the whip and cabinet ministers directly approached backbench MPs and told them not to vote for Bill C-206 while citing the privacy commissioner's alleged beliefs reported in the justice department talking points of May 26.

However the privacy commissioner's actual, official, written position on Bill C-206 was only received by the justice department at most late in the afternoon the day before the vote and two days after the government began whipping the backbench to vote against it.

When I raised these issues with the privacy commissioner he recalled that there may have been informal talks between his staff and justice department staff. He later informed me that on inquiry he had learned that such talks had occurred in October 1999 and that issues related to income tax returns and other types of personal information had been discussed. The privacy commissioner was not at those talks, and they were of so informal a nature that no record of them was taken by privacy commission staff.

I asked the privacy commissioner if such talks by his staff, which occur from time to time on various items of legislation, could be or should be construed as being his opinion. The privacy commissioner replied, and I give the House his exact words, “If it is not under my signature and seal I did not say it”.

There you have it, Mr. Speaker. Documents from the justice department which falsely purported to reflect the privacy commissioner's stated position on Bill C-206 came before the government and MPs in the House and probably affected a vote that was before the House. I believe that this constitutes a prima facie case of privilege.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I want to thank the hon. member for Wentworth—Burlington for raising this question of privilege. I will certainly review the documents that he has presented with his argument. It may be that a member of the government will wish to respond at a later date to the allegations that are contained in the documents that he will be tabling. If that is the case, I will certainly be prepared to hear those arguments before rendering a decision on the question that he has raised. I will take the matter under advisement at this time.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I regret that I was not present but I understand, and I stand to be corrected if I am in error, that my colleague may have charged that as the chief government whip I would have lobbied or given instructions to government members on how to vote on a private member's bill under his signature. If that is the correct interpretation, I want to unequivocally deny such an accusation in this instance or in any other instance affecting Private Members' Business.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair may be wrong but I do not think that was the nature of the allegation.

There are documents that were referred to by the hon. member for Wentworth—Burlington which I think he alleged were the ones that were used to influence the thinking of members of parliament. I do not recall from anything I have heard him say that any of those documents emanated from the chief government whip.

As I said, I think it is appropriate that we review the documents. I know the chief government whip may want to look at them as well, but I think a member of the government may wish to respond to this. We will give time for that to happen.

We will take the matter under advisement at this time and we will deal with it when there is some indication of the availability of a response and when we have had an opportunity to review the documents that have been presented.

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

SupplyGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2000 / 3:30 p.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Reform Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague's speech on health care. As we all know, the quality of health care really went downhill when the Liberal government made all the cuts back in the early 1990s. Would the hon. member accept responsibility for all the cuts that were made to the health care system which created the situation that exists today?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House accept the responsibility of fixing a system that needs to be enforced. We ask for co-operation from all colleagues in this House to take the politics out of health care and to fix the situation.

This gives me an opportunity to thank the people of the beautiful town of Chesterville for their hospitality this past Monday. Chesterville is in the beautiful riding of Stormont—Dundas—Charlottenburgh where the government announced the investment of $50 million into the innovation fund for rural and community health and an additional $11 million for the projects under telehealth. This is so very important. Telemedicine is necessary to help fix the situation with respect to health care in rural and remote communities.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have had much debate today on health care, the subject of the official opposition supply day motion.

I would like to ask the hon. member for Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington about health in a more general way. It relates to the fact that when people think about medicare and health care services, most often they are thinking about physical health, but in actual fact what has happened in Canada has been a tragedy in terms of mental health care services.

There has been a shrinkage of resources. What the provinces have been able to secure from the federal government, if there has been a prioritization, it has been away from mental health care services. There have been some very tragic examples recently of what has happened. People with obvious and known to themselves mental health problems have been crying out for help but have not been able to receive it. Consequently they have carried out criminal acts.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have something of interest for the member's riding.

There was an announcement made on Monday this week about rural Canada. It would certainly apply to beautiful Vancouver Island.

A new system has been set up to deliver an ultrasound service into northern Alberta, probably about three hours north of Edmonton. The technology is now available to transfer the ultrasound images from the town via satellite, across the Equator and back into the clinic in Calgary.

We sat in Chesterville and all Canadians were able to watch the ultrasound images being transferred. A doctor who specializes in interpreting these images received them and sent them back to the doctor in the home town. It saved the patient travel time of three and a half hours to have the ultrasound tests conducted. Also, in front of Canada and with television coverage, an hon. member of this House said everyone wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl, but someone in northern Alberta said the mom and dad did not want to know. We all have to work together to address health care.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Reform Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby.

I am pleased to speak to the health crisis in Canada. I want to speak from the Manitoba perspective. Having actively been involved with this issue for many years in Manitoba, I can certainly tell the House that Manitobans are not happy campers when it comes to their health care services.

The cuts from the federal government have had a huge impact on all the people of Manitoba. The whole health care system in Manitoba had to be reconfigured to deal with the drastic cuts the government made to the tune of about $24 billion in the early 1990s.

It forced the provincial government to centralize the health system. It is sad that this was forced upon the Gary Filmon government. Unfortunately it may have been one of the factors that cost him the last election because people are still angry about the health care delivery system in the province of Manitoba. As a result we now have a number of regional health authorities who are unelected and appointed by politicians. It is another political game which we have to put up with.

What did I do about this, going back six or seven years? At that time I organized a provincial health meeting with municipal and aboriginal leaders to deal with the health crisis. We had a forum on health. We asked the then Manitoba minister of health, Darren Praznik, to appear before the angry delegates and he did. He found himself in a very difficult situation. He had been appointed to that position about a month prior to the meeting.

Unfortunately all the municipal and aboriginal leaders attacked the province of Manitoba and blamed it for the problem, which in essence was wrong. I can see with 20:20 vision in hindsight that the blame should have been put squarely on the federal government. In fact, no one even wanted to hear that the problem was created by the federal government. Can you believe that, Mr. Speaker? We still need to place the blame on the government that created this problem in the first place, the federal government.

Today the problem still exists. People are still not happy with the system that is currently in place. There are still long waiting lines. There are still shortages of beds. There are overcrowded clinics. Doctors are overworked. In other words, we need to remind Canadians how this big problem started in the first place. It all started with the big cuts at the federal level.

I would like to talk about a client central health care system that exists in my riding of Dauphin—Swan River, the Hamiota District Health Centre. It has been around for at least 50 years.

How do we measure the health of a community? Do we look at the number of medical office visits and days of hospital care and assume that greater activity indicates better health? Or is the reverse true? Current priorities in Canada's health care system are contested by community health centres which nurture health as a positive attribute to be protected, restored and enhanced.

Medical health centres are not new. Most of the dozen or so in Manitoba are unique in scope, ranging from a single specialized service to the Hamiota District Health Centre, the classic example of a comprehensive integrated centre. Located in southwestern Manitoba, the HDHC has been around since 1974. It provides a broad range of services geared to community needs, limited only by available means.

I would like to pay tribute to Dr. Ed Hudson who in 1945 took over his father's practice in Hamiota. His father, Dr. E.D. Hudson, began his practice in 1907. Dr. Ed Hudson is still actively involved in helping to deliver quality health care. Between his horses and the health centre, he certainly keeps busy in his senior years.

The Hamiota District Health Centre began with a belief in the health centre potential for improved quality of care. The providers of that care know the satisfaction of delivering care programs that are effective but definitive assessment is difficult. An evaluation concentrating on results of programs is limited in scope.

The 1972 white paper on health policy states, “a health system must also be judged by the numbers of people who in fact never succumb to disease or accidents or social distress”. A method of measuring quality of care is elusive.

Cost saving efficiencies were envisaged. There is the co-ordination of care by many disciplines, resulting in decreased numbers of diagnostic tests, the pooling of supplies and equipment, and more efficient use of physical facilities. There is the ability to use the most appropriate care provider in patient care and the appropriate level of care for the patient. There is the freeing of physicians to use their time and expertise more efficiently in preventive care and health promotion to reduce hospital stays. There is the use of home care, mobile meals and support services to reduce hospital patient days. There is the economy of using only one administration and one governing board in an expanded system of care. There is the active involvement of the community in establishing support for the programs and identifying needs.

Thirty years of experience seems to support all these tenets. Controlled spending has to date precluded any unapproved deficits that would become the responsibility of the municipalities of the district.

The centre lacks the information and statistics required to do a self-evaluation or a comparative one, but has co-operated with governments in several assessment surveys and questionnaires. Results of research, if any do exist, have never been publicized.

Quite apart from statistics but evident to a visitor to HDHC is an atmosphere no one had predicted. Staff morale is exceptional.

The current position is to devote half a day per month to a strategy meeting to critically assess the role in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and goals. It is expected that gains in health care in the next decade will be in preventive care, with emphasis on nutrition, health promotion, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, as resources are geared to keeping people well.

The expansion of existing programs or the introduction of new ones in times of fiscal restraint are largely matters of trade-off between priorities. The flexibility of the system is conducive to change to improve care and to respond to community needs.

Turn of the century health care in rural Manitoba was delivered by the dedicated and selfless family medical doctor. As the century closes we find a burgeoning multiplicity of health disciplines in a tangled web of administration by government departments, subsidized public offices and private agencies. The system has grown without plan or co-ordination in an expensive add-on fashion which encourages health care professionals to concentrate on protecting the turf of their own specialty, competing for limited resources and denying any vision of total care.

One health worker suggests “I am sure if I were to start all over again in health care there would be no doubt as to the direction it would take. Interdisciplinary health care management would be the only way to go”.

Wishful thinking, you say, Mr. Speaker? Perhaps, but this small community in Hamiota, Manitoba, has found it to be possible. I would invite hon. members, if they have the time this summer, to visit this place to see how client-centered health care takes place.

I would like to close by quoting from a letter that was sent to me from the Council of Chairs of the Regional Health Authorities of Manitoba. The letter reads in part:

Every day, members of the RHAM see the serious effects that cuts in federal transfers are having on our national healthcare system. The significant decline of public confidence in our healthcare system is compelling evidence that Canadians feel the system will not be there for them and their families when they need it. Federal/provincial/territorial co-operation to build a truly accessible, integrated, client-centered continuum of care is essential to restore the confidence of all Canadians in our health care system.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, is the hon. member aware of the increase in spending through the CHST, the Canada health and social transfer, to $11.5 billion in the previous budget? As well, the last budget increased spending by an additional $2.5 billion, for a total of $14 billion over a period of about five years. Is he aware of that? Does he not consider that to be significant spending for health?

Lastly, I would like to ask the member if he is in favour of private health care for profit, yes or no? If not, does he support the privatization bill in Alberta which could lead to the very situation of a two tier health care system in the future?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Reform Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, our health critic indicated this morning in his speech that we are not in favour of a two tier health system. We have said that over and over again. I do not know why the member opposite keeps asking the same question about a two tier, American-style health care system. We are opposed to that.

I agree that we need to put money back into the system. The Liberal government indicated in its budget that over five years it will put money back into it, but it seems to have forgotten that it took out more than $24 billion. That is what I said in my speech.

Many of the problems we have today stem from the day when the government made that huge cut. I do not blame the government for all of the problems that exist, because there are increasing demands on the system, but certainly that is what started the problems and the crisis we have today.