House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was leader.


Message From The Senate

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed certain bills, to which the concurrence of this House is desired.

Government Of CanadaRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec


Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, in order to provide to parliamentarians and Canadians information on the government's performance, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a report entitled “Managing for Results”, and reports on the performance of 83 departments and agencies.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to table in the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, which represented Canada at the fourth session of the year 2000 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, held in Strasbourg, France, from September 25 to 29, 2000.

Whistle Blower Human Rights ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-201, an act respecting the protection of employees in the public service who make allegations in good faith respecting wrongdoing in the public service.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to protect the members of the Public Service of Canada who blow the whistle in good faith for wrongdoing in the public service, such as reports of waste, fraud, corruption, abuse of authority, violation of law or threats to public health or safety. The public interest is served when employees are free to make such reports without fear of retaliation and discrimination.

Therefore, I am very pleased to introduce my private member's bill, entitled an act respecting the protection of employees in the public service who make allegations in good faith respecting wrongdoing in the public service.

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

Statutory Instruments ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-202, an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act (disallowance procedure for statutory instruments).

Mr. Speaker, my private member's bill, entitled an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act, seeks to establish a statutory disallowance procedure for all statutory instruments that are subject to review and scrutiny by the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, which I was co-chair in the last parliament. The bill will give teeth to the joint committee and will empower members of the House and the Senate to democratize our rights in parliament.

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

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present another petition on behalf of Canadians who believe that the Government of Canada can deal more effectively with the more than 18,000 Canadians who suffer from end stage kidney disease.

The petitioners point out that those on kidney dialysis and those successfully transplanted recognize the importance of the bioartificial kidney as an alternative treatment. They call upon parliament to work and support the bioartificial kidney, which will eventually eliminate the need for both dialysis or transplantations in those suffering from kidney disease.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the pleasure of presenting a petition containing 135 signatures of people primarily from Simcoe county.

They petition parliament to work and support the bioartificial kidney, which will eventually eliminate the need for both dialysis or transplantation for those suffering from kidney disease.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that Canada has a long history of recognizing the rights of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, the petitioners lament the fact that health care workers and those seeking training for a career in the health care system have been stripped of those rights by medical facilities and educational institutes.

They refer to examples of some hospitals where nurses are forced to assist in abortion procedures against their deeply held religious and moral convictions. That is now happening in respect of pharmacies too.

In view of the fact that some nurses have lost jobs due to their adherence to religious and moral beliefs, they call upon parliament to enact legislation against such violations of conscience rights by administrators of medical and educational facilities.

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 the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from January 31 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wish to advise you that all members of the Canadian Alliance will be sharing time during the remainder of this debate.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception Newfoundland & Labrador


Brian Tobin LiberalMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, let me take this opportunity to join with many of my colleagues in congratulating you, Sir, on your election as Speaker. Let me assure you that I will always abide by the wisdom of your rulings and seek in speedy fashion to comply with your direction to me.

My next words are words of thanks to the voters of Bonavista—Trinity—Conception who have allowed me the privilege, and it is a real privilege for all of us to be here, of coming back to parliament having been absent from this very special place for the last five years.

There is no question that having the right and, more important, having the responsibility to speak and to participate in the debates in this place is one that few Canadians are given the opportunity to do. As the member of parliament for Bonavista—Trinity—Conception the second time around, I have a special awareness of what a great honour this is.

My duty today is to speak in support of the Speech from the Throne. I do so as Minister of Industry and as somebody who is tremendously excited to be in that role. The Prime Minister has asked me to take on these duties, and I am doing so with great enthusiasm. I say that because I reflect back on where Canada has come since the first time I sat in this place in 1980, nearly 21 years ago this month.

Our country has changed enormously in those 21 years. I remember the debates of the early 1980s in which we talked about the protection, enhancement and promotion of Canada primarily but not exclusively as a resource based economy. We talked about our capacity in the manufacturing area, primarily about our industrial might and muscle in southern Ontario. We talked about the structured arrangements under the auto pact which gave possibility or potential to that manufacturing might.

We talked about our position vis-à-vis our neighbour to the south as being that of a much smaller player, one-tenth the size. Indeed, the cliché was coined, shaped and nurtured back then that when the U.S. got the sniffles we got pneumonia.

How much has changed since 1980? We no longer think of our southern neighbour as a colossus that might inadvertently in the middle of the night roll over and lay waste to Canada and all of our aspirations. Rather, we see our neighbour to the south as a tremendous market of opportunity, as a place that we can penetrate successfully and compete with and win in on a fair playing field with the quality of our products.

Let those who come from the so-called old economy, such as our farmers, compete on a fair playing field. The farmers of Canada can compete and win in any marketplace in the world today.

A fair opportunity to compete is what is being asked for, whether it be our fishermen, our mining industry or our foresters. Soon we will be talking about softwood lumber and fair access for that product in the marketplace to the south.

What has changed in the last 20 or 21 years is the way in which Canada has become an innovative society. In that regard it is important to recognize the leadership that this country and the government has had from two individuals who I want to single out.

In particular, I pay tribute to the tremendous leadership of my predecessor as Minister of Industry, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, who has been very forward looking in the kind of stewardship he brought to the Department of Industry. I intend to continue with the road map that he has very much drafted.

I also recognize the vision and the leadership that the Prime Minister has brought to this agenda as well, because at the end of the day big change can only come with strong and visionary leadership.

What have we done? We have shifted our capability for wealth creation beyond our considerable natural resource sectors. Those remain important and will always be important. We have learned to create wealth from the power of our ideas, from the scope of our imagination, and purely from our will to win, by being better than most others in areas of the knowledge and information based economy.

How have we done that? We have done it by making substantial new investments in our people, a very important resource in the new economy. We have created a tax environment that makes Canada an attractive location for smart and skilled people to come to and stay in to give of their skills in creating wealth that can be exported all over the world. I refer to the tremendous work of the Minister of Finance in bringing forward a budget a few months ago that read and anticipated very well the state of play in the economy in North America.

We have today a debate about whether or not the downturn in the U.S. economy will be soft, hard, long lasting or short term, but whatever the circumstances at the end of the day, and we believe it will be managed and measured south of the border, whatever the state of play, Canada is tremendously well positioned to absorb, ride out and recover quickly from whatever adjustment we see south of the border.

That is not by accident, but by smart and good planning. In that regard the House owes as well a special recognition and a vote of thanks to the Minister of Finance for his stewardship of Canada's economy.

Exactly a month ago on January 1 Canadians received the first $17 billion down payment on a five year $100 billion tax cut. This is not some kind of theological tax cut, one that is driven out of some misplaced ideology. This is not money that is borrowed from our children. This is money that is surplus to our accounts because of solid stewardship of Canada's finances. It leaves dollars and cents in the pockets of Canadians who are able to use those dollars and cents to contribute to the health of the Canadian economy.

Beyond that tax cut for our citizens, 52% of which goes to Canadians making $60,000 a year or less, we have also positioned ourselves very well with cuts to the capital gains and with new treatment of the rollover of stock and stock options, which encourage investment in the country.

There are other areas of solid investment that the Government of Canada announced in the throne speech. We have announced that Canada is not satisfied with being competitive in the area of research and development. Canada wants to leap ahead.

The government has committed to a doubling of R and D over the next 10 years. We want to move Canada to among the top five of the OECD in research and development. We understand that when we nurture and support our best minds, our scientists and centres of excellence all across the country, we nurture and support the kinds of ideas that ultimately are commercialized and bring ideas and services to the marketplace of the world. That has been a great success for the country.

It has been said before but it bears repeating: the Government of Canada is committed to 2,000 research chairs at Canadian institutions. Someone might ask what that means and how it compares with the status quo. Canada had 169 research chairs in all of our universities prior to the Prime Minister committing to 2,000 new chairs over five years, 400 more chairs a year for five years, built on a base of 169 to this point, all across Canada. We are reaching out to and supporting those who can build the new economy.

We have invested $160 million in Genome Canada. We have established the most generous R and D tax regime in the world today. I am speaking not just to our own citizens and corporations but to citizens around the world who are looking for stable, smart environments in which to invest in R and D in the country. For those who qualify for the full range of measures for R and D, it may cost no more than 35 cents on a dollar.

Canadians have heard repeatedly that the Internet means the death of distance. That is a well used and well worn phrase. It is one that entices and invites those who live in far flung locations in this broad and vast country to believe that they can participate on the Internet, that they can have access from a leisure, pleasure and business point of view to all of the opportunities of the Internet. However, it is not true.

The Internet of and by itself is not the death of distance. There is a new phrase to which we should pay attention. It is called the digital divide: the division between those who have access to high speed, affordable, reliable broadband service and those who do not. For those living in rural, remote, western, northern or Atlantic communities, merely getting online is not good enough.

The vision of the Government of Canada is this: getting online with a service that is fast, efficient, affordable and reliable, one that can handle the content available today on the web and that allows us to improve the quality of our lives or to market our goods, services and products over the Internet. The government has announced that Canada will seek to ensure that by 2004 every community will be online with high speed broadband service.

Not since a government committed to using bands of steel to pull the country together in some measure of equality of opportunity has a government been so committed to a public infrastructure project which ensures that when it comes to the new economy, no Canadian, no matter where she or he may live, is left behind. This too is part of our vision of participating in the new economy.

In short, Canada is an innovative country. Canada is a country of individuals whose commitment is second to none in regard to improving the quality of life of their fellow citizens and innovating in a way that improves the quality of life of citizens all over the world.

Part of our mission and our challenge in the months and years ahead is to tell the Canadian story, to re-brand the country. Part of it is to help those beyond our borders recognize that while we are proud to be associated with the vistas found on Prince Edward Island, on the prairies, in the Rockies, on the coastline of British Columbia or indeed on the magnificent coastline of Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, or with the pleasures of enjoying the ice sculptures in Ottawa at this time of year, or as my friend has just reminded me, with the wonderful new development of Toronto's Harbourfront, we also have to ensure that Canada is recognized for its tremendous technical ability as well.

That is why in March or April, with a special source of pride, Canadians will be watching with some fascination the hand off that occurs when the Canadarm aboard the shuttle spacecraft lifts out of the cargo bay. It is what we will call for the moment Canadarm 2. That instrument will move, shift and facilitate the construction of the space lab project.

Fifteen nations from all over the world will be collaborating to put men, equipment and technology in space to open new frontiers, but the hand off that occurs to make all of that possible is a Canadarm out of the shuttle storage container passing off to a Canadarm 2, which will be permanently based on that space lab and which will facilitate the construction, development, maintenance and operation of this incredible international project.

That is the measure and symbol of Canadian technology: one hand passing off to the next hand a new generation of expertise. That is the message we want to bring to the world. In short, the country has much of which we can be proud, and we intend to grow our capacity.

Let me close by saying that it is not by accident Canada became the first country in the world where every school is connected to the Internet. I remember the great debate between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole in which Bob Dole said that his vision for the future was to try to recreate an America of his youth, of the fifties. That vision had some attractive concepts.

President Clinton said that his vision of the future, his bridge to the future, was to see that every school in America got online by 2000. I thought that was a fine declaration since Canada got there first. Forgive me if I point out that Newfoundland got there in 1995.

We can, we will and we must tap the power, the capacity and the imagination of all the young minds and of all the experienced researchers of this country to build a new economy, to compete, to improve our own quality of life, and to make our contribution to the quality of life of citizens all over the world.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an extreme honour for me to have the chance to respond to the hon. member's comments and to elaborate on a couple of aspects which are of concern, particularly to the people in my riding and to people nationally.

The member spoke in glowing terms about his own riding. It was obvious the love he feels for it and his province. I feel the same way about my own riding and my country. He spoke of generations of expertise and of the concerns that he and his government have for the future and for the expertise we all want to see rise up inside our children in order for them to capture their potential.

Those are wonderful words and quite true. He also spoke of fair treatment, and that is of concern right now to many of my constituents and many farm families who have for generations done their best to adapt and to succeed. Right now they are facing a set of circumstances, largely not of their own making, that pose tremendous challenges to them.

As the minister knows, the level playing field we subscribe to and would like to see for all industries in all sectors of our economy does not exist for agriculture. That level playing field is something we desire to see. Until we see it, the unlevel playing field is largely in an uphill direction for our agricultural producers. The slope becomes ever steeper and causes many to fall and tumble downhill.

As farmers leave the industry, depopulation follows. Fewer and fewer people reside on the farmlands of our country. We are allowing other countries, which value their agricultural industries very highly through policies of subsidization, to shape the policies of this country. This government has adopted a policy of rural depopulation, which severely impacts on all of us who are thinking about the future as much, as the minister has alluded to, as his government apparently is thinking about the future.

Recently the minister made the decision to subsidize the aerospace industry through the tax dollars of Canadians. Knowing that was a difficult decision for him, has the minister considered that Brazil, through its own policies of reprisal against Canada for this decision, will very likely reduce its purchases of grain from Canada? Has he considered that the very people who have not been favoured by such subsidies by our government, the agricultural producers of our land, will be the most disaffected now and the most penalized by the decisions the Brazilian government will make?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Brian Tobin Liberal Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, NL

Mr. Speaker, let me assure the member for Portage—Lisgar that I and members on this side of the House share his very great concern for the plight and the position of Canadian farmers today.

I know we are not supposed to talk outside of our privileged dialogue in caucus, but I think I would be forgiven if I revealed that this has been a major preoccupation of members on this side of the House. Whether it is in caucus, in cabinet or in cabinet committees, we too are concerned with the plight of farmers.

The blunt reality is that the state and health of our farmers and farm community is not something that is isolated just to the farm community. The farm community is a very important one. It is felt right across the country. Indeed my colleague just reminded me that as many as one in six jobs in urban settings are directly affected by the health and the success of our farm community.

There is no question that Canada must do everything it can to effectively assist our farmers to make the case for a fair and level playing field. The member just asked me if I was aware of the consequence of taking measures to assist Bombardier in response to four WTO rulings, that Brazil might respond in a way that would cause further harm to some members of the Canadian agricultural community. That is a fair question to ask and something that we will obviously watch and pay very close attention to as we attempt to get Brazil to comply with WTO rulings.

We need to remind Canadians that in the case of Brazil and Embraer, the competitor for the regional jet market, there has not been one compliance. I do not come from a part of the country where Bombardier has a presence. I do not come from a part of the country where I expect any time soon that Bombardier will have a presence. There is no substantial play for the moment in my part of the country associated with these contracts. I am speaking purely as a Canadian and as the Minister of Industry looking at the following facts.

I make the case to my fellow Canadians on the farms that we have had not one but four WTO rulings which indicate that Brazil has been acting in an unfair manner and offering unfair subsidies. We have also lost a very substantial market share as a result of these unfair trade practices. Against that backdrop, Canada can do nothing for fear of criticism that we are helping one sector. It may cause problems for others. There may be a bite. We can let the industry go, 95,000 jobs, or we can respond.

My question to the member would be, is it his position that the government ought not to have acted on the position of his party with respect to Bombardier? Is it his position now that we should withdraw because there may be a dispute and, if there is a dispute, there may be others that will be put at risk? If that is his position, as the spokesperson for the opposition he is certainly entitled to say it. I would be very interested in hearing from him.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

The Speaker

I had hoped that we could make the questions and comments a little shorter when there are so many members who wish to ask questions.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Brian Tobin Liberal Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask if colleagues opposite would consider allowing a brief response because I think it is important that we know whether or not parliament is of like mind on such a fundamental issue as this one.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

The Speaker

It is reasonable to share the questions and comments but I am sure the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar will have an opportunity to make a speech later in the debate.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to put a question to the new Minister of Industry, whom I congratulate on his appointment.

He alluded to the history of the Canadian model and, as he was a member of parliament back in 1993, I would remind him that during the 1993 election campaign the Liberals had promised a shipbuilding policy.

As a former provincial premier, the minister surely remembers that, on two occasions, he and his counterparts, had asked the federal government to develop a shipbuilding policy. On October 20, he even organized, as a former premier of Newfoundland, a meeting with the other premiers of the Atlantic provinces to deal with shipbuilding. He attended that meeting as the Minister of Industry and, at the time, set up a committee that was to table a report by the end of January, in order to take quick action.

Now that he has been re-elected and is the Minister of Industry, does he remember the commitments that he made in October and will he act quickly to adopt a new policy very soon? This is extremely urgent. The minister is very familiar with the issue, since there are several shipyards in his riding, even though one of them has shut down, if I am not mistaken.

When will the minister announce the true shipbuilding policy that he promised?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Brian Tobin Liberal Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his representation with respect to the issue of shipbuilding. I also thank him for recognizing that I was the premier of the province that organized a forum. It was the first forum organized in some time that allowed provincial government representatives, four premiers, six or seven different provinces, the private sector and the unions to come together in one place to talk about shipbuilding.

One of the great ironies was that I sent out the invitations as premier and I attended the shipbuilding conferences as Minister of Industry.

A couple of points that came out of that conference. I think the member knows very well that it was a very positive and constructive meeting.

First, we recognized Canada as the largest maritime nation in the world.

Second, it was inconceivable to all of those who attended that meeting that Canada should lose its ship repair and shipbuilding capabilities. It simply makes no sense that we would not remain in the sector.

Third, there was no solution around the notion of arbitrarily reaching out and subsidizing a yard here or a project here or a ship there. That was a consensus. I know the member is on record as saying that he agrees with that consensus.

Fourth, we had to find innovative ways. The member put forward a bill in the last parliament that had a menu of items which were considered innovative ways of making the sector more competitive and smarter. That does not mean doing things the old way. It does not even necessarily mean doing the old work.

A case in point is the yard in Newfoundland which is no longer building ships or employing shipyard workers. They are building topside modules for offshore oil and gas. They have brought in new skills, new technology and new training.

When will we respond? The committee will report in the middle of February. I need to study that report. The member would not want me to act in advance of hearing the advice of those who are so committed to the sector.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be splitting my time this morning with my colleague from Yellowhead. He is the deputy critic in the Canadian Alliance health portfolio. He has an extensive background of sitting on hospital boards and of chairing a regional health authority.

On the critic team is the member for Nanaimo—Alberni who has extensive experience in complementary medicine. We are proud to have a very strong health component to Canadian Alliance policy making. I am the chief critic for the health portfolio.

I think we have all had experience with the Canadian health care system. My own experience has been more extensive than I would like. One example is very much on my mind now because it is a bit of an anniversary. Several years ago I had a call from my mother to tell me that she had been diagnosed with colon cancer. She passed away around this time some years ago after two years of struggling with her cancer.

One of the things that stands out for me during that time was the visits I paid to her on the weekend. We lived several hours away and so I would go with my little daughter to see mom on the weekends. I remember the care that she received in the hospital in northern Alberta.

The nurses were beyond kind. They always had her hair fixed. I remember how they would put a little flower on her nightgown when we would come to visit so that she would be ready for her family. It was care far beyond technology. It meant a lot to my mom and to her family.

When we talk about health care sometimes we talk too much about dollars and cents, clinics, technology, numbers, pay levels, and maybe not enough about the spirit that should animate the health care system: the caring and the compassion that contribute so much to peace of mind, as much I would say as medicine, technology, and keeping good charts.

Canadians value their health care system. It goes beyond the mechanics of it.

It is something that Canadians believe needs to be there for people to sustain them, to support them, and to meet their needs in a compassionate way when medical tragedy strikes.

Canadians want the peace of mind of knowing they have a strong, top notch health care system. Canadians want prompt, quality care, from a fair system that depends not on a person's financial status but on his or her medical needs.

Canadians take pride in a health system that has reflected our values of neighbourliness and sharing risk and being there for each other.

Canadians want leaders who are committed enough to deliver the fair, prompt, quality health care they need for peace of mind and to meet the requirements of care when health problems arise. Maclean's magazine does an annual year end poll. At the end of December Maclean's surveyed Canadians about their attitudes toward our health system. The latest survey showed that health care had lost ground in the past quarter century. This concern has topped the Maclean's year end survey for two years.

Canadians increasingly believe that many of our country's key social institutions, including hospitals, are broke and need fixing. Restoring health care clearly tops the list for Canadians, with a full 35% of Canadians surveyed saying this is Canada's biggest problem.

A national health care survey last June disclosed that 82% of Canadians believe there are too few doctors and nurses in our system, the most fundamental health care providers.

Seventy-seven per cent of respondents believe the system will face increasing demands from an aging population. Seventy-six per cent believe there is inadequate government funding. Seventy per cent say the health system lacks accountability to the public on how money is spent. Seventy per cent say there is not enough modern diagnostic equipment like MRIs.

A headline in yesterday's newspaper said that in Ontario alone there is a backlog of up to 12,000 people a year in one province awaiting MRIs.

Fifty-eight per cent believe that there are not enough hospitals. Nearly half those polled believe there is not enough use of modern information technology such as electronic patient records.

It is clear that Canadians are looking for some leadership in addressing these issues. In the short time my deputies and I have worked on this portfolio we have identified five key issues that we believe must be addressed. There may be more, but this is a start.

First is the issue of how to ensure that prompt, quality health care as defined by measurable standards is available to Canadians when they need essential medical services both in the immediate and the long term future.

The second issue is how to ensure adequate resources for health care, including infrastructure technology and trained medical service providers.

Third, is there any role for provision and/or funding of essential medical services other than by the state, and if so, what role?

The fourth is how to ensure responsible use of health care resources, both by health care users and health care providers.

Fifth, what is the most effective balance of responsibilities among the federal and the provincial governments in overseeing our health care system?

If we worked together in a non-partisan way to address these key issues, Canadians would go along away toward being satisfied that the leadership from their elected officials was moving in the right direction.

The government has not had a reassuring record on health care. It slashed huge amounts of funding several years ago and agreed to put the money back only under pressure of a looming election.

That means that in a year or two health care funding will be back to where it was in 1994-95. It is a back to the future approach to health care funding by the federal government. It will clearly not meet the needs and anxieties of Canadians.

The throne speech earlier this week spent about two of its forty-five minutes on health care. This is an issue that 35% of Canadians put at the top of their list of concerns. There seems to be a disconnect between the government and the needs of Canadians.

The Canadian Alliance has decided to step back and re-examine the health care issue. We have set up a task force which will consult with health care users, providers and experts. I will visit a couple of European countries that I think have something to teach us. I will talk with experts there to see what they feel works and does not work, lessons we may be able to apply here. We will also invite input and advice from Canadians across the country.

We believe if we work together we can make real strides in addressing the health care concerns of Canadians. The Canadian Alliance wants and intends to be part of the solution and we look forward very much to that work.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to stand here today to speak on behalf of the people of my riding of Yellowhead.

I begin by thanking everyone who helped in my campaign and by thanking as well the voters of Yellowhead for placing me in such great confidence. I speak on their behalf and that is a great privilege.

Most important, though, I thank my wife Brenda, my two sons Chad and Scott, my daughter-in-law Joanne and the rest of my loving family for their support.

It is not without some sadness that I stand to reply to the throne speech with regard to health care. I was disappointed that the government did not have any real vision or solutions for Canada. Instead, this caretaker government recycled the same old ideas that have robbed Canada of its status as a country of influence for many years.

I had hoped that the Liberal legacy of broken promises, arrogance, waste, patronage and secrecy would have finally been replaced by tax relief, justice reform and stable health care.

We need a government that understands Canadians and responds to their concerns, and I am disappointed. Canadians want a government with practical solutions, ready to tackle big issues like health care.

The root problems in health care were ignored in the Speech from the Throne. It maintained the status quo. Provincial and federal relationships over the past years have deteriorated to an all time low, so much so that they cannot be repaired under the present government.

Sir John A. Macdonald, the visionary of Canada and Confederation, foresaw the conflicts that would happen between competing governments in our diverse and vast land. In the Confederation debate of 1864 he called for a constitution that would avoid all conflicts of jurisdiction and authority. Clear lines were established on issues such as health care.

The adversarial approach of the Liberal government in dealing with the provinces has become a very large part of the problem. The Canadian Alliance is committed to working with the stakeholders under the provisions of the Canada Health Act to come up with practical, long term solutions.

Unfortunately the government has more interest in provoking a fight with the provinces than in building constructive solutions based on consensus. The adversarial approach taken by the federal government must come to an end. We must start working together collaboratively.

The Liberals claim to be the protectors of health care. That is interesting because history paints a different story for me. They began their reign in 1993 by ripping the guts out of the health care system and trying to balance the books on the back of that system. Their across the board cuts went against the original 50:50 funding arrangements with the provinces.

They not only removed the dollars but insisted on influencing things outside the Canada Health Act. The actions in 1993 have had long lasting effects on the health care system, none of which are positive. Long term planning has been neglected. Our aging population will challenge our system beyond anything we have seen at present. The status quo means certain collapse of a strained health care system.

The neglect since 1993 has left Canada behind in infrastructure technology and the training of medical service providers. An example was the threat of a shutdown of a seniors facility this month because of a nursing shortage in rural communities. Forty-two seniors were about to be displaced. Forty-two may not sound like a lot, but when one's whole life is shrunk down to four walls and a photo album that kind of change is devastating.

This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the stories about the pending problems in health care that we will be told across the country. We need a government that will recognize the impact of the aging baby boomer generation on the system.

The throne speech boasts of a fall agreement with the provinces to put back $21 billion over a five year period. This is not new money for health care. Even though the program was introduced in last fall's parliament, the reality is that the funding which sustained the system in 1994 will not be reached until March 2002.

The government could have shown real leadership by putting this money to work today. However, not one nickel of that $21 billion will hit the system until April 1 of this year, and then it will be spread over a five year period.

This is not only about dollars and cents. The survival of the health care system requires a comprehensive shift in accountability. Users and providers need to be more aware of and accountable for how health care dollars are spent.

I speak from personal experience. I have dealt with the health care system in Alberta as a member of the health board and regional authorities for the past 15 years. I have dealt with the administration of the health system on a daily basis. I understand the fears Canadians are feeling. The government must look at the real issues facing the health care system.

Health care is not the only issue affecting Yellowhead. My constituents are also very concerned about what is happening in agriculture. The government must fight to protect the agricultural system which is the backbone of the country.

I feel the pain and the frustration of those who drove their tractors to Parliament Hill this week. I also fear that my son, who is the fourth generation to farm our land north of Whitecourt, may be the last because it makes little economic sense to stay on the family farm today.

Why should farmers believe the government has their best interest in mind? Real leadership would have come if the government had fought against unfair foreign subsidies when it came to power in 1993 and not today.

Skyrocketing input costs and low commodity prices will mean an end to the family farm as we know it. Canadian farmers are the most efficient in the world and a vital part of our economy. The government must make a firm commitment to protect them and do so now.

Yellowhead is a diverse riding, relying on agriculture, tourism, and resources like timber and coal which are going through difficult times as well. Current economic policies have driven the dollar to the point where we are selling our raw resources at fire sale prices. Energy costs are also destroying small businesses across the riding.

The federal government must take the lead in ensuring the crisis does not lead to economic disaster. We need a government that sets an optimistic tone for the future, not one that is looking for a legacy. True legacies are built, not bought.

I have another concern that I must address immediately. It is the issue of self-governance in the town of Jasper, which is a community of 4,000 plus individuals nestled into the national park. All Canadians should look at this issue and question the value a government places on democracy and accountability.

Jasper has asked for the ability to govern its own municipal affairs. There are numerous examples of bureaucratic nightmares which I can cite. An example that comes to mind is the new fire truck that Jasper received. It was ordered by bureaucrats 3,000 miles away. The fire truck is too big to fit in the fire hall. This has left the town's emergency services in some doubt because the truck sits outside in the cold.

Jasper also continues to discharge raw sewage into the pristine headwaters of the Rocky Mountains, resulting in a cumbersome bureaucracy unable to make reasonable decisions.

These are municipal matters. Democracy and accountability must be granted to the community of Jasper.

I am disappointed in the lack of vision that the government has set out for Canada. I believe this country has absolutely unbelievable potential. I am sorry to say that after hearing the government's plans in the Speech from the Throne, I will have to tell the people of Yellowhead that the ship remains adrift and it is going to be a very long three and a half years.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent overview of health issues in the country.

Because of his background in the regional health authority in his home province, I would like to ask the member what he believes the federal government could or should do and what its highest priorities should be to strengthen and address the concerns of Canadians in our health care system?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2001 / 11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, health care is absolutely the number one priority for the people who walk the streets of our country. We are identified as Canadians by our health care and it is absolutely the most precious thing for us. Accountability must be there by the users and the providers of the system if we are going to sustain that system. It is absolutely important that we see that as priority one.