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House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was beef.

Topics

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting two petitions today. The first petition is signed by hundreds of residents of British Columbia, including those from my own constituency of Burnaby--Douglas, from communities on Vancouver Island, from Kelowna, British Columbia and elsewhere. The petitioners note that same sex couples form loving and committed relationships but are denied the equal ability to celebrate their relationships through marriage in a number of Canadian jurisdictions. They point out that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees equality to all Canadians and that denying same sex couples the equal right to marry reinforces attitudes of intolerance and discrimination.

They therefore call on Parliament to enact legislation that provides same sex couples with the equal right to marry. I know it is against the rules of the House for me to say that I fully support that call, so I will not do that.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is signed by hundreds of people from Quebec and concerns the issue of star wars.

The petitioners are calling on the government not to participate in a star wars program and to strongly condemn George Bush's destabilizing plans.

They are also calling on Parliament to work with its partners for peace and the promotion of arms control and to peacefully convince the international community to bring an end to the production and sale of weapons of mass destruction and to say no to star wars.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Let me take the opportunity afforded me to thank the member for Burnaby--Douglas for reminding the House of its practices with regard to being either in favour or against a petition which we are called upon to present and, most of all, for respecting those procedures.

The member for Saskatoon--Wanuskewin.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will not make the comment in respect to that particular petition, as we have just been reminded that I cannot comment in the House, at least, that I oppose same sex marriage in that particular petition, but I do want--

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. Albeit even the Chair, myself, from time to time could be and probably am guilty of trying to make light of what might be a more serious matter, certainly the Chair will not tolerate members, first of all, making comments about their own petitions and, second, certainly will not accept that members begin commenting on someone else's petition. I want to be clear on that.

Let us resume with the tabling of petitions.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, the petition that I have in hand is on the issue of child pornography. The petitioners draw attention to the fact that the creation and use of child pornography has been condemned by a clear majority of Canadians and that the courts have not applied the current child pornography law consistently. They call upon Parliament to protect our children by taking all the necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify pedophilia or sado-masochistic activities involving children be outlawed.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Canadian Alliance Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition that calls on Parliament to fully reinstate the Canadian airborne regiment. The petitioners note that the regiment throughout its history exhibited exemplary skill and discipline and provided great service to Canada and that its disbandment was in fact political. They say that in the current situation in the world and with Canadian Forces involvement globally it would be wise to fully reinstate the Canadian airborne regiment.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Canadian Alliance Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition I have is one in which the signators call on Parliament to recognize the institution of marriage as a union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

February 4th, 2004 / 4:10 p.m.

Sarnia—Lambton Ontario

Liberal

Roger Gallaway LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I wish to inform the House that, because of the ministerial statement, government orders will be extended by 28 minutes.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I refer you to yesterday's Hansard of February 3, at page 22. The hon. House leader, following the comment by the member for Huron--Bruce, said:

...I am pleased to announce that tomorrow evening, at the conclusion of government orders, I would like there to be a take note debate on this issue [BSE] in response to the initiatives taken by my two colleagues and to questions that have been raised by other members of this House.

I think it is only right and fair that the House leader should have mentioned that the original request in writing came from our party on January 22, which is quite some time ago, when we requested, and I quote:

It is my strong recommendation that the House of Commons hold a special debate in Parliament on one of the first available evenings during the week of February 2 in relation to BSE.

Just for the record, I am not sure whether he omitted it intentionally, but he did allude to his two colleagues and I think it only right and fair that the record be set straight.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would hope that the hon. member for St. John's West would understand when the Chair says that is not a point of order but is certainly a point of clarification. If there were a matter for the Chair to report on, it would certainly do so if necessary, and I hope that would be acceptable to the House.

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

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I want to wish all my colleagues and my constituents of Nunavut a happy new year.

I am greatly heartened by the Speech from the Throne and the address by our Prime Minister in his reply to the throne speech. I am heartened because living in my riding of Nunavut, I see people who greatly need some assistance to participate in the richness of our country and the content of the speeches offer hope for us.

I am happy with the strong statement in the throne speech that:

We want a Canada with strong social foundations, where people are treated with dignity, where they are given a hand when needed, where no one is left behind. Where Canadians--families and communities--have the tools to find local solutions for local problems.

The direction our government is going provides opportunities for our northerners to improve their lives in the remote communities of Nunavut.

Our Prime Minister has a vision of “Enabling citizens to take charger of their lives, making them free by removing barriers and fostering opportunity”.

This has deep meaning for me. I feel northerners, especially Inuit, have a tremendous amount of knowledge, talent and vision to share with the rest of the country. A point of view unique to the people who have endured the hardest climate and living conditions and yet persevered.

We must continue to persevere but we also need to have the right tools to do this in the modern context.

Inuit were moved to settlements from a nomadic way of life mainly in the late fifties and early sixties. This is in my lifetime. Enticed to leave their nomadic lives by offers of houses to live in, Inuit left the life of their ancestors to live in the communities and be close to medical care. Inuit children were put in schools and told they had to learn a new language and a new way of life to survive.

Government administrators were given full authority over the lives of the people. The Hudson's Bay Company controlled most of the finances of the people. The RCMP and the medical staff controlled the rest. We had no control over our own lives and future for many years, and some would say they still do not.

It is only in my lifetime that Inuit could vote. The Inuit of Nunavut celebrated the 10th anniversary of our land claims agreement last year. However, despite that, the land claims agreement is yet to be fully implemented and the federal government is being asked to hold up its part of the deal.

I look forward to being able to celebrate the full implementation of the Nunavut land claim. As the government fulfills its vision of a “new agenda; a new way of working...a renewal, built on partnership, opportunity, achievement--and the real engagement of Canadians”.

Our Prime Minister wants “a Canada where we have closed the gap in life chances for aboriginal people”.

The fact is that Inuit have a life expectancy 10 years shorter than southern Canadians. There were 37 suicides in Nunavut in 2003.

Housing shortages have created crises in all of the 25 communities of Nunavut. Often three generations share a small house. This overcrowding creates far reaching problems: the rapid spread of respiratory disease, mental health problems, and social problems right down to one of our youth with nowhere to do their homework which in turn leads to dropping out of school.

As stated in the Speech from the Throne:

Aboriginal Canadians have not fully shared in our nation's good fortune. While some progress has been made, the conditions in far too many Aboriginal communities can only be described as shameful. This offends our values. It is in our collective interest to turn the corner. And we must start now.

We hope that the throne speech means the federal government will assist the territorial government in meeting this fundamental and basic need for a home. Access to good quality health care is crucial to the well-being of the people of Nunavut. If the people are not healthy, they cannot participate fully in the democracy of our country. If they have to worry constantly about feeding and clothing their children, they will not get educated, start their own businesses and improve their skills.

I am happy that last Friday the government did follow-through and gave $2 billion to the territories and provinces to help address health care costs. It has committed to meet again in the summer. Health care is another area where Nunavut is not even on the same playing field as our fellow Canadians.

As the Prime Minister stated in his reply to the throne speech, “Health care is the nation's first priority. Quality care; timely care”.

In Nunavut, approximately 85¢ of every health care dollar goes to transportation costs as Nunavummiut must come south to access what most Canadians take for granted. This is the current reality of health care available to all Nunavummiut. This much change and improve. Innovations such as tele-health have helped, but much more needs to be done.

The Speech from the Throne states:

Our goal is to see Aboriginal children get a better start in life as a foundation for greater process in acquiring the education and work-force skills needed to succeed.

Our goal is to see real economic opportunities for Aboriginal individuals and communities...education and skills development, because this is a prerequisite to individual opportunity and full participation.

The fact that the government has committed to work with the territories, provinces and aboriginal partners in a renewed aboriginal human resources development strategy is very good news.

I am very heartened by the fact that on December 12, 2003, one of the first acts by the new Prime Minister was to create and take chair of the new cabinet committee on aboriginal affairs. This clearly demonstrates that the Prime Minister is dedicated to improving the lives of the first peoples of Canada and committed to establishing a new era of cooperation and participation. On behalf of my constituents I applaud this move.

Cash strapped municipalities welcome the new deal outlined in the throne speech. They too are encouraged that they are being asked to be in a partnership to improve the lives of their residents and for their voices to be heard nationally in the newly created secretariat. The 100% GST rebate for municipalities refunding every penny of the tax spent and providing municipal services and community infrastructure is most welcome.

The population of Nunavut is the youngest and fastest growing population of Canada. I am happy that the early childhood development initiatives give caring people at the community level an opportunity to work directly with the children and parents. Child care is one of our most important investments.

The youth of Nunavut are our future and our land is a fundamental part of Inuit culture. The $3.5 billion commitment over the next 10 years for cleaning contaminated sites will ensure that the land will no longer be harmful to the residents. As the Prime Minister has said, “What could be a better investment? An investment in our children, in our future, in our health”.

The government's commitment to our Kyoto goals make me look forward to the time when Inuit mothers will not have to worry that their breast milk contains contaminants, when Inuit will no longer have to worry about our traditional diet being laced with PCBs, and when climate change no longer makes travelling on the sea ice hazardous.

Cleanup of the contaminated sites will also provide an opportunity for northerners to expand their knowledge and play a crucial role in making our land a better, cleaner place to live in.

We need to train our young people to take jobs in the north. We need them to pursue post-secondary education and take advantage of the opportunities to take different career paths. We need more financial investments in skills training. These are the types of initiatives that are needed to enable Inuit and northerners to take charge of their lives and remove barriers.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that “we must ensure that the north has greater control of its destiny”. This is a fundamental necessity. There is great excitement in Nunavut regarding our wealth of natural resources. The permits issued have greatly increased from last year to this year. I look forward to the government addressing, in a realistic way, the subject of devolution sooner than later for Nunavut.

I was blessed last December by the birth of a beautiful and healthy granddaughter. This momentous event has made me reflect upon what I hope and wish for my home of Nunavut. The future of Nunavut looks brighter every day. I know the government will ensure that we share equally in the opportunities offered to all Canadians and we can all be confident in our future. Let us build bridges between the two worlds.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to congratulate my colleague on the birth of her beautiful granddaughter and wish her all the best.

I listened with care to the comments of the member for Nunavut, particularly in the context of my own visit, as she knows, last April, to Iqaluit. I had the opportunity to meet with a number of residents of Nunavut, including the health minister, Ed Picco. He underscored the serious problems in the area of health care, particularly the issue of funding for transportation, which was a huge concern for the people of Nunavut, and many other concerns as well. He raised the issue of the deeply offensive and insulting consent forms that aboriginal peoples were being asked to sign for health care.

I was pleased to bring that issue before the Standing Committee on Health, and to move a motion after having arranged for witnesses from first nations communities. The health committee unanimously called on the government to abandon that policy. Finally, under that kind of pressure and the pressure of my colleagues, like the members from Churchill, Regina and Winnipeg Centre, our aboriginal affairs critic, that offensive policy was dropped, and long overdue.

I want to ask a specific question of my friend, the member for Nunavut. She spoke about young people and the young population in Nunavut, and I believe it is the youngest population in Canada. Yet not a word in the throne speech, no significant action at all on child care, no significant action at all on some key recommendations of the Romanow commission like home care and pharmacare.

I want to ask her, as a representative of the people of Nunavut, how does she feel about this silence on child care, on home care and on pharmacare? Surely, the people of Nunavut deserve better.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I feel that the very creation of the new committee that the Prime Minister is chairing himself will give us those opportunities to work on those very issues.

I was assured that the other topics that he talked about, like the non-insured health benefit consent forms, the work is going well. We, the Inuit, are being represented by our national Inuit organization on that very issue. We have many partnerships now and we hope to create more.

I feel that the progress being made on our land claims agreement negotiations is another good step forward for us.

We are slowly but surely taking control over some of the very ways of improving lives for the people of Nunavut. I am encouraged by the different initiatives that were put forth by the throne speech.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

As only a few minutes remain, I will divide that time evenly between the question and the answer.

The hon. member for Churchill.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, in case my colleague from Nunavut is not aware, the government announced today that it will no longer require the consent forms. The efforts of a lot of people have ensured that the injustice that was taking place with first nations people has been put to an end.

First nations people in my riding were absolutely worried that they would not be able to get health care. It is a tough enough situation in northern communities to get it at the best of times. They were put through two years of anguish while the government said that they did not have a right to privacy, not the same right that other Canadians have.

I wanted to make a point of mentioning that. Thanks to a lot of hard work from members of Parliament, the government backtracked on that great injustice.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Nunavut, if she wishes, may add a comment. No.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and participate in this debate and to particularly focus on what I think is one of the most glaring omissions in the Speech from the Throne. That is any serious response to the landmark recommendations of the commission which was so ably chaired by Roy Romanow and which reported well over a year ago to the government, based on consultations across Canada, with a series of very specific and concrete recommendations to strengthen and improve the health care system in Canada.

New Democrats are absolutely appalled that in the entire litany of promises by the government in the Speech from the Throne there was not a single reference, not a word, about the important recommendations of the Roy Romanow commission. Effectively the government is showing complete contempt for the recommendations that were made and certainly Canadians are going to pass a very harsh judgment on the government when they have the opportunity to do that in the very near future.

Many of those recommendations would make a significant difference in strengthening and improving our health care system. Not the least of course is the issue of funding, the so-called Romanow gap that my colleague for Winnipeg North Centre has spoken on so eloquently, both as health critic and now as finance critic for our party. It is a gap between the promise the government has made with respect to increased funding and the desperate need provinces and territories across the land have to fund health care to the extent that it should be funded and to the extent that it used be funded.

New Democrats, Jack Layton, our national leader, our caucus, our party, are calling on the government to meet that target of 25% which would mean an additional $3.5 billion a year. The government says that it is really cash strapped and that has trouble finding the money. This is the same government, the same Prime Minister, that just found almost $4.5 billion for corporate tax cuts, tax cuts not to small businesses but cuts in taxes to some of the biggest and most profitable corporations in the country. If he can find that kind of money, billions of dollars, for corporate tax cuts surely to goodness he can find money to meet the recommendations of the Roy Romanow commission with respect to funding for health care.

There are a range of issues that have not been dealt with by the government such as pharmacare, which was promised long ago, home care, access to diagnostic services particularly things like the MRI and CAT scans and the international drug agency. These are some of the areas in which significant work remains to be done.

My colleague from Windsor West has been working very hard on the industry committee as well trying to get the government to respond to the concerns about access to affordable drugs, barriers to generic drugs, abuses by big pharmaceutical companies in areas such as so-called evergreening and deliberate delays and court actions that prevent Canadians have access to affordable drugs on a timely basis. There was nothing at all about this in the throne speech.

We know waiting lists are getting longer. We know the emergency rooms are overcrowded. We know as well what the real agenda is for too many people. The reality is that with these difficulties Canadians are experiencing and access to health care in too many jurisdictions, big corporations are waiting and hovering in the wings. They are saying that if the public sector cannot adequately fund health care, they will come in and look after it for us. They say that they will set up what they would call a separate tier or system, a parallel system of health care, and that would be the destruction of medicare in the country.

As New Democrats who were part of a party through the leadership and vision of Tommy Douglas and others to build and create medicare, we will stand and defend it against this kind of corporate attack that would ultimately destroy it.

Roy Romanow was very clear during the course of the hearings of his commission. He said that if someone could come up with evidence the private sector could do a better job, then bring that evidence forward. It was not possible and it did not happen. We know it is the public sector, not just publicly funded health care but publicly delivered health care as well, that is so essential to strengthening medicare in the country.

What is such a disappointment to many of us is that the throne speech refers to a commitment to publicly funded health care, but it is silent on the essential component of publicly delivered health care. Certainly Michael Kirby and Don Mazankowski agree with publicly funded health care because the privatizers want a place at the public trough. They want the public dollars going to pay for private health care. That again would be the death of our public medicare system.

The government talks more and more about the importance of commercialization in the health care system, whether it is commercialization in the research area or in other areas. Again that would mean instead of public health being at the forefront, corporate profits would be driving health care.

One of the gravest examples of this is the current efforts by the federal Liberal government to gut the Food and Drugs Act instead of strengthening that it. To ensure that there is regulation in the public interest, what the federal government is doing effectively is saying that it is going to move to a new system of risk management. It has explicitly said that there is too much focus on safety and not enough focus on risk management.

Recently a public letter was sent by the Canadian Health Coalition. It was an open letter to the Prime Minister expressing deep concern about the Liberal government's proposal to replace Canada's Food and Drugs Act with a new health protection legislative scheme. This would involve abandoning the precautionary principle. It would involve as well putting industry self-regulation for profit, so-called smart regulation, ahead of protecting public health.

On the one hand we have the Minister of State for Public Health, a woman for whom I have great respect, who is talking about how we have to strengthen public health in this country. On the other hand we have the Minister of Health embarking on a course that would effectively lead to corporations calling the shots on drug regulation. Twenty-one outstanding Canadians, including people such as Shirley Douglas, the spokesperson for the Canadian Health Coalition, Margaret Atwood, David Suzuki, Jane Jacobs, Patricia Baird, Ken Georgetti, David Healy and many others, have called on the Minister of Health to take six key steps, which I will briefly summarize.

The first is to adopt the precautionary principle as the governing principle for an assessment of risk. The second is to stop this health protection legislative renewal and uphold the duty of care in the current Food and Drugs Act. The third is to restore the burden of proof on industry to demonstrate the safety of their product or technology before regulatory approval is granted. The fourth is to allow full public access to the information upon which federal regulators base approval of a product or technology because the public has a right to that information. The fifth is to strictly enforce the ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs. The sixth, a very important step, is to terminate all partnerships and promotional activities so regulatory agencies regulate only in the public interest and not in the interests of the regulated. Those are very important recommendations. Instead we have the government and the Prime Minister moving more and more.

Recently, for example, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, who used to be a member of the Canadian Alliance, crossed the floor. He went over and joined the Liberals. He was very excited about joining the Liberals because he said:

The exciting thing on health care that [Prime Minister] has said is that he hasn't trumped up and said he's going to be wedded to the Canada Health Act.

That is unbelievable. He is thrilled that the Prime Minister is not wedded to the Canada Health Act. No wonder the Canadian Alliance was not exactly devastated when he left its caucus if that is his attitude.

The Prime Minister has just hired one of the top lobbyists, Bruce Young, who used to lobby for the False Creek Surgical Centre, as one of his key election advisers as well. We see that Paul Martin is very much on the road to supporting private health in this--

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I know the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas, who is such an experienced parliamentarian, probably made a little slip because he is certainly very cognizant and always most respectful of the rules.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

I do withdraw that reference, Mr. Speaker. In my enthusiasm I got a bit carried away.

In closing, because as I said I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Churchill, I want to remind members of the House of a very dangerous development in health care. Just recently the American pharmaceutical drug industry allocated $1 million for a major campaign to try to change the Canadian health care system and move it into a more profit driven, corporate driven system. We see the Liberal government, aided, abetted and pushed by the Belinda Stronachs, moving in that direction, and we, as New Democrats, are going to fight that and fight for public health care in Canada.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's comments and concerns about health care. I share many of those concerns. It is certainly one of the most important issues that my constituents bring forward to me; the long waiting lists and concerns about accessibility to health care.

We are not simply talking about isolated rural areas. We are talking about communities 20 and 30 miles outside of the large centre of Winnipeg. People talk about the lack of dialysis machines. They talk about having to go to the city where they wait and wait.

Perhaps the member could clarify one of the comments he made. I know he is opposed to any private delivery of health care. How does he feel about the fact that many of our doctors now are private corporations or private individuals who do work for profit under our public health care system? My own view is the only thing a citizen of Canada or a resident of Canada should need is the public health card that pays for those health services, whether the doctor is a government employee in an emergency ward or a private doctor. Does he have concerns about private doctors?