Personal Data

Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Birth Date
June 4, 1959
paramedic, volunteer worker

Parliamentary Career

May 13, 2002 - February 1, 2004
  Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)
February 2, 2004 - May 23, 2004
  Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 26 of 27)

June 11, 2002

Mr. Rex Barnes

Mr. Chairman, with regard to prescription drugs there are a lot of Canadians who are financially unable to have a drug plan or are unable for whatever reasons to buy certain drugs for their medical condition. I deal with people in these circumstances on a continuous basis. As I mentioned in my speech tonight, I know of a woman who has spent $3,700 for medication. She is going to have to declare bankruptcy.

The federal government is going to have to make prescription drugs easily available for these exceptions, or the federal government and the provinces will need to work together to make sure that people have access to them. Sometimes provincial governments shift the blame and say it is a federal government problem. I have heard that many times. I spent 22 years fighting the provincial government on issues regarding health care. It always blamed the federal government for a shortage of money. We have to work together. We have to try something different. With a co-operative spirit we should be able to work these things out.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Health Care System
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June 11, 2002

Mr. Rex Barnes

Mr. Chairman, I spoke to several students who were in the process of getting their degree to practise medicine. Many of them have told me that they cannot afford to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador to practise as family physicians because of the large debt load they must pay back. Some will leave the province because the money and working conditions are better.

The province from to time designates so many doctors to cover for MCP in certain areas and as a result will not hire more. There is no incentive for them to go to rural Newfoundland and Labrador. If the province would give them incentives they would probably go there. Some have said why should they go down into rural Newfoundland and Labrador and spend 10 years of their life trying to accommodate the province when it will not give them anything back? They are forced to go to Upper Canada, as they say, to make more money so they can pay off their debt load much quicker.

Some people do return after 10 or 15 years, but the problem then is where do they go? The doctors who are there are probably younger and will not be leaving because they made a commitment. Tax incentives to persuade doctors to stay there is a good idea. It is something that the federal government should look at.

Just prior to announcing that I was running in the election I spoke to three interns. They told me that if the government could take care of their debt they would give a commitment to the people of the province and go to rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

They know the need is there and they know they need the expertise there to make health care better out on the coast. That is why in rural Newfoundland and Labrador they are training nurse practitioners to take on the workload. Some of the nurse practitioners are able to do it and some are not able to do it because of family concerns and family problems and commitments. If there was an incentive program to work with they would do it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Health Care System
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June 11, 2002

Mr. Rex Barnes (Gander—Grand Falls, PC)

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on behalf of my constituents in Gander--Grand Falls.

The Canadian health care system is in crisis. This idea is demonstrated by the true failure of the health care system faced by all Canadians, particularly those living in rural Canada. In Newfoundland and Labrador the number of rural physicians fell by 12.3% between 1996 and 2000. Any solution that is sought for this problem must address the issue of providing adequate, sustainable, stable funding for those that administer health in this country.

The position of adding a sixth principle to the Canada Health Act has been long advocated by the Progressive Conservative Party. The provinces must be able to rely on the federal government so they can put in place long term plans to effectively deliver health care without having to look over their shoulders wondering when the next round of cuts will come to this essential service.

Prior to being elected as the MP for Gander--Grand Falls last month, I worked directly in the health care field as a paramedic for 22 years. I can say that morale in the health care field is at an all time low. Health care workers are discouraged by the lack of support, the lack of leadership and the lack of compassion the federal government has shown toward patient care. Health care workers do not have the tools or the personnel to do the job for which they were trained and so desperately need to do.

It is from this perspective as a frontline worker in the health care system that I talk to the House today. I have seen this crisis firsthand. In Grand Falls-Windsor where I worked, as of April 26 there were 10 physician vacancies. On January 10 it was also posted that the region has two more openings in clinics for family physicians. In Gander three permanent positions for family physicians were posted on April 8 as available immediately. Prior to that announcement two other vacancies had already been posted on March 28.

The rural crisis grows each month as health care professionals choose to go elsewhere because the system as it stands now simply does not work. What is needed more than talk and debate is leadership in finding solutions. Any solution will only be found in direction from the federal government in finding co-operative solutions with the provinces. Clearly, the answers do not lie in a private health care system. The answers lie in co-operation and leadership. The very fabric of this country is universal access for all Canadians no matter where they live.

Our party understands that throwing money at problems does not automatically result in a solution. Funding must address the real needs of the people. What is needed is a plan. Strategic spending of financial resources will result in direct benefits at the local level.

One thing I think we can all agree on tonight is that the fundamental pillar of universality is in doubt. Certain provinces are able to pay their health care professionals more than other provinces can. Last year Alberta offered its nurses more than its neighbouring province of British Columbia offered its nurses. Some provinces may have the financial ability to match this challenge. Newfoundland and Labrador cannot.

This does not mean that health care workers in other provinces should have their wages limited. Rather, the federal government must work with the other provinces to ensure that all provinces have an equal opportunity to acquire the resources required to meet their needs. The federal government must put an end to the ongoing bidding war for the ever shrinking pool of trained health care professionals.

Doctors are not taking on new patients in regions of the country, especially in Gander--Grand Falls and in rural Canada in particular. The biggest problem is that doctors are leaving because their working conditions are unacceptable. Health care professionals leave rural Canada because they do not have the tools to fulfill the professional code of care they have been sworn to uphold. Doctors are faced with a lack of adequate staff, the absence of proper medical equipment required to do their jobs and the prospect of better financial compensation elsewhere.

There are several ways to address these problems. The issue is not just how to entice doctors to rural Canada but also how to encourage them to stay.

The first step is to provide the means for those medical students who come from rural Canada to return. This can be accomplished through loan programs that provide students with the opportunity to acquire their medical education debt free with the agreement that they will spend the length of time they have spent in their studies in rural areas. The idea here is not to trap people in rural Canada. It is to provide encouragement.

We need to think outside the box. Instead of chaining students debt to the obligation to practice in rural Canada, the federal government should provide income tax breaks for those who take up the profession in Canada's less populated regions. For example, those who work in rural areas should be free from income tax for the first five years after graduation. This is not unlike the cost of living tax breaks offered to Canadians who live in the far north.

In addition to this, with an eye to a more permanent solution, for every five years that doctors work in rural Canada they should be rewarded with a year free from income tax. This would have the added benefit of freeing up dollars for health care professionals who would most likely spend it in the local economy.

First year enrolment in Canadian faculties of medicine continues to drop meaning that the problem will only get worse before we find a solution to start making it better. One solution to this problem is to make it easier for foreign trained health care professionals to practice in Canada. Canada is a country that boasts about its immigration policies, and then we prevent these new Canadians from using their skills and knowledge when they come to our country.

At a time when we are producing fewer doctors, I would ask the government: Why is it not tapping into this obvious resource talent? The federal government should take the lead by bringing together professional associations and provincial governments to resolve this problem immediately.

The lack of federal leadership is continually demonstrated by the fact that moneys allocated to health care are not going where they are needed. In my riding of Gander--Grand Falls there is a lack of health care equipment. The federal government must sit down with the provinces in good faith with the idea of ensuring that the money that is allocated nationally gets to the local places where it is needed.

The committee from the other place on social affairs, science and technology stated that it was concerned that:

--there are apparently no mechanisms for ensuring accountability on the part of the provinces and territories as to exactly where money targeted towards purchasing new equipment is actually spent..

Such occurrences stem directly from the lack of co-operation between governments, responsibility for which lies directly at the federal level.

Our aging population means increasing demands on our system. What is easily overlooked is that our health care professionals are also aging. This will lead to even further future demands on our system. An aging population also means a reassessment of the needs of our health care system. We must redesign and refocus our health care system to address where the population bulge is now found.

In my election campaign I met a woman who had spent $3,700 a month on prescription drugs. Her options were pretty limited, bankruptcy or illness so severe that it would undermine her quality of life. No Canadian citizen should be faced with this dilemma

There is no commitment, no vision by the federal government to even improve the time limits for drug approval that would result in lower costs for Canadians. We all know that unless people are able to have access to prescription medication that they will only end up institutionalized, further compounding our problems.

In Canada, towns with a population under 10,000 people amount to 22.2% of the population, and yet they are served by only 10.1% of our Canadian physicians. Any solution to the health care crisis must address the problem facing rural Canada exemplified by what is happening in my riding of Gander--Grand Falls.

Ultimately, the system cannot fail because the federal government and the provinces cannot work things out. Someone must take the lead.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Health Care System
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June 10, 2002

Mr. Rex Barnes (Gander—Grand Falls, PC)

Mr. Speaker, the silence of VIA Rail with regard to the spending of public money is deafening. Once again $1 million of the public purse has been spent on advertising and sponsorship, but no one wants to give the public the answers it deserves.

It is time for the crown corporation to be accountable to the public. At issue is what kind of work was performed and why the sponsorship money was funnelled through VIA Rail. Something smells and it is not the pollution in the air. I will be recommending that the chairman of the VIA Rail board and the president and chief executive officer come before the transport committee and answer questions concerning the company's advertising and sponsorship programs.

VIA Rail is owned by the taxpayers of this country and they have a right to know how the money is being spent.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   VIA Rail
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June 4, 2002

Mr. Rex Barnes (Gander—Grand Falls, PC)

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk briefly today about a topic of great importance to the people in my riding of Gander--Grand Falls and all of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Today I am given to understand that negotiations are ongoing between the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and Inco with respect to the development of Voisey's Bay. In fact I am told that a deal will be done soon.

Given our province's past history of resource giveaways, it is vitally important that the Voisey's deal be a good deal. To ensure that we are getting a good deal any agreement with Voisey's Bay must not be done behind closed doors. It should be publicly debated and should be ratified by the house of assembly in Newfoundland and Labrador before a deal is signed.

Voisey's Bay is a non-renewable resource. We only get one shot at doing it right. We found out with Churchill Falls that it was too late to close the barn door after the horse was gone.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Mining Industry
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