Madam Speaker, my question is about health.
I think it is particularly important to talk about health, even though the Government of Quebec dealt with the matter of ancillary fees on its own. The fact remains that access to free health care is constantly threatened.
Unfortunately, the position that the Minister of Health is currently taking is not helping because she is refusing to provide the provinces with financial assistance, she is trying to impose conditions on them, and she does not want to commit to covering 25% of the cost of the health care system, as recommended by the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, led by Roy J. Romanow in 2002.
In practical terms, when the provinces are strapped for cash, they have to make difficult decisions and try to make budget cuts and reorganize everything without affecting public services. This has an impact on wait times and the proximity of services.
For example, services are being consolidated in health care centres that are farther away. In Abitibi—Témiscamingue, all of the health care centres have now been grouped under one banner. We have heard rumours that services are going to be consolidated. That means that people may have to travel 100 kilometres to have access to care that they used to be able to get in their own town.
In theory, health care is still free, but in practice it costs money to get health care. For example, psychologist positions are being cut. It is still possible to get treated by a psychologist for free at a hospital, but the wait times are often so long that people end up turning to the private sector. This happens all the time because of the government's bad decisions and lack of commitment. Free health care is on the line and patients are increasingly driven to pay for care that they should be able to get for free.
As I said, it is even harder in rural areas. Service managers are no longer being asked to be managers. They are being asked to be magicians, to find solutions so that they can provide the same services to the public, the same access, and all for free, when their budget is constantly being cut. They have to do more with less.
Unfortunately, the turmoil in the health care system is causing more and more workers to go on sick leave. They need to be replaced but there are no replacements, putting hospitals in the position of paying overtime hours and forcing people to work those hours. In the end, more people are getting sick and costs are increasing. This is an extremely difficult situation.
Considering what is happening right now with health transfers, I think it is high time for us to stand up and say that we are here to protect Canada's free public health care system, and for the federal government to do its part, while allowing provincial administrations to do their work as they see fit.