Madam Speaker, I read the motion moved by my hon. colleague fromNew Westminster—Burnaby. I must confess to this honourable House that I was blown away by this motion.
For a moment, I felt like I was in Quebec’s National Assembly or a Canadian provincial legislature. It was so surreal that I asked my assistant to pinch me. I asked him if Québec Solidaire had just tabled a motion in the House of Commons. He replied that no, it was the NDP.
Under the circumstances, before I even go into what I think of how the motion is worded, I would like to remind the House that this is 2020. The fact that we are once again debating a motion that falls under provincial jurisdiction in Ottawa is incredibly sad. It shows a lack of respect for the legislators that should legitimately make those decisions based on their values and their resources. Perhaps you have heard the expression “a leopard cannot change its spots”. This is a perfect example of that concept.
In 2005, after spending 45 good years fighting for the centralization of legislative powers in Ottawa, the NDP adopted the famed Sherbrooke declaration, in which it claimed to recognize asymmetrical federalism and it intended to give Quebec the systematic right to opt out.
Today, five or six elections later, with one MP back home, they have written off Quebec and its legitimate right to legislate its own affairs.
The NDP and the member for New Westminster—Burnaby know perfectly well that health is not a federal jurisdiction. Nevertheless, they are still trying to impose social programs that Quebec and the Canadian provinces have the authority to bring in if they want.
No one here is against apple pie. I love apple pie. No one here is against pandas. We all love pandas. However, imposing dental care coverage through, I assume, the Canada Health Act, is nothing short of overriding the Constitution that allows us to be here—a Constitution that Quebec has never signed, by the way.
A few seconds ago, I chose the verb “assume”. That was not a coincidence and that brings me to my second point. This motion is so vague it feels like we are heading into murky waters.
The motion talks about wanting to implement dental coverage for families whose income is less than $90,000. The motion also says that benefits would be made available to individuals who earn less than $90,000 a year. With all due respect, the motion's wording is so vague that it almost contradicts itself. It does not take much imagination. One example that I am very familiar with is my own experience from around 15 years ago.
I was 23 years old. I had just had my best year in the film industry. I had been working in the industry for four years. I earned more than $90,000 that year. I bought myself a triplex with my sister. Then, my wife, Mylène, gave birth to our son Émile Duceppe, our first child. My wife was in school that year. The following year, in 2004, I earned about $30,000 because I was freelancing. I was a contract worker.
Since my wife was still in school and I had a mortgage to pay and we had a young boy to raise, if I had had any kind of dental problem, my previous year's income would have been used and I would not have been entitled to the dental coverage proposed today.
I am sorry, I lost my train of thought. Someone I know is here and that stressed me a little.
An hon. member: Is it me?
Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe: No, Madam Speaker, it is not my colleague.
We were not rich, but we were doing well. According to the NDP, I would not have been entitled to dental insurance. That is exactly why Quebec and the provinces are in the best position to develop social policy. The provinces manage those sorts of things. They are closer to the people and should be the ones to administer the program. They have a legislative scalpel and not a bazooka.
Once again, there is no respect for the true lawmakers in this area.
While the NDP wants to give orders to Quebec and the other provinces, the provinces are asking the government for just one thing, an annual increase of 5.2% in health transfers. The provinces are not asking to have another health care program rammed down their throats. They are simply asking for an annual increase of 5.2% in health transfers. This is not rocket science.
While health care systems across Canada are groaning under the burden of the aging population, the NDP is talking about dental care in the wrong legislature.
The Quebec National Assembly even unanimously adopted a motion calling on the federal government to do its fair share with regard to health care. This does not make any sense. While the Government of Quebec estimates that the health transfer deficit will be $13.7 billion by 2027, the NDP is insisting on talking about dental coverage without even knowing how it will be paid for.
The federal contribution to health was 23% in 2018. Today, it is 21% and, in 2027, it will be just barely over 20%. The federal government's real problem is not the details of the health care coverage. The problem is that the House is not contributing to the rising cost of health care. What is worse, the federal government has been gradually pulling back for decades, whatever its political stripe.
Right now, federal health transfers are going up by just 3% per year. Health care costs are going up more than that, so the provinces are essentially getting less money.
Health transfers should have no strings attached. Only Quebec can determine its own priorities. Health transfers must be sufficient to provide care for our people.
The worst thing about this motion is not just that Quebec does not want it, but that unions regard federal programs as interference. During the 2018 national consultation on implementing pharmacare, both the FTQ and the CSN emphasized the importance of taking Quebec's unique needs and independence into account.
I would like to quote from their brief, which summarizes the situation and is relevant here. I am sure this will be of interest to our NDP colleagues.
The federal government has consistently interfered with provincial jurisdiction over health ever since the early days of the welfare state. The Canada Health Act is an instrument of that interference because one of its objectives is to establish the conditions the provinces must meet to receive federal funds.
The brief then goes on to say the following:
...our two organisations [the FTQ and the CSN] cannot ignore the declining federal contribution to health care funding. Rather than negotiate a new health transfer agreement, as promised during the election campaign, the Liberal government opted to maintain the Conservative reforms, which limit transfer increases tied to GDP growth to 3% annually. Previously, those increases were capped at 6% annually.
Lastly, it also states:
To ensure the sustainability of Quebec's health system, the federal government must first increase its contribution to health care funding to an adequate level.
The issue of drug coverage is pretty much the same as dental care. The federal government cannot go shopping on behalf of the provinces when it is not paying its fair share for the current system. That is not how it works.
I will wrap up my comments, as I am sure my colleagues are eager to seriously debate this matter with me.
As the House devotes precious time to debating this proposal, can we at least agree to respect the sharing of legislative powers? That is why we were elected.
The Bloc wants to work collaboratively. We like that, and we proved it last week. However, when we are forced to work on somewhat vague and incongruous texts that are written almost deliberately to be rejected by certain parliamentary groups, it seems to me that our debates lose some of their relevance.