Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-95 not only because it provides a framework for Health Canada, not only because Canadians are renowned worldwide because of their health care system, but because today more than ever we need the support of a vigorous health care system.
There are those who condemn the cost of uniform health care to all Canadians. These individuals fear that a changing economy and a fast moving society will make it more difficult to maintain the current system.
As technology improves and surgical breakthroughs evolve, expenses increase. Transplants and bypasses are becoming more common and the therapy and equipment associated with these operations are more costly.
We are moving from an industrial age to an information era. Associated with this transformation are economic and social disruptions which bring greater demands to the system.
Our current system though stressed is simply reflecting the pressures associated with change. We already have a system that has provided a foundation stable enough to support change and we now maintain that system as the cornerstone of our society.
In my riding of St. John's West unemployment rates are some of the highest in the country. Every rise in the unemployment rate brings a greater increase in stress related diseases.
Our country represents a nation united. This could be seen in the strong support that Quebecers received, including support from those in my riding.
As our nation experiences change, we see fluctuations of high and low points in the economy of each province. What we need is stability. We need stable variables to rely on. One variable must be our health care system. This system must serve to maintain stability and unity within and between the provinces, a symbol of what it means to be Canadian.
Increases in stress related diseases produce associated afflictions such as increase in spousal abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, high blood pressure and cardiac problems. The stress of not having the stability of a uniform health care system to rely on will certainly generate increases in stress and stress related diseases.
Members opposite have from time to time criticized the Department of Health because they say it spends too much money. I say it is money well spent, and not more than its responsibilities require.
The Department of Health is the department of defence against disease, the common enemy of all Canadians. Health allows no fiscal restraint. It is the challenge of the Department of Health to maintain an infrastructure that guarantees quality health care to Canadians in good times and in bad regardless of their economic position.
The health system I see is one that does not represent a net cost to the country, but a benefit. It is not an expense but an investment. Every element of economic and social life in Canada gains from medicare. Canadian patients are freed from the extra burden of health spending when the trauma of illness weighs heavily. Physicians are assured of payment for their services, while retaining professional freedom. Hospitals have more financial security and can better serve Canadians.
Most important and least obvious is the fact that Canadian medicare provides many economic benefits to the country as a whole. To take one example, more than $7 out of every $10 that is spent on health care in Canada is paid out of a provincially administered insurance plan. This single payer system in each province has built in efficiencies that allow considerable control over total expenditures. This efficiency is what holds per capita health costs in Canada well below comparable costs in the United States. Because of this control over spending, personal resources are freed for other priorities, such as education, housing, and nutrition, all of which enhance the well-being of Canadians.
There are aspects of medicare that provide Canadian business with competitive advantages in the global market. Some international firms have established plants here because the cost of providing employee benefits in Canada is significantly lower than in the United States. Medicare enhances labour force mobility, and access to quality health care helps to ensure a healthy and productive workforce.
In St. John's West the labour force mobility is currently essential to long term sustenance, and the maintenance of our health care system is vital to ensuring the people of Newfoundland have a fighting chance in terms of labour mobility. Healthy business means economic growth, which in turn results in jobs, less unemployment, a healthier population, less stress related disease due to undue stress in the workplace, fewer demands on the health care system, and lower health care costs.
Health must be everyone's top priority. We must commit a large percentage of resources to maintaining health. It is our right and responsibility to do so. At the same time, we must be vigilant and
innovative to ensure that what we are spending is done with economy in mind.
Among the areas the Department of Health is investing in is health intelligence. This initiative, which will include participation in a new global network designed to detect emerging diseases, is endorsed by provincial governments. The provinces know that national leadership in this area is essential if we are to make the most cost effective choices among all available health technologies and options.
Inevitably, there will be an increase in movement toward international standards or international processes. This department on Canada's behalf is very much in the forefront of this trend and will lead, not follow, other countries in establishing health standards.
The minister has spoken about maintaining traditional values and at the same time getting value for money. In St. John's West and throughout Canada tradition is what has made our country so unique. Health Canada promises to work closely with the provinces and territories in order to avoid duplication of programs and services, contrary to the comments made previously by my colleague in the Bloc.
All in all, I have confidence that the department that will be brought formally into being by this bill has its priorities straight. It will serve Canadians. It will guard our health and our health care system. It will do this with regard for efficiency and for getting at least $1.10 of value for every $1 it spends. Above all, it will continue to provide assurance that our national life and economy will stay vital at the domestic level and competitive abroad based on a healthy and vigorous Canadian population.
I have no hesitation in supporting the passage of this bill to create the new Department of Health. I urge my colleagues across the floor to do the same.