Madam Speaker, let me say how pleased I am to participate in this debate on social programs. I would like to commend the minister for embarking on a path of consultation through the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development that will allow Canadians the opportunity to express their opinions and suggest ways of improving social programs.
My colleagues before me have addressed some of the problems with the traditional income security program. I want to speak today about health care and health care spending.
Let me make it clear at the beginning that the Reform Party favours the preservation of adequate health services for Canadians. We believe that no Canadian should be denied health care for financial reasons.
The current level of federal funding should be maintained but we in the Reform Party believe that the time has come to make health care users more accountable and more aware of the actual costs of health care. How do we do this?
The Alberta government's public round tables on health summary entitled "Starting Points, a Recommendation for Creating a More Accountable and Affordable Health System", dated December 1993 recommends: "Other consumer education concepts should be considered to dispel the myth of free health services. For example, receipts could be provided to consumers immediately after receiving health services". This in my opinion would let consumers know what these services cost.
Under the Federal Provincial Fiscal Arrangements and Established Programs Financing Act or EPF as it is commonly known, the Government of Canada provides funds to the provinces to support and administer health services and education. The 1994 federal spending booklet states that the 1992-93 EPF transfers amounted to almost $16 billion for health care. Ten years ago the total EPF entitlement for health care according to the Department of Finance was $8.7 billion. It has nearly doubled in 10 years.
One would assume that the provinces would have the sole right to determine how to provide health services to the people. This is not the case. The previous government passed the Canada Health Act in 1984, eroding traditional provincial rights. In 1987 all of the provinces complied with the criteria and conditions set out in the Canada Health Act. This was necessary if they were to receive their EPF funds.
What did the provinces give up? They gave up all rights to charge for health services. We believe that the provinces should have sole jurisdiction over the administration of health care. The provinces currently possess the legal and constitutional responsibility to provide health insurance and services. Federal funding and support of such insurance and services should be unconditional and should recognize different levels of economic development in the provinces.
In 1991 total health care costs amounted to $66.8 billion. Put another way that is $2,470 for every man, woman and child in this country. Of every dollar spent 72 cents came from government revenues with the remainder coming from private insurance plans and individual taxpayers. We spent 10 per cent of our gross domestic product on health care in 1991. Compare that to 7.2 per cent in 1975.
Why have costs escalated so dramatically? Is it possible there is more illness or is it possible there is some abuse of the system? We do have a larger population and I am happy to say that people are living longer. We also have more doctors and more hospitals. In 1979 the patient-doctor ratio was 656 to 1. In 1989 the ratio dropped to 515 to 1.
We do have better access to health care but does this allow an opportunity for abuse? Is it reasonable to ask the Canadian taxpayer to pay for unnecessary hospital procedures, unnecessary surgery or prolonged hospital stays? Is the average Canadian aware of what these services cost or even the cost of a visit to the doctor?
It is interesting to note that in the last fiscal year interest on the national debt amounted to some $40 billion or 24 per cent of government spending while transfers to the provinces amounted to 18 per cent of government spending.
Imagine how much easier our jobs as members of Parliament would be if there was no national debt. For one thing we would not have those exorbitant interest payments to make. For another, we would not have to consider spending restraints for health care and social programs. That would leave us more time to deal with other pressing issues. In reality we are saddled with a $500 billion national debt and we cannot continue to live beyond our means.
Health care is threatened because of the current financial crisis and the effects of 20 years of deficit spending. The government has an option: return the rights and responsibilities of administration of health services back to the provinces where it belongs.
What effect will the foregoing have on our youth? What will they inherit? We have mortgaged the future of our youth. Canada has an aging population and the income support programs that those people have come to rely on are debt ridden. We cannot pay for them now. Therefore is it fair to expect our children to carry the burden of our extravagances?
The best inheritance we can leave our young people is a country free of debt, a country where they can obtain training and education so they can become contributors to Canadian society.
The Canadian youth service corps announced in the throne speech, according to the Red Book, will teach 10,000 young people a year work skills and provide them with valuable experience by engaging them in social and environmental programs that will improve the quality of life in communities across the country.
This program is estimated to cost $10,000 for every participant. I hope this is not just another glorified grant project, another stop gap measure. What real training will there be for the participants? What skills will they learn that will land them real sustainable jobs?
I was pleased to note that the motion before us today places time limits on the deliberations of the Standing Committee on Human Resource Development. We cannot afford to linger any longer over these problems. Now is the time for solutions. I ask that a meeting of the committee be convened this week so we can begin the consultation process without further delay.