The House resumed consideration of the motion.
Mr. Speaker, I was saying that a historic year is drawing to a close.
As we know, 2020 was tough and quickly went downhill. Many Quebeckers were worried about it, as was the entire global population.
Let us remember that we were all here in the House in early March when we agreed to change the parliamentary calendar and temporarily suspend the work of Parliament in order to protect our fellow citizens from the spread of what we did not yet realize was a pandemic. Just a few hours after Parliament shut down, we began this historic chapter that will leave its mark on the way we think and the decisions we make for days, months and years to come.
In addition to the sacrifices the public has made and continues to make to avoid compromising the capacity of Quebec's health system, we saw our behind-the-scenes workers take on a huge share of the responsibility for our COVID-19 pandemic response.
Among those heroes who have gone and are still going above and beyond for our fellow citizens are health workers such as our brave nurses, who step up every time we ask them to make sacrifices and put themselves on the front lines. They work countless hours to buoy a health system that is often on the verge of going under. I thank them.
I sincerely thank our registered nursing assistants who face unspeakable and innumerable challenges and always keep smiling when they are with patients, so as not to add to the distress and stress caused by this pandemic. I thank our doctors, many of whom have decided to support patients directly by staying many hours after their shift has ended to help the registered nursing assistants who have never-ending lists of tasks they must perform. Society can never thank our PSWs enough for their efforts. They were at the heart of the red zones of the first wave and are still on the front li, doing everything in their power to avoid the second wave. I am extremely grateful to them.
Our community organizations are on the front lines whenever human, financial or material resources are in short supply. They help the most vulnerable, our seniors and those who are often on the margins of society. This year, their workload is unprecedented and they have faced the situation with intelligence and strength. I must thank them again. I am also thinking of our maintenance staff who work around the clock to ward off the virus and keep it out of our health care facilities. These people are very important and I thank them.
My mother is a nurse and I know full well the sacrifices that health workers can make in normal times to ensure that patients get the care they need. Quebec's health system can count on its workers, who are dedicated to people's well-being and who have chosen to spend their career working for the health and well-being of their community.
Quebec's health system can also count on the steadfast support of the members of the National Assembly of Quebec to support Quebec's essential health system, which, need we remind members, serves as a model around the world. Quebec's health system can obviously count on the Bloc Québécois to remind the federal government that it is not carrying out its responsibilities by systematically refusing to increase health transfers to Quebec and the provinces, as requested by the Premier of Quebec, François Legault, and the provincial premiers.
Quebec's health care system certainly cannot count on the federal government, even during a crisis. Not only is that unacceptable, but it is also disingenuous and inhumane. Now, in the middle of an unprecedented crisis, the Liberal government has presented an economic update without any major investment in health transfers. How can the federal government stand there and tell Quebeckers that health care is a priority for it? How can the federal government interfere in the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces by deciding, quite incompetently, to develop a national strategy that no one wants or needs? Quebec has the capacity and the jurisdiction. How can the federal government show Quebeckers that it is on their side?
I have an objective as a member of the Bloc Québécois, and I have always been open about it. This objective is quite clear, but I have to wonder, because sometimes to ask the question is to answer it, as they say.
Is the not proving yet again, by repetition or in some strange way, as if we needed proof, that we have one government too many?
I cannot help but notice that Quebec is better served by itself than by a government that is incapable of telling us when we will have our first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, while the Government of Quebec clearly said that it would start vaccinating the public as soon as it has vaccines.
We are in the middle of an unprecedented global health crisis. Quebec's health care system is under more pressure than ever, and we need all the financial leverage possible to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government of Canada is not prepared to meet the demands of the provincial premiers and Premier Legault on health transfers.
The has to face the facts: things happen in the field and the field of health is the responsibility of Quebec and the provinces. It is simple. What Quebec wants and what the Bloc Québécois is asking for is for the federal government to meet its financial responsibility and make the necessary health transfers. If the government absolutely needs to feel like the hero in the health transfer saga, it can even put its little flag in the corner of its cheque, provided it allows Quebec and the provinces to handle their own affairs.
I will use my remaining time to say thank you once again to all the people who have put their lives on hold since March to take care of our constituents on the front lines of the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.
We are used to saying that our health workers are heroes, and there is a reason for that. A hero is a person who shows courage without ever expecting anything in return. If we could spend a day in a hospital to see for ourselves the tireless efforts these men and women make and the miracles they perform every single day for Quebeckers and Canadians, we would realize that what means the most to them are their patients' smiles, not to mention the knowledge that they are safe and healthy.
It is not just their actions that are heroic; their careers and professions are heroic as well. If there is one thing we could do as elected representatives, it should be to give them the means to do what they have to do.
As the member for Manicouagan, a riding along the North Shore of Quebec, I am proud of the health care workers back home who have fought since the start of the pandemic so that our region could be protected from the virus as much as possible.
I would like to thank Dr. Richard Fachehoun, the medical officer of health at the Côte-Nord Integrated Health and Social Services Centre, and his entire team for the efforts they make every day to inform and listen to the people. I would also like to thank Claude Lévesque, the executive director of the centre, Dr. Donald Aubin, the director of public health for the North Shore, as well as the elected and traditional leadership of the Innu and Naskapi who, along with their teams and their people, have managed to keep the virus at bay on the North Shore.
I believe my speech is clear and straightforward. We are asking the government for a permanent increase in health transfers to the level called for by Quebec and the provinces, immediately. A responsible government thinks of its citizens, not its re-election.
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin my speech on the Bloc Québécois motion by reminding the House of what Émilie Ricard said in January 2018, 10 months before the 2019 election. She made a heartfelt plea when she said, “I am broken by my profession. I’m ashamed of the poor care that I do my best to provide. My health care system is sick and dying.”
The government did not hear that heartfelt plea. It turned a deaf ear before the election, during the election and after the election. Still today, after nine months of pandemic that added even more work to already overburdened health care workers, what did the Liberal government have to say yesterday? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Fortunately, the House of Commons, this assembly of representatives of the people, is not the government. We are the elected House of Commons and we can adopt the Bloc Québécois's motion that pays tribute to people like Émilie Ricard. That motion reads:
a) acknowledge the extraordinary work of health care workers (including doctors, nurses and orderlies) during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with seniors but also with the general public;
(b) recognize the courage and sacrifices required from them and their families in order to be on the front lines;
(c) highlight the work of Quebec and the provinces in responding to the health crisis and note the direct impact on their respective budgets; and
(d) call on the government to significantly and sustainably increase Canada health transfers before the end of 2020 in order to support the efforts of the governments of Quebec and the provinces, health care workers and the public.
Through this motion, the Bloc Québécois and all elected members of the House, on both sides, or at least we hope, and especially those working in Quebec, stand together, united, in acknowledging that we all have a duty to send a great big thank you to workers across all of our health care networks.
I am very proud to be here this afternoon because I think this motion gets to the crux of what the government has been claiming for months: that it is collaborating with Quebec and the territories and provinces. Collaboration requires tangible actions, not just words and rhetoric that, sadly, are sometimes empty.
All of the experts who testified before the Standing Committee on Health during its study of the first wave told us that chronic under-funding of the health care system had weakened the networks and made it difficult to properly combat a pandemic of this scope. That is quite clear. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees.
They told us that chronic underfunding had weakened the health networks, which were therefore unable to properly deal with a pandemic of this magnitude. It has been the biggest and deadliest health crisis of the past 100 years.
The says we are just looking to pick a fight and we are not the only members representing Quebec. That is fine. Quebec is represented in this place by members from all parties. However when all parties in the National Assembly of the people of Quebec adopt a motion asking for a significant increase in health expenditures, and we hear members across the aisle call it a constitutional dispute—I will come back to that later—it seems that they are not actively listening. There is more to it than empty words and indefinitely delayed commitments.
Here is what the National Assembly said as recently as the month of June, once again with the agreement of all parties:
THAT the National Assembly of Quebec regrets that the share of health expenditures covered by the Canadian health transfers has dropped by more than one half since their introduction, from 50% to 23%.
THAT the Assembly asks the federal government to quickly review the funding of the Canadian health transfers to increase them significantly for this year and subsequent years, so that the increase reaches at least 6%, without any condition;
THAT the Assembly reiterates the importance of respecting Quebec's jurisdiction over health.
It seems to me that it is incumbent upon a party comprised exclusively of members from Quebec, namely the Bloc Québécois, to be the voice in this Parliament of all parties and all of the people's representatives in the National Assembly of Quebec. If we were not doing it today, who would?
I implore the members from Quebec to distance themselves a little bit from their obsessive desire to be controlled by the executive power. I would like them to play their true role as legislators, which is to defend the interests of Quebeckers in the House. I implore them to vote with their conscience in favour of our motion.
When I came here, I felt pride in asking who could vote against that motion. We wanted to bring people together.
This government is telling us that, in the 's own words, the dignity and lives of seniors “are not a jurisdictional matter”. That phrase is as hollow as his statement that values are universal. However, these words have no meaning out of context. It is as if I said health knows no borders. The organization of health care in the face of specific threats such as pandemics implies that that organization occurs within a territory.
What does the Prime Minister's beloved Constitution say? It says that all health care falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec, the provinces and territories and that the agreement between the federal government and Quebec and the other provinces simply consists of being sure to transfer us our money, and to keep transferring it, so that we can take care of our people. Twenty-five years of underfunding has an impact on the primary determinant of health, which is prevention.
If the federal government cares about health, it should prepare us for the next pandemic, because there will be more. It should fulfill its role and do its job.
I have barely 20 seconds left, so I urge all parliamentarians not to view the Bloc's motion today as a provocation. I am addressing the Liberal members from Quebec, since they are the ones turning this debate into a constitutional confrontation. We never intended it to get to that level.
All we are saying is that the government needs to do what it needs to do, that it needs to keep its word—
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak in what is, in my opinion, a very important debate about health care.
Health care is something that Canadians from coast to coast to coast truly believe in. Whenever I talk to new Canadians, especially, about some of the things that make Canada so attractive, in fact, it is our health care system. It might not necessarily be the most perfect system in the world, but it is a system that is, generally speaking, accepted as one of the finest delivery of services that we provide as a society.
Canadians love our health care system, and they want to see governments working together to protect it into the future. It is one of the areas of responsibility in which I think the current government has done exceptionally well. Shortly after forming government back in 2015, we were able to reach agreements with the different provinces and territories in regard to a funding formula, among other things.
I used to be the health critic in the province of Manitoba. I am very familiar with jurisdictional responsibilities and who is responsible for what. For those who advocate that Ottawa has no responsibility other than to give cash, they are wrong. There is a responsibility that all of us have, even members of the Bloc have to the constituents they say they represent, to ensure the health care services that we have today continue to be there in the future. If there are ways that we can expand upon them, we should be open to doing so, and this government has clearly indicated its interest.
In terms of the motion that has been presented today, one of the things I do agree with is regarding the workers. I have had the opportunity, as many members have, to talk a great deal about the pandemic. I often talk about the high sense of co-operation and the focus of the government and the , which is, in fact, minimizing the damage of the coronavirus pandemic. We are working with all the stakeholders, and I often make reference to that. However, we have some real heroes who need to be recognized, which I have done in some of my previous comments, but I do think it is worth repeating time and time again.
Our health care workers have done an exceptional job during this pandemic, and when I think of health care workers, they are those in hospitals and personal care home facilities, home care service workers and those who visit homes to provide services to seniors. There is a wide spectrum of individuals who have been able to sustain our health care system during this pandemic, and they have really been challenged to provide the quality of service that Canadians expect there to be.
At times, it has been challenging, whether in the province of Quebec or, more recently, the province of Manitoba, where we have needed to bring in the Canadian Forces or the Red Cross. One of the nice things about the federation is recognizing that Ottawa can complement many of the things that are taking place within the health care services, and we have seen this vividly during the last eight months, and ultimately, I would argue, since 2015.
The government truly understands the importance of and values the work of health care professionals who meet the challenge day in and day out, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It is one of the reasons we allocated significant money to provinces to provide additional financial support to those workers. Whether they work in operating rooms or the ICU, provide bedside care, replace bedpans or clean stations, these individuals provide the services that are so critical to allowing patients to be safe in our institutions.
There are also the services of home care providers who visit seniors and others in the community. The government has not only acknowledged their existence but has supported them financially in all regions of our country. I do not think there is a member of Parliament in this House of any political stripe who would challenge the idea that our health care professionals, workers and supporters have really stepped up to the plate during this pandemic. All members of the House would recognize that, because that is a reality.
I am very passionate about health care because I believe in it and I know the number one concern of the residents of Winnipeg North is health care. They value it and treasure it. Whether as an MLA or now as a member of Parliament, I will do whatever I can to ensure that health care continues for future generations. I am so encouraged that we have a who is committed to our health care system and the Canada Health Act. Previous prime ministers lacked that sense of commitment, which causes concern.
People should understand why the Bloc Québécois is here. It is not here, as the said, to contribute positively for the entire country. Members of the Bloc would be quite happy to see issues related to other provinces being left to the side. Yes, in this particular motion, they are advocating that we should look at other provinces too, but let us also remember that the biggest advocates for just giving them cash and forgetting about anything else are members of the Bloc.
The Conservatives might not be that far behind, but I can say that it would be fundamentally wrong for any government to give a bunch of cash to the provinces and say it does not want anything else to do with them and that they should just take the cash and run. If it were up to the Bloc, it would be for not only health care but every department. I understand that because it sees it having a very different role.
We recognize that whether people are residents of Quebec, my home province of Manitoba or anywhere in Canada, our first priority needs to be the pandemic. That should be the first priority for us, not how we might have confrontations over issues that are really not there. The Bloc focuses on bringing forward issues at a time when most Quebeckers, I would think, just as most Manitobans, want all of us to work collaboratively on trying to minimize the negative impacts of the coronavirus.
I asked the member about the positioning of the Canada Health Act. The Canada Health Act has five basic principles: public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability and accessibility. Some members in the House would like to see more. A number of years back, in the 1990s, there was a push to have accountability also incorporated into the Canada Health Act.
The federal government made good decisions when it talked about the importance of home care services and medications. It would be nice to see expansion for these types of services. Some provinces are further ahead than other provinces. Quebec has done a phenomenal job on child care. That was referenced in yesterday's speech. Many years ago, the Province of Saskatchewan did a phenomenal job on health care, and look what we have today.
Yesterday, the referenced British Columbia and the fine work it was doing on environmental issues.
We are a big country and provinces play an absolutely critical role especially when it comes to health care delivery. As I said, I used to be the health care critic in my home province. I know the role that provinces play.
With respect to the pandemic and health care, the federal government has stepped up to the plate. We have resourced hundreds of millions, going into billions, of additional dollars to support health care. We have put special emphasis on issues like mental health. I suspect that if we were to canvass people across Canada, we would find that mental health needs require additional attention. My Liberal caucus colleagues often raise mental health as an issue.
Home care services are again emphasized and financially resourced, at least in part, by the national government. We need to focus even more attention on these types of issues.
Some would say that the Liberal Party has been talking about pharmacare for a number of years. The made it an issue, and it has been widely debated in Canada for the last four or five years now, at a significantly higher level of debate than it was when medicare was first brought in. I am comfortable believing that because I have been a parliamentarian for 30 years. It is only in the last five years that we have seen the issue of pharmacare at the stage where it is today.
If we listen to our constituents, no matter in what province they live, we will be sensitive to the issue of a national pharmacare program. To achieve that, we have to do what was said in the throne speech in September, which is that we need to work with provinces. It is just not possible to have an optimum national pharmacare program without co-operation and support from provinces and territories. Even though we are in a pandemic, these are the types of issues on which this government continues to move forward.
Once again, we got an indication of this from yesterday's announcement by the . We continue to move forward with that. Members will remember that only four or four and a half years ago, through a standing committee, we requested that the issue be looked into and brought forward.
I will provide some comments on financing of health. I could probably spend a lengthy period of time on this, so I will try to encapsulate my thoughts on it.
On health care funding, back in the early nineties, I can remember sitting in the Manitoba legislature when Ottawa was making some cuts. At the time, we were told that we would establish a base for ongoing support toward health care and then there would be incremental increases. I suspect, if members were to look at the Debates of the Manitoba legislature back in the early nineties, members would see that it was only a question of time before Ottawa would not contribute a dime toward health care. In a previous negotiation, premiers wanted to see tax point changes as opposed to direct cash going into health care. If we had continued along that line, we would not have had health care dollars coming from Ottawa. It would have been in the form of tax point changes.
I always find it interesting when members opposite say that there were cuts in health care in the early nineties. There was one budget where there was a cut, but there was also an establishment of a base and a fact that Ottawa would always contribute toward health care. I am pretty confident in that, because I was in the Manitoba legislature when that was debated. Because of that guarantee and the monies that continued to flow every year afterward, money in the treasury continued to grow in health care transfers. Today we give more money, historic amounts of money, toward health care. Even over and above those health care transfers, additional hundreds of millions of dollars are being tagged to go toward health care in our provinces and territories.
We understand the expectations, the role of the federal government and the importance of continuing to work with provinces and territories. When it comes to the pandemic and the testing, for example, provinces have the responsibility and the administration to ensure the testing is being done. However, during the restart program, the $19 billion that went to the different provinces enabled the Province of Manitoba to triple the number of tests that were being done. Whether it is examples such as that or looking at vaccines, we are in a fantastic position.
Contrary to the impression that the leader of the official opposition tries to leave, Canada is well positioned to be there in a very real and tangible way, because of the fine work that was done by science and civil servants and by working with other jurisdictions. We now have an opportunity, through a number of different companies, to provide the vaccines that Canadians will need. We will be going to our health care workers and others to ensure Canadians continue to be safe going through this pandemic. We will get out of it.
Madam Speaker, I first want to mention that I will be splitting my time with the ebullient member for . He is a tough act to follow, so I am glad to go first.
It is with a feeling of great urgency that I rise on this Bloc Québécois opposition day. We chose to debate health transfers. As the critic for seniors, I have decided to tackle the issue from a health perspective, to make sure that we take good care of our seniors and their caregivers, who do amazing work, often unseen and unpaid.
I will represent the views of an important seniors advocacy group, the FADOQ network. It is the largest seniors' organization in Quebec and all of Canada, with 550,000 members, 705 clubs, 16 regional groups and some 17,000 volunteers. It has a long and fruitful 50-year history and it has obviously kept up with the times. More than ever, it is a critical piece of Quebec's social fabric, especially considering the province's aging population.
In a brief submitted in June 2019 ahead of the pre-budget consultations of the Standing Committee on Finance, the FADOQ network asked for an increase in health transfers. The brief notes that in 2018-19, federal health transfers were $38.5 billion, but total spending by Canada's provinces and territories and Quebec was $174.5 billion, according to the Conference Board of Canada.
Health care funding accounts for 30% of provincial and territorial budgets, but the Government of Canada funds only 22% of those expenses. Again according to the Conference Board of Canada, the current fixed growth rate will make the federal share of health care funding fall below 20% by 2026.
In order to make up for years of underfunding, the FADOQ network is asking the federal government to index the Canada health transfer by 6% annually. What is more, it notes that the impact of the aging population on public health care spending is significant. The Conference Board estimates that cost of health care for the average senior is about $12,000 a year, compared to $2,700 a year for the rest of the population. It estimates that over the next decade, this will add $93 billion to health care costs for Quebec, the provinces and the territories, a sum equivalent to 1.8% of all their total spending.
The Conference Board of Canada notes that 5.1 million people in Canada and Quebec will reach age 65 over the next 10 years. However, in its current form, the Canada health transfer does not take the aging of the population into account. The formula is based on an equal amount per capita. That is why the FADOQ network believes that the Canadian government needs to change the formula and add a variable to account for the aging population in the provinces and territories. This would allow for increases in the areas that have the greatest needs. The FADOQ network used the Conference Board report to justify its demand that the government provide assistance so the network can better care for its members. Those numbers speak for themselves.
Canada's population is aging, and the proportion of seniors in Canada and Quebec will rise from 16.9% to 21% over the next 10 years. Federal health transfers in 2017-18 covered $37 billion of the total $167 billion in public health care costs.
Today, the Canada health transfer represents approximately 22% of total public health expenditures. I will reiterate that, under the current funding formula, the provinces and territories receive federal funds on an equal per capita basis. Over the past decade the CHT increased by 6%, but, since 2017, its growth rate has been limited to 3% or the rate of economic growth, whichever is higher.
The federal government covers approximately 22% of health care costs and if those costs rise faster than the rate of economic growth, Quebec, the provinces and the territories must absorb the difference. We foresee that this scenario will materialize within the next few years. According to estimates, the CHT will increase by 3.7% per year over the next decade, while the cost of health care will increase by 5.1% per year. In other words, the federal contribution to the funding of health care will not keep pace with the growth in health care costs. If nothing is done to correct this situation, the federal portion of the health care envelope will fall below 20% by 2026.
In its press release issued yesterday after the federal economic statement, the FADOQ network strongly deplores the fact that the government again shirked its responsibilities and announced absolutely nothing for seniors in the economic update provided by the , Chrystia Freeland.
Madam Speaker, the FADOQ was expecting the Trudeau government to announce a minimum increase of 10% in old age security. The president, Gisèle Tassé-Goodman, stated, “It is absolutely unacceptable that the government is once again failing seniors, many of whom find themselves in a dismal financial situation that has been made worse by the pandemic.”
In last September's throne speech, the government reiterated its commitment to enhance old age security. The FADOQ network had reiterated its demand that this increased benefit be given to people between the ages of 65 and 74, not just those 75 and over. People whose only revenue is old age security and the guaranteed income supplement receive just barely over $18,000 a year, or about the equivalent of the cut-off established by the market basket measure.
Seniors in this situation therefore have to make do with the bare minimum, what Statistics Canada refers to as the market basket measure. That is barely enough to meet basic needs and does not include dental care, eye care or medication, as Ms. Tassé-Goodman points out. Like so many seniors who are among society's least well-off, the FADOQ network has still not digested the insulting indexation—that is the word used—of less than 1% of old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, a measure that was announced on October 1, ironically, on the International Day of Older Persons.
How long will the government continue mocking seniors? How can these people, who built this country, be overlooked like this, not just during the pandemic, but all the time? Increasing their old age security by less than $110 takes away their purchasing power, because the cost of everything continues to rise, whether it is housing, food or the essential services they are entitled to. The insult has gone on long enough.
I added that part about purchasing power because those are exactly the two things that the president of the FADOQ asked for when she appeared before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, when we were talking about finding ways to help senior women during this pandemic. They must be given the financial means to stay at home and receive help, of course, but the health care system must also be given the means to care for seniors as well as their caregivers.
Seniors are extremely grateful to the medical personnel who take care of them day after day. They do not need national standards. It is not national standards that are going to take care of them. We need to give our health care workers the means to look after these people, through better working conditions, proper personal protective equipment and adequate supplies. In short, we can only really help seniors if the government stops cutting funding for the workers in our hospitals and throughout our health care system. The government needs to mind its own business.
Giving money to certain organizations that help seniors is good, but it is not nearly enough. It would be better if our seniors were no longer held hostage. They need to be reassured. The government needs to give Quebec and the provinces the resources to help them get through this public health crisis. Let us recognize and commend the efforts of our front-line workers and the efforts the public is making to reduce the pressure on our health care system.
The governments of Quebec and Canada have worked together for decades to meet the public's health care needs. After years of Liberal and Conservative budget cuts, these governments need to continue to work together to meet the needs of the aging population.
We hope that the Liberals will avoid the two temptations that governments face in times of crisis: austerity, such as refusing to increase health transfers to 35%, and interference in areas under provincial jurisdiction.
We need to take action to ensure that seniors are seen as a grey-haired source of strength, rather than an economic burden.
Madam Speaker, before I begin, I would like to highlight the extraordinary work of our health care workers.
I have no doubt that everybody here has had the experience of seeing a loved one in the hospital, or of being hospitalized themselves. They must have noticed how hard these people work. I think it is one of the only situations in life where waiting is acceptable.
I have had to wait for a nurse because she was overworked. She was balancing so many things at the same time. It was clear that she was not at fault; she simply had too much on her plate. What is also clear is that these people work hard and they are passionate about what they do; they are not in it for the money, but to heal people. It is not a job for them, it is a calling, and this calling manifests in everyday life as well, as they always seem to want to help and support the people around them.
Unfortunately, this ended up working against them. As the federal government slowly but surely withdrew from health care funding, the pressure on them only grew. If the health network still exists today, even in the middle of a pandemic, it is thanks to these people, who always go above and beyond.
What do they get in return? They get burnout, they suffer workplace accidents and they are forced to work extra shifts. These people are paying an increasingly higher price for the consequences of the underfunding of health care. That is what people need to realize. They deserve a lot of credit.
I say this because I know a thing or two about it. My mother was in a long-term care facility and she often went to the hospital. I looked at those people with admiration. I commend them today, those who are still there, those who are surviving this extra work from the pandemic and are holding their own. Some end up getting sick. Some have even passed away, unfortunately, in the service of their patients.
Let's think about it. It is incredible. We owe them so much. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the fantastic job they are doing. We are lucky to have them. This pandemic has been going on for eight months and they are still there. They are still on the front lines to help our people. We could never forget them, and it is for them that we, the Bloc Québécois members, are doing this work here today. I hope that the other parties will understand what we need to do to increase the amount of money they are getting for resources. Every time I went to the hospital to talk to these people, I never heard anyone say that the problem is the health standards, or that these workers want the federal government to impose standards or still that they want standards from someone who knows nothing about health. I never heard those things. What workers are telling us is that they need resources, they need help, they are short-staffed. For that, they need money.
The other side is to blame for the mess our health care funding is now in.They are responsible. Since 1867, the Constitution that they defend tooth and nail has clearly stated that health is a provincial and Quebec jurisdiction. It is right there in black and white. The Constitution also states that the federal government could help Quebec fund this sector, since Quebec does not have enough sources of funding. The federal government needs to provide transfers without conditions. That has been in the Constitution they love so much since 1867.
In 1984, 40% of health care was funded by the federal government. In the 1990s, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin decided to tackle the deficit. What did they do?
People must think that these men were so smart to be able to eliminate the deficit. All they did was offload that deficit onto the provinces. They slashed funding to the provinces. They decided to cut spending and let the provinces figure out how to provide services. That is what happened, and by 2004, the 40% funding we were getting in 1984 had dropped to 18%, a measly 18 cents on the dollar. The government is not even embarrassed about that fact. They even find it amusing. At some point, Paul Martin felt guilty. The poor man wondered if they had maybe gone too far and should increase the transfers to Quebec and the provinces. They instituted a 6% increase in an attempt to raise the 18%.
This lasted until the third Harper government. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives said that 6% was too much. From that time on, it was 3%. The Conservatives were the first to put on the brakes. The mathematics are simple and the numbers say it all. We were at 25% and the increase was starting to be interesting. Then the Conservatives said they would not give 6% but only 3%. What did the Liberals do? They thought it was a good idea, but only because they do not know how to add. They believed it was a good idea because it was going to cost them less. They did not care what impact it might have on the health care system.
Let me give them have a basic mathematics lesson, because I already hear them talking. In 2014, the Thomson report said that to maintain health care services at the same level, a 5.2% increase was necessary because of inflation, technological improvements as well as the aging and growth of the population. The percentage is 5.2%. Even my golden retriever understands that when they give us 3% and the cost increase is 5.2%, they do not pay their share and someone else has to pay. Do members see my point?
That is what is happening right now. We were getting 25%. Then it went down to 22% and it continues to drop. The Liberals think that 3% is a good idea, and it is. It is a great idea. The problem is that the government keeps making cuts to these transfers. The underfunding of health care is getting worse and it is becoming a chronic problem.
We try to explain that to the Liberals, but they do not understand. We are about to get out the puppets and crayons to explain to them how this works. I swear we are about to resort to that.
Suddenly, the pandemic strikes and the Liberals start throwing money around. The Prime Minister says that the government is going to help people. The Liberals move quickly and spend some $300 billion. Because this is a health crisis, we thought that, at some point, the government would provide funding for health care given that people are ending up in the hospital and dying.
Madam Speaker, for every 100 dollars spent during the pandemic, do you know how much was spent on health care? That would be 15 cents. I did not say 15 dollars, which would not have been enough either. I said 15 cents. It does not make sense. We are in a health crisis and the Liberals are spending 15 cents on health care for every 100 dollars. Plus, they think that is good. We have to rise in the House to table a motion and tell them to wake up, because they do not realize what they are doing to the health care system.
They say the Bloc Québécois is looking for a fight. That is not true. The governments of Quebec and the other provinces are saying that the funding is inadequate and that there is an urgent need to increase transfers to the provinces. The Bloc Québécois is not the only one saying this; so are all the Canadian provinces and Quebec. They have even put a figure on their request. They did not ask for 50%, because the Liberals would call Scrooge a spendthrift. They asked for 35%, thinking they could make do with that. Accordingly, they requested $28 billion from this government for health care, which is logical and justifiable.
Quebec spends 50% of its budget caring for people. I did say 50%. Moreover, that figure keeps going up, because the members opposite are not putting in their fair share year after year. That is where we are. We are up against a wall. This government will have to come to grips with it eventually, because we have people to care for, sick to heal and deaths to avoid. That is the Bloc Québécois's work today.
By saluting the medical workers who help us get through this pandemic, we are asking the government to help them to help us. It is the compassionate thing to do. That is all we are asking for. The evidence is clear. It is time for the Liberals to do their part.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I would like to thank my Bloc Québécois colleagues for moving this motion, which we will be supporting. We are in favour of increasing health transfers.
However, I would like to speak about the other pandemic. Its symptoms include drug overdoses, depression and even suicide. According to our Public Health Agency 's recent report, the grim story is that, in B.C., paramedics saw 2,700 calls, which is a 700-call increase in people asking for help to save the life of someone who was overdosing on opioids. That is 700 more people yelling into the phone at an operator asking for an ambulance to save the life of a dying person. It is not just B.C.; in Alberta and Ontario, there are 50% increases in opioid deaths.
Statistics Canada reports that the number of Canadians reporting good public health dropped from 68% to 48% in just the last two years.
Calls to one suicide prevention line tripled, prompting one Conservative MP to call for all of the hotlines to be merged into one to serve all of the desperate people seeking help during these desperate times. What is behind all of this misery? Part of the answer is worklessness. Through no fault of their own and because of the pandemic lockdown, nine million Canadians were forced out of their work and rightly received CERB benefits. Replacing their incomes, while necessary, does not replace their work.
Allow me to quote the public health officer, who said, “Statistics Canada found lower life satisfaction among unemployed Canadians and noted that this relationship is about more than just money... This is echoed by systematic reviews exploring unemployment and mental health, unemployment and health, and unemployment and mortality risk.”
The National Bureau of Economic Research found that a 1% increase in unemployment leads to a 3.6% increase in opioid deaths. The University of Calgary found that a 1% unemployment increase led to a 2% increase across Canada in suicide rates. In other words, worklessness is literally lethal.
Researchers looked at 310 men laid off from a ball-bearing manufacturing plant in the early 1980s and found that two years after the layoffs, those who still did not have jobs reported higher rates of mental health, hospital visits, medication requirements and other health problems. Two years later, those people were suffering more than their compatriots who had found jobs.
If worklessness had a warning label, it would read like this: “Unemployment raises the chance by about a third that a man will die in the next decade,” to quote the former editor of the British Medical Journal, Dr. Richard Smith. “And for those in middle age — with the biggest commitments — the chance doubles. The men are most likely to die from suicide, cancer, and accidents and violence.”
One study by Dr. Diette in the United States found that those people who remained out of jobs for long periods of time, even when they had no history whatsoever of mental health problems, were 125% more likely to experience mental distress after that unemployment, and it is not just about money. Harvard professor Edward Glaeser found that the mental health impact of worklessness was 10 times higher than the mental health impact of losing $25,000 in annual income. This goes to the core of who we are as human beings: the necessity to work, to put our brains and bodies to use for other people.
To quote the Dalai Lama and Arthur Brooks in an essay titled “Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded”, they wrote:
Virtually all the world’s major religions teach that diligent work in the service of others is our highest nature and thus lies at the center of a happy life.
Martin Luther King called it “the dignity of labor”.
I am the captain of my destiny. That is the meaning of work. It is self-agency. It is mastering one's world, rather than having the world master one. That is why I rise today to bring the House's attention to the urgent need to get the 600,000 people who are still out of work since COVID back into jobs. What does that mean? It means ending the war on work.
We have, in this country, a system with clawbacks and taxes that can rob a single mother of up to 80¢ on the next dollar she earns. This system punishes people for putting their hands and their heads to work in a job to earn a bit more and to try to get ahead. We must fix that tax system to make work pay for everyone. We must remove the regulatory and taxation obstacles that make it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for our first nations communities to bring business, develop resources and give their young population the opportunity to make maximum contributions.
We must, once again, unleash the power of our resource sector.
Let us think of the number of people who have lost hope across the formerly bustling rural communities in western Canada, where work is part of not just making a living but making a life, where people always took pride in getting out of bed and producing. How many of them lost hope? How many of them took their own lives since the government decided to try to phase them out of existence? Why not unleash the power of that sector to lift people out of poverty and give them, once again, the dignity of work that they deserve and so desperately want?
Why not make Canada the fastest place in the world to get a permit to build a factory or a warehouse and to open a mine or a shopping centre, so that those places can be filled with workers? Why not make this the easiest place on earth in which to create opportunities for people to get up every day and contribute?
To restore health and happiness, we must not just increase health care funding, though that is necessary. We must also honour work and workers, reform tax and benefits to reward effort, free businesses to pay more wages, let labour keep more of the bread it has earned and unleash the mighty force of 20 million Canadian workers, because a job brings dollars and dignity, a paycheque and a purpose, a burden and a blessing, a good living and a good life.
We have work to do.