Madam Speaker, as I indicated, this is a piece of legislation that I could never support in any sort of circumstance. I guess it is because, offhand, I believe that the constituents of Winnipeg North understand, appreciate and want the federal government to play a strong leadership role on health care in Canada.
I suspect there are reasons why the Bloc, which is a separatist party, wants to see Canada get away with health care, just as there are even separatists who exist outside of the province of Quebec. For me personally, and on behalf of a vast majority of the residents I represent in Winnipeg, I can say that Canadians love our health care system.
The Canada Health Act is one of the things that enables us to have a high sense of pride in who we are as a nation. It is often referred to as one of the things that makes us different from the United States and many other countries around the world. Because we are a caring society, we understand and appreciate the value of the health care system that we have today. Whether in British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, Atlantic Canada or in Northwest Territories, there is a basic understanding that health care services are going to be there for people.
My family, like millions of other families in Canada, is not just in one province. We live in other provinces. The heritage of my own family goes back to the province of Quebec itself. I believe that it is not unique to Winnipeg North, but that Canadians in every region of our country understand and appreciate the true value of a national health care system. Yes, it is administered by provinces. I know that. I used to be the health critic in the Province of Manitoba.
When the member says that all provinces want more money and they all agree, I have news for that member: They have been wanting more money every year for the past 30 years. Ottawa is more than just an ATM: Ottawa has a responsibility to Canadians to ensure that provinces and territories respect the Canada Health Act.
There are things that we can learn from the pandemic that I believe Canadians want us to look at. One of those issues is long-term care. We saw, during the pandemic, different provinces having different levels of difficulty. In some of those provinces, we had to call in the military. In other provinces, we used the Red Cross. In my own province, in fact in Winnipeg North, we can look at the Maples Long Term Care Home facility. Canadian politicians on all sides of the House, maybe not the Bloc but all other sides of the House, recognized that there were some serious issues in long-term care. I can say that Liberal members of Parliament understand what Canadians expect of their members of Parliament. Dealing with long-term care is one of those. That is why we see a very strong advocacy for standards in long-term care. It is because we care about what is happening with our seniors in care facilities.
We also care about mental health. If we do not do anything on mental health, some provinces will fall far behind. Some provinces might move a bit ahead. I would argue, again, that the national government has a very strong and important role to play on mental health.
We saw in this budget, with the support of my New Democratic friends, talk about expanding into dental care. We will see how that ultimately evolves.
I have talked for years now about the issue of pharmacare and the cost of pharmaceuticals. If we think about an individual who goes to the hospital, while people are in the hospital, they get free medication, but when they leave the hospital, they have to pay for it. Often what happens is that they cannot afford the medication, so they end up back in the hospital.
The idea of looking at best practices in different provinces and territories and trying to encourage and promote them in a national standard, I see as a good thing. Trying to marginalize the role of the national government does a disservice to who we are as a nation. I would recommend to those who would advocate that Ottawa should not play a role in health care to talk to some Canadians about it; I have. If they ask them what makes them feel good about being a Canadian, one of the most common responses members will get is “health care”. They will talk about the importance of health care, and justifiably so.
I am concerned about the backlog of surgeries coming out of the pandemic. Because of all the focus that was put on COVID-19 and the impact it was having on intensive care units and other facilities, a lot of surgeries were delayed or put off. We can imagine a person needing a hip replacement who already had to wait a considerable amount of time, or a person who had been diagnosed with cancer. These are very important issues for our constituents.
However, Bloc members are saying, “Who cares? It is not about Ottawa. All Ottawa does is pony up the cash and let the provinces take responsibility”, believing that all provinces will do that. I say shame on the members of the Bloc for believing that. Canadians, even some of their own constituents, recognize the value of Ottawa and the leadership role it can play in the delivery of health care services, even in the province of Quebec.
There are different provinces with different governments at different times, but I think Canadians want a health care system that will be there for them no matter where they live in Canada. Many people have moved to the province of Quebec from Manitoba, and I suspect vice versa. I believe that when we take a look at the needs that are there for health care, the federal government should not be sidelined. The federal government should be encouraged to continue to play that leadership role and look at different provinces.
When we want to talk about accountability on health care and the Canada Health Act, I will go back to the Romanow report of many years ago. There was the idea that as part of the five fundamental principles, we should add an additional one about financial accountability. I think we do need to see more financial accountability. I am glad that Ottawa looks at it from the perspective of saying, “Look, if we want to enhance mental health, one of the ways we could encourage that is to tag dollars to the provinces to facilitate and ensure that there is more investment in mental health.” Again, that is a good thing, contrary to what some of the separatists, whether from Quebec or other jurisdictions, want to see happen.
Like the vast majority of Canadians, I believe in the importance of health care and national programs. I am glad that we have seen under this administration record-high amounts of dollars being delivered to provinces in order to provide health care. We are talking about a record amount of dollars. Historically, never has a government invested more dollars in health care than this current government. We have health care agreements with all of the provinces, which is something that has not been there for a number of years.
This is a government that is committed to Canada's health care system, and I am very proud to be a part of that.