Healthcare Privatization

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to press further on the concerns I first raised during question period on October 22 when I questioned the new Minister of Health about the deepening and increasing privatization of health care that is taking place across Canada. I also questioned him as to why on earth the federal government was siding with big tobacco in a law suit that began in B.C.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak further on the concerns that have been expressed to me by many constituents from East Vancouver and, indeed, from people across Vancouver and British Columbia about the state of our health care system.

We know that in September there was a meeting of first ministers around health care. A lot of people watched the live coverage and even the non-coverage as they sat and looked at the empty chairs. However a lot of people focused on that debate because they certainly saw it as one of the key issues facing our society, and that is the crisis in our public health care system.

One of the things that was very disturbing was the fact that there was barely a mention and certainly no resolution on how to deal with increasing privatization. It has been very disappointing to hear the new Minister of Health, who comes from B.C. and who was a former premier and former cabinet minister in the B.C. legislature, basically do zilch in speaking out and making it clear that the federal government will stop the privatization of our health care system.

In B.C. alone the situation is very alarming. For example, surgeries are now being planned to be contracted out to private facilities, while publicly funded and publicly operated operating rooms remain closed at facilities like Mount St. Joseph Hospital. We have four operating rooms operating very much under capacity at the B.C. Children’s Hospital, most of them just sitting there idle, while at the same time, because of a backlog, the provincial government is saying that it wants to send surgeries out to private facilities.

At the first ministers conference there was a lot of debate and discussion around waiting lists, but there was no resolution on dealing with privatization and how by closing down public facilities and laying off public health care workers we have actually created the backlog in operating rooms in various procedures that were done previously through the publicly funded and publicly delivered system.

The government has created the situation where private health care interests can come forward and say that they have a deal for us. We have also been concerned about the contracting out of the B.C. Medical Services Plan and what violation that will pose for the privacy of Canadians and for people in B.C. under the U.S. Patriot Act. Again, we have seen nothing from this government to stop that.

We are waiting to see enforcement of the Canada Health Act. In fact, there was a coalition of public health care defenders, including CUPE , the Canadian Health Coalition, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, CEP and the Council of Canadians who actually went to court to defend the accountability and transparency from the federal government on our public health care system.

To date, we have been terribly disappointed and alarmed at the lack of action taken by the Minister of Health. We wonder whether he changed his principles after he changed his political membership in a political party, because we have yet to see him take action to defend our public health care system.

Ms. Libby Davies: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to give a brief reply to the parliamentary secretary.

I would point out that the member is portraying the deletion of section 6 of the Canada Health Act in 1995 as simply some minor technical amendment. The reality is the deletion of that section paved the way for the privatization of extended health and home care services.

Time and time again we have heard the Liberals deny in the House that they changed the Canada Health Act. We have an acknowledgement and an admission today that yes, indeed, section 6 was changed in 1995.

I come back to my main point. If the government has been so diligent in defending the Canada Health Act and if the government has been so diligent in ensuring the public delivery of public services with public funding, then why do we have this crisis? Why do we have an absolute violation of the principles of the Canada Health Act? Why do we have privatization? Why do we have waiting lists? Why do we have these for profit corporations banging down the door with apparently no punitive recourse from the federal government?

It is up to the federal government to enforce the Canada Health Act.