Personal Data

New Democratic Party
Palliser (Saskatchewan)
Birth Date
February 12, 1941
communication consultant, consultant, journalist

Parliamentary Career

June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
  Palliser (Saskatchewan)
  • N.D.P. Caucus Chair (February 1, 2000 - August 1, 2004)
November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
  Palliser (Saskatchewan)
  • N.D.P. Caucus Chair (February 1, 2000 - August 1, 2004)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 133)

May 14, 2004

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, one of the country's best known, best loved labour activists and feminists is at Rideau Hall this morning to become an Officer of the Order of Canada. A rich honour for Nancy Riche, sharp witted, fearless and forever colourful.

I had the privilege of working with Nancy when she was elected secretary-treasurer of the National Union of Provincial Government Employees in 1984. Two years later Nancy became executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress and rose to the position of secretary treasurer.

During these years, she has advocated numerous causes, such as women's rights, health care, employment insurance, occupational safety, fair trade and, always, social justice.

Nancy was also president of the Women's Committee of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions representing 157 million workers worldwide.

Warmest congratulations today to Sister Nancy Riche.

Topic:   Statements by Members
Subtopic:   Order of Canada
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May 14, 2004

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak in the House, even in the dying minutes of the 37th Parliament of Canada in all probability.

I am pleased to speak on behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus to put a few things on the record with regard to an act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases.

I note that the purpose of Bill C-36 is to protect public health by taking comprehensive measures to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases while ensuring respect for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the Canadian Bill of Rights.

To that end, the bill aims to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable disease in Canada. It is said to apply to everyone as well as conveyances, travelling both out of Canada as well as entering the country.

The legislation that is introduced here today is described as an update of the Quarantine Act to address new issues as a result of the spread of new communicable diseases that have come to public light in recent years.

I am thinking of course of SARS which had such an impact a year ago in Canada; West Nile virus, which seems to affect Saskatchewan more than any other provinces in Canada or at least it did last year; and indeed, the avian influenza that is ravaging the Fraser Valley in British Columbia.

This bill is also being described as the first step in a series of legislative initiatives to establish a framework for public health including the creation of a public health agency for Canada.

I suggest that this is certainly long overdue legislation. We note that the Quarantine Act dates back to 1872, a very long time ago, upwards of 160 years. Certainly, it needs to be updated in view of these new diseases that have been identified in recent years and undoubtedly are the forerunner to more and new interesting things that will impact on us in the coming years.

Under the proposed legislation the minister will gain the power to appoint screen officers, quarantine officers and environmental assessment officers; establish quarantine facilities at locations in Canada; take temporary possession of premises to use as a detention facility when required and necessary; and divert conveyances, airlines, cargo ships, et cetera, to alternate landing sites.

The stakeholders in all of this include of course the provincial and territorial governments, as the member from the Bloc Quebecois noted in his remarks a few moments ago. It also includes health professionals, industry advocacy groups and members of the Canadian public. We are told they have been consulted on the proposed legislation during the health protection legislation consultations held last year and earlier this year.

However, it is important to stress that provincial and territorial public health officials have a significant role to play. They, along with other stakeholders, will continue and need to continue to participate in the consultations that will follow on Bill C-36.

The updated Quarantine Act will add an additional layer of protection by providing strong, flexible and up to date legislative tools that will allow us to respond quickly to prevent the export of communicable diseases. It is also more focused on airline travel rather than marine travel, so we are told.

Just as an aside, I believe that it was the government of Mike Harris in the Province of Ontario that, a few years ago, eliminated most of the public health officers in that province and said that they were not required any more; that we did not need public health officers in this modern new day and age. We found out, to our chagrin and regret, that it is not the case as a result of pandemics like SARS and West Nile virus.

I do not mean to pick on the former government because generally, I think there has been a diminution on public health over recent years across the country. We have come to realize that we should not have let our guard down, so to speak, in this important area.

Provincial and territorial governments are now seeing the mistakes that have resulted because of that and are ramping up support and finances to ensure that we have a strong public health sector in this country.

I am optimistic that working together with the provinces and territories we can rebuild public health and take it back to where it once was, but also modernize it so we are up to speed to deal effectively with these potential outbreaks when they come along.

Some measures, such as those contained in the bill, are obviously needed. Considering the act has not been changed since the late 1800s, some updating is required to reflect the global characteristics of travel that we are coming to see. I am sure the world will continue to become a smaller place in the years to come.

Another positive point in the proposed legislation is that it recognizes the threat to public health and proposes a way in which to prevent the spread of a communicable disease in Canada as a result of international travel.

There are also a couple of negatives in the bill that need to be identified. Although the legislation seems to be sound in principle, it does have the potential of leading to abuse of power by officials. We have some concern with regard to the level of authority the bill would appear to give to quarantine officers and screening officers. For example, people suspected of having an illness could be held for an indeterminate period of time. It is not clear from the legislation what kind of compensation would be available for people thus affected.

There are also gaps in the proposed legislation around the authority to act by the screening and quarantine officers and that needs to be reviewed closely. That includes the right to place travellers in isolation for an indeterminate amount of time.

Provided that these safeguards are put in place and adequate clarification is provided, we in the NDP consider it reasonable to support the bill. It is long overdue. We do note, as the Bloc Quebecois and the Conservative Party have also indicated, that it is the 11th hour of this 37th Parliament. One cannot help but wonder about the depth of commitment from the government opposite in bringing forward this legislation at such a late date.

The New Democratic Party caucus supports the principle of the bill. We would favour referring it to the health committee for further study and clarification.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Quarantine Act
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May 13, 2004

Mr. Dick Proctor

Mr. Speaker, I wish to return to the point of order from the member for Huron—Bruce. Just for the record, there was deliberation at committee last night among all parties. The member requested that all members go to their House leaders in order to give unanimous consent today. The member for the Bloc Quebecois is not fully informed and--

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
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May 13, 2004

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, 13 years ago Kevin Ross Ferris turned police informant enabling the OPP to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen goods, narcotics and sending several individuals to jail.

His life in danger, Mr. Ferris was placed in the witness protection program, given a new identity, and relocated to British Columbia. Believing he was not receiving adequate protection and fearing for his life, Ferris fled Canada, creating his own identity.

Returning in 2002, the RCMP arrested him for parole violation under the name of Kevin Ross Ferris instead of his witness protection name, thus putting his life in danger once more.

Last year the National Parole Board ruled his sentence had been fully served back in 1992, yet for 15 months Mr. Ferris has been unable to work as he is without either a social insurance number or driver's licence. Throughout this time neither the RCMP nor the witness protection program has provided any meaningful assistance.

Kevin Ross Ferris wants his life back.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Justice
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May 11, 2004

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Regina--Qu'Appelle. We are debating, as we wind down, that the House condemn the private for profit delivery of health care which the government has encouraged since 1993, and of course I am delighted as always to have the opportunity to speak.

I have the opportunity to speak, and for that I want to thank the Conservative Party, because it has managed throughout the course the day, a full day of debate on this important topic, to put forward one speaker all day long, a handful of hecklers and people who would have questions and comments, but one speaker. It has 75 members and purports to be the government in waiting, the official opposition that is ready to take over. By any public opinion poll, health care is the issue in Canada. We have a debate on private for profit health care and it has managed to put up one speaker all day long.

The New Democratic Party has carried this debate from start to finish, as admittedly it should because it introduced the motion. It is absolutely mind boggling and bewildering that the so-called official opposition has been able to put up only its health critic to take part in a significant and important way in a very important debate. Presumably the Conservatives are suggesting that their leader said everything that needed to be said yesterday on the topic when he introduced that party's platform on health care. Of course there would be no need to add or embellish perfection, if that were the case, except that the leader of that party has over the years said many things on the topic of health care and the private delivery thereof. I would like to note one or two of those.

In the House in October of 2002, the current leader of the Conservative Party said:

Monopolies in the public sector are just as objectionable as monopolies in the private sector. It should not matter who delivers health care, whether it is private, profit, not for profit, or public, as long as Canadians have access to those services...regardless of their financial needs.

Also in 2002, the leader's website--and I cannot remember which party he was running for at that time; he has been in so many leadership campaigns--stated:

Favours diminishing the Canada Health Act to allow provinces to “experiment with market reforms and private health care delivery options. [The leadership candidate] is prepared to take tough positions including experimenting with private delivery in the public health system”.

The point I am driving home is the Conservative position is that it does not matter who delivers health care or how it is delivered, as long as it is accessible. That is the point they make repeatedly.

The for profit health care folks deny the same level of care. People have pointed out that where they have made comparisons, the death rate in the for profit health model is significantly higher. The point has been made by the Canadian Health Coalition that 2,000 more Canadians per year would die under a for profit system than under a not for profit system.

Mr. Mazankowski, a well-known former Conservative cabinet minister and deputy prime minister, asked at the Romanow commission hearings a couple of years ago why everyone is afraid of private provision of health care; if the customers are not satisfied they will go out of business. There was a similar comment from Senator Michael Kirby who did that institution's report on health care. He said, “We do not care if health care is privately delivered. Frankly we do not care who owns the institutions”.

I want to refer to somebody who does care about how health care is delivered and who pointed out the difference very clearly and very eloquently. I am referring to Dr. Arnold Relman, professor emeritus of medicine and social medicine at Harvard Medical School. He was on Parliament Hill a couple of years ago to tell a Senate committee about the U.S. experience on health care. Dr. Relman said:

My conclusion from all of this study is that most of the current problems of the U.S. system--and they are numerous--result from the growing encroachment of private for-profit ownership and competitive markets on a sector of our economy that properly belongs in the public domain. No health care system in the industrialized world is as heavily commercialized as ours, [referring to the United States] and none is as expensive, inefficient, and inequitable--or as unpopular. Indeed, just about the only parts of U.S. society happy with our current market-driven health care system are the owners and investors in the for-profit industries now living off the system.

Dr. Relman went on to say:

Private health care businesses have certainly not achieved the benefits touted by their advocates. In fact, there is now much evidence that private businesses delivering health care for profit have greatly increased the total cost of health care and damaged--not helped--their public and private non-profit competitors.

He pointed to the example of the failure of the commercial HMOs in the United States, an insurance system that was seen a few years ago. Senior citizens covered by medicare in that country were encouraged to obtain their care from private for profit HMOs that would be paid by the government. It soon became obvious that the costs of care out of the private system were much greater and that senior citizens were dissatisfied with the care they received. A wholesale exit of senior citizens from the private system ensued. They voted with their feet, in other words, for the public system. He concluded by saying:

--the U.S. experience has shown that private markets and commercial competition have made things worse, not better, for our health care system. That could have been predicted, because health care is clearly a public concern and a personal right of all citizens. By its very nature, it is fundamentally different from most other good[s] and services distributed in commercial markets. Markets simply are not designed to deal effectively with the delivery of medical care--which is a social function that needs to be addressed in the public sector.

We submit that there is a very significant difference in how health care is delivered. We want to see it delivered in the public domain. Our party's point is that there is really very little difference between the Liberal and Conservative parties on this subject. I know the government and the Prime Minister have been trying to suggest that there is a vast difference between what they would do and what a Conservative Party in power would do on the delivery of private for profit health care. We know there is very little difference.

Over the weekend and yesterday it was interesting to hear some comments by Tom Kent who has played a very significant role in this country, particularly in the federal government and in the Liberal Party over many years. He was talking about Paul Martin Sr. and the role that he played in health care after the Prime Minister's apparent outburst in caucus last week about how his father's party was not going to give up on this. Mr. Kent's recollection, as substantiated by Paul Hellyer who was in cabinet at the time, was that Paul Martin Sr. had a relatively minor role to play in all of that.

More important and in regard to today's debate, Mr. Kent was passionate in his complaints about what he felt the present Prime Minister did to undermine medicare when he was finance minister between 1993 and 2002. Mr. Kent said:

[The] 1995 budget...ended all pretense of a commitment [to medicare] and substituted just the [Canada Health and Social Transfer], which is an arbitrary amount...as distinct from a commitment to a share in provincial costs.... The contract for medicare was already tattered. In 1995, it was unilaterally and unceremoniously thrown out.

In conclusion, our position in this party is that there is very little difference between those two parties on the issue of private for profit delivery of health care. We think it is the New Democratic Party that will stand to speak on this issue and to benefit from the lack of direction from the government and the official opposition on this very important matter.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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