Mr. Speaker, I should indicate that I will be dividing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Churchill.
It is a privilege to rise on behalf of the people who I have the honour of representing in Burnaby—Douglas and speak today to the government's priorities, because that is what the budget is ultimately about. It is about values, about priorities and about vision. On each of those benchmarks, the government and the new Prime Minister have failed miserably. Not only have they failed my constituents in Burnaby but they have failed all Canadians, and beyond that. They have shamefully failed to respond to the desperate plea of the international community for Canada to show leadership on a whole range of issues.
In the brief time that I have to speak to the budget this afternoon, I want to concentrate on two or three key issues. My colleague from Churchill will speak passionately about the shameful failure of the government to show any leadership whatsoever with respect to the concerns of the first nations people, the aboriginal peoples in Canada.
The Speech from the Throne held out the hope that perhaps the government might at last recognize the destructive impact of its policies on first nations and aboriginal peoples, both urban and rural, but there was nothing. Despite the call for additional resources for housing, for health care and a whole range of other issues, the government has miserably failed aboriginal peoples.
Indeed, in the area of aboriginal and first nations health, the throne speech called conditions on reserves shameful and acknowledged the immediate need for the federal government to remedy this problem. The reality is that this budget has done nothing whatsoever to respond to the health concerns of first nations people.
The government's non-insured health benefit program to provide health care to first nations is notoriously underfunded and is hindered by all sorts of Byzantine regulations, basically with Health Canada bureaucrats nickel and diming first nations people at every step and the regulations for providing travel services in isolated communities. I know my colleague from Churchill will be speaking to this, but the program is appalling and has become worse, not better. There is no hope whatsoever for aboriginal peoples in this budget.
As the spokesperson for my party on international human rights, I want to point out the personal betrayal of the Prime Minister with respect to Canada's place in the world. We all remember Bono standing up on the stage at the leadership convention arm in arm with the Prime Minister saying “look, we'll be there”, pushing the Prime Minister, saying “if you don't come back with some significant funding to meet Canada's global commitments in the fight against HIV-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, I'm going to be a pain in the ass of the Prime Minister”. Those were his words.
Bono must be embarrassed and ashamed of the leadership of the government because there is not one new penny of funding above and beyond Canada's shameful current commitment to the global fund on HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The foreign affairs committee unanimously called for a tripling of Canada's commitment to meet our obligation. Bono pleaded with his friend, the Prime Minister, to show leadership. The answer we got on budget day was “forget it”.
Yesterday was World Tuberculosis Day and we heard from the representatives of the world tuberculosis society about how this government has failed there. The reality is that not one new penny went into the global fund for HIV-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
It is in the area of health care that perhaps the government has failed most miserably. It is not as if it does not have a series of important recommendations as to how to move ahead.
I must say that one of the greatest needs is for ongoing stable funding and a government that is prepared to meet its commitment of 25%. I do not think that is asking too much. Not that long ago it was 50%, but we are just calling on the government to meet the 25% benchmark that Roy Romanow urged upon the government. It has fallen far short of that. There was a one time injection of $2 billion but nothing in terms of increases in stable long term funding.
Let us put aside the question of funding for a moment and ask what the government's priorities really are. There is no doubt that the effect of starving the health care system of the resources that are desperately needed is to strengthen substantially the power of private for profit health care in Canada.
The Prime Minister has already appointed a parliamentary secretary whose responsibility is P3s, public-private partnerships. If we have any significant increase in public-private partnerships in this country that will lead to the erosion and ultimately the destruction of universal public health care. That is the slippery slope that the government has taken us down by its years of underfunding the health care system. We do not have to look very far in my own province of British Columbia.
In British Columbia we know that as a result of the provincial Liberal government there are already serious attacks on our public health care system. We have a False Creek surgical centre which clearly violates the basic principles of the Canada Health Act.
When the provincial, Gordon Campbell, government was actually going to take steps, amazingly enough, to deal with that, it brought in legislation, bill 92, under the former prime minister. What happened? The new Prime Minister became Leader of the Liberal Party and Gordon Campbell said “No problem. We are going to ditch that legislation because we've got a Prime Minister who understands the needs of private health care in British Columbia”.
I remember when the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca crossed the floor from the Conservative Party to the Liberal Party. He was thrilled. This was a member whose ideas on two tier health care were so out to lunch that even the Conservative Party said that it did not want to go there. He took his ideas over to the Liberal Party. What happened? He said that he was thrilled to be a Liberal because the Prime Minister understands that the Canada Health Act is not that important and understands that the Canada Health Act is not a sacred document.
No wonder the same Prime Minister hired the key lobbyist for private health care in British Columbia, Bruce Young, who was working for Hill & Knowlton, as his top adviser for British Columbia. What else do we need to know in terms of the priorities of the government when it comes to health care?
More important, where is the government's leadership on the issues of home care and pharmacare? How many times have Liberals promised there would be action? As we know, these were key recommendations of the Romanow commission in terms of a national drug agency. We know that drug prices are contributing greatly to the increase in overall health care expenditures in Canada.
Home care is an essential priority and yet what are the government's choices? It had a choice in the budget between putting money into home care and into pharmacare and into dealing with the concerns of young people, students who find the doors closed to them for post-secondary education.
I was door knocking recently in Burnaby on Spruce Street and met with a couple whose young son was told that there was no space for him in university because the average grade required to study sciences at U.B.C. was 89%. For those students who are graduating they are graduating with massive debt loads.
The government had a choice. It could have put funding into health care, into education or into reducing the ratio of debt to GDP. Not many of my constituents lie awake at night agonizing about the ratio of debt to GDP. If we had a choice between $3 billion going into health care, home care and pharmacare, into decent education, into the environment, into housing, or going into lowering the debt or going into corporate tax cuts, I can tell members that the constituents of Burnaby--Douglas would say that the government's priorities are totally wrong and they would send that message, in the next federal election, loud and clear.