House of Commons Hansard #24 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.


10 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall


March 11, 2004


I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 11th day of March, 2004, at 8:55 a.m.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck

Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule indicates the bill assented to was Bill C-5, an act respecting the effective date of the representation order of 2003.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Finance on Bill C-421, an act respecting the establishment of the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada and to amend other acts in consequence thereof, and agreed on Tuesday, March 9, to report it without amendment.

Marine Liability ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-493, an act to amend the Marine Liability Act (adventure tourism).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce my private member's bill, an act to amend the Marine Liability Act.

The purpose of the bill is to correct the deficiencies in the Marine Liability Act that occurred as a result of amendments that were made to this legislation by this government during the first session of this Parliament.

The changes to the Marine Liability Act benefited large shipping companies like Canada Steamship Lines. However the unforeseen consequences of legislated compulsory insurance onto adventure operators threatens their entire industry.

Specifically, the legislation would amend section 37 of the Marine Liability Act to exempt adventure tourism activities, such as whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, as well as any other recreational marine activity, from the compulsory insurance requirements of the Marine Liability Act as it relates to the carriage of passengers.

When the changes to the Marine Liability Act were made by the government, no consideration was given to the adventure tourism industry. Adventure tourism is certainly a Canadian success story. I call upon all members of the House, particularly those whose ridings depend on this type of small business to create jobs, to support the bill to save the adventure tourism industry before it is too late.

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

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario


Mauril Bélanger LiberalDeputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it I believe you would find unanimous consent in the House for the following motion:

That, at the conclusion of today's debate on the Bloc opposition motion, all questions necessary to dispose of this motion be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to the end of government orders on Monday, March 22, 2004.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. deputy leader of the government have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.


Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the privilege to present to the House a petition signed by over 1,600 Canadians dealing with marriage.

The petitioners wish to draw to the attention of the House that the traditional definition of marriage has deep historical roots in our society. They underscore that the one man and one woman understanding of marriage predates Confederation and ought not be changed by the courts.

Therefore the petitioners pray and request that the Parliament of Canada do all in its powers to protect the current understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present petitions with hundreds of signatures which ask to maintain the current definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others and to protect this definition of marriage from the courts.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 11th, 2004 / 10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the distinct honour and privilege to present 10 petitions signed by hundreds upon hundreds of my constituents in the riding of Prince Albert. The signatories pray that Parliament passes legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being the lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Compton—Stanstead Québec


David Price LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members


Points of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on February 26, 2004, by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government of the House of Commons concerning Bill C-472, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of fines), introduced by the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre. I would like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for having raised this matter.

The parliamentary secretary pointed out that Bill C-472 proposes an amendment to the Income Tax Act that would have the effect of eliminating from the act an existing deduction from taxation for fines or penalties imposed by law. The net result of the elimination of this exemption would be an increase in the level of taxation for affected taxpayers.

As stated in a ruling on October 24, 2002, dealing with an earlier version of this bill introduced by the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre, a bill of this nature can only be brought before the House if it is preceded by the adoption of a motion of ways and means.

As House of Commons Procedure and Practice states at pages 758 and 759:

The House must first adopt a Ways and Means motion before a bill which imposes a tax or other charge on the taxpayer can be introduced.

...Before taxation legislation can be read a first time, a notice of a Ways and Means motion must first be tabled in the House by a Minister of the Crown--

Furthermore, it goes on, at page 898, to state:

With respect to the raising of revenue, a private Member cannot introduce bills which impose taxes. The power to initiate taxation rests solely with the government and any legislation which seeks an increase in taxation must be preceded by a Ways and Means motion.

Bill C-472, introduced on February 5, 2004, by the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre, seeks to eliminate an existing tax deduction. If adopted, the bill would result in an increase of the tax payable by a certain group of taxpayers. Our practice in these matters is clear.

Since the bill has not been preceded by the necessary ways and means motion, the proceedings related to its introduction and first reading that took place on February 5, 2004, are null and void. The Chair therefore rules that the order for second reading of the bill be discharged and the bill withdrawn from the Order Paper.

I thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for bringing this matter to the attention of the Chair.

(Order discharged and Bill C-472 withdrawn)

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC


That, as the federal government’s 16% contribution to health care spending is clearly inadequate, this House urge the government to invest at least half the current year’s surplus in health care, over and above the $2 billion already promised, in order to achieve as rapidly as possible the stable 25% federal contribution called for by Quebec and the provinces.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by expressing my condolences to the people of Spain, following the recent terrorist attacks that have caused the deaths of nearly 200 people, especially among the workers. I grieve for them.

I am proud to present this motion by the Bloc Quebecois today because it is a very concrete response to the number one priority of Quebeckers, that is, health care. I should also say that it is the number one priority of Canadians. I shall read it again, because this is a very complete and concrete motion.

It reads as follows:

That, as the federal government’s 16% contribution to health care spending—

I remind the House that this means 16¢ of every dollar invested by the provinces comes from the federal government and, inversely, that 84¢ of every dollar invested in health comes from Quebec, the provinces and the territories.

Let me read it again:

That, as the federal government’s 16% contribution to health care spending is clearly inadequate, this House urge the government to invest at least half the current year’s surplus in health care, over and above the $2 billion already promised, in order to achieve as rapidly as possible the stable 25% federal contribution called for by Quebec and the provinces.

We have before us a motion that not only highlights the fact that the federal government is not living up to its responsibilities in health care funding, but also proposes a very concrete short-term solution that would bring us near to the 25% stable financing that everyone--namely the provinces—wants. Even this government's report, the Romanow report, talked about it.

Therefore, this formula would allow us to still receive a relatively important amount this year. I will explain. We estimate that the surplus for this year, that is 2003-04, will be $8 billion. Almost all financial analysts are making the same estimation. Only the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister would have us believe they must scrape and scrounge to provide the $2 billion that was promised by Jean Chrétien, promised again by John Manley and now being delivered by the government.

Thus, everyone is expecting a $8 billion surplus. The government already made a commitment, which was supported by the Bloc, to provide an additional $2 billion over the February 2003 accord.

Therefore, if the surplus is indeed $8 billion—and everyone believes it will be—and we subtract the $2 billion already committed, this leaves $6 billion. We propose that half of this $6 billion surplus go to health care in the next weeks and months.

For Quebec, it means a total of $5 billion for the current year 2003-04, which would represent a $1.18 billion infusion into health care. I think this would be welcome when we know how difficult it is for the provinces—and not only Quebec—to meet their health care service obligations to their people.

The court recently allowed a class action for women with breast cancer who did not receive radiation treatment within the time prescribed by doctors. This example illustrates, despite the efforts of the Quebec and provincial governments, the situation we find ourselves in, where the health of thousands of people, particularly in this case, is jeopardized.

Therefore, as I mentioned, this $5 billion would allow us to achieve stable funding of 25% of health care expenditures, which is what premiers in Quebec and the provinces are asking for.

I want to talk about the Romanow commission. I want to be very clear, because we strongly disagreed with everything other than the funding, in other words, with its prescriptive centralizing vision of health services provided by Quebec and the provinces. However, with regard to the funding, our response echoed the consensus of the opposition parties, including the Bloc Quebecois, the premiers of Quebec and the provinces and all the coalitions, such as the Quebec health coalition.

The Romanow commission recommended that $15 billion be invested over the next three years. All the money announced by the federal government, including the $2 billion promised once, twice and finally committed, will only total $12 billion. There is $3 billion missing. Our proposal eliminates this $3 billion shortfall, and produces $15 billion in three years, which even the Romanow commission recommended and the provincial finance ministers are demanding.

Originally, funding for social programs in Canada was split 50-50. The federal government paid 50% and the provinces, like Quebec, paid 50%. The system was relatively simple. There were a number of funds.

I want to remind members that, initially, there were a number of funds. From 1957 to 1976, there was a hospital insurance fund and a health insurance fund. There was a fund for post-secondary education and the Canada assistance plan. Basically, each dollar invested by the provinces was matched by the federal government for a 50-50 split. This was a very interesting formula because the provinces, including Quebec, which were investing heavily in social programs and health care, saw the federal government contribute an equal amount. Consequently, from 1957 to 1976, there were these four funds.

The system underwent a reform in 1977 and essentially became two funds, established program funding and the Canada assistance plan which ensured social assistance programs provided by the provinces to those in need.

All that was changed in 1996 with the Canada Health and Social Transfer. The federal government proposed a package. While this formula gave the impression that it would provide flexibility to the provinces in terms of investments, it also meant that, in the future, and it is the Liberals who devised this system, the Canada social transfer would be allocated not on the basis of the investments made by the provinces or on the basis of their needs, but rather on the basis of their population.

Quebec was very much disadvantaged. Just as the Canada Health and Social Transfer was being implemented, the current Prime Minister, who was then the Minister of Finance, made cuts of over $21 billion in these transfers to the provinces and to Quebec. I just explained how the transfer was no longer based on the needs and investments of the various provinces but on their population, but I should add that one-third of the cuts totalling $21 billion were made in Quebec, even though Quebeckers account for a little less than one-quarter of the Canadian population.

This government has been extremely harsh and unfair to Quebeckers, and it continues to be. Today, despite the figures that we are given, federal funding remains at 16%. One can see how, over the years, the federal contribution has dwindled from 50% to 16%. In fact, in recent years, in these times of major cuts by the current Prime Minister, that contribution has not even reached 16%.

Because it is important to repeat it, I want to mention that those who are primarily responsible for the problems in health are the federal Liberals, the federal government. When the Liberals came to office, the federal government was funding 22% of health care. That was not enough, because we are talking about 25%, but it was still better than the 16% that we currently have.

They are the ones who are responsible for the problems in health in Quebec and across Canada. They have the obligation and the responsibility, before the election and on time for the March 23 budget, to correct this unfair situation. Otherwise, I hope that the citizens of Quebec, in particular, will clearly show their discontent with this situation in the next election.

As I mentioned, the present Prime Minister brought about the fiscal imbalance and the very difficult health care situation, and it is his responsibility to correct this quickly.

Our motion is a short term response to the situation we are experiencing. Obviously, health costs will not decrease in the coming years, and the federal government has been generous with words, but not with funding.

Let me remind you that at least five factors should be considered. We should not forget that. Very often, we blame an aging population, but there are other causes. The provinces, and more particularly Quebec, are working very hard to keep the increase in health care costs within the fiscal means of their taxpayers.

Nonetheless, in the coming years, an aging population, the new technologies we need to deliver health care, and the cost of drugs will push health care costs upwards by an average of 5% each year. There is no way around it, unless we are willing to jeopardize more lives, and this would be nothing short of criminal.

While healthcare spending will climb 5% a year because of the factors I mentioned, the federal share will diminish despite the increases that have already been announced. I think you will be stunned, Mr. Speaker, but next year, the federal share will not be 16%, but only 14.6%. You are shocked, and I can understand that, because, to your credit, you are sensitive to the concerns of the public.

Next year the federal share of health care costs will stand at 14.6% when it is 16% right now. I am sure those who are listening to this debate will wonder how the federal government can lower the percentage of its contribution next year when it keeps repeating that healthcare is a priority. Its share will be lower.

The Conference Board is saying that based on the current calculations, the federal government's share will reach only 17% over the next ten years, while, as hon. members know, the finance ministers and premiers of the provinces and Quebec are asking for 25%.

If nothing changes, the federal government will continue to under invest in health by not transferring the money required to the provinces. This will put pressure on Quebec's finances. I have pointed this out many times.

Quebec's finance minister, Mr. Séguin, talked to us about his $3 billion shortfall. Without touching health or education, he is left with $9 billion to work with. Do you think it would possible for any government, with the best of intentions—if that were the case here—to recoup $3 billion from a $9 billion margin? It is impossible. Mr. Séguin will have to make cuts in health if the federal government does not assume its responsibilities, if the Liberals do not assume their responsibilities and invest 25% in health.

The motion the Bloc Quebecois has put forward today will give them a golden opportunity to show whether they really have the political will to meet the needs of the public, the number one priority of Quebeckers and Canadians, and to prove that what we are hearing from the Liberals, especially the Prime Minister, is more than just hot air.

A vote by the Liberals against the motion we have put forward would prove beyond a doubt that the fine words spoken by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health are nothing but hot air. We are giving them, particularly the Minister of Health, an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is.

If nothing is done, the Conference Board predicts that the federal government's investments with respect to health transfers to the provinces will not exceed 17% per dollar spent. In other words, the provinces will assume 83% of the bill, a bill that is going to increase by an average of 5% a year.

Obviously, the Liberals, the Minister of Finance in particular, are really great magicians. They can pull figures out of a hat regularly. The member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, a brilliant MP—he used to be one of my students, which is probably one of the reasons why his questions are so interesting—asked the Minister of Finance why he was not investing any more than 16% in health care. The Minister of Finance rose to deny this and said that the federal government's investment is 40%.

There is something pretty odd about this. What explanation can there be for the brilliant member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, the Bloc Quebecois, the opposition parties, the premiers of Quebec and the provinces, and all of civil society across Canada, even the report commissioned by the government itself, saying that the government is not investing enough? The investment is 16%, though they are telling us it is 40%.

The current government is confusing things and doing it knowingly, but no one is being taken in. First of all, this 40% includes the tax points transferred to the provinces, Quebec in particular, over the years.

As hon. members know, the provinces agreed for a time, because of the second world war in particular, to hand over part of their taxation field to the federal government for the war effort. Then a battle ensued to get the tax points back, and that battle is far from over. The transfer of tax points did not, therefore, exactly correspond to an investment in health care. Moreover, at the time, health was not necessarily the top priority. I would say that education was a far higher priority. There was a lot of catching up to do, particularly in Quebec, and that has been accomplished very well, at least in part.

This tax point transfer therefore represented a one-time fiscal rebalancing. It is not a federal government expenditure, and has no specific connection with health.

Then there is the matter of equalization payments. They too have no specific connection with health. Their purpose is to ensure that Quebec, and all the Canadian provinces, have the same fiscal capacity according to their relative wealth. There are even two provinces receiving nothing: Ontario and Alberta. We cannot say that the federal government is assuming its health care responsibilities concerning these two provinces.

Also, the formula is completely inadequate, as we saw two weeks ago when the finance minister announced that he would be retroactively depriving Quebec of $1.4 billion. The $472 million coming out of the $2 billion that was promised once, promised twice and finally committed makes up for only a third of the estimated loss due to the equalization formula. We just cannot buy the arguments made by the finance minister.

They also have to be consistent. They are the ones who want to separate the Canada social transfer from the rest of the social programs starting April 1. As of January 1, a distinction will have to be made among the various federal transfers. Clearly, what all of this means is that the federal contribution which is currently around 16% will decrease to 14% next year and will average 17% during the next decade.

Instead of relying on rhetoric and wishful thinking, the finance minister should face reality. And today's reality is this: the provinces have estimated the federal contribution to health-care spending at 15.5% for 2003-04. I know we are talking about 16%, but it is really 15.5%. This includes the Canada social transfer and the social programs. It boils down to $20.3 billion, plus the additional $2 billion that was promised once, promised twice and finally committed. Of course, this has to be divided by the $144 billion spent on health care, education and social programs. The fact is that the Canada social transfer is not just for health care, but for all social programs. So, when you do the arithmetic, and I know you can do it, you get 15.5% and not 40%.

I will explain how the Minister of Finance does this. It will make a good story to while away the long evenings in Ottawa. We are still talking about the 2003-04 fiscal year, in which the federal government says its contribution is 41%. I had said 40%; I underestimated the exaggerated calculation by the Minister of Finance. He is talking about the Canada Health and Social Transfer, the promised supplement of $2 billion—promised again and finally committed—and then we add equalization payments and tax points. There may or may not be other ingredients. The total they arrive at is $50.192 billion.

They divide that by expenditures in health and education, as if there were no expenditures for social programs. It is as if welfare did not exist; as if it were not, unfortunately, still needed in the provinces and Quebec. They leave it out completely. That is $21 billion that the Liberal federal finance minister has made disappear. Then they do their division. On that, we must admit that they have proved that the result of their division comes to 41%. Of course, it is obvious that none of that makes sense.

The federal government has the means to solve the problem. It has had surpluses, some $50 billion since 1997. This year once again, a surplus of around $8 billion is expected. Next year, according to the Conference Board, it could be $10 billion. The federal government has wasted the Quebec taxpayers' money by increasing its operating expenses by 49% in the last five years. If, instead of spending within the bureaucracy, it took aim at some of the real priorities of Quebeckers and Canadians, it would be able to find a further margin of $5 billion.

There is also between $7 billion and $8 billion sleeping in the foundations created by the finance minister. He has the money; what he lacks is the political will.

The Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, and all the Liberal members of Parliament have an opportunity to show that they have the will to resolve and remedy the number one problem of Quebeckers by voting in favour of this motion presented by the Bloc Quebecois today. It must be done before the budget is brought in, on the evening of March 22, and before the coming election. If not, they will pay the price.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Scarborough East Ontario


John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech, probably best described as fun with facts and figures. The hon. member is an economics professor and seems to have some incapacity to deal with the actual moneys that get transferred to the provinces. Possibly that is why he is seeking a political appointment as opposed to professorial employment.

In order to get to the hon. member's fanciful figures, he has to ignore three or four rather major elements in federal transfers to provinces. He has to ignore about $17 billion in tax points. Apparently this is all funny money; it is not real money; it is not money that actually comes out of the federal treasury, but it is. It comes in and it goes out. However, as far as the hon. member is concerned, it is not real money. Possibly we should go back to the old system where it was all cash and there were no tax points. We would see whether the hon. member would still make his vehement argument that tax points are not real money and should not be counted for anything.

His second fanciful argument has to do with equalization. Apparently that is not real money either. It is about $10 billion and of that, $5 billion goes to his province. However, according to the member, that is not real money either and that is not supposed to be spent on health care. The federal government would then fall down in its obligations, so again, that is not real money being contributed to health care.

Then he has to ignore the direct spending of the federal government in the areas of health care, which amounts to somewhere in the order of about $6 billion. That money has to be ignored as well in order for him to arrive at his fanciful figures.

Would the hon. member start dealing with real money? Would he actually start recognizing the contribution out of the federal treasury to the provincial treasuries, which actually brings the fiscal capacity of the government down and transfers fiscal capacity to the provinces? Instead of his fun with facts and figures, he should deal with real figures?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member was right. I wonder why the federal government called for the creation of a Canada Health and Social Transfer if it believes everything is connected anyway.

Therefore, all the money transferred by the federal government should be allocated to health. If that were the case, the federal government would be funding about 150% of health costs. However, what I fail to understand is that only the Liberals think that way. Only the Liberals believe there is no fiscal imbalance. Only the Liberals believe that the health system is doing fine. Only the Liberals believe that they are providing more than what everyone else says.

Let me read an ad put out by the Premiers' Council on Canadian Health Awareness:

Despite a recent increase, the federal government’s share of health care funding stands at 16%—down from 50% when public health care was first introduced.Provincial and territorial governments cover the remaining 84%.

Those are not the words of Bloc Quebecois members or sovereignists; this is an ad by representatives of the provinces and territories, including Quebec. Opposition parties all agree that there is a fiscal imbalance, and I fail to understand how one can be right when everybody else is of a different opinion.

I will conclude with the rest of the message from the Premiers' Council on Canadian Health Awareness:

We’re doing our part. We’re investing more in healthcare than ever before, and we’ll continue to invest more. But we need Ottawa’s help in the form of along-term sustainable funding commitment. One that will mean better access to high-quality health care.

That is the real issue for the upcoming election. There is another scandal involving this government.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member from the Bloc for his excellent presentation. He illustrated a sound comprehension of the mathematics that is going on in this town.

I have a comment on the tax point before I put my question. Tax points have limited application to provinces, such as my province of Saskatchewan where the tax base is eroding and the fiscal capacity of the province is deteriorating. Tax points are not that great a solution. They might be good in Ontario; however, in a province that has a lot of fiscal problems, it has its problems.

I want to zero in on the waste that we have talked about in the House of Commons for the last while. We have, for example, the sponsorship program of $250 million. I have done some mathematics myself. Saskatchewan only has 10 MRIs. People are waiting 22 months to have an MRI in that province. That is a long time to wait for an appointment if the service is needed.

We also have a shortage of nurses. The sponsorship money of $250 million could pay for the training of 3,000 new nurses. We need a new bridge in my riding. It would cost about $30 million. We could build eight bridges with that money alone.

The Bloc member is very good with numbers. Does he have any idea of the volume of waste and corruption we have in Ottawa? What is the total dimension of that figure? Could he quantify that and give us an idea, out of the total $189 billion that we spend a year, how much of that is money wasted on boondoggles, corporate welfare, corruption and--

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I think the hon. member has made his point.

The hon. member for Joliette.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I will not be able to give an exact answer to the hon. member because my calculator does not go beyond nine zeros.

If we add up all the waste, as I said, there was a 40% increase in operating expenditures in the last five years. These are not transfers to provinces or individuals, but money spent for pens, opinion polls, sponsorships and a few civil servants, senior ones especially. That is the first thing.

We will also make public, at the beginning of next week, a study on the federal government's intrusions. Forty per cent of federal expenditures represent encroachments on provincial jurisdictions. This is money that is not used efficiently. It is the provinces, and not the federal government, which are in a position to deliver health, education and other services. But the federal government interferes, and creates competition, bureaucracy and waste.

There is the boondoggle at HRDC. One billion dollars disappeared. It is the present health minister who was responsible. I know, however, that another member had, unfortunately, to provide answers for her. We are talking about $1 billion.

There is the firearms registry scandal. We totally agree with the need to register firearms, but can someone explain how a program that was supposed to cost $2 million ended up costing almost $2 billion?

When we add everything up, plus the $7 or $8 billion lying idle in the foundations and, let us not forget, the expected surpluses, we find ourselves in a situation where the federal government has enough money to address not only the health care issue, but also the tax imbalance. However, there is no political will.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Brome—Missisquoi Québec


Denis Paradis LiberalMinister of State (Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to mention that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Etobicoke North.

I truly appreciate the opportunity this debate offers to join with my colleagues in re-enforcing our government’s absolute commitment to the quality health care that has become a fundamental part of our national values and heritage.

Improving our health care system is the number one priority of Canadians and their government. I am just back from a prebudget consultation tour and that is what we were told everywhere. Canadians everywhere want to see real, practical and measurable progress on improving access to health care services and reducing wait times.

Clearly, now is the time for governments to stop pointing fingers and start working toward sustainable solutions for the Canadian health care system.

There is no question that people are deeply concerned about the challenges, including the cost, that confront the health care system.

This government has a concrete priority to work through partnerships with all orders of government and all stakeholders to provide Canadians in every region with the public health care system they need and rely on.

This is not rhetoric. We have backed that priority with real action and bottom line results.

For example, almost 80 per cent of all the new federal spending initiatives we have undertaken since balancing the books have been in just three areas: health care, education and innovation.

Indeed, just last year, the federal government announced increases in funding under the 2003 Accord on Health Care Renewal alone totalling $34.8 billion over 5 years.

A large part of these funds will increase the Canada Health and Social Transfer, or CHST, and will be available to provinces to use on health care, post-secondary education, social programs and early childhood development.

Of the $34.8 billion, $29.5 billion goes to provinces and territories through increased transfers. It comes down to this:$16 billion over five year for the health reform transfer; $12 billion through the CHST and its successor programs; the $2.5 billion 2003 CHST cash supplement; and $1.5 billion for the diagnostic and medical equipment fund.

The health reform transfer provides $16 billion over five years for the provinces and territories to target primary care, home care and catastrophic drug coverage.

Now let us turn to the CHST which is intended to support health, social security and post-secondary education. Since health spending represents about 62% of the total that provinces spend in those three areas, it is reasonable to assume that, on average, 62% of the $38 billion that the government is providing this year would be spent on health. I think it is a fair assumption.

That’s more than $23 billion of the annual CHST transfer. Adding in the $1 billion in support from the new health reform transfer and $500 million in the diagnostic and medical equipment fund increases this amount to over $24 billion just this year.

And again, this is only part of the federal health care funding story.

The federal government provides 8 of the 10 provinces with equalization, and they are free to allocate as much of this money to health as they choose. Quebec, for instance, is getting around $4 billion. So, we are talking about a lot of money.

We know that the equalization-receiving provinces spend this money on health care because they tell us so themselves—when equalization payments fluctuate due to changes in provincial economies, the provinces are quick to point out that lower equalization payments mean fewer health care services for their residents.

Equalization is not targeted just to social spending, so let us look at all provincial program spending in order to determine a reasonable amount.

On average, provinces spend about 38% of their program budgets on health care. It is reasonable to assume 38% of annual equalization goes to health, which means about $3 billion a year for health care.

Added to the more than $24 billion in federal support through the CHST and health reform transfer, this brings the federal contribution to approximately $28 billion, or 35% of provincial health care spending.

The real question, of course, is: how does this fit in with provincial health care spending? And the answer may surprise you.

In 2003-04, the provinces spent $78 billion on health care. And, as I have demonstrated, federal transfer funding that can be related to health care is $28 billion. In other words, we actually funded about 35 per cent of provincial health care spending, more than one-third.

It is important to note that, because we are working with national averages, the actual share varies from province to province, because of their different spending on health care and the fact that not all provinces receive equalization.

But, maybe the member opposite can explain how the federal government only funds 16% of health care in his province, when federal transfers this year are estimated to account for about 23 per cent of Quebec’s revenues.

In summary, federal transfers currently cover over one-third of provincial health care costs, but we also have to recognize that federal support for health care extends beyond transfers to the provinces.

There is also direct federal spending for health care. The federal government’s direct spending for health care is estimated at approximately $5 billion in 2003-04.

This spending funds such important initiatives as first nations health, veterans’ health, health protection, disease prevention, health information and health-related research.

Furthermore, through the tax system, the federal government provides support worth about $1 billion a year. This includes credits for medical expenses, disability, caregivers and infirm dependants.

When you add the over $6 billion in direct spending and tax credits to $28 billion in transfers to provinces, which we talked about earlier, the federal government is providing about $34 billion a year, about 40% of all national public spending on health care in Canada.

And this amount will continue to grow following recent investment outlined in the 2003 budget. I think the bottom line here is pretty clear.

Still, let us continue to build on a positive partnership so that taxpayers can get good value for their money. It is always the same taxpayers who contribute at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, and they are asking their elected officials to agree with each other. Let us go in this direction.

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10:55 a.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member's speech saddens me, mainly because I think that he believes what he says.

The member for Brome—Missisquoi started out by saying, “We want to negotiate a new partnership”. We do not believe that, but he does. He wants to start negotiating a partnership with a deck of cards that says, “We will finance 40%, but we want to negotiate with you.”

How can we negotiate in good faith with someone who has been acting in bad faith from the outset? That causes problems right there. I have a simple question for the member for Brome—Missisquoi.

The report commissioned by his government, the Romanow report, asks that health care funding be restored to a 25% firm base. If it were at 40%, we would not ask for a 15% reduction. Unless this is what is happening and we are all so stupid that nobody understood what was going on, but I would be very surprised.

Can he give us an explanation with regard to the Romanow report's figures, the Premier's Council's figures and the Conference Board's figures, since all of them agree on 16%?

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10:55 a.m.


Denis Paradis Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I should mention that we have seen these ads on television. The federal share has never been 50%. It was never higher than 41%. The charts being shown on television indicate that our share was as high as 50% and has dropped to 16%. But it was never 50%. The highest it was is about 41%. I just explained how we figure out that percentage, and it is about 40%.

My point is that we should discuss this. Canadians want their elected representatives to work hand in hand. Let us sit down and discuss.

I have just finished a prebudget consultation tour that took me to nearly every region of Quebec. During this consultation, people told us that we need more money in health care, but that we also need new ways of providing health care. We should have a look at the way our system works. People everywhere told us that. Will money solve all problems? No, and that is what I heard throughout Quebec, in all the regions of Quebec.

So, let us sit down and discuss. There is just one taxpayer, and he or she does not care whether it is the provincial government or the federal government that is responsible. The taxpayer is telling us we should get along. I am telling you we should sit down and negotiate something that will suit the taxpayers, whom we all represent.

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11 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I must say that I totally agree with the gist of what the hon. member for Repentigny has said. I cannot understand how one can claim to be trying to solve a problem while at the same time denying that it exists. It does not seem logic. If there is no problem, the only thing they have to say is that there is nothing to solve. They probably think that the provincial and territorial premiers and all the Canadians are wrong. Everybody is talking about 16%. If the Romanow commission asked that the percentage be increased to 25%, it is probably because it was below 16%.

I explained earlier where the 41% figure came from. After,they divide the transfers under the Canada health and social transfer, equalization and tax transfers—that melting pot that has nothing to do specifically with health—only by the expenses in health and education. They totally ignore the social programs that amount to $21 billion. That is how they get to the 41% figure.

When we factor in all the responsibilities that those programs are supposed to cover, then the percentage goes down to 16%, or even 15.5%, as I said earlier. Everybody agrees on that. They are the only ones to think the opposite.

The minister said this was not the time for pointing fingers. Has the one responsible not been found, namely the federal government?