Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to join the debate today. I will be sharing my time with the member for Yellowhead.
I want to thank the NDP for this motion, because the discussion around access to pharmaceuticals is really important. Today we are having an important discussion for all Canadians.
We have heard about the many people who are having challenges accessing medicines. Despite this being an important debate, the NDP has jumped to a one-model solution. I am not entirely convinced that a one-model solution would really be in the best interests of Canadians as we move forward.
The NDP members have lots of heartfelt goals they want to achieve, whether universal child care or housing or many other items. Here I would also note that they tend to be complicit with the Liberals in supporting things that destroy our economy instead of building it. The very difficult news today about energy east and the government's decision to back away from that project was applauded by the NDP. The Liberals made it such a challenge to move that forward.
The NDP are complicit with the Liberals in creating an economic environment that will, over the next few years, make it more challenging to enact the programs they want for Canadians. There should be some careful reflection by both the Liberals and the NDP on how to create an economy that will allow us to do the things that all Canadians want us to do, whether around pharmaceuticals or giving a hand up to those in need. That is my first point.
The next point I want to make is about the issue of constitutional jurisdiction. I remember being on the health committee. At the time, the Bloc had official party status. I can remember that whenever we talked about doing anything national for health, the Bloc members regularly reminded us that health was in their jurisdiction and that federal government should give the provinces the money but not talk about moving forward with any national programs. They felt that the provinces were very capable of dealing with it. The Bloc members said it very explicitly. We hear that from many of the provinces. Even in the most recent negotiations that were held, we heard the provinces saying that the federal government should send the money, but they were very reluctant to be told what to do with it. I think they are rightfully concerned about any large federal government program.
Again, the federal government should probably stick to the pieces of governance that it is actually responsible for. I look at the Liberals and the Phoenix pay system as an example. If the federal government cannot even create a pay system to pay its own employees, how can we expect it to implement a national pharmacare program? The government has a couple hundred thousand employees it needs to pay, but it is much more complex to have a national pharmacare program providing drugs for millions of people. I would be very leery of putting anything like this into the hands of the Liberal government especially, which has shown itself to be inept at that kind of delivery. It is not in the federal government's responsibilities.
I look at the medical marijuana issue, which is another area where the Liberal government, quite frankly, has created a real mess. We have landlords whose homes are being ruined. The Liberals have set up a system that will not work very well, because that is not their area of expertise.
If the NDP is suggesting that they want the Liberal government to take over negotiations and create something that is very complex, it should perhaps rethink what it is asking for.
I really do want to talk about the solutions.
Ten percent of the population is under-insured, and 2% is not covered by a plan. I think that every one of us agrees that we need to find a way to deal effectively with the examples we have heard today. We need to make sure that someone has their diabetes medication, especially those with low incomes. Just as I have always said that the government should not be paying for my child care when I can afford it, we should be focusing on the people who cannot afford child care and to work at the same time.
I also believe there is a role and an opportunity for those of us who, quite frankly, have advantages in life to pay our fair share and to save those valuable dollars for the people who perhaps need it the most. That is the whole idea of universality versus having people support themselves, and we need to make sure that when the opportunities arise, they can take advantage of them.
I want to talk about British Columbia, which we have not talked much about. Some provinces have moved forward, and again this is about the nimbleness of the provinces and their ability to create a system and solutions that work for their province. What might work in Prince Edward Island, which is a small island, might not work in British Columbia, which is much larger, more diverse, and has many more issues in terms of rural and remote communities. This universal one-size-fits-all approach is probably not going to be the most effective way to deal with it.
A number of years ago, B.C. put in fair pharmacare, a provincial income-based program designed to provide fair access to coverage for prescription drugs. The lower a person's income, the more assistance the government will provide them toward eligible drug costs. It is available to single people or families. For example, if a person's net income for two years is $15,000 or less and they are registered for fair pharmacare, they will have 70% of their eligible prescription drug costs covered immediately, with no deductible.
I think that is a good example where, perhaps, if there were additional money provided for the pharmaceutical system, they might be able to look at it and be more responsive. There might still be a few gaps, but a system has been set-up that works and recognizes income.
British Columbia has also done something very interesting in the last little while that perhaps some of the other provinces can learn from. We should be very proud. What they have done is that the first nations health benefit plan is now under BC PharmaCare as of October 1. This was done in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority in B.C., and they joined with the drug insurance program PharmaCare. With this change, first nation clients of the drug services of Canada's longstanding federal system moved to a new made-in-B.C. pharmacare plan designed specifically for first nation clients. Previously, they received this through their non-insured health benefits. B.C. put in place regulations to change and integrate the system.
This week I had an opportunity to talk to pharmacists and asked if this were going to work. They said it would greatly improve their ability to provide prescriptions to the first nation communities they serve, or the indigenous people who come in for medication. They said they were having real challenges before and that this was an amazing change. What I am getting at is that provinces are more nimble and flexible. They can create best practices.
I have listened to a lot, but not all, of the debate today. The NDP have not yet convinced me that their motion and plan is going to be the best way forward to really make sure that those who need drug coverage the most will be the ones who will get it.