Mr. Speaker, although I have spoken in this House a few times since my election on January 23, I am privileged to do so today, for the first time in the context of a debate, on behalf of my constituents in Verchères—Les Patriotes. However, I would have preferred to do so under different circumstances.
The Speech from the Throne states, and I quote:
All too often, the strength of our federation is compromised by jurisdictional squabbles that obscure accountabilities and prevent governments from working together in the best interests of Canadians.
This new government will take a new approach.
This same government is now proposing a bill that is has merely been cut and pasted from a Liberal bill, one that in no way respects the constitutional jurisdictions of Quebec and the other provinces. That is Bill C-5, which permits the government to set out the minimum obligations of the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Before reminding you why the Bloc Québécois opposes this bill, since this is my first speech in the House and just to put a smile on my face for a moment, I would like to sincerely thank my constituents from Verchères—Les Patriotes for the confidence they have shown in me and in the Bloc Québécois, confirmed once again during the last election. I promise to listen to the concerns of my fellow citizens with just as much dedication as my predecessor, Stéphane Bergeron, and to ensure that they are voiced in this House.
I would also like to thank the Bloc Québécois members in Verchères—Les Patriotes, who have given me the honour of representing the ideas and ideals of our party. Although the nomination race was lengthy, it allowed me to establish solid relationships with many party members, and the nomination evening, I can assure you, will be etched in my heart and memory as one of the greatest moments of my life. I would like to recognize my fellow opponents: Marc-André Veilleux who, with the support of his wife, children and family, conducted a great campaign, and Frédéric Brossard-Lemerise, who gave his first political speeches. We have all been there, and it is a major step to take. I must also thank Lise Lavoie, my election campaign manager, Louis-Marie Pilote, my official agent, and their team of volunteers who spared no effort and who, in honouring their commitment to making Quebec a sovereign nation and sacrificing the quality time they could have spent with their families at Christmas and the New Year, greatly contributed to the success of this election.
Finally, I would like to share with you the debt of gratitude I owe my family—my father and grandmother at the top of the list—for the unfailing support they have always shown and continue to provide day after day.
I did say that would put a smile on my face. Unfortunately, it was short-lived because I must now return to Bill C-5, a bill that, let us not forget, was presented by the former government and scorns the Quebec government's sole authority over health care in Quebec.
Need I remind the House that although none of the parties in this House except the Bloc Québécois seem interested in respecting Quebec and the provinces' exclusive jurisdiction over health, Quebec governments have always intervened to ensure that this constitutional guarantee is fully respected? I could find any number of quotes from Maurice Duplessis, Robert Bourassa, Jacques Parizeau or Lucien Bouchard on the matter.
Is it clear that the creation of this agency will cause the governments of Quebec and the provinces—the only governments that have the structure and the tools in place to provide adequate health care—to lose hundreds of millions of dollars?
It is understandable that this type of legislation would appeal to the sort of government that used the surplus generated by creating the fiscal imbalance to interfere in areas in Quebec and provincial jurisdiction. But I have a hard time understanding why a government that claims to want to end this kind of disrespectful conduct toward other duly elected governments would want to introduce it again.
How can the Minister of Health, the adoptive father of this bill, find this bill acceptable when he said, in reference to guaranteed wait times, that we have to respect provincial jurisdictions, even if it takes a little more time to get things done?
How can the Prime Minister, a disciple of open federalism, support this bill when he stated in Montreal on April 21 that open federalism means “respecting areas of provincial jurisdiction, keeping the federal government’s spending power within bounds”?
We are disappointed to see that this government says one thing but does another.
We are not opposed to this bill because we do not care about people's health. Quite the contrary. The Bloc Québécois has always been concerned about health issues, especially public health, a crucial aspect of health that includes both prevention and development of plans to deal with serious diseases.
The Bloc Québécois also recognizes that there is a lack of funding for health. In fact, the Bloc Québécois feels that the main problem is underfunding related to the fiscal imbalance that deprives Quebec and the other provinces of the revenue they need to carry out their responsibilities and, as a result, makes them less able to properly support their public health bodies.
The Bloc Québécois feels that correcting the fiscal imbalance will enable Quebec and the other provinces to further develop services for their people in their areas of jurisdiction and ensure that everyone has the right tools to meet the new public health challenges.
The Bloc Québécois feels that only correcting the fiscal imbalance and providing stable funding will enable Quebec and the other provinces to further develop services for their people in their areas of exclusive jurisdiction and ensure that their citizens receive proper health care.
In his budget the Minister of Finance informed us that he will address the fiscal imbalance. I hope the government will keep its word and remain firm in its commitment to resolve this impediment to a healthy democracy in Quebec and the provinces. If it is sincere, this government will indicate to us quite quickly the process it will negotiate with the provinces and the deadline it has given itself. It goes without saying that given the complexity of this issue, a short deadline would be preferred in order to achieve concrete results by spring 2007.
Since I am taking a few moments to talk about restoring fiscal balance, I want to remind the government that this cannot be done without including the $807 million the federal government owes Quebec in 2007 for cancelling the child care agreement.
In closing, I want to reiterate that the federal government's responsibility is to provide adequate funding for health and not to propose new structures—such as indicators for waiting lists—that do not solve the problem of the under-funded health care system. This government should listen to its good friend Jean Charest who, in reference to the Public Health Agency of Canada, said last January that Quebec had its own structures and that they were working.
Since 1998 Quebec has had the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, which does not need a federal agency that will perform the same duties. Why create unnecessary duplication?
Since it is the Government of Quebec that has the expertise and that can intervene in all the institutions of Quebec's health network, it is up to that government to establish its own priorities and action plans and include them in the framework of global objectives developed by agencies like the WHO.
I thought, quite naively, that arrogance had left this House with the Liberal government. The establishment of this agency proves the contrary. If, however, Canadians really want it and Quebec's refusal to have Canada-wide objectives imposed on it harms Canada's development, like our colleagues from other parties in this House are saying, would it not be better for us to move forward as good neighbours in two sovereign nations?