Madam Speaker, there is so much that could be said about the issue of pharmacare and how important it is in the whole health care field. Over the years, I have had many opportunities to discuss it, and I have enjoyed every one of these discussions. The issue we have before us today is not quite as simple as the NDP try to portray it.
I believe that we have a government that has been very progressive in moving forward on the health care file. Maybe that is a good way to start my remarks. When I was sitting in opposition, for years I challenged the government, as many others did, to deal with the health care accord. I remember the ministers of Stephen Harper standing up and saying that they were contributing more money to health care transfers, which were at record highs, and all of that kind of stuff. In reality, it was a health care accord by Paul Martin that had increases embedded in it.
Liberal governments in the past and today understand just how important health care is to each and every Canadian, no matter what region, province, or territory they live in. It is a top priority for this government. In fact, within a year and a half, our Minister of Health was able to get together with the different provinces and territories on a one-to-basis to put in place a new health care accord.
When we talk about health care, we also talk about pharmacare. We should also be talking about issues like home care services and hospice care. There are so many aspects to health care that are so critically important to all Canadians.
I was a bit disappointed at one of the questions to my colleague from Brampton. Whether it is my colleague from Brampton or Oakville, or other members of the standing committee, they have recognized the true value of pharmacare and what Canadians' expectations are. They were part of the standing committee. When the steering committee asked what they would like to study and talk about as a standing committee, those two members participated and said they wanted to talk about pharmacare, as did members of other political parties. They understand and appreciate how important it is. That is a very obvious thing to give consideration to at the Standing Committee on Health.
I was very proud of our standing committee in recognizing and coming to an agreement that it was something they needed to work on. I applaud the efforts they have put into it to date. The study has not concluded yet. They have held many meetings and heard from many stakeholders and witnesses on the pros and the cons of a universal pharmacare program, and about many of the problems that exist. I know there are a lot of problems, because I used to be a health care critic in the province of Manitoba.
There are serious issues and problems in health care, and pharmacare is something that consistently came up. We would like to think that an individual who leaves a tertiary hospital, community facility, or access facility would be in a position to take the medications necessary. The concerns I have are reflective of the concerns of the constituents I represent, and I know full well what Canadians would like to see the government deal with. That is why I applaud the efforts of the standing committee.
It was the standing committee that requested the parliamentary budget officer to look into and report back to the committee on this very issue. Yes, there was a report that just came out. The standing committee wanted it, but now one member of the committee is trying to say this is an NDP idea.
This has nothing to do with an NDP idea. I know they are very few and far between, but this is not an NDP idea. This is being driven by Canadians. It is their interest in this very topic that ultimately led to this being discussed by the Standing Committee on Health. It was the committee that asked the parliamentary budget officer to conduct a study and report back to the committee. The committee has not even heard the report yet. I believe it will happen in the coming days, possibly within a week, when it will get the report. It is absolutely critical information that needs to be shared, discussed, and debated as part of the committee's own report before the committee can be in a position to come back to the House.
I understand full well the importance of the issue. I cannot tell members the number of times I have talked to constituents, particularly seniors in my community. We talk a great deal about the cost of medicine. However, we have to understand that Ottawa cannot just dictate to the provinces and other stakeholders the way it will be.
A Liberal administration decades ago brought into force the Canada Health Act. If members check with Canadians today, they will tell them that it is part of our heritage, our Canadian identity. We believe in our health care system. However, that was not achieved by one, two, or three individuals. There was a consensus achieved among the public and parliamentarians at different levels. It was not just Ottawa that turned it into a reality.
We have a government that understands the issue, which is why members will find government members who are exceptionally supportive of the idea of moving forward on this file. We do not need to be reminded or told something by the New Democrats. We consult with our constituents. We understand what is important. However, we also have a a responsibility.
I am looking forward to hearing from the standing committee and ultimately seeing its report. At the end of the day, when I look at the provincial side of it, there have to be negotiations. There will be very delicate discussions in the years ahead on how to deal with the cost of pharmaceuticals.
When I was first elected back in 1988, I believe our health care expenditures were roughly $1.5 billion. That is my best guesstimate. However, if we look at them today, they are is well over $6 billion. Some may find that a laughing matter across the way, but I can tell members that from a provincial perspective, it consumes over 40% of provinces' budgets.
Before opposition members, particularly New Democrats, start jumping up to say they want a national pharmacare program, they better understand how that program would be financed, unless, of course, they are advocating that the national government pay for 100% of it. However, coming from a party that vowed it would not have a debt, those members do not understand the concept.
There is a responsibility to work with the provinces. I cannot recall offhand from my just under 20 years at the Manitoba legislature, most of them under an NDP administrations, when there was a push to resolve that issue.
Now, within 18 months of coming into government, we have this wonderful initiative by the Minister of Health, the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, which negotiates lower drug prices on behalf of public drug plans. This is our Minister of Health working with the provinces and stakeholders to come up with a better way to keep those drug plans' costs lower.
The point is that we have members who understand the importance of what our constituents are telling us, and we have a government that is acting on the important issue of health care. We have seen that not only with that one measure I just made reference to but also in terms of the renewal of the health care accord—