Madam Speaker, I will be dividing my time with the hon. member for Brampton South.
First of all, I want to talk about the member for Vancouver Kingsway. We go back quite a ways. He was actually my seatmate one time over here, and we got to know each other quite well. We are both on the health committee. I want to acknowledge the good work he does on the health committee. He is very sincere and diligent about his work. We passed a motion in the health committee. The member agreed with that motion, and he is kind of jumping the gun now. That is all I am saying. The committee accepted the decision of the steering committee, and the hon. member is on the steering committee, "To undertake a study on the development of a national Pharmacare program as an insured service for Canadians under the Canada Health Act and to report the findings to the House”.
We are not there yet. We have not completed that motion that all of us agreed to on the committee. We are partway through the process, but we have a lot yet to know. The parliamentary budget officer's report was really interesting and very encouraging to all of us who are interested in this subject. However, in no way did it propose a model we can use or show a framework we can present to the government, the provincial governments, and all the different agencies involved. There are so many agencies and organizations involved with health care in this country, it is breathtaking.
We have heard 89 witnesses at our committee. We have had 20 meetings on this, and we are still not done. We are well along in the process, but we are not done. We still have a lot of questions. The parliamentary budget officer is scheduled to come to our committee on October 17, and I am sure the member will be asking him lots of questions, because there are lots of unanswered questions.
The report is very encouraging for those who are optimistic about this. I went into this debate on the pharmacare program with no preconceived notion or position. Witness after witness testified that Canada would be better off with a national pharmacare program. I am just speaking on behalf of my own observations and not on behalf of the committee, but there were a significant number of presentations on the strong points of a national pharmacare program. In general, I am really encouraged.
I was amazed to learn how many Canadians do not take their prescriptions because they cannot afford them. I was also amazed to learn that if they could take them, it would save our health care system a lot of time and money. It was amazing to learn about the integrated system in the pharmacare industry in Canada. They have secret deals with each other and all these things. I was amazed to learn how the pharmaceutical system works in Canada. It is very hard to get straight answers on how it works, but a national pharmacare program would eliminate all of that.
There are about 100 or so different pharmacare programs already in Canada. The provinces each have one for seniors. They have one for disabilities. They have one for social services. They have one for their own employees. The RCMP has one on the federal side. The military has a pharmacare program. The government has one for indigenous people. There is a plethora of pharmacare programs. They are all different. They all take management. They all require overhead. One pharmacare program would eliminate all those different agencies. We would have one consistent program across the country. Everyone could have access to pharmacare.
I am leaning toward a pharmacare program myself, but we are not there yet. We still have a lot to learn. Our job as a committee, as the original decision said, is to report the findings to the House when we are done our study. We are not done the study. There are so many questions.
We asked the parliamentary budget officer to do this, and it took him many months to do it. We have been at it for almost two years. Again, we have had 89 witnesses and 20 meetings, and we are still learning a lot as we go. The parliamentary budget officer came back a couple of times and asked for clarification on what he should use for formularies and a structure. We are very grateful to him and his team for doing the work. However, we still have to finish our work. We have not finished our work. Part of that work is to interview him and find the answers to some of the questions we have. I am sure he cannot answer them all yet, because we did not give him a model to use.
We talk about saving billions of dollars, but it is going to cost other organizations and levels of government billions of dollars, so we have to figure out the proper model before we start negotiations. We cannot go into negotiations not knowing what we are talking about or having a model to work with.
The Standing Committee on Health has been almost two years at this now, and we are still hearing from witnesses. We have witnesses coming the week after next. We have heard from patient advocates. We have heard from experts in medicine, social policy, and constitutional law. That is an issue we have not touched on here. The parliamentary budget officer has not touched on it either, because it is not his jurisdiction, but there are constitutional issues in creating a national pharmacare program. What are the responsibilities of the provinces? What are the responsibilities of the federal government? Where do they fit, and how can we work that out? We have to start with a model, and we do not even have an idea of a model yet.
There is a process, and we are only partway through it. The committee, in the end, is going to make a recommendation to the government, and the government will decide. We are not even ready. The member who proposed this is a member of that committee. He has kind of jumped the process to get ahead of us, which is what the motion is asking us to do. It is asking us to not complete the study we all agreed to do. He wants us to go ahead with just part of the information. It is a contradiction. It does not make sense.
I admire the member's work and his intention. Certainly the testimony we have heard has been very compassionate and compelling, but we are not there yet. Our own committee is not ready to make a recommendation, so I do not know how the government could go ahead and start a process to negotiate, without the committee, of which he is a member, coming to conclusions on how we are going to do this and developing a model.
There is no question that we have heard compelling evidence, and all the arguments for it are really good. It is amazing to sit through the testimony we have heard about our health care system.
Again, I go back to the purpose of the study we started. The reason we are debating this motion today is that it came up in our committee meeting. We proposed in our committee to have the parliamentary budget officer do this budget. We proposed it as part of the process, so we now have that. It is valuable. It has given us a lot of information, but there are many questions about who would be responsible for what areas, and we do not have those answers.
Some people say it is not even constitutionally possible. We have to nail that down. We have to get a better idea of who is going to be responsible and what jurisdiction is what. Are we going to bring it in slowly? Are we going to phase it in or bring it in with a big bang? Both have been recommended to us, but we have not come to a conclusion yet, because we have not finished our meetings.
The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health has a role to play. We need to hear from it. The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board will have a say in this, because pricing is everything. Part of the PBO report is based on a significant discount based on volume-buying for the whole nation, one buyer for the whole nation, effectively. We have to confirm that this discount is actually real. Right now the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance gets a discount. We have to confirm with the alliance that this could be applied nationally, and so on.
The point I am making is that we have a lot more work to do. What formulary would be used? Everyone has a different formulary. Some approve these drugs and some approve different ones. We do not even have a formulary we have agreed upon.
I admire the member, and I do not blame him for leaning toward a national pharmacare program. Based on the testimony of the 89 witnesses we have heard, one could not come away with any other leaning than that we at least have to look at it as a country. However, we have not finished the report. We have not drawn our conclusions. We have not reported back to the House, as we all agreed to do. Therefore, we are not ready to go ahead with this.