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.


SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

What kind of drugs are you on?

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

The member opposite is yelling, but where would he be in terms of a health care system? I turn to the new Conservative Party's policy. The Conservative Party of Canada believes that “all Canadians should have reasonable access to quality health care regardless of their ability to pay”.

What does reasonable mean? That party does not talk about the Canada Health Act. It does not talk about having universal health care as we do. Those members play with words.

The Conservative Party of Canada believes spending decisions and setting priorities within the health care funding envelope should be left with the provinces. If that were to happen, I know what the problem would be in Prince Edward Island. We would not have the equivalent health care in our province as they do in the rest of the country. We do not happen to have the oil revenues that the province of Alberta has and which, of course, it can use.

However, thank goodness we have a federal government that believes in equality across this country and that manages its finances properly, because we are able to have similar health care as long as the province manages its finances appropriately.

Let us look for a moment to the future. I would think the hon. member from Edmonton would probably keep this good throne speech under her pillow at night so that she has good dreams. Let me turn to the throne speech for a minute and tell the House what we committed ourselves to.

The government's commitment to health care rests on one fundamental tenet: that all Canadians have timely access to quality care regardless of income or geography. Access when they need it sounds very different from the Conservative policy statement. The government is committed to this goal. The word is universal, not reasonable. We are talking about universal, high quality, publicly funded health care consistent with the principles of medicare as set out in the Canada Health Act.

The length of waiting times for the most important diagnoses and treatments is a litmus test of our health care system. These waiting lines, the Governor General went on to say, must be reduced.

The speech goes on. The Liberal government will work with its provincial and territorial partners on the necessary reforms and long term sustainability of the health system, and it will support the health council in the development of information on which waiting objectives can be set and by which Canadians can judge progress toward them.

In looking at the health council, the minister for public health was in P.E.I. last week and had a round table, a very good round table, not looking at just the dollars, but looking at a number of other areas; for example, looking at research and spending dollars in that area.

There were people from the Atlantic Veterinarian College, that good institution in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, that does such good work and is recognized around the world. We talked about how in the world we live now there is the hosting of diseases in animals and the veterinarian institutions need to come together with the general health institutions so that we can be ahead of the game in terms of preventing diseases. So we are looking at trying to make progress there.

A very important point was made by Ann Robertson, who works with C.H.A.N.C.E.S. Inc. in Charlottetown, on early childhood development, that the best places to make investments in health care is in early childhood and this government has been doing that for its full term in office because we are looking at prevention, as well as maintaining and expanding the health care system.

There was a good point, and I want to emphasize this because this is the way this government operates, that we need to look at the whole person, the body, the spirit, in terms of our health care strategy.

The bottom line is that we are there for Canadians and we will be there in the future. Health care is a priority for me, for all Prince Edward Islanders and it is certainly a priority for the Government of Canada.

The motion put forward is misinformation because we need to look at the whole system, the cash, the tax points and the other programs, because that is the way we are dealing with health care, in a responsible fashion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to listen to my colleague deliberate on such an important issue as health care and be so misleading or misinformed, or maybe he is on drugs, I am not sure. I would like to clear up some misconceptions on why the provinces are so upset at the federal Liberal government.

The provinces are upset because the government unilaterally pulled $25 million out of health care in the middle of the 1990s and left health care to just float along on its own. The provinces were left to deal with the massive reductions in cash, leaving them with a situation where over a million people cannot get the services they need today.

Why are the provinces so upset? They are upset because the government did not put any money back into the system until just before the 2000 election when it announced $23 billion. Not a nickel of that money hit the system until April 1 of the next year and then for a five year period. What did the government do when it announced the health accord? It re-announced all of that funding again.

That fools the general public, the people who walk the streets, into thinking that $34.8 billion will go into health care, but it does not fool the provinces because they know the dollars and they know the actual costs. That is why we are seeing the unprecedented act happening right now where the provinces collectively are putting out advertisements across the country to convince the general public of the failure of the Liberal government.

Why will the government not come clean with Canadians on their money and why the cover-up? Is the culture of corruption that we see in the government even in health care? It is absolutely appalling and I am just frustrated with what I hear coming from the other side.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely appalling. If the member wants to talk about misinformation, then he should look in the mirror because he is perpetuating that ad put forward by the provinces, which is really a negotiating strategy.

Will the member opposite not admit that the ads the provinces have put out, as well as the motion from the Bloc Quebecois, just deal with the cash portion of transfers? That is all they deal with. What about the tax points? How come he does not include them in the information? It is the tax points and the cash combined that really make the health transfer.

On top of that, as I have already said, there were some other areas where the federal government expended money, such as the equipment fund, the immediate infusion of money to lighten the existing pressures in the system, the diagnostic and medical equipment fund, and some of the expenditures I have already talked about in terms of children's programs. The list goes on.

The problem is that the members opposite do not want to deal with the reality. They should put the real information out there. We do not mind, on this side of the House. When there is bad news, we look at it and we deal with it, but we deal with it from a factual point of view, not the kind of juggling of figures that is coming forward from members opposite. That is not appropriate.

Those are the facts. We are doing our part. We want to work sincerely with the provinces to see that all citizens in the country have appropriate health care. In terms of my own province, we really would like to see it manage its finances appropriately as well.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you could never imagine that I would be speechless, but after hearing that dissertation and exhortation, and the equivalent of a Rick Mercer rant on the provinces, it is just embarrassing. The provinces understand the cash flow, the tax points and everything else and they know they are hurting.

In his reference to my province of Alberta he mentioned how oil rich we are. I would like him to know, although I am sure he does know this but forgot to mention it, that although we are certainly grateful for the fact that God put the oil there, only two provinces in this entire country pay health premiums: my province of Alberta and the province of British Columbia. And he has the nerve to stand up and say that the federal government is guiltless when it comes to health care funding, that it is all the provinces' fault and what terrible things they did.

We need to look at the sleight of hand. The accord that was signed was a five year agreement. When the government made its grandiose announcement of putting $2 billion more into the system, the agreement still had three years to go. He chastizes us for the math but I would like him to do the math on that. Why were those three years not agreed to? What it is doing is announcing $2 billion on the timeframe that still had three years left on it.

If I were him I would be embarrassed to go home and crawl off the plane and meet his premier at some function after being ragged on when the premiers, bless them, are trying to make do with such a pitiful amount of money to make sure that health care continues. He says that they have universal access. What he should have said was that Canadians have universal access to the lineups that they are in month after month, looking desperately for health care.

Could he please address some of this?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would love to address some of the points from the member for Edmonton North.

As I indicated, the government, different from what I have read in the Conservative policy statement where it is just looking at reasonable access, we are looking at universal access. We are looking at keeping it that way. That is why we have managed the finances as appropriately as we have. Hard decisions had to be made.

The hon. member opposite, which is her want and her way, tries to portray that what I outlined here is a rant against the province. It is no such thing. It is in fact laying out the facts from a federal perspective, the facts that need to be seen in terms of what the actual expenditures from the federal government, as related to health care, really are. They include cash and tax points. Why do the opposition parties and the provinces not put that accurate information out there? That is the story that needs to be told.

As we indicated in the throne speech, even with all that, even with the health care accord, even with the $2 billion extra spending announcement of the Prime Minister, we know more needs to be done but we need to look at the actual figures. We need accountability in the system. We need accountability from ourselves as a federal government and we need accountability from the provinces.

We need to understand whether there are enough people going through the medical training schools. Why do we have a shortage of doctors? Is it because of lack of federal spending or is it because the system itself let us down in terms of training doctors. We need to deal with accurate facts. That is what I am trying to put on the table and get away from the misconceptions that are coming forward from members of Parliament on the opposite side of the House.

The fact is that health care and the health system is a priority for us on the government side of the House, as I think it is for those on the other side as well. However, if we are going to move forward and ensure everyone has universal access to health care regardless of their status in life, then we have to work at it together, and we want to do that.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I will split my time with the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.

It is of course with great pleasure that I am taking part in the debate on the motion tabled by the Bloc Quebecois. This motion is based on facts that I will present and that can be objectively verified.

In the sixties and seventies, when the public health care program was being established, there was a set of cost-shared programs designed to allow the implementation of the hospitalization insurance program and various health care insurance initiatives which, over the years, were put in place by the various provinces. At the time, the federal government was paying 50% of the costs of these health care and hospitalization insurance programs.

Over the years, and particularly since the Liberals came to office in 1993, the federal government has been withdrawing its support, so much so that, as we are speaking, it is only contributing 16¢ for each dollar spent on health. The former solicitor general is himself a former union leader and it was said that he represents the left wing of the Liberal Party. Well, if his speech is a reflection of the Liberal Party's left wing, we are surely going to miss the hon. member for Hamilton West.

In any case, the important thing here is that we are asking the government to ensure, in the budget that it will table on March 23, that half of the surpluses, which will total between $7 billion and $8 billion, are allocated to health care. That money will of course have to be given to the provinces through transfer payments. This is the purpose of our motion.

The announcement made by the former Prime Minister and member for Saint-Maurice is not good enough. The additional amount of $2 billion is not enough.

There is something that the hon. member who spoke before me did not mention. All the provinces across Canada, regardless of their political allegiance, whether they are run by Conservatives, Liberals or New Democrats, are so disappointed and saddened by the irresponsible attitude of the federal government regarding health that they felt compelled to run a national advertising campaign in the newspapers.

One just has to take a look at the major dailies, both in English Canada and in Quebec, to see that the provincial governments have formed a council. Following some decisions made after federal-provincial conferences, they are running ads in the newspapers to urge the federal government to raise its contribution. This is not an initiative taken by the Bloc Quebecois or a campaign led by Quebec's separatists.

When you think that it is Bernard Lord, in New Brunswick, the New Democratic government in Manitoba, the Conservatives in Prince Edward Island and the Liberals in Ontario, this is quite significant. The Liberals, in Ontario, did not say they would not join this campaign because they were satisfied with the federal government's contribution. Since the Liberals have been in office, at least $25 billion was cut in heath care alone.

I hope government members will agree that, historically, when the various health insurance and hospital insurance programs were put in place in 1957, 1962 and 1966, the federal government was supposed to contribute on a 50-50 basis. These are objectively verifiable data. They are in accordance with the historical truth.

The reality is that the federal government, with an almost unprecedented sense of irresponsibility, has chosen to eliminate its own deficit by causing problems for the provinces.

In the Bloc Quebecois, there is a task force chaired by the former minister Jacques Léonard, a former president of the Treasury Board, thus someone who has a good knowledge of the public accounting system. He has a good knowledge of the public health system.

The Léonard committee assessed the federal government's operating expenditures. Imagine that, while the federal government was asking the provinces to make efforts to balance their own budget, its operating expenditures increased by 39% over five years. Is that not terrible? Does it not make you sick to the stomach to see how this government has mismanaged public finances?

Members should know that all the provincial capitals are having to cope with the same reality, the same scenario. Today, we are not talking about the elderly; we are talking about the old elderly. Most people in this room, if they do not eat too much or smoke too much, and if they take care of their health, will live an average of 78 to 82 years. This is the reality.

As well as referring to the elderly, we refer to the old elderly. Since people live longer, more Canadians now live to be 100. It is not uncommon to meet constituents 100 years old or over. But because they live longer, they live with disabilities and debilitating illnesses for a longer time.

This puts pressure on the health system. Not only do people live longer, but they also rely more heavily on drugs.

When we look at the budget items for health, we realize that there is indeed a 7 or 8% increase on average in the provincial health budgets each year. This means that a province that allocated $15 billion, for example, to its operating budget for health care last year would not only have to maintain that level this year, but also to increase it by 7 or 8%.

Let us look at the figures for each province. Take British Columbia for instance; 40% of its budget goes to health care. In Alberta, it is 34%; in Saskatchewan, 41%; in Manitoba, 43%; in Ontario, 46%; and in Quebec, 39%.

Obviously, if nothing is done to correct the fiscal imbalance, no government regardless of its ideological affiliation will be able to maintain a viable health care system. There is good reason to be concerned.

Public health systems, provincial health systems, are threatened. Provinces have trouble with their public health systems. Need I remind the House that the provinces have to provide front line services, hospital and home care services, as well as surgery-related services. On the other hand, the only direct health care the federal government is providing is to native Canadians and, of course, the Canadian armed forces. That is all it is doing besides raking in surpluses.

If we look at the figures, we see that, since 1997-98, the government has accumulated $50 billion in surpluses. I think all members of Parliament would agree to say that the upcoming budget should provide for some kind of reinvestment. Regardless of how much the surplus is, we believe that half of it should be used to reduce the debt and the other half to restore transfer payments and achieve the 25% federal contribution even the Romanow Commission called for.

It is unfortunate that the Liberals have chosen to turn a deaf ear to such a non-partisan demand. The Bloc Quebecois is not the only one making such a request. Health ministers from all across Canada, from Newfoundland to British Columbia, have urged the federal government to do the right thing.

I do hope the Bloc motion and the call for more funding it entails will be heeded.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to this motion. The main thrust of the motion is that, since the federal government’s contribution to health care spending has fallen to 16%, which is considered clearly inadequate by the Premier of Quebec and ministers in the other provinces, it would be very important for the government to invest at least half the current year’s surplus in health care in order to achieve as rapidly as possible stable funding at 25%.

I always try to find out why we are having debates in the House of Commons, because some of them are meaningless, especially when members of the Liberal government opposite turn a deaf ear to the demands of the provinces, particularly Quebec. I will keep trying to find out why these people say no to any request coming from the Bloc Quebecois or from Quebec in this House.

I would like to remind members why we are having this debate today. Under certain provisions of the Constitution of 1867, health and social services are exclusive jurisdictions of Quebec and the other provinces. This worked well until about 1920, when the federal government tried to intrude in areas of provincial jurisdiction with regard to health. It succeeded somewhat.

The real intrusion, the real power grab on the part of the federal government was in 1942, when Ottawa used the war effort as an excuse to impose fiscal arrangements on the provinces. That is the idea it came up with to take control of the country's finances. At that time, taxation was supposed to be temporary. However, after the war, the federal government did not give this taxing power back to the provinces. It kept it. The provinces had to acquire their own taxing power.

The federal government took financial power away from the provinces, appropriated a good portion of their fiscal resources and unilaterally conferred upon itself a serious ability to interfere in every provincial jurisdiction.

What then happened? There has been duplication of services. That is how, in 1957, we ended up with the federal Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act. In Quebec, we had to counter with our own hospital insurance plan. In 1966, the Medical Care Act was implemented. In 1970, we had to have our own Health Insurance Act. And on it goes.

When the federal government saw that the provinces were making their own arrangements, it formally committed to pay 50% of costs related to the health care system in Quebec and the provinces. It made a formal commitment. In exchange for this funding, Quebec and the provinces had to agree to some minimal rules, namely universality, accessibility, comprehensiveness, portability and public management of the health insurance system. In the beginning, the federal government was to pay 50%.

Currently, according to the Conference Board and various studies, the federal government is paying only 16% of health costs. For its part, the federal government claims that it is paying 40% to 41%. We will look at whether in fact it is paying 40% to 41%.

First, it must be said that Quebec and the provinces are facing major challenges with respect to health care and it is important for the federal government to increase funding in this area.

It must also be said that health spending represents the biggest part of the budgets of each province and territory in Canada, and the costs continue to climb. The population, as we have been saying since this morning, is aging, the cost of drugs continues to increase and there is a growing demand for advanced medical technology, hospital care and home care, which contributes to the constant pressure the health care system is under.

At the same time, the federal government contribution to health care has not progressed at the same rate as the endlessly growing needs of the population.

For 2003-04, it is estimated that the federal surplus will be in the order of $8 billion. If we subtract the $2 billion already committed for health, based on a promise by the former member for Saint-Maurice and prime minister of Canada, Jean Chrétien, that leaves $6 billion.

The Bloc Quebecois proposes taking this $6 billion, dividing it in two and giving $3 billion to Quebec and the provinces to provide additional health services.

Once again, as I said before, there is great disagreement between the federal government and the provinces as to the real size of the federal transfer. We estimate that if we could have access to the $3 billion surplus, that would be of help to the provinces. It could raise the funding of health care in Canada from 16% to 25%.

Our colleagues on the government benches opposite believe they are already giving 40% because they include the equalization payments in the federal contribution for health, education and social programs. And they also include tax points.

Now, tax points are not part of the federal transfer payments for health. Looking at tax points, they are a historical tax balancing program of the federation and have absolutely nothing to do with the cash component of the Canada Health and Social Transfer. Moreover, the transfer happens just once and that is that. It is not calculated later.

And as for equalization payments, we can not count them either, since the equalization formula is independent of the other transfers and therefore cannot be associated with the Canada Health and Social Transfer. Moreover, with respect to equalization, there are two provinces that cannot receive payments, and they are Alberta and Ontario.

The CHST has been slashed, lowered and reduced in increasing amounts and it is block funding. This means that there are no amounts earmarked for the various programs the federal government helps fund.

In closing, I want to say that, currently, health, social services and education represent two-thirds of all program spending in Quebec. If we factor in inflation, the aging of the population and new technologies in health care, it is clear that program spending will increase significantly over the coming years. Program spending in health care will prevent Quebec and the provinces from investing elsewhere.

Currently, there is a power struggle. The federal government has the money and the provinces need the money. The federal government has taken a power it did not have initially and does not want to return it to the provinces. That is what is happening. At the same time, people in the provinces need health care.

It is unfortunate that this struggle for power and money—because money equals power—means that, “the provinces must all be the same and operate the same way everywhere”. This is a terrible vision to have, and this terrible power and terrible vision has terrible repercussions on health care services throughout Canada. It shows a lack of respect.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me ask a question to my colleague; after all, she is the critic for social housing and there is obviously a link between health and social housing.

These days, we look at health with its various determinants. We take a more holistic approach. We do not consider sickness in isolation; we also want to see where people live. In fact, we want to take into account physical activity and a whole set of factors.

I was wondering if my colleague could tell us about the dismal, gloomy, dark, and extremely negative record of this government in the area of social housing.

As an inspiration for her, I will take 30 seconds to describe the situation in the Montreal area. As the member knows, Montreal has the largest rental housing stock, but it also has the lowest vacancy rate. I see the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie nodding. With a 1% vacancy rate, it is extremely difficult, if not downright impossible, to find a place to live.

I would therefore like to ask my colleague this question. How has the federal government handled the social housing file in recent years and, when she thinks about that totally intolerable situation, does she not sometimes feel sick to her stomach?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve for this question. Indeed, as far as health is concerned, an approach cannot be taken that focusses solely on physical health, chronic disease, or so on. There must be an overall approach.

If people are poor, they eat badly. They have substandard housing. They have psychological problems. It all goes together. What I find so disturbing at the present time is that, where physical and psychological health are concerned, as well as social housing and poverty, this government has withdrawn its support to a shocking degree. That government over there, the Liberal government, and it has been that way since 1990.

This is all because of the power struggles and the fact that there is no uniformity across the country. There is no uniformity throughout all the regions of Quebec and Canada. A uniform system cannot be implemented in all the provinces.

The government over there, because of its refusal to recognize the specific nature of Quebec, first of all, or to leave certain of our powers with us, because of its desire to hold on to our money for us, so as to have a Canada that is coast to coast, because it wants to have a high international profile, is not prepared to take the interests of Quebec and the provinces into account.

That is what is happening with social housing. Quebec needs social housing. Housing is needed for single mothers with two, three or four children. Social housing is needed for seniors.

At the present time, the trend in other provinces is toward a lesser need for social housing. So we have heard this week from the Canadian Homebuilders Association. They say the need is less, but is a bit greater in Quebec.

Because of that very power struggle, and the fact that they want to keep the money that ought to be coming to us through the social transfer, we are indeed short of social housing in Quebec.

We also lack help with health care, because the government wants to latch onto the power to decide what it is going to do with the money, basically, while we in Quebec know what needs to be done. We know where our needs lie. We know what areas of health care we want to develop, but this government does not recognize that.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to join in this debate today because I want to discuss the historic first ministers accord on health care renewal that was reached on February 5, 2003. I also wish to discuss investments in the budget delivered on February 18, 2003, that confirmed the government's commitment to health care.

The commitments of first ministers set out an action plan that will ensure Canadians have timely access to quality health care on the basis of their need and not on the basis of their ability to pay. In support of this plan, the 2003 budget committed $34.8 billion in additional investments over five years.

The plan reflects the views and fundamental values of Canadians and builds on the converging recommendations made by national and provincial studies of health care. They include the national report of the hon. Roy Romanow and the provincial reports done by Messrs. Mazankowski, Clair and Fyke. The priorities identified in the accord now figure highly on the agenda of both levels of government.

For Canadians, this plan will mean better access to front line providers, modernized coverage for home care and catastrophic drug expenditures. It will mean enhanced access to publicly funded diagnostic and medical equipment and better accountability from governments on how health care dollars are spent.

A health reform transfer of $16 billion will provide resources to the provinces and territories to support primary health care, home care and catastrophic drug coverage. There is a broad consensus in Canada that this money must buy meaningful change to the system and not just more of the same.

Primary health care renewal was highlighted as a priority in the agreement on health reached by first ministers in 2000. At that time the Government of Canada agreed to provide funding through the primary health care transition fund to accelerate the development of provincial approaches to primary health care reform.

The 2003 accord builds on this foundation. To accelerate primary health care reform, first ministers agreed to ensure that all Canadians, wherever they live, have access to an appropriate health care provider 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Provinces and territories are now proceeding with primary health care renewal initiatives which will improve access, continuity and coordination of care. To enhance access to home and community care services, the ministers agreed that by 2006 all Canadians should have access based on assessed needs to first dollar coverage for a basket of short term acute home care services including acute community mental health care and end of life care.

First ministers also agreed that no Canadian should suffer undue financial hardship for needed drug therapy and they will take measures by the end of 2005-06 to ensure that all Canadians have reasonable access to catastrophic drug coverage.

They also committed to improve access to publicly funded diagnostic services. On March 31, 2003, the $1.5 billion diagnostic medical equipment fund was established to provide support for the acquisition and installation of equipment and the training of specialized staff to operate this equipment.

Additional federal investments have also been provided to continue the development of secure personal electronic health records and to support innovation and research.

Our government is committed to collaboration with the provinces and territories to accelerate work on other key priorities identified in the accord such as health human resources, technology assessment and healthy living.

The accord also increases government's accountability to its citizens through a process of regular and comprehensive reporting to Canadians under the themes of quality, access, efficiency and effectiveness.

As well, first ministers agreed to establish a health council to monitor the implementation of the accord. The new health council and its chair, Mr. Michael Decter who is a highly respected health care policy commentator and administrator, held its first meetings in Toronto during January 29-30, 2004.

First ministers recognized that a national strategy for improving patient safety was critical. I am pleased to note that the Canadian Patient Safety Institute was created last December and that the first meeting of its founding board was held on February 6. Its mandate will be to collaborate with and to provide advice to governments and other health care stakeholders on effective strategies to improve patient safety, to coordinate information sharing and to promote best practices.

The Government of Canada has set out a long term framework to provide the provinces and territories with predictable, growing and sustainable support for health care and other social programs.

The Canada health and social transfer, known as the CHST, is the largest federal transfer to the provinces and territories, providing cash payments and tax transfers in support of health care, post-secondary education, social assistance and social services. The 2003 budget provided $9.5 billion in increased cash transfers to the provinces and territories over five years, plus $2.5 billion in an immediate investment to relieve existing pressures.

The Canada health transfer, a new separation of the health dollars from the education and social service dollars, has been established and is to be effective April 1, 2004. This will include the health component of the old CHST and will ensure predictable annual increases in 2008 and beyond. With the Canada health transfer, Canadians will have better information on federal support to the provinces and territories for health care. We hope that this clarification of the dollars will help to eliminate some of the wrangling that has gone on in the past.

In addition, the federal government also committed an additional $60 million in transfers to the three territories to address their unique challenges in delivering health care. Following the first ministers meeting on January 30, 2004, the federal government committed to an additional one time injection of $2 billion to the provinces and territories for health care. Further, we agreed that federal, provincial and territorial health and finance ministers would meet to discuss ways to make the health care system sustainable over the long term.

Our government will also continue to move ahead on other health commitments in areas under its responsibility, such as investments in drug approvals, consultations on the renewal of our health protection legislation, and measures to improve the health status of our aboriginal people.

The accord recognizes that addressing the serious challenges that face the health of aboriginal Canadians will require a dedicated effort. The government has committed $1.3 billion in additional funding and to work collaboratively with other governments and aboriginal peoples to meet the objectives set out in the accord, including the priorities established in the health reform transfer.

In closing, I believe the action plan set out in the accord is a sound basis to ensure the future of Canada's most cherished social program. I will continue to work with my provincial and territorial counterparts, stakeholders and the Canadian public to ensure that we have a health care system that provides timely access to quality care.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to my hon. colleague's remarks, and I am a bit surprised that the Liberals do not realize that the health care systems in Canada, which are the responsibility of the provinces, are collapsing, and that is not because the provinces are not doing their job properly. In the last 10 years, they have been looking for ways to make things work.

In the end, is it not true that one of the basic problems has been that, in the last 10 years, the federal contribution to health care has dropped significantly, something which has contributed to the real problems we are experiencing today? By way of an example, a class action was announced today by women with breast cancer who have to go to court to get compensation for delays in their treatment.

Also, many regions of Quebec and Canada are under-equipped to provide health care, and we are having a very hard time finding adequate staff.

When we look for the root causes of the current situation, is it not true that the basic problem is the lack of funding from the government? Is it not true that the Bloc Quebecois is proposing today an interesting way to solve a big part of the problem in our health care network and to ensure adequate funding?

In a federal system, we have to live with the fact that part of the money comes from the federal government. For now, until Quebec becomes sovereign, should the federal government not take its responsibilities and announce as soon as possible a significantly higher contribution, along the lines of what the Bloc Quebecois is asking for in its motion?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly the health care system over the last 10 years has faced many problems and issues. I think that the health transfers that have taken place, particularly in the early years, have been a bit short. However, the government has recognized and has listened to the premiers, finance ministers and health ministers of the provinces and territories and has responded.

Everyone will recall that we had a $42 billion deficit when we took office. Every department of government and service to Canadians had to endure cutbacks. However, the minute we had a surplus, we began to increase the transfers to the provinces.

We also have to remember that health care itself has undergone changes in the last 10 years. We have an aging population. There have been changes in practice. New diagnostic equipment has been discovered, which is very expensive. Costs have gone up for a variety of reasons. We are trying to do our part to assist our colleagues in the provinces and territories so that they can deliver the best possible health care.

The large amount of dollars I talked about in my speech goes a long way to improving things, but dollars will not do everything. It is not only about providing money. It is also about delivering services efficiently and effectively. That is why we are trying to do more collaborative work, identifying best practices, sharing information and doing all the things that we can do with the advantage of a federal government working collaboratively with its colleagues in the provinces in order to share all the best information and the newest techniques so that Canadians have timely access to health care.

That is why the federal government showed leadership in creating a health council, because Canadian citizens themselves are concerned about where the money is going. They want the amount of money and how it has been used reported to them. The premiers have agreed to a reporting system. They will report annually to Canadians on the outcomes of the expenditures. It will include things like waiting lists. It will include success stories from across the country. As we begin to build this body of knowledge about the health care system as it exists today in Canada, I am sure it will lead to some of the efficiencies and effectiveness that we all seek together.

In any case, one could look at it from a pessimistic viewpoint and suggest that things are going downhill. Or one could be optimistic that the new dollars that are being put in based upon the 2003 budget, plus the $2 billion that was promised in January of this year, which add up to $36.8 billion, will certainly alleviate some of the struggles.

I do not want Canadians to think that the federal government is insensitive to the struggles faced by the provincial health ministers. We are not. We are trying to help them and to work with them so that all Canadian citizens benefit from the best possible collaboration between the federal and provincial governments.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Scarborough East Ontario


John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for participating in this important debate.

It is somewhat difficult to participate in a partnership when one of the partners refuses to recognize the contributions that the federal government makes. One of the obvious points of disagreement in this debate is whether a $17 billion transfer in tax points is actually real money. It is certainly real money when the provinces receive it, but apparently it is not real money when the federal government sends it.

Does the hon. member think that possibly, in order to clarify this debate, we might convert all or some of those tax points back to cash and see whether this is in fact real money?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot of complaints about the reality, or lack thereof, of the tax point transfer.

To tell the honest truth, I do not think Canadian citizens really care whether it is cash or tax points. They just want to know that their health care system and the people responsible for delivering the care have enough money to do it. How the finance department works out how that transfer takes place is of little interest to Canadians. Canadians are more interested in knowing that their health care dollars, coming from both provincial tax sources and federal tax sources, are sufficient for their needs.

As I have said, we have to try to work collaboratively. I do not want to make statements about premiers or anybody else who seem to be complaining, because the best possible road for Canadians is that they believe and that it is true that we are doing our best to help one another.

The Romanow report goes a long way toward achieving that. Members will note that the health accord did not just quote from the federal report. It took the best ideas from the federal report and the three provincial reports that certain premiers had requested. Even in the health accord that the premiers signed with the Prime Minister, we have the best ideas that emanated from various studies across the country, whether they were sponsored by the federal government or a provincial government.

That is the way of the future. The funding will follow when this atmosphere of trust and mutual support continues to be built upon the foundation I described of the first ministers accord of 2003 and the large budgetary allocation which was part of that. It followed only a couple of weeks later in the 2003 budget.

When one considers that large amount of money has been enhanced this year by an extra $2 billion to relieve pressures in the health care system, the provinces will begin to believe and understand that we are there to support their efforts. We want their cooperation in sharing information with Canadians so that Canadians are clear on where the money came from and where the money went. We want Canadians to know that their health care system is improving as the years go on.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I begin, I would like to tell you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Today we are engaged in a debate of capital importance for all the provinces, Quebec in particular. We know that the biggest challenge for all provincial and territorial governments is to manage their spending and investments in health care. We know that the average amount invested in health is around 38 or 40% of all expenditures by each of these governments.

According to the Conference Board—who is not a group of nasty separatists—by 2005, nearly 45% of provincial and territorial spending will go to health investments.

The motion by my colleague, the hon. member for Joliette, says that the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chrétien, promised $2 billion. Let the government give this $2 billion to the provinces and let them divide the current year's surplus in half and invest it in health. For example, we in the Bloc Quebecois believe that the federal government will have a surplus of $8 billion this year.

I would like to remind the House of some history here, namely the estimates made by the Bloc Quebecois since 1998, when I was a new member of this House, having been elected in 1997.

We will remember that in 1998-99 the government across the way estimated that it would have a surplus of $3 billion. That was the same amount the Bloc Quebecois estimated. In reality, it was $3.1 billion. In 1999-2000, the government came in with the same estimate of $3 billion. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot estimated it would be $11.5 billion. What was it in fact? It was $12.7 billion.

Remember that in 2000-2001, the people on the other side predicted a $4 billion surplus. The Bloc Quebecois estimated $18.2 billion. The real number was $18.1 billion. In 2001-2002, the folks across the way predicted $1.5 billion while we predicted $8.3 billion. The actual number was $8.9 billion. In 2002-2003, the Liberals estimated $3 billion and the Bloc $7.5 billion; in reality it was $7 billion. For 6 consecutive years, the Bloc Quebecois has been on target in its estimate of the surplus.

Therefore, this year we firmly believe that the amount will be roughly $8 billion. Last week, the Conference Board—another non-separatist institution—predicted that the Government of Canada would have a $10 billion surplus this year.

Where does this $8 billion come from? First and foremost, it comes from the change brought about in the transfers to provinces for health, social services and so on. That change was implemented unilaterally. I remember when the present Prime Minister and former finance minister decided to change the formula for transfers to provinces. In doing so, he impoverished the provinces. He carried out the will of the former president of the Treasury Board, who used to say, “Let us starve the provinces; we will have the money and, thus, have a hold over them”.

That is what this government is doing. Where did the $8 billion surplus come from? The government keeps grabbing the surpluses in the employment insurance fund. It keeps dipping in union pension funds. It keeps clawing back the tax on school bus transportation, and so on.

This $8 billion surplus could be even higher. It could be, if the government opposite managed its finances prudently and responsibly. It is not even able to estimate what the surplus will be for a given year. We in the Bloc Quebecois have to tell the government.

My colleague, the member for Joliette, who is a financial expert, could tell the government that the real estimated amount for this year's surplus is $8 billion. I am sure it would be a pleasure for my colleague, the member for Joliette, to help the finance minister—

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Positively a pleasure.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

It would be positively a pleasure, as my colleague opposite said.

Would a government which manages responsibly have sunk billions in gun registration? What a scandal.

Yes, a gun registry is needed, but there is no need to spend billions of dollars on it. That means it could be billions of dollars. My colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay agrees with this statement since he is nodding his head. Could the government have saved hundreds of millions of dollars in the sponsorship program? There could have been a surplus in excess of $8 billion.

What are we to think of this government that does not seek a fair share of taxes from some individuals or companies. I am talking about wealthy people and companies, such as the company owned by the Prime Minister of Canada, who invest their money in tax havens and pay roughly 2% to 2.5% tax in Barbados and not a cent here in Canada. What an insult.

What an insult to us Canadians when they save $100 million a year. What an insult to us Canadians who pay our taxes. You too, Mr. Speaker, have paid handsomely in taxes.

I believe the government opposite must do what the Bloc is asking today and try to obtain funding for health in a long-term transfer, not just a band-aid solution for now. It has to be for the long term and the government has to focus on achieving the goal of 25% of stable funding, not 16% like it is now. That would be 25% for 2004-05. With the surplus the Conference Board has estimated until 2019-20, they will have enough surplus to properly fund health transfers to each province.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

We will now proceed to statements by members. Following oral question period, we will return to the debate on today's motion. There will be an opportunity for questions and comments following the speech by the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.

International Women's DayStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, last Friday I hosted the seventh annual International Women's Day breakfast. International Women's Day is a celebration for every woman of every woman.

This year's theme, “She's on a Role”, is a very fitting title for our amazing speakers. Kim McArthur is the president and publisher of McArthur & Company, a leading Canadian book publisher. Angela Mondou is a seasoned Canadian Forces veteran who has shown that whether it is deploying troops to Bosnia or working in the high tech sector, women are excelling. As she says, “Take away the shells and the weapons and we're still in the same frantic war”. A true Canadian success story.

The Speech from the Throne reflects the priorities of women in Canada and there is much to do. Women owned businesses contribute more than $18 billion each year to our economy. They are powerhouses in corporate Canada, yet they hold only 11.2% of corporate board positions. It is shameful. International--

International Women's DayStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin.

AgricultureStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, if a government is going to spend a billion dollars, it needs to make sure that the money is being spent wisely. It is shameful that the Liberals wasted a billion dollars on the Human Resources Development grants boondoggle, on an ill-conceived Liberal gun registry, and on a quarter-billion dollar Liberal slush fund where millions were paid out for a few minutes of work to Quebec ad agencies which in turn made large donations to the Liberal Party.

Unlike the Liberals, the Conservative Party of Canada would not fleece Canadian taxpayers through this kind of shameful waste and would instead direct money to where it is needed. A Conservative government would give the Liberals a lesson in how to spend a billion dollars that could actually be used to benefit a nation.

We would use a billion dollars to solve the farm income problem in Canada. We have released a specific Conservative Party action plan for agriculture. Family farms are in a crisis, and the food supply of Canadians is not something that a government should neglect. Canadians want their government to secure their food supply, pure and simple.

The Conservative Party understands how important agriculture is to this nation.

International Women's WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, during International Women's Week, I want to tell the House about a study published Monday by the Canadian Council on Social Development.

Ms. Ekuwa Smith's study, entitled “Nowhere to Turn”, reveals the treatment that women in Canada's cultural communities face pertaining to domestic violence. It especially focuses on the effect of such abuse on immigrant and visible minority women.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ms. Smith and the Canadian Council on Social Development for this study. I hope it will help many women from across Canada in finding help when they face domestic violence.

Regional EconomyStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, regional economies are based on forests, water and land, but these resources are slowly disappearing and there is a crying need for a solution.

According to various studies reported on by Le Journal de Québec , at least 67% of lumber harvested in the regions is processed in Montreal.

For example, the Caisse de dépôt et de placement du Québec gets $20 million from Abitibi-Témiscamingue but invests nothing there, while the FTQ solidarity fund gets $14 million in savings from Abitibi-Témiscamingue while investing less than one million in that region.

Glendon CollegeStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, on February 28, I had the privilege, as an invited panellist, to attend the ninth international annual symposium organized by Toronto's Glendon College, the only bilingual university college in Ontario.

That symposium, whose theme was “India: The Challenges to an Emerging Power”, was completely organized by students of the international studies program.

Given the huge success of this event, I would be remiss if I did not congratulate the organizing committee made up of Srimoyee Mitra, Shulamit Yemane, Brian Desrosiers-Tam, Zachary Fillingham and Louis-Étienne Vigneault-Dubois.

I also wish to congratulate the Department of Foreign Affairs for its very positive involvement. Congratulations to all.