Mr. Speaker, let me begin by acknowledging the excellent work of my colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton Riverbend, who is our shadow minister for health. I also want to acknowledge the work of all members of the Standing Committee on Health and the government members who are working very hard to keep Canadians informed on this major crisis we are going through as a result of the terrible COVID-19 virus.
Setting aside all the partisanship we see in the House, I think we have to recognize that we are facing a major national crisis. Whether on the government side or in the various opposition parties, a great many people are currently working hard to make sure that we can deal with this crisis in an intelligent manner and that the right measures are taken at the right time.
Again, I commend and thank all Canadians, public officials and provinces for their work and their efforts to help us cope with this crisis. I know that these people are spending an enormous amount of time trying to find the best possible solutions. I think we too must work very hard to overcome this crisis and at the very least keep these people in our thoughts.
Canadians must receive the best health care available, whether it is preventative measures, hospital stays or medications. That goes for all Canadians. Even the most vulnerable members of our society must also have access not just to common medications, but also to the most innovative drugs.
The Liberal Party included a universal pharmacare program in its election platform, but it was not transparent about the cost. It should be noted that this is not the first time that the Liberals have talked about pharmacare. It was in their 1997 and 2004 platforms, as well as in the 2019 budget and election platform. Unfortunately, nothing has been done in all that time.
We even heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons say to us that, for the first time, Canada has a Prime Minister who is interested in the pharmacare program. Is it not ironic to hear someone from that side of the House tell us that all the previous prime ministers did not really intend to deal with this issue even though it was in their election platform? I was rather shocked to hear those comments, which probably foreshadow what will once again happen with the Liberal promises.
The Standing Committee on Health spent two years studying whether a national pharmacare system could be implemented. The Liberals created a task force, which is another approach. When a government does not know what to do, it creates a committee. When it does not know what to say, it consults the committee. When no results are forthcoming, it blames the committee. That is probably what will happen once again with this other promise, this intention to implement a pharmacare program, because there is no reason to believe that this time, things will be different. The Liberals are masters at raising hopes with their promises, but they are even better at creating disappointment because they never keep their promises when it counts.
Those of us on this side of the House are well aware that many Canadians have a hard time getting and paying for prescription drugs. However, the Liberals make empty promises and blab on and on in committee and in the task force, while the most vulnerable Canadians are left to fend for themselves. Instead of looking for real solutions, the Liberals are implying that one day there will be a universal pharmacare problem, which is an empty promise that they have been making for decades.
Budget 2019 does not contain a pharmacare program. Instead, the budget proposes working with the provinces, territories and stakeholders to create a new Canadian drug agency and spend $35 million to establish a Canadian drug agency transition office. Blah, blah, blah.
The advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare published its final report and submitted recommendations to the Government of Canada. These recommendations included implementing single-payer, public pharmacare. According to the report, a program with limited coverage would cost an additional $3.5 billion in 2022, and comprehensive coverage would cost an additional $15 billion a year if implemented by 2027. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says that pharmacare would have cost taxpayers $20.4 billion if it had been implemented in 2015-16. That is a lot of money.
The Conservative Party wants to ensure that Canadians get the best health care possible, but how can we trust the Liberals when they cannot even give us the facts and be transparent? They suggest that they might do certain things, but then they go ahead and do the opposite. In 2015, when the Liberals said that they were going to run small deficits, many Canadians believed them. Five years later, they have racked up $100 billion in deficits, when the deficit should have been only about $26 billion or $28 billion for that period. The Liberals were supposed to balance the budget, but they did not. Such is the Liberal reality.
We, on this side of the House, respect Quebec's decision to institute a universal pharmacare program. Quebec had the jurisdiction to implement its own program. It did so. All Quebeckers are now covered by a public and private universal pharmacare program.
The system is not perfect and, of course, it could be improved. However, a first step was taken by a government that is responsible for caring for its people. That is the path we should take. The goal is not to put a little flag on pill bottles, but to ensure that all Canadians have access to the medication they need.
I think history has shown us that the federal government is not necessarily in the best position to implement, administer and run a program as important as this one. The economy was doing well. The global economy was doing well. During that time, the government spent freely. It put the country in debt. It used up all the wiggle room that the previous Conservative government had left behind. Now we are facing a major crisis, and there is no more wiggle room. The government does not have a penny left to pay for initiatives. We cannot trust the Liberals to manage universal pharmacare. They will lose control again, as they have done so many times already. There are plenty of examples.
I am the infrastructure critic. When we ask the government to provide us with a list of projects that have received funding from its $186-billion plan, we are told there is no list. In other words, the Liberals have lost track of 52,000 projects. That is they number they gave us.
We ask them for a list, but they cannot give us one, and today they say they are going to implement pharmacare for all Canadians. They are going to lose the game plan. They are going to lose something. This will not work. The cost will spiral out of control. This government is not capable of managing Canadians' money. We know that from experience. If it spent less time giving handouts to Loblaws, Mastercard and its buddies in the private sector, maybe it would have more time to spend on health care. It would be able to transfer more money to the provinces so that they could get started on their own agendas, as Quebec did.
In the last election campaign, the Conservatives pledged to increase and maintain Canadian health transfers and social programs. Those are logical choices that demonstrate our respect for provincial jurisdictions.
In conclusion, I want to mention an outstanding company in my riding, eTrace Medical Diagnostics. This company has developed a made-in-Quebec technology for early detection of cancer by breath analysis. That means cancer could be diagnosed earlier. This could lower the cost of treatment for all Canadians by diagnosing cancer at a very early stage just by analyzing a person's breath.
Several weeks ago, I sent the entire document to the Minister of Health to request a meeting with that company. The company does not want any money, it wants to know what it will take to get this technology deployed by Canadians for Canadians and not by foreign powers, because the company might be sold.
I received no response from the Minister of Health. I did not even receive an acknowledgement of receipt.
These are concrete measures to ensure that Canadians can get better treatment and to lower the cost of drugs. When we know that cancer is one of the worst diseases, that it affects the most Canadians and that we have a solution, I wonder why the government is hesitating and will not even meet a company that is on the verge of something that may change the lives of millions of people in Canada and around the world.