Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.
Welcome to the 12th meeting of the House of Commons Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic.
This will be the first hybrid meeting of the committee. Some members will be participating via videoconference and some will be participating in person. This follows the order made by the House on May 26, 2020.
Members who have already participated in a virtual meeting of the special committee may actually not notice any change, except for the fact that some members are also participating from the floor of the House.
An additional rubric, that of statements by members, was also added to the proceedings of the committee.
In order to ensure that those joining the meeting via video conference can be seen and heard by those in the chamber, two screens have been set up in the chamber on either side of the Speaker’s chair. Sound amplification for virtual interventions will be available, and members in the chamber can listen to the floor sound or interpretation using the earpieces on their desks.
Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. Please also direct your remarks through the Chair. Thank you.
For those of you joining via video conference, I would like to remind you to leave your mike on mute when you are not speaking. Also, please note that if you want to speak in English, you should be on the English channel. If you want to speak French, you should be on the French channel. Should you wish to alternate between the two languages, you should change the channel to the language that you are speaking each time you switch languages.
Should members participating by videoconference need to request the floor outside their designated speaking times, they should activate their microphone and state that they have a point of order. Those in the chamber can simply rise in the usual way. Please note that today's proceedings will be televised in the same way as a typical sitting of the House.
Next we'll move on to ministerial announcements.
I understand that there are no ministerial announcements today, so we'll move on to petitions.
We'll be presenting petitions for a period not exceeding 15 minutes.
I would like to remind members that any petition presented during a meeting of the special committee must have already been certified by the clerk of petitions.
For members participating in person, we ask that they please come and drop the signed certificates off at the table once the petitions are presented.
First on our list for presenting petitions is Ms. May, who is joining us virtually.
Mr. Chair, what an honour to be the first voice coming to you from the screens on either side of the Speaker of the House.
I speak to you from Saanich—Gulf Islands on the traditional territory of the WSÁNEC people. Hych'ka Siem.
I'm presenting a petition, number 431-00215, and it has been certified. The petitioners call on this House to take note of the fact that Canada is the only country with a universal health care system that does not include the provision of necessary prescription medications. They note that the system across Canada is a patchwork that leaves three million Canadians unprepared and uninsured to be able to purchase necessary medications. They call on the House assembled to put in place a system of universal national pharmacare, bringing down the cost of drugs through bulk purchasing.
I think I'll call that a summary, Mr. Chair. Thank you very much.
I'm pleased to be presenting two petitions before the committee today.
The first petition is in support of Bill S-204. This Senate public bill, been put forward by Senator Salma Ataullahjan in the Senate, would make it a criminal offence for someone to go abroad to receive an organ for which there has not been consent. It also has a mechanism by which somebody could be deemed inadmissible to Canada for being involved in the horrible practice of forced organ harvesting and trafficking. This bill has been before various Parliaments for over 10 years, and petitioners are hopeful that this Parliament will be the one that finally takes action to address forced organ harvesting and trafficking.
The second petition is put forward by folks who are concerned about Bill C-7, particularly the efforts by the government through Bill C-7 to remove vital safeguards that are currently associated with Canada's euthanasia regime. Petitioners are not happy about the fact that the government is trying to eliminate the 10-day reflection period and remove other safeguards that only four short years ago the government thought were essential for the euthanasia and assisted suicide system that they were putting in place. The petitioners call on the government to address that, and they are not supportive of these particular efforts to remove vital safeguards from that regime.
Good afternoon, everyone. It's an honour to be presenting an S. O. 31.
This spring has been a difficult one for Nova Scotia and the communities of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook. While residents have banded together to tackle the challenges presented by COVID-19, we have also had to mourn the passing of three remarkable local women: RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson, well known by many in Cole Harbour and the surrounding areas; our own Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, who was based out of 12 Wing Shearwater; and Captain Jenn Casey of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.
All three women died in the line of duty in separate tragic events while serving our country. These three brave women, who served with honour on land, at sea and in the air, represent the absolute best of us. Heidi, Abbigail and Jenn were inspirational and will not be forgotten.
Canada needs a prime minister who will create jobs and opportunity, but instead we have a prime minister who is piling up crippling national debt. Yesterday the PBO predicted the federal deficit this year will hit over $252 billion. That is almost equivalent to an average year of government spending before the Liberal government. After five years with this debt, Prime Minister, Canada's national debt is set to hit $1 trillion, with almost nothing to show for it. Industries from coast to coast are either closed or are struggling.
Canadian workers need and deserve a prime minister who supports our energy sector and gets our natural resources and agriculture products to market, who supports small business and will make our tax system encourage job creation and growth, and who will bring advanced manufacturing jobs to Canada and keep the automotive industry growing. Most importantly, we need a Conservative prime minister who will get the government finances under control after the massive debt left by this prime minister.
Mr. Chair, I speak today with a very heavy heart. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we've seen a disproportionate number of deaths in long-term care homes.
I'm thankful for the Canadian Armed Forces who were deployed to the Altamont care home in my riding and four other facilities across the GTA. The CAF have brought forward horrifying allegations in the operation of these homes. They include residents being given expired or improper doses of medication; not being cleaned or changed for a prolonged period of time; being forcibly fed, causing choking; being bed-bound for weeks; receiving inadequate nutrition, and much more.
Mr. Chair, I call upon Premier Ford to place these five homes under a mandatory management order and to appoint a third party manager to address and rectify these violations. I also call upon the Premier to undertake an independent public inquiry into the tragedy we face in long-term care facilities across Ontario. Finally, Mr. Chair, we need to work with the provinces and territories to set national standards of care for the most vulnerable in our society. We can and must do better.
I hesitate to interrupt colleagues, but I'm concerned about the petition practice, which, as I understand it, is to summarize a petition but not make a speech. I felt one of our colleagues was trespassing on our usual rules.
Mr. Chair, I would like to recognize the resilience of Quebeckers concerned for their jobs or their businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
They need us to plan for after the crisis, and we must do so now. To do so, we need the proper information. We need to know the status of the public finances. That is why the Bloc Québécois is demanding that the government present an economic update, and that it do so before June 17. This is not about making a spectacle. Everyone knows that the deficit will be huge. We had to provide the people with support and we all agree on that. But we have to know to what extent. We also have to know where we are starting from so that we can plan where we are going. This is about respecting the public, because they are the ones who will be paying the bill.
In closing, I would like to remind the government that one group is not really contributing to the public purse at the moment. I am talking about the tech giants, the GAFAM group, that have never before been used to the extent that they are now, and that are still not paying a cent in tax in Canada. The Liberals promised to correct this injustice. Now is a great time for them to do so.
Mr. Chair, this week is National Paramedic Services Week. I want to take this opportunity to thank the Peel region police, paramedic and firefighting services for keeping Bramptonians safe.
In my riding, organizations have stepped up to help our community. Organizations such as the Khalsa Aid Society, the Interfaith Council of Peel, the Brampton YMCA, the Prayer Stone Peoples Church, Unity in the Community, Ste. Louise Outreach Centre, Knights Table, the Yogi Divine Society, Vraj Community Service, Regeneration Brampton and many more have made our community stronger during this difficult time.
I also have to address the report that came out yesterday from our brave Canadian Armed Forces. Like many Canadians, I was shocked by this report from the long-term care centres, including one in my riding. The examples of abuse described in the report are unacceptable. Our seniors deserve dignity and respect.
Mr. Chair, Canada's oil and gas sector is in crisis, made worse by five years of bad policies, red tape and barriers to pipelines. Just in the last two months, we saw the largest production cut in Canadian history. Active rigs dropped by 92% and tens of thousands of oil and gas workers lost their jobs, adding to the 200,000 since 2015. Energy is Canada's biggest investor, and exporting could lead the recovery if there are actions, not just words.
On March 25, the finance minister promised help in hours or days, not weeks, but he's letting Canadians down. Sixty-three days later, small oil and gas companies still can't apply for BDC loans, and last week's large employer loan terms are predatory, with interest rates escalating to 14% by year five. Those are payday loan rates. The required stock options being at record lows could make the government the largest shareholder. That's not emergency assistance; it's pandemic profiteering.
Programs can't help workers if businesses can't or won't actually get the support. The Liberals' death-by-delay tactics are doing exactly what foreign activists in other countries want: to shut down Canada's oil.
I can state that this is certainly the case in Brome—Missisquoi. In the last weeks, I have been calling volunteer action centres in my constituency so that they can tell me their news.
I would like to take the time that I have to highlight the work that community organizations are doing tirelessly in my constituency. The crisis has made us realize the extent to which food banks and meals-on-wheels can not only relieve hunger, but also relieve thousands of shut-in seniors of their loneliness.
Let me also highlight the devotion of the volunteers giving generously of their time, particularly the initiative of Mabel Hastings in the volunteer aid centre in Mansonville. Like me, she sends out a daily newsletter to keep the public informed about the many resources available for their support.
COVID-19 is bringing out the best in our community and I am certain that, together, we will get through it.
Mr. Chair, during the COVID-19 pandemic I have been inspired by the courageous work of so many essential workers. I want to thank everyone on the front lines for keeping us safe, keeping us fed and keeping our communities functioning.
I want to make special note of one particular essential health care worker, a woman who is a quarantine manager with the Public Health Agency of Canada. I have personally seen her working tirelessly over the past three months to keep all of us safe. That woman is my wife, Suchita Jain.
Suchi, I love you, I am very proud of you and I thank you for all of the sacrifices you are making.
I want to highlight another woman from my riding of Parkdale—High Park, Rachelle LeBlanc. She is a local designer. When the pandemic broke, she saw the need for protective barriers for small shops in Parkdale, so she set about collecting donations. She then put her design talents to work and started designing free-standing protective shields. Rachelle's team has now delivered 25 free COVID protective shields to small shopkeepers in Parkdale, and the team is on track to building 100 more. It's the compassion of Canadians like Rachelle that gives meaning to the phrase “we are all in this together”.
Mr. Chair, the school year has been shattered and our graduating classes must be proud of what they have achieved amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Young men, young women, be proud of your accomplishments! You can believe in the future. Keep learning. It will give you tools that will serve you all your lives. What you have achieved in this extraordinary year will set you apart from the others. I invite you to be inspired by that and turn it to your advantage.
The current government has the obligation to promote the values that will lead you to become involved in your communities. Your willingness to learn or to work makes you into better citizens. Knowledge and experience are irreplaceable and invaluable. I implore this government, which is unaware of the damage it is causing, to immediately announce all the positions that have already been approved under the Canada summer jobs program. Urgent action is needed. Let us have confidence in our organizations, our companies, and let us support our youth, a rich resource that we must equip and motivate.
I congratulate all the young graduates in the beautiful constituency of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.
Mr. Chair, this pandemic lets us see what Canadians are made of. This coming Saturday, May 30, more than 2,000 Christians of all denominations are coming together virtually for prayer and for action.
When the going gets tough, Canadians get going. This could not be more true than with respect to what will be happening on May 30. This Saturday, in more than 2,000 churches and homes, thousands of faith-filled Canadians are gathering to pray and act on those prayers as part of Stand United Canada. They will gather through television, Facebook Live and Instagram Live. Then they are going to deliver much-needed support to at-risk Canadians who live in disadvantaged areas. This is faith in action.
I'm sure I speak for all parliamentarians when I wish success to Stand United Canada. I hope it inspires more Canadians to follow in its footsteps.
The best way to safeguard the truth is to allow people to speak freely, but from the very beginning of this pandemic, the Liberals have silenced dissent. Sadly, their short-sightedness has been to the detriment of Canadians. Early on, they propagated the notion that human-to-human transmission wasn't possible. They said that closing the borders wasn't necessary. They told us that wearing face masks wouldn't help.
It is undeniable that the Liberal government has put Canadians in danger by silencing alternative points of view and has spread misinformation. Ironically, however, they have now gone ahead and crowned themselves the arbiters of truth. They are spending millions of dollars to censor what Canadians can and cannot say. They are determining what is true and what is not, what is right and what is wrong, what is in and what is out. When freedom of speech is repressed, it is safe to say that democracy is under siege.
I call upon the government to restore the personal liberties that are granted under our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is Canada. We are not an autocracy; we are a democracy.
Mr. Chair, small businesses have always been the cornerstone of communities across this country. They provide employment and economic stability and are always the first to support community functions and activities, but small businesses have been particularly hard hit due to COVID-19. They have shut their doors temporarily, and now many worry they'll never be able to open their doors again.
With the season cancellations at the Stratford Festival, Drayton Entertainment and Stratford Summer Music, businesses in the tourism, hospitality, accommodation and retail sectors in Perth—Wellington are struggling. Every day, I talk to small business owners who can't access the Canada emergency business account, and others who find the convoluted commercial rent assistance program to be out of reach. The program is needlessly complicated, frustratingly slow and excessively restrictive. Mr. Chair, the government needs to go back, fix these programs and ensure that support goes to the small businesses that need it.
Mr. Chair, Canadians have been shaken by this pandemic. It has exposed the gaps in our health care system and our social safety net. It has shown how vulnerable we all are when disaster hits.
It has brought us to a crossroads. We can go backwards to so-called business as usual, with horrific conditions in long-term care homes, widespread inequality and no real action on climate change, or we can build for better.
In Victoria, people in the community, organizations and municipal leaders have been calling for a new way forward. The City of Victoria has a plan for reinvention, resilience and recovery. Organizations like Greater Victoria Acting Together; Common Vision, Common Action; and Kairos Victoria are exploring ideas for a sustainable and just recovery.
We can build for better. We can invest in the infrastructure. We need to fight climate change, homelessness and inequality. We can build a Canada where we take better care of the planet and each other.
Mr. Chair, in this time of pandemic, it is with heartfelt emotion that I want to highlight the excellent work of all the guardian angels at the CISSS de la Montérégie-Ouest. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the entire staff, as well as the retirees who have come back to provide their assistance. I admire the managers, at all levels and in all services, working tirelessly so that their teams can answer the call in this difficult situation.
My fellow managers and the management teams of the Support Program for the Autonomy of Seniors, both in home support and in residential care, you have my heartfelt congratulations for the herculean work you have done.
My thoughts go particularly to Lyne Ricard and Véronique Proulx, managers working diligently with their teams of professionals to support the seniors living in intermediate resources, as we call them.
I also warmly recognize the director of nursing services, Chantal Careau, who is facing the current challenge with passion and humanity.
Once again, my congratulations go to the entire organization of the CISSS de la Montérégie-Ouest for their remarkable work in this difficult and very demanding time.
During the worst of times, we see the best in people. Heroes are born, characters revealed, resiliency is sowed. I cannot say enough about my constituents in Foothills—front-line health care workers, grocery store clerks, restaurateurs, farmers—for all they are doing to keep our community safe and healthy.
I want to shine a light on some of our hidden heroes, such as Owen Plumb, a grade 9 student in Okotoks who is using his 3D printer to build PPE for front-line health care workers. He partnered with the Rotary Club and Evergreen Solutions in Okotoks to help with the manufacturing and assembly.
There is also Sam Schofield, the volunteer president of the Pincher Creek Chamber of Commerce, overnight built a resiliency website for COVID-19 by building training tools for businesses throughout his area. He also helped develop the Foothills Business Recovery Taskforce, which is a resource for businesses throughout southern Alberta in my riding.
Finally, to the employees of Cargill Foods in High River, I know this has been a very difficult time and that many of you have lost loved ones. I want to say thank you for tirelessly doing all you can to protect our food supply and keep food on our table.
I would like to take this time to salute those who go above and beyond the call of duty to provide care and comfort to others.
In my 16 years in the House of Commons I have never experienced anything like this, when we find our lives are at a standstill and there is so much sorrow felt by families who suffer from the effects of COVID-19.
However, here are two examples of kindness right here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Shanna and Fred Patey of Bishop's Falls, along with a few of their friends, spend hours next to the Trans-Canada Highway with just a barbeque and a cooler. They serve free meals for truckers crossing our province each and every day. So far they have provided over 1,500 meals.
There is also Mitch Strickland of Grand Falls-Windsor, who owns Appy's Diner. He has continually provided food for the local hospital and other front-line workers through his donations.
To all our front-line workers in grocery stores and delivery trucks, and to doctors, nurses, LPNs, paramedics, first responders and, of course, our brave women and men in the military, we will be forever grateful and blessed because of you.
That's all the time we have today for Statements by Members.
Before going on, I just want to remind all the members that it is a one-minute statement, so if you don't mind, please time it before coming in because we do have limited time.
The other thing that has come up is that some of you just naturally speak very quickly. I'm not here to judge anybody's way of speaking, but try to consider the translators and interpreters to make sure that everyone understands what is said, because they are working diligently to try to get both languages out.
In sum, there are two things: please slow down and please make sure the statement is confined to one minute.
We now move to Questions to Ministers.
Please note that we will suspend the proceedings every 45 minutes in order to allow the employees who are providing support for the sitting to substitute for each other safely.
Our first question goes to the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Scheer.
In the early days of the pandemic and the lockdown that followed, Canadians were told by this government that programs would be rolled out very quickly and that gaps and shortcomings would be changed as time went on. While many Canadians are being let down by this government's response and its unnecessarily rigid programs, Conservatives identified solutions weeks ago, yet here we are, two and a half months later, and many of these programs still have not been improved.
I have a simple question for the Prime Minister.
On April 26 the Conservatives asked the Prime Minister to change the criteria for the Canada emergency business account so that small businesses that don't happen to have a business bank account could qualify for those types of programs. It's now May 27. Is the Prime Minister going to make that change?
Mr. Chair, we knew from the beginning of this pandemic that we did need to move extremely quickly, and that's what we did. We rolled out the Canada emergency response benefit extremely quickly. Eight million Canadians have had that as a replacement for paycheques lost because of COVID-19. We also moved forward on the wage subsidy and a range of other programs to support workers and small businesses.
What we've done in terms of helping small businesses with the Canada emergency business account has had a massive impact on small businesses across the country, but we understand that certain companies and businesses have particularities that mean it's a little more difficult for them to qualify. We are working with them through their regional development agencies, and we encourage them to approach their local RDAs, which will be able to help them get the money they deserve.
Mr. Chair, these are very simple technical fixes that can be made by this government. There's no excuse for the delay. It's May 27. They've known about these problems for weeks. They're trying to get patted on the back for actions they took back in March, and yet they are letting so many Canadians down by not making these very simple changes.
For example, companies that have acquired another company in the last year have employees whose jobs are threatened. The businesses are not allowed to qualify for the wage subsidy because their revenue is now counted together. We have identified this gap.
Again, it's a simple question. Will companies that have acquired another company still be allowed to use the wage subsidy to keep workers on the job, yes or no?
Mr. Chair, I know that there are many different types of businesses across this country that need support. We have moved forward on supporting as many of them as we possibly can, and we continue to work on filling gaps.
I know the member opposite has talked to me a number of times about a tractor company in his riding. I can assure you that finance officials are engaged with that company to see if there's a way to make sure we're getting them the support they need.
It's actually a very simple fix. I can save him and his officials a lot of time.
The government used the word “amalgamation” when it announced the changes to that program. He can make this very clear, and save a lot of work, just by including the word “acquisition”. Will he do that?
Mr. Chair, I can assure you that finance officials are working closely with Brandt Tractor.
They're continuing to work with a range of businesses across the country that, for various reasons, are not able to apply for the help we have now. We will continue to work to make sure people who need the help get it.
Mr. Chair, it's literally one word. We can email him the text. We can send him the page in the dictionary where that word is defined, if that would help.
Another gap that is letting people down is in the rent relief program. The government has set the parameters to qualify for the rent relief program for companies that have experienced a 70% revenue loss. There are untold thousands of businesses that have experienced a 50%, 55%, 60% or 65% loss that are ineligible but have no capacity to pay the rent.
We called on the government weeks ago to have a more flexible sliding scale to allow more companies to access this program to keep more people on the job and more businesses open. Will the government introduce some flexibility to this program to help more businesses survive?
Mr. Chair, from the beginning of this pandemic, our public servants and policy-makers have been moving creatively and quickly to try to get help to as many people as we possibly can, with our focus being on the people who need it the most. Obviously, this pandemic is affecting everyone and every business across the country in different ways, but our focus has been on ensuring that those who most need it are getting the help they can.
We will, of course, continue to work with the parties opposite and all Canadians to ensure that we're getting help to everyone who needs it, but our focus has always been on the most vulnerable, first and foremost.
Mr. Chair, we recognized that a number of organizations and companies were facing difficulties because of COVID-19. People work for those organizations, as accountants, receptionists, assistants or labourers, and those people need to be supported.
We are supporting people all over the country through that program.
Mr. Chair, we have invested in assistance for fishers all across the country. We recognize that it is a difficult situation because of COVID-19. We will be here for our fishers and for industries in difficulty.
Mr. Chair, all through this pandemic, our priority has been to be here for workers in difficulty so that they do not lose their jobs. This applies to all organizations and companies in the country to the extent possible. That is what we are in the process of doing.
Mr. Chair, we established a program to help those working in organizations and who could lose their jobs because of COVID-19. We are here to help workers in organizations and companies all over the country.
The conditions of seniors as outlined by the military were appalling, but seniors need more than just compassionate words. They need action. Will the Prime Minister stop hiding behind excuses and actually show leadership to fix long-term care?
Mr. Chair, the Constitution of Canada is not an excuse. It lays out the divisions of powers and responsibilities, and we respect the provinces' jurisdiction over long-term care facilities. However, from the very beginning, we have indicated our willingness to support the provinces on this very important issue. We need to make sure our seniors right across the country are properly cared for, which is why we sent in the military and why we are there to help the provinces.
The former federal health minister, Dr. Philpott, said, “We need to stop using jurisdiction as an excuse to not have federal leadership.” That is a former federal health minister. Now, we know from the military report that staff were afraid to use vital equipment because of the cost. Will the Prime Minister call for an end to profit in long-term care?
Mr. Chair, over the past couple of days I've had very good conversations with the premiers of both Quebec and Ontario on this important issue. I look forward to discussing issues around long-term care with all the premiers of the provinces and territories tomorrow evening as well. This is something that Canadians have seen needs concerted action. We will be there to support the provinces.
Mr. Chair, the contents of that report were deeply disturbing and troubling for all Canadians. That is why we are committed to working with the provinces to fix this situation. Ontarians and indeed people right across the country are deeply preoccupied by what they've seen going on. We need to fix this, and we will do that together.
Mr. Chair, all Canadians know we need to do better by our seniors. This is something we all take very seriously, and all orders of government will work together to make sure that right now, and going forward, we improve our systems. The federal government will be there to work with the provinces on making that happen.
Mr. Chair, the Prime Minister has said that he's willing to work with the provinces. I'm saying that we need to see federal leadership. We need a commitment at the federal level that the Prime Minister will push for things that people need, which is to remove profit from long-term care and to establish national standards.
Will the Prime Minister go beyond working with provinces and show some leadership?
Mr. Chair, I will always be here to stand up for Canadians in all different situations. We are going to work with the provinces, fully respecting jurisdictions, to make sure that, all across the country, Canadians in long-term care are supported as required and receive the services and the care they deserve.
The COVID-19 crisis should not be used as an excuse to avoid presenting solutions to the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls committee, in particular by delaying action on the calls for justice. This is the same government that would not recognize it as a genocide, the same government that delayed the United Nations declaration legislation and the same government that is still taking indigenous kids to court.
Will this government commit to core funding for indigenous services to help women and girls and ensure that the calls for justice are implemented without delay?
Mr. Chair, we continue to work very closely with partners on the calls for justice even as we act in many areas, including better funding for shelters and for victims of domestic violence. We will continue to work with those partners, but people will understand that many of those partners are very focused right now on helping front-line workers, not on establishing the report. We will continue to work with them on the report, but the COVID-19 situation has made that more difficult.
I want to thank the honourable members who are shouting “time”, but I do have a timer here, and I am taking care of it. I appreciate the help, but I do want to remind them that I have the proper machinery here.
Mr. Chair, I want to thank our Canadian Armed Forces members for the tremendous work they are doing. They did their duty, noted down their observations and reported them.
While those observations were being reported directly to the managers, a report was being compiled. This report was given to me on the 21st. I then forwarded it to the Minister of Public Safety on the 22nd, and that report was then given to the provincial authorities very quickly afterwards.
I trust that you got the report on the 21st, but the report was written on the 14th, so what happened with that report for seven days? Why wasn't it acted upon? Could you just explain that? Our loved ones were at risk during that entire time.
Mr. Chair, as we stated, this report was done and given up through the chain of command, and the appropriate leadership did their due diligence. Once we received this report, it was forwarded to the appropriate authorities.
Again, I want to commend our Canadian Armed Forces members for not only the tremendous work they are doing but also for doing their duty.
That report from Ontario documented appalling conditions, horrific care that was being given to the clients, and also the way that the staff conducted themselves.
We know that there are 39 members of the Canadian Armed Forces currently infected with COVID-19. Minister, do you believe that the infection could have been transmitted from staff to our soldiers serving in long-term care facilities because proper protocols were not being followed?
Mr. Chair, when it comes to any type of activities that we send our Canadian Armed Forces on, we do our due diligence to make sure that we have the right protocols in place and the appropriate training.
This is why we have taken the time to make sure our folks not only did the appropriate training but had the appropriate equipment. We have the right protocols in place, and we will make sure that our members who are infected by COVID will get the appropriate treatment as well.
Does the Minister of National Defence believe that our soldiers serving in Operation Laser, who have put themselves in harm's way in battling the COVID virus as a war, deserve to have hazard pay benefits?
Mr. Chair, when it comes to looking after Canadian Armed Forces personnel, yes, we are actually in the process as we speak of making sure that our members have the appropriate hazard pay. This is currently being drafted, and we will have more to say on this shortly.
I hope that means it's a yes. I do encourage the government to provide that compensation to our soldiers and troops serving in Operation Laser.
I would finally like to come back to the issue of the timeline from May 14 to May 21, when that report was in the department for one week.
Under our parliamentary system, ministers are accountable for the conduct of their departments. Will the minister take responsibility for that report sitting on someone's desk for seven days and not being turned over to the proper authorities?
Mr. Chair, I want to make it very clear: When it comes to the observations that were made, those were immediately reported to the appropriate management of the care facilities and to the appropriate links within the province.
At the same time, this report was being compiled and pushed up to the chain of command, and they did their due diligence. As I stated, it was given to us, and on the same day it was forwarded to the Minister of Public Safety, who immediately then sent it to the provincial authorities.
Yesterday it was revealed that the Minister of Digital Government has been promoting a fundraising campaign to sue Global News for their story criticizing the Chinese Communist Party. Why is the minister using her authority to support the Communist Party of China and threatening our media and freedom of expression?
Mr. Chair, we value the important work of media right across the country. Attacking the integrity of hard-working journalists is simply not acceptable. Like many members on all sides of the House.... WeChat is a social media platform used to engage and share information with—
Muzzling journalists is never acceptable, and our government is very clear on that. I will say that the individual in question posted something outside of the guidelines of my WeChat group and is no longer—
Chair, the Liberals can't shrug this off. The minister admitted to theBreaker that her own political staff manages this WeChat. This is someone who is paid by Canadian taxpayers. Why is the minister using tax dollars to help China attack Global News and freedom of expression?
I think the member knows very well that the people who post on WeChat are free to post what they choose within certain guidelines. Those guidelines were ignored. That person is no longer part of my WeChat group. The post was completely unacceptable, and I do not share the views of the individual.
Chair, Sam Cooper is an investigative Canadian journalist who has uncovered many different criminal rackets that can be linked back to Beijing. Has the minister apologized to Sam Cooper for attempting to shut down his work?
Mr. Chair, I want to assure the member that we are always vigilant in any foreign interference in our national security or issues of political interference in our society. It's monitored carefully by the national security establishment, according to the law as it exists in this country, and we will remain vigilant.
Chair, in May 2019, the Liberals launched their digital charter. One of the principles was strong democracy, a commitment to defend freedom of expression. Will the Liberals hold Joyce Murray's WeChat accountable if it has violated this part of the charter?
Mr. Chair, we are absolutely committed to the rule of law and will always uphold it. I think, as the minister has made very clear, she was not involved in this process and has no control over the individual who posted that matter.
Mr. Chair, with all due respect to the Minister of Finance, let me point out that, though he is not very clear, Canada's Parliamentary Budget Officer was clear yesterday. The deficit is $260 billion. That is the real number.
Why does the government not have the courage to state it clearly, as the Parliamentary Budget Officer did yesterday?
Mr. Chair, we always want to be clear and transparent. It is very important for the situation to be stable in order to ensure our future. That is our economic approach. We are making investments now so that the situation becomes more stable.
Mr. Chair, I know that the Minister of Finance is very good with figures. But he is not able to give us one. Perhaps he could comment on the statement that the Parliamentary Budget Officer made yesterday, that the emergency assistance must have an end date, and if it does not, we are heading to levels of taxation that have not been seen in this country for generations.
What is the government going to do to make sure that Canadians will not be overtaxed after this crisis?
Mr. Chair, we think it's very important to make investments. That way, we will have a resilient economy in the future. That's very important. That way, we know that we'll have a good economy in the future. When we have more information, we will—
Mr. Chair, I think what's most important is that during this pandemic, Canadians and companies across the country need the Government of Canada's help. That is our approach. That way, we will have an economy that will function in the future. Of course, this is important for future generations.
Mr. Chair, the United States, Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam have created an economic prosperity group to diversify some of their key supply chains away from China. Canada has a free trade agreement with six of these seven countries. Why are we not part of this group?
Mr. Chair, I thank the hon. member for that question.
Indeed, we have been working diligently with all of these countries to make sure that we are keeping global supply chains open during this critical time. I think everyone agrees that keeping supply chains open for medical goods, critical agriculture and essential goods is absolutely essential and—
Mr. Chair, this government is refusing to come to terms with what COVID-19 will mean for the future of international trade. Why is Canada not at the table with our largest trading partner protecting the viability of our international supply chains and capitalizing on the opportunities of others doing the same?
Mr. Chair, Canada has unprecedented access to a number of markets around the world because of the extraordinary agreements that we have made to provide access to customers in those international markets. During COVID-19, we have been working with our G20 partners. I have had two meetings with G20 trade ministers on the importance of keeping supply chains—
Mr. Chair, we are monitoring the situation very carefully. The U.K., of course, is a very important trading partner for Canada. They are in discussions right now. I want to assure Canadian businesses that CETA continues to apply to our trade with the U.K. during this period while they go through Brexit.
Mr. Chair, after CUSMA, this government guaranteed to the trade committee that they would publish the objectives of any new trade agreement. When will we see these objectives published and actually have a chance to view them?
Mr. Chair, the resignation of the WTO director-general at this unprecedented time is concerning for the international trade community. Is the government committed to supporting a DG candidate who is dedicated to the massive reforms needed to get the WTO functioning again?
Mr. Chair, I want to thank the hon. member for that good question. The Ottawa group, led by Canada, is working with like-minded countries on the reform of the WTO. We've been doing this work and we continue to do this work. I look forward to making sure that we are leading the way on those discussions with like-minded—
Mr. Chair, we have an excellent assurance of our trade with the United States, which is our new NAFTA trade agreement that we have negotiated, thanks to the unprecedented co-operation across this country. It is very important to the Canadian economy and Canadian producers.
Mr. Chair, going forward post-COVID, there are a lot things that will be changing in supply chains. What is this government doing proactively to look at opportunities in these supply chains that Canadian businesses can take advantage of?
Mr. Chair, we continue to work with countries around the globe to ensure that Canada's supply chains and those global supply chains, particularly for essential goods, for agricultural products, for medical supplies, continue to remain open. We will keep doing this work.
Mr. Chair, from the very beginning of the outbreak in early January we were aware of the challenges our health sector would face, and we immediately began to work with the provinces and territories to understand what the need would be and how we could best prepare.
In April, the minister stated there were not enough supplies in the national emergency stockpile.
Can she explain why she approved a donation of 16 tonnes of PPE for China on January 31, claiming it would not compromise our supply? She can't have it both ways. We don't have enough; we have enough and it won't compromise it.
Mr. Chair, we are operating in a highly competitive global environment, and the reality is that we need to make sure we have multiple complementary supply chains operating at the same time, which we have been doing in the past weeks and months, to ensure our front-line health care workers have the supplies they need to keep Canadians safe. That's our priority. That's what we're working on.
Mr. Chair, as the member opposite knows, provinces and territories have their own stockpiles, which of course they use to prepare for incidences of outbreak and other illnesses across their jurisdictions. We've worked very closely with the provinces and territories since the beginning of the outbreak to make sure we can provide any particular additional support. In fact, of all the requests made so far, we have been able to complete them.
Mr. Chair, as the member opposite knows, the equipment that was donated when China was in its outbreak was an important donation of nearly expired or expired goods that it was in desperate need of in its effort to try to contain the virus.
As the member opposite knows, we've been able to work successfully with provinces and territories to ensure they have what they need.
Mr. Chair, I would suggest that during February and March our hospitals would have consumed that almost-expired product very efficiently, but I want to move on to another topic.
When defending the sale of 22 seniors' homes to the Chinese government, the Prime Minister stated that we have a “strong regulatory regime” that imposes rigorous standards. He said that this regime ensures the care our seniors get is “top quality”. That was in 2017. Now he states he is saddened, shocked, disappointed and angered.
Was the Prime Minister completely oblivious to the risks, or was he just too anxious to please the Chinese government when he sold those 22 homes?
Mr. Chair, the homes the member opposite is referring to are in the province of B.C., and I have to commend the province for the early work it did to protect seniors in those long-term care homes. The member opposite is trying to confuse the issue. As she knows, the review we did was entirely separate from the standards to which the province holds the care homes.
The Prime Minister does not have authority over seniors' homes, which he has clearly stated, but he does have authority over the act in which he approved the sale. At 18 months, government had an obligation to make sure there was compliance.
Mr. Chair, the long-term care homes in each province fall within the jurisdiction of their own particular act, and those provinces and territories are responsible for fulfilling the inspections required under that act.
Under the Investment Canada Act, the government is obligated to review the sale for compliance. Four homes had to close. Since the government approved the sale, it is complicit in the care of our seniors in this country
Mr. Chair, I want to make it very clear that we understand how difficult this is for seniors. That is why we follow the appropriate steps, outlined under the Investment Canada Act, to make sure that any measures we take keep seniors and their well-being first and foremost.
Mr. Chair, during the pandemic, the government has given money to companies that don't pay a cent in tax because they use tax havens. We told the government that it didn't make sense. The government's response was that it is no big deal.
During the pandemic, the government gave money to Air Canada, but Air Canada never reimbursed customers who did not get the services they paid for. We told the government that it did not make sense. The government's response was that it was no big deal.
During the pandemic, the Liberal Party used the emergency wage subsidy to fund partisan activities. We told them that it did not make sense. The government responded that it was no big deal.
Is the moral of the story that the government thinks that dipping into the pockets of taxpayers to spend money carelessly is no big deal?
Mr. Chair, when I see that it's the Minister of National Revenue answering me, I don't feel like buying a lottery ticket.
The Liberal Party used two airplanes in its last election campaign, which seems to indicate that it isn't short of money. However, the Liberals used the emergency wage subsidy. Why? Is it because they want taxpayers to fund a third airplane?
Mr. Chair, we think it's very important to protect employees across the country and in every economic sector that's experiencing a significant drop in income. That's the approach we've taken to protect people and to ensure that there will be jobs in the future. We will continue this approach.
It's especially important to protect the employees who work for the Liberals to ensure their re-election, yet the Liberal Party has raised more than $7 million since the last election. Is the party in jeopardy? Can it go bankrupt?
Mr. Chair, we still don't know exactly how much money the Liberals took from the cookie jar. We think they may have taken as much as $1 million. How many SMEs could have been saved with the $1 million that the Liberals took out of the jar and took away from SMEs?
Mr. Chair, we appreciate the question. We are protecting hundreds of thousands of SMEs through the emergency wage subsidy, the Canada emergency response benefit and all our programs. We will continue this approach to help SMEs and their employees.
Mr. Chair, I will propose a choice of answers, or I won't get any.
When did the government decide to use the emergency wage subsidy?
Now here are three possible answers. The first possible answer is that when the Liberals brought in the emergency wage subsidy, they set parameters allowing them to use it. The second is that when the Liberals saw the Conservative Party—which is as rich as they are, but also sanctimonious and self-righteous—take advantage of the subsidy, they thought they could do it too. The third possible answer is that the Liberals hadn't planned to use the subsidy, but they pounced on the cookie jar when they saw it, because that's what they do.
Mr. Chair, when the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces stepped in to provide support to five long-term care homes in Ontario at the request of the premier, they released a report that outlined their findings in detail. Military members witnessed residents' cries for help going unanswered. They saw force-feeding. They saw bug infestations, a lack of personal protective equipment and neglect.
Canadians are shaken. They are appalled by the horrific conditions outlined in the military report. Almost 1,000 seniors so far have lost their lives in long-term care homes in Ontario alone, over 25 of them in my riding of Mississauga—Erin Mills. These deaths could have been prevented.
Can the Minister of Health please update the House on how our federal government is working with the provinces and territories to prevent further tragic occurrences from happening at long-term care homes and to ensure that our most vulnerable seniors are properly looked after and cared for?
Mr. Chair, it's such an important question. I believe all Canadians were deeply horrified to read the details from the Canadian Armed Forces on the conditions in long-term care homes in Ontario. What's happening to seniors in Ontario is completely unacceptable. The report is very troubling.
Seniors deserve to live with dignity, with respect and with safety. While long-term care is provincially regulated, we know that we need to work together. The Government of Canada stands ready to support provinces and territories as they continue to respond to this crisis. I had a very good conversation with my provincial and territorial counterparts last night about the work we can do at a national level to support their important work.
We also know that seniors want to stay at home longer. That's why our historic investment of $6 billion in home care was so important. We'll continue to work with the provinces and territories to ensure that they get the care and dignity they deserve.
I will sadly report that my community of Pickering has experienced the largest number of deaths at a single COVID-19 outbreak location anywhere in this country. Seventy residents at Orchard Villa long-term care home died during this pandemic. It was a devastating blow to our community. Yesterday, we received the horrific report from the Canadian Armed Forces detailing what they witnessed at Orchard Villa in Pickering, Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke, Hawthorne Place in North York, and Holland Christian Homes' Grace Manor in Brampton.
The loved ones of those who have passed away, as well as the homes' workers, have asked for a full public inquiry from the Ontario government. I know that the responsibility for these facilities falls within provincial jurisdiction, but on behalf of our communities, can the Minister of Health update us on the work she is doing to ensure that the Ontario government takes action immediately and initiates a full, independent, non-partisan public inquiry and reverses its decision to create a government-led commission that won't even start until September?
Mr. Chair, I would say that all Canadians were shocked and horrified to hear about the conditions that existed in these particular care homes. We're so grateful to the members of the armed forces who not only improved conditions but also reported them quickly and appropriately to ensure amelioration of those conditions for those particular individuals.
We also know that there are seniors all across the country who are struggling with care and with the appropriate level of care. We have to do better as a country. These are our loved ones. These are our parents and our grandparents. These are the people in our lives who have given so much to us.
I stand committed to working with my provincial and territorial counterparts to ensure that we do better as a society. We know that there's a role we can play at the federal level with advice, with guidance, with support and, yes, with investments. We look forward to having those conversations about how best we can improve the care for all seniors amongst us.
Canadians were horrified to hear the report yesterday from our armed forces about the appalling conditions experienced by seniors in our long-term care homes. Page after page detailed the filth, neglect, abuse and danger our seniors in care are exposed to on a daily basis. Shockingly they face injury and death through missed medications, expired medications, unsterile devices and violations of basic contagion rules to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Given that evidence of possible criminal conduct was contained in the military's report, will the minister refer this matter to the RCMP for investigation immediately?
Mr. Chair, thanks very much to the member for those expressions of concern, which we share.
We understand in long-term care facilities both seniors and persons living with a disability face unique challenges, and the findings of this report are in fact deeply concerning and completely unacceptable. Considering the severity of this report, we promptly shared it with the Province of Ontario, and the Province of Ontario has initiated an investigation based on the report's findings. Their investigation includes alerting the province's chief coroner who has the authority to alert the police of jurisdiction.
We will continue to work with the province to protect those living in long-term care facilities, and we continue to support them through the deployment of our outstanding Canadian Armed Forces and in our partnership with the Red Cross.
Mr. Chair, that's a shocking answer considering there's clear evidence of criminal conduct and negligence in this. That this federal government is not taking immediate steps to refer this to the nation's RCMP is unacceptable.
The seniors care crisis is a national problem. COVID-19 has exposed critical vulnerabilities across Canada's entire network of long-term care facilities. Not a single province or territory currently meets the benchmark of 4.1 hours of hands-on care per day. As a result Canada has the worst record of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care among 14 comparable countries, with over 80% of Canadian fatalities occurring in these facilities.
Will this government move swiftly to establish binding national standards for long-term care?
Mr. Chair, the member opposite is exactly correct when he says that those who are hardest hit in terms of losing their lives and the negative effects of COVID are those who are living in long-term care homes. He's also correct when he indicates that COVID-19 has shown us what many of us have known for a long time, that we need to do better in long-term care and supports for seniors. As the member knows, we started those steps some four years ago or so when we began to make incredible investments in aging at home. We know that is one part of the solution, but we have to do better for those seniors who need a higher level of care.
That's the work I'm doing now. I'm working with my colleagues at the provinces and territories to make sure that we come up with a solution that will truly result in better standards for all.
Mr. Chair, what we need is binding national standards, just like we set through the Canada Health Act in the health care sector generally. Gross fecal contamination, filthy medical equipment, insect infestations, ignoring patient cries for hours—we would never tolerate these conditions in Canada's hospitals. There's no reason to accept them in Canada's long-term care facilities.
Will the minister move to bring long-term care facilities under the Canada Health Act, or similar legislation, with formal funds tied to acceptable standards of care for our seniors, just like we do for hospitals?
Mr. Chair, the member shares the disgust and concern of so many Canadians across the country, not only those who have read the report but many of those who have struggled to provide care to elders in those long-term care homes, regardless of the province in which they live. We know we need to do better. We know that collectively, at all levels of government, we must do better for those people who cared for us and nurtured us all of those years.
The member has my commitment that I will work with provinces and territories to find a solution forward to ensure that every person has the right to age with dignity and safety.
Mr. Chair, I believe that, when we commit to taking care of people, we must do so with the utmost care that is required. I know that provinces and territories have a lot of work to do. So do we, at the federal level, and obviously at the local level. We must all work together to protect those people in our lives who are most vulnerable, whether they be seniors, children or others.
According to Vaughn Palmer in an editorial in the Vancouver Sun regarding the secret Wet'suwet'en deal, Palmer writes:
The hereditary chiefs calculated the two governments would sign despite the objections from the elected chiefs. They likewise got the terms they wanted in the MOU while giving up “absolutely nothing.” Just as they figured governments would keep the contents secret from the public.
Can the minister describe another situation in which the federal government negotiated a secret deal of this magnitude with unelected people?
I thank the member for his ongoing concern and I want to remind him that actually it is in keeping with the Supreme Court decision of 1997 that we were to now begin those conversations with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who took the case to the Supreme Court.
As we've said many times, this is not an agreement; this is an MOU that establishes the path forward for the substantive discussions towards a final agreement, which would describe the future governance and the implementation of Wet'suwet'en rights and title.
Again, it's really important that the member understand that there was a process for the hereditary chiefs to go back to their communities and discuss with them. Any agreement after the good work that will happen now would have to go back and seek the approval of all of the communities.
Actually, the honourable member knows that the next steps include the further and ongoing engagement by the Wet'suwet'en in their house groups and that will include the six elected chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en nation, their community members and many others. This is about going forward and making sure that any—
Cynthia Joseph, a chief councillor with the Hagwilget First Nation says the MOU between Ottawa, the province and the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs was only shared with her community members on May 9, two days after it was published in the media.
Is this part of the open and transparent government all Canadians can expect of the Prime Minister?
Walking the path of reconciliation means that we work with our partners and there is a way that they do the work within their communities. It is going to be an agreement to begin the work, but any final agreement is going to have to be approved by all members of the nation in terms of developing a consensus for the agreement—
For some reason it seems to be a problem to stand up for these hereditary female chiefs who had their titles taken away.
Does the minister plan on recognizing band council resolutions denying the authority of hereditary chiefs to sign any future agreements without consent of the elected chiefs and the 3,000 members within the Wet'suwet'en they represent?
I think the member must understand that, as we begin the work, the nation will do its work and then we will come to the table to determine what the governance would be. Will it be a hybrid model like at Heiltsuk, like Ktunaxa, like some of the communities developing their constitutions, developing their laws and deciding how they will determine their own governance and that partnership with Canada?
I want to thank the honourable member for a very important question. We have heard from many constituents and members of Parliament from right across the country who are expressing concern about non-status spouses being denied entry into the country because their travel is deemed to be non-essential.
I've recently been in touch with all of the provinces and territories because I think it's very important that we have their support for any changes—
If I understand correctly, Mr. Minister, you are talking to provincial representatives, but a case like that of Chantal Tremblay, for instance, is unacceptable. For two months now, she has been trying to bring her spouse to Canada, but it isn't working.
Is there a way to issue a directive to border services officers that married spouses—it's often marriages with Americans—can cross the border to join their spouses in Canada?
Just to be very clear—again, I thank the member opposite for the opportunity to clarify this—it is never our intention to separate families, but at the same time, we have imposed appropriate and necessary restrictions on non-essential travel.
Our border services officers inquire of everyone coming to that border about the nature of their travel, and for non-citizens who come to that border seeking entry into Canada, if their entry is deemed non-essential, then they exercise their discretion not to allow—
Information from the Canada Border Services Agency has just come out. Since March 21, 425,000 people have flown into Canada. Among them were 295,000 Canadians, which isn't a problem. However, 100,000 foreigners have entered Canada, even though the border is supposedly closed.
How does the minister explain the fact that 100,000 people arrived in Canada by plane?
Again, I thank the member opposite for the opportunity to clarify. We have imposed very significant restrictions on non-essential travel, but of course there are circumstances where individuals come to this country and their entry into Canada is deemed essential.
For example, someone who is providing medical services and coming into Canada to provide those services would be deemed essential, because there is a great need among Canadians for those services. It's dealt with on a case-by-case basis. As you can see by the numbers, we have had a very significant reduction in the travel of all non-Canadians to Canada over the past two months.
So the minister confirms that the 100,000 people who arrived by air were providing a service considered essential to Canada. I'm not talking about the people who crossed the land border, but the people who came to Canada by air.
What I can tell you is that at all points of entry, including our air borders, we apply the standard that the travel must be deemed essential, and that determination is utilized to see if a person is eligible to enter into the country.
Again, I thank the member for the question, because we know the concern of the people of Quebec, and the family of Ms. Levesque needs answers and deserves answers. That's why we asked the Parole Board and the Correctional Service of Canada to convene a board of investigation.
Clearly, during COVID transmission, the ability to conduct that investigation and to interview all of the witnesses became extremely difficult and has been temporarily suspended, but at the very earliest opportunity we remain resolute to resume that investigation and get to the bottom of it to provide the answers that the family deserves.
Mr. Chair, victims of crime are one of the segments of the population most affected by the crisis.
As we know, the government refuses to allow victims of crime to participate in parole hearings. For the first time in its history, and to add insult to injury, the government has cancelled all activities related to Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, which was to take place next week.
Again, at the earliest days of COVID, until arrangements could be put in place, there were restrictions on victims participating. We have put the systems in place to allow victims to present their evidence virtually, either by video or by phone, to ensure that their voices are heard in these important things.
We very much respect and support the role of victims in these determinations, and we're making every effort to ensure that they can participate.
Mr. Chair, thank you to the honourable member for that question.
Our government has taken swift and immediate action to support Canadian businesses through this time. Money from this program is flowing, and businesses across the country are receiving the important support that they need.
Mr. Chair, these are large loans, and they require important due diligence and adjudication by the financial institutions. We will continue to be open and transparent as the accurate information becomes available.
There's nothing more important to me and to our government than getting these supports out to businesses. Those small businesses that will meet the expanded CEBA criteria are working very diligently with the financial institutions to make sure that they can get access to those loans as quickly as possible.
Today, over 630,000 businesses have received the support to do things like pay for salaries, the 25% top-up for the wage subsidy, pay for rent and pay for insurance and utilities. This is what these loans are helping our small—
I think you will see that the businesses across the country that I have talked to really appreciate that the government has stepped up to help them during this difficult time. These include women with businesses, indigenous-owned businesses and those small businesses all across our communities, all across the country, that are getting the necessary help. We are going to keep—
There are 630,000 businesses that are getting help, and thousands more businesses will be getting help with the expanded criteria. We're going to keep doing the work that we need to help our businesses across this country through this difficult time.
Making sure that businesses get the help for commercial rent support is absolutely crucial right now. We are going to endeavour to make sure that this help gets out to those small businesses. Applications have opened in a staggered way and—
I have a question for the Minister of Fisheries, but I thought I would say this first. The Canadian Coast Guard is doing a search at this moment following the loss of a vessel off the coast of Newfoundland. From my community, which is a seafaring, fishing community, I just want to put my thoughts out there to the folks of Newfoundland. We are definitely thinking of them during this difficult time.
My first question revolves around the lobster fishery. It's been open in Cape Breton since May 15, I believe. The weather has been good. The harvesters have been going at it every day. The price has dropped to $4.25 already. Unstable markets will probably cause it to drop even more.
What is the minister doing to make sure the lobster industry survives?
I want to thank my colleague for his comments with regard to the tragic accident off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, where we saw the loss of life in a fishing accident. Of course, as coastal people, we are all in solidarity with the people of Newfoundland right now.
We know that the fish and seafood sector has taken extreme hits because of COVID-19. We're working diligently to make sure we support the industry as best we can. We have made available over half a billion dollars to processors and harvesters to make sure they can weather this storm. We have made sure that the harvesters are able to access the harvester benefit as well as the grant, recognizing the unique nature of their business and how they are not able to access some of our other programs.
We are continuing to monitor what is happening in the industry. We will continue to make sure we do everything we can to support the fish and seafood sector.
Mr. Chair, to continue along this vein for a moment, we are still looking at unstable markets for a longer period of time. At this point, processors are being selective in what they're buying. They're not buying culls and other kinds of lobsters. The plants are filling up, and harvesters are worried that they might stop buying product before the season is complete.
What can the fishermen expect, or what kinds of programs can they expect, if the season goes bust?
Mr. Chair, we know that this is a very challenging season for our harvesters. We also know that because of the decline in markets, we've had to make accommodations for the processing sector in order to help them be better able to support the harvesters. We have put in $62.5 million, which is allowing the processors to increase capacity in their refrigeration and freezers so that they will continue to be able to purchase product.
As I said earlier, we will continue to monitor the situation and make sure we do everything possible to support our harvesters. This is a very difficult—
Mr. Chair, I don't know whether this next question will go to the Minister of DFO or the Minister of Transport.
Oakley Ryerson is a resident of West Nova. He is planning a career on the sea and wants to get his master class four. The problem is that he can't pass the eye exam. He needs full-colour vision.
For those who are far-sighted or nearsighted, you just have to put on your glasses to correct it. You can actually fly airplanes. I don't know about space shuttles, but who knows? You can now wear colour-corrected lenses, but Transport Canada still does not recognize these for use.
Mr. Chair, I appreciate the concern of my colleague for one of the residents in his riding. I would ask him to write to me and lay out the situation. We have medical standards with respect to a number of different kinds of transportation-related jobs for pilots, mariners and those kinds of occupations, which have to be respected. However, if he sends me the details, I will look into it personally.
Mr. Chair, the eligibility criteria for financial support include the need to demonstrate a significant loss of income during the months of March and April, yet several SMEs in the tourism industry can't qualify because their operations start with the tourist season, in late May or early June.
Mr. Chair, before accessing the emergency wage subsidy, applicants must meet important criteria. However, as we explained last week, we will be adjusting the wage subsidy until the end of August, and we will be reviewing the criteria.
My question is with regard to the urgent problem of mental health crises across Canada. My colleague, Jenica Atwin from Fredericton, held a press conference this morning in which she used the term “echo pandemic”. We will face an echo pandemic. We're already seeing increases in suicides on southern Vancouver Island.
My question to the minister is this: Will we see direct funding to community mental health services as urgently requested by the Canadian Mental Health Association?
Mr. Chair, I read the honourable member's colleague's letter just today, and I want to reassure all members that we have invested in mental health supports for Canadians, obviously before the pandemic hit but certainly since we've been living with the pandemic.
I'd like to remind all members to direct their constituents to the wellnesstogether.ca website and portal. There Canadians can find online resources, as well as connections to real and alive counsellors and other professionals who can help them with their various concerns.
This question relates to another current emergency: the climate emergency.
This week it was reported that the concentration of greenhouse gases reached 417 parts per million. That's not just unprecedented over thousands of years; that's unprecedented over the last one million years. The temperatures in the Arctic broke 86°F, 30°C in the Arctic circle. The recognized parties in the House have established standing committees to work, but not the committee on the environment. We've asked for this in negotiations.
When will the recognized parties remember the June 2019 emergency resolution that we are in a climate emergency, and start making sure that we hit 2020 commitments under the Paris Agreement to improve our targets?
Mr. Chair, I appreciate my colleague's questions. I will remind her that we have committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. We've also committed to surpassing the targets that we had originally set for 2030.
We realize that along with the COVID pandemic, which is the major problem that exists in the world today, there is another problem as well that affects the entire planet, and that is the problem associated with climate change. We remain committed to achieving those targets.
My next question will be for Minister Blair, but as an aside, I will say that last answer completely fails to meet the legal requirements of the Paris Agreement to file a new target this year.
To save some time, Minister Blair, let's pretend to go back to the questions from my colleague MP Paul-Hus and to your last answer. This is dealt with on a case-by-case basis by CBSA agents. There are thousands of them. They are exercising personal, subjective judgment. This is not acceptable.
I'm begging the minister. Could the minister please put out a directive, advice to every CBSA agent on the ground, that when a non-status entry point sees a non-status direct relative—husband, wife, child of a Canadian citizen—that relative be deemed to be entering Canada for an essential purpose?
I'd like to thank the member for bringing this issue forward again. It's an important one.
We have been working very hard to ensure that we do everything possible to keep families together. At the same time, we've been working with the provinces and territories, listening to the concerns of Canadians about ensuring that travel across our international border, particularly with the United States, is limited to essential travel. As I've indicated, I've had a number of important conversations and necessary conversations with our provincial and territorial partners. I believe there is a consensus on the right way forward on this, and we're working very diligently to put it in place. I want to assure the member opposite that we have given very clear direction to our CBSA officers. I believe our border services officers have been doing an extraordinary job for us in the exercise of their discretion. At the same time, they have been doing the important work of ensuring the health and safety of Canadians at our border.
As the member opposite notes, nobody can read that report or hear those stories without feeling absolute horror and disgust and without demanding better for the elders in our lives.
As I have mentioned many times in the House, our government remains committed to working with provinces and territories to ensure that every elder person in our community can age with dignity and in safety.
Mr. Chair, I think the member opposite knows that the only way to actually reform long-term care is to work with provinces and territories, in fact, all levels of government, to ensure that the people who spent their lives caring for and nurturing us can end their lives with caring and nurturing—
I think the minister knows that what we need is national standards for seniors' care.
The Revera long-term care homes are owned by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board. Since the government owns these homes, has the military been sent in there to see what's happening to seniors under their care?
Mr. Chair, we know that it is important to work with all of the provinces and territories under whose jurisdiction it falls to protect the seniors within those care homes. That's what we've been doing since the beginning of the outbreak of the coronavirus, and that's what we'll continue to do to protect the lives of seniors and strengthen their protection.
We will, as I said, Mr. Chair, work with the provinces and territories to have a longer-term plan so that all seniors can age with dignity and safety.
Mr. Chair, as I have repeatedly said, the jurisdiction for care of long-term care homes falls within the provincial and territorial realm. However, that being said, Mr. Chair, we have been there for provinces and territories since the outbreak of the coronavirus, and as the member opposite has clearly or likely heard the Prime Minister say, we will stand with provinces and territories as all elders have the right to age with dignity—
Quite frankly, I don't think that families care which level of government is responsible for caring for their elders. I think what they care about is that their elders are cared for. That's in fact what the Prime Minister believes. That's in fact what our government believes, and that's why we have willingly stepped up to say to provinces and territories that we will be there with you to make sure that all seniors in our lives have the right to age with dignity and care.
Mr. Chair, my question is for the Prime Minister who, earlier, clearly told us that the government's assistance is intended for those who are most in need and most vulnerable.
I come from a riding where a lot of people make their living from the tourism industry. I don't know if the Prime Minister read the newspapers yesterday, but in Quebec, losses to the tune of $4 billion are expected until March 2021 in the tourism accommodation sector alone. The service sector will lose 93,000 jobs.
How can I justify to my constituents the fact that a political party, which does not need it, has already seen money from the emergency wage subsidy, when people in my riding don't yet have access to it because of the seasonal nature of their work? These people haven't seen the money that is available through these programs.
We think it is very important to protect the country's employees in all sectors of the economy. Through this approach, there will be more jobs after the pandemic, and the economic situation will be better. We will continue this approach.
Mr. Chair, this is the wrong approach. They are saying that they are protecting the jobs of the Liberal Party of Canada, which does not need the money.
I'll ask a question similar to the previous one. Fishers in my riding did not qualify for the emergency wage subsidy. Another program was created for them, which isn't quite the same and doesn't really meet their needs. A government whose political wing—not the parliamentary wing—doesn't really need money takes money from the fund, but leaves fishers to make do with less generous programs that don't meet their needs.
Mr. Chair, we know that many sectors of the economy across the country are facing challenges. That's why we have adopted an approach with consistent criteria for all employees in all sectors. We have also introduced specific measures to help certain sectors, such as the fishing industry.
We will continue our approach because we believe it's the best way to protect employees and our economy.
Mr. Chair, I'm still not satisfied. The government is saying that the best way to proceed is to give money to the political wing of the Liberal Party of Canada, when there are people who are getting nothing.
What am I supposed to tell seasonal workers, who have absolutely no assurances for their future? I can't go back to my riding and say I'm proud of the work the government is doing or our efforts in the House. It's true, the House is closed right now. I forgot.
I have a very hard time accepting that the government is helping employees of the Liberal Party in preparation for the next election campaign, when communities in my region are dying because their economies revolve around a single industry.
I can't tell them I'm not ashamed of what's going on as we speak.
Mr. Chair, we felt it was necessary to put emergency programs in place in response to the crisis during the pandemic. That is our approach.
The emergency wage subsidy is a program that is clearly meant to ensure employees are protected and maintain their relationship with their employer. As for the Canada emergency response benefit, it means a lot to people who don't have a job.
We are going to stick to our approach, which is to use consistent criteria to help all employees and all Canadians around the country struggling in any sector of the economy.
Mr. Chair, I think the honourable Minister of Finance lives in an ivory tower. No, he is not protecting all jobs. No, he is not protecting all sectors of the economy.
Once again, I will say that a party that doesn't need money has already received subsidies. However, people who need that money, people who are actually losing money or who don't know if they'll even be working this summer are getting zilch. There is absolutely no justifying that.
I'd at least like to know whether the government is ashamed of what it's doing. When people have a conscience, eventually, they want to make up for their mistakes. Are the Liberals going to return that money?
Is the finance minister going to help all sectors of the economy, including tourism, fisheries and seasonal industries?
Mr. Chair, I'd like to thank the member for her question.
Our approach is based on consistent criteria. The emergency wage subsidy is meant for any sector of the economy where revenues have dropped by 30% or more. The measure is hugely important for organizations that are really struggling, because we can protect their workers. We are also providing the Canada emergency response benefit to other employees, meaning, those who have lost their income because of COVID-19.
Consequently, we will keep up our approach to ensure we continue to fare as well as possible and the economy works well after the pandemic.
I'd like to begin with a shout-out to the brave waiters and waitresses at our local Earls restaurant and Browns Socialhouse, who have been opened again for on-site dining this week. Here in B.C. we're beginning to find our new normal, and it was great to see how small businesses have so quickly adapted their establishments to keep their workers and patrons safe while allowing people to get back to the business of living. You guys rock. Thanks for taking the lead.
Mr. Chair, here in my riding I recently had contact with the mayor of Langley City who was wondering if I had any way of accessing personal protective gear, because our local firefighters were running out of stock. Then again yesterday, I spoke with one of our local homeless shelters that is also looking for PPE.
Dr. Tam is telling all Canadians to wear masks in public, but I'm wondering if the Minister of Public Service and Procurement could tell us where exactly we're going to get all those masks with the current shortage.
I want to be clear that our priority as a federal government has been to respond to provincial and territorial requests for PPE that goes to front-line health care workers. That is our priority, and we've been procuring goods aggressively in domestic and international markets. We are now actively also exploring ways in which we can assist broader organizations across the country with PPE needs, and that is something that I'll continue to update the House on as we go forward.
It is no secret that we are in a global competition for N95 masks and other supplies, so the Government of Canada's approach is to diversify supply chains internationally and build up and retool domestic industry so that we can have these supplies going forward.
In terms of the numbers on our web page, we have short-term and long-term contracts in place—
Yes, I understand that a number of Chinese mask manufacturers have been nationalized, and products for Canadians have been confiscated by the CCP government. Is the drop in N95 orders due to, in actual fact, contracts being cancelled?
On N95 masks, I would like to assure the member and the House that we have multiple contracts in place for the procurement of N95 masks, including with 3M in the United States, whose masks are crossing our border weekly over the next month.
We have an aide in place in China. We have our embassy and other firms actively ensuring that our supplies from the manufacturing source make their way to the warehouse. Over 40 flights have come to Canada with those masks and other supplies. Our supply chains are operating despite the global environment being highly competitive.
In a previous committee, the deputy minister advised us that Medicom was shoulder-tapped by the government to consider producing PPE. How many other companies did the government approach for this contract?
We have operated in a very urgent way in order to procure supplies for front-line health care workers. We are now also moving to ensure that we have competitions run for the procurement of personal protective equipment. It's a multi-pronged approach, and our priority is to get supplies out to front-line health care workers in this time of crisis as quickly as possible.
Just before we adjourn, I think this another mark of accomplishment on behalf of the great team here at the House of Commons. There have been some great efforts, even since yesterday evening, to get this turned around for today. My compliments to all members joining us here in the House and to all members who have joined by virtual conference.
The committee is now adjourned until noon tomorrow.