Mr. Speaker, I would first note that I will be splitting my allotted time with the member for Berthier—Maskinongé.
Bill C-5 deals with the Public Health Agency of Canada. This bill is not something new. I would like to review its history. This bill was announced to us in December 2003 by the Liberal government, the previous government. In February 2004, that government said, in its Speech from the Throne, that it would be establishing what it said would be a modern public health system, by creating a public health agency that would ensure that Canada is linked, both nationally and globally, in a network for disease control and emergency response.
At that time, the agency was allocated $100 million to expand front-line public health services, as well as $300 million for new vaccination programs, $100 million to improve the surveillance system, and $165 million over two years for other federal public health initiatives.
Under the bill, the Public Health Agency was given the mandate of focusing on more effective efforts to prevent injuries and chronic diseases—like cancer and heart disease—and to prevent and respond to public health emergencies and infectious disease outbreaks. The Public Health Agency would also work closely with the provinces and territories to keep Canadians healthy and help reduce pressures on “our” health care system. This is how the text read at the time, in 2004, about the creation of this agency.
First, I want to say that Canada does not have a single health care system, and that this last statement clearly denied the unique aspects of the provinces’ health care systems, in particular the health care system of Quebec, which is solely responsible for managing health care within its borders. And so, at the time, when $100 million was made available to expand front-line services, there was a direct intrusion into areas under Quebec’s jurisdiction, because in Quebec, front-line health care is in fact provided by the CLSCs.
The agency was ultimately supposed to have the collaboration of six regional offices, one of them in Quebec. It was in November 2005 that the federal Liberal Health minister of the day tabled Bill C-75 creating this public health agency of Canada, a separate and autonomous agency which was granted immense powers. Fortunately, Bill C-75 died on the order paper when the election was called.
At that time, the Conservative government was against Bill C-75, because it was a Liberal initiative. Now the same bill is being tabled again, with a different name. Now it is numbered C-5. You will note that it is exactly the same bill.
It must be said that, in the beginning, the Liberal government took advantage of the fiscal imbalance—which it created itself—to increase its intrusions in the field of health, particularly through the use of its spending power. The Conservative government seems to be continuing down the same road. And yet, last April in Montreal, the Prime Minister boasted of his open federalism, his federalism of understanding, saying that open federalism was a kind of respect for the fields of provincial jurisdiction, while also providing a framework for the federal spending power.
One could create a list of the federal government’s intrusions in fields of provincial jurisdiction, going back many years.
Under the Constitution Act, 1867, health and social services fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces, including Quebec. Yet from as far back as 1919, Ottawa has been intervening increasingly in those sectors, even forcing Quebec and the provinces to comply with so-called national standards and objectives, despite the fact that the Constitution Act states that health is a field of provincial jurisdiction.
I will cite the various laws we have been presented with since 1919: first, the creation of the Department of Health; in 1957, passage of the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act; in 1966, passage of the Medical Services Act; and in 1984, passage of the Canada Health Act.
The 1984 Canada Health Act is the most flagrant example of encroachment. It imposes conditions and criteria in respect of insured health services and extended health care services, which the provinces and territories must respect in order to receive the full financial contribution under the Canada health and social transfers. In other words, if the provinces want to receive transfers, they have to accept the Canada Health Act.
Quebec agrees with the principles of this law, but refuses to allow the federal government to impose national principles and standards on Quebeckers. This would amount to prohibiting Quebec from making its own choices, when health is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the provinces, and of Quebec.
In April 2005, the Minister of Health at the time even questioned one province about the status of private diagnostic clinics, threatening Quebec and the provinces with a reduction of their share of the Canadian health transfer if they did not comply with Ottawa’s wishes.
The Bloc Québécois will always protest the federal government’s attempts to interfere in the management of health care in Quebec. We have our organization, our way of doing things and providing our health care and social services and we feel that it should be respected.
Then Roy Romanow proposed the Health Council. The result was an agreement between Ottawa and the provinces in February 2003. This agreement guaranteed federal reinvestment in health on certain conditions. The problem in health is that the provinces have so little money—there have been so many cuts at the federal level—that the federal government, which has money, has taken on the right to invest in health when this is not its jurisdiction.
Then there was the Public Health Agency of Canada, which we are discussing this evening. Within this agency, the federal government continues to impose its priorities for the sake of pan-Canadian objectives that deny Quebec's distinct character. In spite of the lack of Canadian expertise in the area, Ottawa wishes to play the role of coordinator of the actions of the various health systems. Quebec, however, already has its own public health agency, and has had it since 1998. This agency is the Institut national de santé publique du Québec. Quebec does not need the federal agency, which will duplicate actions in this area unnecessarily.
Mr. Speaker, I see that you are telling me I do not have much time left, so I will conclude my speech.
It should also be mentioned that all Quebec governments have been opposed to these federal intrusions in Quebec’s areas of jurisdiction. We need only think of the governments of Maurice Duplessis, Daniel Johnson Sr., Robert Bourassa, Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard and lately Jean Charest.
I hope that my colleagues will understand and respect the position of Quebec by not giving this House the mandate to vote in favour of Bill C-5.