That, in the opinion of the House, the Conservative government has broken its promise to reduce medical wait times and to provide the necessary funding and resources to achieve the goals of the First Ministers' accord on health care renewal.
Mr. Speaker, we are here today to talk about an important issue, an issue that impacts all Canadians from coast to coast to coast and an issue that impacts Canadians of all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and that is the issue of wait times and health care.
When we look at the issue of wait times, we see that it is an issue that impacts all Canadians, Canadians who need to look for specialists, Canadians who need access to doctors and Canadians who need access to health care in their times of need in hospitals.
I, along with many of my colleagues, believe that unfortunately the Conservative government has broken its promise to reduce wait times in Canada. This abandonment of a promise to implement a national wait time guarantee has become rhetoric and, unfortunately, has not been translated into reality.
During the election campaign, the wait times guarantee was put forward by the Conservatives as one of their top five priorities. However, now that it is in government, this priority seems to have fallen off its agenda altogether.
The whole responsibility for the wait times issue has been downloaded to the provinces and the territories, without any type of funding and without any additional resources. Canadians want their national government to show leadership on this issue. The provinces and the territories have gone through their challenges in ensuring their health care dollars actually meet the needs of their respective residents and constituents. Canada alone spent an estimated $142 billion on health care in 2005, which is almost $4,400 per person. After we take into account inflation, this perhaps is almost three times as much as what was spent in 1975.
It is for those reasons and after looking at those figures that we realize we must work together as parliamentarians to ensure we actually achieve results.
I will take the House back to 2004 when all the provinces and the territories, along with leadership from our Liberal minister at that time, Minister Dosanjh, put forward the 2004 health care accord. This $41 billion long term agreement on health care was made in 2004 with the support of and in collaboration with all premiers. This was a 10 year plan to strengthen the public health care system by reducing wait times, by ensuring that we invested in human resources, by the implementation of a national pharmaceutical strategy, by ensuring we had a catastrophic drug coverage plan available for all, by ensuring that we actually supported health promotion and the prevention of disease and by ensuring that we promoted and had a national immunization strategy.
This plan actually recognized all of these issues that we needed to address to ensure the best possible public health care system for all Canadians, a health care system that was effective, efficient and provided quality health care.
This 10 year plan had a deadline of December 31, 2005 for the determination of wait time benchmarks for key medical procedures. This deadline was met with the support and the leadership of everyone involved, the provinces, the territories and Canada's former Liberal government. Wait time benchmarks were set for five priority areas: cancer treatment, cardiac care, sight restoration, joint replacement and diagnostic imaging.
It was also agreed upon by everyone that research, support and resources would be provided to support ongoing benchmark development in other priority areas that were important to Canadians.
In the budget of 2005, the former Liberal government put its money where its mouth was and allocated $41 billion to support this accord. In addition, $5.5 billion were invested to ensure that the establishment and creation of a wait times reduction fund would take place. This $5.5 billion investment assisted the provinces and territories to actually reduce wait times.
The former Liberal government went one step further when it appointed Dr. Brian Postl as the new federal adviser on wait times. Dr. Postl worked diligently with the federal, provincial and territorial governments to achieve the commitments made in the 10 year plan. His report was delivered to the new Conservative government in June 2006.
In his report, Dr. Postl states that the wait times are a symptom of a much larger issue. He states that in order to create a more efficient and effective health care system within Canada, we need to ensure that we transform our system. He says that as Canadians, as government and as all stakeholders, we need to ensure that patients are put in the centre of the system. He believes that it is only by working in collaboration and in coordination that we will ensure wait times across Canada are reduced.
He stated that several elements required attention for the transformation to take place and all of them were necessary. However, they are not individually sufficient to create change, but by working at all of the initiatives that he has outlined, he is sure that with the support and leadership of all governments and stakeholders, we will make this transformation and ultimately achieve the goal of a reduction in wait times.
We need to ensure, he stated, that we have ongoing research to support benchmarking and operational improvements, that we have the adoption of modern management practices, that we invest in information technology in Canada's health infoway, that we ensure we have an increase in health-human resources, that we trust our regions and our municipalities and ensure they receive the resources and the funding they need for the development of their infrastructure and their particular needs, and that we ensure we have public education to support this transformation.
It is his view that by addressing these key areas, patients will be better served, wait times will be reduced and health care systems will become respective of the needs of the patients.
As a result of the 10 year plan and the guidance of the former Liberal government, many provinces have worked diligently to ensure they reduce wait times. In British Columbia, the median time for starting cancer treatment in 2005 was almost, in some areas, less than a week. In Alberta, the number of people waiting for open heart surgery declined by 55% over a two week period in December 2005. In Saskatchewan, the Saskatoon's health region waiting list for an MRI was cut by 45% in 2005.
When we move on to Quebec we see that the number of patients awaiting cataract surgery has been significantly reduced by the redistribution of the surgeries to a smaller number of facilities. In Ontario we have seen that the provincial health minister, George Smitherman, has announced funding for an additional 42,000 medical procedures to be allocated under the provinces wait time strategy.
It is unfortunate, however, that over the last 10 months we have seen an increase in wait times. In Manitoba, wait lists have jumped to an average of 18 weeks for services, such as CT scans and orthopedic surgery, a 9% increase from 2005. Nova Scotia's average wait times have increased to 22 weeks in 2006 alone. New Brunswick has recorded some of the highest wait times in the country, with patients having to wait 31 weeks for surgery and 20.8 weeks to consult a specialist. When we take a look at these statistics, we realize that we all must do more.
It was during the 2006 election platform that the Liberal Party actually put forward the Canada health care guarantee. The guarantee put forward by the Conservative Party when it was elected as the New Conservative government, unfortunately, has not been acted upon, but more so, the Conservative government has not provided results to Canadians on the issue of wait time guarantees.
We have seen as well the importance of ensuring that we invest in health care in the aboriginal and first nations communities. Another disappointment has occurred with the Conservative government and its failure to implement the Kelowna accord. The full funding for the Kelowna accord was $5 billion, but many individuals who were involved in the negotiation and the signing of the accord see that there was $1.3 billion allocated to aboriginal health care, health care which many Canadians take for granted but unfortunately is not received by many aboriginal and first nations Canadians.
We have a responsibility. We had a responsibility when we signed the Kelowna accord and in 2006 we continue to have a responsibility to ensure that our aboriginal and first nations communities receive the very best in a health care system that our country has to offer.
Once again, we have seen that unfortunately the Conservatives have not honoured the full support of the premiers of all political stripes and the premiers, along with Canadians and the aboriginal federation. Many other stakeholders continue to call on the government to implement the accord. The AFN continues to call on the government to implement the accord as it understands what Kelowna represents. It represents an investment in the aboriginal and first nations communities and, more importantly for today's motion, an investment in health care.
We have seen that the conditions for first nations communities have not changed. They continue to struggle and face challenge after challenge. While the government has gone on to implement a pilot project for 10 aboriginal and first nations communities, this is a pilot project ensuring prenatal care that many Canadians across this country actually take as a basic standard.
Has much really been done? We take a look at aboriginal communities and talk about fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, which one of the members on this side of the House has worked on diligently over the last many years to ensure that there are solutions and that a proactive approach is put forward.
We have seen that fetal alcohol syndrome is a leading cause of mental retardation in the western world and yet it is absolutely preventable. Honouring the Kelowna accord would have invested the money, time and resources that we need to address this issue within the aboriginal and first nations communities.
We must also take a look at another important issue in the health care accord and that is the national pharmaceutical strategy. This strategy was announced in 2004. It was intended to protect all Canadians from all socio-economic backgrounds to ensure that they would have access to the medications that they need when they need it.
We had put forward a catastrophic drug plan within the national pharmaceutical strategy and as part of the 10 year plan to strengthen health care, first ministers actually directed health ministers to establish a ministerial task force to develop and implement these national pharmaceutical standards. However, when the first ministers met in 2005 and then in 2006 with the new Conservative government, it is unfortunate that we did not have the leadership we needed to have this implementation.
The ministers had agreed to expand the common drug review to ensure that recommendations on which drugs were eligible for reimbursement would be made possible, to work toward a common national formulary to ensure that there was more consistent access to drugs across the country, and also to ensure that the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board would monitor and report on non-patented drug prices. They wanted to allow the board to regulate the price of non-patented drugs and for the provinces to formally consider delegating this responsibility to perhaps the federal government.
However, during all these reports and suggestions that were put forward by the first ministers, they all wanted to work together to be able to collect, integrate and disseminate information on the real world risks and benefits of drugs. The ministers reaffirmed their commitment to this report, the development and implementation of all elements of the national pharmaceutical strategy, to the first ministers in June 2006.
It is unfortunate that the Minister of Health, when Canadians were looking for national leadership, did not even show up at the release of the report for the national pharmaceutical strategy. Putting partisan politics aside, that is an absolute shame.
We have also seen the incredible need for more funding in the area of research, innovation, and HIV-AIDS research. There are 58,000 people living in Canada with HIV-AIDS and one-third do not even know that they are infected. There are 3,400 Canadians who are newly infected every year. It is estimated that almost 11 people are newly infected with HIV in Canada on a daily basis. That means that every two hours a Canadian is infected with HIV. Since 2002 the number of people in Canada infected with HIV has increased by almost 16%.
On December 1 we will celebrate World AIDS Day throughout the world. It is during that time perhaps when we are celebrating World AIDS Day around the world that we will realize that we must do more. We must provide the research, the investment, and the resources to address this international and global issue.
Let us look at what the government has done. It is unfortunate when we as Canadians in Toronto were hosting the International AIDS Conference that the Prime Minister did not even see it worthwhile or fitting to attend. It was an absolute embarrassment for many of the stakeholders, the researchers and the organizers planning the HIV-AIDS conference.
When Canada had a chance to make its mark and make an announcement for investment and research, we as a country failed because our Prime Minister did not provide the leadership that was required.
On November 21, 2005 the previous Liberal government announced over $60 million in funding to fight HIV-AIDS globally over the next six years. Of this amount, $15.2 million was intended to enable Canada to meet its commitment to provide 4% of the four components of the UN AIDS budget for 2006-07.
Another $12 million was to support the international AIDS vaccine initiative for 2006 as its previous funding expired in December 2005. We renewed that commitment as the former Liberal government. In fact, from 2000 to 2005 the Liberal government actually committed more than $800 million to combat HIV-AIDS globally. This included our contribution to the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, and more than half of which actually went to combating HIV-AIDS, not only here in Canada, but throughout the world.
When we talk about the investment in HIV-AIDS research, when we talk about a national pharmaceutical strategy to ensure that we have catastrophic drug coverage, or when we talk about a national immunization strategy, the fact is that the funding for the national immunization strategy is up for renewal in March 2007. We would hope that the Conservative government is going to support to continue to renew this particular strategy which has impacted and helped thousands of Canadians across the country.
Whether it is about HIV-AIDS or a national catastrophic drug coverage or a national pharmaceutical strategy or the national immunization strategy, we must all work together as parliamentarians to provide the leadership that is needed to address these issues.
When poll after poll is done in this country, it is very apparent that the number one issue that resonates with Canadians from coast to coast to coast is the issue of wait times. It is an issue that impacts all Canadians. As a health care provider and having worked in my constituency of Brampton—Springdale, I have seen firsthand the challenges that patients face on a daily basis. We must ensure that they get the health care services that they need in a timely fashion.
Patients fall ill and many of them, unfortunately, have never been to a doctor or they cannot find a doctor. Once they do find a family physician for their particular problem and if they have to be sent to a specialist, it takes months and months for them to access a specialist. Then, if they are required by the specialist to go on to receive a CT scan or an MRI scan or other diagnostic imaging, that takes another few months.
We have seen this particular story, it is one that every single Canadian can relate to, one where they had to wait. When there are conditions such as cancer and other terminal illnesses wait times have an impact on the number of days that they may have to live.
That is why I believe it is the responsibility of all parliamentarians to put our partisanship aside to address this important issue and work together to honour the health care accord that we signed in 2004. More importantly, we must work together to provide the leadership to take action and to ensure that we do reduce wait times in this country.