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43rd PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • No. 044

CONTENTS

Monday, December 7, 2020




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 150
No. 044
2nd SESSION
43rd PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, December 7, 2020

Speaker: The Honourable Anthony Rota

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayer



Private Members' Business

[Private Members' Business]

  (1105)  

[English]

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a great and rare honour to be able to stand in the House of Commons to sponsor and present a piece of legislation for my colleagues to consider. I hope that between now and March of next year, when we will likely come to a vote, I can convince more than a few of my colleagues that this bill has merit and deserves to go to committee.
    Today, I am pleased to kick off the debate on Bill C-231, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act. The behaviour of corporations around the world is coming under increasing scrutiny as more and more people are demanding action. Here in Canada we have also acknowledged the problem, most notably when the Liberal government decided to establish an ombudsperson for responsible enterprise, who is supposed to received and review claims of human rights abuses arising from companies abroad in the mining, oil and gas, and garment sectors.
    The NDP has long been a leader in demanding more corporate responsibility. Most recently in the final days of the 42nd Parliament, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby brought forward his bill, Bill C-331, which would have allowed for gross violations of human, labour and environmental rights to be brought before a Canadian federal court.
    The idea behind my bill, Bill C-231, is the questionable investments that are funding bad corporate actors. It is an idea that many people in Canada have long been concerned with, and it led me to further research in order to put the Canada pension plan's investments under closer scrutiny.
    The Canada pension plan is an important pillar of our country's retirement system. Every year, millions of Canadians pay into the plan, which provides retirement, disability, survivor and death benefits to millions more. It is a sacred contract in recognizing years of hard work. Managing the careful balance between beneficiaries and contributors requires due diligence to the CPP fund, which is governed by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
    Through its careful investing strategy, the CPP fund is now valued at over $400 billion and is one of the largest pension funds in the world. I also want to note that the members of the CPP Investment Board have reached out to me over the last couple of years about my proposed legislation and to talk about their policy on responsible investing, which “aspires to integrate [environmental, social and governance] factors into investment management processes”. However, the document goes on to state that the investment board does not “screen stocks or eliminate investments based on ESG factors.”
    This is the crux of the matter. Nowhere in the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act is there any mention of ESG factors or ethical business practices. There is no mention of human rights, labour rights or environmental rights. All we are left with is a policy, which itself admits that ESG factors, while a strong guideline, are non-binding in its investment decisions. The overriding duty of the investment board is to maximize investment returns without undue risk of loss. This is clarified in section 5 of the Act.
    It is here that people will probably want to stop me and say, “So what? That is fine, and we should leave it that way. After all, the board has managed to grow the fund in a spectacular fashion, putting its financial health for future beneficiaries on a good path.”
    I agree the fund is in fantastic condition, and I have no doubt that the managers of the investment board are doing their utmost to continue this work, but, and it is a big but, when we take a deep dive into the investment holdings of the CPPIB, we find a laundry list of problematic investments.
    Before I get into the details of Bill C-231 itself, I think it would be helpful for members of the House to understand precisely what I am talking about when I refer to problematic investments. I am extremely grateful to the Library of Parliament for assisting me in this research, but I am also grateful to organizations such as Corporate Knights and various news outlets that have exposed CPP investment holdings, which many of us would find, at the very least, questionable.
    Let us start with the Responsible Mining Index. The most recent data I have is from 2018, and it ranks companies on their performance on economic, social and governance practices. The companies are scored out of 36 points. The research I was able to obtain from the CPPIB's holdings shows that our pension dollars were invested in companies that scored in the low single digits. One company scored a 2.6.
    KnowTheChain's 2018 Food and Beverage Benchmark Findings Report rates food and beverage companies on their efforts to address the risks of forced labour in their supply chains. The companies in their research are scored out of 100. Again, the research I was able to obtain from the CPPIB's holdings show that our pension dollars were invested in companies that scored in the low single digits. One company scored a four; another scored seven, and that is out of 100.
    From 2000 until 2015, Public Eye hosted awards of shame competitions intended for companies with poor social responsibility records. As it is stated on the website, all of them are corporations whose business activities have been characterized by human rights violations, environmental destruction, immoral tax practices or corruption. Again, the research I was able to obtain from the Investment Board's holdings shows that our pension dollars were invested in many of the companies listed there.
    Corporate Knights is a publication that defines itself as the most prominent magazine in the clean capitalism media space. It defines clean capitalism as “an economic system in which prices incorporate social, economic and ecological benefits and costs, and [actors] know the full impacts of their...actions.” Its research shows that our pension dollars are exposed to companies engaged in blocking climate policy, blocking climate resolutions, forced or child labour, severe environmental damage and severe human rights violations.
    We, of course, are all aware of the very real and imminent danger that climate change is posing to our world. It will be the defining issue of the 21st century, and our actions in the next 10 years will determine how we meet this challenge. Despite this fact, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board continues to invest our pension dollars in major carbon emitters.
    CDP's 2017 report on major carbon emitters compiled a list of the world's top greenhouse gas producers, and among the Investment Board's holdings were Gazprom, which was responsible for 3.9%, and Coal India, which was responsible for 1.9% of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions.
    ShareAction is a charity that has spent the last 12 years building the movement for responsible investment. It is now taking the movement worldwide to transform the investment system and unlock its potential to be a force for good. It released a report in 2018 entitled “Pensions in a Changing Climate”, which assesses the pension sector's response to the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.
    It did an analysis of the world's 100 largest public pension funds and their approach to climate-related risks and opportunities, and they ranked the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board in 32nd place with only a CCC rating. This ranking shows that we are only starting to take action on climate risk. As the task force stated in its report, large global pension funds have a responsibility to manage their funds in the long-term interests of their members and beneficiaries, which includes building appropriate responses to climate change as a material investment risk.
    There have also been new stories over the last couple of years showing that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board invested in private American prison companies that were operating migrant detention camps along the U.S.-Mexico border. I could go on and on with even more examples of problematic investments. It certainly is a laundry list, but I must be mindful of the time.
    What is clear is that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board's policy on responsible investing has not prevented it from investing our public pension dollars in companies with extremely poor corporate social responsibility records. Bill C-231 would step in to amend section 35 of the act by providing that the investment policies, standards and procedures take into account environmental, social and governance factors, and that our investments cannot be held in an entity if there are reasons to believe it has performed acts or carried out work contrary to ethical business practices, including the commission of human, labour and environmental rights violations.

  (1110)  

    The bill also allows provides for no investment being allowed in a company that produces arms or munitions of war that are prohibited under international law, or in any company directing acts of corruption. It is important to note that nothing in my bill would change the mandate of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which is to maximize investment returns without undue risk of loss. My bill also does not change the fact that the investment decisions are left in the hands of the investment board and that it is up to them, through the existing section 51 of the act, to explain how their investments were in accordance with the act in their annual report to Parliament.
    There are numerous examples around the world, but let us start with one at home. Here in Quebec regarding pension law, we have the CDPQ, which manages 41 public and quasi-public organizations. It is governed by legislation in the province of Quebec, which requires that the board of directors adopt a socially responsible investment policy.
    In Sweden, Sweden's national pension insurance funds, the AP Funds Act of 2000, requires state pension funds to take environmental and social considerations into account without relinquishing the overall goal of a higher return on capital. The funds must include environmental and ethical standards in their investment policies and annually report to the government how they would adhere to those practices. Those Swedish funds are worth approximately $154 billion.
    In Norway, the largest pension fund in the world, the Government Pension Fund Global is governed by regulations that were passed by its Parliament in 2004 to provide a legal framework emphasizing international human rights and environmental standards. Despite these being labelled as guidelines, the regulations are legally binding. For example, companies can be put under observation or be excluded if there is an unacceptable risk that the company contributes to, or is responsible for, serious or systematic human rights violations, such as murder, torture, deprivation of liberty, forced labour and the worst forms of child labour; or any serious violations on the rights of individuals in situations of war or conflict. As I said, Norway's pension is the largest in the world. It is valued at over $1 trillion and it has these governing factors.
    In the last couple of minutes that I have, allow me to conclude by saying this. We all know that money makes the world go around. It is a well-trodden phrase, but it is true. Trillions of dollars are invested in the companies that we buy from, that employ us and that shape the world we live in. A lot of this money belongs to ordinary people and we all have a stake in the way it is spent, but many of the decisions on how it is invested are made behind closed doors. The investment system can be a force for good, but only if these decisions are made openly and with more than short-term profit in mind. We do not want our pension funds to, in any way, cause human misery around the world.
    I do not think we often realize just how lucky we are to live in a place like Canada where we enjoy the rule of law and have strong institutions and accountability measures in place to hold corporations to account for their actions. People around the world should have the right to live in a healthy and ecologically based environment. They should have the right to be fairly compensated and respected for the work that they do. They should have the right to life, liberty and security of the person, free from slavery and torture.
    We can no longer remain silent on these issues and it is time to demand that our CPP funds do the same. I hope my colleagues will give their utmost consideration to the bill before them and I am looking forward to any questions they may have.

  (1115)  

    Madam Speaker, the federal government works in co-operation with the provinces. The reality is that it takes both levels of government to see things such as increases in premiums and so forth with CPP. To what degree does the member think that the provinces should have some input in terms of what the member is suggesting?
    Secondly, RRSPs are supported by tax measures. When looking at RRSP investments through private investors, would the member apply those same principles to those types of funds?
    Madam Speaker, if the member looks at the wording of my bill, he will note that at the very end it has a section showing how this bill would come into force. It does specifically reference that the provincial legislatures would have to give their assent, much as they would have to for any changes to the act governing the Canada pension plan itself.
    Given all of the examples I gave in my speech of the problematic investments that have been made by the CPP, it is quite obvious to me that we need something more. We need stronger legislation in place to ensure our pension funds are not promoting any kind of human misery around the world. With any RRSP or other kind of investment, we should certainly look at the rules governing those as well to make sure they indeed are meeting the interests of the Canadian people.

  (1120)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his bill and his very inspiring speech.
    It is often said that buying is voting, but investing is also voting. In my opinion, the least we can do is to ensure that our investments are ethical choices that correspond to our values and principles, the values and principles of a democracy.
    Our investments should be ethical and respect our values. How is that not already the case?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, it is important to note that in the existing act it provides for the investment board to table an annual report to Parliament to explain how it is meeting these standards. As I said in my remarks, the largest pension fund in the world, managed by the Government of Norway, which has over $1 trillion in assets, already has these guidelines in place. They are law. This fund has grown to over $1 trillion and it is able to make money in an ethical way. We can look at such examples and follow suit.
    I honestly believe that if we were to canvass the Canadian public and look at the evidence that I presented in my speech, none of them would support our pension funds funding any kind of human misery around the world. It is time to step up to the plate and ensure we put an end to these practices.
    Madam Speaker, has the member had any discussions with the provincial entities with respect to the bill?
    No, Madam Speaker, I have not had any discussions with provincial entities. Unfortunately, the resources afforded to me as a private member are fairly limited. I can tell the member that I have spent the better part of two years researching this issue and I am very grateful to organizations like Corporate Knights and the Library of Parliament that have outlined these problems.
    Surely, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons can acknowledge, given the evidence I presented in my speech, that there is a problem, that the policy on responsible investing is not meeting its achieved goals. If he is happy with our investments causing human misery around the world, he can vote according, but I think the Canadian public would have something else to say. It is up to us to lead by example in the federal leadership role and encourage provinces to follow our lead.
    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and address the legislation the member brought forward to the House today. I would like to acknowledge how important the CPP is to Canadians. The CPP is a leading example of a sound pension plan, through management and governance, that I believe is recognized around the world as being so.
    The member made reference to the hundreds of billions of dollars we are talking about, and this is money that belongs to Canadians. It is money being vested to ensure when Canadians retire they have a better opportunity to live an enhanced lifestyle. It is meant to put food on tables and pay for a wide variety of bills. It is something Canadians hold very closely to their hearts.
    Back in the early or mid-sixties, I believe it was Lester B. Pearson, a Liberal prime minister, who brought in the pension plan, believing at the time that Canadians needed to have such a plan to ensure once they retired they would have the funds necessary to enjoy retirement. We have seen it evolve into what it is today, a fund recognized around the world that continues to grow by billions of dollars every decade.
    What the member is attempting to do here is indeed very noble. I have spoken in the chamber in the past about the social corporate responsibilities of doing the right thing, and at times that means one has to take action. I want to pose a very important question to the member: To what degree have the provinces been brought in to this debate?
    For years I sat in opposition and would challenge the Harper government as to why it was not working with the provinces to increase the CPP contribution. After years of no increases, I believed we were limiting the potential dividends being paid to people retiring once they hit the 60 or 65 age category. I realized back then that it took the support of the provinces, through negotiations, for any real changes to be made to the CPP. We can talk a great deal about it and debate it inside the chamber, but we need to be able to extend that hand to our provincial and territorial jurisdictions so we can have the dialogue.
    I believe there is a very important gap that needs to be addressed. I am hoping to hear in particular from members supporting this legislation on the degree of work they believe should have been done in that area. We went through many years of Stephen Harper where there were no negotiations.
    One of the things I talked about in the past is that shortly after forming government back in 2015, the Prime Minister mandated our ministries to look at ways they could reach out to the provinces and address the need to increase the CPP.
    I am not 100% sure, but I think the Conservation opposition day motion coming up later today is actually in opposition to some of the increases we are proposing for CPP.

  (1125)  

    It is not easy to accomplish what this government has, in regard to increases in the CPP, so that people will have more disposable income when they retire.
    If members talked at length with seniors in our communities, they would find that retirement funds are absolutely critical. That is one of the reasons we left the CPP increases with the provinces, in terms of the negotiations that took place, but we also looked at other pension funds, such as the guaranteed income supplement and the old age supplement. We saw increases shortly after we took office in 2015. We used those mechanisms during the pandemic to give additional one-time payments to seniors. These actions clearly demonstrate that the government has an interest in retirement pensions.
    On the issue of how we invest in those retirement pensions, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board has done well for Canadians for many years now. It has demonstrated that in the returns it has received for the monies collected through workers. I have immense respect for the work it has done. The investment board has a spectrum of things it considers prior to making those investments.
    The types of changes the member is proposing we pass today need to be discussed with our provincial and territorial partners, at the very least. We are talking about over a quarter of a trillion dollars. That is literally hundreds of billions of dollars.
    I floated a question to the member regarding RRSPs. We are talking about hundreds of millions, to billions, of dollars. Canadians invest in RRSPs, which are tax subsidized. Would the same principles that the member is talking about here be universally applied to those? When I posed the question to the member, his response was yes. If the answer is yes, then we are talking about other financial institutions: the big banks and those others that invest in RRSPs, and other forms of government assistance toward retirement. It opens into a new area of human rights. That is a much larger picture.
    The member made reference to corporate social responsibilities. We could look at ways in which we have, through private member's bills and government bills, tried to influence corporate behaviour. It does not only apply here in Canada, but around the world for Canadian companies no matter where they operate. That is why I said, toward the beginning, that what the member is attempting to achieve is very noble. There is a much bigger picture we need to look at.

  (1130)  

    My time has expired and I am thankful for the opportunity to share a few words because I realize how important this issue is. Citizens of our country want the government to act where it can.
    Madam Speaker, today I rise to address Bill C-231, which on the surface appears to be a noble attempt to direct our pension funds exclusively toward the common good, but the old adage is that the how is even more important than the what. The devil is in the details, and because the hon. member who proposes this bill is afraid of the devil he has avoided the details altogether in this bill.
    The member proposes an amendment to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act that would create a new requirement, which states:
    The investment policies, standards and procedures, taking into account environmental, social and governance factors, shall provide that no investment may be made or held in an entity if there are reasons to believe that the entity has performed acts or carried out work contrary to ethical business practices, including...
...the commission of human, labour or environmental rights violations...
    What is meant by all of the terminology the member puts in but does not define? We do not know what is meant because the member does not tell us, nor does he provide us with an arbitrator anywhere in the Canadian system that would determine when any such business practices have been violated or when human labour or environmental rights have been in some way offended. He leaves it to our imagination to determine what he means by each of these terms.
    With respect to ethical business practices, we know there are some members of the NDP who consider it unethical for businesses to run a profit at all. Excluding profitable businesses from the CPP's portfolio would guarantee impoverishment to Canadians who rely on the fund's returns in order to live out a dignified retirement.
    Let us move on to additional criteria the member said would exclude a company from receiving CPP investments. These are environmental violations. The member has written that it would be a violation to invest in oil and gas companies. I am quoting him here when he laments, “the CPPIB is investing billions of your pension dollars into the oil and gas sector”, something he would presumably ban from happening if this bill were adopted. Our pension fund would be banned from investing in Canada's largest exporting industry: the oil and gas sector, which produces more jobs for indigenous Canadians than any other private sector industry. Our resource sector would be banned from receiving funds invested by our pension system at a time when Albertans are considering pulling out of the CPP altogether because of the fact they are demographically younger, and contribute more on a per capita basis, than the other eight provinces that are members of the fund. We are going to look Albertans in the eye and tell them they should stay in the CPP pension fund while that fund specifically bans its managers from investing in Alberta's biggest industry. What an insult to the men and women who have worked in that industry for so long and done so much good for our federation.
    On the broader definition that the bill provides of “unethical business practices”, I reached out to the CPPIB and asked what kinds of companies in Canada would be banned from getting Canadian investment under this legislation. It said only the 10 biggest companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange, all 10 of them by valuation, would be banned from receiving investment from the CPPIB. These are companies such as Shopify, Enbridge and the Royal Bank. On a combined basis, these 10 companies, which employ literally millions of Canadians, would be banned from receiving investments from their very own pension fund.

  (1135)  

    Whether that was the member's intention, I do not know. In fact, I rather doubt it, but that is not important. Writing laws is like programming computers: The machine does what it is programmed to do. If the CPPIB is programmed to ban all of these entities from receiving investment, that is what the managers will be forced to do. In fact, if the principles in this bill were actually applied, I wonder whether the fund would even be able to buy bonds in the Canadian government. CPPIB said that it would only be allowed to buy bonds in the Canadian government if the bill passed. I do not think it would even be allowed to do that.
    Let us think about it. The Liberal government cannot provide clean drinking water to first nations people, which violates human rights. Now, because of the incompetence of federal ministers who cannot keep their word and provide clean drinking water, the government itself might be banned from receiving bond investments from the CPPIB. The government violated its own environment promises. It has not planted a single tree. This could be perceived as an environmental violation. The government signed off on letting the City of Montreal pour millions of litres of raw sewage into our waters, which is another violation of environmental rights. Could we possibly buy bonds in the City of Montreal or the Government of Canada when such violations have occurred? Of course not.
    Because of its poor drafting, this legislation, however well intentioned, cannot reasonably be implemented, even if it were desirable. However, it does give us an opportunity to discuss a new and growing risk that I have worried quietly about for a long time. The CPPIB was depoliticized back in the 1990s. It is a credit to the then Liberal government that it took what was a nearly bankrupt shell, which was highly politicized and whose funds were directed by politicians, and said that it was going to get the sticky fingers and incompetent hands of politicians out of the pensions of Canadians, and it was going to put it in the hands, effectively, of a group of private sector professionals to invest it and obtain a return.
    Since that time, the fund has grown from insolvency to $456 billion: almost a half a trillion dollars. Now, I hesitated to say that in this place, because a lot of politicians just got really big eyes, thinking, “Oh my goodness, what could we do with that.” Oh, the schemes they could come up with to deploy a half a trillion dollars. My goodness, they are rubbing their hands together. If only viewers back home could see it. There are politicians rubbing their hands together, thinking about that very thought right now.
    Let me give an example of how our government is already leveraging that well. This Prime Minister constantly says that we have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7. True, it was an inheritance and had nothing to do with him, but the only reason it is true is because that $456 billion is deducted from our gross debt to get a much lower net debt and give the appearance that we have a low national debt.
    Already, that money, which represents 20% of our GDP, is being leveraged in the minds of the government to justify its irresponsible spending. How long will it be, if the government keeps spending at this pace, before it starts to say, “Oh my goodness, we are out of money. We are broke, and now we need to start looking at that big pot of gold that Canadians had set aside.”
    We on the Conservative side will fight tooth and nail to keep the hands of politicians off the pensions of Canadians. We see it already, with the former minister of the environment urging the CPPIB to invest in her pet environmental projects, similar to what happened provincially in Ontario when it almost bankrupted its electrical system doing the exact same thing.

  (1140)  

    We know many would like to defund our energy sector. We, on the Conservative side, will fight to keep the CPP depoliticized with the single purpose of giving an honest return to our hard-working Canadian employees and the retirees who depend on that fund.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I first want to commend the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford on his bill and his speech.
    I will begin my speech by saying that the Bloc Québécois agrees with the spirit of this bill. No one can oppose efforts to prevent Canada's public nest egg from being invested in companies that behave unethically either here or abroad. We should not encourage companies that break the law either here or abroad. The managers of Canadian pension funds should be no exception.
    This bill makes me want to question the leaders of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, or CPPIB. I would be interested in talking to them because I do not understand why the CPPIB is currently investing in corrupt companies.
    This bill is worthwhile, but I would be surprised if it had much of an impact on the CPPIB's current investments. I will be talking not only about what passing this bill would mean, but also about some things that I would like to see added to it, should it be passed by the House.
    First, I would like to talk about the $600 million-plus invested in shares in oil and gas companies. In Canada, transportation and oil and gas development account for over half, or 52%, of our emissions. Alberta pollutes more than Quebec and Ontario combined.
    Our retirement funds need to get with the program and stop investing in sectors that make it harder for us to achieve the Paris Agreement targets. The CPPIB should take its cue from the people in charge of the Quebec pension plan. The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which is responsible for the Government and Public Employees Retirement Plan Fund, has a plan to reduce investment in polluting industries that is much more ambitious than the CPPIB's. In 2017, together with 11 partners from all over the world, the Caisse launched the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, whose members are working to transition their portfolios to net-zero emissions by 2050. The Caisse also has a plan to reduce its carbon footprint by 25% per dollar invested by 2025. I see potential for a good conversation about this with the CPPIB, one that might persuade it to see the Caisse's strategy as a very viable option.
    I would also like to talk to them about their decision to invest $900 million in Calpine Corporation. As many people know, Quebec wants to become the battery of North America by exporting its hydroelectricity to the north-eastern United States.
    It is easy to imagine the positive impact this would have on reducing GHG emissions, increasing Quebec's collective prosperity and meeting the Paris targets. Everybody would benefit. This would be the equivalent of taking 700,000 cars off the road. However, Calpine produces electricity from gas. It has invested $600 million to oppose Hydro-Québec's plan to build a high tension power line to provide Americans with clean, abundant and cheaper electricity. It is rallying the public to call for a referendum to block the project. It is unbelievable. Canadian taxpayers are investing their money in fossil fuels in the United States and, in the process, also financing a protest movement against a Quebec green energy project.
    I would also like to address another topic with the board, and that is the fight against tax havens. Currently the government is being complicit by entering into non-double taxation agreements with countries that are known tax havens. It is being complicit by tinkering with the rules, such as allowing Barbados to be used as a tax haven under an obscure rule, which goes against the treaty signed between Canada and that small Caribbean country. While its economy is not very big, Barbados is one of the places with the most direct foreign investment coming from Canada. It is outrageous that the government is allowing this to happen.
    During the last Parliament, I moved a motion calling for this loophole to be closed, but every Liberal, except one, and every Conservative voted against it.
    I will quote the spokesman for Collectif Échec aux paradis fiscaux, Claude Vaillancourt:
    At the height of the Panama papers scandal, the Prime Minister publicly boasted that he would be keeping an eye on Canadians who might be tempted by tax avoidance, but now he is refusing to take real action to close one of the biggest doors to tax avoidance. It is simply unacceptable. He needs to walk the talk.
    Since the days when Paul Martin served as finance minister, governments have been spineless, and we must therefore continue to hope that leaders with influence, such as the board, will take action to change things. They must commit to no longer investing in companies operating in tax havens and to withdraw from these businesses as soon as possible.
    Just because the federal government has made tax evasion and avoidance legal it does not mean that profiting from it is ethical. I believe that we must have this discussion because, if we continue down this road, our middle-class citizens and SMEs will continue to bear the burden of taxes. However, I have the impression that this will be a less than agreeable discussion.

  (1145)  

    This is how the CPPIB responded when it was rocked by the Paradise papers, and I quote: “ We structure our foreign investments to maximize after-tax returns for our contributors and recipients.” This is from a Radio-Canada article. It did not even offer an apology by saying that it had been busted and would change its ways.
    Since it is profitable to use questionable or even outright illegal schemes, they will continue to do so. If it is not possible to have a profitable pension fund that meets its actuarial expenses, something is rotten in the state of Denmark, as Shakespeare said, or, in this case, the state of Canada.
    The article continues:
    Pension fund managers claim that they comply with tax laws wherever they do business.
    They point out that pension funds are not taxed in Canada. As is the case with RRSPs, taxes are paid by workers when they withdraw their benefits after retirement. The use of tax havens therefore does not have an impact on federal or provincial coffers.
    Other countries have different tax rules. Pension funds structure their investments so as to legally limit the double taxation of their profits.
    Basically, they use tax havens because they are easily accessible, good for their bottom line and, until the government fixes the problem, profitable. Some companies even specialize in these kinds of schemes and are sometimes very close to this government. One example is Morneau Sheppell—“Morneau”, as in Bill Morneau, the former finance minister who left in the wake of the WE Charity scandal.
    To sum it all up, Canada signs agreements with countries where, for a few hundred thousand dollars, wealthy corporations can hire firms to avoid paying taxes. To increase their profit margins, the CPPIB and other pension funds take advantage of loopholes in the tax system to increase the funds' profits. Meanwhile, the government hunts down large and small tax evaders, but for the largest of the large, the door to tax avoidance has been left wide open.
    Obviously, I sometimes get carried away when talking about tax havens, because this really irks me. I will now get back to the substance of the bill.
    Another potential improvement would be the disclosure of investments with respect to the proposed paragraphs 35(2)(a), (b) and (c). I would also like to add investments in the immoral polluting economy to that list. This would enable all Canadians who contribute to a fund to know whether they are investing in these types of companies. It would also enable the CPPIB to identify successes and improvements.
     As I already pointed out earlier, one cannot really disagree with this bill, but the bill is vague, which means that it lacks teeth. For example, the absence of a clause requiring that funds stop investing in fossil fuels and in tax havens shows that there is work to be done. This bill is a step in the right direction, but I think that it could be improved, and I am prepared to work with my colleagues here in the House to do so. This is truly a step in the right direction, and I think we are in a position to make some improvements without significantly altering the spirit of the bill.

  (1150)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-231. I am so glad to see the bill has been brought forward, as it addresses the very important issue of how money in federally sponsored plans will be invested in the interest of all Canadians. I would like to acknowledge my colleague from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford and his staff for all their hard work in bringing the bill to the House.
    The bill takes the investment approach of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which is responsible for managing the funds that will be used to pay CPP beneficiaries well into the future. The management of this fund is critically important to the future well-being of Canadian workers and retirees, but the no-holds-barred investment mandate of the fund managers requires some real common-sense tweaking.
    I first became aware of the potential problems with the board's management mandate in 2016 when a colleague of mine, a member from Victoria, sent me an email detailing severe human rights abuses at a mining site in Eritrea that was owned by a Canadian mining company. The email further detailed that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board was a significant shareholder in the Canadian mining company and was at least indirectly tied to the abuse occurring at the Bisha mining site in Eritrea. My staff and I were shocked as we unearthed more information about the abuses. Military personnel were being employed to basically keep the mine workers in a state of slave labour, and this included arbitrary arrests and detentions and even killing workers who were not producing desired results. I seriously wondered how this was possible. How could the fund that Canadians pay into to secure their retirement be used to support such obvious and tragic human rights abuses?
    As my staff and I continued to study the question, the answer started to become clear. The mandate of the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, with a huge fund of over $400 billion, 1,500 full-time employees and offices on three continents, was to make as much money as it possibly could through its investments, with very little holding it back. This is its mandate, as defined by the CPPIB Act:
(c) to invest its assets with a view to achieving a maximum rate of return, without undue risk of loss, having regard to the factors that may affect the funding of the Canada Pension Plan and the ability of the Canada Pension Plan to meet its financial obligations on any given business day.
    As members can see, the only limitation, to put it in plain English, is this: Do not lose any money.
    We thought there must be some certainty, with all these restrictions, on how this board could invest the monies of hard-working Canadians. We continued through the act and researched the board's internal documentation, but we could find no restrictions at all. What we did find were guidelines, committees and policies, none of which were binding and none of which seemed to have much of an effect on the enormous number of investment decisions made by the board. More and more, the board's investment oversight seemed to be a function of its PR department rather than anything related to the operational and investment departments.
    Shortly after receiving the email from my colleague, I attended a meeting at the parliamentary finance committee at which the representatives of the CPPIB, including its president, were scheduled to appear. I decided to take some of my own concerns and questions directly to them. I asked them if they were aware the mining company they had invested in to the tune of one and a half million shares was engaged in supplying labour to the Bisha mine under conditions that have been described as slave labour. I also asked if they could describe the measures and procedures they have in place to ensure that they avoid investing in companies linked to human rights violations.
    I think the CPPIB representatives were caught off guard and unprepared for such a line of questioning. The answers I received were what we would expect from a company president or a company lawyer when they really do not have a good answer: empty and hollow allusions to guidelines and good intentions. However, I did get a promise that someone from the board would follow up and give me a more detailed answer in the days following the committee meeting.
    What I ended up getting was a letter from their chief PR person. In this letter, he spouted some vague commitment to being good corporate citizens, but also said this:
     Nevsun Resources represents one of approximately 2,500 public companies we are invested in around the world. As at March 31, 2016, CPP Investment Board held 1,519,000 shares in Nevsun Resources totalling a market value of $6 million. We sold much of our position since our last reporting period and our current exposure to the company totals less than $1 million....

  (1155)  

    I was a bit dumbfounded by this response. The letter seemed to be saying that, because it invested in so many companies worldwide, it could not possibly know what was going on with them. This hardly seems to be a reasonable approach. I was even more shocked by the dubious logic. It is like saying now we are only 20% responsible for investing in a company that is killing its workers, which does not add up and it defies any kind of common sense. I do not think it is something most Canadians would believe.
    This is a very important bill. Right now, the CPPIB, which again is responsible for the fund that hard-working Canadians contribute to every year, is investing in companies involved in weapons manufacturing, private for-profit American prisons that detain immigrants and children, companies that are guilty of serious human rights violations and companies responsible for contributing to the global climate crisis.
    Is it unreasonable to expect that an organization dedicated to investing public funds should do so with some types of ethical restrictions? I do not think so, and I think many Canadians would agree. What we want and what this bill seeks to do is to have the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board take a proactive approach of due diligence in its investment policies, leveraging our more than $400-billion pension fund by investing only in companies with ethical business practices and divesting from those that create weapons of war, contribute to climate change and other environmental problems or oppress people around the world through unethical labour practices and human rights violations.
    It makes no sense to me, and I think to most Canadians, that the government should not be able to do something about questionable investments made by funds that are governed by acts of Parliament. The situation with Revera long-term care homes is a good case in point. Revera is a for-profit company, wholly owned by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, an entity created by the federal government to manage pension funds from public sector workers. Revera has been roundly criticized for the mismanagement of its homes, especially during the pandemic.
    During the first wave of COVID-19, its homes had the most number of deaths in the industry, and during the second wave, it is again seeing significant outbreaks in its homes across the country. CBC has just announced that Revera had another 100 outbreaks of COVID-19 this morning, including 50 of its workers. There is a course of complaints from its workers about understaffing, a lack of PPE, and overtime and pandemic bonuses are not even being paid.
    The problems at Revera are the same that we have found throughout the for-profit, long-term care sector right across the country. It is a model that does not work for guaranteeing the safety of our loved ones. As with some other problematic investments of the CPPIB, it is a problem that the government can do something about.
    As Canadians who pay into the fund, which is managed by the CPPIB, we are, by extension, all shareholders in the companies that benefit from the fund's investments. A lot of influence can be had by divesting from companies that conduct themselves in a way that we view as objectionable or unethical. By amending section 35 of the CPPIB Act, which is what this bill seeks to achieve, we can require the board to take a proactive approach to ethical investment, and I am sure that is what Canadians want.
    Today, I have heard that a lot of people here believe in the bill in principle, and I encourage us all to work together. Let us move the bill forward and get it passed. I encourage all my colleagues to support the bill today.

  (1200)  

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to contribute to this debate. Ensuring that Canadians have the ability to have a secure and dignified retirement is very important to the government.
    The bill before us, Bill C-231, proposes to amend the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act to specify that the investment policies, standards and procedures established by the board of directors forbids investments in any entity that engages in certain practices.
    Federal and provincial governments created the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, or CPPIB, in 1997 as an arm's-length organization to prudently invest the surplus funds of the Canada pension plan to ensure its long-term sustainability. CPPIB is now recognized internationally as a leading example of sound pension plan management and governance.
    More importantly, its governance structure was designed to allow it to operate free of political interference, while still being accountable to the federal and provincial governments that are the stewards of the CPP. That is to say that CPPIB works on behalf of Canadians and not for the government. This independent governance is widely recognized as a central feature of its success and effectiveness in achieving its mandate to maximize return without undue risk of loss and to manage amounts transferred to it in the best interests of contributors and beneficiaries.
    CPPIB's investments have been consistently drawing above average rates of return—
    Unfortunately, I must interrupt. The hon. member will have eight minutes the next time this matter is before the House. The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[Translation]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Measures to Support Canadian Businesses 

    Today being the last allotted day for the supply period ending December 10, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bills. In view of recent practices, do hon. members agree that the bills be distributed now?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    That, given that, (i) Canadian businesses are in distress and need help to survive as a rapid testing and vaccination plan rolls out, (ii) according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 46% are worried about the survival of their business, (iii) the federal government must support employment by removing barriers to job creation, such as taxes and regulation,the House call on the government to: (a) provide complete details on the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program by December 16, 2020, including criteria, when businesses can apply, which sectors are eligible, when repayment will be required, and how much forgiveness will be offered; (b) fix the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility by reducing restrictions and amending the interest rate schedule; (c) postpone the increase of the Canada Pension Plan payroll taxes planned for January 1, 2021; and (d) postpone the increase of the carbon tax and the alcohol escalator tax planned for 2021.

  (1205)  

[English]

    He said: Madam Speaker, I rise today to propose that we move from the credit card economy to the paycheque economy.
    Let me tell colleagues what I mean by that by illustrating the difference in approach between the government and us here in the Conservative opposition.
    Last week, the finance minister made an interesting observation. She told BNN, “I want to thank you, first of all, for really zeroing in on the preloaded stimulus idea”. That idea is the following: “[Households] do have quite a lot of money that they have saved because there has not been much to do in the pandemic. Certainly, it would be great if that money could go towards driving our recovery.... If people have ideas on how the government can act to help unlock that preloaded stimulus, I am very, very interested.”
    Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, those who have money in their bank accounts should lock it away. They might even want to put it under their beds before the government finds out that it is there. The government thinks people are saving too much and wants to empty their bank accounts as the best way, it thinks, to get the economy started.
    Now some will say that the minister did not meant what she said, and that what she was trying to say was that we need more consumer spending in this miserable economy. Certainly that debt-induced spending would create activity, but never confuse activity with achievement.
    The CIBC has reported that a very large share of the government's COVID emergency spending has been leaking right out of Canada altogether, because the debt-funded money that consumers are spending is actually going to imported goods. All of those Amazon and Alibaba deliveries are of products imported from abroad, and when those products come in, our money goes out. That is how our economy has been functioning for the last five years. Five years in a row, there have been five trade deficits.
    Here is what a trade deficit is: We buy more than we sell and we borrow to make up the difference. We buy from the world and borrow from the world. They get the money, investment and jobs. We are left with the debt. Day by day, we become more and more reliant on the People's Republic of China and other economic powerhouses that send us their goods so that we can send them our money.
     More and more, our population becomes enslaved to debt. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is now 384% when households, businesses and governments are combined. This is a record-smashing level of debt. It is the second-highest in the G7, behind only Japan. It means that for every one percentage point increase in the effective interest rate, we will have a 3.84% increase in the economic cost of our debt on the world stage.
    The House will hear more of this from the member for Mégantic—L'Érable, with whom I am splitting my time. He too is concerned about the fact that money is the best servant but the worst master. If someone invests their money, it will serve them. If they borrow money, it will be a master over them. That is what is happening with Canadians today. This high level of debt to fund short-term consumption has only made us weaker and more vulnerable to the rest of the world. We do not need to come back out of this pandemic lockdown with even more debt. In fact, we need precisely the opposite.
    We need Canadians to save, earn and invest. First we save to prepare for the future and a secure retirement, and then we invest. Much of those savings are converted either by being lent out by banks to small businesses or converted into TFSAs and RRSPs, into equities and other investments that build factories, dig mines and develop intellectual property and patented technologies.

  (1210)  

    Those assets then produce ongoing income to power our economy into the future. Instead of debt-fuelled consumption, we have investment-fuelled production. We are seeing none of that right now.
     The Bank of Canada, which is pumping $400 billion of printed money into our economy, inflating assets for rich people, while devaluing the wages of the working class, has reported that over the next three years investment will only grow by 0.8%. In fact, it will not be until at least 2023 that we get investment levels back to where they were in 2019. Meanwhile, consumption will grow by 4.7%, six times faster than investment. Of the growth over the next two years, 80% will come in the form of debt-fuelled government spending and consumer spending. Again, that means more debt and more vulnerability.
    How do we make the switch from this credit card economy to a paycheque economy? We do it by unleashing the mighty force of our 20 million Canadian workers. Let us end the war on work, by which I refer to a tax and benefit system that claws back as much as 80¢ on the dollar of some people when they go out into the work force and earn another hundred cents.
     For example, if single parents get a job and earn an extra dollar from $55,000 to $55,001, they lose as much as 80¢ of that dollar to clawbacks and taxes. These penalties exist right across the income level and they ding the lowest-income people the hardest. Some people with disabilities lose more than a dollar of income for every dollar increase they have in wages. That is the war on work, punishing people for making an effort.
     Let us reform our tax and benefit system so it always pays more to work. Let us reverse the insane system we have right now, which means that it takes 168 days longer to get a building permit for construction in Canada than in the United States. We are 34th out of 35 OECD nations in the delay to build a factory, or a plant or a mine, or a shopping centre. We should be number one. This should be the fastest and simplest place to get a building permit, to build a structure and to fill it with well-paid workers.
    Let us knock down interprovincial trade barriers, so Canadians can actually buy and sell from one another instead of just importing cheap products from abroad. Let us speed up the recognition of the incredible skills and qualifications of immigrants who come here with knowledge in the trades and professions, so they can earn the full salary for which they are qualified rather than be forced into a low-wage job because regulators ban them from getting a permit to work. Let us open up our free enterprise system by removing red tape and shortening the amount of time our small businesses must spend filling out tax forms, so that resource can be dedicated to serving customers and hiring workers. Let us repeal Bill C-69 and Bill C-48, so we can unleash the force of our energy and resource sectors to bring tens of billions of dollars back into the country.
    We have a $14-billion LNG project awaiting approval in Quebec. We have a $20-billion oil sands project sitting around waiting in northern Alberta. We have pipelines, we have rail lines and we have transmission lines that are ready to go as soon as the government gets out of the way. Therefore, let us get the government out of the way, open up our economy and transform ourselves from a credit card economy into a paycheque economy, so our 20 million brilliant and strong Canadian workers can stand on their feet and build our economy.

  (1215)  

    Madam Speaker, I am glad to have a chance to ask the hon. member a question.
    He speaks about a paycheque economy and not a credit card economy. In a previous speech he talked about the war on work. I am really curious to see how the member opposite is going to contort himself and twist himself into knots when I ask a question about when he was a member of government.
    His government had the lowest unemployment rates since the Great Depression and what did it have to show for it? It had a $150 billion in debt. What did that government not have? A global pandemic that shut down economies everywhere.
    What exactly does the member propose when the Conservatives added that much debt and had such a terrible unemployment record?
    Madam Speaker, I think the member accidentally told the truth when she said we had the lowest unemployment since the Great Depression. She was right that we did not have the lowest unemployment in the G7. However, we had the best record going through the great global recession, which is interesting. Now we have the second highest unemployment in the G7. Only socialist Italy is higher, and the Italian socialist policies are the ones the government is working hardest to emulate. Even France, which used to be socialist, is reversing those policies and has now lowered its unemployment rate below Canada's.
     In Canada, we see a government shutting down our economy, trying to nationalize economic activity and getting exactly the same kinds of predictable results that those policies always produce.
    The member should look at the magnificent success and world-famous actions of the previous Conservative government to get us through that recession. The current government could learn a lot from that.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to ask my colleague from Carleton a question. We have not had a chance to debate with each other for a long time.
    Will the member not agree that there are some people who are shamelessly profiting from the pandemic? The president and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, could give each of his 876,000 employees a $105,000 bonus and still be just as rich as he was before the pandemic started.
    How much tax does Amazon pay in Canada? None.
    At a time when we need funding for our social programs, how can someone earn billions of dollars and yet not have to contribute like every other company does, including SMEs in Quebec and Canada? What does my colleague think about that?
    Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.
    This situation is outrageous, and it is one of the reasons we need to stop sending our money out of the country. That is the credit card economy. Canadians go into debt buying goods and services from other countries. We end up in debt while others become wealthy.
    I would also like to point out that the central banks are printing money, which causes inflation and makes the rich richer. One of the reasons that billionaires are making the most money right now is that the central banks are printing money and handing it to the financial markets. This lowers the value of working-class wages while increasing the wealth of big billionaires like Jeff Bezos.

  (1220)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, what does the member think about the announcement in the fall economic statement that we would be pursuing the imposition of corporate income tax on these foreign company web giants, like the Amazons, about which he talked, ahead of what the OECD is planning. We think it is more important to get this done as soon as possible rather than wait on the OECD?
    Madam Speaker, it is all fine, except the government's policies are enriching the Amazons and Alibabas of the world. The policy is to get Canadians to add more household debt in order to buy more cheap imported goods from Amazon and Alibaba, which enriches those foreign billionaires at the expense of Canadian households. The government's policy is to print money to pay the bills, which effectively inflates the asset values of the super rich at the expense of the wages of working-class people. We would do exactly the opposite of that.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this motion that is important to all Canadian businesses.
    I commend my colleague, the member for Carleton, who is our shadow minister of finance. He gave a great explanation of how we should be putting jobs ahead of credit cards. I think this is what brings us together today.
    The government is having a hard time producing a vaccination plan and a recovery plan, which still do not exist. We got some bits and pieces this morning when we learned that Canada could be getting some vaccines by the end of December. That does not give our local businesses the assurance they need to resume operations and get through this period with the hope that something better is coming.
     The motion before us today is very clear. It states: “given that, (i) Canadian businesses are in distress and need help to survive as a rapid testing and vaccination plan rolls out, (ii) according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 46% are worried about the survival of their business, (iii) the federal government must support employment by removing barriers to job creation, such as taxes and regulation”.
    Later on in my speech, I will come back to this and talk more about the many problems we have had during the pandemic dealing with all these regulations and all the delays that are causing businesses across the country to suffer and drown in red tape and debt. Unfortunately, as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business pointed out, 46%, or nearly half, of businesses are worried they will not survive the pandemic. That is why my colleague's motion rightly calls on the government to be upfront, lay its cards on the table and help businesses cope with the pandemic.
    The motion urges the House to “call on the government to: (a) provide complete details on the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program by December 16, 2020, including criteria, when businesses can apply, which sectors are eligible, when repayment will be required,” which is very important to planning a business's survival, “and how much forgiveness will be offered; (b) fix the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility by reducing restrictions and amending the interest rate schedule; (c) postpone the increase of the Canada Pension Plan payroll taxes planned for January 1, 2021; and (d) postpone the increase of the carbon tax and the alcohol escalator tax planned for 2021”.
    With every business struggling, now is not the time to be taking even more from them by increasing these two taxes.
    This motion calls on the government to be straight with businesses and let them know where they stand. Unfortunately, from day one, the government has been holding press conferences in front of the house and from behind a table, and that is how we get our information day by day.
    Sadly, by proroguing Parliament, the government decided to put off measures that were absolutely necessary for helping businesses cope with the pandemic. It created even more uncertainty for them and made things even more difficult for those who want to get back up and running and who we hope will still be there thanks to the measures that will have been put in place.
    The problem is that the government announces measures, but does not provide the details until too much later. I will talk about some of the situations encountered by companies back home that are having difficulty with all these programs.
    First, not a day goes by that a business does not call us to say it is having problems because of delays in processing immigration applications for foreign workers, who are absolutely essential right now. This delays certain investment plans and the resumption of certain activities, causing unnecessary problems in the system.

  (1225)  

    For instance, a cheese factory in Mégantic—L'Érable reports that processing times for foreign worker permits have increased dramatically. An application for a cheese maker was submitted last April, and they are still waiting for a decision. That is unacceptable. How can we expect that company, which is essential because it is in the food sector, to do what it needs to do if it cannot meet its labour needs?
    I have been working on a file that boggles the mind. Some companies, such as Princecraft and Fournier Industries, to name just a couple, have had problems with the application of the work-sharing program. At the beginning of the crisis, their employees were able to use the CERB, and rightly so, because the companies had to shut down temporarily. However, when they decided to reopen, those employees, who had been taking part in the work-sharing program, did not receive their wages for months. Why? It was because the systems were not coordinated.
    The administrative delays were outright unacceptable. The companies had to wait for months and advance considerable sums to some of their employees to keep them in work. Some lost their employees because they just could not afford to pay them. Unfortunately, some employees were not paid from June to October, in the midst of the pandemic, even though these companies had decided to answer the government's call. They recalled their employees, but the government was nowhere to be found. It was the government that failed to pay the employees what they were owed. That is unacceptable.
    I would like to talk about the Castech Plessitech Group, another business in my riding that found itself in a very difficult situation. Employment and Social Development Canada, which conducts labour market impact assessments, or LMIAs, claimed that the pandemic should make it easier for businesses to recruit employees. In the midst of a pandemic where many people are unemployed, businesses are trying to hire staff and are making job offers, but unfortunately, they get no response, because the assistance measures encourage people to stay home.
    The businesses have therefore turned to foreign workers, as they used to do, but they are running into administrative delays. Sometimes the department is even refusing to give these businesses permits because it says that there are people available here in Canada, but that is not the case on the ground. It is not happening. No workers are available because people are receiving government assistance or are simply not available to work. That means that many businesses have had to turn down contracts.
    It is time to do the right thing and give Canadian businesses the details of these programs by December 16 so that they know exactly what to expect and can get their operations back up and running properly. They also need to know when they will have to pay back the money that the government lent them.
    Most importantly, I am asking the government to do everything in its power to ensure that rapid tests and vaccines are distributed across the country as quickly as possible. We still have not seen a real plan to help these companies get back up and running. As long as we do not have a real plan for rapid testing and vaccinations, then there can be no real economic recovery plan.
    Above all, during this pandemic, I am calling on the government to reduce red tape for small businesses. We need to make sure that people can get back to work as quickly as possible. By adopting this motion, the House will send the government a clear message.

  (1230)  

    Madam Speaker, I commend the hon. member on his very realistic-looking background. It felt like he was seated in front of me in the House.
    I would like to know what the hon. member thinks of the comments by the Conservative finance critic, who claims that the Bank of Canada is printing money, which leads to inflation later. That is absolutely not the case. There is a distinction to be made.
    The Bank of Canada is pursuing a quantitative easing policy. That is not the same thing. Bank reserves are being increased so that they can borrow money if they want to invest in projects that will increase the supply. We know that when the supply of products and services is increased, this plays against inflation because obviously the supply is greater.
    Can the hon. member comment on the fact that his colleague does not seem to understand this distinction, despite being the finance critic?
    Madam Speaker, I will never question anything my colleague, the member for Carleton, says. I think his interpretation of the government's plan is very astute. He is right to criticize the government's willingness and propensity to print money right in the middle of a pandemic, not because of the impact here and now, but because of the impact it will have for years and generations to come.
    The government says it is borrowing over longer and longer terms to get the lowest possible interest rates. We know that is an illusion, a pipe dream. When one has very little and the interest rate rises just a little, that makes a big difference, but ultimately the impact is extremely minimal for Canadians.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question.
    Instead of the deregulation this motion proposes, why not ask the government to do sector-based investing? For example, it could invest in the aerospace sector, which provides 40,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs in Quebec. We are still waiting. The Americans have already invested in aerospace. The French invested $15 billion euros in it. Why not ask the Government of Canada to invest in aerospace? My riding, Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, is home to two companies, Héroux-Devtek and Pratt & Whitney, both of which are waiting for a signal from the government to move their projects forward.
    I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert for his comments.
    Millions of Canadians and Canadian businesses have been abandoned. The government is currently preparing to increase taxes at the expense of many of these companies, while some businesses that are key to the Canadian economy are still waiting for a clear signal from the government. We need to reduce red tape and taxes so that the programs are effective and give businesses the results they were designed to achieve.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, in this motion there are many good things, but the Conservatives have to put in their poison pill, where they continue their attack and predatory approach on seniors' and workers' benefits and retirement security. We have watched seniors struggle to pay their bills and not make ends meet throughout this crisis. Conservatives continue to look at these investments as taxes. They are not taxes. These are investments in workers' retirement security.
    When will the Conservatives stop their attack on workers' pensions? This is not a time to cut back. We heard from the PBO that CPP is vulnerable and that these strategic investments are needed. This is not a time for the Conservatives to prey on a crisis like this that is going to impact seniors and retirement security in the future.

  (1235)  

    I totally disagree with what the member just said, Madam Speaker. He is totally wrong. We are not attacking seniors or any pension plan.

[Translation]

    We are simply asking that the government postpone the increase of the Canada pension plan payroll taxes.

[English]

    That is only what we are asking for and we are asking for it to help enterprises get through this pandemic crisis.
    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure, as always, to take part in debates on the floor of the House of Commons, despite it being virtual as it has been for the last number of months.
    The motion on the floor deals with various planned supports for small businesses. I did want to take a moment before I address the substance of the motion to more broadly address the importance of supporting small business, particularly during this unprecedented economic crisis.
    The pandemic that is tied to COVID-19 has changed everything about the way that we live. It has changed the way we work. It has changed the way we socialize. It has caused us to give up many of the comforts we have for so long taken for granted.
    Over the course of this pandemic, we realized very quickly that it was not just a public health emergency, but it posed an extraordinary threat to the well-being of our nation's economy, as well. Upon realizing the magnitude of this potential economic shock, our government quickly moved to establish emergency supports for households and businesses to ensure that we could mitigate against the seriousness of the economic consequences that would follow the pandemic, but also to ensure that we could set the stage for future growth.
    We developed this plan by doing the simple thing: listening. We spoke to stakeholders who represent small businesses, medium-sized businesses and big businesses. I remember being on the phone through the night in the spring understanding what small businesses needed to survive so they could help contribute to the recovery on the back end of this pandemic.
    Over the course of taking in this feedback and through consultation with experts, we have developed a plan. We realize that the first step to our plan has to be to keep Canadians safe and to defeat the virus. We know the most important policy, in terms of protecting our economy, is to protect the health and well-being of Canadians. We will not see an economic recovery until we have defeated this virus.
    The second pillar of our plan is to ensure that while we work to defeat the virus, we extend emergency supports to households and businesses so they can weather the storm and make sure that on the back end of this pandemic, they are positioned well to help bounce back and contribute to the nation's recovery.
    The final pillar of our plan, which was alluded to in the recent fall economic statement, is going to be to make certain important and tranformative investments that are going to set the stage for long-term economic growth. The motion on the floor pertains to support for business, so I will focus my comments there.
    It is important to keep in mind that more than $8 out of every $10 spent in response to COVID-19 has come from our government. We have worked with provinces, communities and different associations, but the reality is that we made the decision early on that the cost of inaction was too great and the federal government would be there to support households and businesses, and to make the investments necessary to help defeat the virus.
    In particular, I want to draw the House's attention to certain business supports we have advanced over the past number of months. First and foremost, the Canada emergency wage subsidy is a program we developed after listening to businesses. They said the cost of keeping their employees on the payroll is too great and if they do not have support, we will have millions of Canadian workers without jobs.
    We moved quickly, initially with a smaller version of the wage subsidy. When we heard that it needed to be increased, that is precisely what we did. We established a program that is covering up to 75% of the cost of wages for employees in Canada. This is keeping nearly four million workers on the payroll to date. This is important not only for providing the income support to those workers in the short term, but for maintaining that connection between the worker and their job so that when conditions allow, those workers cannot just be on the payroll, but can actually be on the shop floor so they can help boost the productivity of their employer and hopefully help them survive this pandemic.
    In addition to the Canada emergency wage subsidy, we have put forward the Canada emergency business account. This is a small-business, interest-free, government-backed loan program that initially provided $40,000 to small businesses and $10,000 of that $40,000 was forgivable if certain conditions were met, including paying it back on a particular schedule.
    In the fall economic statement, we improved that policy. Not only did we expand its eligibility over time, but we took steps to make sure it became more generous. We added an additional $20,000 to that loan program, $10,000 of which is forgivable as well. This means that small businesses across Canada have access to $60,000 in support, $20,000 of which is forgivable.
    This program was designed to help businesses do simple things such as pay their utility bills and literally keep the lights on so their employees, who might be benefiting from the wage subsidy, can actually have a place to come back to work. This particular program has now reached approximately 800,000 businesses across Canada and is supporting millions of Canadians in terms of keeping them employed throughout this time of unprecedented economic uncertainty.

  (1240)  

    However, we did not stop with those two programs. We have also advanced the new Canada emergency rent subsidy and a new piece of legislation. This program is essential because we heard, loud and clear, from businesses that they needed support, not only for their employees' wages, not just for the fixed costs of running a business, but also specifically for their rent. This commercial rent subsidy program is actually able to provide up to 65% of the cost of rent for businesses that have experienced a drop in revenue.
     For those who have actually been shut down as a result of a public health order in order to keep our community members safe, we have created additional lockdown support, which means the federal government will cover up to 90% of the rent for businesses that have been shut down in order to protect public health. This may sound expensive, but it is the right thing to do because it has a public health outcome and also provides the emergency support to businesses to make it easier and more economically viable for them to do the right thing for our population's health.
    We realize that there are certain businesses that may not have been covered by some of these programs, so we established the regional relief and recovery fund, which mirrors the emergency business account and provides support to businesses that may not otherwise meet some of the eligibility criteria. We invested in programs to extend liquidity support across the economy to ensure that the steady flow of cash would prevent massive deflation, leading to potential job losses and business shutdowns. These programs are taking hold.
    However, it is not just the programs that have directly supported business. I did not even mention the many deferrals or remittance delays that we have allowed, to the tune of $85 billion, to help businesses keep cash in their accounts rather than giving it to the government. It is important that we also draw attention to the personal income support through the Canada emergency response benefit, or CERB, which was designed to help Canadians who lost income as a result of this pandemic.
    This program in particular has helped over nine million Canadian households keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. I bring it up in the context of supports for business, which this motion is geared towards, because it actually filled a gap for a lot of self-employed Canadians who did not have access to ordinary EI programs. When they lost income as a result of their business and they needed support, CERB was there for them, whether they were self-employed or not, to help ensure that they could continue to meet the costs of living despite the uncertainty that this pandemic has injected into their lives and throughout the economy.
    I want to spend a few minutes on the importance of our health response to the success of businesses, both in the short term and the long term. We know in the long term that this pandemic will end with a vaccine. I was thrilled to see the announcement today that Canada expects, very soon, the first doses to arrive in Canada. As soon as next week, 249,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive.
    I would like to draw the House's attention to the portfolio of vaccines that we have procured. It is the most robust portfolio in the entire world, with more doses per capita than any other country. By casting a wide net, we improved our chances of having access to those vaccines that were to be approved first. Now that the Pfizer vaccine appears to be on the eve of arrival, we can also point to three other candidates that are in the regulatory process and should be approved, assuming Health Canada says it is safe, for rollout in Canada before too long.
     The reality is we have been working with provinces and the Canadian Armed Forces to develop a distribution plan for these vaccines. This plan will ensure our population becomes inoculated as quickly as possible, so that Canadians can return to the new version of normal and continue to help businesses succeed on their own, rather than rely on these emergency supports over the course of the pandemic.
    It is not just the vaccines that we have invested in to help keep Canadians safe. Through the safe restart agreement with the provinces, we have now injected nearly $20 billion on things like testing and contact tracing. We have rolled out 5 million rapid tests throughout the country, in the provinces, to help ensure that they could be deployed in a way that would protect communities.
    The reality is, if it still unsafe to go out and eat in restaurants, visit a movie theatre, go to a sporting event or a local show at the theatre, these are the kinds of things that will help the economy rebound more quickly. Until Canadians feel that it is safe to actually be out in their communities, we cannot expect the rebound to reach its full potential. That is why we are making these investments, and they are taking hold in provinces across Canada.
    If anyone wants an international comparator, over 80% of the jobs that were lost during the depths of this pandemic have in fact now returned in Canada, compared to a little more than half in the United States. The recent jobs report from Statistics Canada shows that in my home province of Nova Scotia, the last month has seen 10,000 new jobs created and our unemployment today is even better than it was a year ago.

  (1245)  

    That is due in part because of the responsible measures put in place by our local governments, and the public buy-in we have seen across this province to help keep one another safe, but we cannot take it for granted. If we want to expect to continue to see this kind of rebound, we are going to need to continue to follow public health advice and ensure businesses and people are supported when it is not safe to be out in our communities.
    I want to direct people's attention to a few elements of the motion I find are problematic. First, although this is perhaps a smaller point, the Conservatives have demanded more information about our new credit program for highly affected sectors. This new program is going to provide loans of up to $1 million. These loans are to be 100% government backed and have lower than market interest rates. They will ensure the hardest-hit sectors, which would otherwise be viable but for this pandemic, are able to have access to the supports they need so they are still here on the back end of COVID-19.
    The design work of this program is ongoing, and we are going to continue to consult with stakeholders, in particular the tourism and hospitality sectors, to make sure we get this program right. The motion puts a drop-dead deadline of I believe nine days from now to divulge the details of the program. I respectfully suggest we would be well served to continue our consultation with the stakeholders in those hardest hit sectors before we roll out details to ensure the program actually achieves its intended outcome and serves those who have been hardest hit.
    The motion also draws attention to a financing program for large employers. We are always open to suggestions on how these programs can be enhanced, but with respect, this program is supporting thousands upon thousands of Canadians. It is helping their employers who, again, would otherwise be viable but for this pandemic, and is keeping them employed throughout this. The program was intended to be a last resort for businesses that have been looking for access to liquidity elsewhere and have been unable to find it. It is, in fact, keeping Canadians employed in real communities across our country today.
    There are two shortcomings with this motion that are particularly important. The Conservatives have suggested that instead of continuing to put forward programs that support businesses directly during this time of emergency, what we should do is pause the increase to Canada pension plan premiums and do away with our price on pollution. I will deal with each of these in turn.
    With respect to the Canada pension plan, I find it shocking the Conservatives' position is that we should finance the small business supports by denying access to a secure retirement for Canadian seniors. This is not the first time they made the suggestion that we not continue to properly fund the Canada pension plan. The reality is we can afford in Canada to dignify a retirement for our seniors by improving and investing in the Canada pension plan and support businesses at the same time. That is precisely what we have been planning to do.
    We will not rob the retirement fund for Canadian seniors in order to fund support programs for Canadian businesses. We can do both. We can chew gum and walk at the same time. The reality is businesses need our support, but it should not come at the cost of the secure pensions of Canadian seniors.
    The second fault I want to draw attention to will come as no surprise to those who were elected in the previous Parliament and who have seen me rise to my feet literally hundreds of times to defend our government's plan to put a price on pollution. This is perhaps the most important policy we have advanced, and which many countries in the world have advanced, in order to fight climate change.
    The reality is this is not a cost we should be looking at because the program has been designed in a way that polluters pay and households benefit. I could go down the list of notable Conservatives who have defended this approach to fight climate change before, but because it is politically unpopular for some of our members of the House of Commons, they seem unwilling to even acknowledge the fact eight out of 10 Canadian households receive more through the climate action incentive than they would actually experience in an increased cost of living.
    This is good policy that is going to help continue to reduce emissions in Canada so we can fight climate change. This, by the way, will not only help protect our economic interests and health outcomes in the long term, but it will also ensure households continue to receive more money in the climate action incentive than they are putting out as a result of any increased cost due to our price on pollution. The reality is we should not be taking money from households in this way in order to continue to support businesses. We can support households and businesses at the same time. This is not a zero-sum game. It is the right thing to do.

  (1250)  

    I would like to draw attention to some of the comments that were made by the hon. member for Carleton during his opening remarks. I found it surprising that he did not seem to draw his comments from the motion on the floor, nor did he seem to acknowledge that there is a global pandemic on the go.
    The reality is, looking at the world that we live in today, if the hon. member wants to argue that we should be moving toward a paycheque economy, the very first thing he should do is realize that the paycheques have been interrupted for millions of Canadians, not because of decisions taken by the government, but because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. For public health reasons, provinces and, to some extent, the federal government have decided that the safe thing to do is to shut down our economies or reduce certain kinds of activities in our communities in order to save lives.
     As I mentioned earlier in my remarks, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that the economy cannot rebound when people are afraid to go out to shops and restaurants, when people will not be booking travel and when people are afraid to go out to stadiums or to cultural venues. We need to do everything we can and spare no expense to do whatever is necessary to defeat this virus as quickly as possible.
    When I hear the opposition members dig in and continue to focus on how much money has been spent rather than the value that is being provided for that money, I am more and more confident that I am on the right side of this debate on the government side of the House. The reality is that the best thing we can do for our economy is to continue to fund the fight against COVID-19. The second best thing that we need to do is continue to extend emergency supports to households and businesses to ensure they can keep up with the cost of living and the cost of keeping their doors open so that they are still here on the back end of this pandemic.
    I draw members' attention to the comments of Gita Gopinath, the chief economist of the IMF, who is on leave from Harvard University's department of economics. She has made the point that we need to continue to invest now. When we are dealing with economies that are in a potential prolonged liquidity trap and have a central bank that is at the lower effective bound of interest rates, by investing now we will serve our long-term interests. She has described this approach as not only being economically sound policy but also as the fiscally responsible thing to do.
    One of the things that we need to realize is that there is a cost to all things. Chief among them is inaction. The cost of failing to make these investments and focusing only on regulatory reform and reduced taxes will be paid for in the cost of businesses that are shuttered and households who cannot actually pay their rent or afford groceries.
    The costs will be paid, at the risk of overstating things, with the lives of our loved ones. These costs are too great to ignore. We need to do the right thing and the fiscally responsible thing and make the upfront investments now to preserve the long-term interests of our economy.
    The Conservatives have said repeatedly that they do not support this kind of approach to the pandemic. The finance critic himself has said that these are big, fat government programs and that they do not support them because they are Conservatives. It is high time that all parties in this House park their desire to continue to defend an outdated economic ideology and, instead, defend the Canadian households and business owners who have been on the phone with constituency offices of members of Parliament from every party and from every region of this country.
    Our approach is paying dividends. We are seeing the benefits extend to reach households. We are seeing the benefits reach business owners. For the reasons I have stated during my remarks, I will be voting against this motion. I would be pleased to take whatever questions members of this House may have for me.

  (1255)  

    Madam Speaker, while I will not agree with much of what our hon. colleague said, I want to speak to him man to man, not MP to MP. We have seen 2017 wildfires, 2018 wildfires and catastrophic flooding. Tens of thousands of jobs in my riding and in our province of British Columbia have been lost due to the softwood lumber downturn and the failure of the government to secure a softwood lumber agreement. The investments are fleeing, not just our region and province, but our country, because of the policies of the current government.
    I spoke with the member early on in this process about the owners of businesses such as C+ Rodeos ranch, Central Display & Tents, and Crossroads Brewing & Distillery. They were falling through the cracks of this funding and have still not received any of the funding. Therefore, when the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance talks about preloaded bank accounts, just whose preloaded bank accounts is she talking about?
    Madam Speaker, before I begin, I want to extend my sincere congratulations to my friend and colleague on the recent addition to his family, which all members of the House had the benefit of hearing about during a recent episode in the chamber.
    To address his question, I will not apologize for government policies that have put money directly into the bank accounts of Canadians during an emergency and that have allowed them to weather this storm. He referred to the proposed economic strategy of the Conservatives, which he indicates would lead to some new-found investment. However, the reality is they have tried those strategies before and failed. If we look at the economic record during the Harper government's years, we realize it had the slowest growth rate since the Great Depression and $150 billion of debt. Conversely, before this pandemic, the investments we made had Canada reach its lowest ever rate of unemployment, and we had the healthiest fiscal position in the G7.
    We are going to continue to support Canadians, both households and businesses, to make sure they can weather this storm and help kick-start the recovery once it is safe to do so.
    Madam Speaker, today we have heard the Conservatives bemoan big, fat government spending, and we have heard the Liberals talk about and tout all the investments they have made in people. However, the reality is that only about $100 billion has been invested in workers. Despite all the rhetoric in the House, what nobody is talking about is the $750 billion in the commercial purchase program that went straight to big banks and Bay Street.
    I have a simple question for the hon. member. Why is it, and how can he reconcile, that $750 billion went to the wealthiest corporations while big banks are paying out dividends to their shareholders?
    Madam Speaker, for a simple question, I have a simple answer: That has not happened.
    The reality is that the member is conflating two different concepts. There was direct support to households and businesses, with liquidity support. This has not provided public money directly to the banks, as he suggests, but has instead changed the rules. Sometimes this is done through the Bank of Canada or the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, not through the government itself, to ensure that banks have the technical ability to extend money to Canadians in need.
    For Canadians who may have benefited from a mortgage deferral, for example, some of the liquidity support that has been put in place has allowed the banks to do that. For Canadians who received, from their banks, support to help their businesses stay afloat, the liquidity support has helped banks do that. To suggest that the financial support provided directly to businesses and households is similar in any way, shape or form to a change in the rules that allowed our banking system to get money where it is most needed is simply false.
    Madam Speaker, according to Jonathon Gatehouse at the CBC, Kevin Page, at the University of Ottawa's Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy, “can hardly make sense of the recent 223-page fall economic update, saying an evening spent parsing its charts, graphs and verbiage left him feeling like he had a hangover.” As Page says, “It's impossible to read. I have done this for years and I can't even follow the money.” He wonders whether someone in government is trying to obscure the data and notes, “When we go out and tell people we can't follow the money, the trust is broken.”
    The Parliamentary Budget Officer commented two weeks ago that “Parliamentarians...have no clear idea as to how much money is being spent.” The government is not even updating its fiscal accounts.
    Why should Canadians trust the government when our independent institutions have told us we cannot trust you?

  (1300)  

    I remind the member that he is to address his questions and comments directly to the Chair.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, the reality is that, from the outset of this pandemic, we have done our best to keep Canadians apprised, under emergency circumstances, of the nature of the government's spending. This involved special authorizations that were provided by Parliament to the government, and it involved biweekly updates to the finance committee through the finance minister. I was one of the individuals who provided the update to the committee on one occasion.
    Since that time, we have continued to put forward, in Parliament, outlines of the spending decisions we have made, including the fall economic statement, to which the member has referred. I invite Canadians to read that document for themselves in detail, but if there is any misunderstanding of our strategy I will simplify it as follows: step one is to do everything we can to fight the disease and allow our communities to return to normal as quickly as possible; step two is to advance financial supports for households and businesses to allow them to weather this storm; and step three is to make the kinds of investments we need that will position Canada for long-term growth once this pandemic is a thing of the past.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I have some concerns about the Conservatives' motion when it comes to postponing the increase in taxes and contributions.
    However, with regard to the request for details about the assistance programs, does my colleague not agree that it is high time that the government provided that information since businesses are currently being forced to quickly change course and adopt recovery and COVID-19 testing plans?
    That is having all sorts of consequences and companies need that information to operate properly.
    Does my colleague not agree that it is high time that the government did what it said it was going to do?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, if I understand the question correctly, it is about providing details so that businesses can better understand what supports are there and how to access them.
    With great respect, for the vast majority of our programs, not only are the details available, but the supports are operational today. Canadians can go to their banks or credit unions anywhere in Canada and access the Canada emergency business account. Although the details of the Canada emergency wage subsidy have changed over time in response to stakeholder feedback, it is a program Canadians can apply to now. It is the same thing with the new Canada emergency rent subsidy.
    If the member is speaking specifically about programs such as the new credit availability program for hardest-hit businesses, there are some details to work out. Rather than prematurely disclosing what a program could look like, we wanted to continue our consultations with those hardest-hit sectors, in particular tourism and hospitality, to ensure that the program is a success from inception.
    Madam Speaker, I wonder if my colleague could give his perspective as to why it was important for the government to provide support through the CERB, which increased the disposable income for Canadians, and why it was equally important for us to invest in small businesses through the wage subsidy, with thousands of jobs saved as a direct result. Could he give us a quick explanation as to why these things were so important to our economy?
    Madam Speaker, I am reminded of 2008-09, during the global financial crisis, when we heard the phrase “too big to fail”. It was often used in reference to America's banking sector. We took the approach from day one that households and small businesses were too big to fail.
    Our phones were ringing off the hook with real people in real communities living with real concerns. If the member's experience was anything like mine, he spoke to single parents who did not know how they were going to pay for groceries. He spoke to people who were on the verge of eviction. He spoke to small business owners who not only worried they were not going to be able to keep their business going, but worried about the well-being of their employees.
    There has been a very human face to our government's response, and it is programs such as the CERB that have now helped nine million Canadian households keep food on the table. It is about programs such as the wage subsidy for business owners, who told us they would have had to lay off staff without access to a program to help them pay for wages. It has the federal government paying up to 75% of the wages for businesses across Canada that have had a drop in revenue. We should not let the remarkable nature of these programs be dismissed because they have been in effect for a number of months.
     To answer the hon. member's question, the reason we created these programs is that people needed help and we wanted to provide help to them.

  (1305)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, first, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville.
    I would also like to welcome back one of my staffers, who is also a friend, Philippe Guertin, who had to take a few months off because of a somewhat difficult personal situation. I am so glad to have him back in the office today.
    That said, I would like to indicate that the Bloc Québécois does not support the motion before us. We agree with the preamble of the motion. Businesses, particularly SMEs, are indeed suffering considerably from the repercussions of the pandemic, and it is the government's responsibility to bring in programs to help them get through this crisis and maintain jobs.
    However, we believe that the government also has a duty to safeguard the public good. In that sense, eliminating or delaying any regulations, such as the carbon tax for example, would be detrimental to the public good. There are other, more effective ways to support our businesses in these troubled times.
    Quebec businesses have been weakened by the pandemic, the drop in consumption and the health measures put in place. Our businesses have insisted, and even more so in the past eight months, that the most effective, simple and transparent way to help them would be to create a sector-specific assistance program that has measures to cover fixed costs.
    Will the federal government finally take action to mitigate the financial impact of fixed costs on our Quebec businesses, especially in the tourism, culture and restaurant sectors? SMEs in those sectors are still finding it difficult to obtain the financing they need.
    That is what came out of the September 30 poll of 7,000 SMEs by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which also shows that 50% of Quebec businesses believe that it will be difficult to survive a second wave of restrictions. This poll shows us that 27% of SMEs would survive less than a year with their current level of revenue. Quebec SMEs are saying they they need an average of $25,000 to cover fixed costs just in December 2020. That is a lot.
     Furthermore, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business' most recent survey of 4,200 businesses on October 28 illustrates quite clearly that we still have a long way to go to help businesses.
    Allow me to share some statistics: 30% of Canadian businesses reported being partially open; just 24% of Canadian businesses reported making usual revenues for that time of year; 45% of businesses reported making up to half of their usual revenues for that time of year; 35% of Quebec businesses reported losing money for every day that they were open; between 23% and 25% of businesses in the hospitality and the arts and recreation sectors were actively considering bankruptcy; 10% of businesses reported needing the Canada emergency business account—which, I remind members, is a loan—but not being eligible; 11% of businesses reported needing the Canada emergency wage subsidy but not being eligible; 28% of businesses reported needing the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program but not being eligible.
    There are nearly 25,000 small and medium-sized businesses in Quebec, which represents 93% of private-sector jobs in Quebec. We are talking about 2.3 million workers whose contributions will help revive Quebec's economy and raise their families' quality of life. Would we risk losing half of that?
    I remind members that SMEs are vital to Quebec's economy. The Government of Canada really failed in helping our SMEs pay their rent during the first wave, with the program that ended on September 30.

  (1310)  

    SMEs waited eight long months before getting appropriate rent assistance. I would also like to mention that the initial versions of the SME assistance programs were not really tailored to the reality of entrepreneurs. It took several months before the government started offering programs that would finally support a larger majority of businesses.
    We are therefore asking for more flexibility. We feel that there is a little more flexibility and openness in the federal government's current assistance programs than in the initial versions of the programs. In fact, many of the changes made by the federal government meet the recommendations of the Bloc Québécois and, more importantly, the needs expressed by entrepreneurs themselves.
    The most recent expansions of the assistance programs are leaving fewer and fewer businesses behind, but we need to go a step further, because the federal government's assistance programs do not take into account real-life situations, economic diversification and the specific realities of the regions, the hotel industry, cultural enterprises and summer camps. The entire tourism industry, a vital component of our economy, has been hard hit.
    The Canada emergency business account must be made more flexible in order to give startups and entrepreneurs who do not have a business number or who have non-deferrable expenses access to the program.
    There should also be retroactive assistance to cover fixed costs that were not covered by the first version of the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program, in which, you might remember, the vast majority of landlords refused to participate at tenants' request. When will the government finally present to the House a real assistance program for fixed costs that meets the real needs of SMEs in Quebec, as the Quebec government already has?
    Quebec is setting an example. Many of the stakeholders I have met with have praised Quebec's effective programs, namely the concerted temporary action program for businesses and the emergency assistance to small and medium-sized businesses program. These programs are administered by Investissement Québec.
    Both of these programs were enhanced by the assistance to businesses in high alert regions component, which covers certain fixed costs paid out during the closure period. Fixed costs include municipal and school taxes, the portion of rent not covered by another government program, mortgage interest, public utilities such as electricity and gas, insurance, telecommunications costs, permits and association fees. Can the federal government do the same?
    As I said at the beginning of my speech, it is up to the government to implement programs to help businesses survive this crisis and maintain jobs. However, we feel that the government is also responsible for protecting the public good. In this case, eliminating or postponing regulations, such as the carbon tax, would not be conducive to the public good. There are also a number of more effective means of supporting our businesses during this difficult period.
    I will now take questions.

[English]

Business of the House

    Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it, I believe you would find unanimous consent to adopt the following motion. I move:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order, special order or usual practice of the House, the deferred recorded division on the opposition motion standing in the name of the Member for Durham, currently scheduled at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions today, be further deferred to the conclusion of debate on motions relating to the Main Estimates later today.

  (1315)  

[Translation]

    This being a hybrid sitting of the House, for the sake of clarity I will only ask those who are opposed to the request to express their disagreement.
    Accordingly, all those opposed to the hon. parliamentary secretary moving the motion will please say nay.
    No one having objected, and the House having heard the terms of the motion, all those opposed will please say nay.
    There being no dissenting voice, I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion agreed to)

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Measures to support Canadian businesses  

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, in British Columbia, there are over 500,000 small businesses with 50 employees or fewer. I know Quebec also has a large forestry industry that has been hit hard with job losses. Through you to my hon. colleague, I would say the assistance has come late. Many of our small businesses are shuttering their doors in my province. I know our hon. colleague is hearing the same in his province. Perhaps he can share more of the stories that he is hearing because of the failure of the government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George for his question.
    I know what a devoted MP he is and, having heard many of his speeches in the House, I believe that the situations in our respective ridings are quite similar. I reach out to him on issues such as that of Nav Canada. These issues are essential to our SMEs and for our regional economic development, and they affect him as well.
    We will have the chance to talk about it together, but an entire segment of economic development relies on air transportation. I know that this affects him as well. Then there is the forestry industry, from which the federal government has been essentially absent.
    I would like to see assistance programs for SMEs and businesses that could be similar to the ones we see in Alberta for the petrochemical industry. Despite what people might think, we see that the federal government is very present when it comes to that industry. That is also true for the auto industry in southern Ontario.
    For the forestry industry, Canadian programs seem geared more toward supporting companies in the member's neck of the woods, British Columbia, than those in Quebec. That deserves some thought. However, what we need are support programs and subsidies designed for things like R and D and diversifying—
    We will give other members a chance to speak.
    The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member, reflecting on the motion we have before us, could provide a comment with respect to the price on pollution. Can he reinforce the Bloc's position on the issue of a price on pollution, as well as his thoughts on the Canada pension plan?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Winnipeg North for his question.
    Pollution is an important issue for sure.
    Bill C-12 is a step in the right direction for nature and the environment, but our generation is going to pay the price for pollution.
    We need to be forward-thinking here. We need to hit the Paris targets, and I think focusing on 2030 is a much better approach, even from an economic point of view. Hitting those targets is a big part of it, rather than offloading things to the next generation by focusing on 2050.
    I am deeply concerned about our environmental economy. We pay for pollution with our health care and other things, so we need to get serious about tackling economic and environmental issues head-on.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the way the last question wrapped up opened the opportunity for me to put on the record that there is much in this opposition supply day motion we would support as Greens, particularly the help for small business, but it is something of a poison pill to be asked to vote against the one piece of climate action regarding carbon pricing, which moves us in the right direction. The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue quite rightly points out how weak, at first reading, the climate accountability act is, pushing it down the road until later. I would ask him to reflect on this.
    Would we not wish this was in several separate sections so we could vote for some but not all of it?

  (1320)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands for her remarks.
    Indeed, I think the environment is the crux of the matter, the key issue in this bill that makes it impossible for the Bloc Québécois to support it.
    In response to the question from my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George, I would like to add that more and more mergers are happening between SMEs and businesses. Ownership is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of major players. All of this will also have an impact on the diversification of our economy and the future of our businesses.
    On top of that, from an environmental perspective, can we invest in a renewable industry, such as forestry, for example, which has such incredible potential? I think there is a real future there for our SMEs, and the government and the House of Commons should consider that as soon as possible.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue for his fine speech. I also want to say hello to his staffer who is just coming back to work. I would like to continue in the same vein as my colleague.
    With respect to the motion we are studying, we can agree on the preamble, which states that Canadian businesses are in distress and need help. From the start of the crisis, we have been talking to all parliamentarians and the government about the need for targeted assistance.
    However, I disagree with elements of the motion that say that we will help businesses by removing barriers to job creation, such as taxes and regulation; by postponing the increase of the Canada pension plan payroll taxes; and by postponing the increase of the carbon tax and the alcohol escalator tax planned for 2021. I will apologize right away to the interpreters but, in my opinion, with such measures we are shooting ourselves in the foot rather than helping businesses.
    Not so long ago in the House, on November 3, I talked about—as does the opposition motion—the fact that businesses are having a hard time staying afloat.
    On September 30, we learned from a survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that 26% of businesses in the arts, recreation and information industry and 24% of businesses in the hospitality industry were actively considering bankruptcy as a result of COVID-19. It is safe to say that businesses are in trouble.
    We could also talk about the aerospace industry, which was conspicuously absent from the throne speech. We are still waiting for answers. It is taking a long time for measures to be put in place. Companies are still struggling because the measures were poorly adapted to their reality during this crisis. Take, for example, the tourism industry, the hospitality industry and the arts, culture and entertainment industry. They have all basically been shut down for months.
    If we want to support businesses, we first need to support those who keep them up and running, the workers. Millions of people are still out of work and are still waiting for measures to be taken. The Canada emergency response benefit had to be adapted to the situation and, still today, there are people out of work who are not getting a cheque because we are still waiting for direction and guidance to help these people properly transition from emergency benefits to either the new employment insurance benefits or the new recovery benefits. That does not make any sense at all.
     If we want to support the recovery, I think we also need to support the efforts everyone is making for the public good. We are not going to revive the economy if we ask businesses to shirk their social obligations, such as contributing their share to the Canada pension plan.
    Businesses have been telling us for a long time that we need to cut the excessive red tape. In order to do so, we need to support their social measures that contribute to the economy as a whole. That is where we need to act. If we do not, we will be depriving ourselves of some very important economic levers.

  (1325)  

    Seven provinces had to agree to amend and improve the Canada pension plan, and this had not happened in a long time. If we were to postpone the increase to the employers' CPP contributions, we would be taking that new pension plan away from workers. This is an important matter, and I think we need to be doing the opposite.
    They are talking about postponing the carbon tax. Do they want to postpone it so that they can get rid of it? We know full well that the Conservatives are not particularly fond of the carbon tax. However, it is practically our only means of achieving the Paris targets.
    Surely everyone saw the article in La Presse+ this morning about a report that just came out about climate change. The title of the article speaks volumes: “Le Canada parmi les cancres”, or Canada lags far behind. In the report, released on Monday, we learned that Canada ranks 58th out of 61 on the Climate Change Performance Index, 56th out of 61 in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and 54th out of 61 in terms of renewable energy production; when it comes to global energy consumption, Canada comes in last.
    Despite all of that, they want to postpone the carbon tax? That makes no sense. I think we need to keep the tax, because it encourages good practices to address climate change.
    I know that the opposition will say that it is not asking that we abolish the carbon tax on businesses, but only that we postpone it. It would be a mistake to postpone the tax in order to abolish it. We need these economic levers to support things as basic as our social programs, such as pension plans. We also need them to support our efforts, late in coming, to counter climate change. We also have other solutions for supporting businesses going through hard times.
    As someone said earlier, we need to adopt a sectoral approach. As we know, some sectors have managed to do well. Others, however, are still staring into the abyss, namely the arts, culture, tourism and restaurant and hotel services. Jobs in these sectors are occupied mainly by women, and that has an effect on families.
    If we want to support employment, we must first support businesses’ ability to retain their workers until the recovery. What do we need to do in the period before the end of the crisis? We need to strengthen the wage subsidy and implement measures that will help businesses improve their situation.
    As my colleague said, and as we have been repeating for months now, it took time before we came up with a response that meets businesses’ needs in terms of rent. We must also provide support for fixed costs.
    We need a plan. We expressed our disappointment with the fact that the government’s measures did not include a plan to deal with the crisis. In our opinion, to help businesses, we must first have the ability to protect our economy and the public good. That is why we should not ask businesses to shirk their responsibilities.

  (1330)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that the question of the carbon tax really comes to us federally as a question of jurisdictional responsibility. This federal government has sought to impose a particular approach to responding to climate change on the provinces, and many provinces have said that they should decide on the kind of environmental policies they use and deploy. The federal approach is highly prescriptive in an area that has generally been a provincial jurisdiction, with provinces setting taxes within their own area.
    It is striking to me that the Bloc is opposing our call for the change to the timeline in this motion. Since we seem to be the ones in this case respecting provincial jurisdiction in an area that the Bloc is not, I would ask the member why the Bloc Québécois is failing to respect Quebec's jurisdiction in this matter.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.
    I will answer by saying that Quebec has already adopted these types of measures. We agree with the carbon tax, because Quebec has already implemented a similar measure. We are doing better than Canada in our fight against climate change, although much remains to be done.
    As my colleague mentioned, the carbon tax applies to the other provinces. It is up to the provinces to express their opinion, but that is not what the Conservatives’ motion is about. The motion very clearly asks for tax cuts to help support businesses. That is what we oppose.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member makes reference to the government needing to have a plan, and we have indicated that there is a plan. She then asked about small businesses and jobs and people keeping those jobs.
    I would like her thoughts on the following. Is it not a plan to support businesses with a wage subsidy, rent subsidies and other measures, thereby keeping many businesses afloat so once the pandemic is behind us we are in a much better position to keep the economy moving forward? Is that not part of a good plan?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the plan had its faults.
    We had to fight to increase the wage subsidy to an appropriate level. The emergency loan program also had to be modified to meet needs. The commercial rent program is recent. They are saying that they set aside $3 billion, but that the money was not spent because the program was not adapted to businesses.
    Having a plan and a vision is one thing, but the measures, however good they are, have to be adapted to reality and not get in the way.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech.
    I find it interesting that she mentioned the study published this morning. It shows that the federal government truly lags behind most other countries in the fight against climate change. I think we rank 58th out of 61 on the Climate Change Performance Index.
    She spoke of the price on pollution, the famous carbon tax, as a tool in our toolkit. Since this tool alone does not appear to suffice for the moment, what would she like the government to do to promote investment in renewable energy?

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.
    It is indeed a tool, but it should not be the only tool. We need a far more ambitious plan for dealing with climate change. However, we should not deprive ourselves of this tool, since it can help improve things.
    When it comes to climate change, we need to adopt a whole new vision, a much more robust vision. We will certainly not get there by planting 20,000 trees. I think that we need a paradigm shift, namely investing less in fossil fuels, thinking about employment transition and investing more in renewable energy.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is a huge honour to participate in today's debate. First, I will be sharing my time with the member for Hamilton Mountain.
    Today's debate is a very important debate, because we are obviously talking about issues related to the economy, around the pandemic and small business. It could not be more appropriate timing, as many small businesses are on the cusp of going out of business given that they have closed their doors to protect public health. In fact, small businesses truly are the unsung heroes in this pandemic, and we need to do everything we can to support them in this crisis.
    There are many things in today's motion that we agree with. The Conservatives put forward a motion today with a couple of poison pills. I do not believe they actually want this motion to pass today, which is really disappointing. We have been waiting for the Conservatives, the official opposition to come forward with new ideas that could help support small business in the middle of a pandemic. One would expect that the Conservatives would come forward with ways to help support small business in a way that would make a meaningful difference. Instead, they are coming forward with old items that were on their agenda prior to the pandemic.
    Sadly, I would say that the Conservatives are using the pandemic to leverage their political platform to attack workers' pensions, to slow down action when it comes to tackling climate change and doing our part, and it is extremely disappointing. They cite that 46% of Canadian businesses are concerned they are not going to survive. I do not doubt that.
     The Liberals have rolled out program after program that have design flaws, and have left many people out, including the commercial rent assistance program. The NDP brought forward the concept of a commercial rent assistance program, and the last thing we thought was that it would be a landlord-driven program. We are glad to see the government finally fix that, but are disappointed that it will not backdate it to April 1. We do not understand why the Conservatives have sat idle, and have not joined us in calling on the government to backdate that program for the many businesses that were left out.
    The Conservatives are talking about businesses that are concerned and are wondering how they are going to survive. We want them to join the New Democrats in calling on the government for what I think is really an injustice, by leaving out all of those tenants who were left out to dry. I am disappointed that that is not in this motion, calling on those who are benefiting and profiting from the pandemic the most, including the big banks and the biggest corporations, to pay their fair share. They are getting a free ride.
    The Conservatives have put forward a motion calling for the postponing of the increase of the Canada pension plan and payroll taxes. It is like we are in one crisis and we are putting off a future crisis for seniors. We know that many of them were in crisis heading into this pandemic, without adequate supports and adequate safety and security in place, or retirement savings to get them through even the best of times.
    We are seeing housing prices skyrocket in the middle of this pandemic. For a decade, we saw the Conservatives refuse to increase contributions to the CPP, which is really leaving seniors vulnerable today. Now they want to leave young people who are going to be the victims, carrying the debt load and the consequences of the pandemic and what it is going to do to the Canadian economy in the long run, to not have to contribute now, when we know that they deserve to have a retirement in the future, where they can retire with dignity.
    Again, Conservatives are back on their track record of continuing to attack workers and seniors. We saw, under their regime, that they attempted to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67, and they refused to invest appropriately in the OAS. So the Conservative track record when it comes to pensions is pretty clear. What we do not want to do is use one pandemic as an excuse to have another crisis in the future, when it comes to seniors and retirement income.
    The Conservatives are even calling it taxes. This is not taxes. This is about critical investments in people's retirement security. It is disappointing to hear the Conservatives say that they now support labour and workers, and they are changing direction. However, the Conservatives are now using words like “taxes” when it comes to increasing supports for income security for people in their retirement.

  (1340)  

    The other part that I am deeply concerned about is the carbon tax. I have to give credit to the B.C. Liberals for continuing to move forward with the carbon tax in B.C., despite the economic crisis we were in 2008, with the understanding that if we did not do our part when it came to taking climate action, we would inevitably be in another crisis down the road that would cost us much more, whether it be in forest fires or flooding. We see the impact that it is having on our warming oceans and our salmon.
    Right now is the time to ensure we follow through with climate action. Right now we are still lagging behind jurisdictions such as British Columbia on a federal landscape. We see the new administration from the U.S., in its mandate, committing to taking on the issue of climate change. It is not backing down.
    We are seeing leadership. Maybe the Conservatives need to look at other leadership around the world or other Conservative governments, such as in Britain, Japan or Germany. We are seeing right-leaning governments understand that it is good economics to invest in climate action and clean energy, and that it is a huge economic cost to leave to future generations. They talk about the Liberals and their deficits, but really they keep neglecting the huge economic deficit they are looking at passing on to future generations.
    I have huge concerns about the motion. I am disappointed that the Conservatives threw in the poison pill. We would have liked to have support it. Part of this motion is about ensuring there is more credit availability, which is very important in my riding, especially to the tourism sector. Resorts in my riding have had an incredibly difficult time. Many of them did not get access to the BCAP program. It was very challenging to do that.
    I worry that when looking at the LEEFF program, the Conservatives are really trying to erode the important mechanisms that are in place, so we do not see CEOs and shareholders benefiting from government financing and supports during the pandemic, as we saw in 2008 under the Conservative government when it was in charge of the oversight of the economic downturn from the recession then.
    These are some of the things that we have identified about which we are deeply concerned. We will continue to work with all parties to ensure there are improvements and supports for small businesses. We want to see the Liberal government follow through with its commitment when it comes to accessible, affordable and universal child care, so everybody has a chance to have early childhood education and be able to go back to the work force.
     I am disappointed to see that the Conservatives are not supporting these important investments. In Quebec, 70,000 women went back to work and the GDP grow 2% as a result of an investment in early childhood education. We have seen how important the CERB has been to support those workers and business owners who have been left out, such as musicians or artists whose businesses are gone. We would have loved to have seen the Conservatives bring forward a motion to invest in training, retraining or guaranteed liveable income to ensure that nobody would fall through the cracks in the future.
    We understand that small businesses are under distress, that they need access to financing. We fought really hard to support the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada and get important economic supports and loans early on in the pandemic. We would like to see the government roll out a recovery plan to support those most vulnerable businesses, whether it be in the tourism sector or the whole economy. We have not seen the government come forward with a true recovery plan.
     Therefore, we join the Conservatives in wanting to see what the plan is when it comes to rapid testing and a vaccination rollout, but also the economic recovery plan, which is critical.
     Again, back to the importance of supporting small business, we need to be working together in a collective spirit and we need to be careful. I do not think it is the time for partisan approaches to putting a tax on really important supports for people. This is the time for us to recognize how inadequate the supports are for people and how sad our commitment to climate change is. We saw that in Bill C-12, which the government just tabled. There is a lack of priority by government when it comes to tackling climate change.

  (1345)  

    The New Democrats support some things in the motion, but we are deeply disappointed that the Conservatives had to throw a bunch of poison pills in it and really push what is a crisis now to future generations. We hope our colleagues will—
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon.
    Mr. Speaker, indeed, I agree with what the member for Courtenay—Alberni stated, that we need to work collectively for the best interests of Canada. I liked his comments on the recent news reports quoting Kevin Page at Ottawa University's Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy.
     Mr. Page stated that he could hardly make sense of the recent 223-page economic update, saying that he spent an evening parsing through the charts, graphs and verbiage and it left him feeling like he had a hangover. He said, “It's impossible to read. I have done this for years and I can't even follow the money.” Mr. Page went on to indicate that if we could not follow money, we could not trust the government of the day.
    How can we trust the government when it is not being honest with Canadians about how much money is being spent and how that is going to impact future generations?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague has been a real trooper in standing up for wild Pacific salmon. I appreciate him joining us in the incredible challenge we are facing with the salmon emergency in B.C.
    As the member stated, we do not know who is getting a lot of the money that has been rolling out the door and there needs to be transparency. There is huge concern from Canadian taxpayers that some of the beneficiaries are companies that are making huge profits off the back of this crisis.
     He talked about Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer. One thing the current Parliamentary Budget Officer noted last month was that the CPP was in huge trouble and there was a huge vulnerability for future generations. The importance of us continuing to increase investments in the CPP is critical right now. The PBO has identified this.
    We agree with him that we need more transparency and that is something for which the New Democrats support and call.
    Mr. Speaker, the member referenced the CPP. I wonder if my colleague could provide his thoughts on why, when dealing with the CPP, the Conservatives tend to want to call it a tax, I suspect trying to influence the debate. They have the same approach when it comes to the price on pollution when they again call it a tax.
     Could he give his thoughts on why the Conservatives would do that in this motion?
    Mr. Speaker, we also wonder about that. These are investments in retirement security. Everybody deserves to retire with dignity, and we do not see that right now. Seniors are falling through the cracks.
    The Liberal government failed to deliver. Its one-time payment to seniors falls far short of what is needed. Housing has skyrocketed, the cost of goods have gone up throughout this crisis and the government has failed to invest adequately in seniors to give them the support they need through this crisis.
    In terms of climate action, we need to make these critical investments. They create jobs, take action and save future generations from shouldering huge debts that will be incurred due to the huge impacts from climate change and challenges we will face in the future.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, when I look at the motion, what I do not see is what I hear from a lot of small businesses in my riding. They need supports to be put in place to help them get through this time so they can be ready for the next step of rebuilding.
    Could the member speak to the gaps in the motion?
    Mr. Speaker, the member always fights hard for small business and I appreciate her strong conviction. She understands the importance of job creators in our communities.
    There are huge gaps. We have seen design flaws in every one of the government's program rollouts which have left people out. For example, start-ups have not received any support. They are left out of almost every program that the government has rolled out. It did not backdate the commercial rent assistance program. Those businesses are carrying that debt forward. They are steeped in debt or are in arrears with their landlords and this injustice is unacceptable.
    We need to do everything we can to fix the existing programs and ensure businesses that have been left out get access to those programs. The government needs to look at ways it can support those businesses that might not check one of the boxes in their applications. They closed their doors to protect public health. They are the unsung heroes in our country. We need to do everything we can to support them.
    Mr. Speaker, I have sat in the House now for five years, listening to the back and forth, the questions and answers, the proposals and counter-proposals. I have to admit, I am always amazed at how tone deaf and out of touch some motions are with the wants and needs of Canadians and their families.
    Today's opposition motion is no exception and a good case in point. We entered a major national crisis from which all accounts is going to get worse before it gets better. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of all Canadians. People are afraid and unsure. They are unsure about their own health and safety and the well-being of their families, children, parents and friends. Workers are concerned about their jobs and futures and how will they get by from day to day, month to month. They are worried about their kids' education, putting food on the table and maintaining the life they worked hard to build.
    In short, most Canadians are afraid and unsure of how the COVID-19 crisis will affect their lives, their security and the well-being of their loved ones. Right now, more Canadians are looking at the governments, both federal and provincial, for support and protection. That is why it is beyond my understanding that the Conservative Party would bring forth the current opposition day motion.
     The motion before us today makes it clear who just exactly is a priority. None of the measures in the motion would help Canadian workers and their families. They are all aimed at helping big business and their wealthy owners and investors.
    In this way, some of these measures are quite reckless, especially during a time of national crisis. The idea to postpone the increases to the Canada pension plan are one example. Who will this help? Will it be small business? Probably not so much. I have not heard from one small business in my riding that wants relief from its CPP obligations. Will it be big businesses? Absolutely. That is who will benefit. This could be a real financial boondoggle for big business, especially for those who are already making record profits off the pandemic.
    Who will be hurt by this measure? All the workers who make regular payments into the Canada pension plan and who expect to see an increased pension when they retire. This kind of measure could end up reducing the benefits they expect to receive when they retire. This kind of measure would be done on the backs of working people and their families, and that is unacceptable.
    What Canadians need and desperately want are ideas and solutions that will help them, their families and their loved ones weather the trials and challenges of this pandemic, help them get through the tough times they are facing. The motion before us today does none of that. There are no creative solutions being proposed in the motion, none that could help Canadians and their families. Instead, we do not see the motion having people pay their fair share of taxes.
    I do not think anyone in the chamber or in the country would disagree that Canadian businesses are in distress. It is pretty easy to understand that the current health crisis has had and continues to have a devastating effect on the economy and especially on small business. I am sure all my colleagues are getting the same kinds of calls I am getting from local businesses so desperate to find a way to get through this difficult time to ensure their survival, their livelihoods and the jobs of their workers.
    It is also easy to see that right now any barriers to employment are not taxes and regulations. The barrier is a national health pandemic, which has changed the lives of millions of Canadians. That is why we in the NDP have put our focus on fighting for people and helping to get us all through this pandemic. That is why we fought for adequate funding for CERB, the wage subsidies that would meet the needs of Canadian businesses and a rent assistance program for businesses that would effectively help the tenants and not just the landlords.
    I am proud to say that the NDP will keep fighting for small business owners and their workers by pushing the government to improve the supports on which all Canadians rely. That is why the NDP continues to put forward creative and progressive ideas to help Canadian workers and their families get through these difficult times.
    That is also why we believe that Canadian families should not have to pay for the pandemic and that those who have profited billions of dollars off the pandemic should help pay for the recovery. Many people actually benefit from the pandemic. Big business, their owners, CEOs and shareholders are making millions and billions, while Canadian workers and their families are struggling to get by.

  (1355)  

    Last week, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released the profits reported by Canada's big six banks. The numbers are staggering: National Bank, $2.1 billion; CIBC, $3.8 billion; Scotiabank, $6.9 billion; Royal Bank of Canada, $11.4 billion; and TD Bank, 11.9 billion. It is important to remember that these profits, made during the pandemic, happened while the banks were also receiving $750 billion in government assistance.
    Our research has also shown that Canadian billionaires are $37 billion richer than when the March 2020 COVID lockdown started, and not a single one of these top 20 billionaires in Canada has suffered a decrease in their overall wealth in the emergence of COVID-19. Furthermore, Canada's wealthiest 87 families now have 4,500 times more wealth than the average Canadian family. Together, they collectively own the same amount as the lowest-earning 12 million Canadians or as much as everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, combined.
    Meanwhile, workers in Canada continue to bear the economic brunt of the crisis. In the latest labour force data, 1.1 million fewer people were employed in Canada compared with before the pandemic crisis. Another 713,000 workers have lost half or more of their casual pre-pandemic hours, and low-income workers have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with women and racialized Canadians being overrepresented in that wage group.
    That is why the NDP has developed a suite of proposals that would make sure the richest elites and the most profitable corporations pay their fair share to help pay for the help we need to deliver to those who are struggling. Our 1% wealth—
    Unfortunately, I just want to let the member know that we have to get to Statements by Members. The hon. member will have three minutes remaining, when we resume this debate after question period.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Volunteerism

    Madam Speaker, today I want to call attention to a very special member of the London West community, Ellen Lundberg. Ellen has long been a cherished volunteer at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology and is a prolific quilter. Since the pandemic began, instead of turning fabric into beautiful handmade quilts, she has been turning fabric into equally beautiful handmade face masks.
    Since March, Ellen has made and donated more than 5,000 masks to help keep people safe. She has handed them out free of charge to people from across our local community, including making Winnie the Pooh masks for children at a local hospital. Like a single patch on a quilt, Ellen's masks are just one part of a much larger pattern. Ellen is part of the London-Middlesex chapter of the national group, Canada Sews, which has donated thousands of masks to help health authorities in northern and remote communities.
    I hope all my colleagues will join me in recognizing the efforts of Ellen and Canada Sews in helping all Canadians mask up to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

  (1400)  

Royal Commission on the Status of Women

    Madam Speaker, today we celebrate 50 years since the tabling of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women report. This groundbreaking report included recommendations on updating the legislative system to better reflect women's rights and covered crucial areas for women including poverty, family law, the Indian Act and the need for a federal representative for women.
    It led to the creation of the ministry of the status of women, now called Women and Gender Equality, and the status of women committee. This report was the springboard that led to increasing equality for women in Canada, but we still have much work to do, especially on matters of pay equity and workforce participation. We are right now at the risk of losing 30 years of progress on women's workforce participation due to caregiving issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot let that happen.
    I thank the Royal Commission on the Status Women for its vitally important work for Canadian women, and I am happy to continue that work alongside my fellow MPs.

Christmas Greetings

    Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to wish my constituents in Bonavista—Burin—Trinity a joyful holiday season and a very merry Christmas. I would also like to extend these greetings to my parliamentary colleagues and to all Canadians.
    It has been a difficult year and holiday celebrations may not look the same as in other years, but I am inspired by the generosity and festive spirit I have seen so far from many people across my riding.
    I also had a tip from a friend of mine, Nick, in the North Pole, that there are many children from Bonavista—Burin—Trinity who are on the nice list this year. Therefore, they should not forget to put out some milk and cookies for the man in red.
    I hope everyone has a safe and fulfilling holiday season, a magical Christmas no matter how they are celebrating, and that they continue with their generosity in supporting local charities. I wish all goodwill and good cheer.

[Translation]

Violence against Women

    Madam Speaker, yesterday, December 6, we remembered the 14 women who were gunned down by a killer who did not like feminists. For the past 31 years, the sombre anniversary of the femicide at École Polytechnique in Montreal has provided an opportunity to condemn violence against women and gun violence.
    As a woman, as a feminist, as a Quebecker and on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I add my voice to those of the PolyRemembers survivors, and I urge the government to keep its word and do more to curb these forms of violence.
    The government needs to prove that its promise to ban military-style assault weapons and implement a buy-back program was not just lip service, but rather a real desire to bring about change. The safety of our constituents is at stake.
    Together, let's keep the memory of those 14 women and all other victims alive through our fight to end violence against women and gun violence.

Violence against Women

    Madam Speaker, on December 6, we commemorated the Polytechnique massacre, as we do every year.
    As I do every year, I thought about the young girl I was when my father came home from work and told me what he saw when he was on the École Polytechnique campus that evening. I asked him why 14 women were killed. He told me that it was because they were women.
    As happens every year, 14 beams of light lit up the sky over the greater Montreal area. Rather than gathering on the Mont-Royal belvedere in Outremont, we participated in an online ceremony. The Prime Minister and his wife attended, and I am sure many other members of the House did too.
    I wanted to pay tribute to the 14 women who died and the many who survived. I am thinking in particular of Nathalie Provost, who was wounded during this femicide and who has since dedicated her life to the fight against firearms. I want loudly and clearly reaffirm in the House our government's determination to advance this cause, which is also our own.

  (1405)  

[English]

Christmas Greetings

    Madam Speaker, the Christmas season is upon us. It is a time of great cheer and festivity. For many, this joyous season is a time of cherished family traditions. Though some of this year's traditions may look a little different, the spirit of the Christmas season shines just as bright. Christmas is rooted in a message of eternal hope. It is a hope that overcomes darkness and difficulties.
    Every Christmas, Christians around the world rejoice as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, Immanuel, God with us. Christ is truly God's greatest gift to humanity, and I hope all experience the blessings of this season. May everyone's hearts be filled with great love, peace and joy.
    I wish you, Madam Speaker, all members of the House and all Canadians a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

Violence Against Women

    Madam Speaker, December 6, 1989, is a day many Canadians recall vividly. I was in my final year of high school and I remember panicking with my parents until we heard from my sister, who was attending university in Montreal at the time.
    Some of my sister's female counterparts in another part of Montreal were not so lucky that day. Fourteen women were shot dead at École Polytechnique in an attack fuelled by misogyny, by the anger of a man directed at women who had the audacity to seek to become professional engineers.
    Thirty-one years have passed since that horrific day but not enough has changed. Gender-based violence is still far too common. In fact, its frequency has only increased during the pandemic because women have been required to remain at home, often with abusive partners.
    This cycle has to stop. We need more funding and tougher rules on accessing firearms, but most of all we need a fundamental change in attitude, particularly the attitudes of those of my gender, men, who perpetuate, condone or turn a blind eye to violence against women.
    Let us all get to work.

[Translation]

Citizens of Nickel Belt and Greater Sudbury

    Madam Speaker, I am sincerely grateful to the people of Nickel Belt and Greater Sudbury for their hard work and sacrifices throughout this pandemic. Things are hard for families, seniors, businesses, students and essential workers.
    They have to keep following health measures, limiting their non-essential activities and getting information from reliable sources.
    The pandemic is exacerbating anxiety and worry. Many people are struggling with mental health and addiction issues. Resources are available. People do not have to suffer alone.

[English]

    Our government has introduced measures to support individuals and businesses and will continue to prioritize health and safety. We have to be optimistic; a vaccine is around the corner.
    I would like to give a big shout-out to the students of St. John elementary school in Garson for launching a campaign to support homeless individuals. An act of generosity makes a big difference. I thank all residents of Nickel Belt greater Sudbury for caring for each other.

Opeongo Lake Hero

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to recognize the heroic efforts of local teacher Glenn Wallace.
     On October 10, Glenn and his wife Krista were out kayaking on Opeongo Lake when they spotted an overturned canoe. Glenn investigated and found three people struggling in the water. An experienced kayaker, Glenn was able to assist two of those in the water to shore while the weather worsened.
    The final canoeist in the water had been pushed further out from shore, and once Glenn got to him the winds made it nearly impossible to get to the closest shore. Glenn did everything humanly possible, but the third canoeist succumbed to exposure. Glenn paddled close to 40 kilometres during the rescue. He risked his own life to save strangers.
    I wish to thank Glenn and the others who assisted in the rescue, including first responders and employees of Algonquin Outfitters. Their selfless commitment to helping others in need reflects the spirit of the people in the upper Ottawa Valley, and why we love to call it home.

[Translation]

Violence against Women

    Madam Speaker, on December 6, 1989, 14 women in the prime of life woke up to start their day, which they thought would be a day like any other. A few hours later, their lives were taken from them, in a senseless act of hatred and unspeakable violence. All their dreams, accomplishments and hopes were destroyed. In the wake of their tragic loss many lives were completely torn apart and an entire country was shaken.
    Thirty-one years later, still with a heavy heart and sadness in our souls, we are still trying to understand a heinous and inexplicable act. The loss of these 14 women must never be in vain. We must remain vigilant when it comes to violence against women, which, to our dismay, continues to take countless victims daily.
    Uniting as a society to defeat and denounce all forms of hatred and violence is the best way to pay tribute to the Polytechnique victims.

  (1410)  

[English]

Royal Commission on the Status of Women

    Madam Speaker, today marks the 50th anniversary of the report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, which was tabled in Parliament on December 7, 1970. It addressed issues related to women and poverty, family law, the Indian Act and the need for federal representation for women.
    Status of Women Canada became a federal department agency in 1976. As we commemorate this special day, I celebrate the work of Canada's trail-blazing women who paved the way to ensure equal opportunities for women in all aspects of Canadian society.
     While we continue to make progress on some fronts, we still have much more to do to end gender-based violence. According to the Canadian Women's Foundation, half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. This is unacceptable.
     As a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I will continue working, together with my colleagues, to empower women and combat violence against women.

Medical Assistance in Dying

    Madam Speaker, our first duty is to our own conscience. Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau recognized this by enshrining conscience rights as the very first delineated in the charter.
    Tens of thousands of doctors truly and wholeheartedly believe that taking part in a physician-assisted suicide breaches their calling to do no harm. As access to euthanasia expands, they may be forced to either violate their conscience or leave the careers to which they have dedicated their lives.
    For the last five years, there has been no federal law to prevent the violation of this inviolable right. This must change. Parliament created a legal void and has a moral responsibility to fill it by passing a law that vigorously defends this pre-eminent charter right for our medical professionals, because, first, we must do no harm.

Royal Commission on the Status of Women

    Madam Speaker, today marks the 50th anniversary of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. In that time, women in this country have implemented incredible progress towards equality, yet the work is still unfinished.
    One gap is in valuing all roles in our communities and in our families. Children and seniors are cared for still mostly by women, taking care of our future and treasuring those who built our country. Those jobs are sacred, yet these roles are underpaid and undervalued. In Canada, women still have an unfair pay gap, and lack of child care means women are left out of the economy and their ability to build for their retirement. This cycle continues. Today, we know that single women seniors are the most impoverished in Canada. Now, during COVID-19, many women are being forced to leave the job market, face more domestic violence, and fear for an increasing and unstable future.
    Let us use this year's anniversary to remind us of how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

[Translation]

Holiday Greetings

    Madam Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I want to wish everyone a very happy holiday season.
    The year 2020 has been extraordinary in many ways, and the holiday season will be no exception. That is why we must remember that we can all count on one another, that we are a strong, resilient and caring nation, and that we can get through these difficult times and continue to move towards a better future. That is what we Quebeckers are known for.
    Whether by Zoom, email, text, telephone or even fax, let us cheerfully connect Sherbrooke to Fermont, Gaspé to Val-d'Or, Rivière-du-Loup to Montreal, Saint-Jérôme to Chicoutimi, so that despite being kept apart by the pandemic, everyone will experience the joy and warmth of the holiday spirit.
    I wish all Quebeckers a merry Christmas and a happy new year. We really deserve it. I wish everyone health, love and prosperity.

  (1415)  

[English]

Royal Commission on the Status of Women

    Madam Speaker, things have indeed changed a lot in the last 50 years since the first Status of Women report was released. These changes have taken place in business, in the public sector and even in politics.
    Believe it or not, in 1970, Canada had only one female MP and six female senators. Today, we have 100 female MPs, almost one-third, and 47 female senators, fully half of that upper chamber. By 1970, we had never had a female Governor General, and since then, we have had four.
    Glass ceilings are shattering across this great nation. While we still have a ways to go to reach true parity, today I honour the great women who have come here before me, who are here now and who will be here in the future.

Member for Toronto Centre

    Madam Speaker, I rise today as the newly elected member for the riding of Toronto Centre to thank the people who got me here: my family, my friends and my team, who supported and guided me, but most importantly, the people of Toronto Centre. Through the by-election campaign, they told me loud and clear that they were worried about navigating life through COVID-19. Would they and their community be okay? Would the small businesses they worked so hard to build survive?
    A couple of months ago, I was a journalist. I had done that job for almost 30 years. I heard the stories of thousands of people across our country, and in doing so, I saw the need and I saw it up close: young people looking to belong and to find their way; indigenous people fighting for their rights; women wanting equality; and people of colour fighting to break through systemic barriers.
    I heard and I reported on all of these things, but now I can do more than just listen. I can serve the people of my great constituency. It is the reason I am here, to be their voice and their advocate, and what an honour it is.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Health

    Madam Speaker, over the weekend, Canadians saw news of countries, like the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, outlining detailed plans for vaccinating their citizens, including dry runs, with many of them starting to vaccinate in the next few days.
    Meanwhile back in Canada, it is continued confusion, inconsistency and deflection. Today the possibility of 125,000 vaccinations was announced, but the fact is there are almost two million Canadians over the age of 80 alone, so that is not enough.
    When will the government end the uncertainty, give Canadians the hope they desperately need, and tell us when every Canadian who wants the vaccine will get it?
    Madam Speaker, today is a great day for Canada and for Canadians. Today is the day when we can assure Canadians that we will have early doses of the Pfizer vaccine in this country, and millions and millions of other vaccine doses are going to roll out in this country over the weeks and months to come, pending Health Canada approval.
    What a wonderful day for Canada. The light at the end of the tunnel is clear.

Justice

    Madam Speaker, on another very important but very difficult topic, The New York Times reported this weekend of the abuse, rape and torture of young girls being videotaped, and then uploaded and put onto porn websites through a company located in Montreal.
    The Prime Minister has actually known about this since last March when an all-party caucus reached out to him and asked him to do something to help these young girls.
    Why has the Prime Minister done nothing to stop a despicable practice that is victimizing young girls and is allowing it to happen right in his own backyard?
    Madam Speaker, the sexual exploitation of children is a heinous and serious crime. In fact, it is a crime in Canada. The Criminal Code is clear. It is a serious offence to make available, distribute, possess or access child pornography. Those who break the law will face punishment to the fullest extent of the law.
    In addition, there are laws in place requiring Internet service providers to report suspected breaches to law enforcement to aid in their ability to pursue investigations.
    This is serious, and we are treating it seriously.

  (1420)  

    Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister has known about this at least since March when he received an all-party letter from a non-partisan group of members of Parliament. They all came together to ask the Prime Minister to do something about this.
    The Minister of Justice received a letter just this past November, a few weeks ago. There has been no action on this.
    We are seeing young girls, as young as 14 and 15 years old, being raped and abused. Those acts are being recorded, uploaded and viewed millions of time, and it is happening here in Canada.
    Will the government use the tools it has available today to stop this from happening?
    Madam Speaker, we are taking it very seriously. We have tough laws in place. We expect those laws to be enforced.
    In addition to the concerns raised, we are also proud of our government's efforts to advance Canada's digital charter, which will help us to fight these kinds of crimes online. We have taken this seriously. We are taking this seriously. We expect law enforcement to enforce Canada's laws. We have received these letters. We will continue to look, to see if there are gaps or lacunae in the law. We will look at that seriously. We take this most seriously.

[Translation]

Air Transportation

    Madam Speaker, many Canadians had planned vacations before the pandemic, and they unfortunately had to cancel their plans once the pandemic hit.
    Travellers are waiting for their refunds.
    Where is the plan?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, we have worked hard with the industry and with Canadians. We want to make it clear to Canadians that there will not be sector-specific funds until airlines start providing refunds to Canadians.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the airline industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. Hundreds of workers have lost their jobs. The sector needs a plan.
    Will the government confirm that this plan will not include compensation for executives?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, we are working hard. We have heard from Canadians their concerns about refunds. Again, before we spend one penny of taxpayer money on airlines, we will ensure that Canadians get their refunds, that regional communities retain air connections to the rest of Canada, and Canadian air carriers maintain their status as key customers of Canada's aerospace industry.

[Translation]

Health

    Madam Speaker, at the meeting that will be held on Thursday, all of the provincial premiers and the Premier of Quebec will be calling for a sustainable, unconditional increase in health transfers. All of the parties in the Quebec National Assembly are calling for this. The House of Commons is calling for this. Canadians and Quebeckers are calling for this. The Liberal Party of Canada is the only one against it.
    The Prime Minister is isolated and has no allies. Instead of leading a one-man crusade against Quebec's health care system, will he finally listen to reason on Thursday and announce an increase to health transfers?
    Madam Speaker, all levels of government are working together to keep Canadians safe.
    As part of our response to COVID-19, we announced the $19-billion safe restart agreement with the provinces and territories. This funding complements the $40 billion we are providing through the Canada health transfer.
    Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister justifies his refusal to increase health transfers by saying that his priority is, and I quote, “to help Canadians get through this crisis”. However, the crisis he is referring to is a health crisis.
    Quebec and the provinces are the parties responsible for health care. They are asking for more money to care for people. That is how the federal government can help people “get through” this crisis.
    At the first ministers meeting on Thursday, will he announce an increase in health transfers?

  (1425)  

    Madam Speaker, we have supported Canadians. Now it is time for the provinces to step up their efforts.
    We announced the $19-billion safe restart agreement with the provinces and territories to help our health care system deal with COVID-19. Now the provinces need to invest that money to ramp up testing, contact tracing and data collection.

[English]

Women and Gender Equality

    Madam Speaker, a woman went in labour in a porta-potty and no one noticed. A dead baby was later found in the portable toilet. Another woman appeared to be getting sexually assaulted in broad daylight and no one came to her aid. Community advocates are witnessing an increase in violence against women, yet safe places for women in the Downtown Eastside have been reduced due to COVID restrictions. Increasingly, violence against women in the Downtown Eastside is accepted and normalized. This cannot be allowed to continue.
    Will the Prime Minister commit to work collaboratively with advocates in the Downtown Eastside, and develop and fund an immediate action plan to end violence against women?
    Madam Speaker, the short answer is yes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Angela MacDougall and the Feminists Deliver coalition in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. We have been working with them since before Feminists Deliver, and we recognize that COVID has only exacerbated existing issues. We have increased funding by 70% to front-line organizations. We understand that investing in them is the best way to advance gender equality. We recognize we have unfinished business to do, and we will work with them every step of the way in the development of a national action plan.
    Madam Speaker, the national action plan for murdered and missing indigenous women and girls was due in June and the government used COVID as an excuse to delay it, but violence against indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people has increased during the pandemic. It is 400 times higher in some places. What has the government announced in response? What former chief commissioner Buller said it “isn't a lot of money.”
    When will the government release a national action plan and provide the resources necessary before more loved ones go missing or are murdered?
    Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question and her ongoing advocacy. Our hearts are with all of the survivors and families of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and two-spirit and gender-diverse people. This national public inquiry is working with a core working group of over a hundred indigenous women and two-spirited people toward a national action plan that will be effective and accountable for its results. With last week's fall economic statement, $781.5 million has been put toward this. We know we still have to do more.

Health

    Madam Speaker, last week we found out that the entirety of the American population is scheduled to be vaccinated by June. By the end of December, that number is about 10%. Today, we found out that the number in Canada is 0.003%. Last week, the Prime Minister said that it did not matter the start, what mattered was the finish. Now we are getting this very dismal news for Canadians.
    My question is for the Minister of Public Services and Procurement. Did the Prime Minister instruct her to negotiate the small dose amount to deflect from the fact that we have no date on when Canadians will be vaccinated?
    Madam Speaker, on the contrary, we have the largest portfolio of vaccines in the world and the highest number of doses per capita in the world. What today signifies is that the arrival of those doses, millions of doses, is going to begin this month and continue in waves throughout 2021 so that all Canadians will have access to a vaccine when it is approved by Health Canada.
    Madam Speaker, the reality is that our neighbours to the south have certainty and hope for when they can reopen their businesses and see their family members. May or June is when a vaccine will be available to every American. We do not have that information here in Canada. We do not have that certainty. What we have is 0.003%. That is ridiculous. We are a G7 country.
    When is every Canadian going to have access to the vaccine, and will it be at the same time as the Americans?

  (1430)  

    Madam Speaker, as I said, Canadians have access to the most diverse portfolio of vaccines in the entire world and those vaccines are going to roll out to Canadians beginning this month and continuing into 2021. That is assurance. That is a good-news story for Canadians, and I am so proud to be part of a government that has allowed and enabled this to occur.

Agriculture

    Madam Speaker, in March at the agriculture committee, the minister suggested that farmers' carbon tax payments are less than 1% of their expenditures, but obviously that is not the case. It is far more than that. The Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report showing that farmers will pay $226 million over the next four fiscal years for using propane and natural gas on their farms.
    Will the minister admit her mistake and ask the government to extend the on-farm carbon tax exemption for natural gas and propane?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I can reassure my colleague that we are very aware of what our farmers need. We also have very important environmental obligations.
    When it comes to the price on pollution, we have granted exemptions for farm fuel. We have granted exemptions for greenhouses too, and we are monitoring this file closely together with our Environment Canada colleagues.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, make no mistake: Extending the carbon tax exemption to propane and natural gas could make a real difference on Canadian farms, and across Canada. Propane and natural gas are used not only to heat barns but, if there is no other option, also for grain drying.
    Why are the minister and her cabinet colleagues dragging their feet to make a small change that could make such a big difference for Canadian farmers?
    Madam Speaker, our pollution pricing policy is designed to grow a clean economy. To support the sector, we have put in place the following measures: emissions from livestock and crop production are not priced, farm fuels and fuels from cardlock facilities are exempt, and there is a partial rebate for propane and natural gas used in commercial greenhouses.

Public Safety

    Madam Speaker, last month, respected former Supreme Court Justice Bastarache reported on sexual harassment in the RCMP. It is serious and urgent and requires immediate action from the public safety minister, but the justice said, “I haven't heard anything from him”, and “there should be a stronger reaction”. The scale is huge: it covers over 600 interviews in four years, and 2,300 victims of various criminal acts. The report makes 52 recommendations.
    Does the minister think that the report at least deserves a real response and action from him?
    Madam Speaker, first of all, I appreciate the importance of the question because the behaviours that were outlined in Justice Bastarache's report are deeply concerning and completely unacceptable. We know that, for far too long, women in the RCMP and members of the LGBTQ2S community have experienced unacceptable workplace harassment.
    These issues are long-standing. They need to change, and that is precisely why the government has explicitly mandated the commissioner of the RCMP to ensure that all employees are protected from this type of harassment and violence. We have spoken with the commissioner and we remain committed to responding appropriately to Justice Bastarache's report.
    Madam Speaker, this is the minister's job and that was not an answer. The Liberals always blame everyone else, except they have been in power for half a decade and as majorities for 18 of the last 30 years.
    The justice says he has spoken to the commissioner and she is working on it. He also said if the minister actually “read the report, he would know what needs to be done and take action.” What is worse, the report is the 16th of its kind. Victims deserve answers.
    Will the minister tell the more than 2,000 victims which recommendations will be implemented and when, or, like all victims always, will they have to fight the Liberals to get results?

  (1435)  

    Madam Speaker, quite contrary to what has been asserted by the member opposite, we are absolutely committed to ensuring a workplace free of violence, harassment and discrimination by all members of the RCMP and, in fact, in all government workplaces. We are doing this work with the RCMP and we take this responsibility very seriously.
    We recognize that the recommendations of Justice Bastarache provide an excellent guide to a way forward, and the commissioner of the RCMP has assured me of her commitment to implementing all of his recommendations.

[Translation]

Government Programs

    Madam Speaker, the federal government is abandoning new mothers who lose their job while on parental leave. Because they did not accumulate enough working hours while they were taking care of their newborns, they are not entitled to EI. Ottawa is not even allowing them to collect the Canada recovery benefit. They are simply being left to fend for themselves.
    Will the government immediately announce that new mothers qualify for the Canada recovery benefit?
    When will they be able to apply for it?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, Canadians expect and deserve an EI system that is flexible and responsive to their needs. We have spent the last five years modernizing EI, giving parents a choice between 12 and 18 months of parental leave, but we recognize that because of COVID-19, many parents have not been able to accumulate the hours they need. That is why we gave them the one-time credit. We have made this credit retroactive to March 15. I am very aware of the issue that the member is speaking about. We are looking into it, and we will make sure that parents have the support they need.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, this was already a problem before the pandemic. It is unacceptable that new mothers are not entitled to EI if they lose their employment at the end of their parental leave. They are workers like any other and deserve to be supported.
    In some cases, it is already possible to count weeks worked in the past two years instead of the past year in order to qualify for EI. That is the case for prisoners.
    Will the government do the same for new mothers?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, we know that we have to modernize and have an EI system that is reflective of the way that workers work today. Certainly this pandemic has highlighted specific challenges in the EI system, particularly as it relates to supporting parents, and mothers in particular. That is why we have spent the last four years taking steps to modernize, including, as I said, letting parents have the choice between 12 and 18 months and introducing the new parental sharing benefits. As we move forward, we will ensure that EI supports everyone.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the problem is that EI has never been adapted to the Quebec parental insurance plan. The mothers being abandoned by the federal government are Quebeckers. Because Quebec is feminist and has a more generous program so that Quebec women can balance work and family, Quebec women are being abandoned when they lose their job.
    This government claims to be feminist. Will it fix EI so that it stops penalizing mothers who are benefiting from a feminist parental leave program?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, we know that Canadians expect and deserve an EI system that is flexible and responsive to their needs. Since 2006, the Province of Quebec has provided maternity, parental and adoption benefits to its residents. We have an agreement with the province for other EI benefits. Regular and caregiver benefits were made available.
    We are aware of the QPIP recipients who are experiencing problems. We are working really hard to address these cases on a priority basis to ensure that claimants are paid as soon as possible. There is more work to do, but I am on this and we will keep working to ensure that EI is there for everyone.

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Madam Speaker, Canada's rich history is celebrated in our culture and in our French and English languages, but minority communities are still having trouble getting services in the language of their choice.
    This government promised to introduce a bill to modernize the Official Languages Act. The year 2020 is drawing to a close, and nothing has been done.
    Will the minister commit to introducing a bill before Christmas?

  (1440)  

    Madam Speaker, it goes without saying that we must always protect our two official languages.
    I find it very surprising and even hypocritical when I hear the Conservatives say that there are problems with the French-language services offered by the Government of Canada and even those offered in linguistic communities.
    The bottom line is that the Conservatives are the ones who made cuts to French-language services for years. We will be there with the communities to help them.
    Madam Speaker, the COVID Alert messages are being sent in English only, online meetings and presentations for public servants are being held in English only, and a $900-million contract was given to a company that is unable to provide services in French. There are many examples of this government's failure to protect the French language.
    When will the minister introduce a bill to modernize the Official Languages Act?
    Madam Speaker, we have been there, we are there, and we will be there.
    We were there by making the largest investment in official languages in Canadian history; by creating an action plan; by doubling the Canada Council for the Arts' budget; by saving CBC/Radio-Canada from Conservative cuts; by protecting the Royal Military College Saint-Jean; and by supporting the bilingual Ottawa initiative. We have also helped organizations get through the pandemic, and we are going to be there with language reform.

National Defence

    Madam Speaker, when I was at the Royal Military College, less than 10% of the students were women. We were not welcome, and we were given every incentive to drop out. Little has changed in the 30 years since. Women are still under-represented in the forces, and there is still discrimination.
    When will this government take action to retain more women in the Canadian Forces?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the Canadian Armed Forces are working extremely hard to promote more women in the Canadian Armed Forces. In fact, we have designated that 25% are to be included in the Canadian Armed Forces. We will continually assess the progress and make changes as necessary. We will not stop at 25%. We will continue until we have reached full parity.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the interpreter says the sound is really bad.

[English]

    I remind members that they need a headset with the boom down to ensure the interpreters are able to translate. Headsets are a must for all goings on in Parliament.
    I will have to go to the next question, since the minister does not have his headset.
    The hon. member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski.

Health

    Madam Speaker, the back-and-forth between the Liberals and the Conservatives on the vaccine shows what is wrong with our politics. They are blaming each other while leaving Canadians in the lurch.
    It is rare that I say this, but they have a point. When the Liberals say the Conservatives privatized and ravaged our national capacity for production, they are not wrong. When the Conservatives point to the decades of Liberal austerity that got us here, they are also not wrong. However, it is Canadians who are paying the price.
    Lives are at stake. When will the government invest in the publicly owned national production of the vaccine so that Canadians get what they need?
    Madam Speaker, we are very proud of our innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers and scientists. That is why we made significant investments in made-in-Canada solutions. We invested $35 million in VIDO-InterVac, in Saskatoon. We invested $173 million in Medicago, in Quebec City. We also supported the National Research Council's facility in Royalmount with $44 million.
    We will continue to support made-in-Canada solutions and support local manufacturing capabilities.

  (1445)  

Taxation

    Madam Speaker, the banks are making record profits, and big corporations and their CEOs have gotten richer during the pandemic. Instead of going after the ultrawealthy, instead of implementing a wealth tax and instead of shutting loopholes for offshore tax havens, the Liberals are now making the self-employed pay back the support they received in good faith through the CERB.
    It is weeks before Christmas. Instead of taxing the ultrawealthy, why are the Liberals acting like the grinch and stealing Christmas from those who can afford it the least?
    Madam Speaker, let me correct the record. When it came to supporting low-income and middle-income Canadians through the course of this pandemic, we were there for them. Nine million Canadians took advantage of the CERB to help keep food on their tables and a roof over their heads. When it came to supporting small businesses, we did the same thing.
    If the hon. member is so concerned about taxing the wealthy, I suggest she talk to her NDP colleagues in the last Parliament who voted against the Canada child benefit, which is putting more money into the pockets of nine out of 10 families, and voted against our plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% so we could cut them for the middle class.

Women and Gender Equality

    Madam Speaker, 50 years ago today, the report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women was tabled in this place. The report called for many measures to help achieve gender equality, something our government continues to work toward.
    Could the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development please share some of the progress we have seen made for women in Canada since that report was tabled 50 years ago?
    Madam Speaker, 50 years ago today, there would not have been enough women in the House to ask the question and then answer the question. Here we are, 50 years later, and there are 100 of us in the House.
    Our job is to honour and thank those whose shoulders we stand on, to protect the fragile progress that has been made, to protect the hard-won gains we have all made and to commit to focusing and staying united to complete the unfinished business of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women report.

Indigenous Affairs

    Madam Speaker, on December 8, 2015, the government launched an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Fast forward five years and it still has yet to deliver its promised action plan. The government, at best, has instituted a lack of action plan that can be seen in the most recent updated economic statement, which was really just a patchwork of spending that should have been targeted.
    When will the government share a proper plan?
    Madam Speaker, I have always had difficulty, because this was rejected by the former government and was for decades fought for for the families and survivors and by the families and survivors. We will not let them down.
    We launched the first-ever national public inquiry and now have over 100 indigenous women and two-spirited people working together for an effective plan that will be accountable for its results. I believe the investment last week of almost $800 million is adding to all of the work we have been doing for the last five years. We will get there.
    Madam Speaker, the Conservatives have always put a priority on an action plan for murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. However, this government has a history of not delivering on its promises. Last week, it was about not delivering on clean drinking water. This week, it is about failing to address violence against indigenous women and girls.
    Instead of establishing a real plan, the minister is simply throwing money at the tragedy. When will the minister announce a national action plan with the dollars targeted toward that plan?
    Madam Speaker, as the member well knows, this is a national action plan. It requires all of the provinces, territories and indigenous governments, all of the partners, to work together to make sure that there will be a national action plan.
    Yukon will be coming forward with its approach this week. We will get there together, and it will be effective and accountable, as we have been with the $30 million going forward over the next five years to make sure the plan is working.

Justice

    Madam Speaker, recently a Financial Post article on MindGeek detailed a well-known 2015 case in the United States involving one of Pornhub's partner channels. It was successfully sued by 22 victims of sex trafficking whose videos were published on Pornhub. These videos received over 670 million views.
    The victims pleaded to have their videos removed, yet as recently as last week, MindGeek was still allowing these videos to be uploaded.
    Why has Canada become a tech haven for online exploitation of women and girls?

  (1450)  

    Madam Speaker, online platforms are central to our everyday communications and allow us to connect with the world. However, we are extremely concerned that they are used to endanger the safety of individuals, including vulnerable persons and children. This is why our government is actively working to create new regulations that would require online platforms to eliminate illegal content, including hate speech, child sexual exploitation and violent extremist content.
    I hope that the official opposition will work with us and vote in favour of this legislation when we bring it forward.
    Madam Speaker, the minister's mandate letter instructs him to ensure websites remove illegal content and online harms such as hate speech, incitement to violence and exploitation of children.
    Canada's MindGeek is a big tech monopoly that owns the vast majority of the world's online explicit sites.It profits off sexual exploitation and racism. The minister indicated that he wants to take on big tech companies. Will he start in Canada's own backyard with MindGeek?
    Madam Speaker, we intend to introduce these regulations as early as the beginning of the session in 2021, and we have already started tackling online platforms. I tabled Bill C-10 just a few weeks ago.
    I hope Conservative Party members will vote in favour of the bill to start tackling online platforms. I hope they will also vote for the bill that we will be bringing forward to tackle online hate and child pornography.

[Translation]

Public Services and Procurement

    Madam Speaker, inexplicably, the government has not yet awarded the contract for the John G. Diefenbaker icebreaker to Davie. That ship should have been built three years ago. Ottawa even had to take the contract away from the company that had won it because it could not start construction. To this day, the feds stubbornly refuse to give the contract to Davie.
    As the Liberals well know, Davie is the only shipyard in Canada capable of starting construction now. Davie has the capacity to do it.
    Will the government finally announce that it is giving the John G. Diefenbaker contract to Davie?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
    The Davie shipyard is a strong and reliable partner for our government. We have worked with Davie on several occasions in the past.
    As for her question, we have been working hard with Davie, and we will continue to do so over the coming months and years.
    Madam Speaker, Davie has received less than 3% of the contracts to date. Ottawa withdrew the John G. Diefenbaker contract from Seaspan because it was unable to complete it. In exchange, the government awarded Seaspan a contract for 16 small vessels.
    Davie can fulfill this contract now, but Ottawa would rather give the contract back to the company it took it away from. That makes no sense. It is doing everything it can to squeeze out Quebec.
    Why is Ottawa so bent on depriving Quebec of 2,000 jobs and $1 billion in investments?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have already said in the House, all Canadian shipyards had the opportunity to respond to a request for information that expired on March 13, 2020.
    The responses received by Public Services and Procurement Canada and the information collected through this process will enable the Government of Canada to determine the best practices for the coming months and years.

[English]

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

    Madam Speaker, the Liberals boldly promised to bring in over 400,000 new permanent residents into Canada next year. Meanwhile, there are over 10,000 permanent residents abroad who were approved to come to Canada. They sold their homes, quit their jobs and pulled their kids out of school, yet they have been stranded in their country of origin for over nine months. They have had little to no communication of when they can finally come to Canada, as promised by the Liberal government.
    How on earth is the government going to process and bring in hundreds of thousands of new immigrants next year when it cannot even give dignity or certainty to the thousands it has approved this year?

  (1455)  

    Madam Speaker, I am happy to take the question.
    The answer is simple. We have a plan that is focused on jobs. We have a plan that is focused on economic recovery, and we have a plan that is focused on long-term prosperity. We are investing additional resources. We are leveraging technology. We have a plan that is going to drive this country forward.

International Trade

    Madam Speaker, exporting businesses need certainty and stability, yet exporters have no idea what January 1 will look like for them, regardless of whether the government signs an agreement with the United Kingdom or not.
    We were told at the trade committee by exporters that this does not make them feel comfortable, and customs brokers are saying that small businesses are coming to them looking for advice, and they have no idea what to say.
    The U.K. is our third-largest export market, so when will the minister disclose to businesses what the plan is? There are only 16 days left.
    Madam Speaker, our absolute priority is to provide predictability and stability for Canadian businesses that export to the United Kingdom. We are very pleased that we have reached a successful transition continuity agreement with the United Kingdom. This will largely preserve the terms of CETA, which was an ambitious agreement with a 98% reduction in tariffs, protection for Canada's supply managed products, and the maintenance of our high standards for consumers, workers and the environment.
    I look forward to getting support from members on all sides of the House, so we can provide this predictability and stability for Canadian businesses.

Public Safety

    Madam Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs told Canadians threatened by those acting for Communist China to call their local police. Is that what I should say to Father Soo, the Richmond priest whose parishioners were photographed during a baptism? How about the pro-democracy advocate who was beaten up in Surrey?
    Sure police can respond after the fact, but what active steps is the minister taking to stop the harassment from Communist China within our borders?
    Madam Speaker, we know that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the country. It has created uncertainty that foreign actors, such as the Government of China, and ideologically motivated violent extremists have exploited it to further their own interests.
    I want to assure the member and this House that our security agencies are vigilant and actively investigating all threats of foreign interference while working with domestic and foreign partners, such as the Five Eyes. Over the course of the pandemic, our security agencies have also worked very proactively with businesses, research entities and other orders of government to ensure that they have the information and tools they need to secure intellectual property in the interests of all Canadians.

[Translation]

COVID-19 Emergency Response

    Madam Speaker, some businesses in Vimy and across Quebec continue to suffer financially as a result of the pandemic.
    Could the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance explain how the highly affected sectors credit availability program will help businesses in the tourism, travel, arts and culture sectors survive and recover from the pandemic?
    Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Vimy for her hard work on behalf of her riding and for her work on the Standing Committee on Finance.
     The highly affected sectors credit availability program is a new measure for the hardest-hit businesses, including those in sectors like tourism, hospitality, arts and entertainment. The program will offer 100% government-guaranteed financing and low-interest loans of up to $1 million.
    We will do everything we can to support workers and businesses through these tough times to help ensure they remain viable and in place to drive future economic growth.

  (1500)  

[English]

Natural Resources

    Madam Speaker, earlier this year the Prime Minister said, “We need to get our resources to new markets safely and securely and that's why I've always advocated for the Keystone XL pipeline.”
    As the Prime Minister knows, Keystone XL would be a huge advantage to indigenous communities. It would generate prosperity in our country by developing energy in an environmentally friendly capacity. It would create jobs during a time when unemployment is through the roof.
    My question is very simple. Could the Prime Minister simply outline three very tangible steps he will take in the next little while to get this project done?
    Madam Speaker, we have supported this project, as the Prime Minister has said, unwaveringly.
    We have always supported this project for many of the reasons that the hon. member cites. One of the strongest arguments for this project is that we have a government that is fighting climate change, putting a price on pollution, committed to net-zero emissions by 2050, and making investments to help our energy sector become more sustainable than ever. That is the record we will be able to present to our partners in the U.S.

Justice

    Madam Speaker, Roger Foley lives with a neurological disorder requiring him to live in hospital entirely dependent on caregivers.
    Four times the caregivers he depends on for everything suggested he consider MAID, telling him that his care is too expensive. Roger told the justice committee, “My blood will be on your hands if you allow the...Truchon decision to tear down our laws...and there will be thousands of wrongful deaths.”
    Why did the Liberals vote against our amendments to protect Canadians with disabilities?
    Madam Speaker, medical assistance in dying is a profoundly complex issue with deeply held beliefs. We are trying to respect all of those in this proposed legislation, including protections for the vulnerable, which we have built into this legislation after having consulted across Canada, as well as holding a massive online consultation. We have built-in protections for the vulnerable in order to balance freedom to choose, the autonomy to choose, with protection.
    Madam Speaker, the Liberals are frustrated that my colleagues and I have been so diligent in vocalizing the concerns of disabled Canadians and medical professionals in regard to Bill C-7. However, the Liberal government ignored its own legislation to review Bill C-14; held the House hostage in May and June; prorogued Parliament in August; limited the justice committee to four hearings, blocking written submissions; and chose not to appeal the deadline imposed by the Quebec superior court.
    Why does the Prime Minister not want to create legislation that shows compassion for all Canadians?
    Madam Speaker, a legislative review is, in fact, envisaged in the bill that was passed in 2016. That is still part of the government's plan. It has always been announced as part of the government's plan and as part of the steps introducing this particular piece of legislation.
     All that the Conservative party is doing right now is delaying and causing more people to suffer. We therefore are asking all parliamentarians on all sides of the House to pass this bill as expeditiously as possible.

Employment

    Madam Speaker, many Canadians educated abroad, particularly those in the health care field, are ready to contribute to Canada's pandemic effort, but cannot because it is not easy to have to their credentials recognized. At the same time, newcomers to Canada, many of whom arrive with high-quality training and years of experience, face the same difficulty.
    Could the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion tell the House how investments announced in the fall economic statement will help to ensure those educated abroad can work in their fields sooner?
    Madam Speaker, attracting skilled newcomers from around the world is critical to Canada's economic growth and recovery. The foreign credential recognition program helps address specific barriers faced by skilled newcomers, such as the length and cost of credential recognition.
     To scale up these supports, our government is proposing to invest $15 million in 2021 into the program, benefiting up to 15,000 skilled newcomers. Our government will continue to take strong and decisive action to support skilled newcomers and keep our economy growing.

Health

    Madam Speaker, every year, six million Canadians cannot visit the dentist when they need it because of the cost, and women are less likely to have access to dental care because they are often in part-time or precarious employment with no benefits. A lack of child care during the pandemic has meant that women who had benefits lost them when they had to leave their jobs to stay home with the kids, and many single moms were already struggling to afford dental visits for themselves and their children. The Liberals say that they will take action to help women hardest hit by this pandemic, but they continue to ignore their needs.
    When will the government ensure that all Canadians get the dental care they need?

  (1505)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank the member opposite for highlighting the difficulty that many Canadians are facing in terms of their loss of benefits. That is why we have been working so hard at bringing forward a national pharmacare plan, because every Canadian deserves the right to have access to medication in a timely way and in an affordable way.
    As I have said before in the House, we are always interested in exploring new programs. I would suggest the member opposite work with colleagues in the House to study the issue.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

    Madam Speaker, my constituents in Don Valley East are concerned about the new challenges that the pandemic has created. These are families of newcomers to Canada that are looking to complete their path to Canadian citizenship. They are eager to know what innovation has been made so they can become part of our Canadian family.
    Could the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship provide the House with the details of the plan to allow citizenship tests to be taken online?
    Madam Speaker, throughout the pandemic we have adapted quickly so we can continue to welcome new Canadians, while upholding the integrity of Canadian citizenship. We moved citizenship ceremonies online this spring, and have welcomed more than 43,000 new Canadians through the process. We also launched a new platform so citizenship tests could resume online.
    We know that the citizenship process is a significant milestone for newcomers and we look forward to more measures and good news on this front.

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order]
    Madam Speaker, today, the Minister of National Defence was asked an important question that we wanted an answer to and he was not able to answer because he did not have a headset. It is important that we all make the commitment.
     We have been in this virtual Parliament now for some time. If ministers are going to be part of questions and answers, it is important they are wearing their headsets so they can answer the question, whether it is in the House of Commons or on committee. We have seen this other times and the translators are not able to translate and the questions go unanswered.
    Therefore, I would ask the Liberal House leader and the Liberal whip to speak to their ministers and ensure they have the proper equipment if they are going to be participating in virtual Parliament.
    I appreciate the input that the hon. member has provided. It is not just for ministers. It is a responsibility of all parliamentarians to ensure they have the proper headsets. They are able to obtain some from the IT department, but also they can purchase some. It is imperative that every member of Parliament use those headsets to ensure all parliamentarians are able to hear what is being said and what is being asked, and in order to ensure that everyone is able to hear the questions and answers.
    I want to thank the hon. member for raising this very important point of order.
     Madam Speaker, I do have a headset on. Unfortunately it is one that was not working properly. I will get another and ensure that it is working properly.
    I do appreciate the intervention by the hon. minister. Maybe if headsets are not functioning properly, then I would ask that they ask another one of their colleagues to answer the question in the future.

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to table, in both official languages—
    I would like to ask the President of the Treasury Board whether he is wearing his headset and, if not, whether he can please put it on.
    The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, that is too bad.
    I have a lot of respect and regard for the President of the Treasury Board, who is also a member from Quebec and my neighbour. Unfortunately, the rules apply to everyone, particularly after the point of order we witnessed earlier during question period.
    We, the 338 parliamentarians, need to abide by certain standards so that we can do our job properly.

  (1510)  

[English]

    If we need a headset, we need a headset. Unfortunately, if the President of the Treasury Board does not have a headset, we need to move on.
    Madam Speaker, the point has been made and we will attempt to get the headsets necessary in order to ensure we get the document tabled, if not now, a little later in the day.

Government Response to Petitions

    Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(a), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's responses to 10 petitions. These returns will be tabled in an electronic format.

[Translation]

Women and Gender Equality

    [Minister spoke in Ojibwe, Anishinabe and Arabic as follows:]
    Boozhoo, aaniin, as-salaam alaikum.
    [Translation]
    Madam Speaker, it is a great privilege for me to stand here on traditional Algonquin land.

[English]

    Fifty years ago on this day, a report was tabled in this House. I will be tabling a copy of this report in both French and English here today. The report was tabled after three years of hard work, heart-breaking testimony and courageous conversations. It was a report that was tabled in this House long before there was a charter of rights and freedoms, long before the famous phrase, “women's rights are human rights” was ever uttered, long before a gender-balanced cabinet and long before an intersectional and gendered lens being applied to the budget.
    The Royal Commission on the Status of Women was chaired for the first time by a woman. CBC journalist Florence Bird took the helm. She took the lead. While the commission was mocked at first, it became really difficult for journalists to mock women's first-account experiences of rape, incest and challenges in the welfare system. I would like to thank those who pushed for this report, Florence Bird, Judy LaMarsh as the only woman in cabinet at the time, Laura Sabia and the two million women who threatened to march to Parliament Hill if the commission was not granted. I would like to thank all those who made it happen and all those who have pushed relentlessly for the progress that has been made.
     The report was tabled at a time when a woman could not qualify for a mortgage without her husband's signature on the mortgage application. We have come far. We owe it to those who have come before us to ensure we protect the progress they struggled and fought so hard for. We owe it to those who have come before us to protect the fragility of the progress, but also unite a sisterhood of feminists to ensure we finish the unfinished business of that report.
    Here we are 50 years later. When that report was tabled there was only one woman in this House. Today, for the first time ever, there are 100 of us in the House of Commons and gender parity in the Senate. There are more women at the table than ever before. I would like to think and work together to see what we can achieve together.
    Though we have come far, when the report was tabled the gender wage gap was at 40¢ between women and men; we are now at 87¢. When the report was tabled, none of the 167 recommendations mentioned violence against women. Yesterday, though we were not able to come together as a country and mourn École Polytechnique and the Montreal massacre, we were still able to mourn together in solidarity. There may be seats for women and gender-diverse folks across the country, but only 5% of Canada's CEOs are women, and of those women at those tables, they earn 68¢ on the dollar that men earn for the exact same role.
    We may be applying an intersectional and gendered lens to our budgets. We may be creating and enhancing tens of thousands of child-care spaces. We may be moving forward with the universal early learning and child-care system. However, COVID threatens all those hard-won gains. Of course, so does the inevitable backlash that comes with every step we take forward in advancing equality, women's rights and gender justice.
    Today, we get to stand up in this House, one after another, all of us women working to better the lives of everyone in Canada. I hope we can reflect on that unfinished business, commit to working together in unity, focus on ensuring women are safe, their families are cared for and they are working and paid their worth. We owe it to those who have come before us to ensure that we make things better.
     Yes, progress has been uneven. It has been slow. At times, the movement we all belong to, a movement that has existed long before any of us existed, a movement that will continue long after we are gone, has been divided. We owe it to stay together, stay united, focus on the common denominators, ensure we do right by those who have come before us and ensure this great country reaches its potential.

  (1515)  

    I encourage Canadians to mark this anniversary by recognizing women of impact in their own communities, women like Lynn Zimmer, who helped start the first women's shelter in Canada. She did so three years after the report was tabled in this House.
    Individual actions matter. When she opened that shelter, she had no idea somebody like me would end up staying in one of her shelters some day, and I would not have known that somebody like me staying at a shelter would go on to support women's shelters and Canadians across the country.
    All of us are here because someone has opened the door for us. All of us get up every day because we want to make things better for the young and the young at heart. All of us have worked tremendously hard, particularly during the pandemic, to make the most of the opportunities these seats have provided.
    As we move into the next 50 years of the history of the feminist movement, let me thank those who have struggled and let me thank those who have opened doors for us. Let me thank our male colleagues, allies, accomplices, cheerleaders and mentors who have enabled the rest of us to step up and do what we can.
    I will know we have reached gender equality when women are safe, including politicians who put their names on a ballot in the pursuit of duty and care. I will know we have reached gender equality when we close the gender wage gap. I will know we have achieved gender equality when women and gender-diverse folks can go outside without fear for their lives.
    Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to speak on the 50th anniversary of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, not just as the MP for Calgary Skyview or the Conservative shadow minister for women and gender equality, but as a woman, who, until 1920, could not be elected to this House.
    The royal commission was established in 1967 with a mandate to inquire into and report on the status of women in Canada and to make recommendations to the federal government to ensure equality for women in all aspects of society. It received over 468 briefs and over 1,000 letters and testimonies. The extensive amount of evidence and engagement from Canadian women highlighted the widespread problems women faced across Canada.
    On December 7, 1970, the commission tabled its report in Parliament with 167 recommendations to the federal government on issues such as pay equity, maternity leave, family law reform, higher education and access to higher-paying jobs. The commissioning and tabling of this report in Parliament gave many women from coast to coast to coast a political voice and by the 1980s, with many of its recommendations implemented, women’s lives had been greatly enriched.
    I am proud to be a part of the Conservative caucus that has strived for and continues to see women breaking glass ceilings. It was the Conservative Party of Canada that elected the first woman to be the leader of a political party, who later became Canada’s first female prime minister, the Right Hon. Kim Campbell.
     It was the Conservative former interim leader, the Hon. Rona Ambrose, the minister of the status of women, who started the campaign to establish the International Day of the Girl Child, a day where we publicly remind everyone that there are girls and women around the world who still do not have a voice, who do not have rights or access to education and who are treated as property. The International Day of the Girl Child is a day where we get to use our voice as women to be their voice, like the women generations before were the voice for us today.
    In the Conservative caucus, we have a lot of firsts. On the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, the Conservative women have all accomplished firsts. The hon. member for Richmond Centre was the first Chinese Canadian woman to be appointed to serve in cabinet, a position where she was able to advocate for seniors, especially the views and opinions of senior women.
    The member for Sarnia—Lambton is the first woman to be elected to the House with a degree in engineering, something she has in common with Elsie MacGill, who sat on the royal commission. The member for Port Moody—Coquitlam is the first Korean-born member elected to the chamber and I am the first Sikh woman elected from Alberta. This is only possible because of the hard work, social cause and peaceful protests that generations before us stood for.
    Without them, we would not have been able to attend higher education, have a bank account in our own name, not be discriminated against in job postings based on sex or marriage, access maternity leave, have the right to vote or be elected to the House of Commons, just to name a few. While we are grateful for the royal commission, the hard work put in by the members, the evidence submitted by Canadians from across this great country and the recommendations to the government, many of which, to varying degrees, have been acted on, there is still much more work that needs to be done, particularly when it comes to gender-based violence, an issue that is very dear to my heart.
     Just last week in this chamber, we reminded ourselves of the heinous crime committed in Quebec just 20 years after this report was tabled. Fourteen women with dreams and their whole lives ahead of them were murdered at École Polytechnique in 1989 solely because they were women attending school. This should have never happened then and it should never happen again.

  (1520)  

    This pandemic has highlighted many challenges that women still face today. Throughout this pandemic we have heard organizations from across the country tell us that calls to women’s shelters have increased and they have had to send women away because they do not have the funds needed to help them. It is truly heartbreaking that women have to remain in their homes with their abusers because we cannot help them. They are living in personal prisons.
     Organizations have been calling on the government to create and establish a national action plan to address gender-based violence, yet all we seem to get from this government is empty promises. The Liberals' platform in 2019 said they would develop an action plan to address gender-based violence, yet still nothing. Women are not looking for a document with catchy phrases. They are looking for concrete action. Women need help now, not two, five or 10 years from now.
    The Royal Commission on the Status of Women was undeniably a catalyst for social change. It united Canadians across this great country and gave women a political voice that they did not have before. All we have to do is look around this chamber and see the women here from all parties. We are strong advocates for what we believe in and for women in this country. I am proud to be a part of this group as we lend our voices to work towards a more equal Canada.
     I am looking forward to future generations looking back and being proud of our accomplishments and being able to build upon them. The work to build an equal Canada is never really complete. Laying the path for gender equality, we can help the next generation and the generations after that. Let us continue building the path towards a Canada that our daughters, nieces and sisters can be proud of.

  (1525)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, 50 years ago, on December 7, 1970, the report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada was tabled in the House. The 488-page report contained 167 recommendations to the federal government to help reduce gender inequality. Among other things, it addressed pay equity, maternity leave, the right to abortion and access to education.
    The commission was chaired by a woman, journalist Florence Bird. At her side worked women and men, including eminent McGill University law professor John Humphrey, who, in 1946, helped draft the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Eleanor Roosevelt, another great feminist, called it the “Magna Carta for all mankind”.
    There were also Quebeckers on the commission, including literature professor Jeanne Lapointe. Lapointe had been a member of the Parent commission in Quebec, a cornerstone of the Quiet Revolution that would lead to the fundamental reform of Quebec's education system and help make education accessible to all Quebeckers, male and female, at every level. There was also sociologist Monique Bégin, one of the founders of the Fédération des femmes du Québec and one of the first three Quebec women to be elected to the House in 1972.
    Every defining moment in the history of the women's movement in which real gains were made in terms of changes to laws and policies was preceded by the mobilization and demands of women who fought to advance women's rights. The Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada was no exception. It was women, in particular Ontario activist Laura Sabia, and their campaign to improve the status of women who convinced Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson to create the commission in 1967.
    In Quebec, during and after the Quiet Revolution, feminists fought for gender equality in education and employment, as well as in other areas. They spoke out about poverty among women and procreative choices, as well as violence against women and the unacceptable attempts to justify it, including within the context of marriage. The time had come to speak out against the perception of women, their biological functions, their bodies and their social role. Women were forced to demand the right to control their own bodies.
    Legal and civic equality was an important milestone achieved through the struggles of the first feminists in the 20th century. From that point on, the central purpose of the struggle had to be the true liberation of women. Quebec's women activists came together, got organized and penetrated the public political sphere up to the highest levels of government, achieving real results over the years, including one woman who even became premier. I salute Quebec's first female premier, Pauline Marois.
    The history we are commemorating is about successive generations of women who have fought to advance women's rights and put an end to gender discrimination and gender-based violence on a long march towards equality between women and men. The struggle we face today is one of de facto equality, real equality. Whether we are talking about domestic violence, the mental load, invisible work or economic vulnerability, particularly among senior women, we need only look at the pandemic's disproportionate impact on women to remind ourselves that the gains that have been made are fragile and that the fight for equality is not over.
    In addition, the Pay Equity Act is a major issue that has not yet been resolved, and the same goes for the problem of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and the national action plan to end gender-based violence.
    We also need to recognize that inequality has morphed. In all social spheres—arts, business, science and politics—some women are accomplishing things and reaching great heights, while other women's hopes and aspirations are being dashed because they are marginalized by virtue of their social class, their economic status or their ethnic or cultural background. We will not achieve equality until we can ensure equal opportunity for all.

  (1530)  

    While we take this opportunity as we commemorate an historic moment in the women's movement to better appreciate the path that has been taken and the challenges that lie ahead, I cannot ignore the recent revelations on the sexual exploitation of minors, human trafficking, questionable sexual practices and, let's say it, rape that is still included in online content on pornographic sites, which are available to everyone. The story in the news about Pornhub is a brutal reminder of that.
    The fact is, virtual reality is not a separate reality. What is happening has real consequences and the moral implications are the same. We now have a duty to find real solutions to counter child pornography and all forms of sexual exploitation online.
    It is not the most joyful way to end a commemorative speech, but I believe our duty to remember, like our moral duty, requires us to deal with the problems of our time head-on. I have hope that as women and feminists we will work with all our allies and draw on the memory of those who came before us and find the courage we need to take swift action to protect the most vulnerable and build a longer-term just future, free from violence and respectful of human dignity.
    As vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Status of Women, I am particularly proud to rise to speak today. I cannot help but think of the feminists who came before me, including my mother, the first feminist I knew. She was involved with AFEAS, a women's advocacy group, which gave me an early introduction to the importance of these issues.
    I am also thinking about those who marched against women's poverty in the bread and roses march in Quebec in 1995, because 50 years later, we still have a lot of work to do and we still have glass ceilings to break; because 100 women is good, but even more is better; and because I will be a feminist as long as it takes. Now is the time for action.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, progress, change, equality and fairness are things slow and hard to achieve and maintain. Of course, women have achieved some progress, some equality and some fairness, but some certainly is not good enough. That is what it all comes down to: It is not enough. Until women achieve complete equality and we in this institution create laws and programs, and provide the leadership for that complete equality, we cannot stop.
    Today, I stand in the House because some progress has been made for women, but it is not enough. Today, women make up only a third of the MPs in the House. Canada ranks 64th in the world for its participation of women in Parliament.
    It was 50 years ago, because of countless trail-blazing women, that the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada was formed. The commission's report contained 167 recommendations to the federal government on such issues as pay equity, the establishment of a maternity leave program, a national child care policy, birth control and abortion rights, family law reform, education and women's access to managerial positions. A large section also addressed issues specific to indigenous women in the Indian Act.
    The Royal Commission on the Status of Women was undeniably a catalyst for social change. It united Canadian women and gave them a voice in shaping gender-responsive policies. These victories today may have been considered foregone conclusions; however, women are constantly forced to fight to maintain what they have already won. Women are told they have access to reproductive medical treatment, but it is not consistent, it is not universal and it is constantly being challenged even in the House. Now, 50 years later, women still go to rallies and declare that it is their body, their choice.
    Women are confronted every day with violence. Yesterday was the 31st anniversary of the tragedy at École Polytechnique. Last week in the House, we commemorated that tragedy of 14 women murdered because they were women, yet approximately every six days, a women in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. The majority of these violent acts, more than 80%, go unreported. These too are tragedies.
    Throughout COVID-19, women have had to deal with an additional and increasing threat of domestic violence, or what is being called the invisible or shadow pandemic. The overcrowding of shelters and the additional strain on other resources has made it harder to get help. Women are more likely to have lost their jobs and income during the pandemic, making it even harder for them to leave violence. Lack of affordable housing keeps women in dangerous situations because there are no safe options.
    We know that indigenous women and girls are more likely to face violence and are more likely to be killed, yet the calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls were delivered 18 months ago, but we still see no action. Transgender and racialized women continue to face terrible levels of violence and abuse. They are often victimized again by the justice and health care systems that too often question their identity or use offensive stereotypes. Women and girls with disabilities are far more at risk for violence and abuse. As many as 60% will experience violence in their lifetime.
    Women are still expected to shoulder the responsibility of violence. We are blamed. We are told that we have provoked it or that we were asking for it.
    With all these facts, how can we say that we are making progress? It is not enough.
    It was 50 years ago when the royal commission called for pay equity. Today, by law, women should be paid the same amount of money for the same amount of work as men, but we are not. In 2018, the government finally introduced pay equity legislation, but just a few weeks ago, the Parliamentary Budget Officer issued a report saying that legislation still has not been implemented. Again, 50 years ago, the royal commission called for the creation of a national child care system, and still women are waiting. Even the announcements by the government last week are mediocre and will not create a universal, affordable child care system.
    A second wave of COVID-19 will force more lockdowns and will cause the rise of virtual schooling and a scarcity of affordable day care. Between February and October, 20,600 Canadian women left the labour force, while almost 68,000 men re-entered or entered it. Women exiting the labour force face the risk of an erosion of skills, which may further exacerbate the gender wage gap that existed prior to the pandemic.
    A 2016 study from the OECD found that Canadian families spend almost one-quarter of their income on child care, one of the highest amounts worldwide. It is unacceptable that there is still no universal child care system, and constant empty promises are not good enough.

  (1535)  

    Despite all the feel-good feminism, the sad truth is that government after government has kept women waiting when it comes to taking action on systemic injustices. Unaffordable child care, unsafe long-term care facilities, never-ending and increasing levels of poverty, expensive unattainable housing, high rates of domestic and gender-based violence, unachievable pay equity, a woman's right to choose and access to services are still in question in Canada. We allow so many to fall through the cracks. We have allowed poverty rates to skyrocket and for the gap between the rich and the poor to grow. We have not followed the advice of the royal commission and are seeing the consequences of that, especially now.
     While the challenge before us can be daunting, women have never been afraid to fight. We stand on the shoulders of giants before us, and just like those trailblazers 50 years ago, together here in the House we can stand united and say we are not doing enough, we must demand more and we must fight for more. Hopefully the people here will show the political will, strength and courage to make the changes necessary so that it will not take us another 50 years to achieve real progress, real fairness and real equality.
    Madam Speaker, on a point of order, I request the unanimous consent of my colleagues to allow the Green Party to reflect on the 50th anniversary of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada.

[Translation]

    This being a hybrid sitting of the House, for the sake of clarity, I will only ask those who are opposed to the request to express their disagreement.

[English]

    There being no dissenting voice, it is agreed.
    The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
    Madam Speaker, it is a real honour to join the voices of the hon. Minister for Women and Gender Equality, the hon. member for Calgary Skyview, the hon. member for Shefford and the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, marking this occasion with all women's voices in the House.
    I have the great honour to speak to the House from the traditional territory of the WSÁNEC peoples. I raise my hands. Hych'ka siem.
     It is an honour to speak to the House virtually, although I think, like all of us, we miss seeing each other.
    This is an extraordinary occasion to reflect on the 50th anniversary of the very first-ever royal commission headed by a women, dealing with the issues that affected women. I want to draw some parallels between the political realities of when this Parliament started and when the royal commission started.
    The Royal Commission on the Status of Women, as the hon. minister mentioned, was the result of pressure on the then Liberal prime minister Lester B. Pearson in a minority government. Lester B. Pearson was told by Laura Sabia, then president of the Canadian Federation of University Women, who led this charge for an examination of the rights of women in Canada, that if he did not agree to a royal commission, two million women would march on Ottawa.
    There are remarkable women feminists in this story. One of them needs to be mentioned again, as the hon. minister mentioned, one woman member of Parliament, only one in 1967, but a formidable feminist, Judy LaMarsh. She was also in the cabinet of Lester B. Pearson. She had been part of the extraordinary efforts of that minority Liberal government, with strong NDP pressure, that brought in universal health care, the Canada pension plan and unemployment insurance; in other words, at a time of transformational change in our society, one woman MP.
    By the time the report was tabled in 1970, there was still only one woman MP, but the Liberals were in majority. The prime minister was Pierre Trudeau and the one woman MP was not in his caucus. It was Grace MacInnis of Vancouver Kingsway. She was, of course, a New Democrat Party member.
    The government lost the opportunity to have a woman in cabinet to do anything with these recommendations. The recommendations were powerful, but when we think about the time and the way the media covered the royal commission, I found this gem and I really have to share it. It is from Maclean's magazine in January 1968, writing about the chair of the commission. So far today everyone has referred to her the way she is mostly referred to in historical literature, as Florence Bird, but she was known as a journalist, under her professional name of Anne Francis.
    In January 1968, Maclean's magazine wrote:
    Above all, Anne Francis is not a feminist; not one of the New Suffragettes who lobbied the Liberal government until it finally appointed a Royal Commission on the Status of Canadian Women, with Anne Francis as chairman. Her husband — and her husband’s friends — say she is a wonderful wife.
    I guess she could not have been a feminist. It was strange time, 1968.
    The Toronto Star and Le Devoir decided to collect public opinion about the status of women, publishing its surveys to only have responses from men. The majority of men responding to the survey in the Toronto Star said that a woman's place was in the home. We now know a woman's place is in the House, but it is the House of Commons, and there are now 100 women in the House of Commons, including our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and women leadership through all our caucuses.
    Let us look at what the report demanded of government. Let us consider it would not have been acted upon if it was still a Liberal minority under Lester B. Pearson with Judy LaMarsh instead of a majority with no women in cabinet. They demanded, as we have heard, legal abortion rights; an end to the wage gap; that women's rights be respected throughout society; that we have universal child care; and this gem, which has not been mentioned yet today, they called for a program of guaranteed annual income and that it should start in providing guaranteed annual income to single parent families that needed the help and were living in disproportionate levels of poverty. They mentioned as well the disproportionate levels of poverty and the high infant mortality among indigenous women.

  (1540)  

    The report obviously suffers from time. It does not look through a lens with intersectionality, it does not look at violence against women, but it was pretty progressive.
    My challenge to all of us now in 2020, 50 years later, is that with 100 women MPs in the House of Commons, should we not be capable of doing 100 times more than the one woman, Judy LaMarsh, in Lester B. Pearson's cabinet?
    Should we not be capable of saying now is the time to bring in a guaranteed liveable income, now is the time to bring in universal child care and now is the time for real climate action, now in a minority Parliament before the unreceptive typical 100% of the power of a first past the post false majority takes over? We need to do more now.
    In memory of all those wonderful feminists, such as Florence Bird and her professional name Anne Francis, Laura Sabia, Judy LaMarsh and Grace MacInnis, and in the name of all the women who have gone before us with so much less at their disposal to push for change, let us do more now. Let us finish the job the royal commission started 50 years ago.

  (1545)  

[Translation]

    The President of the Treasury Board on a point of order.

Departmental Results Reports 2019-20

    Madam Speaker, I thank the Chair for recognizing me.
    I have the honour to table, in both official languages, on behalf of the 88 departments and agencies, the departmental results reports for 2019-20.

[English]

Petitions

Brazil  

    Madam Speaker, it is an honour and privilege to table petition e-2957, which was promoted by Greenpeace Canada and has 4,359 signatures.
    The petitioners are concerned about the dramatic increase in deforestation and fires in the Amazon since President Bolsonaro came to power in Brazil and the threat this represents to humanity by accelerating climate change. They note the Brazilian government has dismantled environmental regulations, enforcement and indigenous rights protections and that indigenous people in Brazil are experiencing especially high levels of violence, land appropriation and other human rights violations.
    The petitioners call upon the government to immediately terminate the Canada-Mercosur free trade deal negotiations and make a public statement that the Bolsonaro government's assault on the environment and human rights is unacceptable to Canada.

The Environment  

    Madam Speaker, once again I rise to present a petition from young people from across my riding and the adjacent riding of Kootenay—Columbia.
     They are concerned about the accelerating impacts of climate change. They point out that the targets and actions of the government are completely inadequate. They want jobs that are sustainable, not for short-term gain at the cost of future generations.
     The petitioners ask the government to support their future with a detailed climate strategy and science-based targets that are accountable in law. They want to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and redirect those funds to renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, low-carbon transportation and job training.

Human Rights  

    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to table a petition highlighting the horrific abuses of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in China. This is an ongoing concern. Media reports have highlighted the various ways, such as through forced repression of births. In the view of the petitioners and many others, this constitutes a genocide.
    The petitioners call on the government to recognize that and they also call for the use of Magnitsky sanctions targeting those involved in gross violations of human rights, noting that Magnitsky sanctions have not been used at all in the context of China. They want to see them used in the particular context of the horrific abuses of Uighurs.

Blood Donation  

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to table e-petition 2757, which I was proud to sponsor. The petition signed by more than 1.500 Canadians is part of a national campaign organized by a group called All Blood is Equal.
     The petitioners call on Parliament to end the unscientific ban on blood donations from gay men, men who have sex with men and trans women, as this policy only contributes to blood shortages and perpetuates homophobic stereotypes.
     The petitioners note that this is particularly egregious during a pandemic and call on the House to support my Motion No. 41, which in turn calls on the government to introduce behaviour-based rather than identity-based blood donation guidelines as more 17 other nations have already done.

  (1550)  

Indigenous Affairs  

    Madam Speaker, it is an honour to present a petition dealing with the ongoing issues on Wet'suwet'en traditional territory.
     The petitioners call for the government to respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to respect the Wet'suwet'en views regarding the Coastal GasLink project and to withdraw efforts to force that project to completion.

Questions on the Order Paper

[Text]

Question No. 159--
Mr. Kyle Seeback:
    With regard to the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) program announced by the Prime Minister on May 11, 2020: (a) what is the total amount of financing provided by government through the program; (b) how many large employers have applied for financing through LEEFF; (c) how many large employers were provided with funding under LEEFF; and (d) what are the details of all financing provided, including (i) name of large employer, (ii) amount of financing, (iii) type of financing?
Hon. Chrystia Freeland (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.):
    Mr. Speaker, the Canada Enterprise Emergency Funding Corporation, CEEFC, a subsidiary of the Canada Development Investment Corporation, CDEV, formed to administer the large employer emergency financing facility, LEEFF, began accepting applications to the LEEFF on May 20, 2020.
    The LEEFF program is one of the many measures our government has put in place to support Canadian businesses during this pandemic, including the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the Canada emergency business account and the Canada emergency rent subsidy.
    Given the economic uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, it is unclear how many large employers will apply to the LEEFF or receive funding. CEEFC maintains an updated list of approved LEEFF loans, and funds disbursed, on its website at: www.ceefc-cfuec.ca/approved-loan.
Question No. 161--
Mr. Blaine Calkins:
    With regard to Requests for Proposal (RFP), Invitations to Tender (ITI) and Notices of Proposed Procurement (NPP) put forward by Public Works and Government Services Canada since March 11, 2020: (a) how many times has the national security exception been invoked; (b) for each RFP, ITI or NPP in (a), what was the (i) publication date, (ii) closing date, (iii) solicitation number, (iv) title, (v) reason given for national security exception, (vi) competitive procurement strategy, (vii) procurement entity, (viii) end user entity; (c) for each item in (b), was (i) the list of interested suppliers for the tender publicly available, (ii) the successful firm or vendor and contract value publicly disclosed; and (d) for contracts already awarded in (a), what was the (i) vendor, (ii) date the contract was awarded, (iii) value of the contract?
Mr. Steven MacKinnon (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Lib.):
    Mr. Speaker, the national security exception provided for in all of Canada’s trade agreements allows Canada to exclude a procurement from some or all of the obligations of the relevant trade agreement(s), where Canada considers it necessary to do so in order to protect its national security interests.
    That being said, there is no identifier in PSPC’s centralized database to identify contracts that received a national security exception. As a result, PSPC concluded that producing and validating a comprehensive response to this question would require a manual collection of information that is not possible in the time allotted and could lead to the disclosure of incomplete and misleading information.
Question No. 166--
Mr. Rob Moore:
    With regard to judicial appointments made by the government, and the CBC report on October 20, 2020, that stated “[t]he Liberal Research Bureau also participates in the background checks on judicial candidates, according to federal sources and an internal government email”: (a) what role does the Liberal Research Bureau have for the government with regard to background checks for judicial candidates; (b) who in the government provides the names of potential judicial candidates to the Liberal Research Bureau; and (c) has the government provided secret security clearance to anyone in the Liberal Research Bureau so that those individuals are legally allowed to possess the names of candidates and, if so, (i) who was granted clearance, (ii) when was the clearance granted?
Hon. David Lametti (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.):
    Mr. Speaker, our government has put in a place an open, transparent and accountable process to identify and appoint highly meritorious jurists. The independent Judicial Advisory Committees make recommendations based on the merit and quality of the candidates who apply. We have appointed more than 400 jurists, women and men, to the bench. The diversity of these appointments is also unprecedented. Of the judges appointed under the new process since 2016, 55% are women, 10% are visible minorities, 5% identify as LGBTQ2, 3% are indigenous and 1% have a disability. These jurists not only meet the needs of our courts, but are also reflective of Canada’s diversity.

[English]

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Madam Speaker, if the government's response to Questions Nos. 154 to 158, 160, 162 to 165 and 167 to 169 could be made orders for return, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 154--
Mr. Brad Redekopp:
    With regard to videos produced by the government for usage on government websites or for internal usage, since February 1, 2020: (a) what are the details of all such videos, including (i) date, (ii) duration, (iii) title, (iv) purpose, (v) intended audience, (vi) government website on which the video was displayed, if on a public website; and (b) for each video in (a), what were the total expenditures, broken down by type of expense?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 155--
Mr. Brad Redekopp:
    With regard to videos produced by the government for public distribution, since February 1, 2020: (a) what are the details of all such videos, including (i) date, (ii) duration, (iii) title, (iv) purpose, (v) intended audience; (b) for each video, what were the total expenditures, broken down by type of expense; and (c) through which Internet sites, social media platforms, television stations, or streaming sites was each video distributed?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 156--
Mr. Pat Kelly:
    With regard to the COVID-19 pandemic response programs, the efficacy of such programs, and the extent of coverage of such programs: (a) how many Canadian businesses applied under each program, including the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance, the Canada Emergency Business Account, and the Business Credit Availability Program (in both the Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada branches of the program); (b) of the applicants in (a), how many were approved; and (c) what proportion of total Canadian businesses do the successful applicants in (b) represent?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 157--
Mr. Pat Kelly:
    With regard to the various programs offered by Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada under the Business Credit Availability Program umbrella: (a) what is the dollar value of funds disbursed to date under each program; and (b) what is the average dollar value per successful applicant of loans issued under the programs in (a)?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 158--
Mr. Pat Kelly:
    With regard to the Canada Emergency Business Account program: (a) how many calls have the call centres received on each day of the program’s operation; (b) of the calls in (a), how many did the call centre respond to and how many were missed or unable to connect to an employee; (c) what is the average number of calls to the call centres per successful applicant before its application was approved; and (d) do any of the call centres employees possess experience or training in the business operations and requirements of farms?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 160--
Mr. Dan Albas:
    With regard to the government’s promise to protect 25 percent of land area and 25 percent of marine area by 2025, and 30 percent of land area and 30 percent of marine area by 2030: (a) how much land and marine area is now protected; (b) how much land or marine area was protected every year over the past 20 years, broken down by year; (c) what is the historical timeline for first looking at a piece of land or marine area and when it is ultimately protected; (d) what are all the classifications for land or marine area that the government considers to be protected; (e) what is the historical timeline for consultations with First Nations peoples before a piece of land or marine area can be protected; (f) has the government identified enough specific areas of land and marine area to reach the 25 percent level by 2025 and, if so, what specific areas has it identified to meet the target; (g) has the government provided the provinces, territories, and First Nations with a detailed map or plan indicating which areas they plan on protecting and, if so, what are the details, including (i) date the plan was provided, (ii) recipients, (iii) description, including locations and square kilometres of areas planned for protection; (h) will natural resource development be banned on all areas protected to meet the 25 percent by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030 commitment and, if so, what are the details of any analysis, including findings, on such a ban; (i) will transportation of extracted natural resource products be banned on all areas protected to meet the 25 percent by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030 commitment and, if so, what are the details of any analysis, including findings, on such a ban; (j) what level of economic development will be allowed on land that is protected under the commitment to protect 25 percent by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030; and (k) does the government project meeting the 25 percent by 2025 target for protecting lands under this commitment?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 162--
Mr. Blaine Calkins:
    With regard to Public Safety Canada's Request for Proposal (RFP) 202101232-1 Project Manager for Firearms Buyback Program: (a) what was the (i) publication date, (ii) closing date, (iii) competitive procurement strategy; (b) if the closing date in (a)(ii) has passed, (i) what were the name of the vendors that submitted a proposal, (ii) what was the name of the vendor selected; and (c) if the government contacted vendors to request they submit a proposal, (i) what was the name of the company solicited, (ii) the date of the initial contact, (iii) the reason the vendor was selected for solicitation?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 163--
Mr. Blaine Calkins:
    With regard to the consultation undertaken for Order in Council P.C. 2020-298, dated May 1, 2020: (a) what were the names of the stakeholder organizations consulted; and (b) what are the details of each consultation in (a), including (i) name and title of the individuals who represented the organization, (ii) date, (iii) method (in-person, email, telephone, etc.), (iv) location, if the consultation took place in-person, (v) recommendations or advice provided by the organization?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 164--
Mr. Blaine Calkins:
    With regard to the moose cull in Cape Breton Highlands National Park since 2015, broken down by year: (a) what was the total cost incurred by (i) the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, (ii) Parks Canada; (b) for the costs in (a), what costs were incurred for (i) overtime, (ii) fuel, (iii) accommodation, (iv) meals or per diem, (v) equipment rental and maintenance, (vi) the use of all vessels such as trucks, aircrafts and boats; and (c) how many animals were harvested?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 165--
Mr. James Bezan:
    With regard to the Australian F-18 Hornets purchased by the Department of National Defence: (a) how many total flight hours have the Australian F-18 Hornets flown for the Royal Canadian Air Force since the purchase was made, excluding aircraft operating for the Aeronautical Evaluation and Test Establishment; (b) how many operational flight hours have the Australian F-18 Hornets flown since the purchase was made, excluding aircraft operating for the Aeronautical Evaluation and Test Establishment; (c) on what date are the Australian F-18 Hornets expected to be put into regular service alongside the CF-18s; (d) how many Australian F-18 Hornets will be upgraded with the APG-79(v)4 radar; and (e) on what date is the upgrade of radar systems expected to be completed?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 167--
Mr. Colin Carrie:
    With regard to applications for approval submitted to Health Canada by ventilator manufacturers since January 1, 2020: what are the details of all applications, including (i) name of company, (ii) model, (iii) date of application, (iv) date of approval or rejection, (v) whether the application was approved or rejected, (vi) reason for rejection, if applicable?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 168--
Mr. Colin Carrie:
    With regard to all monetary and non-monetary contracts, grants, agreements and arrangements entered into by the government with the WE organization, the WE Charity, ME to WE, Imagine 1 Day International, Marc Kielburger and Craig Kielburger, since November 5, 2015: what are the details of such contracts, grants, agreements, or arrangements, including (i) date, (ii) amount, (iii) minister or government official who authorized it, (iv) start and end date, (v) summary of terms, (vi) whether or not the item was made public through proactive disclosure, (vii) dates and locations of related events, if applicable, (viii) specific details of goods or services provided to the government as a result of the contract, grant, agreement or arrangement?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 169--
Ms. Leona Alleslev:
    With regard to advance contract award notices (ACAN) published by the government since January 1, 2020: what are the details of all ACAN published by the government, including (i) date of notice, (ii) date by which any potential competitors were required to submit a statement of capabilities, (iii) pre-selected vendor, (iv) contract value, (v) summary of goods or services, including volume, (vi) reason the government believed the pre-selected vendor was the only one capable of offering the goods or services, (vii) number of competitors who submitted a statement of capabilities, (viii) vendor awarded with the contract, if different than the pre-selected vendor?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I would ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand at this time.
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Measures to Support Canadian Businesses  

    The house resumed consideration of the motion.
    Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes. It is a great honour to speak to this opposition motion today.
    When the world caught the news that multiple vaccines for COVID-19 had finally been approved, that this horrible year was finally about to come to an end, there was great relief and a sigh from across the world. That was until we realized that help was on the way for many of our close international partners including the U.K., U.S.A., Germany and Mexico and their economies might be able to reopen and their citizens would start to engage in normal life again, but Canada would have to wait. Granted, today's news was great. It is fantastic news that we will see the first vaccines coming to Canada, but certainly for our economy to re-engage we absolutely need to see far more, as soon as possible.
    The government spent $44 million on upgrades to the National Research Council's Royalmount vaccine production facility in Montreal, and that is despite the Prime Minister saying that there would be no vaccine manufacturing in Canada. Unfortunately, the upgrades at that facility still are not finished and are not projected to be finished until 2021, so that really lagged our ability to produce vaccines and thus put us further behind many other countries.
    Most people need some kind of certainty, and “as soon as possible” just does not work. With the variety of vaccines that have been announced and the contracts that the government has put in place, it seems entirely reasonable to ask, once they are approved, what the timing would be when Canadians can expect to see these vaccines, and to give the provinces the latitude to know what is coming down the pipe so they can start making arrangements for these vaccines that Canadians so desperately need to land at their pharmacies or to whatever execution method each of the provincial governments would use.
    Our opposition motion today highlights the unequivocal fact that a lot of Canadian business owners are in distress and I am sure many of the members have heard this. Business owners need help just to survive while waiting until some form of rapid testing or a robust vaccination plan rolls out. They are really struggling.
    Forty-six per cent of business owners are worried about the survival of their businesses. We hear a lot about essential services. For many of the business owners whom I speak to, their businesses are essential to them. They are essential for their livelihood. They are essential for them to look after their families and to generate incomes. It is essential for them that they get back to work. Some are working at reduced activity, and I really admire their ingenuity in trying to make the best of what is a very difficult situation.
    As early as March, 56% of business owners said they had no more capacity to take on debt during this emergency. That is a phenomenal number, and even debt does not necessarily solve the problem. During the first wave, the government determined which were considered essential and non-essential businesses. Their businesses were absolutely essential for their livelihoods. A lot of large corporations, such as Costco and Walmart, would still be able to benefit and sell products that a lot of small businesses sell as well, so the small business owners really want to get back to work.
    A simple fact is that there will be no recovery if there are no businesses left, so the government has handed out about $240 billion in the first eight months of the pandemic. Not to say that we should not have been spending money, but that is about $952 million a day between March 13 and November 20.
     While the government members had been starting to talk about their great reset stimulation and other singular-driven goals, we are spending virtually more than any other country in the G7, but we have the highest unemployment, so it is obvious that some of these programs are not working for their intended people. The Liberals have been stingy in regard to spending on what Canadians need, but what people really want is to get back to work and earn a paycheque.
    The federal government must support employment by removing barriers to job creation, such as taxes and regulation. This is something that we could do that does not cost anything and creates that opportunity for businesses, particularly around interprovincial trade barriers.
    The government needs to fix the large employer emergency financing facility, the LEEFF program, by reducing restrictions and amending the interest rate schedule. As of today, there are only a couple of companies that actually have used this particular program that the government has put forth. It strikes me that it would be time to fix this, do something with it and make sure that it is more accessible for companies.

  (1555)  

    Postponing the increase of the Canada pension plan payroll tax plan for January 1 again is a tax burden on businesses that they just cannot afford. They are not in a position to increase their input costs and, quite frankly, they have nowhere to pass it on. Postponing the increase of the carbon tax and the alcohol escalator tax plan for 2021 is not to say that we should not have the increase, it is just that these small businesses cannot have this kind of input cost in their businesses at this time.
    The motion also calls for complete details on the highly affected sectors credit availability program by December 16, including criteria when the businesses can apply, when the sectors are eligible and when repayment will be required. Giving details like this should not be a battle. The government often announces these programs, but with details to follow. I can say from what I hear from businesses that they want certainty. These plans are clear as mud, there is a bunch of smoke and mirrors and the Canadian public needs to know.
    We have the hangover. Kevin Page, who served as the PBO for five years, says he can hardly make sense of the 223-page fall economic update, saying after spending an evening going through the charts and all the verbiage, he had difficulty even understanding where it is at. We cannot sit idly while the rest of the world recovers. We cannot sit by while the world starts to move along. We need a plan. We need a timeline. We need to understand when vaccines are going to arrive and when we are going to be able to get back to business.
    Ultimately, we know that the long-term cure for the ailing economy cannot be sustained by government programs no matter how many are provided to help small business. Whether the government wants to believe it or not, the debt we are accumulating, in excess of $1.1 trillion, will be unsustainable. If we continue along this path, we will effectively ruin any chance for future generations, our children and grandchildren, from realizing the immense possibility that once lay before us when we were their age.
    We need a plan that will unleash private sector companies. Let them get back to work and create jobs. The investment plan that the government talks about I hope is in assets that will help improve productivity and our export potential. Canada, at the end of the day, is a relatively small country that has enormous potential and resources and it needs to be able to sell to other people in the world. There is a tremendous opportunity to unlock the IP that many companies in this country have and put policies in place that would support that export capacity. Handouts are not the answer. All of the businesses I talk to want to be able to execute their plans, but they want the government to put policies in place that encourage them to invest and do not stop them from investing.
    We need to recognize and support our strategic sectors, allow them to grow and make sure we understand what our strategic advantage is. As nice as it would be to rely solely on ourselves for economic growth, the hard reality is that in order to flourish economically, limiting our recovery efforts by internal selling, selling to ourselves, will never get us out of this hole. We need to get focused on what we can do to make sure we can get people back to work and create an environment where Canadian companies are competitive and able to sell their goods and services all over the world. That is what they want to do, that is what they want to focus on and that is what we need the government to get focused on.
    The vision of growth and prosperity after this pandemic must include a recovery for all. It has never been more important than now. It is important for creating opportunities for Canada's youth now and in the future instead of burdening them before they even have a fighting chance.

  (1600)  

    Madam Speaker, I have heard a number of Conservatives talk a lot over the last several weeks about the unemployment rate in Canada. That seems to be one of the economic factors of the pandemic that they seem to want to talk about. The member brought it up, too. They always talk about how high it is. In reality, if we look at the numbers, we are less than half a point higher than the United States in terms of our unemployment rate, yet we have one-third of the death rate per capita in the United States.
    My question to the member is very easy and very specific. Does he think that having an increased unemployment rate of less than .5% is a good trade-off for having a death rate that is one-third of what we are seeing in the United States?
    Madam Speaker, that would suggest there is a direct correlation between the programs that are put in place and what the provinces are doing to try to limit the spread of this horrible health crisis. I acknowledge that we have a significant issue with the health crisis.
    However, the point I was trying to make to the member was that we should do a comparative of the programs we put in place and the amount of money we are spending versus the unemployment rate, and then compare that to other countries. Other countries actually have results that are comparable, if not better, than ours when it relates to illness during the pandemic. It still strikes me that these programs could be more efficient and more effective, and that we could get more people back to work while keeping them safe.

  (1605)  

    Madam Speaker, the member made reference to our needing a plan. He said that we need to be focused and we have to get people back to work. Those are the words the member was using. I would say to him that this has been the case.
    Let us stop and think about it. What do people think the wage subsidy program is about? That has protected jobs that may have been lost if the government did not provide the wage subsidy. The same thing applies in terms of the rent subsidy program. Here we are protecting our businesses and our workers so that, when we get past the coronavirus, we are better able to get the economy going quicker.
    Would the member not agree that is, at least in part, a plan?
    Madam Speaker, in fact we have supported many of the programs that the member talks about. The reason we have supported them is that we realized that, when the government shuts down the economy, there has to be a reaction to that.
    What the member missed from what I was saying was that there is a lack of certainty and a plan for how we will start to move out of this. The government announced 100 billion dollars' worth of potential stimulus spending with no details or concrete plan. Businesses need to understand the strategy, how we are going to grow our exports and how we are going to grow our economy. The time is now. It is not to wait another six months and then start to develop it. The time is now.
    We should get moving and we should see a budget so that we can better understand where the government is going and in what direction it expects to go forward.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, we agree with the preamble of the motion, which states that businesses are the first to be affected by the pandemic.
    I am thinking of the Val-Jalbert historical village, which is in my riding and cannot access the wage subsidy. That is completely unfair. We have been working with different departments, but they have been passing the buck for several months. We hope to find a solution that will make this site retroactively eligible for the wage subsidy. That is the kind of action we can take to help our businesses.
    However, the Conservative motion talks about putting the brakes on the carbon tax for the time being. Does my hon. colleague believe that this opens the door to the possibility of permanently cancelling this tax? Is that what the Conservatives want?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the reason the carbon tax is an issue at this point in time is that businesses can sorely afford to have added input costs into the production of their goods and services. That is the issue. This is not a discussion around the environment. It is purely that they cannot afford it. If the member looked at the statistics I mentioned earlier in my remarks, many are going to fail. One thing they cannot afford is added taxes and burdens going into the future.
    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate today. I am joining from Brockville, Ontario.
    We are discussing a very important matter. The measures that are proposed in our opposition day motion have been mentioned by the previous speakers and my colleagues, and they are incredibly important. The reason they are important is that we are hearing from businesses about the growing uncertainty that we have moving into 2021.
    The year 2020 has been unprecedented, and it has required the government to move fast. The current government has enjoyed unprecedented support from the official opposition. There was, perhaps, a risk at some point this year that we might have to change the name of the official opposition, because we unanimously agreed to so much of what the government put forward so that we could quickly help Canadians.
    However, in that process we also proposed a number of changes to the proposed legislation that we believe would have been of better service to Canadians and to businesses. In some cases, they were not adopted by the government, and in other cases they were. An example of the types of proposals we made that we now know, at the first introduction by the government, would have been helpful to Canadians writ large is the CERB back to work bonus, which we proposed as one measure. Of course, giving Canadians the opportunity to earn beyond the lowest threshold, while getting them back to work and allowing businesses to continue to operate, would have been immensely helpful to businesses.
    The same is true of the first iteration of the emergency wage subsidy. It was originally proposed at 10%, but requests by the opposition for that amount to be raised to 75% has likely had the greatest effect on businesses and Canadians' livelihoods and lives from coast to coast to coast. I hear from my constituents that the 75% number has been the difference. Not every business has been able to access that program, but this is the type of program that was responsive to the calls of business groups and independent businesses. I am very pleased that was one change the government made.
    The Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program was quite flawed and underutilized in its initial iteration. Businesses were frustrated by that. The relaunch of that, following the suggestions and the intervention of the opposition, resulted in a program that will hopefully be able to allow more businesses to stay open and to keep the lights on, but for many that assistance will come too late.
    When we are moving so quickly on all of these programs, and speed was a necessity in 2020 to help address these gaps, some of the mistakes that were made were made while there were better options and other perspectives at the table. We had questions around the emergency rent assistance program and how it ended up with CMHC as its administrator, and questions around connections and conflicts of interest, when it had been proposed, at the time, that the CRA ought to be able to administer the program.
    The same is true with the now famous and scandal-plagued summer employment program proposed by the government. It was widely panned by folks who work in that industry. At the same time, Conservatives were calling for more funds to be invested in the Canada summer jobs program, which is a successful program.
    While we were moving quickly, the government, in a few instances, looked like it wanted to reinvent the wheel, instead of investing, with the support of the opposition, in existing programs and leveraging Canada's public service, which was able to ultimately, in the end, deliver on those programs anyway.

  (1610)  

    At the beginning of the pandemic there was concern among opposition parties and Canadians when there was a proposal by the government to be able to tax and spend without parliamentary oversight. We could only look to the government's better angels and imagine it wanted to move quickly and was worried that it would not have opposition support; however, the government continued to enjoy opposition support after we were able to draw the attention of Canadians to that troubling matter.
    I raise that issue because we find ourselves now at the end of the year, in December. It is hard to believe it is December. We had an opportunity this summer, when the official opposition, the Conservative opposition, called for the House to continue to meet throughout the summer in a hybrid format, as it is meeting today, to deal not just with COVID-related measures but with the business of the House. I have heard concerns from government members about the opposition slowing down legislation, when in fact the opposition proposed that the government continue to operate and meet throughout the summer.
    At the end of the summer, and the four days that we ended up having for these special sittings of the House, Parliament was prorogued for six weeks. During those six weeks, let alone the summer period, there would have been all kinds of time for the finance, government operations or other committees to review the spending to date and the planned spending going forward. That is not what we saw. That gives my colleagues and me pause. Canadians wonder who is keeping an eye on the register while all this is going on.
    Once we did come back, following prorogation, we had a more than 30-hour filibuster at the finance committee with respect to a question of privilege. This was not an ideological difference between members. This was very much a procedural issue that bogged down a committee that should have been doing a lot of heavy lifting during the pandemic, when businesses and individuals were looking for real support from the government and looking for Canada's parliamentarians to do the heavy lifting.
    We know rapid testing would have been a real boon to businesses and to the economy, to be able to bolster testing efforts and to track and trace COVID-19 throughout this year. We were slow. As a country, we were slow to get those tests out to the provinces. Today, we heard good news. There is going to be a very limited release of COVID vaccine in Canada, but Canadians wonder what the timetable looks like for next year. When are they going to be vaccinated? Who is going to be vaccinated first? How are those vaccines going to be administered? We are looking for a plan from the government on those measures.
    While we are expecting the government to be able to deliver in response specifically to the pandemic with things like rapid testing and vaccine distribution, we are also looking for it to turn its eye to the small businesses that have had an incredibly difficult year, an unparalleled year with respect to how bad it was. We need the government to take a look at planned tax increases for small businesses, hit the pause button, let people catch their breath and let businesses start to earn in what we hope to see in 2021: a return to normal, as vaccines roll out and we better understand COVID-19.
    This is really the nature of what we are looking for regarding this opposition day motion. When we look at increases to CPP, the carbon tax and planned escalator taxes, businesses want to see a signal from the government that Canada's Parliament has their backs. Canada's official opposition, the Conservatives, want to let businesses know we do have their backs and we are looking for all members in the House to join us in sending that very important signal to Canadian businesses.
    With that, I believe my time is running out. I am thankful for the opportunity, and I look forward to taking questions from colleagues.

  (1615)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank my neighbour to the east for his intervention today. I am just a bit farther down the 401 than him, but we are both very fortunate to share a part of Ontario that attracts a lot of tourism and brings a lot of people from around the world to both of our areas.
     I mention that because he discussed a number of the programs the government has set up, but one thing I did not hear him talk about, and I apologize if I missed it, was the regional relief recovery fund. This was the $1.5 billion fund to support businesses. It is so important because it really supported a lot of local tourism businesses, with 25% of the funds going to local tourism. It helped secure over 100,000 jobs. I wonder if the member can comment on what he thinks of this fund and the fact that, in the fall economic statement, there was a commitment to increase that by half a billion dollars.
    Does he see that as a win for his riding, my riding and other ridings that support tourism?
    Madam Speaker, what businesses want are details, as I said early on. I did not give an exhaustive list of the programs that were introduced this year. Some of them have been helpful and some of them held promise, but were introduced too late or with details that were light. Of the ones that have helped businesses, I have heard thanks and requests for more from constituents and businesses here, but we need to have a plan going forward and to have that legislation in place before the new year.
    We have heard a few times this past year that legislation arrives on the eve of the expiry of a program and the government is looking for unanimous consent of the House to pass it. It does not give us the opportunity to give that oversight and does not give us the opportunity to hear from stakeholders to allow local businesses, such as here in the Thousand Islands region, to give their input to committee. That is what we are looking for: more details and more of a plan.
    Madam Speaker, my question is regarding some of the supports we have had for small businesses. In my riding of Edmonton Strathcona, a number of small businesses have really suffered because they were not able to access the rent subsidy program. Like the member said, the program was improved and made much better in the second iteration, but it did not help those who needed the help going back to the beginning of the pandemic.
    Would the member agree it would be appropriate to backdate the rent relief program for small businesses to the beginning of the pandemic?

  (1620)  

    Madam Speaker, thanks very much to the member for Edmonton Strathcona for the question. I know the city well, having lived there when I served in the Canadian Armed Forces. This speaks to the speed at which programs have rolled out. In the beginning, the Conservative opposition was looking for more direct support in terms of returning GST remittances from the government right back into businesses' pockets to allow them to prepare for the storm.
    Now that we are through the first part of the storm, maybe through the eye of it, and we are into the second wave, we need to see from the government a concrete plan and costing. We need to know what it has in store. More taxes are not going to help businesses even before we look at backdating programs that are already in place.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, not to be a spoilsport, because I am not that kind of person, but there is something I am having trouble understanding about the Conservatives' desire to opt out of the carbon tax.
    A time of recovery is usually an opportunity to make transitions. The government announced that it intends to pursue a slightly greener recovery. I do not see how abolishing the carbon tax would support the economy. I think that the only winners would be the oil and gas industry. That seems to me to be a provision tailored to the oil and gas industry.
    I would like my colleague to tell me something. Who besides the oil and gas industry would benefit from postponing the carbon tax?

[English]

    The hon. member has 10 seconds.
    Madam Speaker, in my riding, farmers and people who have to travel long distances do not have the benefit of public transit. They would all benefit from freezing the carbon tax. The abolition of the carbon tax is not specifically proposed in this motion, but I must say, a strong Canadian natural resource sector is good for the whole world. We have the best resource extraction and we produce the cleanest oil—
    Madam Speaker, I am speaking to the House from my home, a little farther down the 401 than the last member, from Kingston and the Islands.
    Before I go any further, I want to thank all the people behind the scenes, who are making this hybrid session of Parliament possible, for their incredible work. I was thinking of this as I was sitting here watching them control this Zoom meeting. The fact that so many people are contributing to making this work really says something about the incredibly dedicated people on Parliament Hill on and off site who are assisting with this.
    Today I will be sharing my time with the member for Brampton North.
    I will touch on my position on this opposition motion as best I can, and give some insight as to why I am not supporting it. This probably does not come as a surprise to members as it seems as though, based on what I have been hearing today, none of the parties other than the one that moved the motion will be supporting it.
    In particular, I have trouble with two clauses toward the end of the motion. The first was postponing the increase of the Canada pension plan adjustments. For starters, just because there is a pandemic right now does not mean people suddenly do not have to plan for their retirement anymore, and that the government does not have to play a role in that. I would argue that now, more than ever, people have anxieties surfacing about how they are going to be retiring and whether there is going to be security there for them.
    Especially in the economy we live in right now, where there are more precarious workers and more people are moving between jobs throughout their careers, we need to make sure they are properly taken care of. A strong, robust Canada pension plan is the way to do that as we continue to move through the changes our economy is facing, so I have an issue with that.
    The next issue, and I have risen in the House on a number of occasions to speak of it, is specifically with respect to the carbon tax, as the Conservatives like to call it. I have said many times in the past that it is not a tax, because all of the money is returned to people. It is a market mechanism: a way to incentivize the market to make certain choices. I am always baffled by the fact that Conservatives do not get this. They have always claimed to be the champions of economic policy, and that they would know better than anybody if that was the case, which I think more people are questioning now than ever before. They would know, if that was the case, that incentivizing the market by putting tools in there to help people make choices is the only thing in a free and open market that can actually have a good lasting impact on that market.
    That is why the government never chose to use the opportunity to tax. A tax would take that money, put it into general revenues and utilize it for other purposes. Instead, this is a tool to collect money and then redistribute that money back out, in particular benefiting those who are having the least environmental impact possible. Of course, that takes time. These things take time to change, but at the same time we will see the price on that continually increase. Rather than happen all at once, it was scheduled to slowly be ramped up so it could have that impact in the marketplace to encourage and incentivize consumers in the market to make different choices.
    Because this motion completely talks about government support of small businesses, it is appropriate to discuss the plans that have been put in place: the various programs that the government has set up and executed over the last several months that have supported small businesses. I would start this discussion by referring back to the fall economic statement.

  (1625)  

    In a question to the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, I asked about tourism, which came up in the fall economic statement. I asked specifically about support for the tourism sector, which has been hit really hard during this pandemic. Tourism represents a large part of the economic activity in my riding, as is the case in his riding, and no doubt we have seen a tremendous impact given the way the pandemic has affected small businesses in the Kingston area.
    That is why I was pleased with the government's regional relief and recovery fund. It is $1.5 billion specifically to support businesses that were unable to access other federal pandemic support programs. It has supported over 100,000 jobs and 14,700 businesses, but had a really important impact on the local tourism sectors in my community of Kingston and the Islands. To date, it has provided $202 million in support to more than 2,800 tourism-related businesses.
    I was very happy to see, in the fall economic update, the Minister of Finance commit an additional half a billion dollars to this particular fund. These are the businesses that are going to be impacted by this pandemic the longest, in my opinion. Tourism, unlike some other sectors, will not immediately start up again in the strong state it left off. That is because there is going to be a lot of concern among people who are looking to travel. I do not think the confidence right after the pandemic will be as high as it was before the pandemic, and there will be less desire to immediately get on a plane and go to other parts of the world.
    This sector, therefore, is going to be hit longer than some other sectors that might be able to bounce back relatively quickly, and this additional half a billion dollars really gives the opportunity to make sure everyone is taken care of for the long term. There are a number of other programs as well.
    One thing I like to do often when I am speaking, because I think that sometimes we can get lost in the details of only talking about what is going on in Canada, is to compare Canada with some of the other countries in the world. That is what I want to do for the last two minutes I have today.
    According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business's October 2020 survey, 66% of Canadian businesses are fully open and 3% are fully closed because of the pandemic. This was as of September 20. I raise this because I want to compare it with what is going on in the United States, where 100,000 businesses have fully closed. About 60% of businesses that have shut down in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic will not be reopening. Canada, to date, has recovered 80.9% of the jobs that were lost between February and April, versus only 60% in the United States.
    Those two stats show Canada's performance throughout the pandemic, and based on the supports from various levels of government, Canada's response, comparatively speaking, has been stronger.
    I will not stop at the United States. I would also like to reference the United Kingdom very quickly.
    The U.K. government has a program called the job retention scheme, which is equivalent to the Canada emergency wage subsidy. Just for comparison purposes, as of November 5, it had spent 43 billion pounds, which is roughly $73 billion Canadian, and we had spent $50 billion Canadian. We have spent about $23 billion less than the U.K., but it has double our population.
    When we look at the amount of money that has been spent by the federal government specifically on businesses, I would argue that this government has had a robust plan to support businesses throughout the entire pandemic. I have no doubt, and I have the greatest degree of confidence, that we will be there right through to the other side of this so that we can come back in a much stronger position than we would have been had we not helped out Canadians and small businesses.

  (1630)  

    Madam Speaker, I am glad tourism in the member's area is doing so well. While he was giving his speech, I got a text from the CEO of Tourism Saskatoon asking for an urgent meeting with me. Things are not going well in Saskatoon. It lost the Junos, which was a $9-million hit, on March 15, and it has never recovered from that.
    The hon. member talked about how well things are going in his riding, but that is not the case all over this country. Saskatoon is one place that I can tell him is in deep financial trouble right now and may never recover from it.
    Madam Speaker, I do not think the member was listening to me. I did not say the tourism sector in my riding was doing well. I said the tourism sector represented a lot of the economic activity in my riding and, in fact, is being hit extremely hard by the pandemic. I also said the government has invested so much in supporting the sector and continues to do so, as indicated in the fall economic statement.
    I encourage him to reach out to the economic adviser or the chamber of commerce that reached out to him and report back the good news that the federal government is going to continue to be there for tourism and has just recently announced in the fall economic statement an additional $500 million to support this sector through the pandemic.

  (1635)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Kingston and the Islands for his speech.
    I really liked some of the words that he repeated several times, including the word “tourism”. I am the proud Bloc Québécois critic for tourism, and I think that I have a good handle on the file.
    I think that $500 million for tourism across Canada is peanuts for an industry that has been hard hit since the beginning of the crisis and was subject to the lockdown. It will take a lot of time for this industry to recover because, as we know, it will still be some time before we have a vaccine. That means it will be difficult for people to stay in hotels and attend events, so it will be difficult for the tourism industry to recover.
    The Alliance de l'industrie touristique du Québec asked for two things before the economic update, and I was even able to ask the government representatives in the House about them. Those two things are an additional extension of the Canada emergency wage subsidy and assistance for fixed costs to free up more cash flow.
    In April, the Deputy Prime Minister, who is now also the Minister of Finance, announced that the government was committed to increasing liquidity support, but nothing has been done to date.
    The only announcement the government made for the tourism industry in the economic update was that it will now provide 100% government-guaranteed financing for businesses. There are limits to what it is willing to do for the tourism industry, and what it is doing is not enough.
    Does my colleague really think that he is going to help the tourism industry by letting it go further into debt?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I am sure the member, being the critic, knows a lot about this. However, as an MP who represents a riding that has a lot of tourism in it, I also know quite a bit about this subject matter. I can tell him that there are individuals with small businesses who are continually asking the government, as I mentioned during my speech, to continue to support them through the economic recovery fund that was specifically designed for businesses such as theirs.
    I do not know why the member would suggest there was nothing in the fall economic statement that referenced this. As I said during my speech, and I believe I even brought it up in the answer to the first question, an additional half a billion dollars is being put into a fund that supports more businesses in the tourism sector than any other sector.
    Madam Speaker, I will continue with the tourism theme. What anchors the tourism industry in the Okanagan Valley is the wine industry, and there is one thing among the laundry list of questions in the opposition day motion that jumps out at me and I can support. It is postponing the alcohol escalator tax for 2021.
    When is the member's government going to come up with something to replace the excise tax exemption that the government took away and that the industry really needs for its survival?
    Madam Speaker, I do not know when. I think that was a rhetorical question, because the member would know that.
    The increase in the excise taxes, specifically with respect to inflation, is in keeping with what many of the provinces and territories are doing throughout the country. That is where the increase comes from.
    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to debate the motion brought forward by the hon. member.
    Canadian small and medium-sized businesses—
    I remind the hon. member to use her headset, for the interpreters.
    Madam Speaker, Canadian small and medium-sized businesses are the core of our economy. They represent 99.7% of businesses in Canada and employ over 15.8 million Canadians from coast to coast to coast. They are the main street businesses that Canadians frequent day in and day out. They are the businesses that fill Canadian towns and cities' business parks. They are the engine of our economy.
    Our government knows that supporting these very businesses is critical to Canadians and to Canada. That is why we acted immediately in early March, when the COVID-19 pandemic was in its early days, to roll out a series of support measures to help Canadian SMEs through the sudden economic shock they were facing. We continue to be there to support SMEs through the ongoing difficulties they are experiencing so they can get through this to the other side.
    We also know that capital is critical to small and medium-size businesses to help them pay their bills, continue to keep their staff and to keep their doors open to provide the goods and services Canadians need through this difficult period. That is why the government has rolled out, adjusted and updated a series of programs to provide liquidity supports to our SMEs. Capital is the lifeblood of businesses and we leaned in to help Canadian businesses.
    One of the key programs I am proud that our government has introduced is the regional relief and recovery fund, or the RRRF, which my colleague was just referring to. The RRRF allows our government to support businesses that are not able to access other emergency funding. To date, we have already provided more than $1.5 billion in assistance to businesses and communities that may require additional supports to cope with and recover from the pandemic.
    In the fall economic statement, we announced that we would be adding another $500 million to the program, bringing the total to more than $2 billion. This funding is being delivered through Canada's regional development agencies and community futures network to mitigate the financial pressure experienced by businesses and organizations and allow them to continue their operations, including paying their employees.
    The RRRF has also supported projects by businesses, organizations and communities to prepare now for a successful recovery. To date, this program has protected more than 102,000 jobs and supported more than 14,700 businesses, including more than 8,500 clients in rural areas and 5,100 women-owned businesses. This is just one of the many programs our government has introduced to help businesses and entrepreneurs during this time of crisis.
    We introduced the Canada emergency business account, or CEBA, which provided $40,000 to eligible small businesses at zero interest until December 31, 2022. For businesses that can repay early, 25% of the amount is forgivable. That amounts to a direct injection of $10,000 for each [Technical difficulty—Editor].

  (1640)  

    I will interrupt the hon. member for a moment.

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Jonquière on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, the audio is out, and so are the video and the interpretation.
    The Wi-Fi cut out. I think we all noticed.

[English]

    Could the hon. member try again?
    Madam Speaker, I am very sorry for the connectivity issues.
    It has delivered nearly $32 billion to Canadian businesses from coast to to coast to coast.
    We know that as long as this pandemic continues, our work is not done because many businesses continue to be in crisis due to the pandemic. Knowing that businesses in certain sectors continue to struggle disproportionately from the pandemic, our government is providing further liquidity support as announced in the November 30 fall economic statement.
    The highly affected sectors credit availability program is a new stream of liquidity support for those businesses that need it most. Delivered by the BDC, it will provide 100% government-backed loan support for businesses that have experienced significant revenue loss as people stay home to fight the spread of the virus. The interest rates will be lower than those offered under the business credit availability program and beneath typical market rates for the businesses that have been hardest hit. BDC is working hard with financial institutions to finalize these details to make this program available to SMEs as soon as possible in the new year.
    I would like to draw attention to the fact that, in addition to these direct government support programs, two government financial Crown corporations, the Business Development Bank and Export Development Canada, have stepped up to be there and support Canadian entrepreneurs and businesses. The BDC, which has a counter-cyclical mandate to help even more when SMEs need it most, undertook a series of measures to help entrepreneurs through the pandemic at no additional cost to government.
    In the initial weeks of the pandemic, the BDC deferred payments for its clients, waived fees and facilitated access to working capital for Canadian SMEs through its online financing platform. It proactively worked with its clients and quickly onboarded new businesses to provide them with financial support. As of October 31, BDC's direct COVID support lending totals $2.5 billion. The BDC also adjusted the advisory services it offers to help entrepreneurs and small businesses pivot. Finally, the BDC worked to support the venture capital sector through its new BDC bridge financing program by increasing access to capital by matching financing rounds to eligible Canadian start-ups. As of October, BDC has authorized $160 million across 56 companies through its program.
    For its part, Export Development Canada, through temporary domestic market powers, has also stepped in through a series of measures to support Canadian businesses. It has enabled Canadian businesses to continue to operate and export. It has also deployed its expertise and knowledge to help entrepreneurs navigate these difficult times, and it has helped Canadian start-ups through venture capital investments.
    Through all of these liquidity measures, this government has facilitated access to financing to Canadian businesses to support them through this crucial time. We have clearly shown our commitment and we will continue to do, because small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our communities. We need them as they will play a crucial part in Canada's economic recovery, and they will help us build the future.

  (1645)  

    Madam Speaker, many businesses across the country and in my riding are really struggling as a result of this pandemic. Many seasonal businesses, such as tourism, camps and northern airlines, have not been able to access a lot of the government programming that has been brought forward. Part of what we are proposing in our opposition day motion today is to postpone tax increases on the carbon tax and the escalator tax, which would impact many businesses, particularly those in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
    The debate today really has indicated that the Liberals will not support our motion. I would like to ask my colleague for Brampton North if she believes that right now is a good time to be increasing taxes on many struggling businesses.
    Madam Speaker, that is a fair question. Through the various supports I have outlined in my speech and so many others that have been provided to businesses, our government knows that businesses need support at this time. We have provided wage subsidy supports. We have provided CEBA, for example, which has gone to many of my local businesses. They have reached out saying that this, with the commercial rent assistance, really is what has kept them afloat.
     I know the member's question regarding the excise tax is a fair one. However, we should also keep in mind that consistency is also important when it comes to the business climate. This is an annual increase that goes in place every year. Some tax fairness should be kept in mind and we should have consistency when it comes to taxes across the board. However, we will continue to deliver the supports these businesses need to make sure they are supported at this time.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, we agree with the motion's preamble.
    We do indeed need to do more to help businesses in distress. However, we do not agree with the motion's proposals for how to do that.
    My colleague talked about the wage subsidy. Certain businesses and not-for-profit organizations were not eligible for the subsidy even though they should have been. One example is the Val-Jalbert village historical village. This is completely unfair.
    Other organizations have been deemed eligible, however. Just off the top of my head, there is the Liberal Party of Canada. It was deemed eligible for the wage subsidy. It has not repaid the money it got. The Liberals told us they would stop collecting the wage subsidy but would not pay back the money they got. In other words, claiming the subsidy was wrong, but they are going to keep the money anyway.
    Does my hon. colleague believe the money the Liberal Party got from the wage subsidy should be given to businesses that really need it?

  (1650)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, through the wage subsidy program, our government has been able to protect 3.5 million jobs across this country. At the end of the day, it is jobs that we are concerned with. If this support were not available, employees would fall back with no other hope in sight. What is most important and what we are focused on when it comes to the wage subsidy is the various types of non-profits and businesses we have been able to support. Those 3.5 million jobs show why my colleague stated we have done better at retaining our jobs or bouncing back and recovering jobs than even our neighbour to the south. It is supports like this that have helped us have that recovery.
    Madam Speaker, I agree with the overall sentiment of the motion the Conservative Party has moved, which is that businesses are indeed struggling across this country. However, it is important to note that not all businesses are. It is being referred to as a K-shaped recovery, where there are a number of businesses that are actually doing very well during this period of time and are in fact reaping record profits. Of course, there are many other businesses that are not and are facing bankruptcy and survival.
    The piece I want to ask my hon. colleague about is the Conservatives' call to postpone the increase of the carbon tax. Those in the NDP on this side of the House believe that there is an intense, serious climate crisis that is not waiting for a pandemic or for this particular economic exigency. We need to take action now.
    Does the member agree with the Conservatives that we should postpone a carbon tax increase that is intended to help us get a grip on climate change and, by the way, consumers and businesses can avoid by reducing their carbon?
    Madam Speaker, my colleague's question is a very important one because in the post-pandemic recovery what is going to be really important is making sure that we spur new innovation. Not only does the carbon tax bring down our emissions, but it also helps small businesses and businesses come up with new innovative ways and will help grow our—
    Unfortunately, the time is up.
    It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge, Small Business; the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni, Indigenous Affairs; and the hon. member for Edmonton West, Government Accountability.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for St. Albert—Edmonton.
    Madam Speaker, I plan to split my time with the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South.
    I am very pleased to rise to speak in strong support of the motion put forward by my friend, the shadow minister for finance and the hon. member for Carleton. I am very proud to be seconding the motion, a motion that could not be more timely as we approach the Christmas season and as workers and businesses right across Canada are dealing with unprecedented challenges 10 months into COVID.
    That is what this motion is about. It is about calling on the government to provide certainty to businesses and workers by providing the details of the highly affected sectors credit availability program. It is nice to make an announcement, but the devil is in the details. That is why the motion calls on the government to provide those details by December 16.
    The motion further calls on the government to fix the failed LEEFF program for large employers. This is a program that was announced on May 11. It was not until recently that a mere two applications were approved. There have been at least 17 applications, and many large employers simply are not applying because they find the eligibility criteria to be cumbersome.
    There is no question that the challenges faced by small businesses and all businesses across Canada are significant. To that end, to underscore the level of concern within the business community, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business undertook a sizable survey of small business owners, wherein 46% were worried that their business could not survive. In that light, the motion calls on the government to provide assurance to struggling businesses by not increasing taxes and by removing job creation barriers, including taxes and regulations, so that as we transform and move past COVID into a COVID recovery, we can unleash the great Canadian workforce and transform, as the member for Carleton stated, from a credit card economy to a paycheque economy.
    According to the CFIB, 51% of businesses are concerned about cash flow, 46% are concerned about debt, and approximately 15% are contemplating filing for bankruptcy or entering receivership as we speak. According to the CFIB, some 220,000 small and medium-sized enterprises may not make it through COVID. That represents 19% of SMEs. The CFIB's best estimate at present is that 158,000 SMEs may not make it through COVID, representing 14% of the SMEs across Canada.

  (1655)  

    When we talk about SMEs, we are talking about 99.7% of all businesses. They account for more than 70% of private sector employment, according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. It really is staggering to see those numbers.
    In the face of that, surely the last thing a responsible government would do, as businesses are struggling like never before, would be to raise taxes on businesses. Evidently, across the way we have an irresponsible government, because that is precisely what the government is proceeding to do, starting with a payroll tax increase on January 1.
    When we talk about payroll taxes, it is important to recognize that they are cumbersome from an administrative standpoint, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. They have to be paid regardless of the profitability of the business.
    According to a study from the University of Toronto's policy and economic analysis program, 64,000 jobs are projected to be lost as a result of the government's payroll tax hikes. That estimate was prior to COVID-19. I would submit that that number is probably significantly higher now, considering the enormous challenges small and medium-sized businesses in particular are facing due to COVID. Very simply, now is not the time to increase payroll taxes for struggling small businesses.
    As bad as a payroll tax hike is, it gets worse, because businesses are going to be hit with a Liberal double whammy in the way of a hike to the job-killing tax on everything, the Liberal government's favourite tax, the carbon tax. It is a tax that disproportionately burdens small businesses. Indeed, small and medium-sized businesses pay more than 50% of the carbon tax and get only a fraction of the rebates.
    In the face of that, we are calling on the government to do the responsible thing and support struggling businesses. Supporting them will allow them to keep more money so they can invest, address cash flow issues, pay down debt, and keep their lights on and their doors open.
    I hope the government heeds the advice and follows through on what we, on this side of the House, are proposing to do. It is eminently reasonable.

  (1700)  

    Madam Speaker, as parliamentary secretary for small business, I certainly have, at heart, the interests of our hard-working entrepreneurs and small businesses right across the country. I would like to point out that in the member's home province, there are 500,000 employees being supported by our emergency wage subsidy.
    There are thousands of business, 800,000 across the country to be exact, that have used our loan program, which includes a grant. When the member talks about the importance of our entrepreneurs not having too much debt, here on this side of the government we heard that plea and we have created programs in consequence.
    When it comes, however, to his request that we effectively abolish the price on pollution, I think this government has shown that we can support our small businesses and our private sector, while at the same time attacking climate change and continuing the fight against climate change.
    Does the member opposite suggest that we should completely abandon the crisis that is literally at our doorstep when it comes to the environmental catastrophe we will find ourselves in if we do not continue to take action based on science, as we have with the price on pollution?
    Madam Speaker, very simply, the motion calls on the government to put a pause on the carbon tax hike in the face of businesses facing an unprecedented challenge at this particular time.
    The member sounded the alarm about climate change. Let me remind the hon. member that the government is about 99% off its targets for 2030, so we see a lot of rhetoric from that side, but not a lot of action in terms of delivery.
    With respect to my home province, the government has wholly failed the people of Alberta, including in its abandonment of the energy sector.

  (1705)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
    The Conservatives want to postpone or eliminate the carbon tax and the alcohol escalator tax. Based on my calculations, that would cost the government $2 billion in revenue.
    The carbon tax is what worries me. This government has targets that it plans on meeting, but it has not announced any real action, aside from maybe the carbon tax.
    How would my colleague suggest that we recoup that $2 billion in lost revenue? We agree that this money is needed right now. Furthermore, how would my colleague suggest we replace the carbon tax in order to meet our greenhouse gas reduction targets?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I would submit that the government being 99% off its 2030 targets demonstrates the carbon tax does not work. The carbon tax is just another tax. It is quite interesting that, while the government is 99% off its 2030 targets, it is ready to propose even more ambitious targets for 2050. This again illustrates there is a lot of rhetoric on the other side but not a lot of delivery.
     The policies of the government have been very harmful to small businesses. It has been slow out of the gate and needs to do better.
    Madam Speaker, I hope my colleague and neighbour from St. Albert—Edmonton will indulge me. I want to ask a question about supports for women. We know investment in small businesses that include women is at about 2.2%. Women are 51% of the population and about 2.2% of the investment.
    Today is the 50th anniversary of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, so it is a good time to talk about this. When I speak to the small business members, the people who are working in small business in my community, one of the things they talk about is investment for women in all kinds of different initiatives. I do not see that in the motion, and I would like to hear my hon. colleague's comments on that.
    Madam Speaker, let me concur with the hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona. I agree with her that women entrepreneurs are vital, and we need to support them and all entrepreneurs. That is what this motion speaks to by holding the line on taxes and ensuring the government provides clarity regarding supports for businesses.