Two points have been raised here today. One is the exemption of over 3 per cent of all medical expenses including drugs. The hon. member for Red Deer pointed out that this is not only a hardship on some people, but there is also a piece of rank discrimination in the administration of the act in so far as hospital expenses are concerned. Those who are hit the hardest in this respect are those who live in the big cities. You do not have to go out of Ottawa to find an illustration. There are hundreds and thousands of people in the larger centres who are paying hospital insurance at the present time and who cannot be admitted to hospital because there is no bed space available.
If a person enters a hospital in a large centre which has its own dispensary and complete pharmaceutical set-up, the cost of drugs required by the patient is included in the total hospital bill; but people who are on waiting lists and have been ordered to hospitals by doctors but cannot be admitted through lack of space, who have to be treated at home perhaps for months, who have to hire a nurse and purchase their required medicines and drugs from commercial drugstores, are not able to include these costs in their exemptions for income tax although medical expenses incurred in that way are a legitimate deduction. The hon. member for Red Deer described this situation very clearly this afternoon. The same might be said of the smaller hospitals that do not have their own dispensaries but which purchase their drugs from outside and charge the patient for them. In instances like this there is no provision for exemption for income tax purposes.
Regardless of whether or not the government are prepared to lower the 3 per cent floor, I think they should take cognizance of the element of discrimination that was so thoughtfully described by the hon. member for Red Deer, who unfortunately had a personal experience of this nature in the very recent past. The government should take into consideration those people who are paying hospital insurance but who cannot be admitted to hospital and are obliged to undergo treatment at home. In some cases a chronic case is kept at home for psychological reasons. The expense involved in maintaining a miniature hospital in the homes of such people should be given careful study by the
government. This is a matter that has never been poined out before to my knowledge, and the hon. member for Red Deer deserves commendation for his excellent presentation of the problem this afternoon.
Someone on the other side suggested that this resolution's effectiveness is open to question. I suggest that this is the only way a private member can achieve a discussion on these matters. You cannot bring in a resolution that would involve the expenditure of money; all you can do is ask the government to give consideration to a certain problem.
Private members' day provides a forum where opinions can be exchanged and the good sifted from the bad. In this way those ministers who are responsible for estimates and changes in regulations at times receive a bit of good advice, and if nothing more it certainly provides them with an opportunity to make a speech in rebuttal and serves as a good mental exercise. The only way a private member can instigate a discussion of a problem is by introducing a resolution; in fact, the consideration of the resolution of private members is one of the important functions of parliament.
I do not think anyone should criticize the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre for proposing this resolution year after year. He thinks it is right and many of us agree with him. Some of us have the courage to say so and others have not, depending on where we are sitting in the house, of course. The hon. member in my opinion is to be commended for digging into this kind of problem and giving us the benefit of his research. You know, research is his recreation. While some of us are looking at television he derives a great deal of pleasure from reading Beauchesne and probing into dark recesses containing musty tomes of facts, figures and statistics.
I merely rise at this time because I want to say for the benefit of my colleague that I appreciate his efforts and am willing to support him. I have argued in favour of the principle of this resolution on several occasions, and there is no need to repeat what I have said previously. I am sure that at this time every hon. member in the house is ready to vote for this resolution, and I do not want to hold up the vote any longer.
Topic: INCOME TAX ACT
Subtopic: PROPOSED AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO MEDICAL EXPENSES