Madam Speaker, Bill C-295 is a bill that makes sense. It is a bill that we want to study in committee, that we want to support so that it moves forward. Like most bills in their original form, it is far from perfect, but it is worth examining.
In Quebec, like elsewhere in Canada, the pandemic tested us in ways we never wanted to experience. The worst of what we went through was the abandonment of our seniors. Some seniors had a much harder time during the pandemic than most people, particularly those living in long-term care facilities. They were sometimes left alone in wretched conditions. They were isolated from their loved ones. They were often inadequately fed or only given something to eat at odd hours. I think that is shameful. In this situation, we behaved like ungrateful children towards our seniors. I hope that this sort of situation never happens again. We have a duty to work on that.
In Quebec we have the law to combat elder abuse and the abuse of any vulnerable adult. This legislation provides for fines to be imposed and protects informants, because there are people in long-term care facilities who will testify and intervene to try to prevent certain situations from deteriorating. We need to protect those people. We must encourage people to blow the whistle on untenable situations. In Quebec, with this legislation to fight against abuse, we are able, or we try by giving ourselves the tools, to better protect people who assume their responsibilities and intervene in situations like that.
The federal government's legislation parallels Quebec's legislative provisions, but in my opinion, and at first glance, it is doing so within its own jurisdiction. For now, from what I have seen of Bill C‑295, I am satisfied. We will have to take a closer look at the bill. There are some aspects that could easily go off the rails. We know that the issue of protecting jurisdictions is relevant to almost every bill introduced in the House. We will have to look at this more closely, but I agree, at first glance, Bill C‑295 seems to stay within the parameters set for federal jurisdictions.
The bill refers to the Criminal Code, and that is obviously a federal law that was passed and amended under federal jurisdiction. That particular aspect seems to be appropriate. However, the bill must not push boundaries and lead to interference in Quebec's and the provinces' jurisdictions.
Having said that, I am somewhat concerned. When I look at Bill C-295, I am concerned that this bill will be considered as a panacea and that we will ease our consciences by believing that passing Bill C-295 means that we will have done what needed to be done to protect seniors and give them better living conditions. Everyone knows that is far from true. The federal government's first responsibility is to properly manage the taxes it collects. We know that the taxes the federal government collects far exceed the cost of its own responsibilities, which means that it must return some of that money to the provinces, especially for health care.
At first, 50 or so years ago, the federal government was paying around 50% of the health care costs of each province and Quebec. Today, the proportion is around 20% to 24%, and it keeps going down all the time. The provinces are calling for a health transfer equivalent to 35% of their expenses. That is a reasonable figure that takes into account all the formulas. I would even say that this figure is lower than it should be, but it is still too high in the eyes of the federal government. The provinces can no longer manage.
I was talking earlier about a scandal—elderly people left in beds without care, medication and adequate services for hours, people often not eating all day because there was no one to bring them a meal. These situations are unworthy of us as a society. They are 99% due to a lack of funding. The institutions are no longer able to pay the staff they need to take care of our seniors. How much longer will we tolerate this?
I think we have a responsibility to prevent this. The primary responsibility of the federal government is to give the provinces the excess money it has collected in taxes. It must transfer the money to the provinces so that the provinces can manage their health care institutions properly. That is the only way to address the problem.
I recognize that this bill is about looking after seniors, and of course that is commendable. I am certain that not one of the 338 members in the House would say that that is unimportant or that the money should be used for something else. We all agree it is important. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that in order to run health care facilities properly and take care of our seniors properly, the money needs to be transferred. It is cruel and pointless to keep this money here in Ottawa when it is the provinces that need it. Health transfers are essential. We recognize this and the provinces are asking for it.
What is the federal government's response? It says there are conditions. It will transfer the money if we use it in a certain way, if we provide this or that type of care in a given facility, if we expand business hours, if we do this, that or the other thing. There are conditions.
Let us keep in mind that this money does not appear out of nowhere. It is tax money the government takes from Quebeckers. The government says it will give the money back, but only if they comply with its conditions. It can impose conditions when it has jurisdiction the other level of government does not.
If I give children pocket money, I may tell them they cannot spend more than a dollar on candy. I may impose conditions in an attempt to teach them to manage their money properly. The thing is, the federal government does not manage any health facilities. The federal government manages health care for indigenous people and veterans and looks after new drug approvals and quarantines, but it does not manage a single long-term care facility or hospital. What makes it think it has the authority to impose conditions?
The conditions that the federal government wants to impose on the provinces are very likely to do much more harm than good, not to mention that they will prevent a rapid resolution of the problematic situation that has continued year after year. The provinces do not have the money to operate hospitals. The federal government says that it will not provide funds unless the provinces agree to its conditions.
In my view, this stubborn refusal is unworthy of a responsible government and leads to situations such as those that occurred during the pandemic. I do not want to put all the blame on the federal government. We all have some soul searching to do, especially the governments of each province, and I am certain that is what they are doing. The Quebec law I mentioned earlier was passed specifically to prevent this type of situation from happening. That is a good example.
However, the money is there to provide dignified care for our seniors. I am asking our government to carry out its responsibilities, to be fair, to be responsible with respect to our seniors and to transfer the money to the provinces to provide better care.
Bill C-295 is a bill that we must study, that we are going to study and that we will probably improve. I think the idea behind it is good, and we will work hard on it.