Mr. Speaker, I am sorry I have to cut off the hockey debate. It was interesting.
I too have been talking to my constituents about the budget and what we expect to see in it. As I am the health critic for the official opposition, I would like to begin with the number one issue that faces the citizens of Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, including Headingley, and that is health.
For over a decade the Liberal government has gouged the health care system by cutting funds to the provinces by $25 billion over a four year period. As a result, the system has been beset with numerous problems detailed in study after study. Even last week a report from the Health Council of Canada again highlighted the results of the lost decade of Liberal neglect in health care.
The list if familiar. We have a growing shortage of health care practitioners and too many qualified foreign trained professionals who are unable to work in Canada due to our antiquated foreign credential recognition program.
Another issue is the quality of care disparities between regions and the socio-economic groups throughout Canada. This is especially true for first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples whose health ranks well below the national average. Great disparity in the quality of care also exists between urban and rural areas of our great country.
Inattention toward the root causes of poor health such as poverty, the lack of access, poor stakeholder coordination, lack of prevention and unhealthy lifestyles have also not been dealt with by the government.
We have seen increased waiting times for treatment, et cetera.
The need for primary care is also very important. New models of delivery are asked for and we need to encourage more medical students to enter the practice so that we can have more attention to front line services.
I would like to advise the Speaker that I will be splitting my time with the member for Vancouver Island North.
The HCC report also emphasized that too little progress had been made since the 2003 health accord. More effort must be made to accelerate the pace of change. This budget will determine whether the government has committed itself to changing our health care system for the better or if it is going to contribute to its ongoing decline. I suspect the latter is unfortunately the case as the government has a terrible record when it comes to health care.
The Conservative Party supports commitments made in the 2003 first ministers accord and at the first ministers conference last fall to try to restore some of the funding to core health services. Again, I would like to highlight the fact that it was the Liberal government that caused the health care crisis in the first place. Even though the government agreed to the 2003 health accord, it reneged on its obligations in that regard. In regard to health, I hope the Liberals will change the dangerous course that they have set for the country.
In the 2005 budget the Liberal Party must restore funding to the health care system by also allowing not only the $41 billion over 10 years earmarked by the PM for health care, but he also has to ensure that the commitments made by all parties are fulfilled. It was the Prime Minister who said in the last election that he would fix health care for a generation. However, it is the government that has wrecked the health care system for at least a generation.
We also see another broken promise by the Liberal government when it comes to a national pharmacare program. The Conservative Party promised a national pharmacare program for catastrophic drug costs. The Liberals made a similar promise, however, rather than action we see inaction. In the health accord struck this past fall, the Liberal Party did nothing in the area of a national drug program, other than strike a task force that will not report for another couple of years. Committees will not solve this problem. Only action will, and only a Conservative government would do that.
In respect to the doctor shortages, we have many foreign trained doctors in Canada who are unable to practise. Strippers on the other hand do not seem to have any trouble getting into Canada while the Liberals are in charge. The immigration policy must be given a priority in the budget to ensure that qualified foreign doctors, nurses, technicians and other health care professionals are quickly approved and able to practise in Canada. This means a clear workable process for immigrants to obtain equivalency for their international skills, training and experience. It also demands ensuring that Canada successfully encourages skilled immigrants to make this country their destination of choice.
The Conservative Party believes that all Canadians should have reasonable access to timely, quality health care services, regardless of their ability to pay. Health is ultimately a provincial jurisdiction, but this budget must allow the provinces the flexibility to determine how they will deliver health care services to best meet their needs.
In my riding, defence is also a very important issue. In Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia we have the Canadian headquarters for Norad. We have 17 Wing and many other military professionals and public servants who work for the military. The tragic events in Asia at the end of last year again showed that our military is incapable of responding to international humanitarian efforts. It is disgraceful and a shame that Canada, which once acted decisively throughout the world as a peacekeeper and protector of human rights and of course as a leader in the two world wars, can no longer muster the resources to help those who are most in need or defend justice throughout the world.
The Conservatives advocated for heavy lift capacity in our forces in the last election. It is really sad that the Liberals turned that election promise into very negative election propaganda. Our world is a dangerous world and we need to be able to defend our country without having to rely on our friends to the south or anyone else. It is part of being a country. It is part of the cost of being a sovereign nation.
The budget of 2005 must ensure that our armed forces receive the necessary resources to defend our national interests, our economic prosperity and the values of the Canadian people. This means a Canada first defence policy and the money to back it up. The priorities of our military must be sovereignty protection, especially in our Arctic. It is well known that there have been breaches in our sovereignty waters in the north as well as disputes on territory in the Arctic Archipelago in regard to Pond Inlet and other places. We need a military that can go to where a lot of our country is by land mass.
I hope this budget will help reverse the continuing decline that the Liberals have caused in our military. I would also go on to say that we need a combat capable maritime land and air force.
Education is also very important. I have the Canadian Mennonite University in my riding and many of my constituents go to the University of Manitoba. Education is the best investment individuals can make in themselves and it is the best investment that a society can make in individuals. We need to address the issues relating to education to ensure that all our students have high quality and affordable access to education.
Finally, government accountability is very important. We have a Liberal government that wastes tremendous amounts of our resources, which could be better spent on tax relief or health care. Again, I hope that the Liberal government will stop the corruption for which the Liberals are becoming so well known, but based on past results, unfortunately, I do not think there is any way we can change that until we have a Conservative government in power.