Thank you very much, Chairperson.
We are glad to be here, and, as you pointed out, the four NDP members of the committee did indeed write a letter to the clerk and to you as chair to ask that this meeting be convened today.
We are clear that the purpose of the meeting is to discuss whether the subject matter should be the subject of a special meeting, but in outlining our request, I would like to move a motion:
That the Committee undertake a study, as soon as possible, to review recent health care funding outlined by the federal government and the response of the Premiers; that it hold at least two (2) meetings on this study to hear from witnesses; and that it report its findings to the House of Commons.
To briefly detail this motion, Madam Chair, I'm sure we are all aware that there was a unilateral funding decision made by the federal government a number of weeks ago. Much more recently though, in Victoria, the premiers held their conference on health care. It was a very important meeting. A number of us were there in Victoria to hear what was going on, and it was very clear from the responses of the premiers that there are a number of critical issues, which we believe need to be addressed, in terms of future funding for medicare and health care in our country.
We believe there is a huge issue of accountability here. We're talking about very large sums of federal moneys. We're talking about an issue that is of grave concern to Canadians, which is whether they are getting value for their money, for their health care dollar. We know the federal government has spent about $160 billion since the accords were signed in 2004, and, with the recent unilateral decision, there has been quite a lot of discussion both in the media and among the premiers. There are huge concerns about the unilateral nature of that decision. It means that the federal government has stepped away and, in effect, abandoned its role in negotiations and in working with the provinces on health care funding and on finding new ways to make the system work better. We saw an attempt at that in 2004. There was some agreement, but unfortunately we haven't made much progress.
We think absolutely that the health committee of Parliament should be addressing this issue on behalf of Canadians. I realize that the House begins next week, and I'm sure some of the members will ask why we couldn't have done it next week. The fact of the matter is that the premiers' conference happened only recently in Victoria, and we are certainly aware, as the members of the committee are aware, that the meetings of the health committee are basically assigned with business up until March.
We feel this is a very urgent matter that needs to be addressed. It hasn't been addressed in our Parliament and it hasn't been addressed in this health committee, so the motion we've put forward today is really to implore the members of the committee to do our job: to be here for Canadians, to undertake an examination of the funding decision that was made by the federal government, to consider what the response to that has been and whether we believe it is a good decision, and to consider what it is we might report to Parliament.
We think this is a very urgent issue that we should be addressing. Our motion actually does not spell out the precise date, because we think that should be something the committee, hopefully, could look at. We have said “as soon as possible” because we want to have it dealt with as quickly as possible once we resume next week, and doing that will require some discussion.
I hope that the intent, as well as the substance, is very clear with regard to this very important issue.
I really want to appeal to the government members of the committee to consider how serious and important the issue of health care funding is, to consider the role of the federal government and the role of the provinces, and to consider that we're here to represent not only our constituents but also the public interest. Certainly health care is a very core value that Canadians have in wanting to see their medicare system alive and well and strengthened.
This is what we hope to do with this study.