Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 135 brought forward by my colleague and neighbour from the riding of Nepean—Carleton. The motion urges the government to continue leasing NCC land to the Queensway Carleton Hospital at a rent of $1 per year, starting at the end of the current lease in the year 2013.
My colleague has worked tirelessly for the past several months on this initiative, along with provincial member of parliament John Baird. He has successfully raised awareness of the hospital's situation in the greater Ottawa area and is putting a commendable full court press on the government to solve the problem. As we know, the solution lies in its hands.
I stand today on behalf of my constituents in Carleton—Mississippi Mills to support my colleague's motion.
When the Queensway Carleton opened its doors in 1967, it was designed to serve approximately 125,000 residents who called the west end of Ottawa home. Over the past 30 years western Ottawa has become one of the fastest growing areas in the country. The hospital is now dealing with an area population of 400,000 in western Ottawa and in the Ottawa Valley, stretching its capacity to the maximum.
My constituency includes three wards in the west end of the city of Ottawa, West Carleton, Goulbourn and Kanata, the latter of which alone has a population of approximately 65,000. My riding also includes the Lanark County township of Mississippi Mills, where even with its very fine hospital, the Almonte General, residents often find themselves using the services of the Queensway Carleton.
At least 100,000 of my constituents, including my family, are served by the Queensway Carleton Hospital. The hospital's catchment area, western Ottawa and the Ottawa Valley, is one of the fastest growing areas in Canada with a high proportion of seniors and young families. As one can imagine, the value of the hospital as the primary health provider to my constituents is absolutely immeasurable.
The Queensway Carleton Hospital is west Ottawa's only full service community hospital providing essential medical and surgical programs and services. Employing over 1,400 health care professionals, the 240 bed hospital is the secondary referral centre for the Ottawa Valley. In 2004 and 2005 the hospital took in over 59,000 emergency patients.
The hospital staff, along with over 400 committed volunteers, focus on maintaining and enhancing their cornerstone programs: emergencies, childbirth, geriatrics, mental health, rehabilitation, as well as medical and surgical services. The Queensway Carleton Hospital's health care team provides expert care and puts patients and families first, giving an unparalleled standard of care for our community.
As with much of the health sector, the Queensway Carleton is suffering a funding shortage and is in constant need of financial assistance and stability.
In the 1990s the Liberal government began attacking its budget deficits by reducing funding to the provinces. As a result hospitals were closed, physician fees were frozen or cut, nurses were laid off, and spaces for medical students and medical technicians at government funded universities and colleges were cut back. The cut by the Liberal government of $25 billion from health care precipitated the current nationwide medical crisis.
During the 12 years of Liberal rule, the health care system has continued to deteriorate. It should be noted that Canadians were not concerned about the health of their health care system in 1993 when the Liberals took power, but now the crisis in health care ranks as Canadians' number one concern. It is no coincidence. It is the handiwork of the Liberals.
As finance minister, the now Prime Minister unilaterally cut health transfers to the provinces as well as the federal Department of Health's budget. It was the cuts then by the then finance minister that created problems such as the extremely long waiting lists that we have today.
On Monday the health minister insisted that wait times have decreased across the country, yet a report released yesterday by the Fraser Institute indicates that in at least five provinces, wait times have actually increased. The Fraser Institute's annual report on wait times indicates increased waiting times in a variety of areas such as orthopedic surgery and joint replacements. The report's release comes only days before the federal and provincial health ministers' scheduled meeting this weekend to discuss medical service benchmarks that are expected to go unmet.
When I recently asked my constituents if they knew anyone who had trouble accessing medical care, 54% of the respondents said yes, they had. This simply should not be. Canadians should be able to have confidence in their health care system and Conservatives will bring positive change when we form government.
The Conservative Party of Canada supports the Canada Health Act. Canadians should have reasonable access to timely and quality health care services no matter where they live or their income level. We support a publicly funded health care system.
Canadians should never be called upon to use their own funds to receive the services covered by the Canada Health Act. This is absolutely unacceptable, but many Canadians, who cannot get timely service, are forced to pay for medical care in places such as the United States because of the Canadian health care crisis precipitated by the Liberals.
Conservatives respect provincial jurisdiction over health care and a Conservative government will work collaboratively with the provinces to ensure that Canadians have access to the quality health care they deserve. An important part of having a viable health care system is ensuring that our hospitals are on a sound financial footing. There could not be a more perfect example than the situation facing the Queensway Carleton Hospital.
The Queensway Carleton Hospital occupies 50 acres of federal land on the Ottawa Greenbelt which is owned and operated by the federal government's National Capital Commission, a crown corporation. The hospital entered into a 40 year lease arrangement in July 1973 with the National Capital Commission, requiring the hospital to make an annual lease payment of approximately $23,000. This assessment was based on the market value of land in 1973.
The current arrangement expires in 2013, at which time the hospital has the option to renew. The renewal clause stipulates an annual lease obligation of 6.5% of the current value of the land pursuant to the Treasury Board of Canada policy. This means that the hospital will need to divert substantial resources away from patient care to cover lease payments to the NCC that could reach a million dollars.
Most hospitals in Ontario do not pay rent since funds are derived from philanthropists or municipalities who have given the hospitals land. The Queensway Carleton is the only hospital paying rent of the six hospitals in Canada located on federal government land. Why is there one set of rules for the Queensway Carleton and a different set of rules for the other five?
Even if we eliminate a comparison between the Queensway Carleton and the other hospitals on federal land, the government, through the National Capital Commission, is allowing a golf course to rent federal land for $1 a year by merely making a down payment of $200,000. Compare this to the Queensway Carleton which had to pay rent for 32 years and still pays some $23,000 per year. If the National Capital Commission lease agreement is unchanged, the hospital stands to pay millions in the coming years. Where is the justice and sense of this?
Speaking of sense, and more specifically nonsense, just follow the money trail. The federal government transfers funds for medical services to the provinces which in turn provide hospitals with funds partially financed by the federal government to cover the cost of their operations. Then the federal government, through the National Capital Commission, charges the Queensway Carleton Hospital rent to, in effect, recover part of the medical funding to the provinces. The money has made a complete circle back to the originator, namely, the federal government. Why would the government want to maintain such a nonsensical arrangement and at the same time deplete the resources of the hospital? It just boggles the mind.
The National Capital Commission is under the control of the cabinet and the government. That side of the House can simply tell the National Capital Commission to maintain the precedent that has been set with the other five hospitals and treat the Queensway Carleton with the same set of rules.
Nearly everyone will agree that the health care system is in crisis throughout this country. It needs stable funding, better management and reform. The major building block of the health care system is the General Hospital, which backs up all the other health care providers and services.
If this level of government is serious about improving health care, one of the concrete measures it could take is to authorize the National Capital Commission to reduce the rent of the Queensway Carleton Hospital to one dollar per year.
Therefore, I support my colleague's motion.