March 17, 2000 (36th Parliament, 2nd Session)


André Bachand

Progressive Conservative

Mr. André Bachand (Richmond—Arthabaska, PC)

Mr. Speaker, my colleague was so clear, and what he said was so clear, that no questions are asked of him in this House. This proves that people are silent when faced with the truth. I am extremely proud of my colleague.
I must admit that I am not an expert number cruncher, like the future leader of the Liberal Party, the Minister of Finance, but we do need to address the key figures. After two major recessions, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the government made cuts, but not in its own finances. Its main cuts were to the transfer payments to the provinces.
It is said that 60% to 70% of the effort to fight the deficit was focused on transfer payments to the provinces. There was another 5% to 8% in program cuts. And then there was some $35 billion in increased taxes that went into the government's coffers.
After the latest budget by the Liberal Party leader-in-waiting, we are told that the federal government is a 30% partner in health. It has to be remembered that that 30% figure dates from the time the future Liberal Leader brought down his budget. That was before the provincial budgets.
Our colleagues ought to wait for all of the provinces to have brought down their budgets. They will then see that the federal percentage will drop to about 15% or 20%. We will wait for the final outcome.
When the future leader brought down his budget, the figure was 30%. But with the Quebec budget, the federal participation will go down to pretty well what it was before the leader-in-waiting's last budget.
Money is a problem, yes, but I believe we all agree that there is also a problem of principle. In the future Liberal leader's last budget, we were also told there would be a conference with the ministers of health of all of the Canadian provinces.
On this point I think the Minister of Health is right. I think he wants to meet his counterparts in the provinces quickly, and we congratulate him on that. It is important. This government needs to do more of this: work more in partnership and not announce programs without consulting its partners on it. This is co-operative federalism. In fact, it is even more that that: it is respect for others, which they were a bit short on.
However, the Minister of Health, unfortunately for him, was ordered by his Prime Minister, the future former leader of the Liberal Party, who said “There is no hurry before fall”. Why? For a number of reasons. The main reason is to wait and see what the provinces will each do with their budget, their reinvestment in the health sector.
At that point, the federal Minister of Health will be able to come along and say “Finally, you do not need money. Your investment is three, four, or five times higher than mine. So you have no funding problem. You have a program problem”.
The danger is that the federal Minister of Health will come along with program ideas. With transfers not back in balance, with federal participation, after the provincial budgets, at between 15% and 20%, maximum, but not 30%, the minister will arrive—because he wants to be an important player, even though the game is not quite in his field of jurisdiction, depending on the program—with program ideas.
With what is going on now, following the fight against the deficit, reinvestment, primarily by the provinces, but a bit by the federal government, is still below the figures prior to the 1993-94 cuts. What we are saying is that we would like to talk about the health care system in general.
There are five basic principles that have guided us for years. There are funding problems, the population is changing. Because of increased costs due to inflation and population aging, it will take $2 billion in the health care system just to maintain existing services. So, to offset the costs of inflation and the aging of the population, the government invests $2 billion. This is the cost nationally of maintaining our health care at the same level.
What we are saying—Mr. Clark rightly explained it and my colleague appropriately pointed it out—is that there is undoubtedly a money issue involved in the four points mentioned by the hon. member.
If I give you more money, the choices that you will make will be different. Having money is not everything, but it is helpful. It makes it easier to decide and to plan. We are also asking for long term planning, not in an office in Ottawa, but with the partners in the federation, with the people who are associates and partners in the federation.
The four points that my colleague clearly presented and that Mr. Clark stated do not refer to money. Can we finally review what is going on in our health system? Should we add one or two principles to the five fundamental ones? Maybe. Should we clarify the principles that we have? Maybe. We should have a good debate.
We have to take the opportunity given to us by with what is going on with Bill 11 in Alberta. Some may condemn Bill 11 while others may applaud it, but at least there is a debate on this issue in Alberta. Why not take this opportunity to sit down with our partners and say “Here is what is going on”.
In the wake of the fight against the deficit and the problems in the health care system, is it not time to review this issue together? There are surely good ideas in Alberta. There are surely good ideas in Quebec and in Nova Scotia. There are good ideas everywhere, just like there are bad ideas everywhere. This is clear.
But why wait until the fall? Why would the Minister of Health not invite his partners and tell them “Listen, we will look at the overall situation. I will not come up with my new programs and tell you that I will give you money if you accept them. We will look at the system in general, at the fundamental principles. We will clarify and update these principles”. Why not do this?
I urge the Minister of Health to take this first step this spring and, in the fall, following any discussions that may be held during the summer, to come with solutions concerning basic principles, funding and perhaps programs that are more suitable or updated.
Let us not try to go at it backwards. Of course we think that transfers should be adjusted. That having been said, let us take this opportunity to discuss the problem in very broad terms.
The health system must not be used for political ends by people claiming that they want to defend it. I am referring, of course, to the federal government. This is a responsibility that must be shared by all partners.
When I look at what is going on in my home province, the local level is becoming more and more involved. Hospital boards are appointed by the local population. Then there is the issue of regional health boards. We are trying to involve the grassroots. This is a wonderful message to send the Minister of Health “Do the same thing. Involve the grassroots”. Perhaps not Edmonton, Sherbrooke or Victoriaville, but at least he could involve the provinces and territories.
I wish to move an amendment to the member's motion.
He is our only member in Manitoba, at least for the moment, so we need to take care of him a bit. I move:
That the motion be amended by adding after the word “House” the word “strongly”.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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