Mr. Greg Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest, PC)
That this House condemns the government for its failure to provide Canadians with a long-term, sustainable plan to address the crisis in our health care system, and its continued failure to work with the provinces to ensure funding formulas consistent with the founding principles of our health care system to provide Canadians with timely and equal access to quality health care.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to debate this issue today and I want to read into the record the very motion which you have just read:
That this House condemns the government for its failure to provide Canadians with a long term, sustainable plan to address the crisis in our health care system, and its continued failure to work with the provinces to ensure funding formulas consistent with the founding principles of our health care system to provide Canadians with timely and equal access to quality health care.
I cannot stress enough the importance of this motion and this debate. I will be splitting my time with the member for Richmond—Arthabaska, who will be moving an amendment to my motion.
I want to talk about the pillars upon which our health care system is built, the principles of our health care system. There are five of them: universality, accessibility, comprehensiveness, portability and public administration.
We have to look at the motion very carefully. I know that we could be attacked on some approaches to this, because in the motion we are not talking about turning the clock back to the 1960s. We are not suggesting that. It is the year 2000 and circumstances obviously have changed from the fifties when universal health care was first introduced in Canada.
We realize full well that we cannot turn the clock back and we are not suggesting that we go back to the 50:50 funding arrangement. It would be unrealistic to suggest that, and we are not suggesting that. We are suggesting that the government has to pay attention to this issue and has to do something. It has to take a leadership role.
I want to mention another important thing. We have a good system in Canada and we do not want to lose it. We have to acknowledge that. We have to move beyond the finger pointing.
I was reminded once in the House that when I point at you, Madam Speaker, or anyone across the way, including the health minister, who I am glad to see is here today, I have three fingers pointing back at myself. I mention that because we are in this together and we have to find a way to solve the problems that we have in our health care system. It is not simply pointing over there and then pointing back at ourselves. Too much of that has gone on for years and years in this country.
Our health care system is a deal for Canadians. We have a good system upon which we have to build. We have to preserve it.
Let us take a look at what we spend in terms of our GDP in Canada versus other countries, realizing that we have a system which includes everyone. No one is left outside our system. We have a universal system. We want to protect the universality of our system.
In Canada we dedicate approximately 9% of our GDP to maintaining a universal health care system which includes every Canadian. By comparison, the United States dedicates approximately 14% of its GDP to a system that leaves out, at a minimum, 40% of the population. Truly, the taxpayers are getting a deal. I think most of us have to stand in our place and acknowledge that.
Where I think we have fallen short in recent years is on the federal side, in terms of its responsibility to the provinces. I mentioned at the outset that when universal health care was introduced the funding formula required that 50% be paid by the federal government. There will be arguments over figures on this issue. Most people would accept that the funding formula now on the federal side is about 15%. The government could argue that it is 20% or more, but let us accept the fact that it is 15%.
I hear members opposite saying that it is 33%. Let us move beyond that. I do not want to get into a rancorous back and forth. I want to hear some intelligent debate today.
Regardless of what that percentage is, the fact is that by the year 2004 $30 billion will have been extracted from the system on the federal side of the equation. Most of the provinces cannot live with that. What they are saying is, if the federal government wants them to adhere to the principles of the Canada Health Act, they need more money.
Madam Speaker, I am going to ask my colleagues to tone it down a little. I know it is difficult for you to hear it, but from where I am standing I can hear it. I do not mind the debate, but please allow me to concentrate on my debate and members opposite can take it outside the House. Please add another minute or two to my speech, Madam Speaker. I will inflict more pain on them if they do not quiet down.
We have a problem in this country. It is a funding problem which we cannot walk away from. The federal government cannot walk away from it.
In the recent budget there was mention of $2.5 billion going back into the system. That $2.5 billion sounds pretty good, but let us put it into perspective. The $2.5 billion supplement, as it is called, will not to be added to the cash floor of the CHST. It will go into a third party trust which will be split between education and health care. It is the prerogative of the provinces to spend it where they will.
If we assume that the provinces will be spending all of that money on health care over the next three years, in my home province of New Brunswick, once the money is sorted out and its percentage is taken in, it will have exactly $5 million this year to spend on health care. That would keep our system running for one day. If we said that half of the money has to go to education, we would be running the system for half a day. It just shows how little attention the government paid to this issue in the federal budget.
That is what led me to believe, from the day the minister presented his budget in the House, that it was not an election budget. It is reminiscent of a former prime minister by the name of Mackenzie King. He was a political genius, but he always created an artificial crisis, knowing full well that he could solve it sometime down the road. In other words, at the right moment he could solve the political problem which he himself created. That is what I see happening in this case. The government today has the wherewithal to solve the problem, but it is not going to solve it now. It will solve it six months or a year from now, leading into an election. The government would call it political opportunity. There was a lot of political opportunity in the budget which was presented. We should not be surprised if the government comes up with a last minute reprieve.
It is easy to talk about what the government is doing wrong, but it could easily point across to us and ask “What would you do?” Let us talk about what we would do.
In March 1999 Joe Clark, the leader of our party, stated that we would bring together the provinces, the territories, health care professionals and others to establish contemporary national goals and objectives for our health care system, negotiate acceptable national standards, and create a reliable system to assess performances and generate a common information base on what Canadians expect and need in health care so that we can measure and foresee the demands for services.
Those are only a few of the things we could do. The other thing we could do, of course, is to provide more education for Canadians on better health practices, move to reduce the number of smokers in Canada who account for 25,000 deaths a year, and move on the technology side.
I know my colleague will continue this debate, driving home some of the points and concerns that he has. I look forward to the debate.