It is nice to see the member from Ottawa standing up right now. She should be talking to her health minister. He said very clearly that the private sector can play a role in health care. What that means is we eventually turn over the public system into the hands of private corporations. If they follow suit, like the Conservatives would like them to do, eventually those corporations become foreign corporations.
Then what happens? Someone can become very ill in this country and someone from another country makes money from that illness. That is unbelievably wrong. The New Democrats will fight against that and we will continue to fight against as long as we remain in the House of Commons and in legislatures across the country.
This will be one of the major issues in the campaign. Canadians want to know and they are clear. The vast majority of Canadians support a publicly funded, publicly delivered health care system.
All of us in the House of Commons talk about health care to the nth degree. We talk about people being ill and what to do about that. Very little debate takes place about the preventing illness. When it comes to this, the Liberals and Conservatives are at huge fault. They have made massive cutbacks to the provinces.
The provincial conservative government in Nova Scotia cut physical education from the school system. What happens when provinces cut physical education from the school system? We end up with kids that no longer have activity in their classrooms or in their schools. Many reports have said that we are breeding a group of children who are rapidly becoming more and more obese.
What happens when we have obesity? We then have diseases like diabetes. Diabetes is very expensive to treat, with the proper insulin and everything else. We try to save a dollar by cutting physical education from the classroom, but we are more than willing to spend hundreds of dollars years later to treat something that we could have prevented.
It is very clear, if we really want to prevent people from accessing health care in the end, we should bring back physical education into the school system. We should bring back other aspects into our lives that make Canadians more physically fit. George Chuvalo once said, “a healthy mind and a healthy body makes a healthy choice”.
It brings me to my next point, which is an idea that the New Democrats put forward. We thank the government on the one hand. It took the idea and put it into effect, but only in small part. That is the aspect of palliative care and special rehabilitative care.
Sometime in our lives we are either going to become caregivers or have care provided for us. When it comes to palliative care or special rehabilitative care, the best thing for an individual going through that care is the ability to be in the surroundings of their choice, to be free of pain and to be surrounded by their loved ones. When we reach the time for us to exit this world and go on to the next one, we would like the opportunity to die in the comfort of our own homes. Hopefully all of us will be very old when it happens. Poll after poll shows that when Canadians have the choice, they prefer to die in the comfort of their own homes.
There are people who need to provide that care for those who remain in their own homes. That generally falls upon a relative, and that relative generally is a woman. Too often women have to make the choice to leave their workplace and to care for a loved one, their child, their partner, or another relative.
We thank the government for recognizing this after years of debate and for establishing a six week program, although very limited. People can stay at home for six weeks to care for someone under palliative care, be it a child, husband, wife. Six weeks is a start, but we in the NDP would like to see the exact same benefit for maternity leave given to people who are on what I call eternity leave.
All of us have relatives who go through certain stages in life, under palliative care or special rehabilitation. People of my generation are called the sandwich generation. We have children to look after and we have elderly parents to look after.
Here is a classic example of what happens. My wife and I have two children and she works outside the home. She can have a year of maternity leave or I can take a year off on paternity leave. I would receive an employment insurance cheque every two weeks for up to one year. If the doctor diagnosed one of my children with cancer and said that our child had six months to live, what would we to do? That is a heavy question to ask anyone. Would my wife or I be able to leave our place of employment and care for the child for the six month period? Would my company allow me the time off to do that? Would my company pay me for that time off? The answer to those questions mostly likely would be no.
Eighty per cent of caregivers are women. Most of them are elderly women. Most of them have other jobs to which they attend. That is a very difficult situation to put a person in.
We in the NDP believe people should not have to go through that decision on their own. We believe the government should be there to help them. We believe very clearly that if people make that choice and leave their place of employment to care for a relative under very special rehabilitative care or palliative care, they should be allowed to collect employment insurance for up to one year or at least six months at minimum. They also should have job protection until the time they returned.
This would save money. It is fiscally responsible and accountable. We have proven over and over again that for every dollar of employment insurance we would spend on this program, we would save over $4 on the health care system. We all know it is very expensive to institutionalize someone.
In a society such as ours, it is my belief, my hope, my dream and aspiration, and that of many people throughout the country, that we will be much more compassionate in this type of debate than we are being right now.
It is not just dollars and cents, although what we propose does save money. If we just want to use the fiscal argument, it saves money. The provinces would win in terms of the fiscal side of it, because they would save a lot of money. That money could then go toward assisting other aspects of health care.
Another program was introduced by the NDP but I see my time is up. I am sure I will have more time to discuss this valuable topic in the near future.