Mr. Speaker, in 1993 the people of this country threw out the Conservatives and re-elected the Liberal Party because they disagreed with the Tories always trying to cut spending that helped people. They disagreed with the Tories for spending like drunken sailors when it came to their friends and large corporations. They disagreed with the Tories because of their patronage-like approach and their big boosting of the Americans.
The Liberals on the other hand promised to kill the free trade deal. They promised to eliminate the GST. They promised to repeal Bill C-91, which would bring back protection for low cost generic prescription drugs and reduce some of the costs to health care. They promised to protect and enhance medicare. This is in their red book of 1993.
Today we see in this debate the budget almost seven years after the Liberals came into office. Did they end the free trade agreement? No. Did they eliminate the GST? No. Did they kill Bill C-91? No. Did they enhance and protect medicare? No. I will get to that later. Did they do anything for education? No.
They carried out the policies of Brian Mulroney and extended free trade, made billions from the GST, and extended the patent drug protection to the international multinational drugs companies for two more years. Just last week former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney gave an hour and a half speech congratulating the Liberal government for fulfilling all the Conservative planks. Not one Liberal plank from 1993 was carried out. Personally I would not want to be bragging about that.
The Liberals went on a porkfest in the last six years, with millions to their friends in Cape Breton although it ended up with Mr. Dingwall losing his seat to the NDP. Instead of spending millions on coal miners in Cape Breton they gave it to their rich friends and their Liberal connections, and the coal miners got crumbs.
The Liberals provided millions in tax cuts to the big banks while western farmers were going bankrupt by the thousands and were ignored. We see now, as we speak, on the agenda of the Liberal government yet another bill before the House that will give another $500 million in tax cuts to the banks that are achieving record profits, quarter after quarter after quarter, year after year after year, on their balance sheets. They have also given millions to every living, breathing Liberal they can find out west. There is not many of them, I might add.
Our health system is in critical condition. Literally hundreds of questions have been posed of the government requesting it to take some action on medicare. We have been asking it to take some action to review the situation for the last three years now and to reconsider its drastic cuts. In Saskatchewan alone it cut $1.2 billion to the health care system. Saskatchewan has a million people. That is $12,000 for every man, woman and child that was not committed to health care as was previously promised in the budget of 1993.
The Liberals are now sort of talking about doing something about health care. The federal NDP has been fighting under the leadership of the member for Halifax to get medicare fixed and to have the Liberals pay some attention. Rather than spend $500 million a year in tax cuts to banks, perhaps they could give it to the health care system where it is very much needed.
Premier Romanow in Saskatchewan spent the last two years trying to convince the government to do a review. We have waited and waited while he continued to hound the government. Then today he said that enough was enough. He believes as we do in the NDP that a family's health should not have to depend upon a family's wealth. The Liberals and the reform alliance believe that a family's health should have to depend upon a family's wealth. That is a fundamental difference between the NDP and the right wing parties of the Liberal and alliance coalitions.
The Premier of Saskatchewan today is taking the lead in defining a new vision of medicare to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Premier Romanow announced a commission on medicare which will be headed by health consultants and a former deputy minister of health in two provinces, Ken Fyke. It will identify challenges facing medicare, outline potential solutions, and engage public and health care providers in a discussion of new ideas.
Saskatchewan pioneered publicly funded, publicly administered health care in Canada. Today Saskatchewan once again leads the way in finding solutions to strengthen medicare and protect its core values into the future.
I might add that in 1961 under Woodrow Lloyd the NDP brought medicare to the country. We started in Saskatchewan. We funded it 100% in Saskatchewan for six years before the NDP forced the Liberal government of the day to adopt and embrace the health care system and the medicare system for all Canadians. At that time the funding for health care was 50:50. The provinces paid 50% and the federal government paid 50%.
In the last six years Saskatchewan has lost $1.2 billion in underfunding by the federal government. It went to the banks, the bond dealers and all the rich friends the Liberals want to send the money to. The NDP, whose vision established medicare in Canada and who made it work for six years before the country was able to adopt it, is now leading the way in terms of this commission.
Medicare faces many challenges today including new medical treatments, rising costs, an aging population and shortages of key health professionals. Identifying those key challenges will be the commission's first task.
Second, it will recommend an action plan for the sustainable delivery of health services across that province.
Third, it will identify long term opportunities for reform that will ensure a strong future for a publicly funded and administered medicare system. The commission will deliver its first report, a preliminary report, in six months and a final report in the year 2001.
Earlier today in the House, the Liberal member for Waterloo—Wellington, who is the chair of the health committee, had the gall to talk about what a great job the Liberals were doing on health care. He took personal credit for “redoubling our efforts in helping to rebuild health care”. He said “I want to make it happen. I want to make it work”. Let us review their redoubling efforts.
I asked the member to define those words in a question and comment period. I asked him to define for the House and Canadians what redoubling their efforts in butchering health care meant. The Liberals have cut $1.2 billion in health transfers to Saskatchewan alone. They have cut $9 billion or $12 billion, who knows what numbers are now, in health transfers to the rest of the country. However, the member says they are going to redouble their efforts.
We in Saskatchewan are worried because instead of losing $200 million a year in health transfers, we are faced with losing $400 million a year because of this Liberal member who chairs the Standing Committee on Health for the Liberal Prime Minister and the Liberal Minister of Health. They are going to redouble their efforts and finish off the system. What do these Liberal members do? They embrace bill 11 in Alberta which is meant to privatize our health care system.
The member for Waterloo—Wellington should perhaps be sitting in the back row of the House with his back against the wall. Even his Liberal committee members do not like what he is doing. He dictates in terms of what happens in committee. For three years he has been asked to undertake a review of medicare. What has he been doing? He does not even call a meeting of the health committee. Medicare is in crisis. The Liberals are passing the buck every time they get asked a question.
What does the reform party do? The reform party has not asked a question on health care in the House for the last three years until just recently. The leader of the opposition has never asked a question on health in the this House. His number one priority is making sure that the banks get more money, the oil companies get more tax breaks and all the wealthy families in Canada continue to be allowed to take their billion dollar trust funds south of the border. We see a coalition here. It is the Conservative-reform-Liberal-Alliance coalition. They are all looking for the same sort of objectives to defend and enhance the position of their very wealthy friends while ignoring the concerns and priorities of Canadians.
Members may notice that we never heard the words health care come out of the mouths of Liberal members between 1993 and 1997. They never talked about it but boy did they cut it. Since the NDP asked about health care back in 1997, we are starting to hear them talk about it again. The NDP has been the only party that has been raising this issue in the House with an action plan to fix health care.
Those members do not care if the health care system is strained at the seams. The Liberals do not care if the system is hurting people. They do not care if nurses are being run ragged and understaffed. They do not care if hospital employees cannot cope. They just want the political credit and they would like to assume to get that credit if they sink in some dough this fall with the Prime Minister.
I want to sum up the Liberal's record in the last six years. It can be summed up basically in four words: All pork, no vision. Pork barrelling is all the Liberals want to do. They send money to all their friends through HRDC. They give money to their friends through the Western Economic Diversification fund. They give money to all their rich friends, but do not look after the needs of people in Canada. The Liberals will be called to task come the next election for their approach to Canadians in the last six years, which is all pork, all patronage and no vision.
The Liberals are so busy looking over their shoulders to see who might be ready to pat them on the back—or stab them in the back as the member for Waterloo—Wellington is probably worried about—that they have forgotten to look forward. They have no vision.
Let us talk about grain transportation. The Liberals spent hundreds of millions of dollars fixing up rail lines in western Canada and then they privatized the CNR. CNR then closed those rail lines, ripped them up, and now the Liberals expect farmers to not only pay more in freight rates, but they want farmers to pay more to truck their grain to elevators further away on roads that were never designed for the transportation of these heavy products. They also want farmers to raise more cash to buy back the short line rail lines and fix them up again. They are just waiting for the provincial governments to upgrade the roads. This is the Liberal's vision for grain transportation.
In my view it is an incredible situation. The banks are getting $500 million a year more in tax cuts from the Liberal government and the farmers in western Canada are getting destroyed roads because of the Liberal plans and no rail lines to take their products to market. By the way, the railways made a killing in profits because the government subsidized their capital costs and reduced their operating costs but they were allowed to hike rates to farmers.
To whom did the railways gave big political donations? They gave donations to the Liberal Party and, to shut the Alliance up, they gave donations to the Alliance Party as well.
In Saskatchewan we have fewer rail lines, thousands of very angry and almost bankrupt farmers, very wealthy railway companies and probably the worst roads in Canada now because of the downloading of transportation costs to the very farmers who do not have any money because the government has abandoned them with respect to grain subsidies.
I attended the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France in 1995 with parliamentarians from all over Europe. They meet on a regular basis. I went to the agriculture committee. I said to them at that time that we were told by the Liberal government, by the minister of agriculture at that time from Saskatchewan, that Canada had to eliminate its transportation subsidies right away because of the World Trade Organization legislation.
I asked those European parliamentarians what they were going to do, because their subsidies at that time were three times the rate of Canada's subsidies to farmers. Those parliamentarians in the agriculture committee said to me “Under the WTO we have five years to address the subsidy issue for farmers, but if you think after five years we are going to sacrifice our farmers for the sake of the U.S.A., you are greatly mistaken.”
Here we are five years later and the chickens have come home to roost. This is a very sad situation.
On top of that, Canada's highway system is deteriorating rapidly. The government collects nearly $5 billion a year in gasoline and diesel fuel taxes. Does anyone know what percentage of that money it puts back into roads? It is about 4.5%. Does anyone know what they spend in Saskatchewan? They say that they spend about $3 million over a five year period, but if one were to stop on a dime on a Saskatchewan highway, one could bet that dime would not be a federal dime building any highways. As a matter of fact, the other 95.5% of the $5 billion is spent elsewhere, not on transportation and not on highways.
This is quite embarrassing. We are the only country in the 28 the OECD countries that does not have a national highways program. I see that the government House leader is acknowledging that his government is the only government that does not have a national highways program and it does not expect to have one. I wonder if the minister might go to cabinet and put in a lobbying effort on behalf of Canadians to rebuild our infrastructure on our highways.
The rail lines used to be the ribbon connecting our country. It is now the highway system and we do not have a highway system that we can be proud of. I am not sure if Canadians have driven through northern Ontario or British Columbia lately. Those roads need money. They need twinning. They need lots of cash to make them safe for people to travel on.
The government is so morally bankrupt that it cannot spend public money getting the RCMP involved either in terms of looking at what is happening with this patronage or with this port. No wonder the government is starving the Mounties of cash, but it is so devoid of vision that it puts legislation through the House of Commons at the speed of light so its backbenchers do not have time to think about it before the debate is over.
People think, “Thank goodness we have an official opposition in the Alliance”. Our parliamentary system allows the official opposition to take over government at any time if there is any kind of an election that might support that. They think that but when they would look over there what would they see? There is an old saying in Saskatchewan that describes the alliance conservative reform party, “Big hat, no ranch”. Do members know what that means? It means those members think they know what they are doing and what they are going to do, but they do not have any idea of what they are really going to do. However, they wear a big hat pretending they know what is going on but they have no assets, no knowledge and no resources to support holding up that hat.
The reform alliance conservative party is the big hat with no ranch vision. The Liberals are the all pork, no vision party. I think Canadians are really worried about what is happening in the country but they are not as worried as they might be because they have the federal NDP to hold those two parties accountable for their lack of vision and to provide them with a significant amount of vision on every major policy in the country.
I have a number of things I would like to say, but in summary, we have a very serious situation but we also have an opportunity to correct the lack of vision or the poor vision of the Liberal government. If the government would consider doing what Roy Romanow and the NDP are doing in Saskatchewan, which is studying health care and committing resources to make sure that we have a universally accessible health care program, it would address the very serious concerns of Canadians.
If the government introduced a national highways program and spent some of the $5 billion that it collects in fuel taxes on the road system, that would help to build our country and make it stronger from coast to coast to coast.
If the government established a national agriculture program to defend our farmers, in view of the subsidies farmers in other countries receive, and not to match them but to provide even one-fifth of the subsidies other farmers from other countries receive, our farmers could be competitive.
We need more money for education. Does the bill before us tonight address Bill S-9 that was before the House? No. Do members know what Bill S-9 was all about? The reform alliance conservatives and the Liberal Party in the last parliament passed Bill S-9. It provided Canadians with tax deductions on Canadian incomes for making contributions to U.S. universities and post-secondary institutions. Meanwhile, post-secondary funding in this country is being cut back. This is their vision. They want to support and prop up the American institutions and they are sacrificing Canadian institutions. University and post-secondary institution students have, on average, $25,000 per year of debt.
Why does the government not do what Ireland does and many Scandinavian countries do? Why do we not have free tuition for our post-secondary students? The government could phase this in over five years. A 20% reduction every year for all students for the next five years would bring them down to zero. High quality, easily accessible and universally accessible post-secondary education and equipping youth with the skills they need is what built Ireland's economy.
I would like to go on because I have many other issues. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of some of the visions that the Liberals and the reformers do not have, and the vision that the NDP has.
I thank all members for paying attention. I thank all ministers who are here tonight for doing the job that they have to do in the future, which is taking instructions from the NDP and building a stronger country from coast to coast to coast.