Mr. Speaker, in 1958, Lester Pearson and Tommy Douglas collaborated to develop our world-class universal health care system in which every Canadian, regardless of their status, would receive medical care. At that time, funding for this system was split evenly at fifty-fifty between the federal and provincial governments.
Close to 50 years have passed, and much has changed. The federal government's share of the cost is now less than half of what it was at that time. Over the past decade alone, the cost of Canadian health care has risen by about 50%. This is quite worrying, since the cost of providing health care is growing faster than our economy and our population.
This increase in cost does not seem to be tied to improvements in the quality of treatments that Canadians are receiving. Wait times are as long as ever, and acute care hospitals like the one in Thunder Bay—Superior North have been in gridlock for years
On January 26, the Thunder Bay hospital had nearly 100 more patients than beds. Patients, most of them seniors, were piled almost on top of each other, like cordwood on cots in hallways. What is most worrying is that as Canada's population ages, there seems to be no relief in sight for our health care system.
Canada needs some real leadership that is willing to take responsibility, invest in health care and address the needs of our aging population. The Conservatives have instead decided to offload those responsibilities and their growing costs onto already overburdened provinces.
The Canadian health care system is in need of some serious attention. The last thing it needs now is for the Conservatives to cut and run as they are doing.
It is the most vulnerable members of Canadian society who suffer the most from the government's irresponsibility. Canadians living in rural, northern or aboriginal communities are facing a doctor shortage much worse than the rest of Canada. Our hats go off to rural physicians who struggle to take up the slack, like our own doctor, John Jackson-Hughes, did for 39 years in Nipigon, Ontario, in my riding of Thunder Bay—Superior North, before retiring this week. Even in urban Thunder Bay, one third of our families have no family doctor.
Historically, the federal government's role in health care has been to ensure that these kinds of discrepancies in care do not occur. However, in March, 2014, the Canada health accord was allowed to expire without any sort of plan to renew it or even replace it. Canada is the only country in the G20 without any national health care strategy, and it is starting to show. Canada's global ranking in health care performance is dramatically decreasing, and the government's reckless cuts are only going to further increase that problem.
Canadians can, however, take comfort in the knowledge that Canada is a world leader when it comes to handouts to oil companies. The IMF has pegged the Conservative government's subsidies to fossil fuel companies at $34 billion per year. If that money were directed toward improving the health of Canadians, rather than lining the pockets of some of the wealthiest corporations on earth, we would be well on our way to solving this issue.
Poll after poll shows that Canadians consistently put health care among the issues most important to us. Why does the government place its priorities so far from those of Canadians? It is time for the Conservatives to start listening to Canadians. It is time for a national health care strategy.
Do the Conservatives have any plan to restore the Canadian health care system? If so, we would love to see it.