March 19, 1979

LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order, please. I regret to interrupt the hon. member but his allotted time has expired.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   CANADIAN RADIO-TELEVISION AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION-REPRESENTATION ON COMMISSION
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OFFICIAL LANGUAGES-ALLEGED IMPROPER DESIGNATION OF "BILINGUAL"

PC

William Gordon Ritchie

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Gordon Ritchie (Dauphin):

Mr. Speaker, on December 22 I asked the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Buchanan) a question regarding Mr. Yalden's report. The question arises over an item in which Mr. Yalden stated that there are many people who are classified officially bilingual but who are not in fact. We have heard a great deal about this problem, and the debate on bilingualism increases. I do not think that this increase in the level of discussion is meant with any malice, but it is a very serious matter, is very divisive, at least in the eyes of most, and it is not getting at the real cause of the problem.

The Commissioner of Official Languages in his statement was critical especially of English-speaking public servants who were declared bilingual and who were receiving salaries commensurate with this classification. It was suggested that some of these people could not discuss last night's hockey game in the second official language.

The news item implied that most offenders were something that they really were not, and they were English-speaking public servants. In fact, anyone who deals with government realizes that many French-speaking civil servants are unable to perform adequately in the second official language. This is not meant on my part as an indictment of any particular person. It is always difficult to work in a second language without long practice and repeated use of that second language. This is perhaps only an illustration of the emotion with which this problem is posed to Canadians.

It is perhaps easy for national politicians to come forward with some solutions, and it is easy to say that if only certain concessions are made to the citizens of Quebec all would be well. The fundamental problem is not one of bilingualism, but what the relationship of Quebec with the rest of Canada might

Adjournment Debate

be. When one observes what has happened in the last ten to 12 years in Quebec I think one can get some indication of how the people in that province feel. Whether they were Union Nationale, Liberals, or now of the Parti Quebecois, in the last dozen years they have wanted to preserve their own cultural identity, their customs and language, and to make what they consider is a better place for themselves in their own province.

I would not want to disregard their aspirations, but all of these efforts are at the expense of Canada. There is little difference between Bill 22 and Bill 101. While Quebeckers wished to have a uniquely French language and culture, they have complained that in the rest of Canada the French language and culture should be maintained for their benefit.

A prominent person on the Ontario educational TV network made it clear that he was talking about language and culture. He wanted to have a language and culture that was French in nature wherever he went in the rest of Canada. For him this was not wrong in itself, and it is understandable, but it creates problems for the rest of Canada which may never be resolved. Indeed, to accede to this person's point of view would mean that other languages and cultures would take a back seat-in effect, a type of melting pot culture.

We have borrowed much from Britain which, over the centuries, has absorbed waves of refugees from Europe. In fact this makes the present British culture. In the last two centuries we have had the American tradition, which again has meant the assimilation of many peoples of different languages and cultures, with a type of English language with its own distinctive Americanism. I think this is an important facet of Canadi-anism outside the province of Quebec, where the melting-pot function is at work with the fusion of many peoples into one Canadian identity.

Therefore, the aspirations of the people of Quebec in the language and culture idea are diametrically opposed to the assimilation and melding of various peoples. Few of the various races that make up the Canadian mosaic outside the province of Quebec are interested in maintaining their own language and culture to the exclusion of the Canadian identity. Looked at in this light, it seems hardly likely that the present system of bilingualism, which was of necessity present in the civil service long before this legislation was conceived, is the best basis on which the Quebecois and the rest of Canada can continue and have a lasting arrangement. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   OFFICIAL LANGUAGES-ALLEGED IMPROPER DESIGNATION OF "BILINGUAL"
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LIB

Thomas Lefebvre (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board; Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal

Mr. Thomas H. Lefebvre (Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board):

Mr. Speaker, in reply to the hon. member's first original question, let me say that I think the use of the term "bilingual" by him is as unfortunate as the use of the word "phony" by the Commissioner of Official Languages when describing public servants occupying positions requiring the use of both official languages. Some public servants are very fluent in both languages, others are not. The point is that no definition exists as to what is a true bilingual and what is not.

Official languages policies speak of languages proficiency requirements, but these are not so universal as to represent a

March 19, 1979

Adjournment Debate

definition of what is bilingual. Employees occupying "bilingual positions" must, unless otherwise exempted, meet the specific proficiency requirements of a given position. If they so meet those requirements, they are referred to as being bilingual when, in fact, it really means that they are proficient to the level required for that particular position. When the commissioner speaks of "phony bilinguals", he is basing his assumptions on his own personal definition of the term "bilingual": one which, however, does not exist in the public service.

In 1972 the then president of the treasury board explained that "bilingualism" means different things in different jobs. In some positions it means only the ability to deal with simple and straightforward questions in the two languages. In others, it means an ability to understand the other language well, but to speak it only passably well. Again in others it means an ability to speak and understand both languages as commonly used, whereas in still other positions it means a greater capacity to speak and understand both common and technical language.

Take for example two hypothetical positions requiring the use of both official languages: an elevator operator and a government negotiator. Obviously the language proficiency requirements for these two jobs will be different. If the occupants meet the language requirements they are said to be bilingual, according to the public service use of the word. According to Mr. Yalden's definition, however, the elevator operator whose job requires a very limited vocabulary to perform his duties could be a phony bilingual, although he or she meets the criteria for the job.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   OFFICIAL LANGUAGES-ALLEGED IMPROPER DESIGNATION OF "BILINGUAL"
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HEALTH AND WELFARE-FUNDING OF MEDICAL CARE PROGRAM

NDP

Bob Rae

New Democratic Party

Mr. Bob Rae (Broadview):

Mr. Speaker, I have raised several questions in this House concerning the medicare program, and I want to ask certain further questions with respect to that program. The fact of the matter is that the medicare program is one of the critical foundations and keystones of Canadian society at the present time. When it was introduced in 1966 it quickly became clear that it was something which the Canadian people not only wanted but expected.

We ought to look very carefully at the assumptions which underlie the Medical Care Act. There is the assumption that there would be universal medical insurance and that medical care and hospital care would no longer be dependent on one's economic strength in order to be able to survive and to have access to decent medical care. Since that time there has not been a clear commitment from either the provincial or federal governments or, I am sad to say, from parts of the medical community itself, to the principles that were established in the 1960s and that, indeed, go back to the experiences of the CCF in Saskatchewan in the 1940s and the 1950s.

The first watering down of this program came from the federal government. It is one of the ironies that the federal government convinced the provinces to go into the plan on the

basis that there would be 50-50 funding, and then it turned around, when it became apparent to them that this was not going to be a free proposition and that it would cost certain amounts of money, and reduced their long-term financial commitment by passing the Established Programs Financing Act in 1977.

I might point out that we were the only party to warn the government at that time that the effect of introducing this program would be to reduce in the long run the commitment of our federal government to maintain the principles of universality and accessibility, which are the principles behind the plan. The federal government abandoned its role of being responsible in some way for the administration of the program and left that to the provinces.

In the course of the debate in 1976 the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) said that he was taking a gamble, and the then minister of national health and welfare said at that time that it would be unthinkable for the provinces or for the federal government to move away from the principle of universal medical care. As I said earlier today, however, the unthinkable has happened and is happening, and the gamble has not paid off. The government now finds itself in the position of being faced with the erosion of a plan-and I am using the words of the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Miss Begin)- and of not having the means and the capacity to deal with the problems in the plan.

The fact of the matter is that there are several problems in the plan at the present time. There are doctors leaving the plan and charging a surcharge of up to and over 30 per cent. People were coming into members' offices and showing us doctors' bills, wanting to know if they were forced to pay them. They wanted to know why their doctors were not in the plan. Those were reasonable questions and gave rise to very real fears for people who cannot afford high medical fees.

The second practice which concerns us is double billing and the provinces that allow it. In this case doctors are not only billing the medical insurance plan but are also billing the patients individually. This gets away from the principle which should have been protected by the federal government, that medical care does not depend on income. Citizens are insured either by the provincial program without premiums or the provincial program with premiums.

Finally, there is the question of deterrent fees. Some provinces have introduced fees for long term stays in hospital. In September, 1976, in Vancouver, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) said:

Health insurance today encourages people to abuse the system by making unnecessary trips to doctors-

He suggested that all or a portion of the cost of a doctor's visit should be shown as taxable income for the patient, and that something like a T-4 form could be issued. His solution was to make the patient pay for the visit in another way. It is just a deterrent fee by the backdoor and moves away from the principle of universality. It puts fear into the hearts and minds

March 19, 1979

of people who feel their medical care system belongs to them. They do not want it taken away.

The basic problem is the illusion adopted by the government and by many of the provincial governments. The illusion is that medical care services can be limited, that you can get something for nothing. The doctors of this country are telling us that we cannot get something for nothing-if we want a medicare program we have to pay for it. I think the Canadian people are prepared to pay a reasonable price, Mr. Speaker.

It is this new conservatism, this ideology which has seized the minds of the Liberal party and the Conservative party- that the government which governs least governs best, and that all government spending is bad while all private spending is good. The government has limited itself, it has restricted itself, and it does not now have the means or the ability to deal with the provinces in a way that would enable them-

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   HEALTH AND WELFARE-FUNDING OF MEDICAL CARE PROGRAM
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LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order, please. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Postmaster General (Mr. Collenette).

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   HEALTH AND WELFARE-FUNDING OF MEDICAL CARE PROGRAM
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LIB

David Michael Collenette (Parliamentary Secretary to the Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. D. M. Collenette (Parliamentary Secretary to Postmaster General):

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the hon. member for Broadview (Mr. Rae) brought this subject to the attention of the House last week as I think it should be debated publicly. It is a very serious topic.

Before I answer, Mr. Speaker, I should like to point out that the Liberal party is certainly not seized with a new conservatism. If it were I would not be standing here, nor would I be running in the next election under the Liberal party banner. I should like to put the hon. member at ease in that aspect.

The medicare program has been fundamental to the Liberal party's platform since the early 1960s.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   HEALTH AND WELFARE-FUNDING OF MEDICAL CARE PROGRAM
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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Since 1919.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   HEALTH AND WELFARE-FUNDING OF MEDICAL CARE PROGRAM
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LIB

David Michael Collenette (Parliamentary Secretary to the Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Collenette:

The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) is right-since the convention of 1919 when Mackenzie King became leader. It was finally implemented in the 1960s, and it is something to which members of this party are unequivocally committed.

I do not see any need to increase the federal contribution to the financing of medicare services in order that the provinces may meet the basic program condition of accessibility as required by the act.

The hon. member for Broadview referred to the established programs financing arrangements. These have been quite gen-

Adjournment Debate

erous to the provinces, but I should point out that it was the provinces that felt they were closer to the people and should have some say in the administration of the medical plan. The federal government took a gamble, perhaps, in instituting this somewhat decentralized system of government. I think one of the election issues in the next few weeks will be whether we will continue with this kind of arrangement whereby the federal government agrees that if the provinces want greater administrative control over certain programs they can have it.

The hon. member for Broadview is correct in drawing our attention to what has happened. The basic tenets of the medicare program, the universality with respect to population covered, the accessibility without excessive user charges, the portability of benefits-all of these could be in jeopardy. I think I need only repeat the reply given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) during question period on March 9 to the Leader of the New Democratic Party when as reported at page 3990 of Hansard he said:

If anything is done by any province to depart from that principle, we would have to review the very high payment the federal government is making to the province in respect of half the cost of medicare.

It is quite clear; there is no equivocation. The hon. member for Broadview asked in question period this afternoon what legal authority the government has to withdraw funding from the provinces. I would think that the effective determination by the governor in council that a provincial plan had ceased to meet any of the conditions or the five basic points would mean there is no longer authority to make contributions. In other words, if they reneged on any of the basic commitments to medicare, then the federal government would have the moral and perhaps the legal authority to review the money advanced under the established programs financing arrangements. Again, I say, there must be no retrenchment, no equivocation on the basic medicare scheme of this country to which Canadians are entitled, which they want, and which they certainly deserve.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   HEALTH AND WELFARE-FUNDING OF MEDICAL CARE PROGRAM
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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Physician, heal thyself.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   HEALTH AND WELFARE-FUNDING OF MEDICAL CARE PROGRAM
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LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order, please. A motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m.

Motion agreed to and the House adjourned at 10.32 p.m.

Tuesday, March 20, 1979

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   HEALTH AND WELFARE-FUNDING OF MEDICAL CARE PROGRAM
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March 19, 1979