House of Commons Hansard #185 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was public.


Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am wondering whether or not there is a quorum.

And the count having been taken:

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

We have quorum. The hon. member for Algoma--Manitoulin may continue.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Madam Speaker, I knew we had a quorum. We always have a quorum. Members are working busily in the lobby behind me making phone calls to constituents, following up on very important files in support of issues in their ridings and issues across the country. I am very pleased that they are monitoring this debate from the lobby and I hope we will not have any more interruptions such as we have just seen.

Back to the point of compensation, as I said, Bill C-5 will provide for fair and reasonable compensation that can be paid for losses suffered as a result of any extraordinary impact when it is necessary to prohibit destruction of critical habitat. Funding is already available through the Government of Canada's habitat stewardship program to help landowners and resource users modify their activities so as not to harm species and habitat.

I should add that this legislation would be complementary to existing provincial and territorial legislation. In fact I would like to touch on the issue of co-operation with our provinces and territories. Under the accord for the protection of species at risk, we joined our provincial and territorial partners in making a series of commitments. We are working to live up to those commitments. We should understand that many provinces and territories have in many ways already lived up to theirs. Certainly we do not want to lag behind nor do we wish to compromise the efforts of our provincial and territorial partners.

As we have, the provinces have struggled with policies in relation to this issue as well. I would like to single out Nova Scotia and Newfoundland for the efforts they have made already in this regard. We have all repeatedly endorsed the spirit of the accord for the protection of species at risk. We have repeatedly pointed to our joint commitments to protecting species and their habitats and to bringing in legislation that enshrines these practices in law.

For decades the federal, provincial and territorial governments have been working together on wildlife management. We have many success stories as a result of this co-operation. The provinces, territories and the federal government have worked side by side on recovery, stewardship, critical policy questions and process. The Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council has met in good faith on a number of occasions and has simply pressed on with this very important work because we made a commitment and we are all determined to honour the bargains we have made. That is why the co-operative approach has to fit. That is why we need to fulfill the federal obligation for legislation on species at risk.

The public wants us to move forward on this. They want us to be mindful of the important concerns of our farming community, our tourism industry and our forest industry. Yes, these are important elements in our economy, and there is no intent here to compromise our ability to create and sustain jobs, to help build the economy, such as we have been doing since 1993. We plan to continue as long as the public will honour us with their support.

I would like add, too, that in a certain legal sense the issue of strict liability is something that deserves mention here. I do not want to lecture the House on what all of this means, but it is very important that interpretations of strict liability be consistent with other government legislation. Almost all federal environmental legislation and provincial wildlife legislation have strict liability offences. Anyone accused under this legislation would have the possible defence, however, of due diligence. Many witnesses who spoke before the standing committee told members that protecting endangered and threatened species represents the emergency room of wildlife conservation.

As I wind up my remarks, let me say that the public likes to see different levels of government working together and co-operating. They expect us to do together the things that make life better for our communities and their citizens, so that in fact when we imagine this country 500 or 1,000 years from now, if we indeed can, we imagine a country that is better than the one in which we live right now.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows:the hon. member for Ottawa--Vanier, Biotechnology; the hon. member for Red Deer, Species at Risk.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured and pleased to speak to Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

Let me say, first of all, that the Bloc Quebecois cannot support that bill for various reasons, which I will try to explain. If we must oppose this bill, it is not just for the sake of opposing it. The subject matter is important and critical.

In my riding, Beauport--Montmorency--Côte-de-Beaupré--Île-d'Orléans, at this time of the year, the end of April and the beginning of May, we can observe the migration of snow geese, or Canada geese, all along the St. Lawrence River, in Beauport Bay, along the Beaupré Shore, in Cap Tourmente and on the shores of Île d'Orléans.

The Bloc Quebecois recognizes that it is important to protect the ecosystems of Canada. However, this must be done in a context of respect for the jurisdictions of both levels of governments.

Before going further and giving the reasons why our party opposes this bill, I want to say that, if I set the record straight by specifying that we agree with the principle, it is simply to keep the government majority from coming back later with totally demagogical statements such as “Since the Bloc Quebecois voted against the species at risk bill, it is against the preservation of the species at risk”.

We heard this no later than this afternoon, during question period. Indeed, we heard the Minister of Human Resources Development explain why the Bloc Quebecois had voted against the cosmetic amendments to the employment insurance reform. These amendments allowed the government to continue to take money from the employment insurance surpluses. This is why we voted against the amendments. This does not mean that we were against everything in the bill.

Liberals are experts in putting up smoke screens, in lulling people by saying “Since that party voted against the bill, it is against any change”. This was totally false in the case of the employment insurance reform, even though we recognize that improvements are needed.

We voted against the amendments because the government keeps claiming the power to take money out of the employment insurance fund.

It is the same thing with this bill. It does not mean that we are against protecting some species at risk. We are against the way the government goes about it.

We are aware that environment is a shared federal-provincial jurisdiction. It is becoming more and more obvious that the federal government is ignoring this reality and moving away from true harmonization with all government orders on environmental issues.

Instead of properly carrying out its own major responsibilities, the federal government keeps trying to take over jurisdictions other than its own.

Instead of trying to better control and assess toxic substances, such as pest control products, to assess the impact of GMO on ecosystems or to deal with transboundary pollution and migrating species, it introduces legislation that goes well beyond its own jurisdiction and that could lead to unnecessary duplication in areas dealt with by the provinces with regard to their own territory and their resources.

Although Canada was one of the first industrialized country to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity, need I remind the House that it was for a long time among the five countries refusing to sign the Protocol on Biosafety, which is a direct result of the convention.

The federal government's position on genetically modified organisms does not reflect the position that it wants to defend with this bill. Moreover, we feel that what the federal government calls a double safety net—that is two levels of government operating in the same jurisdiction—waters down the accountability of both and seriously complicates the assignment of responsibilities.

The Liberal government's claims regarding the importance of a national approach to protecting species go against the spirit of true environmental harmonization and ignore the provincial legislation already in effect as well as the significant progress made by some provinces.

This bill will only create duplication, at a time when resources are limited and it is important to maximize efforts in this area and channel them properly.

We believe that the government should take into consideration the opinion of certain groups which are voicing concerns. We have noticed that even environmental groups are opposed to this legislation. Even groups that should naturally be inclined to support this bill are opposing it. The government should ask itself whether there is enough public support for this bill.

I am also tempted to put my Liberal friends on the spot by asking them if there is enough support for this bill among government members. There appears to be serious dissent among Liberal members. I am anxious to see if they will behave like puppets on a string. I am anxious to see what Liberal members will do when the time comes to vote. I hope that those who, in all honesty and conscience, are saying that this bill does not make sense, will rise and continue to put pressure on their caucus and tell the government that this bill does not work.

I could talk about groups that came to meet us, elected officials and members of parliament. I could mention the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association. I worked for 14 years in that industry, with the Abitibi Price company. I could talk about the concerns of the mining industry.

Just recently, last week in fact, I received representatives from the Quebec real estate board, which has certain concerns. We cannot turn a deaf ear to these concerns. It is true that, sometimes, they may be based on competing interests and, in this case, interests that are different from those of environmental groups. We must recognize that fact. However, a government cannot turn a deaf ear to protests from within its own ranks as well as from civil society groups.

In a democracy, when is compliance with an act more likely? When there is a social consensus that is strong enough. My understanding of our role as parliamentarians is to pass legislation on which a consensus can easily be reached. Instead of that, because they form the government and because they have a majority of seats, the members opposite think that they can ram legislation through no matter what the public thinks of it. A government must be responsive to the needs and concerns expressed by the people.

Often, when we attend social activities in our ridings on weekends, we can see that if there is one thing that people do not like about governments at all levels—this certainly does not help the credibility of politicians—it is the fact that they do not listen, that they are not responsive to their concerns.

In conclusion, we, in the Bloc Quebecois, recognize the need to improve the protection of our ecosystems, and the endangered plant and animal species that constitute them, but we do not believe Bill C-5 is the way to go. For these reasons, we oppose this bill.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec


André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill for the first time. My colleague from Beauport--Montmorency--Côte-de-Beaupré--Île d'Orléans never misses an opportunity to inform us on significant realities. I hope that he is not against this bill because of its reference to species at risk. It may remind him of his party's situation. At the rate his colleagues are leaving for Quebec City, I get the impression that the Bloc Quebecois could be listed as a species at risk.

They do, however, have a somewhat contradictory attitude. They are prepared to adopt and defend all causes, but when the government develops and implements programs that enable us to attain the objectives they share with us—I am thinking for example of the infrastructure program and the highways in Quebec—when the government introduces a bill with $2 billion in funding, like the one currently being examined by the Senate, they vote against it, instead of being consistent with their own principles. If there are programs that open the door to extremely important initiatives in medical or industrial research, they will vote against the budget measures for them.

All in all, it is hard to see much consistency between their theoretical demands and their concrete actions here in the House sometimes, and it is hard to see them opposing measures of great help to all regions of the country, particularly the resource regions. I could go on about this at great length.

As far as Bill C-5 is concerned, it is not true that the federal government pushes everybody around. From 1984 to 1997, that is 13 years, I have had the opportunity—and I am pleased to pay tribute to the Minister of Canadian Heritage in this connection—to work with numerous federal and provincial ministers on what is now called the Saguenay—St. Lawrence National Marine Park. It was created after many, many consultations. Its creation in 1997 will enable us to take steps relating to the whole issue of protecting nature and wildlife, which are very important. This federal government initiative, undertaken in conjunction with the government of Quebec, which as we know does not share our ultimate objectives, was carried out in very close collaboration. After only a few years, the results are extremely positive.

Today the fjord of Saguenay is on the list of Canadian parks. For my part I wanted to make sure that one of the most beautiful natural sites in Canada and in the world be made a national park. It was time to stop arguing.

This evening, I want to congratulate the Minister of Canadian Heritage and her parliamentary secretary, who has been following this issue very closely. I am very happy to have the opportunity to speak to the bill.

Of course, one is always striving for perfection. Some say the bill goes too far, others that it does not go far enough. For my part, I believe that in real life when one waits for perfection to go forward one can wait a long time. History is not made by people who strive for perfection every day. One must forge ahead, step by step. In the end, it is the best way to make history, I believe.

In my opinion, this bill strikes not a perfect balance but an interesting one. It is the result of several years of consultation. Obviously, some groups are still opposed to it. However, most people are in favour of a bill that will help the conservation of species at risk.

It will not be done haphazardly, but with the help of scientific groups that will make recommendations to the government. The government will have to act quickly to save these species at risk. This will not be done without very down-to-earth consultations with local people, and on the basis of proven scientific data. The government will have to respond to these recommendations.

The interesting point regarding the recommendations made by COSEWIC is that they will eventually be adopted by the government. The final decision will not be made without considering social and economic factors.

When I go to the Saguenay--St. Lawrence marine park I can see species preservation in action. I can observe species and contemplate the beauty of the fauna and flora of our lovely region. The marine park was developed in close consultation with the local population.

The success of this park is an example of people working together. It was extremely difficult. Negotiating with the Government of Quebec is not easy. We have many examples of this in connection with infrastructure programs, research, and the homeless. By the way, I wish to congratulate my colleague, the Minister of Labour, who is also responsible for co-ordinating programs for the homeless.

It takes time. It is complicated. I assure you that we are not going overboard on visibility. What the Government of Quebec wants above all is transfers of money, with no strings attached. But we represent all Canadians. We represent the Canadian government. There is nothing wrong with that. Canadians need to know that their government can do things which are in their best interests.

We demonstrate this daily. The important thing is that as soon as this bill is passed, hundreds of species will have the good fortune to be declared species at risk for the purposes of protection and rehabilitation. It is time we got to work in this sector.

It is wrong to say that the Canadian government is not doing its job properly. Because of some our initiatives in establishing parks, we are considered a model in the world. However, this is something that is not said often enough.

So, this evening I am obviously pleased to have an opportunity to speak and to say that I will be voting in favour of the bill. Obviously, the creation of the Saguenay--St. Lawrence marine park, in co-operation with the Government of Quebec, is one of the reasons that I will be doing so. Furthermore, my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis, has had an opportunity to work as Quebec's minister of the environment.

All in all, this is a bill which will allow us to define those species truly at risk, and to do so with grassroots organizations. The government will have to respond quickly to the recommendations of scientists and community groups. These recommendations will not be made at random. They will be made on the basis of very objective criteria.

What is also interesting is that we will have the financial means, if necessary, to provide compensation. Orders will be used to confirm that compensation is necessary for a species at risk.

There is already a stewardship program in place, with a budget of $45 to $50 million. This program allows us to manage objectively, by considering the fact that people may, to some degree, be adversely affected by the protection provided. However, fair and legitimate compensation will be provided in such cases. This is an interesting thing about the bill.

As for the protection of species at risk, it is not true that the federal government will throw its weight around. Quite the contrary. I sometimes find that the federal government is extremely polite and respectful in its initiatives. I had the opportunity to witness this with the national marine park in the Saguenay fjord, and with the creation of a Canadian research centre for the processing of aluminum, the construction of which will begin next month. We respected Quebec's jurisdiction, and worked in co-operation with existing organizations.

I am convinced that Bill C-5 will be passed without interfering with provincial jurisdictions. The only thing is that, ultimately, if the necessary work to protect and preserve species at risk is not done, the federal government will have the privilege and the right to assume its responsibilities. But I am 99% if not 100% sure that this bill, which is under the responsibility of my very competent colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, will be implemented in the full respect of the jurisdictions of all the territorial and provincial governments, including the Quebec government.

I am pleased to have used the Saguenay--St. Lawrence National Marine Park to support this bill which, I am sure, will respect all the other jurisdictions.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will begin my speech on Bill C-5 by setting the political framework for where we are at with the bill. I will then talk about the unintended consequences as a result of the bill and focus on some of the specific motions. My colleagues highlighted many of them today. I will touch on one of them and then focus on some others.

First, the political framework for where we are at with the bill. We had some potential votes last Monday. We came to the House for those votes and surprise, they did not happen. There was some disruption among the government members as to whether they were going to support some of these motions and amendments. It is important to remind people of what is going on within the political framework.

The environment committee worked hard on the bill for a long period of time and a number of amendments brought forward, some even by government members, have been gutted by their own people: the minister and the department.

One of our Liberal colleagues mentioned earlier in debate that it was time to do something. The government has been in power for almost 10 years and on this topic it has accomplished absolutely nothing. There is no legislation, 0 for 10. It has been 10 years and no legislation. If the minister wants to take great delight in that, that is fine.

I believe that if the government were to move quickly on an election promise made in 1993 perhaps we would have seen some legislation in place already. The flip side of that argument is the government telling us that it has consulted, looked at every side of the issue forward, backward and upside down and that is why it has taken so long. However after 10 years the government is not at a point where it has the support of its own members on this piece of legislation.

The Liberal government approach is to appear to do something while actually doing nothing. The government wants to appear to be doing something to people out there but actually not change anything. That seems to be the model of how the government is operating, not just with this piece of legislation but with others as well.

The unintended consequences of the legislation have some dramatic impacts. Yes, the government wants to bring forward changes. It wants to protect the natural environment and endangered species. The opposition wants to do the same thing through a good piece of legislation, unlike the one we have before us.

Has the government in its 10 years of dealing with this issue taken a look at some of the economic impact that would happen as a result of this legislation? Has it done an actual analysis? Some of the government members mentioned earlier, how will the bill impact tourism or other areas of the economy? What about compensation for individuals whose property could be taken if an endangered species were found on it? That question has still not been adequately addressed after 10 years.

The government once again, by its words not through its actions, has demonstrated an inability to achieve its intended goal. It promised something in 1993. It is now 2002. It has been almost 10 years and there is still no legislation in place.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Anne McLellan Liberal Edmonton West, AB

That is because you are holding it up.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

It is absolutely unbelievable that could happen. The Minister of Health says that the opposition is holding it up. Her own colleague was on a radio talk show in British Columbia this past weekend saying the reason it was held up was because of the rural caucus and its great, triumphant entry into the process. He said it was the Liberal government rural caucus that saved the day and did not allow Bill C-5 to go forward. That is what the member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey said.

The fact of the matter is that the government is divided on this issue. Even though it has a big majority it has not been able to put forward this piece of legislation and bring it into law for 10 years. It is being held up because it is not a good piece of legislation. Some of the Liberal members are asking some serious questions about it. We appreciate that they are doing that. The opposition has been doing that for a long time by pointing out inadequacies with the legislation. That is the political framework for the bill.

The government does not want reports made public. It would cut that right out. It would inhibit some of the accountability that the committee sought to move into the bill and cuts it out. It is gone. It is just off the record altogether.

My colleague from Surrey Central touched on the amendment having to do with documents in the public registry. What has been struck from this section is a clause that would say that all ministerial reports, including listing decisions, would be made public. The government amendment would remove that. It takes it right out of play. Why is that? We are not certain. We would think that accountability and transparency would be items that the government would want to include in its legislation not remove them.

The government, if it were to reveal information and be open with the public, would receive more support not less support. Yet for some reason in this amendment it has removed that public aspect of listing information. I would like to give the Liberals some advice. If they were to release more information and were more open they would actually receive more support.

Instead we have seen over the ten years that they have been here that it has not been a credo they work toward. In other words they are less open and less transparent. This creates more perception in people's minds that something must be going on. They wonder how they can trust the government.

All of the other situations that the government has been involved in are well documented. The auditor general has pointed out some difficulties in all kinds of areas, whether it be public works or defence spending.

There is another government amendment which would remove the five year review of the bill. In other words, the bill would move from being less open and less transparent. It is moving in the wrong direction.

The government has been here for almost 10 years. It is quite clear that after 10 years the government has not been able to put in a piece of legislation on endangered species. It is divided on the issue. The legislation has gutted some of the good amendments brought forward by the environment committee. It is another example of how the Liberal government has mismanaged an important topic and broken an election promise going back to 1993.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Laval West Québec


Raymonde Folco LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I think that it has become clear for all of us here in the House over the course of this debate at report stage, that the majority of the members, regardless of their party affiliation, share the same goal: to improve the protection of species at risk in Canada. I think that everyone agrees that this is a noble goal, and I am happy to share this goal with my colleagues.

However, it is important to note that after nine years of studies, consultations, drafting of documents and fine-tuning, after having seen what works and what does not by assessing results that are already being seen in the field, the time has now come to act, instead of talking about goals.

This bill before us has been very carefully prepared and it is very balanced. It must now be adopted in order to produce good results for Canadians and for our cultural heritage.

We sought the help of countless individuals and groups to arrive at what we have been able to achieve as far as Bill C-5 is concerned.

Allow me to take a few moments to highlight the important contributions made by so many Canadians. For more than eight years we have been working to shape the Species at Risk Act. We have worked closely with many people, our provincial and territorial partners, and individuals who may be personally affected by the legislation, such as aboriginal peoples, rural landowners, resource users and other interested parties.

We must realize that the protection of species at risk has become an issue that concerns people across the country. However no one person can respond to this issue alone, because it is an issue to which all of society must respond.

The fact that species at risk have survived on private lands speaks to the good sense of stewardship that Canadians have. I am thinking in particular of the river banks at Sainte-Rose, in my riding of Laval West, only a few kilometers from intense urban development, where there is a park that remains in a wild state. One can see ducks and white heron when walking the banks of the Mille-Îles River, thanks to the Government of Canada's program.

Therefore, it is important to continue to enjoy the support of those who live and work on the land, in the forest and on the water. We all want the protection of species to be ensured by those who live near them: farmers, ranchers, fishers, landowners and land users. Much more than mere wishes, this is the best solution, because this major piece of legislation is predicated on a co-operative approach. And this approach works, we know it does.

In fact, individual Canadians working on their own or through conservation agencies, industries or governments are already co-operating on a daily basis to protect the species at risk. Initiatives to recover more than a hundred endangered or threatened species are currently under way. These will make all the difference.

I would like to remind the House once again that the provinces and territories, aboriginal people and many other stakeholders were involved in the drafting of Bill C-5. Their efforts must be encouraged.

In closing, I know I do not have much time left, but I want to reiterate that Bill C-5 was made possible thanks to the co-operation of all the stakeholders, Canadians working on their own or through organizations.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Health Care SpendingPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should, in line with the Arthritis Society's Canadian Arthritis Bill of Rights: (a) recognize every patient's right to timely and accurate diagnosis, and to improved access to new medications; (b) ensure patients, wherever they live, enjoy the same quality of care; and (c) to achieve these goals, consider restoring federal funding to 25% of healthcare spending, moving towards restoring the federal contribution to 50% of total healthcare spending.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on an important concern shared by all Canadians, and that is the right of access to timely medical diagnosis and treatment regardless of income, education, social standing or geographical location.

My motion is in the form of a patient's bill of rights, a bill of rights to ensure that our national medicare system continues to serve the health care needs of all Canadians.

In putting this motion forward today, I want to pay special tribute to the Arthritis Society of Canada for its inspiring initiative on behalf of arthritis patients. The bill of rights that it put forward for public consideration was developed in co-operation with the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance and in collaboration with 18 arthritis stakeholder groups across the country.

Its campaign is: one of raising public awareness and reinforcing the right of patients to timely medical diagnosis and care; second, the right of patients to informed consent on treatment, including access to information on treatment options and the full range of helpful medications; and third, the right of patients to research and representation.

I want to for a moment put into perspective both the nature and the extent of the concerns that lie behind the arthritis bill of rights. I want to do so by sharing four simple facts.

First, four million Canadians suffer from some form of arthritis. Second, 600,000 Canadians are disabled by arthritis. Third, arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases cost the Canadian economy $17.8 billion a year. Fourth, there are 100 different forms of arthritis. Luckily they fall into three groups: degenerative arthritis, inflammatory arthritis and non-articular rheumatism.

For more details about the extent to which the lives of Canadians are affected by arthritis, I would refer all members of the House and members of the public to consult the very informative website of the Arthritis Society at

I want to take the opportunity to salute the Arthritis Society for its emphasis on prevention and on the responsibility of patients to promote and protect their own health through their lifestyle choices and through education.

It is well established that early and accurate diagnosis of illness is the most reliable and effective treatment. Missed or delayed diagnosis results in debilitating injury and premature decline or unavoidable deaths.

The second step that the Arthritis Society points out so very capably is ensuring access to necessary treatment options, to treatment modalities, including specialists where they are required, surgeons where they are necessary, rehabilitation services and appropriate medications. That is where Canada's cherished health care system comes into the picture.

We know that this year's Canada Day will mark the 40th birthday of medicare, first introduced by the New Democratic Party, or its predecessor, in Saskatchewan.

Over the span of barely two generations, medicare has become a symbol of unity in our country, a system which characterizes Canada as a compassionate nation and makes our identity and our citizenship so precious. Medicare reflects our fundamental Canadian values: sharing, equity, community spirit and compassion.

In a Toronto Star op-ed article, Charles Pascal recently wrote about his coming to Canada some three decades ago. He said the following:

The Canada I fell in love with was one where...we owed each other as neighbors [and] was expressed by our investment in universal health care and public education.

Fortieth birthdays are not always easy. It is shocking that some appear willing to surrender this precious legacy. It is even more shocking to realize that among them are those who are charged most directly with protecting our health care system.

I think we all know now, it is a matter of record and it is a matter of human suffering, that the infamous 1995 budget dealt a serious blow to health funding and health quality in this country. In hacking away the social services funding and killing the Canada assistance plan on top of reductions to our health transfers, the 1995 budget struck a further blow to the capability of community service agencies and municipalities to deal with the social and economic determinants of health, which are equally important.

That budget set a pattern which has now become the doctrine of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance: oppose, elect and then embrace. First, during an election vigorously oppose a right wing policy. Second, get elected on the basis of that opposition. Third, once elected, embrace that right wing policy that was so vigorously opposed on the campaign trail. The Liberals as we know did that with the GST. They did it with free trade. They did it with funding for public broadcasting. We know that they did it with health care cuts.

At the same time, we know that we have suffered massive cuts to health funding. Despite the government insistence that the funding levels have been restored for a public not for profit health care system, we know that the restored funding does not even bring the level of funding for a public health care system to where it was in 1993 when the Liberal government was elected.

We know that when those cuts were taking place, there were major increases in health care costs and requirements. Those have resulted from at least five different sources: first, expensive technological advances and life prolonging procedures; second, the costs associated with a rapidly aging population; third, insufficient focus and certainly insufficient funds for prevention, which the Arthritis Society has pointed out; fourth, an almost total ignoring of environmental health and of occupational health and a virtual ignoring of the overall determinants of health; and fifth, extended drug patent monopolies which have made prescription drugs the fastest rising health care cost in the country.

The provinces and communities had to battle, find funds to make up for the federal cuts, or cut services and close beds in the hospitals. In Alberta, Ralph Klein went ahead and approved private hospitals and for-profit clinics. In Ontario, Mike Harris made it known that he was behind Alberta all the way.

Now we have a new federal health minister who basically says “that is okay with me”. Sadly, we have to recognize that we have in the cabinet of this government today the most pro privatization health minister in a generation. After a string of federal health minister pledging eternal loyalty by day to the Canada Health Act and shredding it by dusk, at least the current health minister is more honest than her predecessors about where she stands.

Let me say that she is deluded if she thinks that Canadians support her soft on privatization position.

How bad has it become? It is bad enough that the Prime Minister's former colleague, Monique Bégin, broke her silence a couple of months ago and openly criticized the Liberals in no uncertain terms. Here is what she said:

The feds are...not sharing fairly in the risks of a constantly evolving and growing health care system, the burden falling squarely on provincial governments....For both accountabilitypurposes and for good governance, we should revert back to the spirit of a 50-50 cost-sharedarrangement, block-funded by cash transfers established in multi-year blocks.

Madam Bégin has advocated an immediate move to a 25% federal cash contribution in health care spending from the current level of 14% to 16%.

I do not need to remind the House that Monique Bégin is no gadfly. She is a highly respected former cabinet minister, former colleague of the Liberal members on the government benches today, who is very much credited with having brought in the Canada Health Act. She did so working in collaboration with progressive citizens and with devoted health care workers, especially the nurses of this country.

I want to reiterate that the danger this chronic underfunding poses to the quality of health care is obvious, but it also puts the nature of care, and that is public health care, in severe jeopardy. Federal funding is the only level that Ottawa has in enforcing the standards of the Canada Health Act. As that funding has eroded, Canada's right wing provinces have become ever more bold about bringing in a second tier of private for profit health care.

The ultimate expression of that boldness came two months ago with Alberta's Mazankowski report. That document was a virtual smorgasbord for increasing the share that individuals would be required to pay for health care, like higher premiums and medical savings accounts, or as one highly respected health policy analyst has called medical savings accounts, the Enron of health care.

Canadians deserve to know whether this federal health minister is prepared or not to champion Monique Bégin's prescription for nursing the medicare system back to a state of health. So far the minister's only answer to that question when I have had an opportunity to put it to her in the House has been, and I quote, “The NDP leader is the only person in the country who thinks Ottawa's health funding is insufficient”.

Cherished Canadian values, like social justice and social solidarity, are being sacrificed on the alter of the almighty market. It is time to turn that around.

Across the country today, Canadians are conscientiously engaged in the Romanow commission hearings, trying to have some influence and some say in the future direction of health care in Canada. With their participation and their presence, they are showing their commitment to medicare every day and in every city where the commission meets.

I want to reinforce tonight the point that it is past time that the federal government made a similar commitment, by committing today to restore federal funding, first, to a 25% share of health care costs in Canada and ultimately to restoring full 50:50 funding of health care.

As we debate the importance of the principles and concepts embraced in the bill of health of the Arthritis Society, let us keep in mind that these principles, these aspirations and these needs will only be satisfactorily met if the government commits to an adequate level of funding.

Let us not leave those aspirations as expressed in the arthritis bill of rights as simply words on a piece of paper. Rather, let them be a contribution to our realizing the dream of all Canadians to ensure that people's health care needs are met when and where they are required to be met, regardless of their income and regardless of where they happen to live in this country.

Health Care SpendingPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick


Jeannot Castonguay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I thank the hon. member for giving me the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak to Motion M-484.

The motion calls on the government to recognize every patient's right to timely and accurate diagnosis, and to improved access to new medications and to enjoy the same quality of care wherever they live. It also calls on the federal government to consider restoring federal funding to 25% of healthcare spending, moving towards restoring the federal contribution to 50% of total healthcare spending.

This motion raises issues near and dear to the hearts of many Canadians. We all know that healthcare is one of the profoundly important issues we must deal with today as a country.

On that point, the work currently being done by Mr. Romanow, the chair of the Commission on the Future of Healthcare in Canada, will make an important contribution to the national dialogue on healthcare. The commission was struck barely over a year ago, on April 4, 2001.

It has now entered the consultation phase or the public dialogue phase of its work. Its final recommendations are due in November. Its work will allow us to reach a consensus on how to reform the Canadian health care system. We are looking forward to what Mr. Romanow will recommend to ensure the long-term viability of the health care system.

I will now get back to the motion before us today and which, as I just said, is dealing with important issues such as quality of care, access to new medication and health care funding mechanisms. I would like to deal with each one of these three issues and tell all those who are here today what is being done in those areas.

To start with, I will say that quality of care is a notion which has several dimensions. We could say that a quality health care system is one that gives priority to the patient. It is integrated, flexible and efficient, and quality is a concern throughout the health care chain, from promotion to prevention and treatment.

The federal government keeps on working with the provinces, the territories, health care professionals and volunteer organizations to make sure that Canadians, wherever they live, have access in a timely fashion to the health care they need.

Let me give a few examples of the efforts made by the federal government to ensure quality health care.

We are working with our provincial and territorial partners and other interested parties to find the best solutions to deal with the issue of labour shortage in health care. For instance, in September 2001, the federal government announced a $3.95 million contribution over three years to a study on the physician workforce.

This study is being conducted in consultation with Human Resources Development Canada, Health Canada, the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Advisory Committee on Health Human Resources and representatives from the medical community. It is aimed at gathering evidence that will be used to develop a human resource strategy to improve the quality of care given Canadians and their access.

The report of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada indicates that we need to reinforce our commitment to quality health care. Urging Canadians to take part in a study on health care delivery issues might be a great way to improve the flexibility of the health care system so that it can better meet the needs of patients.

Through the Canada Health Infostructure Partnerships Program, the Government of Canada recently announced an investment of up to $1 million in the Yukon Telehealth Network. This innovative project will deliver telehealth services and programs such as tele-mental health, tele-learning and X-ray support to six remote northern communities.It is believed that telehealth will significantly improve access to high quality health care.

Second, we know how important it is for the people of Canada to be able to rely on good diagnostic services and to have access to new, safe and efficient medication.

Although health care delivery, including hospital services and medical procedures, usually comes under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, the federal government still has an important role to play. It is funding medicare for almost one million Canadians in certain groups.

When the first ministers met in 2000, one of the priorities mentioned in the action plan for the renewal of our health care system was to guarantee all Canadians access to new medication that would be better suited to their health condition and more cost-efficient. Since that meeting, Health Canada, in concert with its provincial and territorial partners, has developed strategies to implement this priority.

For instance, federal, provincial and territorial health ministers have recently agreed to set up a single medication review process for all drug plans provided by both government orders. This will be great for Canadians, because it will ensure that all drugs go through a standardized and thorough review process.

Although the government does not support the motion before us today, it continues to work on strategies to improve access to new, appropriate and best value drugs, while ensuring the funding necessary for these strategies.

Finally, the motion before us today asks the government to commit to a specific contribution to health care funding. On this side of the House, we had numerous occasions in the last few years to debate this issue with members opposite, and I am pleased to do so again today.

The Canadian government provides funds to the provinces and the territories through the Canada health and social transfer.

The CHST is a block funding mechanism that applies to health care, post-secondary education, social welfare and social services. The provinces and the territories get to distribute the funds according to their priorities, but must abide by the principles of the Canada health act.

The Government of Canada is aware that the health care system needs stable and predictable funding. In September 2000, acknowledging the need to increase health care funding, the federal government decided to allocate, over five years, $21.1 billion of new money to the Canada health and social Transfer, including $2.2 billion for early childhood development.

Furthermore, the Canadian government has committed to invest $2.3 billion in three targeted areas, according to priorities which had been agree upon, namely frontline health care, biomedical equipment and information technology.

For the current fiscal year, namely 2002-2003, the total transfers from the federal government to the provinces and territories will reach an all time high of $19.l billion.

Together with the tax transfer component, CHST entitlements for 2002-2003 will reach $35.7 billion, or $6.3 billion more than in 1994-1995.

BY 2005-2006, the cash transfer of the CHST will have reached $21 billion, for an impressive total of $40 billion if we include fiscal transfers.

Moreover, wishing to improve predictability of funding, the federal government will determine by 2003-2004 the cash transfers for the years 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.

Moreover, the federal government is also making cash transfers as part of the equalization program, which allows provinces to provide their population with reasonably comparable levels of public care services, at reasonably comparable taxation levels. In 2002-2003, equalization payments should reach $10.2 billion.

The federal, provincial and territorial governments recognize that it takes more than money to improve access to quality health care.

The government I represent, in co-operation with its provincial and territorial partners and other stakeholders, is clearly taking active measures to meet the needs in terms of quality health care and access to new medication, and it is investing significantly in health care.

Health Care SpendingPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Motion No. 484 having to do with the patient's bill of rights.

The leader of the NDP based her motion on recommendations issued by the Canadian Arthritis Society. The society should be congratulated on its initiative to raise awareness of the shortcomings of our health care system. Believe me, there are lots of them.

I would like to commend the initiative for recognizing the responsibility of the patients when it comes to their own health. That is very important as we look ahead. Ensuring that we pursue a healthy lifestyle in Canada is integral to saving the health care system in the 21st century. It is a new approach that we have talked about since the 1970s but have done precious little about.

I want to take a quick snapshot of a few issues, one of which is cigarette smoking. The health issues of one in every six patients is smoke related. If we can stop people from cigarette smoking until the age of 20, very few will pick up that habit which will devastate our health care system and which destroys the lives of so many Canadians.

A fit society is an integral link to the health of a nation. A whole generation of Canadians has grown up eating fast foods in front of television sets and computers. It will destroy our country if we do not do something about it.

We must look to some of the solutions for a healthy lifestyle and become knowledgeable about available treatments. Treatment plans are very important and we must actively participate in the decisions affecting our own bodies. With the advent of information on the Internet, many patients know more about their own bodies and illnesses before they walk into a doctor's office. It changes the dynamics. Many doctors have told me that is absolutely true. They have a hard time in this knowledge based economy staying on top of all the cures and all the different potentials. It will be much more of a team effort in the 21st century.

We have to be the leaders in active lifestyles and look at prevention in more than just what we do but also in what we eat. Health food stores are doing a booming business. We are a society that is concerned, and we need to be more concerned about building up our immune systems to prevent becoming ill.

Those are going to be some of the solutions in the 21st century. Co-operating fully with mutually acceptable courses of treatment, with physicians and the health care system, is one of the areas we would like to see us move forward on.

For the health care system to be sustainable we must become more accountable as to how we access the system. We can do this by becoming educated on the costs associated with the various access points. Canadians need to know that emergency wards in hospitals are more costly than their neighbourhood clinics. They have to know it is important for us to access those clinics if we are going to sustain the health care system. That is one small area of information that needs to be given to the patients. Increased accountability becomes an increased efficiency of the overall use of taxpayer dollars.

The Canadian Alliance supports the intent of the motion. In fact our newly ratified policy says that we would ensure a timely, sustainable and quality system for many generations to come, for all Canadians regardless of their financial means. That is what Canadians want. That is what has been reflected in our policy because we reflect the values of Canadians.

Unfortunately the motion glosses over some of the real problems of our health care system, one of which is the ongoing Liberal mismanagement of our health care system. We would not be talking about implementing elements of a patient's bill of rights if Canadians believed the Liberal government was doing a good job of managing our health care system.

The system as we know it is threatened by the baby boom bubble that is hitting it now. Motion No. 484 simply repeats what the Canadian Alliance has been requesting for some time now, the respect of the five principles of the Canada Health Act, with the additional sixth principle of sustainable funding.

That should not need to be there. It should be a given. It is just good practice. Yet what the Liberal government has done over the past decade has made it absolutely imperative. What happened to our health care system in the mid-90s must never happen again. We will lose it for sure if that repeats itself.

We need a government willing to live up to its commitment to deliver sustainable health care to the Canadian people. Our health care system has been on a downhill slide since 1993. We have been operating on nine years of crisis management in health care. The Liberal government's lack of planning and long term investment will take years for a Canadian Alliance government to fix.

I will talk a bit more about the motion which would recognize every patient's right to a timely and accurate diagnosis. It is accepted that when the Liberals came to power in 1993 they attempted to balance their books on the back of the health care system. They chose to finance government slush funds with dollars that should have gone into health care.

The Alliance Party would make the interests of health care users paramount. That would be the guiding principle of all its initiatives. We need to explore innovations to reduce waiting lists and improve quality of care. We must modernize the Canada Health Act where necessary to ensure timeliness, quality and sustainable health care service for Canada.

For the most part Canadians eventually receive the health care they require. The problem is that they do not get it in a timely fashion. For many of them it is too late and they do not make it on the waiting list. That is an absolute disgrace for our country. Many Canadians get sicker on waiting lists. We need to do something about that.

Waiting lists in Canada for surgeries, X-rays and basic checkups cause undue frustration and diminished quality of life. They reduce productivity levels in the workforce. Growing hospital waiting lists put pressure on family physicians to take on ever increasing caseloads and rush patients through to support their bottom lines. It has an effect on quality of care and accuracy of diagnosis. We need a government that supports health care professionals. It is not enough to claim to be a champion of the health care system. The actions of the Liberal government have shown Canadians otherwise.

The other part of the motion would ensure patients enjoyed the same quality of care wherever they lived. The government's neglect of the health care system has had enormous consequences. The provinces were forced to lay off thousands of health care professionals. It is absolutely amazing.

We are short a staggering number of health care professionals. Doctors tell us we need 2,500 more doctors per year to sustain the system. Nurses have come up with a study which says we need 112,000 new nurses in the next nine years to sustain the system. Enrolment in medical and nursing schools was cut back drastically in the mid-90s. The government was warned of the problem but did absolutely nothing about it. Funding has been scaled back for promised new medical technologies and the upgrade of obsolete equipment. All told, the government has withdrawn $25 billion from the CHST since it took office.

We must have sustainable and predictable funding to allow for the enforcement of the Canada Health Act. Instead the government has chosen an adversarial approach in dealing with the provinces. It is more interested in interference than co-operation. This hurts Canadians. When it comes to funding we have reduced real cash transfers to health care by 30%. Some 35% to 40% of provincial budgets go into health care while just 5% of federal money goes into it.

However throwing more money at the problem is not the answer. We need a new approach to reining in the escalating cost of drugs. We need to find more efficient ways to deliver health care. We need greater accountability within the system. We need to place greater emphasis on prevention and keeping people out of hospital in the first place.

The Liberal government has talked a good talk about protecting the health care system but has left it to the provinces to foot the bill. We have been left with a decade of drift. We need to change that if we are to stay in the system.

Health Care SpendingPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I remind hon. colleagues that cellphones are not allowed in the House. In the last 15 minutes I have heard two of them. I ask members to please abide by the rules.

Health Care SpendingPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I assure you I have no cell phone, and some members of my party fault me for that. You can see, however, that it might help us continue the debate.

I congratulate the hon. member from Halifax for her pertinent motion. I cannot resist pointing out, however, that since this is private members' business, we are in an extremely problematical situation. We have to remember that the government has made use of its majority to deeply undermine parliamentary democracy—this we know—by defeating a private member's bill that was deemed votable.

I plan to remind hon. members of this every time I rise, in support of a colleague who has made use of this vehicle in order to do our work as legislators, when it comes down to it.

Basically, we have no problem with the motion. I understand that there are four million Canadians who suffer to varying degrees from some form of arthritis.

Arthritis is a sneaky disease. One day, a person can be severely affected, and the next quite fine. People with this disease have no way of predicting what their condition will be next. There is one thing about arthritis that differentiates it from other things like diabetes or heart disease. There is a shortage of rheumatologists. This will hold true for the next few years. We are faced with the challenge of proper manpower planning in the health field.

As we know, this is National Nursing Week. I will therefore take this opportunity to thank them. I have met in my office with nurses and their official spokespersons. They have reminded me—perhaps something we have a tendency to lose sight of—that in the health system nurses perform 75% of billable services that are delivered by health professionals.

They deserve our recognition. Nurses play a vital and central role in our health system. They fulfill that role under difficult conditions, because all governments have slashed health budgets. As we have said and keep on saying: the federal government has cut $25 billion in transfer payments.

It is easy to imagine what that means. In Quebec alone, it means an annual shortfall of $2.5 billion in health care funding because of the federal government's cutbacks.

In a federal system, it is impossible to think that what one government does will not affect the other. The situation is even more iunbelievable in view of the absolutely huge surpluses.

Yes, it is true that a little must go to Radio-Canada. A little must go to a number of other crown corporations. However, we certainly have an obligation to ensure the provinces can assume their responsibilities.

Arthritis is a disease affecting four million Canadians of all ages, but particularly those who are getting older. It can reduce one's dexterity and mobility. It is without a doubt an extremely painful disease.

The member from Halifax spoke of arthritis and the fact that so many Canadians suffer from it to remind us of which principles should guide us, as legislators, in our approach to health care.

Through her motion, the member from Halifax is asking us, as parliamentarians, to recognize that each patient has the right to a timely diagnosis. I understand her point. In the case of arthritis, as for any other disease, it is easy to understand that early diagnosis is best.

The parliamentary secretary will agree with me, given that he is a former gastroenterologist—if I am not mistaken—which means he treated disorders of the colon and small intestine, basically of the entire digestive system.

The Parliamentary Secretary will agree that the earlier the diagnosis, the easier it is to take measures, find a cure or the appropriate medication.

This is what the member for Halifax is calling for, and we wholeheartedly support the first paragraph of her motion.

She also refers to medications. This is interesting, since, as health critic, I have read in numerous studies about the pressure that is being felt in the different components of the health care system.

Allow me to quote a figure. Together, the provinces and the federal government spent $56 billion last year. This is nothing to sneeze at. It is a considerably large share of our collective wealth.

In the next ten years, which is not very far off, we will need to invest between $80 and $90 billion in the health care system. Why? If in 2003, the Government of Quebec wants to provide the same services, without adding any new services, without acquiring any new medical technologies, it will have to allocate another 5% of its budget to health care. Imagine that. No government can maintain this rate of increased spending.

Which brings us to the motion moved by the memberffrom Halifax. We need to think about the cost of drugs. Right now, the largest expense, the single greatest factor contributing to increasing costs in our health care system is drug costs. We need to think about what we want to do about this.

For example, many new drugs are introduced. The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board was established by the Tories. We must acknowledge that they had the forethought to look in depth into the whole issue of intellectual property. If memory serves me well, it was Bill C-22, which then became Bill C-91.

Obviously a country such as Canada, like other countries around the world, needs an extremely active research sector in biotechnology.

At the same time, it must be recognized that about twenty new drugs are introduced every year. This creates pressure because our fellow citizens are informed. The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board has a mandate to look at whether the cost of drugs is higher than inflation. This is then averaged with the most developed countries, countries in the G-8. It is true that the drug costs in Canada are not higher than elsewhere but, at the same time, because many new drugs are introduced, consumers and patients press for access to them.

It has been established that drugs are the costliest for the health system in the two years following their introduction. For example, I have learned that big pharmaceutical companies, brand name companies, which do research, are lobbying members of parliament so that drugs can be advertised on television like in the United States.

I saw an advertisement for Viagra. You will tell me, Mr. Speaker, that Viagra is a dangling affair. However, if one lived in a society where most drugs were advertised, can one imagine the pressure on the system? We have to resist this lobby.

In conclusion, we support the New Democratic Party motion and we urge the government to restore transfer payments to their 1993-94 level, with indexation. If the provinces have the means, there can be more research on drugs. With more research and greater means, there can be more drugs covered, and that will contribute to the well-being of people with arthritis.

Health Care SpendingPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the motion brought forward by the leader of the New Democratic Party. This motion gives us an opportunity to talk about the health care system, but first, I want to talk about arthritis. Several members of my close family and my extended family suffer from this disease.

Contrary to other diseases, when a person suffering from arthritis consults a physician or goes to hospital to be treated, it does not necessarily show depending on the progression of the disease or the type of arthritis. It does not show, but it hurts. And it is not really publicized. Even though the Arthritis Society does a good job at raising awareness, it is not a popular disease. There are not enough specialists to treat arthritis patients and to develop drugs and treatments for these people.

This disease can last for years and decades. It hurts not only those who suffer from it, but also those who live with them.

As my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois mentioned, there are fewer and fewer specialists. What about research? What about drugs? My colleague raised the issue of patent drugs as opposed to generic drugs. There are 4 million arthritis sufferers—there are several types of arthritis—, and all these people are waiting for a miracle pill. Arthritis cannot be cured. If a small pill can alleviate the pain, people will push the governments to help them financially so they can take it.

It is all about funding. Everyone says that money is not the only solution, that adjustments must be made.

Incidentally, it is not for the federal government to make adjustments with regard to the services that are provided; it is the provinces' responsibility. However, the federal government can take a leadership role, something which is lacking right now with this government.

That being said, the system is underfunded. It is not only the opposition members and the provinces that say so, but also government members. Liberal members have told us, “The system is underfunded; we need to put more money into it”. In fact, the minister has acknowledged that more money is needed. The appointed commissioner--his royal highness--Mr. Romanow, also said, even before releasing his report, that more money was needed.

Where is the money? What are we waiting for? Are we waiting for the Romanow report? Are we waiting for the Queen to show up here to give the throne speech? What about the four million people suffering from arthritis? What are we doing for these people in the short term? Not much. We are told, “Yes, we will invest more money”, but we are still waiting.

Money gives us choices. However, when it is time to invest in health care, the government is rather devious. It will not give back to the provinces and the regions, to the people who need it, the money it has cut. On the contrary, it would rather create new programs. Instead of unconditionally giving the money back, it says, “We will give you some money, but you will be held accountable for how it is spent”.The government is big on accountability when it hands out money to the provinces, but not so much when it gives money to communications firms. But that is a whole other issue.

Before putting conditions on transfers to the provinces, we all need to agree on one thing. The money belongs to those who provide the services. The role of the federal government is to redistribute the money. Only then, if it feels magnanimous, which will hopefully happen from time to time, should it be allowed to set up very specific programs, together with the provinces and territories, in very specific areas.

I have no problem with developing a national communication and information system, such as the one that we are setting up. But what information will be transmitted? The fact that four million Canadians suffer from arthritis and that it is more difficult to get drugs in a territory than in a province? This would not help much.

What must be done is restore funding. But the government must not merely restore funding and then wash its hands of the whole issue. The government must restore funding and make up for the lost ground. We all know that the government has money for this.

In the fight against the deficit, the government made cuts everywhere, but in a totally inconsistent manner. These cuts were of the order of 6% to 8% for federal programs, but 32% to 38% for the provinces.

Why do the figures vary so much, particularly as regards the provinces? It is because some provinces were more affected, since equalization was taken into consideration. But the fact remains that the federal money given to the provinces was reduced by more than 30%. Thank goodness, the government has not had to face a recession since 1993.

The budget policies that were put in place as of 1991 have had an impact. Why 1991? I am not the one saying this. It is the Minister of Finance who says that the 1991 monetary policy put in place by the previous government helped the government cut costs. I am not saying this, the Minister of Finance is saying it.

Be that as it may, the government currently has money. We are talking about a surplus of between $9 billion and $10 billion, perhaps $8.5 billion. Even after taking out $3 billion for the reserve and $2 billion for a foundation, there is still between $9 billion and $10 billion left.

So, can the government deal with the sick now? Can it have a vision and do some planning? No. The government wants to wait. It is waiting for Mr. Romanow. It is waiting for the Queen, for the throne speech. Then, it will wait for the next budget. The government will announce what it intends to do this fall. But first, it will react to the findings of a commission. This is where we are headed. How wonderful.

We are told, “Wait, be patient”. If we ask questions regarding health care, we are told, “We are expecting a report”. MPs' offices are full of studies and reports by task forces on health. They are full. Their filing cabinets are full.

Ask the Library of Parliament to do some research on how many studies were done on health care in Canada. There is a multitude of them. We could fill the House of Commons with these documents, but a new commission has been established. The government's financial involvement is being put off.

The government will present some wonderful programs in the throne speech, which will be read by Her Majesty, and in the budget, which will be read by the future leader of the Liberal Party. But when will we see action? They are gearing up for the election instead of taking action in the area of health care. This is unfortunate.

I went to Saint-Boniface, in Manitoba—a little bit of partisan politics does not hurt once in a while--for a byelection. We met with people. By the way, we have an excellent candidate. He is the best of the lot; his name is Mike Reilly.

I met people in coffee shops and in old folks' homes. In a coffee shop I met a volunteer, a French speaking Manitoban, a man who has been involved for years in the area of health care. He wants to help people in his community.

He told me, “Listen, we had to make a choice last week”. “How come?”, I asked. “Money is scarce, so we had the choice of either adding a few rooms to the long term care facility or buy a scanner. We may choose a scanner, because we are hoping that the religious orders will help us even more”.

What is this all about? We cannot get away from it. I hope that people in Saint-Boniface and elsewhere will send a message to the government. In Saint-Boniface, Richmond—Arthabaska, Ottawa or elsewhere, people say health is a priority. For a country to be healthy, we need healthy people.

Health Care SpendingPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, it has been my privilege this evening to introduce a motion that was very much inspired by the Arthritis Society's bill of rights.

It was my further privilege to have had the opportunity to share the motion at a fabulous fundraiser event in my own riding in Nova Scotia. It was sponsored by the Arthritis Society of Nova Scotia and was in celebration of the contribution made by two highly respected community spirited volunteers in Nova Scotia, Ruth Goldbloom and her husband Dick Goldbloom. Ruth and Dick are community volunteers par excellence. They typify the kind of community support that exists in voluntary organizations like the Arthritis Society.

The point of the motion we have before us is to talk about the government's responsibility. We were elected to parliament to be responsible and that is why I introduced the motion this evening.

We have been treated to a smug recitation from the government member about what the Liberal government is doing to perpetuate the status quo but let me briefly remind all members what the Arthritis Society has said about why the status quo cannot be afforded. I will quote directly from its campaign material that has surrounded the proposal of this arthritis bill of rights.

The bill of rights reads:

There is a crisis in arthritis. We do not have enough specialists or other health care providers in Canada to care for people with arthritis.

Levels of arthritis care vary dramatically across the country. Poor or delayed care often results in disability and joint deformity. This leads to personal tragedy for individuals and their families and to unnecessary costs to our health care system.

I listened very carefully to the government spokesman, followed by the spokesperson for the official opposition, the Alliance. They both spoke about two fundamentally important principles: first, efficiency as it relates to health care; and second, efficiency as it relates to accountability, particularly accountability around increased uniformity in the level and the quality of services available to Canadians.

There are at least four ways in which we know how to make the system less accountable, less efficient and less uniform. These are all practices being pursued by the government or at least presided over by the government in its steadfast refusal to do anything meaningful about ensuring that the principles of the Canada Health Act are observed and upheld.

The first way is to go the route of shifting more and more the higher financial responsibility for health care onto the provinces because we know that will result in a greater patchwork. Since some provinces have more resources than others it will have an effect on the level and quality of care provided to the residents of the respective provinces.

Second, shifting more and more of the health funding contribution of the federal government onto tax points. It is really the same point. Some provinces have a deeper and broader tax base from which to draw in order to fund health care. It is a prescription for greater inequalities.

Third, it is shifting a higher and higher percentage of health care costs onto the patients themselves. We know now that it has reached an absolutely unprecedented level of 30% of health care being funded by patients themselves. Of course some patients have deeper pockets than others.

Finally, it is shifting more and more of the health care system into the commercial arena onto privatized corporate sources, and for the same reason. If we are going to spend the dollars to generate profits for health corporations we will be taking that money away from the actual direct funding of health care.

Those are fine words that we hear about a concern for greater efficiency, greater accountability and a more uniform system of care for Canadians.

In wrapping up, let me say that the aspirations reflected in the arthritis bill of rights and the principles on which that document is based will not be met unless the government learns these four lessons and unless the government is prepared to recognize that the most accountable, most efficient form of health care is a not for profit universal system that is adequately funded, and that means the federal government making a 50% contribution to that funding.

Health Care SpendingPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 is deemed to have been moved.

Health Care SpendingAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, some time ago, I asked the Minister of Industry a question about a practice which is accepted in Canada, the granting of patents for human genes. I was wondering if we should maintain this policy.

The minister replied that the issue was under review and that there had been some precedents. In fact, I believe we have been issuing patents for human genes since 1985; in the meantime, I have learned that the first application for such a patent came from the United States, from the University of California, in 1978. The first gene was patented in 1983, I believe. Therefore the phenomenon is not new.

I have three concerns and four minutes to explain them. The first one is political and philosophical. I have a hard time accepting that human genes can belong to the private sector.

I think that this knowledge we are acquiring, at a cost of billions of dollars in research, mostly done by the public sector even if it does not remain in the public sector, this knowledge on the genome sequence of the human species, or other species, belongs to all of humankind. It can be compared to the knowledge that benefited all of humankind when we first established the properties of the elements, when the periodic table was created.

I believe that if someone found a new element and wanted to take out a patent for it, he would be shown the door. It is not conceivable, for instance, to have a patent on oxygen, hydrogen, sulfur or whatever.

This practice is allowed for human genes or genes of other species. Philosophically speaking, I have some difficulty with this and with the policy we have. I believe that scientific knowledge should be shared and it should not be patentable. Knowledge of human gene is scientific knowledge. This philosophical aspect of the issue is the first reason I question this practice.

The second aspect is an economic one. It has been said that this will help our economy, but I am not convinced. At the moment, there is a case before the courts dealing with the patenting of a gene for breast cancer. A company is using this patent to stop research on other processes connected with this function of the gene. I look forward to seeing the ruling on this case.

The third concern deals with international development. In its report ,the World Health Organization says that in 2000 $8 billion was spent on human genome research and of that amount 80% of this was spent in the United States. It is understandable that this research is being carried out in the United States, in some European countries, in Japan, in Australia and in Canada, all industrialized and developed countries.

If we pursue this policy of patenting human genes or genes of other species, it is conceivable that some day between 20 and 25 developed countries will have all the patents for all species. There will be some 150 or more countries left behind, because they do not have this capacity to acquire knowledge. They will have to pay private companies to get the capacity to use the knowledge in order to develop.

These were my concerns. I hope to have other opportunities to talk about them and that other members of the House will do the same, because I believe it is a fundamental issue.

Health Care SpendingAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Beauharnois—Salaberry Québec


Serge Marcil LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the government would like to reiterate that, to be patented in Canada, a gene, like any other invention, must be new, non obvious and useful, in accordance with the terms provided for in the act.

Thus, genes are only patented in Canada if they are identified, isolated, purified and have a known usefulness. Genes as they exist in nature cannot be patented under the Copyright Act. For example, a gene within its natural habitat, such as the human body, cannot be patented.

In the last twenty years, since the process of gene isolation and purification has become technologically possible in Canada, patents have been delivered for inventions involving plant, animal and human genes. The same is true in other major jurisdictions such as the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia. As far as we know, none of these countries are considering a change to their patent legislation to ban human gene patenting.

A patent on a gene only gives its owner the right to prevent other people from producing, selling or using his or her invention for a twenty year period after the filing of the patent application.

A patent on a human gene does not give its owner any property rights on the person from whom the gene was derived, or any right on a person who later receives a treatment with the patented gene or a product derived from this gene.

A patent does not allow for the marketing of an invention. Additional research and innovation on a given gene can in fact be promoted by the patent process because of the requirement for the patent application and the invention to which it pertains to be publicly disclosed within 18 months of the application being filed.

There have been numerous instances where the isolation of human genes has had a positive impact on health. Cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and the early onset of Alzheimer's disease are all examples where genetic research could have a positive impact on the health of many Canadians.

Progress in genetic screening will ensure that Canadians at risk of contracting these diseases can be diagnosed earlier. In the future, this could give them the opportunity to start treatment earlier, which, at the end of the day, would improve their quality of life.

We are just beginning to realize the potential of this type of research to advance our knowledge of the human genome. Progress in genetics is fueled by progress in biotechnology. However, progress in biotechnology requires a considerable amount of research and development.

Patents are very important for the high-growth biotechnology industry in Canada. They provide companies with the economic incentive they need to invest in the long and costly research and development process, which is often necessary to produce and market medical products.

Canada's patent regime looks to balance the need for effective patent protection of biotechnological inventions with the need for increased access to information and increased use of these inventions.

At the same time, we value the disclosure of new innovative technologies. Patent protection allows us to balance these needs by encouraging the disclosure of innovative research while giving patentees an exclusive right in order to protect their investment in a particular invention.

Health Care SpendingAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, using the term invention in connection with the human gene strikes me as a bit bizarre. Human genes already exist. We did not invent them. We discover them, just as we discover the properties of elements. At some point, therefore, the law should be reviewed.

If I understand correctly, the only consideration has been an economic one. Philosophical and political considerations have not come into play, just the economic one. That is all that matters. I am here to defend the common good, to defend the public, not the private sector. I am here to defend and improve, if possible, the condition of our entire species, not just here, but worldwide. This emphasis on the economic means that only private and corporate interests are being considered. I admit that this is where I have a problem.

I hope that there will be an opportunity to debate this issue again when the committee set up by the government tables its report, which is expected in the spring of 2002. We should have it soon.

Health Care SpendingAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am in fact very sensitive to the arguments put forward by my colleague. I agree that there should be a debate on this topic.

When we speak of patents, we are speaking of patents on drugs, on biotechnology research. It is still for the common good. There are people who invest in research and development, still for the common good.

But when it comes to the human genome, serious philosophical questions arise, as my colleague pointed out. We are therefore going to let the committee do its work and then the government can take another look at this.

Health Care SpendingAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, the arguments about the importance of compensation in the bill have been made a number of times in the House. The reason I am appearing at the late show is that in the way the minister answers, he implies that in fact it has been dealt with.

My argument has been that he lost the argument in cabinet. In fact I have a cabinet letter which states that. I also have background material from many people, including the rural caucus chairman of the Liberal Party, who says that compensation must be there. The Canadian Real Estate Association says that it must be there. There is a lack of certainty regarding the availability and scope of compensation, says the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, and it says compensation must be there. These are the frontline soldiers that the minister talks about so often when he speaks about the bill.

My question is simple: Why would it not be in the bill? Why does it have to be left to the regulations, which may or may not be drawn up? Why not put it right in the bill and say that it will be there as a last resort? That is what those people on the land have to hear. They want to know that all Canadians value preserving species at risk, as we all do. Therefore, we all should absorb some of the costs of doing that. They do not want to be the only ones to have to do that.

Also, the words “fair and reasonable” are the interpretation of a judge. Every Canadian out there knows that leaving it to a judge to interpret may give us a pretty wide range, whereas if we use the term fair market value, that is very specific. That means that an appraiser appraises the land or the loss and takes all of the sales and what has happened in the area and decides the value. It would not be left for a judge to arbitrarily interpret. It is very specific.

My questions on April 29 were simply these. Why is it not in the bill? Why has the finance minister not put something in his budget to cover this? It is fine when the minister and members from the other side get up and answer and say to trust them, that they will draw up the regulations, that they will be fair, and that this will be dealt with. In actual fact, unless there is money allocated and unless it is in the bill, I do not think it will happen. It should be at fair market value.

Compensation becomes the number one issue, really. Yes, habitat protection, mens rea and all of those other things are important. Obviously everyone knows we have to protect habitat if we hope to preserve a species at risk, but if we leave out that compensation the people on the ground will not participate. That, then, is the question.

Health Care SpendingAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Kitchener Centre Ontario


Karen Redman LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Environment has said, and will continue to say, that the government is committed to making compensation regulations soon after proclamation of the proposed species at risk act. The government has never stated otherwise. Those who have tried to make it sound otherwise are not correct.

The Minister of the Environment has also said, and will continue to say, that we agree that compensation should be provided to anyone who suffers a loss from an extraordinary impact of the critical habitat prohibitions in a fair and reasonable way. We cannot be more definitive than that.

Can any member across the floor tell me at this precise moment exactly how much to pay for 3.6 hectares of land that cannot be used for cultivation for four weeks because it is a nesting site for the Bicknell's thrush? Will the birds soon fledge and fly away, and will the nest be abandoned? Can there be a cultivation a few weeks later and then a time out for nesting the following year? Can we use a law to determine the market value of what might have been cultivated? No, we cannot put this down in law.

We must be realistic about the term fair market value. This term may be relevant when applied to land acquisition and land expropriation situations but it probably has little relevance for almost any situation that could arise under the species at risk act. Concepts such as fair market value are relevant considerations in quantifying the impact on a case by case basis but determination of the level of compensation should not be limited to this concept alone.

Compensation for restrictions on the use of land is a complex issue. The government needs to have the practical experience in implementing the stewardship and recovery provisions of SARA and in dealing with the question of compensation. Establishing a definitive approach without the needed experience may well end up excluding some legitimate claims. This is a very important point. For now, determinations of compensation will be made on a case by case basis. When we have the experience we can prescribe a more definitive approach. As the Minister of the Environment has stated, and will do so again unequivocally, that does not mean there is no compensation.

Work has already begun to develop general compensations that will be ready soon after SARA is proclaimed to enable any person to make a claim, if needed.

The government is committed to do a thorough consultation with everyone who can help us gain the necessary experience and who has a stake in a fair and effective system.

To provide further certainty that we intend to honour our commitment to landowners and others the government withdrew Motion No. 109 on compensation regulations. Because of this change the governor in council would now be required to make regulations necessary for the provision of compensation under the act.

There is opportunity in the legislation. There are provisions for compensation in the legislation. There is a consensus from rural Canadians because they told us what they wanted and we listened to what they said, and we acted on it. It is time to end the posturing and deal with the facts. It is time to pass the legislation.