House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was senate.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia (Manitoba)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Alzheimer's Disease February 16th, 2005

Madam Speaker, on Monday of this week I raised the issue of hepatitis C compensation. The response from the government dealt with on-line pharmacies and of course there is no connection. It again suggests the lackadaisical attitude the government has toward this very serious issue that is vital to thousands of Canadians.

My office receives calls and letters every day from victims of tainted blood with very sad stories. Their lives have been ruined by hepatitis C.

It is incomprehensible to me that a government elected by Canadians could turn its back on them when they need the help of government most. The government has blatantly discriminated against Canadians who pay taxes, have families and are contributors to our society.

The government has completely dropped the ball on hepatitis C all for political gamesmanship. It overestimated the number of victims and put a large sum of money into a fund which pays more in administrative work than it does to the victims the fund was set up to help. The government has utterly turned its back on the people whose lives it should have protected, but it has destroyed their lives instead.

There was a vote in the health committee recently. The Conservative Party brought forward a motion to compensate the victims of hepatitis C. I understand that the motion has not had much success in the past, but this time around it did pass in the health committee.

When we brought it to the House to get approval from all the members of all the parties, because it is the right thing to do after all, we had support from all the parties except the Liberal Party. It used procedural tricks and ran out the time, which I expect the hon. member to do today when he answers the questions that I have. He will run out the time without actually answering the questions.

However, having said that, it is just another example of how the Liberal government is not willing to deal with the compensation for the people who have contracted hepatitis C through tainted blood.

We have a minister who has at least acknowledged that compensation is appropriate, but then he flip-flops and says it may or may not happen. We are waiting for actuarial reports that will apparently come in June. In the meantime people are dying and people are suffering. He had said that he would speed up the process.

I have the following questions. Will the government compensate all the victims who contracted hepatitis C from tainted blood? Will they be compensated in a timely manner in a manner that does not play with people's lives? Will the government stand up and take responsibility and compensate these people instead of playing political games? These people deserve help and the government should provide it. Do it now. Do the right thing.

Constitution Amendment, 2005 February 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, your point is well taken. Sometimes it is hard to tell when the Liberals are in the House and when they are not. I am really quite surprised at the response that we just heard.

The member's words echo hollow in this chamber, literally and figuratively. My question was specifically, what is Canada doing to develop a vaccine for the next pandemic and/or what are we doing to prepare for that pandemic?

I am really disappointed also that the member has creatively attached flu vaccines and hepatitis C to his trip to Nova Scotia. By the way, I have been to Nova Scotia. It is a very nice place, but I do not see the relevance to the issue at hand.

Could the member please answer my question?

Constitution Amendment, 2005 February 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, last night in the House I had hoped to ask the health minister about his lack of compassion for those who have not yet received compensation for hepatitis C. Unfortunately, the minister was unable to attend, so I looked forward to addressing the parliamentary secretary for health. I was surprised to find that he was not here, but the parliamentary secretary for the environment was in his stead.

Having said that, I asked a series of very good questions about hepatitis C, and the answers I got back dealt with online pharmacies. I am not sure what the connection between the two are. Perhaps the secretary could fill me in when he answers my next question. However, I find it disturbing, the lack of compassion that the Liberal Party has continually exhibited to the hepatitis C victims.

Today, I will ask some questions about flu vaccines. However, I would like to point out that be it flu vaccines, hepatitis C or many other health issues, the government seems to feel free to ignore the needs of ordinary Canadians.

With that introduction I will move on to the issue at hand.

Nobody can predict when a flu pandemic will hit. Health experts say that it is long overdue. A worldwide flu pandemic has hit every 10 to 40 years since the 16th century. There have been three in the last century, the most deadly being the Spanish flu in 1918 that killed almost 20 million people. Many believe a new virus that appeared in Hong Kong in 1997 will create the next pandemic. We have seen it move from chickens to people, and it has caused death in about 75% of those who have been infected.

There has been concern that a new flu pandemic will occur and there are already examples in Asia that threaten humans. These viruses seem to come from birds. An interesting development has occurred in the area of flu vaccination. Cornell University has announced recently that it may be possible for a major breakthrough and that a universal flu vaccine may be found.

Could the member tell us what the government is doing to improve Canada's research capabilities so we can find ways to prevent the next pandemic? Could the member could elaborate on other measures the government is taking in this regard?

Financial Administration Act February 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, that was quite something. My question dealt with the compensation for people who received hepatitis C due to tainted blood.

What the member was just talking about was Internet pharmacies. I did not raise that issue. I am not talking about that issue. I find it very disturbing that he would not even answer the question that I am raising, or any of the questions.

It is disconcerting because it shows the contempt perhaps of this government toward these victims. I am utterly astounded that the Minister of Health has not taken the time to deal with this issue nor the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, but we have the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment answering these questions.

Even though it has been widely publicized and everyone knows about this issue, the response has nothing to do with the questions which were raised and with which we are now dealing. The member's response makes a mockery of this whole process. I am profoundly disappointed, mostly for the victims of hepatitis C.

Financial Administration Act February 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have raised the issue of hepatitis C compensation for those who were infected by tainted blood on numerous occasions. The government has continued to delay and dodge the question. I will ask my question one more time and very simply. Will the government stop discriminating against the pre-1986 and post-1990 victims of tainted blood? When can these people expect compensation?

We have heard from the minister that an actuarial report is due in June, but people continue to suffer and die from this tragic event. When can people expect this actuarial report? When will Canadians be able to have comfort in knowing that these people will be compensated?

I would like to point out that there is a huge surplus in the hepatitis C fund and yet the Liberals have continued to deny people access to the surplus even though it is clear that they will be able to pay compensation as required to the people who have not yet died.

The minister has suggested that lawyers are going to be involved in determining compensation availability through the fund. The last time this was put to lawyers, it cost the victims' fund approximately $58.5 million. How much will come out of victims' pockets this time around?

Roger Perrault, who was in charge of the Red Cross blood program during the 1980s and who was charged by the RCMP with three counts of negligence in regard to the issue of tainted blood, has asked the courts to drop criminal charges against him. Victims across Canada are demanding the Crown oppose that move. I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could provide assurances to Canadians that the person who was responsible for this tragedy will not get off easy and will be pursued to the full extent of the law.

Food and Drugs Act February 14th, 2005

Madam Speaker, regulations that have no basis in legislation are a constant problem that only recently has been addressed in any significant way.

Often when legislation is made, the regulations that allow for the implementation and enforcement of the law are made after the fact, by the relevant department or ministry. Essentially, Parliament confers upon the minister the power to create regulations, provided they do not exceed the parameters of the legislation. What often happens, however, is that the lengthy and convoluted process required creating regulations results in regulations that are technically not legal. Powers that have not been conferred by law are given through regulation to the minister.

Not only does this situation violate the supremacy of Parliament, it effectively allows law to be made without any accountability or oversight. While some irregularities are due simply mistakes, others are deliberate attempts to ignore the intent and alter the outcome of legislation.

The Standing Joint Committee of Scrutiny of Regulations is responsible for the line by line analysis of regulations. It is charged with the often thankless and tedious task of ensuring that regulations made outside of Parliament adhere to the intention and letter of the legislation made by members of Parliament.

Thanks to the rare passage of a private member's bill, Bill C-205, in 2003, which may I add, was the result of the hard work of its sponsor, the Conservative member from Newton—North Delta, Parliament now has greater powers to ensure that law by regulation is curtailed.

The Standing Joint Committee of Scrutiny of Regulations was given the power to disallow any regulations made pursuant to authority delegated by Parliament. Canada's elected officials now have a greater ability to ensure that Parliament, and not unelected bureaucrats, have the ultimate law-making authority. Democracy has been strengthened.

The bill is the direct result of five years of pressure by the Standing Joint Committee of Scrutiny of Regulations on Health Canada. The irregularity of the regulation was first pointed out in 1999, and it is only now, after years of resistance, that the department has finally brought the bill forward.

The bill is an amendment to the Food and Drugs Act. Currently, a regulation allows the direct, in this case the deputy minister of health responsible for health products, to issue notices of interim market authorizations. The regulation gives the director administrative discretion that exceeds the legislative authority granted by Parliament to the governor in council. In other words, the regulation contradicts the authority of the original legislation. The bill seeks to correct this discrepancy.

The regulation was created in 1997, and since that time 82 interim market authorizations have been made. Because the regulation violates the legislation to which it applies, all these authorizations have technically been illegal.

The amendment seeks to fix this irregularity by giving the minister the authority to make interim market authorizations. The bill also seeks to exempt any food that contains an agricultural chemical at or below a limit specified under the new Pest Control Products Act. Those foods containing safe levels of substances can be sold because their sale poses no harm to consumers.

Interim market authorizations are made to allow, by providing exemptions from the Food and Drug Act's requirements, the sale of foods that contain substances at or below specified levels. This will allow Canadians faster access to food products. The bill applies to the immediate sale of food products that contain pesticides, veterinary pharmaceuticals, added vitamins, minerals and amino acids at or below the specified maximum limit.

This bill is not creating from scratch a new practice, but is simply making legal or enshrining in law a practice that has been taking place for years.

The Conservative Party supports this amendment because regulations that violate the letter and/or the intent of the law should not be tolerated. Any action that eliminates irregularities should be encouraged.

We also support the writing into law of interim market authorizations. As long as the safety of Canadians is accounted for, there is no reason that food and other products should not be allowed for sale if the substances they contain do not exceed the specified safety levels.

These measures allow Canadian food producers and manufacturers to quickly bring their products to market, increasing their ability to compete. Canadian consumers also benefit by gaining quicker access to new and modified products.

Like other smart regulations, interim market authorization creates a level playing field for Canadian business especially within the U.S. market. Currently the U.S. government allows food products in the approval stage to be marketed, given that they are not harmful or restricted by other laws.

That being said, caution is needed. Although interim market authorizations have been common practice since 1997 supposedly without incident, this is not to say that unsafe food products have not been prematurely authorized for sale. Not only might their sale pose a health risk, but the government may be liable for damages in the event of unsafe food causing problems.

Interim market authorizations are necessary and welcome, but must be used only when it is known beyond a doubt that whatever substance is in a food product is at or below an already approved safe level.

In summary, Bill C-28 is a corrective measure to bring an existing regulation into line with the legislation to which it applies.

We want to reduce the number of regulations that contradict the authority of the legislation. This will take years, but it is a necessary undertaking worth the effort. We support this change as a small step toward better laws and better law making.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act February 10th, 2005

Madam Speaker, this is obviously a very important issue. People are dying as the member has stated.

Given the short period of time to answer the question, I will just say this. The Liberal government has caused a crisis in the health care system. This crisis permeates the entire system. This is just another example of not having the adequate number of health care professionals to deal with the increased number of patients. It is poor planning, a lack of funding and accountability.

It shows that the Liberals have caused a very difficult situation. We need to work hard. It will take a long time to deal with the damage that the Liberal government has caused to the health care system. I hope that when the Liberals go to bed at night, they think about all the people who have died needlessly due to their policies.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act February 10th, 2005

Madam Speaker, when the Prime Minister cut $25 billion from the health care system in 1995, he gouged it for at least a generation. Essentially the bill only replaces some of the funding the government took from the health care system in the first place. The government should stop its self-congratulations and reflect on the harm it has caused all those who need care.

The Conservative Party supported the 2004 health care deal in part because any deal is better than no deal. The people on the front lines, the patients and the health care professionals need help and they need it now. The return of the stolen money deserves no accolades; rather it demands a watchful eye to prevent the same crime from happening again.

Restored funding is a welcome development, if a decade too late. However, money alone will not solve the problems with which the Liberals have burdened our health care system. It is not enough to throw money at a system and say, “Heal thyself”. Leadership is needed, leadership that is accountable to Parliament and to Canadians. Leadership means having the courage to commit to the necessary change and to see it through. Leadership means focusing on a goal until it is realized. Leadership means keeping those with a stake in the system in all cases, in this case Canadians, informed and aware of the progress made.

More money will not ensure accountability. Dollars invested must be accounted for, but unfortunately, measuring how money is spent and the value of that investment is difficult due to the dearth of reliable information provided by the government.

In the next 10 years $41 billion will be transferred to the provinces. That is a lot of money, but I ask, how will Canadians know how that money is being spent? How will Canadians judge if it is being used effectively and for its intended purposes? The Liberal government's past handling of the public purse instills little confidence that it will manage the transfer of such a large amount of money and important funds in an honest and effective manner.

The bill makes mention of a parliamentary review in three years and one more three years later. There will be two reviews in the span of a decade. Giving the Liberals three years to manage our money without any accountability is like hiring the Hamburglar for a late night shift at McDonald's; Big Macs will inevitably go missing. Virtually no accountability mechanisms will be put in place. It makes me wonder how we will know that Canadians are getting a bang for their buck.

If the government were truly serious about reforming health care, it would not have walked away from the table in 2004 without agreeing to accountability measures. It would have included something in the bill that did not need to be reinvented. In fact, a mechanism for accountability already existed with the previous accord of 2003. Why does the bill not provide a mechanism that allows Parliament to review the progress and expenditures on a yearly basis?

Although accountability provisions are very weak, we will hold the federal and provincial governments accountable for meeting the commitments that they made in the 10 year plan.

In its annual report to Parliament the government consistently fails to report on a variety of important issues. These were recently highlighted in reports last fall. One of these deals with privatization.

A wait time reduction transfer will also be created to provide funding to help provinces reduce wait times according to their respective priorities. Unfortunately, the bill will give the finance minister the right to determine how much money is given and when, therefore opening the door for yet more Liberal funny accounting.

We are seeing that today. The Prime Minister is in front of a judge trying to explain why the Liberals were able to funnel money to their friends. It is the first time in 130 years a prime minister has found himself in this situation. It is very disturbing that we are setting up a playing field for such activity to occur again.

The value of this transfer and when it would take place should be predetermined and not be subject to the whims of a minister looking to fiddle with the books. Nary a whisper has been heard from the government in its yearly reports on privatization within the health care system. Private for profit services have proliferated, yet these reports make no mention whatsoever of this reality.

Governments at both levels are obviously not following the reporting protocol demanded in law by the CHA. The provinces fail to provide the information they are supposed to, and the federal government is not enforcing the law it is required to uphold.

Again we saw this with the Health Council of Canada in its report last fall and in the testimony of Michael Decter. The federal government is not leading the way in accountability to Canadians. In fact it is the anchor of non-progress on transparency and accountability.

Canadians deserve to know the details about the private clinics across the country. They deserve to know how new public-private partnerships initiated in several cities are progressing. What is the extent of this change? How much does it cost? What are the effects on the health care system?

Soon after his appointment the minister said that it was his priority to stem the tide of privatization. The lines of accountability are non-existent. He can continue to ignore his promise to Canadians. Privatization in health care, the supposed scourge of the Liberals which the Liberals vowed to defend Canadians from, is now a day to day reality in Canada.

In the last decade increasing medical use of MRIs, patient concerns and the business needs of for profit medical enterprises have fuelled an explosion in demand for high tech non-invasive diagnostic imaging. Private MRI clinics have sprung up across Canada in the past decade.

Canada's first for profit MRI clinic opened in Calgary in 1993. It was followed quickly by another in Vancouver. Today there are for profit MRI and CT machines in four provinces: three MRIs and one CT in B.C.; five MRI clinics, three with CT scanners in Alberta; ten MRIs and six to eight CTs in Quebec; and one MRI in Nova Scotia. At least one public hospital, St. Paul's in Vancouver, offers CT scans to patients for pay.

The health minister has indicated his intention is to penalize B.C. for allowing private clinics to charge fees for medically necessary treatment. Yet he fails to acknowledge that some provinces take liberties with the Canada Health Act. In fact Quebec is a province that is home to half of the country's 34 private MRI clinics.

It would be nice if the government could come clean on this subject. It should at least be transparent and admit the reality. We do have private health care in Canada, yet the government pretends it does not exist.

If public moneys are being used to provide services to Canadians at for profit clinics, should there not be some acknowledgment of this fact? Should Canadians not know how much of their $41 billion is being spent on private medicine?

Aside from the one time contribution in 2005-06, no money is offered for pharmacare. This is despite the fact that many Canadians, especially in Atlantic Canada, have no catastrophic drug coverage.

There was also passing mention to affordable drugs. There is nothing new in this deal on health that will lessen the burden of prescription medications for Canadians. The government agreed to set up a committee to study the issue and report back. More committees will not help Canadians. In fact, the committee will not report until many years in the future. Contrast that with the Conservatives, who promised a catastrophic drug program. By now, if we had a Conservative government, no doubt it would already by underway.

However, Conservatives feel that individuals and families should not be financially ruined by exorbitant drug bills. Nor should they be unable to get the drugs they need because they do not have the money. The Liberals simply failed to address this question.

Canadians are now realizing that the Liberal government's solutions on health care will not provide relief to an already burdened medicare system. More money is not the key to reforming the system and providing a truly universal health care system in Canada. We need to look at other issues as well, for example, healthy living initiatives. Health care is more than just hospitals and clinics, MRIs and pharmaceuticals. Health care is about healthy living.

The government approach to health care is in many ways in the wrong direction. Rather than devoting billions of dollars only to treating those already sick or injured, why not focus as well on preventing Canadians from becoming sick or injured in the first place? Provincial governments across Canada are taking steps to encourage and educate their populations about the benefits of healthy living. It can relieve a great deal of burden on our health care system so our doctors and nurses can focus their efforts on those who are truly in need of medical attention.

Reducing smoking, encouraging healthier diets, more frequent exercise and cleaning the environment will all improve the general health of Canadians. Government's role in these efforts is not to force Canadians to change, but to educate them about the benefits of a healthier lifestyle and cleaner environment, and provide them the incentives to change.

Patient safety needs require attention. Studies have shown that preventable or adverse events may cause 10,000 to 20,000 deaths per year. Over a million hospital days are devoted to treating injury and sickness caused by adverse events. Imagine the time and money that could be saved if these were reduced. This again highlights the Liberals' backward approach to health care reform. Rather than simply having a health care system that people deserve, they are trying to deal with chronic care at the end.

A national mental health strategy would also have benefits. Mental health is like the estranged cousin of the health care system. Canada is the only country in the G-7 that does not have an articulated strategy for dealing with mental health. It is time the government addressed this issue and plays a leadership role in helping Canadians with mental illness. In conjunction with the leadership of the provincial governments across Canada, the federal government will play an important role in devoting resources and research to the treatment of mental illness.

Then we have the personnel shortages about which we hear so much. Responding to public concern, the government would establish a waiting time reduction transfer. The reason for this is obvious. Waiting times for certain services in certain places have become dangerously long. However, waiting times are only part of the problem. No matter the funding level, without enough health care workers in the system, the system will not function properly.

Canada's health care system faces looming personnel shortages. The number of doctors, nurses, technicians and other practitioners is increasingly inadequate to meet the demands of an aging population. Supply simply cannot keep up with the demand.

According to a Decima poll, more than 4 million Canadians cannot find a family doctor. Without a strong front line health care system, people cannot adequately access health care and deal with the health care issues from which these people suffer.

Front line physicians as a group are getting older, accepting fewer patients, working fewer hours and providing fewer services. The Ontario College of Physicians reports that since 2000 the average age of a practising physician in Ontario has increased from 49 to 51 years of age. In the past four years the number of family doctors accepting new patients has declined from 39% to 16.5%. Compared to their older peers, younger physicians are devoting less time to direct patient care. Doctors across the country are reducing the services they provide. Traditionally, half of all physicians were family doctors. Today less than 30% of medical students opt for family practice as a career and increasingly prefer less stressful, more lucrative careers is specialization.

Nurses too are aging as a profession. When baby boomers start retiring in droves, there simply will not be enough nurses to staff an already overburdened workforce.

The bottom line is that more funding alone will not solve the growing personnel shortage. The government lacks a comprehensive strategy to recruit and train tomorrow's health care workers.

Foreign credentials need to be recognized so more qualified foreign trained physicians can practise in Canada. The government must pressure federal health organizations to end protectionism and controls that make it so difficult for foreign health professionals to get their credentials accepted. The government should also free up and provide resources so residency spots can be provided to allow these professionals to get the necessary training or qualifications they need to practise in Canada.

This is not a health issue, but needs cooperation on other files such as immigration, labour in cooperation with the provinces that are responsible for education.

Disparities in health care, access and the quality of service are rampant. It is no secret that despite the Liberal assurances that health care is provided universally to all Canadians, many receive less than adequate care, and it does depend, unfortunately, on where one lives.

Disparities and access to services and quality of services received is divided in regional and socio-economic groups. Atlantic and northern Canada tend to have poorer service than central Canada. Rural areas generally have poorer health care than do urban areas. Aboriginals and others with lower income certainly have poorer health care services.

Increased funding will not narrow the widening disparities in health care services provided to different Canadians. The government bill provides no assurances that this embarrassing situation will be addressed adequately. It is the same old theme, talking about the problem, throwing money at it and expecting everything to be all right. Then we have another health care summit to divvy up more money to solve the same problems. People are getting sick and tired of these health care summits. They want action.

We have a report that shows that 24,000 deaths per year may be caused by adverse events. Health Canada officials agreed yesterday before the health committee that this estimate is probably too conservative, as in all likelihood many more adverse events go unreported.

We have issues around prescription error. Online prescribing can help deal with this needless loss of life. It is not enough for the Liberals to say that funding has been provided and progress has been made. While they dither, people die. Aside from the cost in lives, researchers estimate that more than a million days in hospital could be attributed to adverse events.

The Liberals continue to show that they are unable to deal with health care in Canada. They caused the problem. They have a shameful record when it comes to tracking aboriginal health.

Is it not ironic that the government talks about accountability when it is not accountable itself? We have the ad scam, we have the cancelling of the helicopters, we have the HRDC boondoggle and the gun registry.The list goes on and on.

Conservative promises were made, and only the Conservative Party has the credibility.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act February 10th, 2005

Madam Speaker, the hon. member talked about results and equal access regardless of the place of residence. I would like to point out that results and the past performance of individuals or governments can be a measure of what one can expect in the future. As we all know, the Liberal record on health care is terrible. The Liberals are the ones who cut the $25 billion from the health care system in the first place and caused this health care crisis that we now have to deal with.

The member has said that everyone will have equal access regardless of their place of residence and that the moneys will be accounted for. I wonder, then, if the member can explain why the health care system for our first nations throughout Canada has been compared to those of third world nations. Why is it that the federal government has no measure of accountability on how the moneys are spent on first nations? And this is not just someone from a political party making this suggestion; it is the Health Council of Canada.

It is really disturbing that the federal government, which provides health care benefits for almost a million people, which makes it about number five as far as health care providers in Canada are concerned, has shown consistently that it is unable to provide health care for those people. Therefore, why should anyone believe that the government has any credibility on this file?

Thus, my question to the member is about equal access. We know that equal access does not exist. Regarding place of residence, I am sure that the people of our first nations would say that their health care is not adequate. As far as accountability goes, where is all the money going to these places? How can the member make these assertions when he knows very well that the Liberals are the ones who are not accountable? We just have to look at the Prime Minister's testimony today to find out where Liberal moneys are going. I wonder if the member could respond to this.

Pharmaceutical Industry February 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it seems that some people have had a lobotomy. If the minister is calling the shots, cabinet meetings must be like a gun-fight in a dark room.

The Toronto Star knows that the minister is giving in to American pressure and seems hell-bent on making a decision before the health committee can report on this issue in a thoughtful, thorough and timely manner.

Could the minister please answer yes or no. Will he respect the parliamentary process and allow the committee to complete its important work, yes or no?