The House resumed consideration in committee of the whole of all votes in the supplementary estimates (A) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, Mrs. Carol Hughes in the chair.
Madam Chair, today we are in the House for a relatively short amount of time since we have only four hours to talk about the government's $87 billion in spending.
Before getting into the questions I have for the government, I thought I would crunch some numbers. We are going to spend four hours discussing $87 billion. That represents $362.5 million a minute or roughly $6 million a second. That is how much time we have to talk about the 's announcements and all the questions on the minds of Canadians, businesses, organizations and all parliamentarians across the country. I am sure the Liberals across the way get asked the same questions by constituents. Unfortunately, they are unable to provide any answers.
Earlier today, during the sitting of the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic, I asked the some questions on the economic update, or economic snapshot, as the Prime Minister calls it. Apparently the Canadian Parliament is incapable of doing as other countries or provinces have done and present a real economic update or a budget so that we can see where we stand after all of the announcements that have been made in the past three months.
In what little time we have every day to ask questions, we cannot even get basic information, such as the amount of the deficit or the debt, or the amount associated with a government announcement. I think that this shows a lack of respect for the parliamentarians here in this House and for Canadians who work hard to earn a living and support their families. Canadians pay taxes, which are used to provide services to the public and to those who are most vulnerable or in need.
Today I am relating the comments of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The Conservatives are not making any of this up. For weeks now, we have been asking for an economic update. We are going to vote supply without knowing any of the details. Actually, we just learned that we will get all the facts in a few weeks, on July 8, so we have a bit of time today to ask some questions.
Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer has said that the Liberals' estimates are incomplete. The Prime Minister is talking about some really big numbers, in the billions of dollars, on the steps of his cottage instead of convening Parliament so we can debate the issues and legislation or ask questions. We are being left on our own to do our work as MPs in our ridings and help our constituents. The last three weeks have been extremely frustrating. We have received little information and we cannot meet with anyone in the halls of Parliament to get some help to do our work as MPs in our ridings. We do not have the opportunity to speak with the right people who might be able to get answers for our constituents and the businesses in need.
My first question is rather simple and I hope someone will be able to answer it. A month ago, following pressure from the Conservative Party, the stood on the steps of his cottage and announced that businesses that have just one employee or that pay themselves in dividends would finally have access to $40,000 in loans through the Canada emergency business account.
As much as we have gotten some answers during briefing calls, we still do not know when this information will be communicated to the financial institutions and credit unions so that businesses can receive that emergency assistance.
When will those $40,000 loans be available to businesses with just one employee or that pay themselves in dividends?
Madam Chair, I am delighted and honoured to address the House today in an extraordinary context.
Thank you for, Madam Chair, for this opportunity to discuss, in particular, supplementary estimates (A) for 2020-21.
As committee members know, every year, the government tables the supplementary estimates, which sets out its spending plan.
These supplementary estimates present information on spending requirements across federal organizations that were either not sufficiently developed in time for inclusion in the main estimates or have since been updated to reflect new developments.
This is the first supplementary estimates to be tabled this fiscal year. It includes a summary of the government's additional financial requirements and an overview of the main funding requests and horizontal initiatives.
The supplementary estimates (A), 2020-21, also shows that the government is continuing to invest in people, in workers, in the economy and in support related to COVID-19 to ensure the country's success and economic recovery.
Parliamentarians will have the opportunity to review and vote on these allocations, which seek to provide important services to indigenous communities, safe and secure transportation for travellers and support for Canada's armed forces. This is in addition to COVID-related expenditures.
Specifically, these supplementary estimates include $6 billion in operating and capital expenditures, grants and contributions to be voted on by Parliament for 42 different federal organizations. These voted measures represent a 5% increase over those included in the main estimates for 2020-21 that I tabled on February 27, including more than $1 billion for the government's response to the COVID crisis.
For the purposes of parliamentary information and transparency, the supplementary estimates also includes forecasts of statutory expenditures totalling $81.1 billion. It is important to note the key difference between voted spending and statutory spending. Voted spending requires the annual approval of Parliament through what is called a supply bill, whereas statutory spending is approved through other laws. The current estimates contains information on statutory spending to enable parliamentarians to have the most comprehensive information available on the spending planned by the government.
Canadians and the parliamentarians who represent them have the right to know how public funds are being spent and to hold the government to account. Estimates are brought forward to ensure that Parliament can review and approve the new spending needs of the Government of Canada.
The supplementary estimates (A) for 2020-21 include $6 billion in new funding across the government, including $1 billion in continued support for COVID-19 relief.
For maximum transparency, the estimates documents also provide information on spending authorized through the and the , which have already been negotiated, discussed and unanimously approved by parliamentarians.
We know that Canadians want maximum transparency from Parliament. These estimates include statutory information on spending that was first authorized through the COVID-19 emergency response acts that were presented, debated and passed in the House. This spending is now helping Canadians.
The health, security and well-being of all Canadians remain critical to our government. As a result, these supplementary estimates include a request for an additional $1.3 billion in voted expenditures to deal with the impact of COVID-19 on Canadians.
This includes $405 million for the national medical research strategy to fund tracking and testing of COVID-19, to develop vaccines and therapies, and to enhance clinical trials and biomanufacturing capacity in Canada.
There is also $302 million to support small and medium-sized businesses.
This also includes $274 million for urgent research and innovation on medical countermeasures, $87 million for the Community Futures Network, and $59 million to help the Canadian Red Cross Society support individuals, families and communities during the pandemic.
Here are some of the other key initiatives included in these estimates that support a variety of Canadian priorities: $585 million for the Department of National Defence to fund the joint support ship project to replace vessels that have reached the end of their lifespans, and $481 million for the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs to fund the federal Indian day schools settlement agreement.
In addition, $468 million is allocated to the Department of Indigenous Services to support the safety and well-being of first nations children and families living on reserve.
There is also $312 million for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority and Department of Transport, which will fund aviation security screening services.
For my own department, called the Treasury Board Secretariat, the estimates include $396 million for the disability insurance plan; $82 million for previous requirements, in this case to cover the cost of negotiated wage adjustments; and $9 million to continue the Canadian Digital Service's operations.
The supplementary estimates enable the government to be transparent and accountable for how we plan to use public funds to provide the programs and services Canadians need. In accordance with the government's commitment to transparency, we continue to provide additional important information online regarding these supplementary estimates.
For example, we have published a detailed listing of legislated amounts reported through these estimates and a complete breakdown of planned expenditures by standard objects such as personnel, professional services and transfer payments. Our online information tools reflect our commitment to give Canadians a clear explanation of where public funds are going and how they are going to be spent.
Furthermore, the committed to reporting to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance every two weeks about the key measures taken by the government to help Canadians.
Lastly, the government remains firmly committed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as these supplementary estimates show.
The new spending plans in these supplementary estimates will help support people affected by the pandemic and maintain support for the economy and Canadians.
As we advance these plans, I would like to acknowledge the crucial work of all parliamentarians as we continue to work together for the future of our country and the wellness of all Canadians. Canadians are counting on us and expect all parliamentarians to be steady in their support as we navigate through these very challenging times. Let us honour their trust.
I would now be happy to answer any questions that members of this House may have.
Madam Chair, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague and friend, the hon. member for .
Beyond that, I am a bit unclear about the rules, but I will trust your good judgment. I do not know how allocation of speaking time works, but I get the impression we are attending a Liberal Party caucus meeting. I did not want to bother the Liberals, so I decided to politely allow them to talk among themselves.
I was surprised that the NDP did not join them, but that's fine. Speaking of that, I will digress slightly at this moment of heightened tensions in the House, where the temperature indoors is higher than the temperature outdoors, which is already quite high.
Yesterday I had the great privilege of reading a statement by Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador. That in itself is a rather clear indication of our position. Yesterday we also accepted the NDP's request to recall the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to address the issue of systemic racism. We agreed to that request, even though I believe there needs to be some distance between partisan politics and an extremely sensitive topic that is currently in the news.
The motion seemed to be dictating the findings of the committee that would ultimately be recalled. It did not make sense to us to support the tabling of the motion and it seemed more logical to allow the committee to do its work. If anyone is looking for the person who is largely responsible for rejecting this motion, it is me.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Oh, you are the racist.
Mr. Yves-François Blanchet: That would be me, Madam Chair. However, I am deeply convinced that there is nothing here that cannot be easily resolved with a simple and sincere apology. Then we can move on to another debate, and that will be on the votes. Things may get heated again. In fact, I am convinced that the government House leader’s blood may suddenly come to a boil. It happens.
The votes seem to be a foregone conclusion, unless all the NDP members are expelled one by one. The votes seem to be a foregone conclusion, and the Liberals will essentially talk about programs that have already been funded by legislation, and so on, and for which spending is generally done or allocated. This makes the exercise almost a mere formality, but it is still relevant. It allows us to take some time to look back on government commitments and programs and evaluate their effectiveness.
As part of an exercise that should have taken place last week, we hope to be able to improve the programs. That is our job. We are parliamentarians. We were all elected the same way, and that is what we do. We simply want to do our job, but we were refused the opportunity. I am worried about the kind of message that sends.
Let us look at the list of requests, recommendations and proposals. In particular there is the issue of enhancing the Canada emergency response benefit to make it easier for Canadians to return and transition to work, an express request by the Quebec government. The Leader of the Opposition will probably tell us that Quebec is very happy with the CERB. I have my doubts. The answer was no. We also asked for increased health transfers. All the Liberals said was that they spoke every Thursday and their answer was no. We asked for a First Ministers’ conference on health transfers. The answer was no. We asked that political parties be excluded from the wage subsidy, because it is rather despicable for a political party to dip into its own program. The answer was no.
Before that, we had talked about a commitment on fixed costs. The government made a commitment through a motion addressing fixed costs for small businesses. It ended up changing its mind. Its answer was ultimately no. We proposed a tax credit for fixed costs for small businesses. The answer was no. We asked for adjustments to the CERB on several fronts, especially with regard to employment. The answer was no. This week, we made a few proposals. Once again, we talked about health transfers and, once again, the answer was no. We talked about paying compensation to supply-managed farmers now. The answer was no. We asked for a second cheque for seniors, because they will be receiving a cheque after the end of the first period for which they received a cheque without even knowing whether they will be receiving a cheque, even if the crisis persists for them. The answer was no. We asked that the bill be split and that we again consider giving assistance to people with disabilities. Without a shadow of a doubt, we support doing so. The answer was no. We asked that the bill dealing with delays in the justice system be brought back and split. It was a good idea, but the answer was no.
Instead, they said that they would invest $14 billion in personal protective equipment, child care, municipalities, sick leave, initiatives in long-term care facilities and so on. However, these are all areas under provincial jurisdiction.
There is a rather broad consensus in Quebec and the other provinces that this constitutes interference. They do not agree. There is something to be learned from that.
This morning, I brought this up. Around noon, the ’s advisers wrote something for him to say. He rose to thank us for our extraordinary collaboration. We are always ready to accept thanks, but they did not always seem so sincere—
Madam Chair, I am very happy and honoured that the leader of the Bloc Québécois and hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly agreed to share his time with me. It is almost too great an honour, but, given that this is an opportunity to continue what I passionately started this afternoon, I will certainly not turn it down.
Like the leader of the Bloc Québécois, I pointed out yesterday that the government offered $14 billion to Quebec and the provinces to cover some of the expenses incurred as a result of the current pandemic. Beyond the obvious fact that this amount is hugely inadequate, there is also another issue: The $14 billion come with certain conditions.
Quebec and the provinces have rejected these conditions, and as a result, the money is not being paid. The funds were to be used to purchase masks, among other things. Meanwhile, the pandemic continues, and the masks have not been purchased because the federal government insists on imposing conditions. It does not manage any hospitals, long-term care facilities, child care networks or public transportation networks, but it claims to know all about them.
When we asked that the government provide money without strings attached, a genius across the aisle said we were asking for a blank cheque. It so happens that our friends across the aisle know all about blank cheques. Despite having a minority government, for weeks now the Liberals have been asking Parliament to give them blank cheques.
At first, realizing that we needed to help people, we decided to work in a spirit of collaboration to help our fellow citizens who have been sorely affected by the pandemic. We collaborated, because we believed that was our role, as parliamentarians.
Some people think that, because we are the opposition, we always have to oppose the government. Like my colleagues from and , I once sat in an assembly where almost 80% of bills were passed unanimously. Contrary to what the says, the opposition is not only there to oppose and squabble. On the contrary, we have collaborated from the very beginning. However, when those with whom we have been collaborating do not keep their word and prefer to use the powers we gave them to do pretty much anything they want, regardless of the commitments they made to us, we are less inclined to keep on collaborating.
We did not close the door. Last week we proposed that we suspend the sitting so that the party leaders could agree on how to proceed with passing the bill to grant more money for people with disabilities. It was the Liberal Party that said no. The Liberals did not want to have to negotiate. They are acting as if they were a majority government that can demand blank cheques and they do not care about anyone else. If we do not give them a blank cheque, that is it. There is no negotiation.
In the end, all kinds of people, and especially people with disabilities, should have been getting more money, but they are not getting it. We ended up in this situation because the Liberal Party decided not to allow leaders to negotiate and because it shut down Parliament.
Since Parliament is not sitting, aside from the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic, we cannot pass legislation. The government cannot introduce a bill because Parliament has been shut down. That, right there, is the truth.
Today, the government is asking for yet another blank cheque. This time, the cheque is for the supplementary estimates, so that the government can continue its weeks-long spending spree. The way the process works is that we initially have to give the government permission to spend some funds before we finish considering the votes, so that government operations can continue.
Canada is not like the United States, where people get laid off for stretches of time until the budget is agreed upon.
That would be how the process works normally, but we are not proceeding normally. The debate on the supply bill, which we have to vote on, is happening under highly extraordinary circumstances.
As the Bloc Québécois leader said moments ago, the government seems to have once again negotiated support so that it can keep spending like it wants to and so the can keep putting on a show in front of his cottage every day without worrying about Parliament. He was given the power to spend, so he takes the money, talks it over with his ministers—
Madam Chair, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from .
I will make a brief introduction and then I will ask some questions.
As New Democrats, as a progressive party, we have worked constructively on finding solutions to help people from the start of the pandemic. We proposed an emergency benefit of $2,000 and successfully made it happen. Initially, self-employed workers, students and freelancers were excluded, but we pushed to have them included. This really helped people.
In light of the current situation, we asked that the CERB be extended for people who still need help, including those who work in tourism, arts and entertainment and hospitality. The government partially answered our call. At least we made progress and managed to get eight more weeks.
We have come to realize that our social safety net is full of holes. At the beginning of the crisis, employment insurance was inadequate for meeting the needs of people who were losing their jobs. The emergency benefit was launched. However, some day we will have to consider improving the social safety net so that no one slips through the cracks. We have to look at having a broader, more robust employment insurance system that would cover more workers.
At the beginning of the pandemic, only 40% of workers who contribute to employment insurance were getting enough hours to collect employment insurance benefits.
I would like the government to say a few words about its intention to expand the program to make it far more inclusive and target all sectors as well as every worker who needs help when they lose their job.
Madam Chair, thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear before this committee of the whole to discuss the supplementary estimates (A) for Public Services and Procurement Canada.
We are going through a truly unprecedented time. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every single Canadian. It is affecting our health, our lifestyle and the economy.
It has changed our lives completely. While the potential for a second wave or a spike in cases is very real, we are now entering an economic recovery and a cautious reopening.
We all appreciate the measures Canadians have taken to curb the spread of the virus, and we are especially proud of the doctors, nurses and health care providers on the front lines. Their work is critical, and that is why my department remains so focused on procuring the personal protective equipment and the medical supplies they need.
As the government's central purchasing agent, Public Services and Procurement Canada is working aggressively to support Canada's response to the evolving pandemic. It is buying equipment and supplies for the immediate term, as well as preparing for the medium to long term by ensuring Canada has enough PPE, testing components and other required supplies as our economy recovers.
At the same time, my department continues its critical work in other areas, including eliminating the backlog of pay issues and stabilizing the Phoenix pay system to ensure our extremely hard-working public servants are paid accurately and on time.
To support its overall operations, the department is requesting $745 million in aggregate in supplementary estimates (A).
To begin, I will address procurement during COVID-19. This comprises our largest request, which is $500 million for COVID-19 procurement. This funding would allow us to continue to be proactive in aggressively acquiring critical PPE and health supplies, both at home and abroad.
Our aggressive approach to COVID-19 procurement is working. While we face ongoing challenges and risks, particularly with international supply chains, we have seen significant progress since the early days of Canada's response. We now have flights carrying critical PPE and other supplies arriving daily. We have supplies coming to us from partners in the United States and elsewhere. We are now transporting supplies by sea as well.
At the same time, our government has called on Canadian companies to ramp up domestic manufacturing, to retool and produce right here at home. As a result, companies from across the country have answered the call and, in some cases, have completely retooled their production lines. My department, in conjunction with ISED, is working to continue to increase domestic production.
For example, Medicom will be making tens of millions of N95 respirators and surgical masks annually, right here in Canada. Bauer Hockey, out of Blainville, Quebec, has retooled from making hockey equipment and is providing us with face shields for front-line health care workers, along with Sterling Industries and The Canadian Shield, which are both based in Ontario.
GM in Oshawa will be making 10 million surgical masks and face coverings for Canadians over the coming year. Fluid Energy Group in Calgary, as well as Irving Oil in Atlantic Canada, are providing us with millions of litres of hand sanitizer. LuminUltra, a company from New Brunswick, is producing enough reagent for half a million COVID-19 tests per week through to March 2021.
These domestic manufacturers are playing a critical role in the fight against COVID-19 while sustaining and even creating jobs for Canadians when we need them most.
We are also making it faster and easier for all Canadians to purchase PPE. We've recently launched our new PPE supply hub, a web-based platform with important resources to connect buyers and sellers of PPE right across Canada.
We are meeting the need when it comes to the federal procurement of PPE, but we cannot stop now. As our economy reopens, more Canadians will be returning to work and the need will continue, including if a second wave occurs. In particular, we know Canada may face spikes in COVID-19 infections, and we must be prepared for all eventualities.
Today's request for funds will allow us to do just that.
I will move now to pay stabilization.
That brings me to our request for $203.5 million to continue our work on stabilizing the Phoenix pay system. Even in this crisis, the Phoenix pay system remains a priority for our government because Canada's public servants deserve to be paid accurately and on time.
Even throughout the crisis, we have not lost sight of the hardships and the frustrations employees face, and we know there is still much work to be done to stabilize the Phoenix pay system. However, PSPC continues to work every day to improve service and eliminate the backlog of outstanding pay issues.
Our efforts are paying off. Since January 2018, the backlog of financial transactions has decreased by 64%. The hard work of our pay centre employees has led to a steady decline in the backlog, even over the last couple of months, despite the complexities the pandemic has brought to the workplace.
I want to take a moment during this National Public Service Week to thank those public servants for their hard work and dedication during this difficult and challenging time. Because of their efforts over April and May alone, we have been able to reduce the queue by about 29,000 transactions, while also administering pay every two weeks for the close to 300,000 public servants right across the country.
While we are trending in the right direction, the task will not be complete until the backlog is cleared. The funds we are requesting today will allow us to continue our progress by sustaining employee capacity, increasing our processing rate and increasing the automation of as many transactions as possible through system enhancements.
At this crucial time, Canadians need our services more than ever, and we are here for them. These requests for funds cover two of our most pressing issues. Essential work needs to be done on these files, and PSPC is ready to rise to the challenge.
As minister, I am proud of our department's work to support the federal government and the needs of all Canadians, especially during this global crisis.
During this National Public Service Week, I am especially thankful for the public servants, including those at PSPC, who are continuing to deliver critical services to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Madam Chair, I will be using my time to make a five-minute statement today and splitting it with the member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola and the member for Regina—Lewvan.
It's an honour to be back in the House representing my Kildonan—St. Paul constituents on the very last day of the parliamentary session. Although the Liberal government has decided to shut down Parliament during the worst crisis Canadians have faced in living memory, I will do my best to speak and advocate on their behalf with the little time we have remaining.
Unfortunately, the has only allowed parliamentarians four hours to debate and approve $87 billion in spending, or roughly $362 million every minute, which may be a record in the history of the Canadian Parliament.
If the member opposite were listening, he might learn something.
This is truly unprecedented. The very purpose of Parliament is to provide checks and balances on government power. If we do not have the opportunity to question the government, to study emerging issues at committee, or to put forward alternative solutions, how are we supposed to do our job and be that check on power if we are not sitting?
In effect, the government is telling Canadians that they have nothing to worry about, but that they just to trust the government, that there is no need for Parliament to meet or to provide oversight on the massive spending that's been going on for three months. Unfortunately, between the Liberals power grabs and long history of ethics violations, to say that opposition parties are skeptical would be an understatement. In fact, there has not been this great a need for parliamentary oversight since the Second World War.
The last few months have not been easy for anyone. Some have been far more severely impacted than others. Thus far, three million people have lost their jobs and 13% of the working population remains unemployed. We know that women have been impacted to a greater degree than men and that rates of human trafficking and spousal abuse have reportedly gone up. Eight thousand people have lost their lives to COVID-19, and the well-being of countless others has been impacted from the thousands of delayed surgeries and the severe mental health impacts that isolation has had on the nation.
To be a member of Parliament during this unprecedented time has been an unforgettable experience with many challenges and difficult days. Speaking with hundreds of constituents and small businesses in my community who have been deeply and negatively impacted by the pandemic has been very heartbreaking, but they will not be forgotten by the Conservative team. We are all working tirelessly on their behalf and we will represent every Canadian left behind by the government's inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The possibility of a second wave of the pandemic is of great concern to me and the constituents of Kildonan—St. Paul, and the Liberal government, frankly, has provided very little to Canadians to give them confidence that we will be prepared and financially equipped to handle a second wave, since we barely made it through the first one. We are seeing this first-hand in the 's refusal to provide an economic and fiscal update during this sitting, despite the Parliamentary Budget Officer's call for one.
It is critical that Canadians know whether we have any financial flexibility to extend programs before they are indeed extended. That is key. Otherwise, we are just guessing and hoping that it will all work out and that the country does not go bankrupt, which is really not a great strategy.
As one of 338 MPs and one of only 121 official opposition MPs in Canada, I ask the Liberal government with all sincerity to use its three-month hiatus from oversight and accountability to prepare tirelessly for the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic: to prepare PPE, testing, contact tracing capacity, and whatever is necessary to give Canadians the confidence that the government can actually do this job. Beyond that, it needs to acknowledge that Canadian small businesses and the millions of Canadian workers they employ cannot afford to go back into isolation, neither financially nor for their mental health. Moreover, neither can the taxpayer afford to subsidize the pandemic response effort of nearly $100 billion per month without serious tax increases and financial consequences at the family kitchen table.
The Liberal government has the responsibility to present a plan and to communicate it effectively to Canadians, so they can prepare in the coming months. Canadians deserve answers on how prepared we are and what the financial outlook for Canada is, so I implore the government to be transparent, honest and accountable. It is its duty to Canadians.
To conclude, I sincerely thank the front-line workers in every industry in Kildonan—St. Paul, from health care workers to grocery store clerks and gas station attendants, for quickly adapting to the first wave of this pandemic and physical distancing requirements, and even organizations that, despite being forced to drastically change their daily routines, rose to the occasion in service of our community. Churches, gurdwaras, synagogues, elder care homes, grocery stores, schools and hundreds of small businesses in Kildonan—St. Paul rallied with a true Canadian spirit of resilience and innovation to get the community through the first wave of the pandemic.
That honestly gives me real hope for the second wave and whatever comes after that. I do believe we will get through this together.
Madam Chair, it is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to the government's supplementary estimates and highlight some of the important programs we have funded to support Canadians in these challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parliament has already approved the purpose of the statutory expenditures, and the terms and conditions under which they may be made, through other legislation. Therefore, the changes to statutory items are presented in the supplementary estimates for information purposes only. These priorities are supported by the appropriations requested in my department's main estimates for the years 2020-21. The majority of these adjustments in the supplementary estimates are for COVID measures, students, youth and seniors.
I want to start by going back to March 2020, when the Canadian economy shut down practically overnight. It quickly became clear that our normal safety net would not support the number of people losing their jobs. Canadians needed their government to act quickly, and that is what we did. We passed the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act and created the Canada emergency response benefit.
For eligible workers, the CERB has been providing temporary income support of $500 a week for up to 16 weeks. To give members a sense of the scope of the need, more than 8 million workers have been paid more than $40 billion in benefits.
Then, as May turned to June, we knew we needed to make adjustments to the program. We knew that many people's benefits would soon be coming to an end. We were also aware that the economy was beginning to reopen slowly and unevenly across the country. We knew that approximately 1.2 million Canadians who had been getting financial help through the CERB no longer needed it.
Because we know that many Canadians still need help, yesterday we announced the extension of the Canada emergency response benefit. We extended it by eight weeks at the current rate of $500 per week. We know this will go a long way for Canadians who simply do not have a job to return to and for workplaces and industries that have not yet reopened. Extending the CERB will give workers greater confidence that they will continue to get the support they need as they face ongoing disruptions to their work and home situations due to COVID-19.
The CERB will continue to be available from March 15 to October 3. In that time period, workers will now have 24 weeks of the CERB available to them.
While the CERB has been helping millions of Canadian workers get through this difficult time, we know that this benefit is not a long-term solution.
We are transitioning from a phase of the pandemic in which everyone was asked to stay at home to a phase in which workers are returning to work when it is safe and possible for them to do so.
We want to ensure that our programs continue to support Canadians and our economy. That is why we will continue to monitor the situation and ensure that we are able to adapt our existing systems to support Canadian workers as more and more people continue to return to the labour market.
We know that Canadians are ready and eager to do their part. We expect that workers will be seeking work opportunities or returning to work when their employers reach out to them, provided they are able and it is reasonable to do so. We encourage Canadians to consult the Job Bank, Canada's national employment service that offers tools to help Canadians with job searches. These additional weeks will ensure that Canadians have the support they need as they transition back to work.
I will turn now to students and youth.
In April, we recognized that students and youth were facing unique challenges and that many were not eligible for the CERB. That is why we announced, on April 22, comprehensive support for post-secondary students and recent grads. We passed legislation, on April 29, that enabled the four-month Canada emergency student benefit. Students who are not receiving the CERB are eligible to receive $1,250 per month between May and August. Students with disabilities and students with dependants would be eligible to receive an additional $750 per month. We expect the Canada emergency student benefit to cost $5.25 billion.
We also heard very clearly from students that they want to work and they want to serve in their communities in this time of crisis. That is why our measures did not end with the CESB. We announced the creation of thousands of additional jobs and training opportunities, including jobs in the agricultural and processing sectors, through mechanisms like our youth employment and skills strategy and the Canada summer jobs program. The additional funding required for the Canada summer jobs program is $155.4 million.
The jobs funded through the Canada summer jobs program are especially important for young people who face obstacles and those who are looking for their first work experience. These jobs give young people the opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge and experience they need to enter the workforce.
This additional $155.4 million will allow employers to hire approximately 70,000 young people in quality jobs.
We also know that seniors are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. The current situation brings terrible economic stress and anxiety to seniors. That is why our government has introduced measures to help protect their financial security during these uncertain times, measures for which we require additional funding.
First, seniors who have stopped working because of COVID are eligible for the CERB. They can collect the CERB even if they receive the Canada pension plan, old age security or the guaranteed income supplement, without interruption to these benefits. To help seniors cover increased costs caused by COVID-19, seniors eligible for the OAS will receive a one-time, tax-free payment of $300, with an additional $200 for seniors eligible for the GIS. About 6.7 million seniors are eligible for the OAS and will benefit from this one-time payment.
ESDC is requesting $37.2 million in funding for 2020-21 to support ongoing work related to processing demographically driven OAS workload increases.
This funding would also help support organizations that are proposing community-based projects to combat isolation, improve seniors' quality of life, and help seniors maintain a social support network.
The federal government will expand the new horizons for seniors program, with an additional investment of $20 million to support organizations that offer community-based projects that provide the opportunity to further help seniors during this pandemic. It will also provide $9 million for local organizations through United Way Centraide Canada and invest $350 million in a new emergency community support fund that will help all vulnerable Canadians, including seniors in need.
These combined measures to help Canadians, students, youth and seniors get through COVID-19 have been and still are necessary to support Canadians during this crisis, and have helped stabilize the economy.
I am now ready to take questions.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from for her efforts.
This is a terrible day for Canada. The bet his reputation, and Canada's as well, on pulling out all the diplomatic stops to get a seat on the UN Security Council, but he lost. After spending millions of taxpayer dollars, after trying to convince dictators around the world to support Canada, and after setting aside the vital Canadian values of protecting rights and freedoms and protecting homosexual people, the Prime Minister has shown the world how little influence he had on the outcome of this vote.
Most unfortunately, the Prime Minister must take personal responsibility for this failure. I do not want Canadians to bear the blame for this failure, because Canadians are well regarded around the world. Canada is a good country that everyone can be proud of. Unfortunately, through his actions and his deeply flawed foreign policy, the Prime Minister created today's outcome, which was the result of all the years of embarrassment he has caused us on the international stage.
I can cite several examples. He managed to mix up Japan and China at a very important meeting. The Prime Minister embarrassed our allies at the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I remember the pictures vividly. The leaders of all of the TPP signatory countries were waiting for the Prime Minister of Canada to attend a crucial signing meeting. The Prime Minister of Canada never showed up. He failed miserably at representing Canada’s interests in China.
At the time, I was the agriculture critic, and I can say that it was utterly tragic to see how little energy Canada was putting into finding a solution. We were working very hard, we were creating committees, but the Prime Minister himself would never defend the Canadian farmers caught in this predicament. Should I take a moment to remind everyone of his disastrous trip to India?
It got the whole world talking. People everywhere were talking about our and his trip to India, but for all the wrong reasons. That was the beginning of the end for the Prime Minister of Canada’s brief flirtation with international diplomacy. When they saw how he acted in India, several countries decided to turn their backs on this Prime Minister, who is more concerned about his image than his own country’s interests and values.
Although he promoted Canada far and wide, saying that we would play a major role in the UN's efforts to protect people and countries in difficulty, Canada has already withdrawn from a peacekeeping mission in Mali that it had been asked to join. We do not know why.
With respect to our relations with the United States, need I remind the House of the concessions that were made, to the detriment of the dairy industry, and the government’s inability to find acceptable solutions for softwood lumber? The government was not able to include that. It set the issue aside, and we are still having problems today. It was unable to resolve that situation. During the negotiations, the government failed to reach a proper agreement that would protect Canadian aluminum workers. It is one failure after another. Canada lost the vote, but not because Canada is Canada. I certainly do not want Canadians to think that this failure is their fault. It is the fault of the Prime Minister himself. He is the one who channelled all his efforts, all his influence and Canadian taxpayer money and brushed aside Canadian values to speak with dictators in Qatar, Oman, Rwanda and Uganda during the pandemic, rather than defending Canadian values.
It is good to want a seat on the UN Security Council, but it is also good to stand up for Canadian values. We have seen what it costs when the government sets aside those values and everything we believe in and uses Canadian taxpayer money to promote itself. Our allies turned their backs on Canada. That is what happened.
We want to be able to build a relationship of trust with other countries on the international stage. However, some countries hoping to negotiate on the international stage and trying to push the boundaries a little further try to do it with Canada first, because they know that Canada will not react. We saw this with China, with Italy in the case of durum wheat, and with India. This was the 's failure, and we are extremely disappointed that today's loss is tarnishing Canada's international reputation.
Does the regret jeopardizing Canada's reputation, abandoning Canadian values and making it so that, today, Canada is no longer seen as a country worth consulting? She pulled out all the stops to get a seat on the UN Security Council. Today we are seeing the result: Canada came in third.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to talk about the work being done by Canada's six regional economic development agencies and what they have done to support Canadian businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic is having a huge impact on Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Because of the lockdown, a big part of our economy has had to be put on hold. Everyone's lives have been turned upside down, and that is especially true for the owners and employees of small and medium-sized businesses.
Since the crisis began, I have spoken, mainly virtually, with thousands of business and association leaders from across the country. They all talk about different day-to-day realities, but there is a common thread. They are working very hard for their employees, their communities and their families. After several weeks of lockdown and, for many of them, after temporarily closing their businesses, they are now reaching their limit. These businesses provide good local jobs and are a source of local pride. They form the foundation of a strong middle class. They are the backbone of our economy and, above all, our communities.
Our government realized very quickly that it was important to help businesses through the crisis, and we quickly implemented measures. We launched the largest economic assistance program in Canadian history. The measures we implemented include the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which helps businesses retain workers and rehire the ones they had to lay off. We also allowed businesses to defer GST/HST and customs duty payments. We created the Canada emergency business account, which basically provides $40,000 loans. This measure includes a $10,000 subsidy if the loan is repaid within two years. We remained responsive to needs, and we adjusted and improved the assistance to ensure that it would help as many Canadians as possible. In short, we expanded the social safety net.
However, one thing I heard from business owners is that despite the scope of the economic and social safety net in place, the situation remains difficult for small businesses. We asked ourselves two questions. Number one, how can we help businesses that are slipping through the cracks? Number two, what tools can we use to provide that help, knowing that, as they said, business owners prefer to turn to institutions close to home, ones that they trust?
To address those two concerns, we developed a special assistance program delivered by our six regional economic development agencies. These agencies are on the ground. They are in the best position to help the workers and SMEs at the heart of our communities. They know them.
That is how we came up with the regional relief and recovery fund, or RRRF, which has a total budget of $962 million. This fund is administered by our economic development agencies, either directly or indirectly through key partners such as CFDCs or the PME MTL network, as I recently had the opportunity to announce in Montreal. We made sure to be where businesses need us to be.
The purpose of this fund is to support businesses that are central to their local economy, that do not qualify for existing federal programs and that have needs that are not covered by these programs. It offers SMEs and organizations that are having cash flow problems emergency financial support to help them stay in business, including by helping them pay their employees and their fixed costs.
We must protect our main streets and our local businesses, and this new fund gives us the means to do that.
As I mentioned, the challenges faced by small businesses are not felt equally in all regions. This is particularly true in our Canadian northern territories. That is why in addition to the regional relief and recovery fund, $15 million was allocated for the creation of the northern business relief fund. With this fund, we target further needs for immediate relief for SMEs and ensure the stability of businesses and sectors that are vital to the recovery of our northern economy.
As members know, main street businesses are the lifeblood of a community. COVID-19 hit them hard. Many businesses responded by broadening their offerings and complementing traditional storefronts with online shops to attract new customers and reach new markets. This created an opportunity.
We have a unique chance to help them now, and moving forward, to not just recover but come back stronger and better equipped to compete in tomorrow's economy. This is why we launched a new “Digital Main Street” platform, which will support almost 23,000 businesses across Ontario, helping them not just survive in the new economy but thrive. Thanks to over $42 million in federal funding through FedDev Ontario, this innovative program will help businesses go digital.
We also know that challenges do not stop at main street. That is why we also provided $7.5 million for the recovery activation program delivered by the Toronto Region Board of Trade. This program will provide customized training for more than 1,000 small and medium-sized businesses to digitize their operations and bring their business online.
Our response to the challenges small businesses are facing in the current crisis would have been incomplete without acknowledging that certain sectors have been more directly weakened and require special attention.
The tourism sector, which employs 1.89 million people in Canada, has been hit hard, and we are working tirelessly to mitigate the impacts on the Canadian economy. While the sector can benefit from the strong support measures the government has put in place, we knew that additional efforts would be required as the summer season approached and the economy was reopening.
On May 31, I announced an investment of over $40 million in the tourism sector. This investment will directly support more than 30 high-potential projects, such as the Point Grondine eco park development, which will offer visitors a new indigenous tourism experience in northern Ontario, a region you know very well, Mr. Speaker. The $40 million will also support more than 100 tourism organizations in southern and northern Ontario, as well as in western Canada, to help them adapt their operations to this new reality and drive visitors back into local communities as the economy reopens.
We know that the indigenous tourism sector is particularly vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. To bolster this industry, our government has also announced a new stimulus development fund that will provide $16 million to support the indigenous tourism sector.
We continue to work with economic stakeholders in the tourism industry in Quebec, the Maritimes and Atlantic Canada to make a real difference in the tourism sector in eastern Canada as well.
Investments and initiatives like the ones I have presented today are crucial to the success not just of our businesses but of our communities. The decisions we make now will have a major impact on future prosperity, and we choose to invest.
Our message to workers and businesses is clear: We have been here for them with measures and support, and we will get through this together.
I encourage businesses and organizations to make use of the measures that the Government of Canada has put in place to help employers, workers and individuals across the country.
I also invite my fellow MPs to tell business people in their ridings about the wide range of support programs available and encourage them to apply.
We are working with you, and we will keep working with you to create good local jobs and build a stronger economy in our communities and greater prosperity for everyone despite these difficult times.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge my presence today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
I would like to say a few words on the current social climate in Canada. Right now is a moment when Canadians are recognizing that there is unfairness built into our systems. These systems have always been unfair toward indigenous people.
I look to my colleagues in the House to reflect on why injustice toward indigenous people still happens and how we can move forward in the short, medium and long term. I know that in my capacity as Minister of Indigenous Services, I face those questions every day, as does my ministry. These are difficult and uncomfortable conversations, but important ones to have.
With that, I welcome this opportunity to provide the House with an update on our continuing effort to confront the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. I can assure members that the top priority of the Government of Canada during this time remains the safety and physical and mental health of all Canadians and indigenous people living in Canada.
As of June 16, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of 255 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in first nations. Of those, 210 individuals are considered to have recovered.
Indigenous Services Canada continues to work closely with communities to identify a surge in health infrastructure needs, supporting efforts to screen, triage and isolate individuals in the event of a possible COVID-19 outbreak. We will continue to work closely with communities and partners to coordinate resources and keep people and communities safe.
To date, the Government of Canada has provided indigenous peoples and northern communities with approximately $1.5 billion in funding to successfully fight COVID-19.
A large portion of this funding is found in the supplementary estimates (A), 2020-21. These estimates include more than $280 million to support health measures provided by Indigenous Services Canada in first nation and Inuit communities.
This is essential funding that will be used primarily to provide first nation and Inuit communities with the following: the services of additional health care providers; personal protective equipment; health infrastructure, in particular the repurposing of existing community spaces or the purchase of mobile structures to support isolation, assessment and shelter measures; and prevention and infection control measures at the community level.
In addition, these estimates reflect $305 million for the distinctions-based indigenous community support fund. Of this amount, $215 million was dedicated to first nations, $45 million to Inuit and $30 million to Métis nation communities, plus $15 million in proposal-based funding for first nations off reserve and urban indigenous organizations and communities.
An additional $75 million was also sought for organizations supporting first nations individuals off reserve and Inuit and Métis living in urban areas, as well as $10 million in funding for emergency, family violence prevention, shelters on reserve and in the Yukon.
As part of our COVID-19 response, we are also providing $270 million to respond to financial pressures on income assistance for essential living expenses due to COVID-19.
In addition to funding for our COVID-19 response, these estimates include funding to ensure that first nations children and families receive the services they need and to which they are entitled. We have committed $468.2 million to maintain the first nations child and family services program, which brings the program's total annual budget to $1.7 billion.
This includes support to implement the decisions by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued before September 2019 and connected to the complaint by first nations child and family services regarding child and family services and Jordan's principle; coverage of expected maintenance costs for service providers; operating costs for the new agencies; response to pressure from provincial agreements; and implementation of a reserve fund to ensure that money is available should the actual numbers call for reimbursement.
The Government of Canada is committed to implementing Jordan's principle and ensuring that first nations children have access to the products, services and support they need in the areas of health, social services and education.
The Government of Canada is committed to implementing Jordan's principle and is taking action to ensure that first nations children receive the products, services and support they need in health, social services and education. The supplementary estimates also include $230 million to respond to the year-long financial pressures arising from the implementation of Jordan's principle.
Every year since its implementation, Jordan's principle has led to a significant increase in the number of approved applications submitted by individuals and groups. As a result, associated spending has increased significantly.
Since 2016, the Government of Canada has adopted an interim approach to Jordan's principle that has allowed it to inject more than $1 billion to meet the needs of first nations children. We are determined to continue to meet those needs and work to keep our promise on implementing the principle.
To further safeguard food security in the north, our government has committed up to $25 million to support temporary enhancements to nutrition north Canada in these estimates. This funding will help ensure nutrition north Canada fulfills its mandate to improve access to healthy food through additional education and subsidies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have also invested up to $72.6 million to address urgent health care and social support needs in the territories in response to COVID-19, with $18.4 million allocated to Yukon, $23.4 million to the Northwest Territories and $30.8 million to Nunavut. In addition, we have provided up to $17.3 million to enable the continuation of northern air services to support essential resupply and medical services in the north. We do recognize the essential role that a focused and reliable air network plays in enabling the movement of essential goods and services to respond to the pandemic. Funding has already been disbursed for the urgent health care and social support needs in the territories in response to COVID-19 and to enable the continuation of northern air service supporting essential resupply and medical services in the north.
We have also committed to a needs-based funding approach that involves $23.4 million in Vote 10 grants and contributions, including $9.9 million to support research and higher education in Canada's north; $6 million to support planning activities of the Government of the Northwest Territories, for the proposed Taltson hydroelectricity expansion project; $6 million to respond to the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and $1.5 million toward indigenous consultation and capacity support activities.
I thank members for the opportunity to speak about this crucial and important work. Meegwetch, nakurmiik, mahsi cho.
Madam Chair, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
First of all, I would like to say that I am pleased to rise in the House today. As some of my colleagues mentioned earlier, we are here not just to serve as the opposition but also to propose ideas. In a democratic institution, I would not want to see intellectual laziness, bad faith or partisanship, which are ultimately unproductive.
I would like to talk a little about my experience yesterday at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, which has resumed its meetings. During that meeting, I could see the gaps in what is currently being provided. I was obviously aware of these gaps, but I will elaborate in my comments.
I often say that I am proud to be an MP because I represent people who have different lives and experiences. My riding is a remote region with natural resources, fisheries, seasonal work and mines, and it covers a vast area.
At present, the work of the House is suspended. We should not fool ourselves by claiming that the House is fully operational. Most of the work we should be doing is not getting done and this is not working. I will give you an example.
Yesterday, a witness from my riding was unable to appear before the committee because we are currently receiving witnesses virtually. Unfortunately, in part of my riding, which is roughly 50,000 square kilometres, people do not have access to high-speed Internet and that is causing them a lot of problems. They are being denied the democratic right of being able to participate in the debate and present their own reality. That witness was unable to testify as a fisher from an area in eastern Quebec, a very isolated region where there are no roads or bridges and where everything is covered in snow in winter.
In thinking of those witnesses who speak in committee or who cannot come testify, I would have liked this budget to make mention of the Internet. We have been talking about it for years and we depend on it, as I see every day in my own work, and also in my riding. I would have liked the government to think about these people in remote communities, but also those who live near urban centres and who also do not have Internet access.
The majority of the additional funding that will be provided has to do with COVID-19. However, no matter how many waves are coming our way, pressing needs remain. We have to prepare for the future, which means being in tune with the present and having the necessary infrastructure.
I would have liked to hear that witness talk about another subject that is not mentioned in these estimates, namely seasonal workers. Those who know seasonal workers in the fishing, forestry or tourism industries know that these sectors have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is no mention of these workers, even if we have heard that there might be something for them and that it might go through employment insurance.
We do not know what tomorrow will bring and these people are concerned. They want to hear the government talking about this and to know what exactly is going to happen to them. I am very pleased that the CERB has been extended. I would have liked for it to be adapted like we asked in order to encourage people to return to work even if they are getting it.
Meanwhile, these people do not even know if they will have a job this summer because they depend on a seasonal industry. I would also like them to know that they will be able to make it through the year. I am not just talking about a few individuals here, even though that in itself would be good. I am talking about entire communities, an industry and a territory that all need to survive the coming years.
In my riding, some communities rely solely on the fishing industry. That is their only industry and they have the right to survive. People are worried right now and I would have liked to see the government talk about their situation and find an immediate solution.
Finally, in that same committee, we also talked about indigenous people. We just talked extensively about them. The minister talked about them, but they told me that they were not—
Madam Chair, I would like to talk to you about agriculture, which is an issue that matters to me because I grew up in the country.
I am going to go back in time to the month of March, when the crisis started. Technically, we should have voted on a budget in March, but, of course, the crisis happened. That was out of our control. However, what was under our control was how we could have chosen to conduct our parliamentary business.
Technologically speaking, nothing would prevent us from having a committee with a much broader mandate than that of the current Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic.
I would like to take a moment to talk about the ' math. He said that we now have four nice two-hour question periods, so we should be satisfied. Imagine the week's question period as the cherry on the parliamentary sundae. Take away my sundae and give me two cherries, and I might not find that so satisfying.
We were unable to work on a budget. We were also unable to work on tabling private members' bills. If there were a vote on the budget, the Bloc's condition was to ensure that dairy producers would be compensated for the losses caused by a weakened supply management system.
We also intended to table a bill to prevent future breaches in supply management. What is happening is that, given that the CUSMA was ratified a little earlier this year than we hoped, dairy producers have only one month to compensate for a full year of quotas that have been affected. At the very least, losses will total $100 million, excluding future losses.
That is what I wanted to say about agriculture.
With regard to health, Quebec has spent up to $3 billion on health and only $500 million has been provided to help out all of Canada. There has been talk of conditional transfers in the future. There is no guarantee that there will not be a second wave requiring additional money.
I will start with my questions on agriculture as I cannot find any mention in the budget of support for farmers. I would like to know what the government will do for them given that they are having a horrible year and have also incurred losses because of reduced quotas and milk that was dumped.
Madam Chair, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to these supplementary estimates and to the health portfolio.
It is no surprise that the supplementary estimates (A), 2020-21, were largely influenced by our government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This unprecedented crisis called for an unprecedented, timely, global and coordinated response. Our government took action on several fronts, but public health was one of our top priorities. The organizations in the health portfolio were instrumental in these efforts.
Early in the crisis, Health Canada responded quickly to support the Government of Canada's response. In total, these initial measures cost more than $9.2 million dollars and included support for specialized health services, drugs and medical devices, and funding for operations and coordination.
Since that time, the department's response has expanded and evolved. One of its top priorities has been keeping Canadians informed and helping them protect themselves during the pandemic. To do this, Health Canada has developed a number of digital tools to provide timely, reliable information to Canadians where and when they need it. This includes the Canada COVID-19 app, which provides up-to-date information on the pandemic, a symptom tracker and a self-assessment tool. It also includes the Wellness Together Canada portal, which links Canadians to mental health and substance use supports.
Innovative tools like these empower Canadians to stay healthy and to stop the spread of COVID-19. Health Canada is requesting a total of $240.5 million in additional funds to support these initiatives.
Right now, there is nothing more important than making sure Canada's health care system has the right tools to fight COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, medication and essential equipment, such as personal protective equipment, have been in high demand around the world. As a regulatory body, Health Canada has found innovative solutions to source and ensure access to these essential supplies.
The department implemented a temporary measure to facilitate access to hand sanitizer, disinfectant and other PPE. In addition, the signed a number of emergency orders that facilitated access to tests, drugs and medical supplies.
Health Canada will continue to take measures like these if necessary, to ensure that Canada has the drugs and medical equipment it needs to fight the pandemic. The department will also continue to do the operational work needed to coordinate our COVID-19 response.
In total, Health Canada is requesting $12.8 billion in additional funding for this work.
Of course, even during the pandemic, Health Canada continues to carry out its regular activities, as it works to protect the health of Canadians. That includes supporting medical research. As part of these supplementary estimates, Health Canada is requesting more than $15 million for the Terry Fox Research Institute and Ovarian Cancer Canada. This investment will advance precision medicine in cancer, including ovarian cancer, for which there is still no reliable screening test and no vaccine to prevent it, even though it has the lowest survival rate of all other cancers in women, a fact that my family unfortunately knows too well.
The department is also requesting an additional $1.5 million to support a safe and non-discriminatory approach to plasma donation. Specifically, this funding will go toward research on reducing barriers to plasma donation by men who have sex with men.
Altogether, these supplementary estimates will increase Health Canada's statutory spending forecast by $262.6 million and its voted spending authorities by $16.6 million.
I will now turn to the Public Health Agency of Canada, or PHAC.
As members will recall, on March 11, the outlined Canada's whole-of-government response to COVID-19 by establishing the COVID-19 response fund.
As the agency responsible for preparing for and responding to public health emergencies, PHAC has played a key role in this response. As such, these supplementary estimates increase PHAC's statutory spending forecast by $2.3 billion and its voted spending authorities by $42.3 million. Of this, $177.1 million will support PHAC's early work to respond to COVID-19. This includes the immediate public health response and the acquisition of supplies for the provinces and territories. It also includes support for communication and public education initiatives.
An additional $74.7 million will be allocated to a more long-term response to the pandemic, which includes isolating travellers entering the country and strengthening the testing capacity of the National Microbiology Laboratory. Furthermore, $7.5 million will be allocated to the Kids Help Phone, which is providing mental health support to young Canadians during this difficult time. The Public Health Agency of Canada is also asking for $1.8 billion to procure protective gear and medical equipment.
With regard to the new funding, PHAC is asking for support to prepare for future pandemic-related challenges. For example, $37 million will be used to establish a Canadian supply of respirators and surgical masks. An additional $5 million will be allocated to the national medical research strategy. This initiative includes COVID-19 tracking and testing and the development of vaccines and treatments. It also includes strengthening Canada's capabilities in biomanufacturing, vaccine research and clinical trials, in co-operation with Health Canada; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; the National Research Council of Canada; and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Of course, the effects of COVID-19 are not limited to health care. This pandemic has had an impact on almost every aspect of our society. That includes the agri-food industry, which is dealing with unique pressures.
Throughout this crisis, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, or CFIA, has been working diligently to protect the integrity of the food system to ensure that Canadians continue to have access to safe, high-quality foods. These supplementary estimates include just under $20 million in additional funding for the CFIA to carry out this important work. For example, the CFIA has been increasing the number of inspectors, reassigning staff to high-priority areas and finding innovative ways to conduct remote inspections.
As the organization responsible for supporting critical research to inform governments' actions in public health crises such as COVID-19, CIHR is receiving over $151 million in 2020-21 from the fiscal framework for COVID-19-related initiatives. Of this amount, over $147 million is being funded through these supplementary estimates, while CIHR is also allocating close to $4 million of existing funding. Following the 's announcement of March 11, and in partnership with a number of provinces, CIHR was able to invest an additional $25.8 million in 53 more research grants.
We understood that we needed to do more to guarantee the best health outcomes for all Canadians dealing with the pandemic. That is why, on April 23, the announced additional funding for a solid research plan, a response to the pandemic and health emergencies.
Almost overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we live our lives and put exceptional demands on our health care system and institutions. It is a challenge unlike any we have seen in our lifetime, but together we are rising to meet it. It has never been more important for us to work together as a government and as a country.
Madam Chair, I must reiterate the points made by my opposition colleagues and add my voice in protest to the current process we find ourselves in.
Normally, standing committees of the House of Commons would meet to discuss the portion of the estimates relevant to their portfolios. Committee members can then approve, reduce or deny any provision in the estimates. Indeed, this is a foundational element of why we have Parliament in the first place.
Now we are in committee of the whole, for a maximum of four hours, where no amendments are possible. We are forced to vote yes or no to the entire package the Liberal government has thrust upon us. I find it completely unacceptable that the said in his remarks today that we have maximum transparency.
Before us are some of the most important decisions in the history of our country. Indeed, look at what happened at the UN today. This is not how our parliamentary democracy is supposed to work. The disregard from the government today, and, by extension, the disregard it has shown all Canadians, cannot be understated.
Let us meet all summer. Let us restore Canadians' faith in our federal legislature. Let us do the job we were elected to do. I wanted to make that point before turning to my questions.
My first question relates to public safety in the estimates.
I noticed that Canada's CORCAN revolving fund is aimed to draw from the consolidated revenue fund. It has increased from $5 million to $20 million. This fund is intended to provide employment and training opportunities to reintegrate offenders into Canadian society.
From the time this fund was created in 1992 until present, Canada's total prison population has not increased by more than 10,000 inmates. Fortunately, on a per capita basis, Canada's prison numbers are steadily decreasing. Why, then, does the funding envelope need to be quadrupled?
Could the speak to this matter directly as it relates to the federal institutions in my riding? I am not saying I am opposed to this. I am just seeking some clarification on why the funding quadrupled.
Madam Chair, I thank you and the members who have gathered here to study the supplementary estimates. I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to participate in this.
I want to begin by acknowledging we are on Algonquin territory, and I say meegwetch to the Algonquin peoples.
Before I begin, because this is probably the last time I will have in a while to address my friends here, and I like to think we are all friends, I want to start by saying that when we look around the world, the countries that have had the least partisan approach to COVID-19 are the countries that have done the best. In fact, it is often pointed out in the media these days that the countries with women leaders have done particularly well: Iceland, Finland, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, Germany and Taiwan. On top of the fact that those countries happen to have women leaders, all of them also use some form of proportional representation in electing their governments. There is something significant about the non-partisanship that occurs in a system where one does not vote using first past the post.
Over my years in this place and my years in politics, I have come to believe that first past the post tends to encourage the worst instincts in politics. I think the worst instinct in politics at this moment when Canadians are looking to us, as elected members, to work together would be for me to not thank the people I stand looking at, at this time. That is why I came to this side of the House, because I want to thank them.
I do not imagine any of them have had a day off in a long time. If Canadians think we are not working, we are working. I know my colleague from Edmonton and I are working wherever we are. Since March 13, when we adjourned, and I am not looking for sympathy, my one day off was Mother's Day.
I am hoping that all of us will be back here on July 8, but I know these government members, their senior civil servants and their families have been feeling this. When members are on the front bench of the government, they are working darn hard to try to help all Canadians.
Yes, to the extent the government has fallen short, we do have to make it accountable. However, I cannot say I think the people sitting in front of me here today have not been working their hearts out to try to help Canadians, and for that I thank them. It has not been easy for anyone. I know when we can be less partisan, we will do a better job.
I want to reflect, as many members of the opposition have, on the sliding concept, which has been falling out of favour for a very long time. This is what I want to talk about with my unfortunately very long and good memory.
Parliament is supposed to control the public purse. There is no question the Parliamentary Budget Officer was correct that four hours is not enough to study the supplementary estimates.
The other day I wondered when it was that I last felt like this. It was when I was first elected, and it was my first Speech from the Throne on June 3, 2011. How would I remember that? I remember because some weeks later what came to be discussed in the media was how Parliament could have approved billions of dollars in supplementary estimates without studying them at all. There was a hue and cry.
I knew I was diligent and I could not have missed that. How could there have been a unanimous consent motion that I had missed when I was always here? How could it have happened?
This is what happened. On June 3, it was the Speech from the Throne and we were in Centre Block. Other members, like the , will remember those days. I had not yet had my hip replacement, so in the time it took me to walk back down the Hall of Honour from the Senate to get back to my desk in this place, $6 billion in supplementary estimates had been deemed studied, deemed passed, and deemed toasted, dusted and done by unanimous consent.
Had I been here, rather than limping down the hall on my cane, I would have said, “Hold your horses. We're not going to approve $6 billion in supplementary estimates without studying them.” I am offering that up to say that the fact that happened then does not make four hours right now.
We were not in a pandemic then, so I will say we have a few more excuses for having different kinds of procedures. I will hold the government to account and make sure that when we resume, and I gather we will look at the main estimates again and will have more time to study them, that we really will have the opportunity to study. A pandemic is also no excuse to not have a real Parliament.
I have never been part of the House leaders' discussions, obviously, but I would prefer that we had not come up with a COVID-19 committee format, because, quite honestly, we were doing most of what gets to happen in the House of Commons. If we had seen this coming, we should have created two sets of Standing Orders: one for when things are normal and one for when we cannot meet.
I take the point that has been made by the Leader of the Official Opposition that this Parliament met right through the Second World War. Well, sure, there was no reason not to sit right through the Second World War; we were not all contagious. We cannot all sit here side by side and go back and forth to our ridings without risking being disease vectors and contaminating our communities, but it is still not adequate, and so I am on both sides of the fence on this.
However, before we get through much more of the pandemic, I hope we can have a full House of Commons at a distance. The only missing piece is the voting at a distance, which we could easily do. Once we add that piece in, we can take on the legislation that needs to be studied. We could have full, long studies of every single aspect of every budget in committee meetings. Indeed, the finance committee has been meeting. I attend it regularly. It is hearing from dozens of witnesses. We have the technology to allow Parliament to meet, and that is what I hope we will do, because we need to see democracy in action; and for democracy to be in action, every single Canadian needs to be represented by their own member of Parliament, not by proxy, not by party whips. Everybody needs to be engaged, and that is what happens when we have the hybrid model, in which we have shown that this technology works.
Our only problem is that we are not using the Standing Orders for Parliament. We are using committee rules, because it is a COVID-19 committee. It does hold people to account, and I have to say that I think the five-minute rounds are far more interesting and bring more interesting information to light than the 30 seconds back and forth in our normal Standing Orders for question period.
In any case, I want to turn to the questions that I have about the supplementary estimates, and I will turn to the ministers.
My first question would normally be for the . I am not sure who is taking questions related to the RCMP. It is the .
To the hon. minister, on page 2-59, I am wondering if we can get some detail on this. On the record, obviously, the Green Party is very much in favour of the new $380 million to compensate members of the RCMP for injuries received during the performance of their duty, but there is an unexplained item here of $18 million.
For people watching from home, the total budget of the RCMP is in the order of $3.7 billion, and so $18 million is a pretty trifling amount out of a $3.7 billion budget. However, since it is not explained, I wonder if the hon. minister can assure us that none of the $18 million in this line item is for anything, in the context of our current deep concern about systemic racism within the RCMP, for a militarized response to peaceful protesters and the things that are now current in our conversation through Parliament and the media.
What is this $18 million for? I am hoping it might be for de-escalation training.