Mr. Speaker, I would first like to clarify something about the motion. Although the federal government does have jurisdictional powers over certain aspects of heath care, including that of ensuring that all Canadians have equal access to health care services, the actual implementation of health services is a provincial responsibility.
The federal government provides health transfers to the provinces, but it is up to the provinces and the provinces alone to decide how to use those funds. Managing all health services falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. This motion is aimed at improving the delivery of health services. It therefore interferes directly in a provincial jurisdiction. The member himself even admitted it. Strategies and communications technologies pertain to health care management, so this motion extends beyond the federal government's general jurisdiction. Only the provinces can deliver health care directly to Canadians and are able to develop the strategies needed to change health care management.
The NDP recognizes the importance of respecting provincial jurisdiction, especially in Quebec. That is why we adopted the Sherbrooke declaration, which acknowledges Canada's asymmetry and affirms Quebec's right to opt out with compensation. The member's motion directly interferes in an area under provincial jurisdiction.
Let me say that the timing of this motion is peculiar. When the member answered my question, he said that he did not choose when to present his motion, but the fact is, he most certainly did have a choice. He could have chosen to present any number of measures over the past four years.
For example, I myself presented a number of bills and motions that I believed merited the attention of the House even though I was well aware they would not be debated. Unfortunately, members have only one chance to introduce a bill of their own, and that is if they are lucky. The member presented the motion a month ago knowing full well it would probably never be voted on. This motion would have to go to committee, but that will never happen.
If the member truly wanted to improve the health outcomes of rural Canadians, which, I recognize, is a very important issue, he could have chosen measures that do not overstep federal jurisdiction. For example, he could have asked that federal health transfers be increased by the amount requested by the provinces. The Quebec health minister has said that the federal government must stop meddling in provincial jurisdictions and that it start by increasing our health transfers.
Lack of money is one of the biggest obstacles to the implementation of different technologies that could help rural Canadians. Hospitals are already accumulating deficits because they pay nurses a lot of overtime due to the shortage of staff and staff burnout. Unfortunately, the increase in health transfers is not enough to meet provincial needs. That is one thing that the member could have requested and that would have fallen within federal jurisdiction.
With respect to the labour shortage, there is another useful measure that falls within federal jurisdiction: improving the immigration process and the recruitment of foreign professionals. I have often been told by hospital administrators that they had found a very interesting candidate, a specialist from abroad. The specialist was interested in the position but was discouraged by the process and chose to settle in another country where procedures are much less complex. The process is expensive and very complicated. Also, immigration services do not exist in rural regions.
A hospital board that wants to recruit abroad does not even have access to services in its region where it can get help and support and find out the most effective way of handling the process. If the board wants access to those services, it has to manage by telephone, by Internet or by talking to agents who do not really understand all the ins and outs of the process. It is extremely complex. The member could have asked for immigration services to be set up in rural areas. That would also have helped in terms of recruitment.
To help improve care and services in rural areas, the member could have done something about travel. Patients often have to travel long distances, which gets expensive. That is difficult from a financial perspective.
In order to be entitled to the medical expense tax credit, which can include travel expenses, a person must be making a certain income. If that person did not pay any taxes, he or she is not entitled to the tax credit. In the end, we are not helping those who would benefit the most from this help, those who cannot afford to pay for travel expenses.
There are quite a few concrete measures that the member could have chosen instead of moving a motion calling for a committee study that will never be done. That is why the motion does not sit well with me. I can see that the member is genuinely concerned about health care in rural areas, but I am having a hard time understanding why he chose such an ineffectual way to address the issue. It is most unfortunate, especially considering he has been an MP for four years. Some of us have been here longer, but the member has been in the House of Commons for four years. He could have sought advice. He knows enough about how things work that he should have realized this was not the best way to proceed.
If the member is really interested in what has been going on with new technologies, he could have asked the research service for help. All MPs have access to the services of the Library of Parliament for conducting research. For instance, the member could have asked the Library of Parliament to perform an exhaustive search for different strategies that have been used in various regions across Canada or around the world to improve services in rural areas. That would have generated plenty of fascinating reading material for him.
When new technologies become established, scientific, medical or nursing journals often publish articles highlighting their positive impact. The data on the methodology are already available and accessible to anyone who is interested.
Once again, I understand the member's desire to improve health care services in rural areas, but I do not think that we should be trying to make improvements by interfering in provincial jurisdictions.
I suggested a number of ways to find a much more effective solution for our rural areas. These methods fall within federal jurisdiction.
I strongly urge my colleague to talk to his colleagues and to listen to Quebec's minister of health and social services. She has suggested that the current government stop interfering in provincial jurisdiction over health care and immediately increase federal transfers to the provinces so that they can implement the measures that are already on the table but cannot be implemented because of a lack of money and commitment from the federal government.