Mr. Speaker, I am happy to take part in today's take note debate in regard to health care. This has become a very important issue for Canadians in the last few years as we have seen a serious decline in our health care system. The budgets of several provincial governments are approaching 50% just for the delivery of health care. People are concerned about whether this will be sustainable in the future. Several commissions have been established in order to try to deal with the health care issue.
I welcome the national debate that is taking place on health care and I welcome the debate in the House today, but I do have to say that we have really gone quite a ways from the days when Lester Pearson introduced health care as a national priority and guaranteed, in his words, from the Liberal government of the day, that no less than 50% of the cost of health care delivery in the country would be provided by the federal government.
We know that is no longer the case. There has been a severe decline in health care in terms of the amount of money that the federal government is putting into it. I suggest that this no different from the decline that we have seen in several other areas. We have seen a decline in productivity. We have seen a decline in the Canadian dollar. We have seen a decline in the amount of foreign investment in Canada as a percentage of world investment. Correspondingly, we have seen increases in taxes and big growth in government. We have seen growth in government in business subsidies, in areas that they have established as priorities on the other side of the House and which we certainly do not share in terms of their position.
What do we have in our health care system right now? We have a decline. We have a problem in that provinces are facing difficulty in being able to fund health care. The national amount of money coming from the federal government is now only 14%, and yet the government wants to dictate all of the rules to the provinces on how health care should be delivered. We welcome this debate.
Three studies, Kirby's, Romanow's and of course the Mazankowski report in Alberta, either have indicated that reforms are needed or are in the process of doing that. We have seen that Mr. Kirby's report, tabled the other day, is calling for increases in taxes so that we can fund over $5 billion in increased funding for health care. I want to deal with that, but I want to also deal with what Canadians really want.
What we believe Canadians want is a public system that is accessible on a timely basis. In other words, if they have a health problem, they want to be able to go to their doctor and have that health problem diagnosed and dealt with in a timely fashion. We know that if this does not happen, things could deteriorate fairly quickly.
How do we propose to get there? These three commissions have all indicated or are in the process of indicating that there needs to be more money for health care. A couple of elections ago, the Reform Party and the Canadian Alliance recognized this. We recognized that Canadians have health care as a high priority. In fact we think that if Canadians were able to set their priorities, it certainly would be health care funding over things like money for Bombardier or some of the business subsidies that the government currently gives out.
What Canadians want is a public system. They want accessibility and they want it in a timely manner. We really support that idea. Unfortunately, the only thing that the Liberal government can see as a way to address this is to raise taxes. It is not as though the government is not used to raising taxes. We have seen a lot of tax increases and that seems to be its answer to everything. That is its philosophy: tax it.
What would a family do if faced with a similar situation? What would family members have to do if the family budget were overtaxed? They would say that they have these new expenditures they have to make and they would say “I guess we are just going to have to find some new money someplace”. It is not a realistic possibility for most families. Unless they go out and get part time jobs to support the present jobs they have, that is not a possibility. Yet the government seems to take the attitude that if it needs more money, it will just tax Canadians higher.
We have been down that road. The former finance minister and the Prime Minister have been here since 1993 and since that time taxes have increased steadily. We have seen 53 corporate and personal income tax increases, excluding the Canada pension plan and bracket creep; 28 corporate tax increases, 25 of those being personal income tax increases; 6 bracket creep de facto personal income tax increases from 1994 to 1999; 8 Canada pension plan contribution rate increases from 1994 to 2001 up to 9.4%. This was an 88% increase for the Canada pension plan.
We have seen 67 corporate and personal income tax increases, including CPP and bracket creep, from the government since 1993. What do we have? We have less money being spent on health care in real terms today by the federal government than it was spending in 1993. What a travesty when it is telling the provinces to clean up their act on health care.
The government made a commitment in the late sixties and early seventies that its portion of funding would never fall below 50%. What is it today? It is 14% on average. Some provinces of course are less than that. What happened to that promise? This is consistent with the long term decline in the way the government has run the country for so many of those 30 years.
The budget of 2001 had a 9.3% increase in program spending but not one cent was cut to low priority areas. In 2002 federal government revenues total almost $180 billion. The average Canadian taxpayer will pay about $8,300 in federal taxes. That is a lot of money. In fact the Globe and Mail and Ipsos-Reid had a poll just recently that found that three-quarters of Canadians felt that they were taxed too high in comparison to the services they received, such as health care and education.
What do we have from the government? We have proposals for tax increases. Kirby suggested it. What is he doing? I suggest he is trying to lay the groundwork for the federal government. He is talking about raising in the GST from 7% to 8.5%. He is talking about a raise in either the GST or else a premium that would be raised through a national tax system to raise $5 billion. I do not think that is what Canadians want.
Why will those guys not just cut spending and set their priorities? Why do they have to raise taxes to pay for those services?
It seems to me that they just cannot get their own fiscal house in order. What are they spending the money on? Why do they require all these taxes? Why can they not find the $5 billion within the existing budgetary framework? I think the reason is that they have a lot of friends. They have a lot of business subsidy programs. Over $12 billion in loans were granted to companies like Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell over the past five years. Of that $12 billion granted how much have they received back on their investments? They have received $25 million, a 2% return on investment.
Why do they have to raise taxes further for health care? The answer is that they do not. They just have to get a hold of their own out of control spending.
Canadians are concerned because total government expenditures as a percentage of GDP back in the 1960s were roughly equal in Canada to the United States. Today the Canadian government spends approximately 42% of GDP on public programs and interest payments on debt, a full 11% more than in the U.S.
It is commonly assumed that the extra expense is used to pay for health care but, as was pointed out earlier, the U.S. spends more money on public health care, although many people have private insurance as we heard earlier, than does Canada. We also know that the United States spends a significant amount on its military, which takes up a big portion of its GDP, but it still has government spending that is 12% less of its GDP than ours.
The government certainly can do better. We have had advice from people, such as Toronto Dominion economist, Don Drummond, who used to work for the government as a deputy minister. What he has said is that for every new dollar of spending there should be an onus to identify another dollar that is a low priority dollar to be cut back. That is the total missing approach in Ottawa at the moment. I could not have said that better.
The government has no idea how to get its priorities straight. Money is there for health care if it is required but not from new taxes. Canadians do not want more taxes. They want the government to act fiscally responsibly and find the money within the existing budgetary framework.