Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this issue. It goes to the heart of the lives of Canadians from coast to coast. Right now we are dealing with the largest deficit we have seen in three decades. Our debt is going up. When the government came into power, it was lucky enough to have a balanced approach between debt reduction, spending and also tax reductions. That was the one-third, one-third, one-third policy when we were in government.
It left the current government in good stead. It gave it a surplus. It also gave it a very solid banking system. The Liberal government of the day refused to adopt a number of initiatives that would have changed banking in Canada and would have enabled us to be much more susceptible to the economic viruses that have destroyed so many banks, banking systems and economies across the globe. However, that did not happen, and we are thankful for it.
The government has to listen. Instead of adopting the ideology that was so destructive south of the border in the time of President Bush and President Reagan, it really has to look at what has worked for Canadians. It needs to ensure we follow a path that is good for our citizens and not adopt an ideological approach that has been proven to be very destructive.
The tax reductions and the absence of spending control south of the border has been incredibly destructive to the U.S. economy, to the degree that I am extremely worried about what will happen there. When the Americans catch a cold, we get pneumonia. Despite the good management and monitoring of our fiscal systems in Canada, we have a very high risk of running into serious problems because of what will happen in the states.
I think all of us in the House would plead with the government and strongly recommend that it not follow the course of action that we saw during the time of those two presidents. It has proven to be very destructive on so many levels. Most important, it hurts the citizens who we serve.
We also have other international storm clouds afoot, including increasing competition, particularly from China and India. China now has foreign reserves in excess of $1 trillion. This is a very powerful lever that the Chinese have on us. In fact, the Chinese are using their foreign and economic policies to secure major sectors of the world that have natural resources, particularly South America, Southeast Asia and Africa. Africa contains more than half of the world's natural resources.
The Conservative government has been missing in action in many of these areas. It has taken a much more narrow view in its foreign policy. This is a much larger game. To look at things in a very parochial fashion takes Canada out of the playing field and it will hurt our citizens. In this globalized world, unless we use all the tools we have, from foreign policy to trade to defence to economics and aid, we will not be in the game.
Not being in the global game will mean that our economy, our workers and our businesses will be at a disadvantage. Therefore, I ask the government to think of using all of those tools in how we enable our country to have a very prominent future. We have ensure that our citizens will have as good a future, if not a better future, than what we have had. One of the great challenges the government has is how to enable that to happen.
Let us look at some of those solutions. I know the leader of my party has been very strong, and wisely so, on investing in education. Although this is a provincial responsibility, nothing prevents the government from using its convening powers to work with the provinces to serve our citizens. The ability of our citizens to acquire the skills they need to garner a well-paying job is crucial for not only their economic future but also for their health.
I strongly recommend that the government work with a coalition of provinces that are willing to look at how we deal with people having access to skills training so it is not a financial burden to them. The movement of people across provincial boundaries is crucial. The recognition of skill sets and removing those boundaries for Canadians to move across provinces is essential. If we remove the barriers to trade and mobility, we will have a much more nimble and successful economy.
Investing in infrastructure and in research and development is crucial, not only in people and infrastructure but also operating costs. Researchers cannot do their job unless they have the tools to pay the operating costs for their research.
I also encourage the government to work with groups like the MaRS Centre in the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia and other universities to operationalize the our research. The phenomenal research taking place in Canada is exciting. One of the major challenges is to take those discoveries from bench to bedside, to take the research we know and operationalize it.
I attended the pediatric academic sciences conference in Vancouver three weeks ago, which is the largest collection of pediatric scientists in the world, 6,000 were there. When I listened to the great research that had been done, it struck me that there were things we know could save the lives a lot of people. We have all this knowledge, but that knowledge is not getting to the bedside. This was one of the laments that many of the researchers had.
I suggest there is a great opportunity for Canada to be a leader in translational research, and that is getting the research, getting it to bedside, getting what we know and getting it operational on the ground. This is the great challenge and a great opportunity in the future.
Another thing I suggest is we know our economic situation will never be solid unless we can get our health care spending under control. Health care costs are growing at 6.5% per year, revenues at 2.5% to 3% on average in good years. That means we have a delta, a separation between demand for health care and supply resources, so much so that in the next 20 years any province will have 80% of its entire budget consumed by health care. Right now in many provinces it is approaching 50%, which means there is less and less space for education, infrastructure, welfare and other social programs.
The provinces are being squeezed by this huge creature called the health care system, which is gobbling up more and more of their resources. We cannot get away from it. This is the single greatest challenge any government will have. As President Obama's budget officer has said, unless they get their health care costs under control in the U.S., nothing else will make any difference.
In my personal view, the only way to do that is to modernize the Canada Health Act to allow provinces to explore different options. I strongly recommend that the government look at what happened in Europe, where 17 of the top 20 health care systems are. Why do we not look at those mixed systems, the way they fund health care systems in terms of paying for results, for patient services, as opposed to block funding, and better use of IT technologies. There are a lot of things we can do, but, again, the government needs to use its convening powers to work with the provinces to make this happen.
On the prevention side of health care, the average child in Canada sits and watches television or a computer screen for 40 hours a week. That is staggering. As a result, this generation of children will be the first generation in history to have a shorter lifespan than their parents, which means we will have a much higher incidence of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems. This will put a huge pressure on our health care system. Therefore, we need to encourage children to be active, to get out and play, by having them turn off the television sets and video games one night a week. Getting them out is crucially important to enable children to have a better life.
I could talk about pension renewal and reform. The average age when pensions came in was 58. Now the average age is 80 for men and 82 for women in our country. Therefore, I encourage the government to look at pension renewal and reform and allow people to work beyond age 65. There are lots of things we can do with that.
These issues are too important to lie fallow. All of us in the House feel too many issues are being dealt with that are not germane and not important to the average person on the street. We have to tackle these issues of the economy, social programs and have a balanced, effective science-based approach to deal with these challenges. If we do not, people will get hurt and when that happens, we have violated our responsibility to our public.