Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to offer some commentary on Bill C-507, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (federal spending power).
It is a very straightforward bill. It basically states:
...no payment shall be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund in respect of expenditures relating to any of the subjects listed in section 92 and subsection 92A(1) of the Constitution Act, 1867 that are under provincial jurisdiction.
That is unless the province gives the authority to do so. It basically says that the federal government should stay out of provincial jurisdictions and just give them the money and everything will be fine.
The bill requires the royal recommendation in the first place and, therefore, will not be coming to a vote. However, it does give members an opportunity to put on the record some of the thoughts that they have with regard to the importance of healthy federal-provincial relationships in Canada. There are split jurisdictions but there are some things we must work on together because there is no point in having 10 of something, or 12 if we include the territories, when it is possible to have it all come under one umbrella with a sharing of the cost. It is like economic efficiencies.
I will give an example of such an efficiency which might demonstrate why I feel that the bill is not appropriate. It has to do with the fact that Canada is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have a national public cord blood bank. I am sure most members of Parliament have read stories about how after a baby is born the blood can be removed from the cord and the placenta. It is about a cup of blood that is so enriched with stem cells and pluripotent cells that it can be of enormous benefit to the child that it belongs to should he or she develop health problems. This can be stored. Interestingly enough, though, that is a private system. There are private businesses. I know one of our colleagues is spending $100 a month to store the cord blood for his recently born child.
Other countries have found that, because of the costs involved, this is not a health service available to Canadians as a whole. However, having a public bank would allow people to store cord blood and then, through a registry system similar to the way we match blood types, commence matching for anything requiring compatibility to lessen the risk of rejection. This all has to do with stem cell research and therapy.
The fact that we are the only industrialized country that does not have one causes me to question why we would not do such a thing. We do have the Canadian Blood Services Agency which, in 2007, consulted with the provinces, research groups, transplant physicians and operators of public cord blood banks, and it concluded that Canada needed to establish a national public cord blood bank and that the time to begin was now. However, we have not done it and the reason we have not done it is because we are feuding about money.
I was at a breakfast this morning sponsored by the member for Etobicoke North who is very knowledgeable in this area. She told me that I needed to go to the breakfast because I needed to hear something. We are talking about $60 million to establish a national public cord blood bank. It would be of benefit to all Canadians and in fact would be linked into an international network. I have strayed too far away from the bill in terms of time so I will leave it at that.
This is a perfect example of federal and provincial co-operation. Even though health care delivery is a provincial responsibility, the bill says if we want to have a national bank, go ahead, but the provinces do not want it. The provinces want to be able to opt out and get compensation. With that kind of relationship between the provinces, the territories and the Government of Canada, good things do not and cannot happen.
That is a specific example of why the provinces want to have a national public cord blood bank, but they want to haggle over the cost, and that is why they are so far behind. They are probably about five years behind other countries around the world, because of haggling on the financial side. It is shameful. It is wrong and it should be changed. If I had my way, if I were the minister of finance, I would put $60 million in the budget to start a national public cord blood bank. That is the way it should be done because it is for the health and well-being of all Canadians.
We cannot vote on the bill because it requires a royal recommendation, but I have some other thoughts.
The federal-provincial fiscal arrangements in which the federal government exercises spending power in the areas of jurisdiction afforded to the provinces actually dates back to Confederation when the provinces were provided with grants from the federal government to compensate them for the loss of certain fiscal powers. Today these arrangements form an important and positive nexus in federal-provincial relations that help to shape the economic and social environment of the country. The most visible means by which the federal government exercises this power is through transfer payments, including the Canada health transfer and the Canada social transfer. However, various third party federal trust and federally funded institutions, including the Canadian Foundation for Innovation also act as vehicles for exercising federal spending powers in the provinces.
Some parties consider the manner of federal spending as a forcible encroachment by Ottawa on the provincial jurisdiction, which the bill does without consultations or consent. That has fuelled the desire for increased autonomy, especially in the case of the province of Quebec and, more recently, the province of Alberta. When things are good provincially, we fight for our province.
There comes a point at which there is no rational reason to argue it is me first before the country. That goes not only for provinces, it goes for our people. We are all better off when Canada is strong, when Canada is humming along. Unfortunately, the current government has had some difficulty managing a simple bank book. It did not understand that black was good and red was bad. We have too much red in the books, but if we get more red on the other side of the House, we will fix it and bring it back to the black.
The proposed change the Bloc is seeking in the bill is absent of any explicit authorization from the provincial government and is the main issue within the bill.
The Liberal Party opposes this motion for the same reasons that we opposed the Bloc opposition day motion on October 21, 2010. It was quite extensive, but again, incorporated the same elements of argument in this bill, and members may want to consult the Debates of October 21, 2010, to get more background and details as to the arguments made by the various parties.
Having said that, the bill is not votable. However, should it have been votable, the Liberals would vote against it and we oppose the principle of the bill.