Tuesday, February 12, 2008

We got into Hansard

CFMS Lobby Day was a great success, and we got one "Statement by Member" (Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Lib.) and two Oral Questions (Hedy Fry, Lib., Judy Wasylycia-Leis, NDP). Of course, we didn't get any real answers from the government, but what do we expect from a Conservative government?

Hon. Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul's, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, representing over 6,000 medical students across Canada, is visiting Parliament today. The students are here to discuss their rising debt load. A first year resident in Ontario has an average debt of $158,728.
These debts are stressful and interfere with medical residents' ability to serve Canadians well.
Furthermore, this financial situation prevents some young people from going to medical school, discourages medical students from choosing to specialize in family medicine, and makes it more attractive for new graduates in medicine to practice in the United States to pay off their debts.
As we are facing a doctor shortage crisis in Canada, we should be doing everything we can to support our medical students.
The Canadian Federation of Medical Students is asking the government to take action and provide some relief.
I do not understand why the Minister of Health is refusing to talk about this fundamental issue.


Hon. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the government is silent on wait times, one of the Conservatives' so-called priorities.
Canadians are still waiting for tests, waiting for care and three million are still waiting to find a family doctor.
The Canadian Medical Association says that we need more doctors. The Canadian Federation of Medical Students says that we need more doctors but the average medical student cannot afford the staggering $158,000 debt that he or she faces.
Will the government fix the student loan program so more Canadians can become doctors and ease the problem of wait times?

Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is a delight to stand and talk a little about our wait time strategy.
As the hon. member might recall, last year we announced funding for wait times reductions through our patient wait time guarantee with the 10 provinces and 3 territories.
I would remind the hon. member, if she has not seen the media on this, that I was in Halifax this past Friday announcing additional wait times guarantee projects with the Government of Nova Scotia. That will roll out across the country as well.


Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, the health minister has done nothing of substance to deal with wait times in this country, except break his government's promise in the last election.
The government has ignored the good advice of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students that says that Canada needs more resident spaces, that post-graduate programs must be transferable and that nurse practitioners must be trained and used properly.
At a bare minimum, will the government tell Canada's future doctors that their student loans do not have to be paid back while they are still learning and training as residents?

Hon. Monte Solberg (Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is a serious issue. The government pledged in the last budget to undertake a student loan review. We have done that. We have received submissions from across the country.
The member knows we will be announcing the results of that review in the upcoming budget, which apparently is on February 26. I am really looking forward to it.

Want to read more? Read the Hansard for February 11, 2008.