House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:55 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Windsor West has a number of facts mixed up and confused.

First, with regard to the GST, the government has taken a very broad view of to whom the GST should apply. In the Department of Finance there is a list of 1,000 representations of what should not be subject to the GST. In the first phase, municipalities were subjected to the GST and now they will not be. That is a very positive thing.

For the member to suggest there will be huge amounts of bureaucracy, I guess he is saying that he would do something with the municipalities with the gas tax and would not work with the provinces. Then the provinces would claw it back, just like they did, unfortunately, with the Canada child tax benefit in the province of Ontario. This government has learned from that. With respect to the gas tax, the government will be working with the provinces and finding a way to make sure the money actually gets to the municipalities, such as the announcements we have made over the years on infrastructure which the member conveniently forgot about.

In the last five years there has been some $9 billion of federal money for municipal and provincial infrastructure. As the member well knows, some of that was announced quite recently with respect to Windsor and the border and the infrastructure. If he missed that press release, I would be happy to send it over to him. If he studies it carefully he will see that our government, working with the province and the city of Windsor, will streamline the infrastructure to ensure that the traffic moves back and forth across the border. I think the member is a little devoid on the facts on that one.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on budget implementation. As you are aware, and I am sure the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell is aware, this is a bill to amend eight acts, including the Canada Pension Plan, the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, the Fiscal Arrangements Act and, of course, the Employment Insurance Act.

As we know, employment insurance has been an indelible blot on this government's record, and I will speak about that later. I am sure that it will be an issue in the riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, where I just might do some door-to-door canvassing with my friend, the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, although it is not our highest priority, as the hon. member will understand.

Let us begin at the beginning. We will spare no effort to keep the major social issues front and centre. This is a budget that has not failed to disappoint in areas where expectations were extremely high, in terms of social programs, health care financing, the expected amendment to the Canada Health Act and parental leave.

I will speak about the issue of rail transportation later, but for now I will say that the government was expected to follow up on Bill C-26. When there was a real government leader in this House, Bill C-26 was a high priority. We were very surprised to learn, without any explanation, that the bill did not outlast the former House leader.

Let us begin at the beginning. First, there is health. We know that all our fellow citizens are concerned about health. We know that the provincial premiers, no matter what their political stripe, have carried out a campaign for reinvestment in health. That campaign is not the idea or the sole idea of the Bloc Quebecois or the Parti Quebecois. All the premiers—the Liberals in Ontario, the Conservatives in the Maritimes, the New Democrats in the West, and Gordon Campbell in British Columbia—have asked the federal government to shoulder its responsibilities and increase health transfer payments to 25% of the actual cost of maintaining a viable system.

This is all the more important since there is a consensus. The Romanow report asked that transfer payments be increased to 25% of what it costs the provinces to provide these services. As we know, this measure was deemed so important by the premiers that, in recent months, the provinces have run a campaign in all the major dailies in Canada and in Quebec to ensure that the message is heard.

This is why, within a few days, it was believed in the various provincial capitals that the $2 billion announced in 2003 would be a recurrent amount. This would have been a reasonable measure. Of course, even if this had been the case, the provinces would still have received much less than the 25% they are asking for. As we know, the federal government is currently contributing, through transfer payments, 16% of health care costs.

There is a paradox in the Canadian policy, at a time when health is the major challenge for public administrations. We know that this is because people are living longer. It is not rare, in our activities as members of Parliament, to meet with people who are 100 years old or more. About a month ago, I read in a magazine that there are over 100,000 Canadians who are one hundred years old or more. Today, we are no longer talking about the third generation, but the fourth generation.

Individuals, in the House and outside it, who pay attention to what are known as the determinants of health have a good chance of living to 76 or 80 years of age; for example, these individuals eat a healthy diet, do not smoke, do not drink excessively and exercise to some extent. We hope the Speaker will be as or even more fortunate; however, the health care system must still be able to rise to these new challenges.

The major challenge facing health care is home care. There are, in fact, two major challenges facing health care: Home care—how will we keep people in their communities longer? Second, palliative care—how will we assist people at the end of their lives?

These are clearly provincial responsibilities, but they cannot be adequately managed if the federal government continues to under invest in health. What is most disappointing to the Bloc Quebecois—and I am certain that my NDP and Conservative Party colleagues agree—is that we had every right to expect the federal government to provide appropriate funding so the provinces can meet the needs of the public.

What we are seeing instead is troubling, to say the least. The government wants to make health care a tool for nation building. In his speech in Toronto, the Prime Minister said again that, during the next election campaign, he would make health a major issue. If this is true, if the Prime Minister, who is a member from Montreal, wants to make health a dominant theme in the next election campaign, I hope that his first responsibility as member for LaSalle—Émard and Prime Minister, is to make a substantial investment.

I want to express a second wish: that the Ontario Liberal caucus will get through to the Prime Minister and that the members from Ontario, Quebec and all the provinces will make him understand that he has a responsibility to intervene with regard to reinvestment.

That is not what is happening. Instead of ensuring that the provinces, which are the primary caretakers of the health care system, have sufficient resources to maintain a viable system, the federal government is engaged in nation building. It is multiplying its interventions in areas outside its jurisdiction.

I will give you some examples. First of all, the federal government wants to set up a Canada public health agency, as if public health were its responsibility. Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that in each of the provinces there are people responsible for public health? Even in Quebec, in what were the regional boards and are now the health and social services agencies, there are people with responsibility for public health in each of the areas in which these agencies have been set up.

Public health is, when it comes down to it, seeing that our fellow citizens' lives are lived in the best health conditions possible. This involves of course such issues as epidemics, cardiovascular and sexually transmitted diseases, diet and mobility. Health can be assessed according to a number of factors, but there is one thing that is certain: responsibility for it must lie with the provincial governments, along with the municipalities.

What explanation can there be for the federal government's desire to set up a Canada public health agency? So much so that the Prime Minister has appointed, in addition to the health minister, a parliamentary secretary responsible for the Canada public health agency. This is one more example, if one were needed, of the fact that what interests the federal government is not people's health, not the well being of our fellow citizens.

What the federal government wants to do with health is to make it into a media opportunity, a high-profile opportunity for political gain, and that is what is of concern to us. If the federal government were really concerned about people's health, it would have increased transfer payments for health.

Now for another example of federal interference in health. Imagine, they want to have an immunization strategy. They have established the Canada health infoway, the Canada health research institutes and a strategy on diabetes. Bit by bit, file by file, they are nibbling away at the sovereignty of the provinces, in order to achieve nation building.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:10 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Without paying.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:10 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

As my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has said, the federal government is multiplying its intrusions into health but not putting the corresponding funding into it.

There is something even more serious. On a number of occasions I have spoken with the Minister of Health, the member for Papineau—Saint-Denis, a Montreal riding. The health minister is behaving as if the provinces, the main stakeholders as far as health is concerned, were not accountable themselves to our fellow citizens. It is as if there were no mechanisms for accountability.

The logic the federal government has been using since the Romanow report was tabled is to say that, even if it does not provide health funding, the provinces are accountable to it. Even if, with the exception of National Defence, veterans affairs, aboriginal affairs, and epidemics, the federal government has no valid jurisdiction for intervening in health, it would like to hold the provinces accountable.

Even Mr. Couillard, MNA for Mont-Royal and health minister in Jean Charest's government, who is not—as everyone knows—a Bloc Quebecois activist, had harsh words for the federal government. I would like to quote him. I remind the House that he is a minister in Jean Charest's government, one of the most spineless governments the National Assembly has ever known. Addressing the federal Minister of Health, he declared in the National Assembly:

It is not right for an organization that is somewhat of a minority shareholder at 16% to assume the right to oversee and audit health care systems in Canada when it does not make a firm financial commitment.

Ottawa provides 16% of health care funding.

Mr. Philippe Couillard, Quebec's health minister and MNA for Mont-Royal, has finally acknowledged that the Bloc Quebecois is right in the battle we are waging.

We agree that the health care system needs to be reviewed. So true is it that it needs to be looked at in a whole new light and changes taking place in the health care system accepted, that seven of the ten provinces have formed working groups to rethink the health care system.

In Quebec, this exercise was directed by the former PQ health minister, Mr. Clair. This resulted in the Clair report in 2001, which made a number of suggestions to regionalize the health care systems and establish family medicine groups that would group doctors together in some communities in order to provide services seven days a week, 24 hours a day. This is a reminder that in the health care system, family doctors were once closer to the communities than they may be at present.

Nevertheless, we do not need the federal government to come in and tell us how to reorganize our health care system. We do not need the federal government to come in and evaluate in real time how long it takes to get access to certain health care systems. The contribution the federal government should make is a massive reinvestment in the health care system.

As for the way each province organizes its health care system, the choice is up to each one. In Quebec—I do not know the other province's situations as well—it must be realized that there are four areas of accountability by which our fellow citizens can determine how the available health resources are being spent.

First, there is a patient advocate in the Quebec health care system. When people are in a health care institution, they can make official complaints if things are not as they would wish. My friend, the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, knows that in the Quebec health system there is a patient advocate who listens to citizens' complaints. It is not up to the federal government to intervene in this sector.

Second, the regional boards, which have become the health and social service agencies, submit annual reports in which they explain what resources have been used, what goals were pursued and what objectives were attained and implemented.

Third—and this is an accountability measure as real as any in Ottawa—there is the National Assembly's parliamentary committee on health, social services and social affairs.

The fourth area of accountability is, of course, question period in the National Assembly, where the opposition parties—the Parti Quebecois and the ADQ—can ask the government questions about the way in which the money allocated to health care is used.

Moreover, in 1995, the then prime minister, Jean Chrétien, set up and chaired a National Forum on Health. Its report was presented in 1997. One of the recommendations made by this forum was to establish a $300 million fund to sustain and improve the health care system. When the provinces' use of this money was evaluated, it was found that the province of excellence, the province that best used the health funding, was Quebec, of course. We can see how dark the future will be if the federal government does not live up to its responsibilities in the field of health.

Since I have two minutes left and the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel is with me here in the House, I would like to take a moment to say how disappointed we are that the federal government did not choose to reinstate Bill C-26.

I represent the riding of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve. There is a rail line that runs right through a residential area. Can you imagine my fellow citizens, the residents of Déséry, Darling, Wurtele and Bercy streets, having to put up with CN's round the clock operations? Trains pass three times daily, including at night. For years now, we have been calling upon the government to give more powers to the Canadian Transportation Agency to mediate community complaints.

Former Bill C-26, which was not welcomed by the railways, could have given our fellow citizens some real clout when it came to seeking quality of life for their community. Despite the study carried out by the Standing Committee on Transport, the government was vile, irresponsible and unfeeling enough not to make sure the bill got passed.

But it will not go unnoticed, because in Montreal, as in other parts of Quebec, the opportunity of the coming election campaign will be used to make an issue of the increased power that must be given to the Canadian Transportation Agency. Because federally regulated transportation companies are behaving like barons of industry, and not respecting people's quality of life, we will be sure of the support of our fellow citizens.

I am not angry, merely passionate about this. I have learned there is a difference. But rest assured, former Bill C-26 will be an issue in the coming election campaign.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member and I have had the pleasure of serving on the health committee together, so I am not surprised that many of his interventions in the House have been related to health.

Virtually every budget that we have had since 1994 when we came here has had an element of health in it. The Canada Health Act includes the five principles: comprehensiveness, portability, being publicly funded, being accessible, and universality. I want to comment on universality.

I have learned that in the province of New Brunswick, in fact, pharmacare is available to seniors only if they are collecting the guaranteed income supplement. It is a prerequisite that they have to be at that level of income whereas in other provinces it is obviously different: to effectively be in poverty is not a criteria for pharmacare.

Recently the government has made some indications with regard to discussions with the provinces on future incremental funding for the health system, indications that there may be some strings attached to additional moneys. For instance, if additional moneys were to flow, pharmacare and home care are areas that would be required in terms of where the application of those additional funds might go. I know that the member is quite interested in this.

From the perspective of universality, though, I wonder if the member would care to comment on whether or not we have effectively protected the principles of the Canada Health Act, particularly universality as it pertains to seniors or others who need pharmacare and home care.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, the situation is misunderstood and misconstrued, causing people to think that the federal government will be the one to protect health and social services.

Even the Canada Health Act, which as we all know includes the five principles of health care: comprehensiveness, universality, portability, transparency and a publicly funded system, has not stopped the federal government from drastically cutting its share of funding for health.

We must face the fact that, no matter what province we come from and no matter how the provinces provide public health services, not one province, from Newfoundland to British Colombia, has not suffered from the federal government's withdrawal from health.

Its withdrawal was not subject to negotiations. The provinces learned shortly before the budgets were tabled, if not when the budgets of successive finance ministers were read, that funding would be cut, with the resulting potential destabilization of provincial public funding. That is the first point.

Second, with regard to pharmacare, the national forum chaired by Prime Minister Chrétien tabled its report in 1997. It asked the federal government to consider helping to implement a national pharmacare program.

Quebec's health minister, Jean Rochon, was responsible for implementing such a program under the Parizeau and Bouchard governments. Our public pharmacare program is funded by users and the Quebec government. If this model can serve as an inspiration for English Canada, we would certainly support this, and all the better. However, in our opinion, it is not honourable, proper or truthful to say that the Parliament of Canada will protect health care because there is a Canada Health Act. The existence of this legislation has failed to stop the Liberals from drastically cutting health transfer payments since 1994.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:25 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve for his presentation on health. I would also like to take this opportunity to ask him a question.

In the latter part of his speech, he raised the issue of noise pollution in railway yards. This is more or less the Liberals' way of settling disputes, and it goes against common sense. It is the case in health: they are not investing the money needed to solve the problems. In a case as pathetic as that of noise pollution in railway yards, those who are listening to us must realize that no provincial law or municipal bylaw can regulate activities on federal land, and railways and railway yards are located on federal land.

Since Canada was first created, this Parliament has never adopted any standard to force railway companies to regulate themselves or to act reasonably as regards noise. This creates very stressful situations, and people get sick. The noise level generated by night work in railway yards is twice the level of the world standard.

I would like the hon. member to take this opportunity to explain more thoroughly why it was so important to give to the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to regulate the private industry, which is not subjected to any provincial or municipal standard on noise pollution.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:25 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. It takes me a little by surprise, but it is a very good question.

My colleague, who has served on the Standing Committee on Transport, knows that the CPR, to give only one example, acts like it was above the law.

For example, in Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, in the centre of my riding, a rail line begins at Sherbrooke Street and goes right to the Port of Montreal, which is, of course, included in my riding. To meet the economic imperatives of just-in-time delivery of merchandise, and thus support economic development, the quality of life of our citizens has been given short shrift, so that that goods can be shipped around the clock.

That means that my constituents who live near the railway on Wurtele, Dézéry and Frontenac streets—even if it is 2 a.m. and they have to get up at 6—are exposed to noise, vibration, and noise pollution, not to mention the material damage that may occur. Dust and soot drift down all over. It is impossible to open the windows. I have heard some horror stories.

The railroad will not be expropriated, naturally, but Bill C-26 would have helped the parties learn to coexist. Houses will not be moved either. However, there has to be an agreement to end earlier.

I want to give an example. Trains are stopping in residential neighbourhoods and can be stationary for five or six minutes. They get turned off, with all the vibrations this means for the public. This is unacceptable. This harks back to the 19th century of Émile Zola. It is no longer acceptable in 2004 for such things to happen.

I know that, along with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, we will make this an issue in the next federal election. We will not stop until the government takes appropriate action. At one time, the Liberals had a real government House leader. I know that the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell would have made Bill C-26 a priority. How is it that this bill has not been reinstated? It should have been. It would have been possible to come to an agreement rapidly, at least on this aspect of the bill.

If the government committed to introducing a bill in the next few days, I am certain that all the opposition parties would cooperate with all diligence to ensure its adoption, because this is a matter of quality of life and respect for individuals. Economic development cannot mean disrespect for individual quality of life.

Consequently, there is no word grand enough or powerful enough to express just how incensed the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel and I are to see that the government has abandoned people living along the railroad.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about health care.

Let me say first that I received an e-mail this morning which I found quite saddening. Members may have seen it. The five year old son of the member for Châteauguay, our colleague, has passed away. I want to note that, and I am sure that all members would agree that our hearts are with the family at this very difficult time.

I do not believe that the measure of the success of a country is its economic success. Rather, I believe that the measure is the health and well-being of its people. Health care has been the number one issue on the agenda of the Parliament of Canada and the Government of Canada ever since I can remember.

When I came here as a member in 1993, one of the first important initiatives undertaken was the establishment of the National Forum on Health. This process went on for a substantial amount of time. The best people, the best resources in the country, were consulting with Canadians, with the experts and with those who were familiar with the system as it existed and with the options and opportunities as they presented themselves in regard to continuing to improve our health care system in Canada.

I am very careful to remember that the ultimate position or opinion of the National Forum on Health was that there was enough money in the system. It did not say that we needed to have more money pumped in; it said that we were not spending it wisely, that we were not being efficient in using it. This led to a whole new range of thinking about how to get the resources that are within our health care system dedicated and focused to being flexible or responsive enough for the needs of Canadians.

That leads, then, to this whole discussion about federal and provincial responsibility and jurisdiction. The member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve raised it, I think, and he often talks about the provincial responsibilities and how the federal government seems to be just getting in the way. But there are certain things that transcend jurisdictional responsibilities. There are certain things that transcend partisanship. I believe that health care is one of those matters. As far as Canadians are concerned, there is only one payer of taxes, and that taxpayer does not care which level of government collects tax dollars. What they care about is that those dollars are being used wisely and effectively to provide the services that Canadians require.

As I mentioned earlier in a question and comment session, it is under the Canada Health Act that the principal responsibilities of the Government of Canada lie in terms of protecting and defending the principles of our health care system. Very briefly, I will describe them.

There is universality. This means that health care is going to be available to all in Canada regardless of whether they are citizens or have landed status or, indeed, are refugees. People who are on our shores are going to have accessibility. Health care is going to be universally available to all those who are in Canada. That is our value.

Comprehensiveness is the next item. This means that the full range of medically necessary services is going to be there for all those in Canada.

Finally, there is portability. This is an area that I have some concern about. Portability says that no matter where one is in Canada, no matter which province or territory, one will get health care service. I think that is very important.

Health care that is publicly funded and administered is the next principle. It means that in Canada we do not get an invoice every time we get health care services. It means that as we pay our taxes we are putting into the resources of the country so as to be able to sustain a health care system to provide for the needs of Canadians, or so we will have it when we need it.

As an example, 75% of the health care costs in the average person's lifetime will be incurred in the last two years of life. Imagine if we had a system which said that when we go for health care, we pay. If we are healthy throughout life, we are not going to incur many health care costs, but every one of us is going to eventually get to that point where we hit what is called the “resource intensity” requirements: the best specialists, the best medication and the best equipment. That is when expensive health care kicks in. It is usually in the last couple of years of life.

Who could afford it? It would bankrupt most people. That is exactly what happens in the United States for millions of Americans who do not have health insurance. They go bankrupt at that time when there are high resource intensity waits for the services required. The costs are prohibitive, sometimes as much as $20,000 or $30,000 a month in terms of the effective value of that service.

Having health care publicly funded means that the costs are smoothed out. It basically insulates all of us from the big hit of paying those costs for health care when we need it. It is there and is accessible.

The final point is accessibility. A country like ours is very diverse. We have a high population concentration in urban centres and a very high concentration of our population within 100 kilometres of the American border, but all Canadians do not live in urban centres and in proximity to the American border. Every Canadian must have reasonable accessibility.

I know that one of the biggest problems we have with the Canada Health Act right now is that some of the definitions are so broad and general. I really think that they have to be looked at. We need to define what is medically necessary and to have it understood. “Medically necessary” is not a defined term under the Canada Health Act--that I am aware of--but it should be so that Canadians' expectations with regard to what they get from the health care system are in there.

Members have heard and Canadians are aware that in certain provinces pharmaceuticals are being delisted. They are not being covered by pharmacare. In certain jurisdictions, medical and vision care are both being provided generally under health care to low income seniors, but in other communities they are not.

In New Brunswick and, I believe, in Labrador, seniors cannot get pharmacare unless they are collecting the guaranteed income supplement, which means they are the poorest of the poor.

That is not universal. That is not accessible. It certainly would not represent portability. I do not understand--and I guess we as parliamentarians have to ask these questions--how it is that these principles have been manipulated by some provinces in terms of trying to balance priorities on an individual basis.

When I came to Parliament, we had transfers to the provinces under two main envelopes. One was under the established program financing, which covered health care and post-secondary education. The second aspect was on the social programs under the Canada assistance plan, the CAP program, which was our contribution of 50¢ on the dollar with regard to matters such as welfare and social assistance.

That system was getting to be onerous. The funding amounts were provided in two forms. One was cash and one was what is called tax points. There are very few people in Canada and, I suspect, very few people in the House who totally understand tax points, other than the concept being that it is the taxing authority that has been transferred from the federal government to other jurisdictions to make up the cash.

What was happening when I became a member of Parliament was that the cash component was starting to shrink in terms of transfers. Let us look at what happens if the government does not have any cash, or if the taxing authority is basically transferring all of what is necessary. For instance, I think that in Quebec at the time the health care transfer with regard to the tax points actually was getting to the point where no cash had to be transferred. If the federal government has no cash to withhold in the event that a province would not respect the five principles of the Canada Health Act, which has happened from time to time, then there is no lever for the federal government to use to compel a province to provide the medically necessary services that are expected under the principles of the Canada Health Act.

That is when we changed to what is now called the Canada health and social transfer. I must admit there was a lot of confusion when we arrived at that point. Everyone said that it had been calculated a certain way in the first place. Now we have the Canada health and social transfer, and it is not three parcels but one. One has to wonder why that happened.

I remember looking at it somewhat carefully. It appeared to me that the principal advantage of bundling the transfers to provinces under one computation was that the cash transfer for post-secondary education and the Canada assistance plan components for social services was available to be withheld under the whole umbrella. Basically we could absolutely ensure that the federal government had cash that it could withhold in the event that the Canada Health Act was not being respected. It was a very interesting change in the policy.

Since then we have continued to debate about the existence or the non-existence of tax points and whether they are real. Some have even gone so far as to say that they have no value or they should not be included or that the federal government is only transferring so much cash, and why not just reverse it. I have a feeling many people would argue that the whole point of transferring tax points to the provinces was probably not one of the federal government's finest hours. This has led to a lot of confusion.

Notwithstanding that, we now find ourselves in a situation where health care continues to be the number one priority of Canadians, and Canadians should know it is the number one priority of their government.

Health care has been in every budget since I first came here in 1993. Every budget cannot deal with every aspect of each subject, but this has been a building situation. When we look at what has happened in terms of funding, whether it be one time specific in certain areas, such as MRI machines or for other specific purposes, the question again comes up about federal and provincial responsibility. I often wonder if we will ever get out of this dialogue about whether someone is encroaching in someone else's jurisdiction. I understand what the responsibilities of the provinces are under the Constitution. Now we have to ask ourselves if we are making some significant shifts in terms of the activities of the Government of Canada.

When we look at something we started right back in 1994, moneys from the federal government were put together in partnership with provincial and regional governments to do infrastructure programs such as sewers, bridges, roadways and the like. This was not federal jurisdiction per say.

If the country's infrastructure is eroding, a number of consequential and detrimental things will occur. If the economy is not good, then generally people are not working. If people are not working, chances are that is affecting the safety and security of their communities. Chances are that is affecting their ability to have a job.

In our society everything we do plays a role. I would argue, as I said at the beginning of my speech, that the measure of success of a country is not the measure of success economically. Rather it is the measure of the health and well-being of its people. Any government has to look at the condition of its people, particularly as it relates to their health.

Now we are talking about conditional funding. For instance, if the federal government were to inject another $2 billion, which is the number suggested, that is conditional funding. Two areas have come up with regard to this, and that is pharmacare and home care.

I recently did some work on a seniors project. I tabled 17 motions in the House on February 2 dealing with seniors. The most startling one to some was my proposal for a guaranteed annual income for seniors. Seniors' poverty is an important issue that has not been given the priority or attention it should be given.

Among the other motions I put forward, two had to do with pharmacare and home care. On the pharmacare side, as I mentioned earlier, there is an inconsistency across the country in the availability and accessibility of pharmaceuticals. This is so important. If we put it in context, we spend as much in health care costs on pharmaceuticals as we do on doctors and nurses. Doctors and nurses and drugs in our health system are the same. That is how our health care system has moved. Therefore, we have to reassess as we get these dramatic shifts.

I know it is extremely important that people understand how much it costs with regard to pharmaceuticals and whether there is a system in place to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry is meeting the needs and that we are getting, as the Auditor General reminds us of, value for money. I am not so sure sometimes when I see the new and improved or the change in a formula which has basically no effective change in the value of a drug.

The other part has to do with home care. I am really concerned about the situation that many families find themselves in these days under the umbrella of our health care system delivered by the provinces. It has to do with home care, specifically from the standpoint that we understand people have circumstances where they do not need full nursing home care, medical care and attention on a constant basis, but that it might be limited to as little as a couple of hours a day.

When we think about it, it is either full time care in a nursing home, which can cost somewhere around $2,000 to $3,000 a month to be in a regulated nursing home environment, as opposed to a couple of hours a day. What happens to all the people who need more than two hours a day, who have supervisory requirements where they can get themselves in trouble or they need help to do some basic things but it is not constant? There is an enormous hole in the middle of the home care system which can only be filled by who? By family members. It usually turns out that it is family members and it is more often than not women versus men. Women are being required to withdraw from the paid labour force to provide care for an infirm or disabled elderly loved one.

How is it that we can provide important subsidies to the nursing home industry, yet we cannot provide the same effective level of subsidies to care givers?

About three or four years ago Motion No. 30 passed in this place to establish a care giver tax credit. That was my motion. It was only a modest amount of about $500, but we now have in the Income Tax Act a care giver benefit.

I believe an important contribution we can make to the health and well-being of Canadians, particularly our seniors, is to look seriously at enhancing and enriching the care giver credit so our seniors will be able to have the care, if necessary, beyond what home care can provide. At the same time we cannot continue to shift the burden on to families to provide the care that they need.

What we have to do is look very carefully at our home care model and in fact tie some funding to home care so we can provide some flexible options for families in that middle, between full time nursing home care and a couple of ours a day.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:45 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it sounded like the hon. member has all the answers to the problems. As his party is in government, it should do it.

First, the Conservative government brought in the drug patent legislation that caused drug prices to triple. What did the Liberal government say in 1993? It said that it would change it. I remember Mr. Tobin saying that it was an outrage and that it would cost families far too much money for drugs and prescriptions. Instead of changing it, the government enhanced the legislation to give pharmaceutical companies the patent protection for an even longer time.

If the member is really serious about the cost of pharmacare, his party should change it.

My second comment is about caregivers. I brought a bill forth in 1998 to allow caregivers, those people who care for people in a palliative care situation, be it a child or another relative, to take a year off work with job protection and employment insurance while they provided care for that person, whether it was palliative care or serious rehabilitative care. In the case of a couple having a child, one of the parents can take a year off work on maternity or paternity leave. The government, kicking and screaming, put in a six week program this year, for which we are grateful. At least it is a start. Will the hon. member at least admit that it goes nowhere near enough?

In the Ottawa Citizen today there is a story about Sharon Ruth and her daughter. It is a classic example of a woman who is not working outside the home but needs assistance right now so she can care for her daughter who has cancer, and I hope her daughter will recover from it.

Those are just a few of the points I have for the hon. member. I would interested in hearing his comments.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:50 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member is aware, we have had these debates for some time on pharmacare, on drugs and on patented medicine. This is an issue which keeps coming in and out of our lives. It dies down and then it comes back again.

If Parliament is concerned about the shifting burden of our health care system in pharmacare costs versus the human resources costs, we should debate this. Why is there no debate? Why are we not raising it? We have the tools to do this and get the facts on the table. Perhaps that is what should be done by way of either an emergency debate or possibly a motion from one of the parties for a day long debate within the House. I agree.

With regard to providing some sort of leave program for caregivers, that is precisely one of the motions I put forward on February 2. However, it would be under the employment insurance scheme and would provide full benefit. In addition, I added the proviso, and I think the member will agree, that during that period of time those caregivers would not be penalized in terms of their Canada pension plan credit. When they withdraw from the paid labour force, they lose the opportunity to continue to participate in earning pensionable years. I think that is really important. I agree very much though with regard to providing that relief to family members who provide care.

The member will recall that the motion I put forward was for those who provided care in the home to preschool children, the chronically ill, the aged or the disabled. It was a petition I gave in this place for about three years, which probably amounted to a couple of hundred times.

When families take care of their loved ones who are in need, that benefits us all. It relieves the stress and it relieves the utilization, the demand on the limited resources that we have. It may be a better model for some. I think the member is nodding that he agrees. We need to continue to build the flexibility and the options for Canadians to provide care to their family members when that care is necessary.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is very interested in health care, and I give him credit for his speech. There are just two things on which I want to query him.

First, health care transfers have been reduced by his government by $25 billion over five years and only recently have those funds started to be put back in. I do not think that he should overlook that.

Second, he talks about the breaking of the Canada Health Act. One province breaks the portability provisions of the Canada Health Act every day and has since I was practising as a physician. People leave that province, go to another province and cannot be paid the physician's fee. That breaking of the Canada Health Act is something to which his government does not pay any attention. Why not?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:55 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the transfers, and I accept the member's numbers, Canada came through a very difficult period of time in the mid and late 1990s to get its fiscal house in order. There is no question that every Canadian had to step up, as did every government department and service.

However to get our fiscal house in order and to pay down $52 billion of debt, an additional $3 billion each and every year had to be put back. It means that restoration of that funding is occurring.

I do not disagree with the member. It would be nice to be able to do all things at all times but when we are faced with a situation that is unsustainable and that would put us in a hole that we could never get out of, it would not be fiscally responsible.

With regard to portability, the member is a medical doctor. The member, I am sure, is aware of many cases where one could argue that one of the pillars of the Canada Health Act has been violated by certain provinces. I would say that if pharmacare is not available to some Canadians unless they are collecting a guaranteed income supplement and in another province they can collect it no matter what their incomes, where is that in terms of the universality, accessibility or even the portability? If I move from one province to another and find out that service is no longer available, that is not portable either.

Maybe the member has again raised for us the importance of determining whether or not the Canada Health Act and its five principles are being defended to the greatest extent they should be and whether or not we have the definitions in there, for instance the definition of medically necessary, which I believe is not in the Canada Health Act but should be.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Given the hour, I will proceed to statements by members. That way we will not have someone taking the floor for what might amount to one minute.

Canadian Cancer SocietyStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Cancer Society is a national organization of volunteers dedicated to the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer.

Each April during Daffodil Month, Canadian Cancer Society volunteers step up their efforts to raise donations and organize special events like the Great Ride 'n' Stride, which is also being held in my riding of Cambridge later this month.

The society is the largest charitable group supporting cancer research. This year alone, the society is contributing almost $49 million to leading edge projects across the country through its partnership with the National Cancer Institute of Canada.

I join all members of the House in encouraging Canadians to support their local Cancer Society volunteers and help eradicate cancer.

Holocaust Memorial ServiceStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I had the privilege of attending the first annual Holocaust Memorial Service at the Jewish Community Centre in Saskatoon, one of many events held to remember the six million people who perished during this awful time in our history and to salute those who survived.

Like others the world over, I wish there had never been a Holocaust to remember, but there was. With anti-Semitic crimes, like the destruction of a Jewish school library in Montreal still present today, the memorial's theme of “Strengthening Through Memory” is even more important.

Genocide, whether in the form of the Jewish Holocaust, or more recently in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, is a part of our history that must never be repeated.

Hate has no place in our society and I thank Congregation Agudas Israel for helping to promote that message.

Short Film MonthStatements By Members

2 p.m.


André Harvey Liberal Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, April is short film month at the Fernand-Séguin screening room of Cinémathèque québécoise. A selection of Quebec's best short films of last year are being shown there.

The short film has been a very fashionable format for some time. New digital technologies have had a profound impact on the popularity of this artistic genre and it did not take long for Quebec artists to grasp the potential of these new tools.

Short film month features documentary films and fiction from varying viewpoints and on topics ranging from ethics to the perception of reality.

The film library is also taking this opportunity to showcase the visionary Festival Regard sur le court métrage du Saguenay, which is regarded as a pioneer for having anticipated how important short film would become.

Pavillon des arts et de la culture de CoaticookStatements By Members

2 p.m.


David Price Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Friday I had the great pleasure of showing my constituents the relevance of the budget recently tabled by my colleague, the Minister of Finance.

On behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, I announced some good news to the people who work at the Pavillon des arts et de la culture de Coaticook.

As part of the Arts Presentation Canada program, the Minister of Canadian Heritage delivered on an announcement made in the most recent federal budget. Our government has provided $15,000 in financial support for this important cultural centre.

This money will help the Pavillon des arts et de la culture de Coaticook achieve its goal of familiarizing people from the region with the situations of francophones in other provinces and countries. A series of performances by artists from Ontario, New Brunswick, and British Columbia, as well as from France and Belgium, will be given at the pavilion.

National Volunteer WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, in recognition of National Volunteer Week, I am very pleased to recognize some individuals who have had a very positive influence on my riding of Etobicoke North.

Mary Harker has played an active role in Etobicoke North for over 20 years. She is currently a member of the local Community Police Liaison Committee. She is also a member of the board of directors with the Rexdale Legal Clinic and she is involved with a local elementary school breakfast program.

Walter McIntyre is a local pastor who volunteers whenever needed. He initiated an organization called Hoops Unlimited, a basketball program for the youth of Etobicoke designed to keep them off the streets and away from drugs, gangs and violence.

Osman Ali is the executive director of the Somali-Canadian Association of Etobicoke. He works with his group to make Etobicoke North a better place for all residents.

Nidhan Singh Banwait is the president of the South Asian Seniors Association. He is helping to improve the quality of life for all.

Ernestine Von Marle operates a shelter in Etobicoke North for women who are escaping abusive situations.

I wish to recognize all the volunteers of Etobicoke North and I wish to thank them for their contributions.

Dalai LamaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Canadians, it gives me great pleasure and honour to welcome to Canada His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama has inspired millions around the world with his teachings of non-violence and peaceful coexistence. The world recognized this great man's contribution to humanity by awarding him the Nobel Prize in 1989. I personally was exposed to the great teaching of the Tibetan monks through reading Dr. Lobsang Rampa's books.

The Dalai Lama is the political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. His struggle to bring dignity and human rights to his people must be recognized and supported.

The Dalai Lama has shown courage, compassion and, most of all, exemplary leadership through the hard times he and his people have faced and continue facing.

We are honoured with his presence in Canada.

Ethnic CommunitiesStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I and all Canadians deplore the unspeakable crime perpetrated in early April on the United Talmud Torah School in Montreal.

Hate-motivated behaviour, such as the vandalism at the mosque in Pickering, the arson at a mosque in Mississauga, and all other similar acts aimed at ethic or religious groups, must be denounced unequivocally, as it expresses a total refusal to accept difference.

In a society such as ours, where the respect of rights and freedoms takes precedence over all other values, and where our democratic freedoms are protected by the fundamental values of Canadian society, these unacceptable actions must be unequivocally denounced.

These are attacks on society as a whole, because they imperil the security, quality of life and personal safety of each and every one of us. Those who have been the victims of such attacks deserve the esteem, compassion and affection of us all. Our sorrow at such actions must be expressed.

More than ever, this is a time when we must work at intercultural dialogue and promote the benefits of a multi-ethnic society.

Marc-André NiquetStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour to congratulate a resident of my riding, Marc-André Niquet, of Pierreville, who won out over all the other men of the Star Académie. Right from the start of the competition, his immense talent and charisma set him apart, as did his wonderful performances.

Thank you, Marc-André for all the exciting moments you have given us. You are a fine example of determination and perseverance, and living proof that a person can achieve his dream if he believes in it enough and puts all the necessary energy into achieving it.

In closing, I would like to express my admiration to Marc-André's parents, Pierre and Diane, and his sisters Marie-Pier and Stéphanie for their unconditional support. I also wish to thank the numerous volunteers, the sponsors, the support committee headed up by Robert Letendre, Chantale Courchesne, the Paulhus family, Manon Tousignant, Chalifoux dairies, MNA Michel Morin, Bertrand Allard, the mayor of Pierreville, and all his council members, for their generous contribution.

Marc-André, you are a new star in the sky and the light of your talent will shine throughout the francophonie. May this be the beginning of a long and successful career.

Holocaust Memorial DayStatements By Members

April 19th, 2004 / 2:05 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday on Parliament Hill and across Canada, Canadians gathered in solidarity on our first national Holocaust Memorial Day, Yom ha-Shoah.

I want to congratulate the member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier; the government House leader, the member for Brossard—La Prairie; members of the House from all parties; and senators who made it possible for the bill to establish Holocaust Memorial Day to pass unanimously and quickly.

The Jewish community is again under attack with the desecration of sacred places and even the burning of a school library. We are painfully reminded that the evil of hatred and the horrible acts it generates are not in the past. They can be turned against any group at any time and when they are we must speak out and say “never again”.

Alzheimer's DiseaseStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, in British Columbia, 1 in every 13 people suffer from Alzheimer's or a related dementia.

At the Vernon Curling Club in my riding of Okanagan--Shuswap, the Alzheimer's charity curling funspiel raised $35,000. The Vernon Curling Club, Prestige Inn and Scotiabank sponsored the event.

The money raised will support programming offered for patients and families suffering with Alzheimer's and benefit Okanagan chapters of the society, including Salmon Arm, Kelowna and Vernon.

I would like to thank all those who volunteered, especially the Vernon merchants and the community, for their time and effort toward this worthy cause.

Maria Labrecque DuchesneauStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Gérard Binet Liberal Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell hon. members about a very interesting initiative.

Maria Labrecque Duchesneau, who is a member of the organization called Au coeur des familles agricoles, is suggesting to our government that it establish a Good News Day.

I think that this original idea has some merit. The arguments put forward by Mrs. Duchesneau are very relevant.

In a column published in La Terre de chez nous , Mrs. Duchesneau points out that as soon as we wake up, we are bombarded with information that is depressing to say the least: war atrocities, concerns about the future and so on.

I invite my colleagues to give serious thought to establishing a Good News Day. This would provide an opportunity to forget for a moment the precariousness of the human condition and instead to reflect on the things that remind us that life is truly beautiful.