That, given that, (i) during the 2021 federal election campaign, the prime minister was harshly critical of the Conservative Party of Canada proposal to encourage “innovation” in the health care sector by expanding for-profit provision of publicly funded services, (ii) the prime minister has now dramatically changed his position and has lauded as ‘’innovation” Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s proposed expansion of for-profit clinics, (iii) for-profit clinics would poach workers from the public system and lead to longer wait times, (iv) there are multiple public reports of two-tier health care in Canada, where people are charged for faster access to care, such as family doctors or surgery, the House call on the government to: (a) express disappointment that the prime minister has promoted Ontario’s for-profit health plans as “innovation”; (b) ensure that recently announced health care funding is not used for the expansion of for-profit health care, but instead used to rebuild and innovate within the public system by hiring more staff and reducing wait times; and (c) enforce the Canada Health Act and immediately move to close loopholes that allow for the growth of two-tier health care in Canada.
He said: Mr. Speaker, Canada's health care system is based on the principle of access to care based on need rather than ability to pay. A well-designed, well-funded single-payer system can provide fair, effective and high-quality care to make this a reality.
Our public health care system is certainly facing some challenges, but the solution lies in strengthening our public health care system, not weakening it.
If we introduce private funding, then need will come second to ability to pay. That would result in less accessibility, longer wait times and higher costs in the public system. It would also lead to increased administrative costs, in other words, more money for insurance companies and less money for health care.
Introducing private payment prioritizes care based on ability to pay, not need. It leads to worse access and wait times, as well as higher costs in the public system. It also leads to higher administrative costs, which means less money for patient care.
There is not only little evidence that private, for-profit investor-owned corporations can provide better quality care or reduce costs. In fact, there are many examples that show precisely the opposite. Those seeking to improve the quality, equality, access, efficiency and equity of health care services in Canada can do so by focusing on strengthening our public system rather than dismantling it.
Proponents of privatization claim that increasing private pay and/or private for-profit delivery will reduce wait times, either overall or for those in the publicly funded system specifically; reduce costs to the public system; and lead to better health outcomes. There is perhaps no more serious and dangerous myth in Canadian politics today than that statement. I want to review the situation today and some of the factors that show this is not the case.
Everyone deserves health care when they need it, no matter the size of their wallet. No one should need to wait in pain because there are not enough health care workers or because the wealthiest jump the queue.
However, under successive Liberal and Conservative governments, today people are waiting in pain for hours, days or weeks, and sometimes months or years. Folks are losing their quality of life while they wait for surgery. In addition, health care workers are run off their feet, burned out and exhausted in every corner of this country.
The could make things better for patients by hiring and rebuilding the public health system. Otherwise, he can contribute to making the crisis even worse by helping to fund for-profit schemes that will poach staff from the public system.
We are not surprised the Conservative Party loves for-profit care. It will make billions for corporations and rich CEOs. This is right out of the Conservative playbook: starve a public service and use that as an excuse to hand it off to the private sector.
A condition of federal health care funding should be investing to fix public universal Canadian health care, not funnelling funds and staff into for-profit facilities. New Democrats want health care to move towards more public delivery, not farther away from it.
If new bilateral health agreements do not result in thousands of new health care workers in our public system, it will fail. Ottawa urgently needs to partner with the provinces and territories to help provinces train and hire more health care workers, respect current health care workers and pay them better, and recognize the international training of thousands of health care workers who are already in Canada and ready to work.
During the 2021 election, the former Conservative leader said that “he would support provinces in introducing privately led health care ‘innovations’”. At that time, our current told Canadians this was evidence that a Conservative government would threaten Canada's public health care system, saying that the Conservative leader “believes in a for-profit, private health care system and he will not tell people what exactly he wants to do with that.”
My, how things change once one is in office. The recently reversed his position by calling Ontario premier Doug Ford's private for-profit clinic scheme an example of “innovation”.
Let us just quickly review the privatization plans by Conservative premiers across the country. Doug Ford has said that he wants to divert funding from his province's hospitals towards for-profit surgical clinics.
His plan includes an expansion of private cataract surgeries, MRI and CT scans, minimally invasive gynecological surgeries, and knee and hip replacements. Ontario's plans to contract out to private for-profit clinics for cataract surgeries is expected to cost the government 25% more per surgery. Moving only hip and knee replacements to for-profit clinics will benefit owners, with an estimated windfall of half a billion dollars annually. The owners of Herzig Eye Institute, one of the top private surgery clinics that lobbied the Ford government to expand private cataract surgeries, have donated thousands of dollars to the Ontario Conservatives.
In a recent throne speech, Manitoba premier Heather Stefanson announced her government's intention to seek out private partnerships to deliver health care.
Saskatchewan is moving forward with plans to reduce its backlog of surgeries by privatizing certain procedures.
In January, Alberta announced that it is contracting Canadian Surgery Solutions to perform more than 3,000 orthopaedic surgeries covered by the provincial medicare plan.
Why are they doing this, and how are they getting away with it?
There are several loopholes here, but I want to itemize one of them. There is a serious loophole in the Canada Health Act. As we speak, private clinics across Canada are advertising to prospective patients that within weeks they can get surgeries that typically take six months or more under provincial health plans. All the patient has to do is pay them $20,000 to $30,000, depending on the clinic.
CIHI estimates that the average cost per joint replacement operation in public hospitals in Canada is $12,223, which means that the private clinics are charging patients roughly double what the surgery costs the provincial medicare system.
To those who claim that private surgery is cheaper, one can tell right away that when one adds profit and extra administrative costs, diverting money to the private system will cost our public system more.
Doug Ford says, “Oh, that is okay. We are still paying for it with public dollars”. Why would Canadians ever tolerate paying twice as much for surgery in a private system than they would in the public system?
The Canada Health Act prohibits extra billing. This means that doctors are banned from charging patients more than the medicare rate for an insured service. However, private clinics are getting around that by operating only on patients from other provinces.
Imagine the loophole in this country where, if one is in Manitoba, one can sell a private surgery to someone from Ontario but not somebody in Manitoba.
This violates the fundamental principle of the Canada Health Act. It is a gaping loophole in our system. We are calling on the government to close that loophole right now if it truly cares about public health care as it says.
It is not only those kinds of surgeries, though. Maple, a Loblaws-funded virtual care business based in Toronto, is charging patients $69 per doctor's visit or $30 per month for 30 visits per year if one wants to go bulk. In-person service would be covered by Ontario's public insurance plan.
Ontario has insured virtual visits under OHIP, but Maple has found a way around the province's rules by connecting patients with a nurse practitioner or physician outside of the province. This is another gaping loophole.
That is not to mention the odious practice that has been going on in this country for years, where people appear at private clinics only to be upsold. They come for cataract surgery but are told that if they want a better lens, they have to pay more. That kind of introduction of private pay and access to health care is a fundamental violation of the medicare system that Canadians hold so dear in this country.
Let us talk about the evidence against privatization. A recent study led by Dr. Shoo Lee, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and former pediatrician-in-chief at Mount Sinai Hospital, looked at international experiences to determine what impact private financing would have on Canada's health system. That study found that private financing, both private for-profit insurance and private out-of-pocket financing, negatively affects the universality, equity, accessibility and quality of care.
It is not just that study. A recent study of England's National Health Service found that as outsourcing to the private for-profit sector increased from 2013 to 2020, so did the rates of death from treatable conditions.
I look forward to hearing any questions. Let us stand up for public health care in this country and make sure that every dollar of public funding goes to public health care in Canada.
Madam Speaker, the pandemic was hard on Canadians. It was particularly difficult for health care workers, including nurses, doctors, personal support workers, long-term care workers, maintenance staff, and so many others.
For three years, they have been on the front lines of this pandemic with no relief in sight. The government called them heroes, but those accolades have not been backed up with tangible investments in pay, working conditions or mental health supports. It is absolutely unacceptable that investments in mental health have not come to frontline workers, including health care workers, when the Liberal government is sitting on $4.5 billion of unspent mental health dollars. I remind the government that this needs to change.
Today, we are talking about the privatization of health care in Canada. The Liberals' recent health care negotiations with the provinces have not produced change or protections. The solutions that Canadians were expecting to hear to improving their access to care in this country did not come to fruition. Canadians did not hear of plans to address the staffing shortages of doctors or nurses.
As Tim Guest, the CEO of the Canadian Nurses Association, said, “While CNA is encouraged by the federal government’s commitment to prioritizing health-care workers, the need for a pan-Canadian health human resource (HHR) strategy and urgent action to address critical nursing shortages were not clearly addressed.”
The current Liberal government must address the human resource crisis in the care system in Canada immediately. The has an opportunity to make things better for Canadians by working with the provinces and territories to hire and rebuild the public health system and its human resource sector. Alternatively, he can continue to make the crisis worse by funding for-profit schemes that will poach staff from hospitals and the public health care system that all Canadians rely on.
I remind the Liberal government that allowing for-profit care to take over Canada's health care system is not only a contravention of the Canada Health Act, but also a costly project for Canadians, both in dollars and in lives, as the hon. member mentioned earlier. We have only to look at the catastrophic outcomes in private long-term care during the pandemic to see that.
The courts are also warning us of the folly of private health care. The Supreme Court of British Columbia looked at the impact of private, paid health care in its 2020 ruling on the Cambie case and found that “...the introduction of duplicative private healthcare would lead to increased costs and diversion of human resources, which would be contrary to the purpose of the provisions to preserve and ensure the sustainability of the universal public healthcare system.”
This decision was upheld by the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2022. In its ruling, the justice found that suppressing all private care is necessary to ensure that access to medically necessary care is based on need and not on ability to pay.
It also stated, “The introduction of even small scale duplicative private healthcare would create a second tier of preferential healthcare for those with the means to either acquire private insurance or pay out-of-pocket once their benchmark was exceeded.”
That is worrisome. No Canadian should have to fight for equal care in this country, but that is exactly what privatization, for-profit care, does.
It is not just me saying this. It is the law of the land saying it. This is why it is imperative that the new bilateral health agreements result in thousands of new publicly funded health care workers to fix and support a growing sector of our economy, the care economy, where one in five Canadians already works. If the federal government cannot facilitate this in the agreements, they will be a failure.
The current nursing shortage has certainly proven that a lack of human resources in care is past critical levels. I will mention again that it is affecting the mental health care of caregivers.
Dr. Katherine Smart, the former president of the Canadian Medical Association, said:
What we're learning is more than alarming. It's potentially catastrophic.
Time is of the essence. More than a quarter of practising physicians claim low rates of overall mental health. Recent figures show that 20% of front-line health care workers have thought about suicide. A crushing 6% have planned an attempt.
A crushing 6% have attempted suicide, and we know that it has happened. The Liberals need to get to work to assist in solving the shortage of doctors and nurses in this country.
As the pointed out, when the took office, there was a shortage of 5,800 nurses. Things are now five times worse.
Dr. Smart said that over 50% of physicians and medical learners reported high levels of burnout, compared to prepandemic levels of 30%. Moreover, nearly half of physicians reported that they would likely reduce their clinical hours. Canadians cannot afford any more reductions in access to doctors.
With that in mind, I am going to take a moment to highlight, for the Liberal government, news from the labour shortage study out of HUMA this year. The report holds critical testimony outlining solutions that would improve working conditions for health care workers, attract and retain health care workers, and allow for a pan-Canadian human resource plan.
These solutions come from health care professionals who know the problems in the system. I would note that not one of the solutions presented in the study was to jeopardize the public health care system by introducing private, for-profit care. Here are eight of the recommendations.
First, “work with the provinces, territories and other stakeholders to promote the alignment of educational and training opportunities in health care and other care economy sectors...”.
Second, “in collaboration with the provinces and territories, expand training and upskilling capacity for high demand industries, skilled workers, the care economy [and] health care workers...”.
Third, “work with the provinces and territories to remove barriers to labour mobility in the health care sector, including through the interprovincial/territorial coordination of regulation and licensing requirements.”
Fourth, “support access to care in rural and remote communities by providing further incentives for in-demand health care professionals to work in these communities, including through tuition assistance, loan forgiveness, or tax benefits...”.
Fifth, “consider offering additional permanent residency pathways to temporary foreign workers with in-demand skills or experience, including in the care economy...”.
Sixth, “review the Foreign Credential Recognition Program with a view to determining how it can better support efficient foreign credential recognition for internationally trained health care professionals.”
Seventh, “review compensation and benefits for care economy workers under its jurisdiction with a view to ensuring decent work and a regionally competitive wage; and further, that it work with the provinces and territories to improve working conditions for other workers in the care economy (including but not limited to migrant workers, and those in non-standard employment) and provide adequate compensation, basic health benefits, paid sick days, and workload management.”
Eighth, “consider establishing a national Care Economy Commission to develop, implement and monitor any workforce planning strategies for the care economy, including a centralized health care human resources strategy...”.
These are the real solutions to the health care crisis. These are the real solutions that would benefit people over corporate profits, and these are the real avenues to solving the human resource challenges in health care.
I am going to quote Michael Villeneuve, the former chief executive officer of the Canadian Nurses Association, who said:
Canada needs targeted federal funding to help health care systems train, retain, recruit and improve education and working conditions...The federal government has an important convenor and coordinator role to play. It needs to work together with provinces and territories on both short- and long-term strategies. Maintaining the status quo cannot be an option.
In closing, at the same time that the Canada health system is on the verge of collapse, workers are burning out, fatigued and taking early retirement. More federal investments are needed.
As economist Armine Yalnizyan has been saying loudly, labour needs are set to rise due to an aging population. She says, “...there is no more pressing labour market issue than how we prepare the Care Economy for the decades of population aging ahead...”
The federal government needs to take on this challenge and stop wasting time on for-profit corporations and privatization-hungry premiers trying to breach the Canada Health Act that belongs to all Canadians.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to address the motion from the hon. member for and provide an update on our government's commitment to support and strengthen Canada's health care system. It is also a great opportunity to re-emphasize our number one priority, which is to ensure that our health care system continues to be publicly funded, universally available and equitably delivered.
Canadians are proud of our universal health care system, a system that is accessible to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.
However, this system is under pressure. The accessibility and universality of the system that we all rely on are under threat. We have all heard the devastating stories about the system failing us. There are for example the long waits at emergency rooms and the difficulty people have finding a family doctor, not to mention the years-long wait lists for consulting a specialist or to plan a surgery.
While many of these issues existed long before COVID-19, the pandemic has both exposed and worsened a number of systemic problems that must be addressed.
Canadians deserve a health care system that delivers results. That is why we are working with provinces and territories to increase funding in our health care system right across the country. Our goal is to ensure that all Canadians get the universal, accessible and high-quality health care they need and deserve when and where they need it.
Last week, the Prime Minister announced the Government of Canada’s proposed investment of $198.6 billion over the next decade, including over $48 billion in new funding for provinces and territories to improve health care services for Canadians.
I will speak more about how this investment is structured in just a few moments. It is about more than just money; it is a true investment in the health system that will yield tangible results for Canadians in the areas they care most about.
Before I go any further, I would like to say a few words about COVID-19 and the enormous pressure the pandemic has placed on the health system, resources and workers. It has been health care workers who have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s impacts, on the job, every day. From high patient workloads, to scarce resources to fear for personal health and safety, the pressure on health workers has been unrelenting for over two and a half years.
Last week, I had a chance to sit down with some representatives from SEIU, a labour union that represents a lot of workers in personal support and long-term care. The meeting quickly turned into one that was very emotional, because personal stories and anecdotes were shared. I do not mind saying for the House, and on the record, that everybody in the meeting was crying by the end of it. These people work so hard. They are so compassionate. They are there for society's most vulnerable, for our parents and our grandparents as they age. They are angels and saints, every single one of them.
They asked me to re-emphasize for the and the the importance of wages for those workers, and they were so grateful for the increases they saw in these agreements.
I take this opportunity to thank health care workers for their perseverance, professionalism and unwavering commitment to their patients, Canadians and people right across our country. Our government owes them a debt of gratitude for their continuing compassion, care and courage in these extremely challenging times.
Given the pressure they are under, it should come as no surprise that health care workers are exhausted and burnt out. Many have left the profession altogether. Those who remain are grappling with very challenging workplace conditions, leading to low retention and a lot of turnover. This is unacceptable.
Health workers are the backbone of our health care system. A crisis for health workers is a crisis for the whole system. They have taken care of us, they have taken care of our loved ones and we need to take care of them too.
Therefore, we, as governments, now find ourselves in the position to try to find ways to rebuild the health system so it can continue to be there for us now and into the future. This is a shared challenge. We have been working closely with the provinces and territories to identify actions that are needed to improve the health system, while adapting to the changing needs of Canadians.
Last week, federal and provincial leaders came together to discuss tangible actions that we could take now, which would help modernize the system and ensure results would be there for Canadians.
After months of discussions, including with patients, health workers and experts, our government has proposed a sound, reasonable and pragmatic approach to obtain concrete results for Canadians as well as our health care workers.
This past Monday, premiers across Canada announced that they had accepted this approach, and we welcome the opportunity to continue working with them to improve the universal, public health system on which we all rely.
Our government will increase health funding by nearly $200 billion over the next 10 years. This funding includes an immediate and unconditional $2 billion Canada health transfer top-up to address immediate pressures on the health care system, especially in pediatric hospitals and emergency rooms for long wait times for surgeries. This builds on previous top-ups that total $6.5 billion provided throughout the pandemic.
It also includes a five per cent Canada health transfer guarantee for the next five years. This is projected to provide an additional $17.3 billion over 10 years in new support. With this guarantee, the Canada health transfer is projected to grow by 33% over the next five years and 61% over the next 10 years.
It will also include $25 billion over 10 years to advance shared health priorities through tailored bilateral agreements that will support the needs of people in each province and territory in four areas of shared priority: family health services, health workers and backlogs, mental health and substance use, and modernization of our health system.
In addition, $1.7 billion will be invested over five years to support wage increases for personal support workers and related professions.
On top of this, we will continue to work with indigenous partners to provide additional support for indigenous health priorities. Notably, the government will provide $2 billion over 10 years for an indigenous health equity fund to be distributed on a distinctions-based manner with first nations, Inuit and Métis to address the unique challenges indigenous peoples face when it comes to fair and equitable access to health care services.
We will also provide an additional $505 million over five years to the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Canada Health Infoway. These federal data partners will work with provinces and territories on developing new health data indicators, among other efforts to use data to improve safety and quality of care right across Canada.
We have been very clear about the obligations under the Canada Health Act. We will work with provinces and territories to ensure our investments are used in the best interest of patients and health care workers in a way that respects the principles of the Canada Health Act to ensure access to insured services is based on health needs, and not the ability or willingness to pay.
Our investment supports work in shared priority areas that matter to Canadians, such as family health services, the health workforce, mental health and substance use services, and building a modern health care system. Helping Canadians age with dignity, closer to home, with access to home care or care in a safe long-term care facility is also an area of shared priority.
I would also like to speak for few minutes about each of our shared priorities and why they are important to Canadians.
The first priority is to improve access to family health services, especially in rural and remote areas and in underserved communities. Whether provided by a doctor, a nurse practitioner, a pediatrician or a multidisciplinary team, family health services are essential for effective, resilient, sustainable and equitable health care delivery, and yet more than 14% of Canadians over the age of 12 do not have a regular family health provider.
This gap affects us all. When people do not have access to a a regular family health service provider, they rely heavily on walk-in clinics and emergency rooms that are already overburdened. This needs to change. With this new investment, we will work with the provinces and territories to ensure timely access to comprehensive, integrated and person-centred family health services, including in rural and remote areas.
Our second shared priority is to support our health workers and reduce surgical backlogs. As I mentioned at the outset, health care workers made enormous sacrifices during the pandemic, and they continue to suffer the consequences of working in a system that is under strain. We need to invest in supporting and retaining health care workers. This includes training for recruitment as well as recognizing the skills of health care workers trained both in Canada and abroad.
We also need to look to the future with better workforce planning. We can do this with improved health care service data with respect to our workforce and by seizing opportunities to scale new models of care to directly address these key barriers. This includes streamlining foreign credential qualifications and recognition for internationally educated health professionals and advancing labour mobility, starting with a multi-jurisdictional recognition of health professional licenses.
As the member of Parliament for a diverse community of people who come from all over the world to make Canada their home, this is a personal priority for me as well.
Third, we want to improve access to mental health services and substance use services for Canadians. Right now, one in three Canadians say that they are struggling with their mental health. It is clear that there is no health without mental health. It is as integral and important to our needs as physical health.
That is why we are working to provide Canadians with a multidisciplinary system of care, one that integrates mental health services and substance use services right across all of those shared priorities with provinces and territories. This means better access to mental health and substance use services in the community as part of publicly funded care.
For example, by better integrating mental health services within family health teams, we can strengthen access to needed mental health supports for all. We will ensure that every Canadian and those who need referrals can get them in a timely manner.
Next, we need to work together to modernize the health system, which means improving the way we collect and manage health information. This will be foundational to achieving progress, because data saves lives.
Let me explain what I mean. Better access to health information is essential for health workers to provide safe and high-quality health care, regardless of where in Canada patients might live or happen to be when they need care. Think of a nurse or a doctor who cannot see a patient's medical history, including any medications he or she is on, allergies the patient might have or tests that have taken. In an emergency situation, this can be very dangerous.
Many of us have had the frustrating experience of being referred from one health provider to another only to be asked to repeat our medical history over and over again or take same tests multiple times, all because medical records were not shared in a modern manner. This is inefficient and results in duplication and increased costs.
That explains why we need to modernize the health system with standardized health data and digital tools. Canadians should be able to access their own health information and benefit from it being shared between health workers across health settings and across jurisdictions, providing a seamless experience for the patient while respecting their privacy.
To access the federal funding announced last week, we are asking provinces and territories to adopt common standards on how health information is collected and shared. This commitment will include an agreement to develop and use comparable indicators through the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
These commitments will improve the efficiency, the quality and the safety of patient care, provide decision-makers with more complete pictures of the health care system and help manage public health emergencies.
Finally, we are committed to helping Canadians age with dignity, closer to home and with access to home care or safe long-term care. Many seniors want to remain in their homes as long as possible, but they lack the support they need to do so safely.
Collaborative work is under way with provinces and territories to help them support access to home care and long-term care. This includes existing investments of $6 billion for home and community care. The investment we announced last week will also include an additional $1.7 billion over five years to support wage increases for personal support workers and related professions. That was so important, and it was highlighted to me by the workers from SEIU just last week.
Investing in these five areas of shared priorities will help repair the damage caused by COVID-19 and ready the health system for future challenges.
We recognize each province and territory faces unique challenges. That leads me to the next point on the bilateral agreements.
Provinces and territories will have the flexibility to tailor their bilateral agreements to meet the unique needs of their populations and geography. The health needs of Canadians are diverse across our country. Yukoners, New Brunswickers and Islanders all need something perhaps a little different. These agreements will also include action plans to ensure real progress is made and measured.
On the Canada Health Act, each bilateral agreement will need to reinforce common core principles. The first among these is our shared responsibility under the Canada Health Act. This means governments must ensure that medically necessary services are provided on the basis of need, not one's ability or willingness to pay.
In Canada, all people should need to get health care is their health card, not a credit card. It also means that under the act, where there is evidence of patient charges for medically necessary health services, such as for abortion services, mandatory deductions to the Canada health transfer payments of a province or territory must be taken. There is a precedent for this.
As the pointed out last week, the Canada Health Act requires that governments protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.
Governments must also ensure equitable access to health care services and that such access is supported by a strong public health care sector.
Next, the bilateral agreements we negotiate would reflect our joint commitment to health equity and reconciliation with indigenous peoples. We will work together to ensure indigenous peoples across the country are able to access quality and culturally safe health services, which are free from racism and discrimination, anywhere in Canada.
Finally, agreements would also support improving equitable access for other underserved and equity-deserving groups, including Canadians living in rural and remote areas, as well as those living in official language minority communities.
Canada's health care system is facing a major challenge. As Canadians, we all count on the system to take care of us and the people we care about. We expect it to be there when we need it.
We are at a critical juncture. There are cracks in the health care system, and they are getting wider. Now we have to act fast to save the system we all cherish.
Provinces, territories, stakeholders, care providers and the Government of Canada all have to work together to fill those gaps before these problems get even worse.
Last week, we came together and took a giant step forward. There is still much work to be done, but with that approach, the one that our government has proposed and the premiers have now accepted, we are pointed in the right direction and we have a clear path ahead of us.
Our government looks forward to working with the provinces and the territories in the weeks to come so that we can move forward together. Canadians are counting on us.
Madam Speaker, hopefully members of the House will begin to understand that using meaningless words is not helpful to Canadians. I am not sure how to exactly make that point because it seems to be lost on many people who come here and attempt to do business.
What we do know very clearly is that the health care system we have, as mentioned very passionately by the former president of the Canadian Medical Association, is a system that is on the brink of collapse. Continuing to go on about grand ideas and priorities is in no way, shape or form going to operationalize any ideas in this country, which is really what we need. I guess, in the vernacular, we need people who are actually going to do something.
Many groups have put forward great ideas about pathways, road maps and priorities, etc. There has been talk about a lot of money that is going to be spent, has been spent or should be spent. What do we have? We have a system that is no different.
We know that after eight years of the Liberal government, we have people waiting and waiting. Very sadly, the waiting is now waiting until they are dead. This is the ridiculous and heartbreaking nature of a system that we in the House and the government, as I am putting the blame squarely at the feet of the Liberal government, have allowed to happen. People are literally dying in emergency rooms. That is the point where we need to begin to consider how to operationalize those things and what sort of leadership the federal government needs to bear to change the system.
I was fortunate enough to have worked in the health care system as a family doctor for 26 years. Four of those years was serving our country in the military. Even way back then, we knew very clearly that there was a shortage of physicians. Part of the work that I was required to do as a physician was to go other bases around this country so that other physicians could have a vacation. That is a rotation that we did.
As I transitioned from my miliary life into a practice in Truro, Nova Scotia, it became very clear that changes were happening in our health care system. Of course, as we all know, we have an aging population, which is felt more acutely perhaps in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec than elsewhere in the country, but at that time we also knew there was a dwindling of resources available, both financial and health human resources.
I had the privilege and opportunity to be a part of the health human resource study that was done by the Standing Committee on Health. It was a decent study, but I am still not entirely sure that there is a pathway forward on how to operationalize the ideas. One of the things that makes me the saddest is understanding that the folks I had the opportunity to work with, and who continue to work in the system are, as we might say, burned out, tired, frustrated, angry and hurt. How do we begin to change that? If we do not look at the system as a whole and begin to look at ideas on how to change that and change it quickly, then we are going to continue down the same path. It does not really matter how much money we pour into the system. We must focus on the people who are the greatest asset of the system.
I heard my colleague on the Liberal side talking about how data saves lives. I have to say it cuts right to my own heart to hear him say that data saves lives. People save lives. The doctors and nurses who are working on the front lines in emergency rooms and in small places across this entire country are the people who save lives. Does data help? Sure, it does. We have been talking about data strategies since I cannot even remember when, since the Stone Age, and we still have no real data strategy.
We can talk about it all we want, but until somebody has the courage to begin to operationalize that and work collaboratively with provincial governments, we are never going to get to the point where anything happens. For me, in coming here for the last 18 months, that is the most frustrating. When do things happen in the government? When do things get done? Who does the work?
We can have priorities and ideas and that kind of stuff. I am not saying that the Liberal government does not have priorities and ideas, that it does not put money toward things, but they are things that I do not necessarily agree with.
I think that the other thing is that there is no work being done. When is something actually going to happen? When is Beau Blois, who is an emergency room physician in Truro, Nova Scotia, actually going to feel the difference, in an operational sense, of something that we are actually doing?
We can, again, use all kinds of meaningless words and talk about things over and over again, but for that man, who also has a family, runs a business, and works very hard in our community, when is the operational rubber going to meet the road? When is something actually going to happen that is different? Until that point, we know that we will continue with this system, which lets down Canadians and Canadian health care workers.
For me, having been in that position, that is something that makes me very, very sad. From a very personal perspective, I know that the people who are working in the system care deeply about their patients, and doing a good job, and they care very deeply about the system as well. They are aware of the difficulties in the system. They call every day with ideas and ways in which they believe that the system could actually be changed to make it better. I think that the shame of it all is that after eight years of the Liberal government, all we get is more ideas and planning and priorities and meaningless talk that does not operationalize anything.
I know what is going is happen today. Somebody on that side of the House will chirp at me to say, well, it is the provincial government and I am talking about jurisdictional issues, and guess what happens? Absolutely nothing happens.
That is the sickest part of it all. We can talk about this until we are blue in the face, but until somebody actually does something that creates an opportunity for change and operationalizes something, nothing happens. That leaves the emergency room doctor, Dr. Beau Blois, still doing what he is trying to do, even though he works very hard and many hours in a multitude of different health care settings in my area.
Another guy that I have worked with for many years, Dr. Wayne Pickett, works in four or five different emergency rooms around rural Nova Scotia. Why does he do it? He does it because there is a need. He has tremendous skills. He is a compassionate doctor, and I would be happy to have him, if I needed the work, work on me any day.
That being said, how do we change the life of the Dr. Wayne Picketts of the world? How do we change things so that, in an operational sense, we can see change on the ground, so that the Mary Smiths and whoever we want to talk about, the Ednas of the world, get care?
How do they realize that they not have a family doctor any more and they are having a difficult time getting their prescriptions refilled? How do we also then take virtual care and make it a reality?
We have had conversations about virtual care, but if we go to the doctor and all we do is see them on a screen and nobody is there to examine us, how do we know that what we have told the doctor is right, that it is actually the case? How do we rectify the fact that using virtual care is significantly increasing the amount of diagnostic imaging that needs to be done?
Why is that? It is because the doctor, instead of actually seeing us and examining us when we have a sore arm, says, “Well, I guess your arm is sore, and that is unfortunate, so let's get an x-ray done.” Whereas, if we had an experienced practitioner, someone could actually see us to examine us and then realize that maybe we do not need an x-ray done, that we have another problem.
These are things that we are facing. When we think about it, we have an electronic medical record in Nova Scotia. I think that is worthwhile explaining, because I am not entirely sure that everybody understands how this might work.
If I have an electronic medical record in my office, and I am working in the emergency room and one is my patient, then I can look at their records. If I have an electronic medical record, and somebody else comes whose family physician has the same electronic medical record, in the emergency room, I cannot look at their electronic medical record. It does not make any sense.
Until we take these very practical problems and decide to make a difference, all we are going to do in the House of Commons is speak meaningless words that fill up Hansard. Those are some examples of very practical things we could do.
I am not being particularly critical, but I think we have a decent system in Nova Scotia. I know it is similar across the country. There are people struggling to get blood work done. It takes a long time to book an appointment. We now have a combination of systems that is difficult for seniors to access because it is computer-based. How do we rectify those things? How do we help seniors in our communities who are struggling with that?
When we look at those things, we know there are significant issues that need to be operationalized. I realize that the default in this grand institution we are in is to say something is a provincial issue. We do not have leadership here. We need to begin by looking at innovative ideas and how we can tie them together from province to province, and if we have a crisis in this country, we know that it is possible to show significant federal leadership, which sadly does not happen now.
I am going to shift gears a bit and talk about mental health. There has been a lot of talk about mental health and not much done about it. We know that since the pandemic, one in three Canadians has suffered significantly with their mental health. We also know that the Liberal government has put together studies which would suggest that 25% of Canadians not being able to access mental health care is a reasonable number. I think it should be zero. There should not be anybody out there who struggles to access mental health care. In this country, the greatest country in the world, we allow that to happen, and that is a travesty. That is absolutely unacceptable.
What is at the heart of that? I think there are a few things at the heart of it. It is a reflection of the state of this country. The sad state is that everything is broken. People feel defeated. They do not feel like they have hope. They do not feel like they have a future. They do not feel like they have a voice. When people feel like that, we have to reflect on how that makes us feel inside as people. How does that make us value ourselves and our contributions, not just to our families but to our country and communities? How do we invigorate people so they can actually feel like they are contributing to this country and get that wonderful feedback so they know they did that?
What are the other things in mental health that are important? There are a few things. Certainly, we have heard from counsellors and psychotherapists to know that the Liberal government is still charging GST on their services, which is a burden. We know that it would be a very easy fix to allow counsellors and psychotherapists to not charge GST on their services, which would then allow a greater number of Canadians access to the services they deserve.
What about mental health funding? To the people who are listening to what we are doing today, they know that in the 2021 platform of the Liberal government, it said it was going to fund a Canada mental health transfer up to the tune of $4.5 billion. Here we are, and year after year goes by. We had the fall economic statement. There is another budget coming up to talk about more money.
I have to mention something. I was on the MAID committee, and its members wanted to talk about funding. I said, “Great, let us talk about funding. Where is the $4.5-billion Canada mental health transfer?” The member opposite had the audacity to say it has been transferred. Everybody in the House knows that not one penny has been transferred under the Canada mental health transfer.
If it were not so incredibly gut-wrenching, nauseating and inappropriate, it would actually be funny because the member said that maybe we transferred it under another name. Why would it be under another name? The government announced a $4.5-billion project, and it wants me to believe that it transferred that money under another name. That is baloney. That is shameful.
Now, here we are, and Canadians are suffering. I heard my colleague across the way say he realized that Canadians were suffering with their mental health. If the Liberals have committed the money, why do they not just send it to the provinces and allow them to do things?
What we will hear from the government is a strange thing, and I want to be clear on it. The Liberal government is going to tell Canadians that it does not want to transfer the money because it wants the provinces to be accountable for it. The wasteful Liberal government is holding back money that could help the mental health of Canadians because it wants accountability. It wastes money on everything every day and it does not want to help people with mental health. I find it absolutely and shockingly ridiculous that we are even hearing this type of retort from my colleagues across the way.
We have had eight years of the current Liberal government and what do we have to show for it? Perhaps some statistics might be helpful.
When someone goes to see their family doctor, and the doctor realizes it is something they cannot take care of themselves, they send the patient to a specialist. The specialist may recommend some treatment. I do not know if members know the number, but the wait time is six months. That is the longest it has been in 30 years.
What is perhaps an even sadder statistic is that five million Canadians do not have access to primary care, with perhaps 130,000 in my own province of Nova Scotia. We know there are 1.228 million people waiting for procedures in Canada.
We could also look at diagnostic imaging. For folks out there who may not know what that means, it is CAT scans, MRIs and regular X-rays. We know those wait times are the longest they have been in forever.
What else do we know? We know we have drug shortages in this country. We brought Health Canada and the to the health committee to talk about the shortages of pediatric ibuprofen and acetaminophen, and what answers did we get? We got absolutely none. They said they were going to work on it and maybe get some in, but we know that when people go to their pharmacies, the cupboards are still bare.
What else do we know? We know there are critical drug shortages of every pediatric oral antibiotic that, if I was working as a family doctor, I would prescribe for children with bacterial infections. We know that every one of them is short. As I said previously, we also know, from the words of Dr. Katharine Smart, former Canadian Medical Association president, that we are in a system on the brink of collapse.
What else do we know? After eight years of the Liberal government, we know, as I mentioned right off the top, that people are dying in emergency rooms around this country. Somebody died in my own riding in Amherst in the emergency room, a lady named Holthoff. It is a sad state of affairs. There are no words to describe that. Those are things that should not be happening in Canada.
We know, after eight years of the Liberal government, that the refused to meet with premiers. When he eventually met with them and gave them a package, he said, “Here is your money. Hit the road. I don't want to hear any of your talk about this anymore.”
We know there is a significant crisis in the health care system, and we know that right now it is borne on the backs of the folks who continue to work on it, folks whom I have had the privilege and opportunity to work with. We know that if we do not operationalize our ideas in this great House, nothing is going to change. That is the sad concern I have: that nothing is going to change and we are going to continue down the same path we are on. We need to have great leadership in this country, and right now we do not have it.
I will end with an interesting take on this. If someone wants a solution to health care, they should elect a Conservative government.
Madam Speaker, I want to say that I will be sharing my time with my mentor, the member for .
I think that having a discussion about the role of private health care is a great way to distinguish between certain ideological positions. On the one hand, there are those who think of themselves as social democrats or progressives, even if the latter term is a bit overused. On the other hand, there are people who have more of a neo-liberal vision, inspired by classical liberalism, where positions are often structured around an idyllic vision of the market; it is all about the market. When we talk about the role of private health care, these divisions always come to the fore.
I say this because we, in the Bloc Québécois, tend to define ourselves as progressives, as social democrats, much like NDP members do.
For example, one way to try and define progressives, social democrats, is to look at some of the struggles that have taken place. I am thinking about the fight for better wealth distribution, allowing for equal opportunities, which is more structured by the state. I am thinking about the struggles that women and the labour movement face. I would even say that a progressive is someone who defends secularism. I doubt my NDP colleagues would agree. Indeed, the issue of state neutrality often comes up in discussions about progressivism.
What I am getting at is that Quebec is probably one of the most progressive societies in Canada. Look at the choices that Quebec has made. Child care was put in place in 1997. Canada has just implemented it, more than 20 years later. The same can be said of parental leave and pharmacare. In my opinion, Quebec's government and society is a bit more progressive than Canada. That is Quebec's choice.
I would like to make a distinction. I see what the NDP is trying to do with this motion. The Bloc Québécois will be voting against it, but when we do, members will say that the Bloc Québécois is not progressive and that it is in favour of more privatized health care. However, that is not the case. That explanation is too simplistic.
I do not want to accuse my NDP colleagues of populism. We know what populism means. It often involves using overly simplistic explanations to try to describe complex realities. Health care in Canada is a complex reality. The fact that we are against this motion does not necessarily mean that we are in favour of giving the private sector a bigger place in the health care system. I want to point out that the difference between the NDP's progressiveness and the Bloc Québécois's is that the NDP's progressiveness involves a centralizing, predatory federalism. I want members to remember that. I do not want to use any bad words, but we have to call a spade a spade. It is a federalism that is always trying to infringe on provincial jurisdictions.
When I take a closer look at the NDP motion, what I ultimately see is paternalism, but I will come back to that. Ottawa thinks it knows best. We, the legislators in the House here in Ottawa, are supposed to explain to the provinces how the health care system works and we are the ones who see things clearly. That is basically how the NDP motion reads to me.
This motion is also pretty Ontario-centric, and I will simply point out in passing that it is yet another illustration of the fact that the NDP is rather disconnected from Quebec. Let us move on quickly to the next thing.
What should my colleagues have done if they truly cared about the health care issue? They should have tackled the main problem, which is a structural one.
The problem that we face today is a structural one, where health care is affected by the financial withdrawal of the federal government. Guess what? The fiscal imbalance has provided extensive documentation of this withdrawal. If my NDP colleagues were serious, they would have looked at the issue of fiscal imbalance and at the federal government's withdrawal.
Here is an example. In the 1990s, in 1996-97, the federal government made ongoing cuts of $2.5 billion to provincial transfers. Lucien Bouchard was premier of Quebec at the time. He had to deal with these cuts, which completely destabilized Quebec's health care system. His critics were quick to paint him as a neo-liberal politician because he made cuts to health care. However, at the same time that he was creating a $5 child care system and implementing a family policy, he was being strangled by the federal government and forced to cut health care services to the public. That is the kind of predatory federalism that I was talking about earlier.
I am coming back to the fiscal imbalance because I would simply like to provide the definition that really speaks to me. It is the one that was included in the Séguin report. It states that the provinces' spending structure is such that expenditures grow faster than the economy, while those of the federal government grow at roughly the same pace. Furthermore, when it wants to adjust its spending, the federal government can just unilaterally cut transfers to the provinces, without any political fallout.
“Without any political fallout” worked for Paul Martin in the 1990s. He balanced his budget on the backs of the provinces. Who paid the political price? It was the various premiers and health ministers in Quebec, who were held responsible for the shortfall in the health care system because Ottawa choked the resources.
The NDP's response to something like the fiscal imbalance is to say that funding for the provinces should come with conditions. To me, that is quintessential predatory federalism. I did not make up that term. It came from a health minister from Quebec who was a Liberal and had absolutely nothing to do with sovereignists and separatists.
The fiscal imbalance has been documented in a fairly impartial manner. I am thinking in particular of the Conference Board of Canada, which has shown in many studies that if nothing is done by 2030-31, the provinces will collapse under the weight of deficits, while the federal government will be swimming in surpluses. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has also demonstrated this many times.
When I look at the NDP motion, I see direct interference in provincial jurisdictions. Health is not the purview of the House of Commons.
Naturally, in Quebec and other provinces, governments may take approaches that are controversial, but that is democracy. If people are not satisfied with the actions of their legislatures, they can run for a seat there. If health care is the real concern of my NDP colleagues, they can stand for election in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan or Manitoba and tackle the health care system. That certainly does not fall to the House of Commons.
I want to conclude by highlighting the predatory federalism we can see in the NDP proposals. Imposing national standards on long-term care facilities is interference. Hiring health care workers is interference. Investing in mental health and preventing the use of private health care, which is the basis of their motion, is again interference.
To add insult to injury, if the New Democrats had done their homework, and I am sure my colleague from will elaborate on this, they would have looked at the Chaoulli decision and realized that if they want to go against the provinces in the delivery of health care, they have two options.
One option is to use the notwithstanding clause that they condemned last week in the debate on one of our opposition motions.
Madam Speaker, I want to begin by saying that I agree with my colleague from Jonquière. He is very reasonable.
I would add to the list of the problems with this government the fact that it has been unable to issue paycheques properly for years. I have been a member of the House since 2015, and we have been hearing about the Phoenix pay system all this time. I was a lawyer before I became an MP, and I had business clients. If they had not been able to give their employees paycheques, they would have gone bankrupt and been taken to court. I will move on to other topics, but let us just say that this government has not proven it has the competence to manage the affairs of the provinces.
I would say that there are two big problems with this NDP motion. First, it does not respect the division of powers set out in the Constitution Act, 1867. We know that health is not a federal but a provincial jurisdiction. The federal government's role, with all due respect to my colleague opposite, is to transfer money to the provinces so they can manage their health care systems. As was mentioned, the federal government has no competence in many areas, certainly including health care. The federal government does not manage any hospitals, clinics or anything else to do with health care. It is dreaming if it thinks it can impose its vision on the provinces.
Second, there is the issue of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court ruled that, under the charter, the federal government cannot restrict access to private health care in the provinces. I will talk about that in more detail later.
When I look at this constitutional problem, I realize that the NDP does not seem to understand that the feds have nothing to do with health. I was thinking about it this morning and thought it felt like a legend. The NDP dreams of a totalitarian federal government that controls everything and of a country where the federal government is all-powerful, like a supreme authority. That is the federal legend and the NDP's dream.
Mr. Mario Simard: Is it the myth?
Mr. Rhéal Fortin: Madam Speaker, the myth, the legend, that is what we are talking about today. Beyond the legend, there is a constitutional problem, because health is not a federal responsibility, but rather a provincial one. There is also a problem in relation to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects a certain number of rights. It protects privacy in section 7, among other things.
This is not the first time a situation of this kind has been brought before the courts. My colleague from talked briefly about the Supreme Court of Canada's Chaoulli decision from 2005. The chief justice, Justice McLachlin, supported by Justices Major and Bastarache, agreed with the findings of Justice Deschamps. I quote:
[T]he prohibition on private health insurance violates s. 1 of the Quebec Charter and is not justifiable under s. 9.1...The prohibition also violates s. 7 of the Canadian Charter and is not justifiable under s. 1...While the decision about the type of health care system Quebec should adopt falls to the legislature of that province, the resulting legislation, like all laws, must comply with the Canadian Charter.
Again, it states that “the type of health care system Quebec should adopt falls to the legislature of that province”.
The Supreme Court wrote that over 15 years ago, but the NDP members did not read the Supreme Court decisions, and that is okay. I know they have other things to do, like dreaming up this legend of a totalitarian Canadian government and trying to promote it. That cannot be easy, and I would not want to be in their shoes. I understand why they might be busy.
However, it is still important to read the Constitution and the charter at least once, to know what we are talking about and to avoid such huge traps. The New Democrats set this trap for themselves by proposing, on the one hand, that the federal government meddle in provincial and Quebec jurisdictions and, on the other hand, that the federal government completely violate the provisions of the charter.
That said, is it a fatal error? Yes, interfering in provincial jurisdictions is a fatal error.
I do not think that the federal government has any business meddling in areas under provincial jurisdiction. It can try, but it will end up in court. After a few years, the Supreme Court will say, as it already has, that this cannot be done. The federal government can try if it wants. We shall see.
Is the charter question fatal? No, it is not. I must concur.
We could contravene the provisions of the charter and say, “Too bad for section 7, we are still going ahead with a measure that would prohibit nurses from accessing private health care.” Even if it violates the charter, it could be done. How would we go about it? It is easy. The charter contains just such a provision. It is section 33, which reads as follows:
Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of Parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15 of this Charter.
The Chaoulli decision dealt with section 7. When I read the charter, I see that it can be overridden. Yes, what the NDP is proposing violates the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is a major sacrilege, clearly, but section 33 allows for the charter to be overridden.
The only problem is that just this week, mere hours ago, the NDP was getting all worked up and crying foul because Quebec had the nerve to use this notwithstanding clause to protect French and secularism in Quebec. Scandalized, our Canadian federal said that he would go to the Supreme Court and ask it to declare that the provinces cannot use the notwithstanding clause that his father gave them many years ago when he had this legislation passed. He said that they should have to go through the courts first and so on.
We argued that this did not make much sense since section 33 states, “Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of Parliament or of the legislature”. That is what Quebec did, that is what the federal government detests and that is what the NDP finds so outrageous and astounding. However, that is what the NDP will have to do if they want to follow their motion to its logical conclusion.
Are they going to follow their motion to its logical conclusion? Perhaps. If they do, we will bring back our motion, which they defeated this week. After all, a person cannot enjoy ice cream one day, be allergic to it the next, and then enjoy it again the day after. It either works or it does not.
If they want it to work, I am willing to consider it. There will still be the jurisdictional issue, which remains unresolved, but we could at least resolve the charter aspect. If they want to continue down that path, with that reasoning, we will follow their lead and allow them to apply for a charter exemption. We know that they are entirely within their rights.
However, if they persist in saying that we are not allowed to do it, it is hard for me to see how they can logically say to us that they want to contravene the charter and violate the division of powers.
Again, this legend exists only in the minds of my esteemed colleagues in the New Democratic Party or, should I say, the New Liberal-Democratic Party. I am not sure what to call it anymore.
Madam Speaker, today we are talking about health care, something that Canadians value.
Our health care system is the very backbone of our social safety net, no matter who we are, how much we make, where we live or in what circumstances we may find ourselves. It is the core value that Canadians right across the country praise, and it is at risk today. There is an insidious and nefarious project under way in Canada that would seek to take away that very protection.
It has already begun In my home province of Alberta. The premier of Alberta is utilizing existing public funds to funnel into the private health care system, funds that would otherwise be used for public care. This cannibalizes our existing public health care system.
It is a fallacy, a myth that the private health care system can make things better. It is no secret to the many Canadians who had to put up this fight before, including the New Democratic Party, which has always been steadfast in the defence of our public health care system, that the provinces would seek to defund and take away the supports of our public health care system. This would ensure that the public would begin to see that deterioration, which would build public support for private health care systems. That is what is happening right now. Our public health care system is falling victim to a classic privatization trap, whether with respect to education or health care, that would seek to destroy our social safety net.
I look at my home province and the real people who have been saved through public health care. The fight began and grew on the Prairies. The intent of the Canada Health Act was to ensure that no matter who we were, whether it was the neighbours we farmed with, or the post office person, or the teacher or the person constructing our roads, and regardless of how the economy may have hurt us, we would have that basic level of humanity.
It is not the job of the government to look solely at the GDP of the country. It is important it ensures that the people who develop the means and the surpluses to make so much possible in our country have control and benefit from those surpluses. Part of that is ensuring that the basic need of health care is looked after.
Imagine our country seeking to seize on Danielle Smith's project to give everyone $375 in an account to privatize the health care system in my province. If that were implemented that right across the country, millions of our most vulnerable people would be left behind.
As evidence of this, Premier Danielle Smith published a paper at the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, where she suggested creating annual health co-pay fees of up to $1,000 annually based on income.
She has stated that once people get used to the concept of paying out of pocket for more things themselves then “we can change the conversation on health care.”
It is shameful that she would want to shackle the most vulnerable, who need health care the most, to a limit of $1,000. We know that it costs at least $3,000 for one night in the hospital. Who does she want to toss out onto the street? Who does she want to ensure does not get that care?
On top of all of that, the condition of our hospitals today is truly deplorable. Before we get to the point of proposing a solution like Danielle Smith's, we have to break the system first. We have to break public health care. That starts with attacking our public health care workers and our care economy.
The brave men, women and non-binary folks who work in our health care system today are the same people who helped us through one of our country's worst nightmares, the global pandemic, which would have left millions of Canadians behind if we did not have a public health care system.
Even though health care is massively underfunded, and the conditions these workers were placed in, they stepped up. The House praised them. The Conservatives, the Bloc, the Liberals called them heroes.
When I talk to health care workers in my province today, they feel like zeroes, because that is what they are getting at the bargaining table and in their contracts. When we value our health care professionals and those who work in the profession, we value our health care system. These people are not looking for profits. They are looking for the tools to help their neighbours, their family members, the people they grew up with and the provinces they love. However, the conditions they are working in are forcing them into a narrow corner. They have to make a decision to either leave the health care system altogether or enter a growing private sector that would seek to abuse them, that would seek to take away their rights and that would seek to take profit from those who are sick. It is a shame.
Alberta can be a prosperous, beautiful, strong and resilient place so long as we ensure that the principles we have agreed to in our provincial health bill, which is our public health care system, are truly adhered to and valued. Part of that is looking back at that history and at those who experienced the health care system before it became a socialized system.
I talked to a retired nurse in my riding. Just last weekend said asked me to please stop the privatization of health care. She knew exactly what that felt like because she had lived through it before. In Alberta and other provinces, before our national health care program was built, and is still being built and defended today, she had to go through the onerous process of having to ask someone to insure her husband's life. When she could not afford to make those payments, the insurer said “too bad, so sad”. Her husband needed insulin and medical attention. Her husband worked on a farm his whole life and was a hard worker, and there are realities to that kind of labour. When we do not provide that social safety net for those who rely on it most, we leave them behind and it hurts our economy.
We need to take a stand against U.S.-style for-profit health care, and that is part of the problem. We have megacorporations that would love to dine out on the public dollar, that would love to continue to make a killing off people who need that support.
Our job in this place is to ensure that Canadians have the tools and the social safety net to succeed when they fall down, because we are all human, so they can get back up. Canadians are fighting for that today. That is the progress New Democrats are fighting for today, a truly universally accepted public health care system that can withstand the labour conditions we put on individuals who give themselves to our country and who find themselves lesser for it; and a government that is not willing to ensure they have that health care. It is for those teachers, so they can ensure that no matter what happens to them, especially throughout COVID, they can continue to do the work of standing on the front lines.
The working class of our country are being divided and they are being attacked, and it is being done so we do not look at the real problem. Those corporations that would seek to profit, and the politicians they pay for, ignore this issue. They want us to ignore the fact that our public health care system is under attack. They want us to ignore the fact that for-profit surgeries are already taking place in my home province of Alberta.
The Liberal government needs to enforce the Canada Health Act. It is written clearly. It needs to do that and ensure that people like Danielle Smith cannot continue to finance the private health care system like she is today. I welcome the Liberals to Alberta to take a look at some of the private health care systems, because they obviously do not believe it. They should talk to the people who need this service. They should talk to them about how much it costs to get a hip replacement.
We are here to defend public health care, and we will continue to do that.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to the motion brought forward by the NDP.
My colleagues and my constituents certainly already know how I feel about the Ontario premier's privatization agenda. Federal Liberal and Conservative governments have backed away from their role in the provision of health care. Instead of enforcing the Canada Health Act, they have steadily allowed two-tiered health care. Over decades, successive Liberal and Conservative governments have severely underfunded the health care system, cutting transfers, creating a perceived a crisis and making people believe that there is no other solution but privatization.
The government needs to provide real leadership and real solutions. The solutions need to solve the recruitment and retention crisis with health care workers. It needs to make sure that public dollars go to public health care. It needs to close loopholes that are allowing private American-style health care through the back door.
While respiratory illnesses were ripping through our communities, I was in the House calling on the federal government to take that leadership. Last fall, when London's emergency room wait times hit an all-time high of 20 hours, I called on the government to sit down with the provinces to create a deal that protected public health care. When London was warned by health officials that the record influx of patients at children's hospitals would not slow down, I told the government that parents are living in fear of their kids getting sick, and it had to come to the negotiating table.
When children's hospitals were forced to delay surgeries, I called out the government for walking away from those negotiations. When Doug Ford tried downloading $300 million to London's municipal government because he did not want to adequately fund health care infrastructure, I called on the government to find a deal to ensure the provinces could find enough money that was needed for that infrastructure.
When the crisis peaked and London's underfunded and understaffed children's hospitals had to transfer out kids all the way to Kingston, and when the Red Cross had to be called in to Ottawa's hospitals, I asked the government what it would take to finally step up to provide that leadership. By sending people to private for-profit clinics, not only will people now pay double for health care services, but human resources will be drained from an already strained public sector.
To explain a bit of this recruitment and retention crisis in Ontario, we only have to look to Doug Ford's government's use of Bill 124 to cap Ontario nurses' wages at a 1% increase. Think about the financial strain that workers have gone through in the last few years, certainly recently with the cost of living crisis throughout the pandemic and now. Through all of that, Conservatives froze nurses' wages. While the government refused to pay what they are worth, they still showed up for Canadians through COVID-19. They show up today.
When these failed provincial policies meant hospitalization and ICU rates hit unprecedented levels over and over, they still showed up, but that took a toll on our health care workers. Ontario nurses' overtime hours skyrocketed by 109% during the pandemic. Across Canada, 94% of nurses said they were experiencing symptoms of burnout and 45% of nurses said they are experiencing severe burnout. Even before the pandemic, 60% of nurses said they intended to leave their jobs within the next year and more than one-quarter wanted to leave their profession altogether.
After years of refusing to hammer out fair collective agreements with health care workers, years of neglecting our health care system and the creation of a crisis, the idea of privatization has been allowed to creep in. However, we have to be clear that for-profit health care means that wait times will get worse, the quality of care will drop and all Canadians will have to foot the bill.
We know what happens to for-profit corporations when they deliver care. We have seen it in long-term care. During the pandemic, more than 17,000 people lost their lives in long-term care. The Canadian Armed Forces were called in because of that crisis. The loss of life and neglect of seniors were avoidable, but the lack of legislated care standards directly led to the deaths of thousands of people living in long-term care homes.
The staffing shortage has only gotten worse in private hands. For-profit temp agencies have been overcharging care homes. Yesterday, Global News reported that the temp agencies are taking advantage of the staffing shortage by charging up to $150 an hour. That is why New Democrats have fought for national long-term care standards and have called for them in our agreement with the government.
In my community, we had two recent preventable tragedies. We lost two seniors in house fires, two women who were waiting for long-term care beds. One of them was on a list for a not-for-profit bed for two years. She was living at home long after she knew it was time to leave, as it was not safe.
The privatization of this sector has exacerbated the crisis. Private, two-tiered systems do not work. The for-profit delivery of health care is only going to make this crisis worse. After years of the suppression of public sector wages, health care workers will be poached by short-term promises from private employers. They will then prioritize cheap, fast procedures over complex, life-saving surgeries that would help solve the backlog. Prioritizing profit over treatment means rushed jobs that increase preventable deaths.
Canadians need real solutions to fix public universal health care, not to be funnelling funds and staff to the for-profit facilities. We need new bilateral health agreements that result in thousands of new health care workers. We need to stand up for those workers and their unions to keep the professionals we have and to recruit new ones. We need to close Canada Health Act loopholes that are already allowing corporations to siphon public funds to private pockets.
I want to finish today by telling the House about my constituent, a woman of incredible generosity, kindness and care. She gave a lot of her senior years in service to helping veterans in my community. Her name was Doreen Schussler. Every time I saw Doreen, she was there with a hug and a smile. She took such pride in the fact that her husband was a veteran. He had actually won the highest service honour from the government of France for his time in service. She was always there, and then Doreen got sick.
A normally very healthy senior woman got sick. She needed a fairly non-complex procedure. She had to go to the emergency room where she waited for hours and hours for care. When she was finally provided assistance from one of the overburdened workers in the ER, she was seen in a hallway. She was not given an adequate diagnosis. She was not given the time that she needed because that health care worker did not have it to give, and she was sent home where she continued to suffer in pain and agony.
It is a pretty gruesome story, so I will not go into details. Her daughter, Deborah, shared them with me, and we cried a lot over the death of her mother. Deb came to find her mother in a horrific situation, dead at home because of the care that she did not receive due to the crisis that has been created through the underfunding of our public systems, which was entirely preventable.
Deb came to me and asked me to fight for her mother. She also asked, “Lindsay, how can I also fight for people like my mother, people who do not have an advocate in their corner, who cannot suffer the same fate as my mother?” I want to thank Deborah not only for allowing me to share her mother's story today, but also for that continued fight. Her daughter simply asks that we think about this now in the House: What if it were our own mother?
That is what we talk about when we talk about care in this country. To fight over jurisdiction does no one any good, but to actually come up with real leadership and solutions, that is what we have been sent here to do. That is what I ask us to do today.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Health care, for me personally, over the last number of years, and I have been a parliamentarian for over 30 years now, has been the number one issue. I would ultimately suggest that for the constituents I represent, whether it was in the Manitoba legislature or here in the House of Commons, there has never been an issue more important than the issue of health care. It is a core part of what it actually means to be a Canadian.
At the end of the day, I believe that people need to have a better understanding of the reality of health care. The Conservatives talk as if there is no hidden agenda, as if they believe in a national health care program. The NDP members are trying to give a false impression, as if they are the ones who are going to protect the national health care system. The Bloc wants to see Canada taken apart. It does not want to have a national health care system and its focus is simply on separation. The Liberal Party has consistently been there over the years to protect Canada's national health care system.
One of the first things the and the Liberal government did was go to the different provinces to come up with health care agreements to ensure that there would be ongoing funding, because Stephen Harper did not do that. He was unable to meet with the premiers and get an accord. It was the previous Liberal administration that got the 10-year accord back through Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. It was a Liberal government that enacted the Canada Health Act. It is the Liberal Party of Canada that instituted cash transfers to the provinces and using those cash transfers. It is this government, the current government, that has invested more in health care than anyone in the history of our nation.
When we take a look at the $198 billion-plus, a 10-year agreement in order to ensure that future generations of Canadians are going to have a national health care program, it will be Liberals and like-minded individuals who are going to be there to ensure that it is going to be there for future generations.
As has been pointed out from the Prime Minister down to all members, we do not believe that Canadians should have to pay for health care services. One of the lines is that a health care card is all that one requires in Canada, not a credit card. When we think of the five fundamental principles of health, one is universality. One hundred per cent of the costs must be covered if one is going into a hospital, for example, or visiting a physician.
When we think in terms of public administration, the act is very clear that it is the provinces that are ultimately responsible for the administration, but that does not mean that they play the role of ensuring that there is a national health care system. They are a part of that national program and play a critical role because of the administration side of it.
It needs to be comprehensive for medically necessary procedures and services. That is an area that needs to grow. We have talked a great deal in the last number of years, virtually since we were elected as a majority government back in 2015, about the need to see more emphasis on mental health. During the pandemic, we saw another emphasis put on long-term care. In the most recent budget, we saw an emphasis on dental care, starting with children under the age of 12. I have been talking about and introducing petitions dealing with prescribed medications. We have a committee, and we are looking at the possibility of having willing provincial partners to talk about the costs of medications.
There are other issues that are not necessarily included. Cosmetic surgery would be a good example, and ambulance services. Those are not part of it, but we do need to revisit, I would argue, some of those, and I highlighted the one in terms of dental and the second one, pharmacare. There are many within the Liberal caucus who want to see us continue to expand in that area. Let there be no doubt that the medically necessary services have to be there, and they have to be universal and comprehensive.
When we think of portability, this is really where the Bloc is way out. It should not matter where one lives in the country of Canada. People should have a basic national system that is there for them. If people live in Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Halifax or anywhere in between, or going up north, they should know that the national health care system is going to be there. It is not any one province that can provide that assurance; it has to be a national government, and a national government using the portability clause of the five fundamental principles can ensure that it happens.
We can talk about accessibility. When we think of health care, what do we think of, in terms of the different types of services being accessible? We expect that we would have hospitals that are in the communities and that are open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. We expect there will be community hospitals and there will be tertiary hospitals for trauma. We expect we would have community-based health facilities.
I could list some off. For example, the Health Sciences Centre, in Winnipeg, is a world-class facility that includes the general hospital for children. It is a tertiary hospital for trauma. It even has the helicopter pad. We have the Seven Oaks General Hospital serving the residents of Winnipeg North, a community-based hospital, one that I argue should be delivering services like obstetrics and improving upon its emergency services, and I will continue to advocate that for the Seven Oaks General Hospital. We have a community health clinic, the Norwest clinic, that is there.
We understand how important home care services are. We understand the importance of personal care homes. In fact, we had the in Winnipeg North just last summer at the Fred Douglas Lodge, where we talked about the importance of having national standards, the importance of personal care homes, the importance of home care services and, most importantly, the importance of the backbone of our health care services, which is the people who provide those services.
Whether they are a doctor, a nurse, a nurse practitioner, a lab technician, those who conduct X-rays or those who clean the floors, they all play an absolutely critical role in providing the type of health care system we all want and deserve to see. That is part of who we are, when I say that health care is part of the core of the Canadian identity.
Liberals do not need to be lectured by the opposition. Earlier, the Conservative Party tried to say that we are letting down Canadians on health care. Give me another 20 minutes and I will point out the hypocrisy there. The Conservatives do not believe in a national health care system, because they would just give everything to the provinces. They are not going to enforce. They do not talk about national programs. Every time someone brings it up, they say that it is a provincial jurisdiction.
We believe in a truly national program that is enforced through the Canada Health Act, and this government and this will be there to support Canadians in having that national health care system. It is with great pride that I say so.
Madam Speaker, it is quite boisterous in here. It is great to hear some lively debate about an issue that is probably one of the most important issues for our constituents, and that is health care.
It is great to see that the federal government has been working collaboratively with all provinces and territories to come to an agreement. An additional nearly $200 billion in funding will flow from the federal government to the provincial governments and territories. It will strengthen and improve access to, and equatability of, our health care system for all Canadians.
Usually, when I give a speech, I do not personalize it, because it is not about me, the member of Parliament for Vaughan—Woodbridge. It is about the residents back home. On health care, I want to share a personal story. I was born with a cleft lip. A derogatory term for a cleft lip or a cleft palate is harelip.
We grew up in Prince Rupert, a town in northern British Columbia. My parents were newcomers, like nearly everyone in Canada other than indigenous peoples. At that time, they were not wealthy and were very hard-working. My mom worked as a dietician at a hospital and then later on worked at a cannery in northern B.C. My dad was a pulp mill worker, a carpenter and a labourer.
I was born with a cleft lip, and I required a number of surgeries during the first 20 years of my life. Those surgeries did not take place in Prince Rupert. They took place in Vancouver. My mom would generally accompany me, and we would stay at a Ronald McDonald House or with family friends. I have memories of staying at a Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver 35 years ago.
The Canadian health care system was there for me. There were approximately seven surgeries during my lifetime, up to about 18 years of age. Cleft lip surgeries are not the most arduous, but there is discomfort, there is being put under and there is a hospital stay.
We never needed to pull out a credit card. My parents never had to worry about whether we had the money. They never had to worry whether they had to pay the mortgage, to put food on the table or to pay for their son's surgery. It speaks to the values that all 338 MPs inherently have with respect to our public health care system in Canada and that there is access for everyone. People do not need to worry about how much they make, where they are or who they are, because they have access. We need to maintain that.
We have gone through COVID. We know there are surgery backlogs and there are stresses on the system. I keep thinking back to those trips from Prince Rupert to Vancouver with my mother. We did not need to worry about the access and the equatability. I am thankful that my parents came to a country where that was provided for them and for our family. It is something that we all value and we need to work toward.
My mother worked her entire life. She is now in her early eighties and she needs a hip replacement. She has been on an urgent list in the province for approximately eight months, and we want to get that hip replacement done. We need to get rid of the backlogs. This agreement with the provinces and the territories is a very substantial step in removing those backlogs that were created because of a global pandemic, a once-in-a-hundred-year event.
It is important for us to thank every health care worker in our hospitals, doctors' offices and ambulance stations who are taking care of us. We need to understand that the government fundamentally believes that all Canadians must have access to health care that is independent, that is publicly funded, and where people can get a family doctor.
We need to believe in the principles of the Canada Health Act, that it ensures equitable and equal access to all individuals and that there is no two-tiered system. Canada's universal health care system is the pillar of our national identity. It is a pillar of my identity.
It represents Canadians' ongoing commitment to the values of equity, fairness and solidarity to ensure everyone has access to medically necessary health care services based on their health need and not on their ability or willingness to pay. The only card a Canadian should need to present when they seek medically necessary care is their provincial or territorial health card, not their credit card.
Our government has been vocal in supporting improvements in the health care systems, and yes, we need innovation to occur in our health care systems. In the city of Vaughan, we have a brand new $2-billion hospital, which was built over a number of years. It opened during COVID. The innovation that is demonstrated in that hospital is phenomenal. The quality of care that is offered is phenomenal. The people who work there are proud to work in that hospital. It is the first new hospital in Ontario in over 30 years. We need to continue assisting the provinces.
Our government has been vocal in supporting improvements in the health care system. We are firmly committed to a publicly funded system and the principle that everyone deserves access to quality, accessible and universal health care. Our health care system is evolving. We will continue to work closely with our provincial and territorial colleagues to ensure that it does so in a way that respects the principles of the Canada Health Act and the interests of all Canadians.
It is no secret that our health care system is facing challenges. We all hear it from our residents. We see it in the backlogs and in nurses being burnt out. We see it in not having enough family doctors. We need to fix it, and we are. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only brought to light the problems that existed previously in health care, but it has also exacerbated them. This is particularly true for diagnostic testing and surgeries, which are seeing record backlogs. There are very real problems, and Canadians expect their governments to work together to solve them. That is what we are doing, and that is what we have done with this agreement.
Our government is making historic investments in our public health care system. The federal government will increase health funding by nearly $200 billion over 10 years. This includes an additional $49 billion over 10 years. Those investments will support provincial and territorial efforts to modernize the health care system. They will also help to ensure that Canadians have timely access to family health services; shorter waits for treatments, diagnoses and surgeries; and more mental health and substance abuse services across the country.
The government will work with the provinces and territories to ensure those investments are used in the best interests of health care workers and patients, Canadians, in a way that represents and respects the principles of the Canada Health Act. Access to medically necessary services should always be based on health need and not on the ability or willingness to pay. To my New Democratic colleagues, the Canada health transfer has always been conditional on meeting the requirements of the act.
We take that requirement seriously. We have taken the necessary action every time we have seen patients being charged fees for medically necessary services, and we will continue to do so.
The Liberal government has been clear. Medically necessary health care must be covered by public health care insurance plans. If patients are charged inappropriately, the government will uphold the Canada Health Act and levy mandatory deductions to the Canada health transfer payments of provinces and territories that permit such charges. We levy these deductions to discourage the barrier to care that patient charges represent. No Canadian should have to choose between paying for groceries and paying for the medically necessary care that medicare is meant to provide.
Since 2015, we made $105 million in deductions for provinces that authorize patient charges for medically necessary services provided in private clinics, and we will continue to do so every time that happens.
For example, where provinces have not covered, or not fully covered, the cost of surgical abortion services, providing health care services in private clinics that lead to patient charges and the barriers to access they represent, this government has levied deductions to provincial health care transfer payments. Again, we must ensure these medically necessary health services are publicly covered.
I am proud to live in this country. My family chose this country, and Canada chose us. I was born with a cleft lip and, because we were here, we never had to worry about paying a bill and my parents never had to worry about me getting the treatment I needed.
Madam Speaker, it is a huge honour and privilege to rise today on the NDP motion that was brought forward by my good colleague, the member for , our NDP health critic.
This is a critical debate because we are facing a pivotal moment in Canadian history. We have a universal health care system, but provinces are trying to circumnavigate the rules of the Canada Health Act by using loopholes to grow a two-tiered health care system in Canada. Today, we are asking every MP in the House to decide whether health care funding should be used to rebuild the understaffed public health care system or to set up for-profit corporations that will poach nurses and doctors from the universal health care system. I think Canadians know which side New Democrats stand on.
We know that everybody in this country, despite what income bracket they fall into and what circumstances they have, deserves a health care system that is ready when they need it, no matter the size of their wallet. No one should have to wait in pain or suffer because there are not enough health care workers and not enough access. No one should have to wait longer because one's family doctor or surgeon is busy treating patients who can afford to pay cash.
Under the Liberals, people are waiting for hours right now, in pain, in the ERs. Folks are losing their quality of life while they wait for surgery. The same health care workers that we lauded through COVID-19 and who had our backs are run off their feet, burnt out and exhausted.
A surgical company owned by an investment firm is charging $30,000 for a surgery. Galen Weston and Loblaws, which own Maple, are charging $70 for a doctor's appointment and making a profit. These cash-for-care corporations are already draining doctors and nurses from our hospitals and family practices.
The can make things better for patients by hiring for and rebuilding the public health care system. Otherwise, he can make the crisis even worse by allowing this circumnavigation of the Canada Health Act. He is allowing funding of for-profit schemes that are poaching staff.
We are not surprised to hear that the leader of the official opposition, the Conservative leader, loves for-profit care. It is pretty clear: It will make billions for corporations and enrich CEOs, his friends. It is right out of the Conservatives' playbook to starve a public service; we saw that when they cut a third of Veterans Affairs and then used outsourcing companies, such as the big six that we are going to go after at the OGGO committee because of the NDP motion to do that.
We also saw what they did with the Phoenix pay system. They got rid of the payroll staff, and then it turned into a boondoggle. Therefore, Canadians should know what is coming if the Conservatives come into power. They will use this as an excuse to hand it off to the private sector. The Conservative leader says that everything is broken because he wants to tear it down. That is exactly what he wants to do.
The campaigned on stopping for-profit care, but then he did the opposite. He flip-flopped. He calls Conservative premiers out, but he actually refers to their for-profit corporate care as innovation. He does not actually call them out, and neither does the leader of the official opposition.
We know that medical officials have been raising the alarm for months about our health care system, saying that it is on the brink of collapse. One in five Canadians cannot access a family doctor. We rank near the very bottom of the OECD in wait times for essential care and the number of physicians per 1,000 people. This has declined drastically over the last 25 years, as members know. A prepandemic analysis predicted a shortage of over 117,000 nurses in Canada by 2030.
People are waiting for hours, in pain, in the ER; folks are losing their quality of life. Health care workers are run off their feet, burnt out and exhausted. We need to ensure that the recently announced health care transfer to the provinces is not used to expand for-profit health care. We have to have that assurance. Right now, Canadians do not have that. That funding has to be used within the public system to hire more staff and reduce wait times. Private, for-profit health care further increases wait times and reduces the quality of care as private corporations seek to cut corners. It is a fact. We can look to Australia, and I will get to that if I have time.
However, we already have a two-tiered system in one area of the health care system, which is in mental health. Members know that I have spoken about that many times. I have kept members here very late at night every week for months on late shows to talk about that.
We can see what the outcomes are for Canadians who need health care treatment and supports. Every member in this House knows a story about a constituent, family member or friend who is struggling, who has not gotten help or who did not get help, and the fatal outcomes that come with that in the worst circumstances. Right now, most mental health and substance use services are only covered by our universal health care system, if people can get access through that. Otherwise, they have to go to community-based mental health services, which are often chronically underfunded, and substance use organizations, which do not have the resources to deliver just-in-time treatment.
Counselling, peer support, substance use prevention and treatment services are provided by these non-profits or by charitable donations and grants, and they just do not have the resources to keep up with the demand for services. The Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction recently found that a third of respondents reported moderate to severe mental health concerns. However, fewer than a third of the people experiencing them accessed treatment. Among Canadians with problematic substance use concerns, under one in four access services. The report identified that the key barrier to accessing services was financial constraints.
We know this is happening in mental health. The barrier is there. It is financial. We need to ensure that the people who are struggling can access mental health care regardless of their ability to pay. Canadians simply cannot be forced to rely on non-profits and private insurance, especially the many people who do not have private insurance. It is just not working. The average wait time for adult residential treatment for people who have substance use concerns is 100 days. That is far too long.
In Ontario, 28,000 children alone are on wait-lists for community-based mental health services that range from 67 days to more than two and a half years. That is what a private-public model looks like: Children who are waiting up to two and a half years for help.
A friend of mine just had a family member in treatment. He talked about how he could afford it, but he knows so many who cannot. Right now we also need a system that has built-in relapse, just-in-time relapse, so that the system is there to respond so someone can get into treatment should they need extra help. In this way, they can come back into the health care system if they are relapsing, which is part of recovery.
We know that for people who are waiting too long for treatment, again because they cannot afford it, the privatization and lack of mental health and substance use supports are resulting in more overburdening of the health care system.
I was at my own doctor, and I asked him if it was at adding pressure at his office. He said that 50% of the people coming through his office are needing either mental health supports or supports regarding substance use, and it is actually impacting his ability to help those with physical ailments.
The government has not delivered its $5.3-billion promise on mental health. I was just talking to Judith Sayers of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council about the crisis that is happening in indigenous communities in my riding and about the need for rapid access, addiction resources and detox. It is not there. The cost to the system of not having these services in play is enormous.
Members have heard me talk about the toxic drug crisis, the need for treatment on demand or just-in-time treatment, and the need for prevention, education, recovery and a safer supply of substances. These points are all critical. However, they need to be delivered through a universal system. Again, Australia introduced a parallel private system. One alarming statistic is that those in the lowest socio-economic group were 37% more likely to die of cancer than those in the highest socio-economic group.
We have seen Ontario and Saskatchewan circumnavigating the system to bring in services. We have seen Veterans Affairs using a company owned by Loblaws to deliver services to veterans, and veterans are waiting while this is being outsourced. We are seeing the privatization.
Right now, this is a critical vote. We are calling on each member of Parliament to decide: staff up to rebuild the public system and cut wait times or use public health care funding to set up for-profit corporations that would poach nurses and doctors.
We know which side we stand on. It is the side of patients, Canadians and health care workers. We will continue to stand up and defend them against the threats that are coming right now because we see that the Liberals and Conservatives are not willing to defend public health.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to defend the Canadian health care system and, more importantly, the Canadian public health care system.
It is already common knowledge that public health care was created here, in the House, by Tommy Douglas, former NDP leader, and by the NPD caucus in the 1960s. That was when our universal public health care system was created. The NDP was not only an inspiration, it also fought for the health care system we have today.
In all the polls of Canadians that have been commissioned over the years asking them which Canadian institution makes them the most proud, all Canadians, including Quebeckers, respond that universal public health care is the institution that they care about the most.
This is worth mentioning, because the NDP inspired its creation and fought for this Canadian public health care system that people across Canada value, be they in Chicoutimi or Calgary. Indeed, 80% of Canadians value our universal public health care system.
However, it must be said that this system is currently at risk because of underfunding. It was underfunded by the Conservatives and then by the Liberals. This lack of funding is undermining our public health care system. Now, we are also facing a government that is refusing to strengthen the Canada Health Act. This act reflects all of the principles of universal public health care in Canada. However, we have a Liberal government that refuses to respect these principles and ensure they are upheld. When I watch Quebec television, I am now seeing ads for private surgeries and for a whole range of services offered in the private sector. This type of thing should not be happening under the Canada Health Act. Proper funding is, of course, extremely important.
In light of all that, what the NDP is proposing today should be a given. The House should unanimously adopt this motion, which says that we cannot promote a for-profit health care system as some kind of innovation, that we must ensure that health care funding is used for the universal public system, and that we must ensure that we have more nurses, more staff and more doctors. All of these things are possible.
We are also saying that we need to strengthen the Canada Health Act so as not to expand the use of for-profit health care, because that is detrimental. We know that, because of its for-profit health care system, per capita health care costs in the United States are twice as high as they are in Canada. We also know that tens of millions of Americans do not even have access to their health care system. To illustrate, my cousin had a car accident in California, and that cost him $100,000 and put him in an extremely difficult situation. That is something that we see all the time in the U.S.
A profit-driven health care system is a system full of holes that leaves people without health care coverage. They then have to use their credit cards. Plus, the costs are double what they would be in a normal system.
This is the question that is before each parliamentarian. There is no doubt that, if we ask our constituents, and I hope Conservatives and Liberals will ask their constituents before they vote on this after we have a two-week break in our constituencies, our constituents would say, at a level of 80%, that they believe in universal public health care in Canada.
Tommy Douglas started universal public health care. The NDP caucus fought for it in the 1960s, and we fought for it because we know that people should not have to rely on their credit cards when they have health challenges that force them to get medical support. There is no doubt that ensuring our universal public health care system continues, and gets better and even expanded, is why the member for has fought for dental care. That is why we are fighting for pharmacare.
Members will recall that, just two years ago, Conservatives and Liberals voted against pharmacare, even though 30,000 Canadians in each of their ridings need access to universal public pharmacare. They voted against the interests of their constituents and for the interests of big pharmaceutical companies.
We believe we actually need to expand health care and ensure dental care. We must ensure health care, as the member for Burnaby South has said so often, from the tops of our heads to the soles of our feet. That is health care that Tommy Douglas imagined, and that is universal public health care that Canadians support.
We have the Conservatives, as always, trying to undermine and throw out our health care system. We see this with Doug Ford in Ontario. They are obviously not doing it with the support of their constituents, and I would level a warning to Conservatives who believe that somehow they can trick their constituents by voting against public health care and undermining public health care. Canadians support public health care, and Conservatives should get on board. They should be supporting public health care in this country, because that is what Canadians support and that is what their constituents want them to do.
I am anticipating that Conservatives are going to vote “yes” on this motion. I am anticipating that Liberals will too, even though they voted against pharmacare and dental care. The NDP brought them kicking and screaming to the reality that we need to expand our public health care system.
The member for is absolutely right. We have now forced dental care. We are going to have a vote this year on pharmacare. These are important innovations and expansions. This is the fundamental strength of our public health care system.
We need to ensure adequate funding. We need to ensure, as well, that the Canada Health Act is actually upheld, that a law in this country is actually respected. What a concept that is. We see private clinics and we see provincial governments moving to the huge cost that comes from for-profit health care. We see them trying to chip away at universal public health care rather than funding it adequately, and the federal government needs to start stepping up on funding of public health care in this country.
We throw away, in a system created by the Conservatives and maintained by the Liberals, $30 billion every year to the ultrarich in notorious overseas tax havens. There are treaties the Harper government signed to allow the ultrarich to take their money offshore, and the Liberals have maintained that system, to the chagrin of most Canadians.
We have the financial ability to adequately fund our health care, and that means ensuring people also have access to their medication, dental care and mental health care. These are all fundamental tenets of universal public health care.
In this corner of the House, the NDP stands resolutely for adequate funding for enforcement of the Canada Health Act and for ensuring we push back on private, for-profit health care, because we know it costs Canadians twice as much. We know it means Canadians get a substandard level of care as it is creamed off into for-profit health care.
When we see big corporations like Loblaws trying to step up to take their piece, New Democrats, members of the NDP caucus, our leader from and our health critic from all say “no” to for-profit health care. We say “yes” to adequately funded universal public health care in Canada.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am very pleased to rise today to speak about health care. This has been a really important issue for my constituents and all Canadians, especially after the pandemic and the strain we saw in our health care system. All Canadians are focused on health care right now and are thinking about health care. The strain on our health care workers has been enormous. I am therefore pleased to rise in this House to talk about the plan that our announced.
My minister, the , and the have been travelling across the country meeting with premiers and their ministerial counterparts to discuss health care needs in each and every province and territory. We know that the needs in each province and territory differ, and that is precisely why these conversations about the priorities in each place are so crucial. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but what we can do as a federal government is lead and support.
We can talk about the areas of health care that we all know are under pressure, including emergency rooms. I have mentioned the strain on health care workers in the sector, who are overworked and whom we all regarded as our heroes. They are still our heroes but are not getting the attention and care they need during this difficult time. That is what the funding announced on February 7 is about. The announced almost $200 billion over the next 10 years to help support the critical areas that are under pressure. It includes better wages for health care workers, which is incredibly important.
In my riding, issues regarding mental health are raised all the time. Countless constituents have come to me talking about the mental health needs of a family member, for example. In my region, there seem to be some challenges in getting support for people with eating disorders, a specialized mental health area. It is also really hard to get supports for young people, and that is crucial for their recovery.
There are other areas I have met with constituents on. One is the area of stroke survivors getting the adequate rehab they need post-stroke. Another area we have heard about in my constituency is the need for family doctors and access to family doctors, especially for newcomers in my community who need family doctors or specialist appointments. It is becoming increasingly difficult.
I would be remiss if I did not speak about the need for long-term care and the supports there. Our government previously announced $4 billion to support long-term care. Sadly, during the pandemic, one of the long-term care homes in my riding lost many residents. I think we had among the most fatalities of anywhere in the country, which was devastating and only served to prove the breaking point that some of these facilities were already under. The measures and the supports needed during COVID highlighted that. We have committed to doing better. We owe these families and our seniors the dignity they deserve later in life.
I have spoken about emergency room wait times. I have heard from constituents who, if they do not have a family doctor, are putting more strain on emergency rooms because they have nowhere to turn, even if there might not be an emergency situation. That is also adding to the strain and pressures on our system.
These are all things that Canadians are extremely focused on. That is why, with this announcement, I was so pleased that the proposed funding addresses so many of the key points that my constituents have raised directly. One of those things is an immediate $2-billion top-up to deal with the pressures on pediatric hospitals and emergency rooms and with long wait times for surgeries. Those specialty appointments are becoming harder for constituents to receive, and many times it is a quality of life issue.
We have also committed to additional bilateral agreements because, as I said earlier, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The priorities of each province and territory might be different. The needs of the residents there might be different. It is important that we are listening to those needs and where those priorities should be.
I spoke about support for our hospital workers, which includes $1.7 billion over five years to increase the wages of personal support workers. This is additional funding to help keep seniors, or those who need a bit of help, in their homes longer. I have personal friends and constituents who are in desperate need of that additional care. We will help them by injecting some of the funding into that system. In addition, there is $2 billion over 10 years to support indigenous priorities.
There is a lot of work to be done, but I think what is crucial is that we have identified what Canadians have been telling us about where the injection of funding is needed.
One of the most important things I can say, which constituents in my riding in Ontario have said time and time again, is that there has to be accountability. We cannot just send cash to the provinces without knowing where it is going or if it is actually hitting the services needed. My constituents and residents who have been asking for this influx of funding want to be able to hold their provincial governments accountable if the funding is not going there.
What I do not want to see after an injection of federal funding, which I have also heard from my constituents, is the provinces taking out their share while we end up in no better a place than we were before. Therefore, for accountability and transparency, the requirement to have data is important. The has talked about this. I find it difficult to talk to Canadians about the fact that if they require an ambulance and provide their health care, the ambulance staff do not know if they are allergic to anything.
I think I am running out of time since question period is about to start, but I would like to continue after that because this is a crucial moment for our health care system in Canada.