QP: Premiers Hold Annual First Ministers Conference, Prime Minister Refuses to Show Up…Again

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, first ministers are gathering a stone’s throw from Parliament Hill to discuss the most pressing issues facing our country. They will discuss critical issues like how to tackle the infrastructure deficit that has left communities with gridlock and crumbling roads and bridges. Premiers will talk about inadequate water supplies and the affordable housing crisis.

However, the Prime Minister stubbornly refuses to come to the table. How can the Conservatives justify that their response to these challenges is simply not showing up?

Mr. Peter Braid (Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities, CPC): Mr. Speaker, in actual fact, our Conservative government is making record investments in infrastructure. The new building Canada plan has been open for business since last March. In less than a year, projects representing almost $5 billion have already been approved. These infrastructure projects are renewing infrastructure. They are creating jobs and prosperity. They are enhancing our growth and productivity.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, they did not give us an answer as to why the Prime Minister is refusing to show up.

The first ministers are also going to talk about improving access to health care, just as a new report shows that in every province Canadian seniors are waiting longer for medical care than the international average.

Federal leadership could help here, but only if they are at the table. Why are the Conservatives refusing to engage the premiers on the critical issue of timely access to health care?

Ms. Eve Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, CPC): Mr. Speaker, transfers to the provinces for health care will reach a record high of $40 billion by the end of the decade. Our government has invested to reduce waiting times for all Canadians. When it comes to things like radiation treatment, we are on target and meeting those wait times at 97%.

We have also recruited additional physicians and there are more physicians per capita now than ever in Canadian history. We have also made sure that we are recruiting physicians into northern outlying communities by coming up with creative solutions like waiving tuition and so on. We are taking concrete action.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the government is still not responding to the question why the Prime Minister is refusing to show up at the meetings with the premiers.

The premiers will also be discussing the latest case of the government quietly downloading costs onto the provinces. The Conservatives’ decision to slash disaster assistance funding was made with no consultation and will leave the provinces responsible for paying almost three times more. Why have the Conservatives refused to work with the provinces on disaster relief? Why are they leaving Canadian communities without federal help in times of crisis?

Ms. Roxanne James (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, CPC): Mr. Speaker, while the provinces and territories are responsible for disaster maintenance, our Conservative government will continue to support them by paying up to 90% of the response recovery costs of significant natural disasters.

The reality is, this program has not been indexed to inflation since the 1970s. Our government is making a modest adjustment to ensure that costs are balanced fairly across Canada, with the federal government still covering up to 90% of most of these disasters.