Mr. Nelson Riis (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, NDP)
Mr. Speaker, I direct my comments to my Liberal friends sitting across the way. I assume they have been out door knocking like my friend from Halifax who indicated that he had been knocking on doors for the past number of weeks. I know I have and there is one thing that I found out at almost every door. Those who wanted to talk inevitably talked about health care and the abysmal state of our system. There were some people who did not want to talk or they were not at home or they could not talk.
I would say it is almost in a crisis situation. As a matter of fact, I suspect there is not a single member of parliament today who does not know someone personally in his or her family who has not been confronted with an inadequate health care system in terms of treatment. I know I certainly have. My parents are elderly and are sort of struggling all the time. They do not complain but they have had to wait weeks for tests and weeks to get into the hospital for a minor operation and so on. That is what one hears everywhere.
It is absolutely scandalous that the government has somehow gotten away with not taking responsibility for the problem. It has blamed it on provincial governments, not to say that they do not deserve some criticism. However, the reality is that it was this government that made those massive cuts to our health care system, which caused this problem from coast to coast to coast. That is fact number one.
Fact number two, as my friend from Halifax just verified, is that the federal government was supposed to throw in 50% of the funding for health care but is now contributing only 13%. That in itself is scandalous. Let us face it, when it throws in only 13% we can forget about national standards from coast to coast.
Forget about the same quality and standard of health care in British Columbia as one would find in Prince Edward Island or in Nova Scotia. That is not the case. We now have virtually 13 different health care systems. There are no serious national standards because the government puts such a minor amount of the money into health care that it cannot enforce national standards.
My friends across the way must be shaking in their boots as people are finding out what is happening in Alberta. There are 50 private health care clinics in the province of Alberta. Bill 11 opens the door now for an American style, two tier, for profit health care system. If we ask any real health care providers or any serious students of health care what they think, they will say that we are opening the door to a two tier for profit American style health care system, which is not what Canadians want. I do not think I have ever encountered a single Canadian who says he or she wants to be like the Americans when it comes to our health care system.
Perhaps, as my hon. friend reminds me, there are some parties in the House that feel comfortable with an American style health care system, but Canadians do not. People ought not to make profits on sickness, injury and suffering. That is what a private health care system does.
My friend who spoke just said that Bill C-45 was a small, baby step in the right direction. However, I would not say it is a baby step. This is more like a nudge forward. We have so much more to do. The government for the last two elections has promised Canadians a home care system. Do we have a one today? No, we have not. For the last two elections the Liberals promised a pharmacare program for Canada. Do we have a one? No, we do not.
The government goes to the electorate and says that if it elects the Liberals it will give the people a child care system but they do not do it. The next time they say that if the people elect them they will give them a home care system, but they do not do it. Or they say that if they elect them they will give them a pharmacare system, but they do not do it.
Canadians will eventually figure out that this is a group of folks they might want to be cautious of when they say that they will do this or that for them while really meaning they will do it to them. We will not have a child care system, a home care system, a pharmacare system or an elder care system. I hate to say it but unfortunately that is the reality. I wish I could say something different. I wish I could say that the government has provided health care and home care and so on, but I cannot.
Have members ever seen people trying to clap themselves on their backs using both hands and both feet? That would be quite a sight. That is what we have seen. We have seen people clapping themselves on the back and saying “Look how wonderful we are. We have restored funding”. That is not the case. The government has not restored proper funding for health care. It has restored funding to 1994 levels. The Liberals should wake up. This is not 1994. This is the year 2000. They have increased the funding to 1994 levels, which is a nice step, but what about 1995 levels? Populations were increasing and inflation was increasing. What about 1996? What about 1997? What about 1998? What about 1999? What about the year 2000?
Are we supposed to get excited that the government has dipped into the EI fund and into the federal pension fund to come up with moneys so it can increase federal health care spending to 1994 levels? Are we supposed to be cheering? Yet that is what we are expected to do, cheer. We are not cheering, nor will we cheer. We will say not only is it not enough money, but we have to look at the components of health care.
I think members would agree that we have to have a decent home care system in our country. We are an aging population. How many householders do we know of who do not have to be concerned about caring for an aging member of their family? Home care is a reality. To have a health care system in the 21st century without a home care component is just not possible.
We know the price of drugs. We know that the price of pharmaceuticals has been skyrocketing, particularly after the Mulroney government brought in protection for the drug companies, unfortunately supported by this government. We cannot help that. That is what we have. We need a pharmacare program because we know that seniors by the tens of thousands cannot afford the necessary prescription drugs which they require because we do not have a pharmacare program. We cannot have a modern 21st century health care program without having a pharmacare component in there.
We talk about elder care and child care. I know this is not necessarily part of this discussion. However, when we look at modern countries around the world, do they not have a national child care program? Of course they have. Do they not have a national home care program? Of course they have. If these countries can afford it, why on earth can we not afford it? We have these huge surpluses.
I know we have money to spend to build luxury holiday resorts. We have money to spend on building huge fantastic golf courses. As a matter of fact, I golfed on one this summer. I did not realize it was subsidized by the federal government and by the taxpayers of Canada. We have money for golf courses and luxury resorts but we do not have money for home care.
We heard a lot about the values of our society. The Prime Minister said that this would be an election about values. I hope it is. I think Canadians from coast to coast to coast will also hope that it is. What does it tell us about the values of a government that says it has money for luxury resorts, for golf courses and for fancy statues and fountains in the Prime Minister's riding but cannot afford health care in terms of home care, pharmacare, elder care and child care? It cannot afford these. It cannot even afford social housing.
I want to say that the Prime Minister lives in social housing. The Governor General of Canada lives in social housing. The Leader of the Opposition lives in social housing.
If we can afford social housing for the Leader of the Opposition and for the Prime Minister of Canada, we should have some social housing for people who actually cannot afford decent housing. It seems reasonable to me.
We have to start thinking about what kind of a country we want. Mr. Trudeau called this a just society and our goals should be a just society. The New Democratic Party supports this. We like the idea of a just society so that if we are sick or injured, it does not matter where we happen to be in Canada, we will have access to the top quality care. That is not the case today.
I appeal to my Liberal colleagues to be generous. We have a huge surplus of perhaps $20 billion before us. Invest some of that money in home care, in pharmacare, in elder care and in preventive care so that we can build the health care system of the 21st century that Canadians want, one that we can afford if we have the will to do it.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act