Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to introduce at third reading Bill C-39, which provides for $41 billion in new funding for provinces and territories under the ten year plan to strengthen health care.
Canadians are justly proud of their social programs and are determined to see them maintained and improved. In particular, Canada's publicly funded, universal health care system stands as a clear testament to its commitment to ensuring equality of opportunity for all Canadians.
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of providing growing and predictable funding for Canada's health care system to ensure its vitality. It also recognizes the importance of improving transparency and accountability of health care spending.
After all, Canadians want to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely.
In short, the government is committed to strengthening Canada's publicly funded health care system. It is committed to working with the provinces and territories to make sure that happens. As the Prime Minister has said, Canadians want solutions to health care problems, problems in their communities, problems that affect their families. Canadians also want to know that the health care system will be able to provide the services they need in a timely fashion. They also want to know that the health care system is secure for future generations.
Governments recognize the need to strengthen our health care system. We understand the challenge. It is a challenge that falls to us and we must act.
Last fall, federal, provincial and territorial governments all signed the 10 year plan to strengthen health care. Bill C-39 would implement the federal commitment supporting this plan by providing $41 billion in new federal funding for provinces and territories for health.
Indeed, the 10 year plan will strengthen ongoing federal health support provided through the Canada health transfer, or CHT, as well as to address wait times to ensure that Canadians have timely access to essential health services and to provide additional funding for diagnostic and medical equipment.
Before I outline the details of this ambitious new plan, I would like to first provide some history of recent federal health care funding in Canada.
In September 2000, hon. members will recall an agreement by first ministers for an action plan to renew our health care system. In support of that agreement, the federal government invested $23.4 billion through the Canada health and social transfer and targeted spending, including funding for medical equipment, to accelerate and broaden health renewal and reform.
Drawing on that agreement, first ministers met again in February 2003, committing to the first ministers accord on health care renewal. In response to the important reform and reporting objectives it contained, the 2003 budget increased federal support for health care by $34.8 billion over five years. It also contained an additional payment of $2 billion contingent on funds being available in 2003-04.
In January 2004, the Prime Minister announced that an additional $2 billion would be provided to the provinces and territories. This brought the total increase in federal support over the five year period of the 2003 health accord to $36.8 billion. The majority of this funding was provided to the provinces and territories through increased transfer payments, including $16 billion over five years through the new health reform transfer; $14 billion, including the $2 billion in additional funding, for increases to health and social transfers; and $1.5 billion for diagnostic and medical equipment.
The remaining $5.3 billion was allocated to meet other commitments made under the 2003 health accord, notably increased funding for health programs for first nations and Inuit; the creation of a compassionate care benefit under employment insurance; support for research hospitals; and improved health care technology and pharmaceuticals management.
The Government of Canada's investments over the period covered by the health accord, and its other investments in health and social programs, were implemented as part of a long term legislated framework of predictable and growing support for provinces and territories that includes both cash and tax transfers.
I would like to move on to the 10 year plan to strengthen health care. Last September the Prime Minister and premiers signed a 10 year plan to strengthen health care. As I have already mentioned, the plan will provide $41 billion in new health care funding over the next decade. It also illustrates what we are capable of achieving when the federal, provincial and territorial governments work together toward a common goal.
At the heart of the 10 year plan is the commitment for stable and increased funding starting with immediate funding in 2004-05, to provide an additional $1 billion in this year through the CHT as well as an additional $2 billion in 2005-06.
These investments lead me to the second step, which is the establishment of a new $19 billion base for the Canada health transfer, beginning in 2005-06. The new and higher base level of $19 billion for the Canada health transfer includes $500 million in targeted funding for home care and catastrophic drug coverage, clear priorities for many Canadians.
The plan also proposes a 6% escalator to the Canada health transfer, effective in 2006-07, which will ensure predictable and stable growth in federal transfer support, an unprecedented move to ensure predictable and stable growth in support from the federal government. This commitment fully satisfies the recommendations of the Romanow report on the future of health care in Canada. In fact, this commitment exceeds the recommendations of that report.
Just what action does the 10 year plan take to improve our health care system? It makes investments in these areas: reducing waiting times and improving access, which I know are big desires in my constituency; providing funding for medical and diagnostic equipment; and improving access to home care and catastrophic drug coverage.
I want to talk in more detail about reducing waiting times. What united all the first ministers was a commitment to a meaningful reduction in wait times for health care services. The plan provides funding of $5.5 billion over 10 years for wait times reduction so that Canadians can see tangible progress, particularly in key areas such as cancer, heart treatment, diagnostic imaging, joint replacements and sight restoration.
It is important to mention that the government recognizes that not all provinces and territories are in the same situation regarding the implementation of their wait times reduction strategies. Funding of $4.25 billion from the total of $5.5 billion will be provided through a third-party trust. Therefore, as part of the 10 year plan, provinces and territories will have the flexibility to draw on the funding according to their individual priorities in meeting their wait times reduction commitments.
The funding can be used according to the respective priorities of each province and territory, such as clearing backlogs, training and hiring more health care professionals, building capacity for regional centres of excellence, expanding appropriate ambulatory and community care programs, and tools to manage wait times.
Beginning in 2009-10, $250 million will be provided through an annual transfer to provinces and territories in support of health care related human resources and tools to manage wait times.
Now I will talk about medical and diagnostic equipment, which is also very important in my riding. No health care system would be effective without medical and diagnostic equipment to support it.
That is why, as an integral part of a 10 year plan, the government will provide to provinces and territories a further $500 million for diagnostic and medical equipment in 2004-05. This funding builds on previous investments in diagnostic and medical equipment under the 2000 and 2003 health accords. It will help the provinces and territories continue to improve access to the diagnostic services their citizens need.
Now I want to talk briefly about home care and catastrophic drug coverage. Access to home care and catastrophic drug coverage is a concern for Canadians. As I mentioned earlier, the new $19 billion base level for the Canada health transfer includes an amount of $500 million, which is specifically aimed at addressing these concerns.
It is important to mention that the first ministers were committed to improving access to home and community care services and catastrophic drug coverage. Hon. members will appreciate the importance of improving the quality of life for many Canadians and ensuring that no Canadian suffers undue financial hardship in accessing needed drug therapies.
Now I will talk briefly about reporting to Canadians on these expenditures. As I mentioned earlier, Canadians want to know that their tax dollars are in fact supporting tangible improvements in the health care system. That is why Bill C-39 contains a provision for a parliamentary review of progress made in implementing the 10 year plan.
What I have described is not all the funding that is available to the provinces and the territories. In the debate about federal health funding to the provinces and territories, it is important to remember that this is not their only source of funds from the federal government. For example, equalization payments, which have been in existence since 1957, address horizontal fiscal disparities among provinces by ensuring that less prosperous provinces can provide reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.
Hon. members will recall that last fall federal officials met with their provincial and territorial partners as part of the government's commitment to increase equalization and territorial formula funding by more than $33 billion over the next 10 years. Bill C-24, which is currently before Parliament, sets out this new framework.
This represents a fundamental reform of these programs and establishes the foundation for our commitment to bring greater predictability to the federal government's payments to the less prosperous provinces in support of key public services.
The $33 billion committed to equalization and territorial formula financing payments, when combined with the $41 billion ten year plan to strengthen health care, will result in federal transfers to the provinces and territories of $74 billion. This significant increase in federal transfers illustrates the government's commitment to provide stable and growing funding to provinces and territories.
Although the 10 year plan to strengthen health care makes it clear that money alone cannot sustain health care, the government fully understands the importance of stable and predictable funding to the provinces and territories in support of health and social priorities. In short, the $41 billion 10 year plan represents the best of what the Canadian federation can accomplish and underscores how cooperative federalism has built a country with a standard of living that is the envy of the world.
Before closing, I would emphasize the importance of the bill receiving passage by the end of this fiscal year so that the provinces and the territories can have access to 2004-05 funding and begin to plan for the future. I therefore ask that hon. members continue to provide the bill with timely consideration.