Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the number one concern of Canadians and that is health care.
I want to take the time to recognize the great work of the health care professionals in my riding and across Canada. We live in a better country because of the work of our professionals. In rural and small-town Canada they often go the extra mile without a lot of thanks and I say thank you.
One of the key roles of the Government of Canada is helping Canadians to maintain and improve their health. It does so in several ways, most notably by ensuring the continuing availability of our publicly funded health care system.
Providing leadership in the areas of health protection and promotion, the federal government fulfils its mandate in health through various approaches, always respecting the primary roles of the provinces in health care delivery. For example, it contributes financially to the provinces and territories in support of their health care systems and through fiscal measures for individuals such as health and medical expense allowances.
It interprets and enforces the principles of the Health Care Act. It ensures that Canadians have the benefits of timely access to safe, effective drugs and products, and that Canadians are protected from health risks associated with pharmaceuticals, blood products and various medical devices and consumer products. It conducts and funds health research. It develops national disease control strategies in collaboration with the provinces and territories. It ensures access to the community based health care services for first nations and Inuit.
When exercising its leadership and responsibilities in the areas of health promotion, disease prevention and overall management of risks to health, the federal government acts in the spirit of partnership with the provinces and in collaboration with health stakeholders and Canadians.
Some recent concrete examples of federal-provincial collaboration include the development of a strengthened blood system in Canada, intergovernmental action on tobacco control and smoking cessation, and initiatives such as the health transition fund supporting provincial-territorial innovations in home care, pharmacare, primary care and better integrated health services for all Canadians.
The Government of Canada often acts as a facilitator and at times as a co-ordinator on health issues with pan-Canadian dimensions. It has done so on a range of issues in the past, for example to support the development of universal health insurance dating to the 1940s and research and support in areas including child, maternal, mental and dental health also dating to the 1940s. In fact, there is a long tradition of federal-provincial co-operation in the health sector.
The principles and values which have long guided the federal government in intergovernmental collaboration in the health arena are also consistent with those outlined in the social union framework agreement.
An excellent current example of the benefits of federal-provincial co-operation are two initiatives announced recently by our federal Minister of Health. They are the innovations in rural and community health and the Canadian health infostructure partnerships program, known as CHIPP. Both initiatives are meant to ensure that all Canadians no matter where they live in Canada have access to top health care.
The innovations in rural and community health is a $50 million investment. Two-thirds of this money will go toward supporting innovations in community health care such as access to home and community care, affordability and accessibility of pharmaceuticals, and improvement in integrated service delivery.
Another $11 million will go toward rural health. The objectives of the rural health grants and contributions programs are to promote integration and accessibility of health services, to explore ways to address workforce issues and to examine system reforms to improve the delivery of health services.
Health Canada has been working closely with the provinces and territories in the development of our rural health grants and contributions program to identify areas of shared concern. All provinces and territories agreed that the objectives and priorities for the funding program complement and support their own.
The Canadian health infostructure partnerships program, CHIPP, is a two year $80 million shared cost incentive program which will support the implementation of innovative applications of information and communication technologies in the health sector. It will focus on two priorities: telehealth and protected electronic patient records.
Telehealth is a key element in improving access to health services for all Canadians, especially those in the rural and remote areas. It represents a great opportunity for our country to improve access to care, as well as to develop a cutting edge industry.
Electronic patient records will also facilitate improved patient care through improving the integration of services, avoiding needless tests, and better prescription benefits.
As chair of the rural caucus on this side of the House and as someone who lives in a rural area of Canada, I have had the opportunity to speak to a lot of my constituents and often with other rural Canadians across the country, about the health care challenges which face rural and remote Canada. We know about the difficulties that rural areas have in attracting and keeping health care professionals.
After a long period of consultation we recommended to the Minister of Health that an effort be made to move to multi-use or multidisciplinary primary care approaches. The minister supported our recommendations and I thank him. It will be a priority area of discussion at the federal-provincial level. May I also say that I am delighted that the Canadian Institutes of Health Research interim governing council has recommended the creation of an office of rural health to promote and support rural health research.
These are only a few ways that federal, provincial and territorial co-operation has produced results in this country.
Let me conclude my remarks by saying that Canadians no matter where they live expect health services of the highest quality. They want their governments to work together and not play politics. They want them to come up with lasting solutions to ensure the future of publicly funded health care. The Government of Canada is committed to federal-provincial partnerships to serve the health care interests of all Canadians.