Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the wonderful member for Brampton South.
Allow me to start off by just expressing my appreciation. I want to acknowledge the fantastic work of our health care providers and researchers who have provided in a very professional manner the facts and science that is necessary for the national government here in Ottawa, our provincial governments or others, in making good decisions, and those health care providers who have been providing wonderful services and, no doubt, will continue to provide with regard to the coronavirus.
I have been listening all day to the debate on a very important issue that the House of Commons is debating today, but we have had many other opportunities to debate. We have had debates on this matter in many forms, everything from private member's business to budget bills to other pieces of legislation. I suspect that it has taken in many forms. I have had the opportunity on behalf of the constituents of Winnipeg North to present many petitions on this very important issue.
I want to comment on the last question I just put on the floor. If Canada wants to have the best pharmacare system in the world, we need to work with our provincial governments. The only way we can actually maximize the true benefits of a national pharmacare program is to incorporate as much as possible or at least afford the opportunity for provinces to get on board. In some cases that is going to require a considerable amount of selling. We have heard from members opposite that the Alberta government wants nothing to do with it. We have heard members from the Bloc party say that Quebec already has one.
I would suggest that we have a great health care system because the province of Saskatchewan, along with many others, initiated a health care system that was truly unique in North America. As a result, in part with the federal government, we were able then to make it into a national program that was even better than what Saskatchewan had started off. Now we can take a look at what is happening in Quebec. There has been great leadership coming from Quebec and even some of the other provinces. We can incorporate some of those ideas and discussions.
I hope that the premiers and the ministers of health from all regions will recognize what it is that the Prime Minister, cabinet and many members of the House of Commons have recognized. It is that Canadians want to see a national pharmacare program.
This is not a new issue. I do not know why the NDP insist on politicizing it by saying that the Liberals have been promising it for a long time. I could politicize it by saying it was the Parti Québécois in Quebec that actually brought in the best program to date and the NDP administrations over nine NDP governments have done diddly-squat on pharmacare. They have demonstrated nothing in terms of leadership on the pharmacare file. Usually, it is the provinces that lead in improving the quality of health care in our provinces. I come from a province that has had many years of New Democratic administrations.
Taking a look at why it is such a hot debate today, I suggest that it goes back to the 2015 election. I can tell colleagues that there were 338 Liberal candidates back in 2015 who were going to doors talking about pharmacare. When we were fortunate enough to be able to come back to Ottawa with a majority government, we had a Prime Minister who was very keen on pushing that issue forward.
A majority of the MPs who were elected were saying that this is what Canadians want in all regions of our country.
We were reflecting what Canadians wanted in all regions of our country. Nothing has changed. We still recognize that. We are continuing to move forward. Often, if we listen to New Democrats, one might think that we could just wave a wand and, poof, there would be a national health care program. It does not work that way. They know that.
I did a little research. A nice thing about Hansard is we can always find what members have said in the past. In the Province of Manitoba, we have Hansard, too. I happened to be an MLA back in 1996. Here is quote from when I was having a discussion with the minister of health in 1996. The Minister of Health at the time said:
Pharmacare has never been a part of the Canada Health Act and it never will be a part of the Canada Health Act. Manitoba has one of the most generous programs in this country.
Now, I do not know how factual that was back then. However, we can look at what my favourite MLA in the Manitoba legislature said two years ago, on March 13, 2018, and I am a little biased, my favourite MLA is my daughter. This is what she said in the Manitoba legislature:
It is critical that members of this House understand why this is such an important issue.
She was referring to the national pharmacare program.
Manitobans should not be forced to choose between their prescribed medications and heat in their homes. Unfortunately, they are.
The time is now. There is momentum for us to have a national health care program. It is not individuals, per se, who deserve the credit for raising the profile of this particular issue. It is the health care providers. It is the many stakeholders. Most importantly, it is Canadians as a whole, and the lobbying, talking at the doors and communicating with MPs who want to see it.
I believe all legislatures have Hansards. I would challenge colleagues on all sides of the House to show me where we have had a great, huge debate in the last 30 years on pharmacare, where there was a call for the national government to do something.
Mr. Don Davies: Two years ago.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: That is right, two years ago. Why is that? We have union movements. We have others who are saying, “We want to see a national pharmacare.”
For the first time, and I have been around as a parliamentarian for 30 years, it is an issue that has really come to the top. This is because, for the first time in many years, probably going back to the late 1960s, we have a Prime Minister, a Minister of Health and, I believe, a majority of current members in this chamber who understand and value what a national pharmacare program could do for the citizens of Canada.
I believe that is the reason it is being debated today. There is some very tangible movement towards it. We do not need to go back to 1996, as I just did, or back to 1997, making reference to what Liberals were saying back then. We should be talking about today. We should be talking about what Canadians want for us to do, and that is to be working together, putting partisan politics aside and realizing that when we do have something worthwhile pursuing, parties would in fact come together.
I am very pleased. From what I understand, New Democrats, Greens and the Liberals understand the benefits of a national pharmacare program. The Bloc is sympathetic to it, but might disagree in terms of the Province of Quebec playing an important role in a future national program.
They could play a leadership role, but I think it is important that we have one strong national program, and that is what we should be pursuing.