Madam Speaker, it is quite a privilege to speak to the important issue of palliative care. It is something I have dealt with in many different capacities, whether in the Manitoba legislature as a health care critic or here in Ottawa, both in opposition and now in government.
One of the most passionate collection of speeches that I have heard occurred when we had the debate on the medical assistance in dying legislation. I am sure you, Madam Speaker, and other colleagues on both sides of this House can recall the emotions that flowed in that particular debate as members stood in their place and articulated why it was so important that we move forward.
One of the greatest concerns that was expressed was that we needed to recognize that we can do so much more. It was not a partisan issue. It was not just Liberals, New Democrats, Conservatives—or the Green Party member, for that matter, or even quite possibly a Bloc member—who were saying it.
I applaud my colleague across the way for proposing her bill and for taking the initiative to continue the discussion that we had in the House on this very important issue. As an important issue, it goes far beyond the chamber or the House of Commons. I suspect that each and every one of us can relate to the importance of this issue. All we have to do is think about visits to our constituents. During elections and between elections there are some issues that gravitate to the top, and I suggest that this is one such issue.
The government is going to be supporting the bill—with amendments, as my colleague across the way has indicated—and I will pick up a bit on those amendments, but for now I want to talk about the principle.
As parliamentarians, we want to get a fairly good understanding of the needs of the constituents we represent, and this is definitely one of those needs. Every one of us can cite specific cases. I can tell of my own personal experience with my father.
My father was fortunate enough to have palliative care service provided to him, and what an incredible, loving, and caring environment he was able to be in for his dying days. I was so grateful that we had such quality health care providers and others who are associated with Riverview, who were there not only for him but for all individuals who were there. I can remember the very moment of his passing, which touched me personally.
However, it is not just because of my father. I go to many viewings or funerals. I knock on doors and I talk to many individuals. We often think that it is just seniors, but it is not, even though the vast majority would be of an older age. It provides a great deal of comfort, not only to the individual who is having to seek palliative care but also to family and friends. We all want to ensure that there is a sense of passing with dignity and we look at ways in which we can improve the system.
Through that debate that we had when we were talking about medical assistance in dying, numerous areas were advanced strongly by a number of members. We even saw petitions being introduced. When I talk about strong, I mean issues that we felt it was necessary to give more attention to. One was the issue that in the different regions from coast to coast to coast across the country, care experiences varied between urban centres and rural centres and in larger communities versus smaller ones.
It really varies in terms of the types of services available. When we think of end-of-life care, palliative care, hospice care, we like to think there is some sense of equity out there in the many different communities that make up our country, but what I learned and what was really hammered home during that debate was that there is a great deal of inequity and that there is a stronger role for us to play at the national level.
I suspect that the government is going to propose some amendments that would facilitate federal support for improved palliative care in relation to three pillars that are aligned with the objectives of this particular bill. Training for health care providers is of the utmost importance, as well as making sure that quality health care delivery is available in a tangible way.
That does not take away from the type of care that has been available over the years; the efforts that health care providers have been performing for many years are amazing.
We want to look at consistent data collection. Consistent data collection is critical, because it assists in research and innovation into palliative care. In other words, it is important that we do not stop here.
We need to continue to look at best practices. As an example, we need to look at where the demands are and how we can meet those demands going into the future, and of course provide support for caregivers.
When we look at making amendments, these are the areas we want to put some emphasis on. When the legislation goes to the standing committee, I suspect there will be a good opportunity to hear a number of ideas from other members that they believe might improve the legislation itself.
I appreciate the fact that the member who introduced the legislation has said that this is something that would in essence get the debate going. She is open to ways to improve the legislation. Our government, and even individual members, take the member at her word and look forward to the bill going to committee with the idea that some amendments will be brought to the table in anticipation of improving the issue.
I have often had the opportunity to talk about the importance of health care as a general topic of discussion. Home care is an important aspect of health care. When I think of issues that Canadians really identify with as part of our Canadian identity, I think they would identify our health care system and the services that we provide.
It is important that we respect jurisdictional responsibility. I recognize that Ottawa has a significant funding role, since we spend literally billions of dollars on health care every year.
It is with great pride that the current Minister of Health has gone out of her way, has worked overtime, trying to get all provinces and territories on side with the new health care accord. The last time we saw this was back in 2003 or 2004, when all provinces and territories signed up. That was a good initiative. We saw a commitment, a tangible commitment, to national funding of health care in return for other things. It was a commitment that saw federal funding for health care grow year after year, transferring a record amount of money to provincial and territorial jurisdictions to provide something Canadians feel passionately about, that being health care.
Let us fast-forward to today. There are a few things that come to my mind in regard to this issue.
The Minister of Health has been very aggressive and progressive in pushing several issues. One of those issues has the been palliative care. She has met with the provinces and has had that discussion. She also has met with individuals. Home care has been, and will continue to be, a priority for this government. Palliative care is really important, and we recognize that.