Yes, as the member says, it is supported by all in that assembly.
My point is that this does a great disservice to the possibilities we have as a Parliament to deal with this very difficult issue and to go forward with possibilities that before now were not there.
We all know that in fact the relations between the federal and the provincial governments have become very dysfunctional. We are as concerned as the members of the Bloc are about that dismal relationship and the absolutely arbitrary, unilateral mode of operation by the federal government. We share those concerns, but we want to say that the report by Mr. Romanow does not in fact give permission to the federal government to continue that kind of destructive course of action. It opens up the possibilities for us to begin anew, to re-establish a working relationship between the federal government and the provinces and territories.
With the Bloc coming out so quickly off the mark and the PQ government coming so quickly out of the gates to condemn Romanow, I worry that in fact we will lose the opportunity, this one last opportunity, to build something new, fresh and constructive.
I do not want to condemn the work of the Bloc, because it certainly has come to the House with a great number of ideas, but I want to say that I think the motion today is hurtful, it is destructive and it is not based on the facts as we know them from the Romanow report.
I also want to say that it is just as destructive for the Bloc to come forward with the motion as it is for members of the Liberal government to immediately condemn discussions about how to negotiate with the provincial governments. I condemn just as much the Minister of Industry coming out two days ago saying that there is no room to talk with the provinces and that the money will be put on the table and the provinces can take it or leave it. I condemn that as much as I condemn the initiatives by the Bloc and by the PQ government, as well as the extremely hasty and unhelpful remarks made by the premiers of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, all of whom, joining with the privateers of our health care system, want to put the nails in the coffin of medicare before the government comes out with a plan to put into effect the blueprint provided by Roy Romanow.
I want to say that the real failing in Parliament today is not the Bloc's motion, and it is not even the provincial governments or the privateers, it is the Liberal government's failure to come forward with a plan based on the Romanow recommendations, to put something on the table to provide a basis for discussion. Because we know what is happening: Without that kind of leadership we have exactly what we had before. We have a whole lot of people trying to advance their agenda and the interests of Canadians are the last to be considered.
It is long overdue for the Minister of Health to have come forward with some broad idea about the Romanow commission. It has been a week since Romanow reported. There is still nothing. There is a meeting tomorrow of the health ministers and there is not a slight indication about what the federal government intends to do. There is nothing but rhetoric, nothing but musings, nothing but saying, “We're open-minded”. It is high time the government actually came forward with something if we are really, truly serious about medicare.
There was a comment that my 13 year old son made following the Grey Cup game in Edmonton, the game that saw the Montreal Alouettes victorious over the Edmonton Eskimos, a game where the Minister of Health was present and involved in the start of the game.
My 13 year old son, Joseph, noticed that part of the proceedings and said to me “Let us hope the fate of health care in this country does not come down to a simple toss of the coin”.
Out of the mouths of babes, of children and young people come some of the most profound understandings. Clearly in this case I think children and Canadians everywhere understand what is at stake and understand that the government is failing us yet again by refusing to come forward with leadership, with plans and with an openness to discuss with all partners and all provincial governments how we can proceed together on a cooperative basis.
I want to calm down for a minute and try to talk a bit about the opportunity we have before us. Although I may disagree with the motion from the Bloc, I appreciate the fact that we have a chance to debate the Romanow report. Without the motion there would not have been an opportunity presented by the government of the day for us to do this. We are trying to get some time on the health committee agenda and that seems to be futile. At least we have one day to talk about Romanow.
It is the first opportunity we have had and it is a very important opportunity to discuss our future health care options and to talk about the fact, and let us be clear, that this has been the most significant investigation into Canada's health care system in decades. Whether we agree with it or not, at least one has to agree that this has been a profoundly important investigation and truly monumental in terms of its findings.
The work of the commission on the future of health care has been an investigation in the true sense of the word. It sought to uncover sound evidence on the viability of the options before us and it conducted that investigation with an open mind, exploring all options and providing the opportunity for all interested Canadians to participate in those discussions and dialogue.
The commission, as members from all sides of the House will know, collected independently commissioned information from all kinds of experts and advocates in the field. The member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve likes to quote from one of them when it suits him, and that is the study by Queen's University entitled “Federal-Provincial Relations in Health Care”. I might suggest that the member read this report more carefully because the recommendations that he thinks are so good in this report of a few weeks ago are precisely the recommendations of Roy Romanow, where he talks about a cooperative approach to decision making and an end to the unilateral arbitrary ways of the past.
We know there were public hearings all over the country. There were public hearings in every centre in Canada. There were public hearings in Montreal and Quebec City. The people of Quebec had a chance to speak and their views, are reflected in this report.
The website of Romanow had 24 million hits in total. One could say four out of five Canadians actually had an impact in terms of registering their views with Roy Romanow. Canadians responded to this very forthright effort. We know that. They spoke out about the values that were most important to them, whether they were from Alberta, Nunavut, Quebec or Newfoundland, all with different circumstances but all with a common desire for equitable access to quality health care. They all saw that as their shared right as Canadian citizens.
One item on the must do list of priorities of Canadians was to make the system more accountable. They had experienced the harmful consequences of the Liberal government's lumping together of all social programs, health, post-secondary education and income, support all under one accountable hodgepodge of the CHST. I remind the House that the concept was engineered by the member for LaSalle—Émard, the architect of probably the most destructive social policy in the history of this country. Let us not forget that. He has some accounting to do to the House, especially given his prospects for leadership and ambitions for the future.
The people of Canada listened very carefully to the Auditor General's report to the House about how the federal government had no idea how the five principles of medicare were being implemented. They commented on how the government had failed in its self-imposed ignorance to enforce the act. They recognized, and I am sure the Bloc agrees with this, that the Liberals had proven themselves to be the Keystone Kops of health care in Canada today.
Canadians also witnessed the performance of federal, provincial, and territorial governments with respect to the $100 million medical equipment fund set up by first ministers to help meet, Canadians believed, the gap in access to diagnostic equipment and new technologies, created by this government choosing tax break giveaways over health investments.
They saw results that included lawn mower purchases over investments in medical equipment. We heard this from members from New Brunswick. Canadians want accountability built into our system. Mr. Romanow has done that by suggesting that we add a new principle to the Canada Health Act and that is the principle of accountability. That means accountability for everyone, not accountability of provincial governments but accountability to the people of Canada by the federal government as well as provincial and territorial governments.
Canadians recognize that tax dollars are limited and health resources are scarce. We must do everything we can to recognize the need for accountability in the delivery of health services to Canadians. Some provinces have built in to their own operations stringent accountability provisions. It is puzzling to say the least that they could, with straight faces, turn around and say that the federal government should not be accountable to its taxpayers for how it spends its money.
Short of ideology and political posturing, it is hard to grasp the logic of the complaints from the Bloc and others that somehow Ottawa will be directing provincial health decisions or that Ottawa bureaucrats will be put in charge. The Bloc likes to remind us that Mr. Romanow served as an NDP premier, a fact of which we are very proud of. Because of that experience, he has been very sensitive to jurisdictional questions. He has been absolutely sensitive to the issues being raised by the Bloc. Mr. Romanow has gone out of his way not to recommend dictatorial authority for the federal government. In examining the evidence and the challenges ahead, he has recognized that these issues are too big to be effectively dealt with individually by provinces or territories and that there is an active role to be played by Ottawa.
Mr. Romanow has said that a national effort is needed, not a federally controlled effort, built on national intergovernmental cooperative approaches, approaches that are a step beyond the parochialism of the past and the jurisdictional bickering while Rome or in this case health care burns. Provinces, territories and the federal government all claim to want to put the health needs of Canadians ahead of jurisdictional quarrelling and squabbling. Romanow's recommendations give us a chance to prove that.
Canadians would rather have their health spending accountable to public sources, including the federal government in Ottawa, than to multinational health corporations in New York or California. We certainly believe this is the feeling of the people of Quebec, les Québécois, as much as Canadians elsewhere. I challenge members of the Bloc to say otherwise.
Canadians spend more than $100 billion on health each year. That is big business and attractive to big health corporations seeking to expand their markets and their profits. However disappointing as it may be, it is not surprising to see the advocates of for profit health care trying to get a bigger chunk of that money by attacking the commission's recommendations and its work. Maybe that is not behind the Bloc's motion, but it is certainly something that must be put on the table today. The solid evidence based foundation upon which the Romanow commission has developed its recommendations has left for profit promoters with nothing but empty rhetoric that has no resonance with the informed Canadian public.
However that does not stop them. If anything, it has made them more desperate. We have seen that today in terms of the comments from Alliance members and we have seen it from the likes of Senator Kirby and others who are actively trying to discredit commissioner Romanow's work. In fact in unprecedented arrogance, they are trying to dismiss the wishes of Canadians as clearly and unambiguously expressed through the Romanow commission. This is very telling indeed. It is telling of the lack of influence that Canadians could expect from a corporate run health system.
Canadians have a choice to make about the vehicle to take us through to the future of health care.
Senator Kirby and his corporate pals want Canadians to buy into the private for profit model. They want us to do so based solely on the advertising, the manufacturer's brochure, about the smooth ride profit driven care will provide.
The Romanow commission, on the other hand, has checked all the consumer reports on for profit care. Private for profit care has been extensively road tested. Commissioner Romanow has checked the results in the United States, Britain, Australia and elsewhere around the world and the reports tell us that the wheels fall off, that this vehicle that may look great in the glossy brochure will not get us to where we want to go. Part of the deal we see is to agree that someone can siphon off the gas, the tax dollars, the very fuel we need to move forward.
Romanow has also found that the fine print on the contract says that when the wheels fall off, we cannot take the vehicle back because of international trade agreements. Romanow has not bought that and Canadians do not want to buy it.
Commissioner Romanow looked very carefully for the most effective way of maintaining the sustainability of our public health system. In his final report, he agrees with all of us in the New Democratic Party and so many Canadians that sustainability is not simply a matter of throwing more money at the problems. It requires a coordinated strategy to reduce the causes of poor health, to adjust health care delivery to the most efficient and to commit a stable, long term investment in public health services. Money alone, without a strategy to deal with Canada wide issues like health human resourcing, drug costs and the like, will lead us down a dead end road. These issues do not stop at city limits, at regional groupings or at, in particular, provincial and territorial boundaries.
We are Canadians in one country looking for one sustainable health care system that will serve all of us in good times and bad, no matter how much money we make, no matter where we live. We are looking to the government to chart a course based on the wishes of Canadians, expressed through Romanow.