Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and participate in this debate and to particularly focus on what I think is one of the most glaring omissions in the Speech from the Throne. That is any serious response to the landmark recommendations of the commission which was so ably chaired by Roy Romanow and which reported well over a year ago to the government, based on consultations across Canada, with a series of very specific and concrete recommendations to strengthen and improve the health care system in Canada.
New Democrats are absolutely appalled that in the entire litany of promises by the government in the Speech from the Throne there was not a single reference, not a word, about the important recommendations of the Roy Romanow commission. Effectively the government is showing complete contempt for the recommendations that were made and certainly Canadians are going to pass a very harsh judgment on the government when they have the opportunity to do that in the very near future.
Many of those recommendations would make a significant difference in strengthening and improving our health care system. Not the least of course is the issue of funding, the so-called Romanow gap that my colleague for Winnipeg North Centre has spoken on so eloquently, both as health critic and now as finance critic for our party. It is a gap between the promise the government has made with respect to increased funding and the desperate need provinces and territories across the land have to fund health care to the extent that it should be funded and to the extent that it used be funded.
New Democrats, Jack Layton, our national leader, our caucus, our party, are calling on the government to meet that target of 25% which would mean an additional $3.5 billion a year. The government says that it is really cash strapped and that has trouble finding the money. This is the same government, the same Prime Minister, that just found almost $4.5 billion for corporate tax cuts, tax cuts not to small businesses but cuts in taxes to some of the biggest and most profitable corporations in the country. If he can find that kind of money, billions of dollars, for corporate tax cuts surely to goodness he can find money to meet the recommendations of the Roy Romanow commission with respect to funding for health care.
There are a range of issues that have not been dealt with by the government such as pharmacare, which was promised long ago, home care, access to diagnostic services particularly things like the MRI and CAT scans and the international drug agency. These are some of the areas in which significant work remains to be done.
My colleague from Windsor West has been working very hard on the industry committee as well trying to get the government to respond to the concerns about access to affordable drugs, barriers to generic drugs, abuses by big pharmaceutical companies in areas such as so-called evergreening and deliberate delays and court actions that prevent Canadians have access to affordable drugs on a timely basis. There was nothing at all about this in the throne speech.
We know waiting lists are getting longer. We know the emergency rooms are overcrowded. We know as well what the real agenda is for too many people. The reality is that with these difficulties Canadians are experiencing and access to health care in too many jurisdictions, big corporations are waiting and hovering in the wings. They are saying that if the public sector cannot adequately fund health care, they will come in and look after it for us. They say that they will set up what they would call a separate tier or system, a parallel system of health care, and that would be the destruction of medicare in the country.
As New Democrats who were part of a party through the leadership and vision of Tommy Douglas and others to build and create medicare, we will stand and defend it against this kind of corporate attack that would ultimately destroy it.
Roy Romanow was very clear during the course of the hearings of his commission. He said that if someone could come up with evidence the private sector could do a better job, then bring that evidence forward. It was not possible and it did not happen. We know it is the public sector, not just publicly funded health care but publicly delivered health care as well, that is so essential to strengthening medicare in the country.
What is such a disappointment to many of us is that the throne speech refers to a commitment to publicly funded health care, but it is silent on the essential component of publicly delivered health care. Certainly Michael Kirby and Don Mazankowski agree with publicly funded health care because the privatizers want a place at the public trough. They want the public dollars going to pay for private health care. That again would be the death of our public medicare system.
The government talks more and more about the importance of commercialization in the health care system, whether it is commercialization in the research area or in other areas. Again that would mean instead of public health being at the forefront, corporate profits would be driving health care.
One of the gravest examples of this is the current efforts by the federal Liberal government to gut the Food and Drugs Act instead of strengthening that it. To ensure that there is regulation in the public interest, what the federal government is doing effectively is saying that it is going to move to a new system of risk management. It has explicitly said that there is too much focus on safety and not enough focus on risk management.
Recently a public letter was sent by the Canadian Health Coalition. It was an open letter to the Prime Minister expressing deep concern about the Liberal government's proposal to replace Canada's Food and Drugs Act with a new health protection legislative scheme. This would involve abandoning the precautionary principle. It would involve as well putting industry self-regulation for profit, so-called smart regulation, ahead of protecting public health.
On the one hand we have the Minister of State for Public Health, a woman for whom I have great respect, who is talking about how we have to strengthen public health in this country. On the other hand we have the Minister of Health embarking on a course that would effectively lead to corporations calling the shots on drug regulation. Twenty-one outstanding Canadians, including people such as Shirley Douglas, the spokesperson for the Canadian Health Coalition, Margaret Atwood, David Suzuki, Jane Jacobs, Patricia Baird, Ken Georgetti, David Healy and many others, have called on the Minister of Health to take six key steps, which I will briefly summarize.
The first is to adopt the precautionary principle as the governing principle for an assessment of risk. The second is to stop this health protection legislative renewal and uphold the duty of care in the current Food and Drugs Act. The third is to restore the burden of proof on industry to demonstrate the safety of their product or technology before regulatory approval is granted. The fourth is to allow full public access to the information upon which federal regulators base approval of a product or technology because the public has a right to that information. The fifth is to strictly enforce the ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs. The sixth, a very important step, is to terminate all partnerships and promotional activities so regulatory agencies regulate only in the public interest and not in the interests of the regulated. Those are very important recommendations. Instead we have the government and the Prime Minister moving more and more.
Recently, for example, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, who used to be a member of the Canadian Alliance, crossed the floor. He went over and joined the Liberals. He was very excited about joining the Liberals because he said:
The exciting thing on health care that [Prime Minister] has said is that he hasn't trumped up and said he's going to be wedded to the Canada Health Act.
That is unbelievable. He is thrilled that the Prime Minister is not wedded to the Canada Health Act. No wonder the Canadian Alliance was not exactly devastated when he left its caucus if that is his attitude.
The Prime Minister has just hired one of the top lobbyists, Bruce Young, who used to lobby for the False Creek Surgical Centre, as one of his key election advisers as well. We see that Paul Martin is very much on the road to supporting private health in this--