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43rd PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • No. 069

CONTENTS

Tuesday, March 9, 2021




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 150
No. 069
2nd SESSION
43rd PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Speaker: The Honourable Anthony Rota

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayer



Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Indigenous Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the Yukon Land Claims and Self-Government Agreements Implementation Report 2012-2017, as well as copies of the report of the Implementation Coordinating Committee, Inuvialuit Final Agreement 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.

[Translation]

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

    Mr. Speaker, today, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2020 annual report on the RCMP's use of the law enforcement justification provisions.
    This report addresses the RCMP's use of specific provisions of the law enforcement justification regime, as set out in sections 25.1 to 25.4 of the Criminal Code. The report also documents the nature of the investigations in which these provisions were used.

[English]

Petitions

Domestic Violence 

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today from concerned Canadians about domestic violence. As we all know, it is a growing issue in our country.
    The petitioners want the government to make changes to the Privacy Act to allow the RCMP to fully have all the tools it would need to combat the growing problem of domestic violence. They also want to the government to implement Clare's law.

Prison Farms  

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House virtually this morning to present a petition. It dates from the previous Parliament, but a quick review of news clippings shows it is very relevant today.
    This petition relates to the important issue of reopening access for prisoners to the opportunity to learn and rehabilitate through a connection to growing things. It has been shown over the years to be very successful. However, at the Joyceville Institution, the plan at the moment is not focused on prisoner rehabilitation. The petitioners fear it is on commercial production through the use of goats and dairy operations involving a Chinese corporation.
    The petitioners urge the Government of Canada not to open dairy operations at prison farms, but to focus on activities that they describe as promoting ecological sensitivity and climate change solutions. They ask for a reversal of the current decision of the Correctional Service of Canada.

Conversion Therapy  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today.
    The first is in regard to Bill C-6. The petitioners indicate that the definition of conversion therapy is far too broad and it wrongly applies a label to a range of practices, including counselling from parents, teachers and counsellors encouraging children to reduce sexual behaviour. It allows counselling medical and surgical efforts to change a child's gender, but prohibits for a child seeking to detransition to his or her birth gender. This is a growing issue.
    The petitioners call on the House of Commons to take the following actions to address the situation: ban coercive, degrading practices that are designed to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity; ensure that no law discriminates against Canadians by limiting the services they can receive based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; allow parents to speak with their own children about sexuality and gender and to set house rules about sex and relationships as parents; allow free and open conversations about sexuality and sexual behaviour; and finally, avoid criminalizing professionals and religious counselling voluntarily requested and consented to by Canadians.

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is in regard to sex-selective abortion. It is legal in Canada because we have no restrictions on abortion. Sex-selective abortion is antithetical to our commitment to equality between men and women.
    A 2019 Dart & Maru/Blue poll conducted for the National Post shows that 84% of Canadians believe it to be illegal to have an abortion if the family does not want the child to be a certain sex. International organizations like the World Health Organization, United Nations Women and the United Nations Children's Fund have identified that unequal sex ratios at birth are a growing problem internationally, and Canada's health care professionals recognize that sex selection is a problem in Canada.
    The petitioners call on the government to pass a Criminal Code prohibition on sex-selective abortion.

Medical Marijuana  

    Mr. Speaker, today I am tabling two petitions highlighting the rampant abuse of Canada's medical cannabis production provisions, including sale to the black and grey markets, destruction of property and negative impacts on residential areas, which municipalities do not have the authority to address. My constituents call for reforms to the regime overseeing the production of cannabis for personal medical use and to give provinces and municipalities the resources and authority required to properly regulate and enforce these activities.
    My constituents do not accept that industrial medical marijuana operations should take place in residential neighbourhoods in Canada. The laws need to change. This has to stop.

  (1010)  

Questions on the Order Paper

    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Measures to Support Canadian Workers  

     That the House call on the government to include in the next federal budget measures to help workers and their families struggling the most in the current economic downturn by:
(a) introducing sector-specific measures to support workers in the highly impacted hospitality, tourism and charitable sectors;
(b) providing repayable loans to airlines in exchange for consumer refunds, job guarantees, restrictions on executive compensation and restoration of regional routes; and
(c) improving support programs, including lending supports, for small and medium businesses to be accessible within 30 days of the passage of this motion to prevent a wave of bankruptcies and layoffs.
     He said: Mr. Speaker, I want to let the House know that I am splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Barrie—Innisfil.
    By way of context, the motion we are debating calls for the Liberal government to table a federal budget that includes specific support for the hardest hit sectors of our economy, namely tourism, hospitality, airlines, the charitable sector and, more broadly speaking, small businesses across our country. We all know that the pandemic has devastated our economy, but there is great convergence as to what needs to be done. We all agree that vaccination needs to take place. Then we need to reopen our economy, get people back to work and help get struggling Canadian businesses back on their feet again. We then need a plan to manage the long-term financial challenge that Canadians will face.
    The Prime Minister promised that no one would be left behind in the process—

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Drummond on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, there is a problem with the interpretation. There seem to be technical difficulties with the French channel right now.

[English]

    Can we try again, Mr. Fast?
    The member for Abbotsford may now proceed.
    Madam Speaker, the pandemic has devastated our economy. There is great convergence as to what needs to be done: We need to vaccinate Canadians, we need to reopen the economy, we need to get people back to work, we need to help struggling businesses get on their feet again and we need to plan to manage the long-term financial challenge that faces Canadians.
    The Prime Minister said he was going to leave no one behind, but today's motion highlights the fact that many Canadians have been left behind. Why is that? It is very easy. For two years we have had no budget, no plan to reopen the economy, no plan to get Canadians back to work, no plan to support struggling businesses or help them get back on their feet, and no plan to manage the massive financial challenge facing future generations of Canadians. There is just a promise to spend, without explaining how, when, why or where the money will be spent. There is only how much. That is not enough. It is not a plan. What we need is a budget.
    Canadians do not want to be dependent on the government. They want their jobs back. They want their businesses. They want their communities and their lives back. Is the Prime Minister listening? We are not asking him to reimagine what the economy might be or conduct a grand social or economic experiment. Canadians simply want to get back to normal. That means doing everything possible to support struggling businesses and reopen our economy. Despite the Prime Minister's promise, there is no plan to support the hardest-hit sectors of our economy.
    Let me focus first on hospitality and tourism. Yesterday I met with the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. Their members reminded me that hospitality and tourism are among the most severely impacted sectors of our economy. Let us be clear what we are talking about. It is not just cruise ships. We are talking about hotels, motels, restaurants, bus lines, tourist-related retail, travel agents, the recreational fishing industry, outfitters and ski resorts. It goes on and on.
    Prior to COVID-19, tourism was one of the fastest-growing industries in the world and it was our country's fifth-largest sector, but the pandemic has pitched that industry into a crisis. In fact, it is so bad that our tourism industry now employs half a million fewer Canadians than it did at this time last year. Tourism was the first hit industry. It was the hardest hit and it will be the last to recover.
    The Prime Minister's response was empty promises, and no support has materialized. Instead, there are programs like HASCAP, the business credit availability program and the regional relief and recovery fund. These were so poorly designed that companies were either unable to access the programs or avoided them altogether because they did not meet their needs. As a result, many deserving business owners were unable to access these programs and are now struggling with insolvency. It is time to deliver the support they need to get that sector back on its feet.
    Then there are the airlines. The motion calls on the government to support the hard-hit airline sector. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in that sector. We are advocating for fully repayable loans, but not without conditions. We want the airlines to deliver consumer refunds to travellers who could not travel because of COVID, and to deliver job guarantees for their workers and restrictions on executive compensation until we are past the COVID crisis. We want them to restore the regional routes that have been closed down over the last few months, and we want them to refrain from clawing back travel agent commissions.
    The Liberal government could also implement robust rapid testing at the airports, which took much too long to implement. We would love to see the gradual phase-out of the current 14-day-quarantine period through better rapid testing. The Liberal government has been promising support for Canada's airline industry for over a year and still there is nothing. To date, Canada is the only G7 country that has not supported its airlines.

  (1015)  

    Let us talk about charities. The Prime Minister also promised to support our charitable sector. We are talking about the Salvation Army, food banks, soup kitchens, free legal and dental clinics, homelessness programs, drug recovery programs and community organizations that enrich our lives, such as music, theatre, art and spiritual support. My hometown of Abbotsford is the most generous census metropolitan area in the whole country.
    I understand how important this sector is to our economy and to filling the gaps where people would normally fall through the cracks. The charitable sector has been all but abandoned, unless one's name is Kielburger and leads the WE Charity, because Liberal insiders and friends of the Prime Minister have a direct line to the Prime Minister's Office. Almost $1 billion was paid to the WE Charity to set up a paid youth volunteer program. Let that settle in: a paid volunteer program. If one is in the WE Charity and one's name is Kielburger, that person gets access to almost $1 billion of taxpayers' money. If not, one is left behind. Charities are left out in the cold. Conservatives are calling upon the government to immediately table a budget that includes badly needed, sector-specific support for the devastated charitable sector.
    I will provide a few thoughts on support for small business. Many of our small businesses are still falling through the cracks. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that by the time the COVID pandemic is done, we will have lost 240,000 small businesses, and it could be worse than that. Thirty-seven per cent of Canadian small businesses are losing money every day they are open. A quarter of them will run out of cash within the next three months, 56% have been negatively impacted by the second wave, and almost half are worried about the survival of their businesses. Where is the Liberal government? It has been missing in action.
    Lending programs such as CEBA only help the smallest businesses. The large employer emergency financing facility is so expensive and poorly designed that companies are reluctant to use it. Other programs, such as HASCAP, are deeply flawed and new businesses that were started in 2020 do not even qualify for support. These are individuals who invested their life savings to start a new business and the government simply walked away from them and said they did not matter.
    In summary, hospitality, tourism, airlines, charities and other small businesses have been left behind. This pandemic has exposed the Prime Minister's failure to lead and failure to deliver what he had promised: that no one would fall through the cracks. The evidence is clear that hundreds of thousands of Canadians' small businesses have, indeed, been left behind. We have spent the most per capita, yet have the highest unemployment rate in the G7. It is all traced back to the fact that there is no plan.
    Conservatives have called upon the government, time and again, to table a budget and a plan for our future, to table a plan to reopen our economy, and none has been forthcoming. We are calling on the Prime Minister again to table a budget and include the support for hospitality, tourism, airlines, the charitable sector and small businesses that he has promised and to improve the design of the current programs.
     Where is the plan? It is up to the Prime Minister to deliver it.

  (1020)  

    Madam Speaker, this opposition motion is a great departure from the motions we saw the member's predecessor bring before the House, because he is actually bringing forward something of substance. He is setting up the day for a very good discussion of a very important topic and very important sectors of our economy that need support. I applaud the member for that. He has done the right thing by bringing forward an extremely meaningful motion such as this.
    I know the member has been critical in the past of the amount of debt and what this country is taking on in order to provide support right now. I agree with support for the sectors that he has talked about, but how does he justify the fact that by offering these supports, whether through non-payment of interest or support for specific sectors, we will take on more debt? He will likely be back complaining about the debt later on.
    Madam Speaker, in itself, debt is not a bad thing. In fact, we as Conservatives have supported the government in borrowing money and supporting Canadians in their time of need, and we reaffirm that today. We restate that today. In fact, we are calling for greater support for the most affected sectors.
    However, whenever someone goes to the bank and wants to borrow some money to, let us say, buy a house, the bank will ask how it will be repaid, whether the person has the capacity to do this, whether it can be done responsibly and what the money will be used for.
    That is something we have not seen come out of the Liberal government. The Prime Minister has been unwilling to be accountable to Parliament. In fact, he prorogued Parliament, shut down Parliament, to escape scrutiny. Accountability and oversight are absolutely critical in a functioning parliamentary democracy.
    Yes, there is—

  (1025)  

    We have to give time for more questions.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for bringing this motion forward today. For him and for every other MP in this country, our phones are ringing off the hook with the government's expansion of the CEBA loan because of the delays in getting the extra $20,000 out to small business owners.
    One thing the member just talked about was the banks. The banks have been getting a free ride throughout this whole crisis. They are profiting from it, as are the largest credit card companies. We are wondering why the Conservatives are not joining the NDP in calling on the federal government to cap credit card merchant fees when Canada is allowing credit card companies to charge some of the largest fees in the world.
    In fact, Europe has capped fees, which are a third of what merchants are paying here in Canada, and we know many merchants are—
    Let us give the hon. member for Abbotsford an opportunity to answer.
    Madam Speaker, I very much appreciate the work the member from British Columbia does in the House.
    I would say this: If the NDP had its way, it would control every single aspect of our lives. The NDP believes government is the solution to all of the world's problems and that all we need is a government program, a government cap or government interference to solve a problem.
    I am of a different mind. I believe Canadians can make these decisions on their own. They are capable of doing that. We have to trust Canadians to make decisions that are in their own best interests. I do not believe in a pervasive government. In fact, if I had my way, I would want less government in our lives and have government only—
    For one last question, we have the hon. member for Thérèse-De Blainville.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, this motion raises a lot of questions and makes a lot of recommendations.
    If I understand correctly, the member is proposing loans with certain conditions for the aerospace industry.
    Does the member know that Canada is the only country that has not invested in aerospace? Other countries, such as Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and the United States have invested in aerospace. In fact, Germany has invested $14 billion. Canada has not provided any direct support to this very important industry.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I am not sure whether the member is referring to the airline sector or the aerospace sector writ large, because we can spend all day talking about the aerospace sector and the potential it represents for driving prosperity and economic growth in Canada.
    With respect to the airline sector itself, meaning functioning airlines and not manufacturing itself, we believe the best way forward is to be responsible with taxpayers' monies in providing repayable loans to the airlines while making sure those loans are contingent upon the airlines fulfilling conditions such as making sure customers receive the refunds they are entitled to receive.
    Madam Speaker, I am extremely pleased to be participating in this very important debate today on a motion that requests the government to include help in the next budget to support workers and their families who are struggling during this pandemic, resulting in the economic downturn that has occurred.
    I am doing this from Terminal 4, which is an area in central Ontario, in Barrie and Innisfil, that is known as “T4” because of the fact that hundreds of airline sector employees and their families live here because it is in close proximity to the Toronto Pearson airport. In fact, throughout the GTA, from Kitchener to Bowmanville and from Markham to Huntsville, tens of thousands of families depend on Canada's airline sector continuing to thrive and survive. Travel advisers like Charlene Caldwell in my riding of Barrie—Innisfil, food workers in Brampton, limo drivers in Mississauga, and restaurant and hotel workers are all watching, literally with their economic well-being on the line, waiting for help to come.
    The situation is described by the Air Canada Pilots Association as “dire”. Many of those employees and their families are not just constituents but also friends, pilots, flight attendants and many others who have been directly and indirectly negatively impacted by the pandemic as a result of the government's decisions and policies, which many see as inconsistent, incoherent, misunderstood, and not based on any data, evidence or science, but simply on politics.
    The effect of the decisions has been so profoundly negative that many are losing hope that the airline sector may ever recover to the way it was before the pandemic. When we add to this not just the incoherence of the public policy decisions that have been made and the fact that the families affected have seen so many other countries in the G7 step up to offer their airlines help early on when the trouble started, words and platitudes, which is all we have heard from the Prime Minister and now two ministers of transport, are not providing any sense of hope for many of these families.
    When I talk of these families and of the impact this is having and the anxiety they are feeling, I know what I am speaking of. I come from a long line of airline employees. My mom worked for Air Canada. My sisters worked for Air Canada, and one still does. My wife Liane did as well. My uncle was a mechanic at the Dorval airport. Like all airline families who have a long history of working for an airline, they have seen many good times in the sector, but they have seen nothing as desperate as what they are dealing with now. Help cannot come soon enough, and that is precisely what this motion is all about.
    As the member of Parliament for Barrie—Innisfil and a representative of Terminal 4, I have been hearing from pilots, flight attendants and those who are directly and indirectly associated with the airline industry, including many travel advisers. I know the Air Canada Pilots Association has been asking its members to send letters to members of Parliament, and I am sure all parliamentarians have been receiving them.
    In part, what the letter says is that by connecting people, goods and services, our airlines form a critical part of Canada's economic infrastructure. Every day we see how important it is to unite communities, support jobs across the country and transport goods within Canada and internationally. As incomprehensible as it may seem, this critical sector may not recover from the pandemic, much less survive it, without urgent help from the federal government. They go on to say that Canada's airline industry could emerge from the pandemic in a weakened state, unable to compete against foreign carriers that have benefited from direct government aid that for some carriers has been in the billions of dollars.
    There may be countries that can function without a robust airline sector, but Canada is not one of them. Canada stands alone in its lack of meaningful direct financial aid for its airlines.
    There are other concerns from the pilots that have been brought to light, including the fact that many of them, almost 600, have been furloughed. What does that say about their training? What does that say about their capability to recover from this and get the airline sector back on track? They describe the situation as being “dire”, and I would agree with them. The airline sector in and of itself, the travel and tourism and the billions of dollars that they represent to our communities right across this country, are really too big to fail.

  (1030)  

    The next area I want to focus on is travel advisers.
    There are over 12,000 travel advisers in this country. On the day after International Women's Day, it should not be lost on all of us that 85% of them are women. I have met with many of them over the course of the last year, and one of the things they are looking for is commission protection from the government when it comes to refunds. Not only are they being hit on that side of it, but many of them who have not been able to earn any income since this pandemic started a year ago are also being hit by credit card companies asking for refunds.
    Let us think about this. Let us put ourselves in their position. People who have not been able to earn income for the better part of a year are now being asked to pay back that income. Many of them will not be able to survive, so I can clearly empathize with travel advisers and the impact this situation is going to have on them.
    A lot of this is an unintended consequence of the passenger bill of rights, and I spoke earlier about misunderstanding it. The passenger bill of rights passed by the government in 2019 allows for refunds not to be provided in non-controllable circumstances. It is probably one of the most widely misunderstood facts among consumers, and it falls directly on the government, because many of the decisions that have been made during this pandemic that have caused the airlines to effectively shut down have been made by the government. Almost every other sector in this country has received support from the government, with the exception of the airline sector. I am not talking about the emergency wage subsidy; I am talking direct sectoral relief, similar to what other G7 countries have done, including the United States, where billions of dollars have been spent. Delta is recalling all of its pilots and United Airlines just made an expansion announcement; meanwhile, in Canada, we are at 5% of our passenger loads and some pilots have not flown since March 18.
    The other thing this motion calls for is relief for the charitable sector. I can personally speak on that. I have heard from charitable sectors within my community that are hurting as a result of this pandemic. Businesses continue to fall through the cracks. Many of them, as my colleague from Abbotsford said, are sole proprietorships, not incorporated businesses, and many of them started in 2020, yet the government programs that exist are still far too prescriptive and far too restrictive for many of them to receive the type of benefits they are applying for. Many have been turned down, and I have been hearing from a lot of them lately.
    We need a plan, not just for bailouts but also for recovery. This virus is not going away, and we need to ensure we manage it with every tool we have in our tool box. That includes vaccines, rapid testing, isolating the most vulnerable and making sure we are contact tracing. Not everything should be defaulted to a lockdown or further restrictions; we need to make sure that when a plan is developed, it includes a plan for recovery, and that recovery should include the power of Canadian business. It should include the people they employ and the products they produce so that we can create a competitive environment, both domestically and internationally, for the things Canada produces in every sector, including forestry, natural resources, airlines and construction—all of those things—with less government intervention and legislation. We need to ensure we create this competitive environment so that investor confidence will come back into this country. It is going to be critical for us to do that, because the debt and deficits will be paid for generations to come. We need to improve the revenue side of the ledger.
    After this is all over, the Prime Minister will be fine, but many of these families I am speaking about will be left to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives and try to recover economically.
    As I conclude, those families include travel agents like Charlene Caldwell, Judith Coates, Brenda Slater, Nancy Wilson, Laura Gaudet, Margie Connor, Nancy Eleusiniotis and Loretta Sellers. They also include pilots like Michael Frena; the QuoVadis family, both dad and son Brandon, who followed in his father's footsteps; the Kennedy family; the Russell family; Martin Tremblay; the Rasical family and the Ceppos family. All of them have been directly affected by what is happening in the airline sector and the travel and tourism sector.

  (1035)  

    Today the Conservatives are asking the government to put action to their words—
    That is all the time we have for the member's speech.
    Continuing with questions and comments, we will go to the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.
    Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Barrie—Innisfil for speaking to a very meaningful and important discussion on the opposition motion that has been brought forward.
    My question for the member is quite simple. When I was asking a question of the finance critic, who the member shared his time with, I asked him about debt. The critic said that debt is a good thing. Would the member for Barrie—Innisfil agree that debt is a good thing?

  (1040)  

    Madam Speaker, this is not the first circumstance that Canada has been in an economic crisis.
     As we know, in 2008, during the great meltdown of the economic markets, the government at the time, led by Prime Minister Harper, did in fact incur debt. It incurred debt to provide stimulus to the economy, which worked and helped Canada recover faster than any G-7 nation.
    This is an unprecedented circumstance, and the level of supports for families has been needed. However, let us make no mistake, this is not a debt that has been incurred by the Government of Canada. The Prime Minister likes to say that the government took on debt so that families did not have to, but this money will have to paid back.
     This debt will have to be paid back by Canadian families. The way that can be done is by raising taxes. I do not expect that the government will do anything less than that if it is re-elected. We have to be concerned about what we are imposing on future generations.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, we are trying to do whatever we can to save our businesses and reduce this unprecedented debt.
    I have a question for my hon. colleague.
    My question is about the Conservative Party's solutions and promises around economies of scale. The member's own leader said it would be a good idea to create economies of scale amounting to a considerable $425 million by switching to a single tax return for Quebec, an idea that has unanimous approval. Why, then, did his party trash the idea at the Standing Committee on Finance?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I do not know the circumstances or the context of the discussion at the finance committee, so I do not think I am qualified to speak to that.
    The one issue the hon. member did bring forward was the issue of the power of business. I wholeheartedly believe that it will be, as I said in my intervention, the power of Canadian business, the people they employ and the products that they produce, that will propel us out of this, as long as government does not get in the way, and as long as government is allowing regulations, legislation and policy that create investor confidence, both domestically and from foreign investment as well. That includes every sector of the economy, firing on all cylinders, because government supports it.
     It is not about reimagining the economy into something of the Prime Minister's idyllic view, but to use those sectors of our economy that have traditionally propelled this country to great wealth, great opportunity and great hope for Canadians. This is what we need to do as a government, and this is a plan that Conservatives are working on and will be providing that option to Canadians as we move forward in the next election.
    Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague touched on the issue of passenger refunds, and this is something that really concerns us.
    Other countries acted swiftly last spring to mandate the airlines to provide passenger refunds, but Canada did not. As a result, billions of dollars in passenger refunds have become a bargaining chip in the current negotiations between the government and the airlines.
    The Conservatives were silent on this issue for months while the other parties raised concerns. Going back to last spring, what would the member have liked to have seen the government do differently on the issue of refunds?
    Madam Speaker, as I said, that is probably one of the most largely misunderstood, unintended consequences of the passenger bill of rights, which was implemented by the government in 2019. I think this is widely misunderstood among consumers, and it is right in the passenger bill of rights, but if there is a situation that is non-controllable than it is not incumbent upon the airlines to provide those refunds.
    That is not to say that they should not provide them. One of the things we talk about in this motion as part of the potential sectoral relief to the airline sector is providing refunds to passengers.

  (1045)  

    Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I am able to take part in this debate. I was tempted to say, “to rise in this House”, although it has been more or less a year since we have had the opportunity to be there in the flesh, and maybe that is a good point to begin my remarks.
    It was a little more than a year ago when the world did not know what COVID-19 was. As I mentioned, a year ago we were physically attending debates in the chamber of the House of Commons, but it feels as though it were a century ago. So much has changed in the world since that time as a result of this pandemic, which has turned the ordinary lives of Canadian workers and families upside-down.
    The motion before us today highlights a number of areas where the Conservative Party would have us seek to develop supports for individuals, families and certain industries, and I think it provides a healthy starting point in the conversation. Although, quite frankly, the starting point for us was more or less a year ago when we were arriving at solutions for some of the issues that are now coming up in debate.
    Over the course of my remarks, I hope to highlight some of the measures that the government has actually implemented to help Canadian workers, families and businesses get through this pandemic and discuss briefly where we go from here. I do have some criticisms of the motion before us, which I will be happy to share as well.
    However, I think it is important to begin by addressing the significance of COVID-19 and what it has done to Canadian households and families. The starting point is obviously the public health consequences that have stemmed from a global pandemic, the likes of which the world has not seen in a century at least.
    There are 22,000 Canadians who are no longer with us as a result of this illness, despite the heroic efforts of front-line health care workers in long-term care facilities and community-level decision-makers to keep their communities safe. Nevertheless, despite these efforts, there are grieving families in Canada today, and to those who may be tuning in, please know that I extend my sympathies to those who have lost their loved ones.
    In the early days of the pandemic, before the full scope of this emergency had made itself apparent, like most MPs who are attending virtual Parliament today, I was taking phone calls from small business owners. They were asking if this was going to last a couple of weeks, and if there would be some support coming through so that they could enjoy this and show some solidarity with their community members.
     However, a week or two after that, people started to appreciate just how serious this really was. They were worried whether their business would survive this pandemic. I remember being on the phone with family members who were sincerely worried about whether they could afford groceries, and whether there would be food at the grocery store at all, even if they could afford it.
    I talked to people with the most human concerns possible, and they were asking, “Will I be able to keep a roof over my head and food on the table for my family?” The small business owners I spoke to were by and large concerned with the well-being of their employees, more so than they were concerned for themselves. I saw an enormous sense of community come out of those early conversations.
     Across parties, across regions of Canada, I thank those who reached out to me, because of my position on the team of the Minister of Finance, to tell me what they were hearing in their communities. We heard what people in different regions of Canada were reaching out to their MPs about, and those concerns reflected what I was hearing in my community.
    This provided good examples of the areas we needed to be tackling: income support for people who lost income as a result of COVID-19; support to businesses, so they could keep their doors open; and, perhaps most importantly, a response to COVID-19 that spared no expense, because everyone knew that the best economic and social policy we could have was a strong public health response. That remains the case today.
    Going back to shortly after this time last year, one of the first things we decided to do as a government was to figure out how we could replace lost income for Canadians who had been impacted by the pandemic. Initially, there was some consideration around the employment insurance system to help people in affected industries. However, we very quickly realized that the infrastructure of the federal government was not sufficient to deal with the sheer volume of people who would need to put in a claim, which was really the origin point for the Canada emergency response benefit. That program alone, up until it ended, serviced almost nine million Canadians between April and September. We are talking about close to half the Canadian workforce individually receiving a government benefit, which was designed in no time at all, implemented even faster, and nevertheless successfully reached the kitchen tables of nine million Canadians.

  (1050)  

    This was perhaps one of the most remarkable policy successes that I have been a part of, and may continue to be over my career in politics. I remember hearing from people at home that this was a godsend, and that this is what helped them keep food on the table. In my community, which has a comparatively lower household median income compared to much of the country, we have started hearing from people who work at food banks that there were fewer people attending the food bank because the government supports so effectively landed in those households. They could now afford to buy groceries rather than take them from the food bank.
    This is not the case in every community across Canada, but I was very impressed that people, particularly at lower income levels, were able to survive some of the most significant economic challenges that had ever faced.
    We realized as well that there needed to be additional supports put forward for businesses. One of the great strengths of the government's economic response was not any one given policy, but the willingness to iterate responses so we could adjust to reflect the reality of what was going on in Canadians communities.
    I will point in particular to the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which started out as a 10% contribution to employees' wages. We realized very quickly that was not going to be sufficient to allow many employers to maintain a connection with their workforce. That particular program has the advantage of not just keeping people on payroll, but also ensuring those employees still have access to the benefits they may have been entitled to, so they do not lose opportunities that are tied within their company to seniority. Most of all, it kept cash coming into companies that allowed them to keep their workers paid throughout the most difficult portions of this pandemic.
    For small and medium-sized businesses, we created the Canada emergency business account. There have been over 800,000 Canadian businesses that have now been supported. We are looking at record numbers of Canadians who have been supported by these programs, including nine million with CERB, more than five million workers with the wage subsidy and nearly 900,000 businesses with the Canada emergency business account. That number is closer to a million if we include a similarly styled program offered through the Regional Development Agencies, the regional relief and recovery fund.
    We were hearing loud and clear that businesses needed support to address the fixed expenses of staying open. The emergency business account has literally helped businesses in my community keep the lights on and deal with Internet bills, allowing them to maintain some cash flow during a time when revenue had completely dried up. We realized as well that we needed to establish further supports, which justified initially the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program, which has transitioned into the Canada emergency rent subsidy. It provides more direct and accessible support to tenants, who can actually stay on their premises as a result of the federal support that has been offered.
    In cases where public health measures have actually locked businesses down, this particular program can provide up to 90% of the cost of rent. We have looked at the fixed expenses that businesses were telling us they needed support for, and we came up with new programs to help support rent, keep the lights on, pay the utility and Internet bills, cover the cost of keeping workers on payroll. As well, when workers were laid off, we established programs that supported them in their time of need.
    However, there are particular programs that were more specific to the areas they targeted. I know the motion discusses certain hard hit industries. I will draw attention to tourism and hospitality, the arts and culture sectors, and charitable sectors. Statistics Canada put out numbers recently that indicated Canada's GDP has returned to about 97% of pre-pandemic levels, and it has broken it down by industries. The shocking piece of the graphic it published shows the severe impact that remains on sectors that depend on getting people together or coming from different places to travel.
    Tourism, hospitality, arts and culture in particular are still very much feeling the pain of the pandemic because we cannot gather in spaces in large numbers. We cannot travel from one jurisdiction to another safely without the potential to spread some of the variants of concern that have caused so much difficulty.
    We did develop certain programs that were designed to help these industries over and above the fact that these industries qualify for the cross-sector support programs, which I have canvassed in my remarks today. We developed programs like HASCAP for highly affected sectors to make sure that there was liquidity support for businesses that have been hit particularly hard.

  (1055)  

    We developed the large employer emergency financing facility, or LEEFF, as a last resort program to ensure liquidity for large employers that had high operating costs to keep them in a position where cashflow enabled them to meet the expenses they would come across so they could remain open and keep Canadians employed.
     I mentioned the regional relief and recovery fund, which was tailored to help businesses that may not have qualified for some of the other supports for various reasons. It was offered through the regional development agencies, which, at least in Atlantic Canada, I can say with confidence have an intimate knowledge of the people in communities, who are doing business and need help, and what the regional nuances may be.
    Some of these programs have been very successful in their delivery. Others are still rolling out, and we are continuing to hear about how they can be improved, but more work needs to be done.
     I want to draw attention to the comments of the previous speaker, who indicated that there was some great exercise in reimagining the Canadian economy in a radical fashion. To be clear, the path forward requires us to look at some very important strategic challenges facing the Canadian economy, which may have been made more apparent as a result of this pandemic. However, I see nothing radical about fighting climate change as part of the economic strategy for Canada going forward. I see nothing radical about investing in housing to ensure vulnerable Canadians have a roof over their heads. I see nothing radical about investing in transit, which disproportionately benefits seniors, low-income Canadians and Canadians living with disabilities, to create more livable communities. I see nothing radical about implementing a strategy to increase women's participation in the Canadian economy. To me, these are sensible and obvious things that the federal government needs to tackle if it wants to maximize our opportunities for success on the back end of this pandemic.
    We have learned things through this pandemic, such as social deficits we have accepted for generations at which we need to look, but addressing problems that have been made apparent is the job of government, not some radical agenda. I wanted to ensure that point was put on the record as part of my remarks.
    Before I address some of the shortcomings of the motion, I want to provide a bit of context to those who may be listening. This motion is directed, when I read the language contained in its text, at supporting workers and families, and I have mentioned certain areas that have some common ground between different parties. However, when I look at some of the measures that have actually been advanced in recent weeks to support workers and families in various industries, the Conservative party in particular has been implementing delay tactics and playing partisan games in the House of Commons to delay the passage of certain very important supports.
    Bill C-14 and Bill C-24 are perfect examples. Thankfully Bill C-14 came to a vote at second reading and will go to the finance committee in short order. That bill would provide direct financial support to families through an increase in the Canada child benefit. It would enhance the quality of support for local businesses through the regional relief and recovery fund. It would allocate a billion dollars toward fighting the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities. I think my Conservative colleagues support those efforts. Nevertheless, they are trying to implement delay tactics to prevent us from getting these supports where they are needed, which is in Canadian communities and Canadian households.
     Some of the tactics to delay this kind of bill have included forcing three hours of debate to concur with a report on the competence of the Canadian Tourism Commission president, which could have been dealt with in a second. These kinds of things have no place in our legislative deliberative body. We would be far better served if we could get on with it.
     We have seen delay tactics implemented for Bill C-24, which includes the extension of very important supports through our employment insurance system. I would urge my colleagues of all parties to do this. If they have objections to the bill to raise them in debate, but to not use procedural delay tactics to prevent supports from reaching Canadian households, where they are desperately needed.
    Substantively with the motion, although I support many of the areas it covers in spirit, there are some deficiencies that are important.
     First, the text of the motion ignores many of the programs I have canvassed in my remarks to date. It calls on the government to effectively do things we are already doing. When I look at the call to support the hospitality, tourism and charitable sectors, the motion forgets that we have advanced hundreds of millions of dollars to the charitable sector to date and are willing to look at other additional solutions. The motion ignores the fact that many of these sectors benefited immensely from the Canada emergency wage subsidy. For those who have been laid off in those sectors, support has come to them through the Canada emergency response benefit. It ignores liquidity support we have provided through the Canada emergency business account.

  (1100)  

    If we are going to be called on to support specific industries, it should be specified what we should be doing to incrementally improve the programs that exist today. The motion creates the impression that here has been no support for these sectors to date, which is patently not the case on the face of it.
    Second, one of the problems I have with respect to the piece that deals with airlines, and I deeply value I think the all-party support for finding a solution for the Canadian aviation sector, is that by including what the solution may be in the text of a motion on the floor of the House of Commons could jeopardize negotiations that have been going on for months with the Canadian airlines. Declaring what outcomes should be will interfere with the negotiations the government is currently undertaking.
    We have stated publicly that to secure support from the federal government certain conditions ought to be met, including the restoration of regional routes, the refund of passenger tickets that have already been booked and support for the Canadian aerospace sector. We have already established certain things, and prejudging the outcome of those negotiations in the text of an opposition motion is not the best strategy going forward.
    Finally, although the motion highlights a few areas, if it purports to be any kind of comprehensive look at what the federal government's strategy ought to be to support Canadian workers and families, it falls woefully short, in particular in the strategy to support families that have been affected, that have lost jobs and that will need income support.
    I expect there may be some ideological divisions within the House of Commons on whether the federal government has a role to provide direct income support to families. I can certainly speak for the government side of the House that we do believe the government has role, which is why we implemented the Canada emergency response benefit, why we are moving with certain reforms to the EI system and why we repeatedly state at every opportunity that we plan to be there for Canadians, no matter how long it takes or no matter what it takes, to see them through this pandemic.
    We are accused sometimes of not having a strategy to deal with this pandemic. That is obviously not the case. The strategy, in simple terms, is as follows. First is to make every investment that is necessary to defeat COVID-19 as quickly as we can, because we know the best economic policy is a strong public health response. Second is to extend the support to Canadian households and businesses they need so they are still here on the back end of this pandemic, so we can limit economic scarring in the interim and ensure the recovery will be robust. The third phase, which we are not quite at because of the continuing impact of COVID-19, is to make investments that will be focused on job creation and economic growth that is sustainable and inclusive so we can ensure Canada's recovery will actually help ordinary Canadian families and ordinary Canadian communities.
    Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the parliamentary secretary's recount of history and I almost expected a soundtrack of music to show up at the last minute. He was speaking of the past which made me think of the past.
     We have an airport in Saskatoon, which I have been flying out of for 35 years. It has taken many years to build up the flights that come into that airport. I remember when Northwest Airlines first flew out of Saskatoon and gave us the ability to fly south, and then United Airlines did the same. Many other airlines have flown in and out of Saskatoon.
    In one fell swoop, all of that was gone, 30-plus years of hard work of getting more and more flights and building up the airport. We are now faced with trying to rebuild that infrastructure and I would appreciate the parliamentary secretary's comments on that. The infrastructure and the economic development provided by the airport in Saskatoon is massive, which is true in all cities across the country. I wonder what the parliamentary secretary feels about the lack of support and the impact it will have on the economic development in Saskatoon.
    Madam Speaker, I had my first opportunity to visit his hometown just a couple of years ago. It is a beautiful city and I find there is hardly a person I have met from Saskatchewan with whom I do not get along. We Nova Scotians have a natural affinity for our friends in Saskatchewan.
    With respect to the support for the aviation sector, including in his province and mine, I point out that $1.8 billion has gone to the aviation sector through the Canada emergency wage subsidy. Another billion dollars for the aviation sector was committed to through the fall economic statement, but we know there needs to be more.
    In the short term, we have taken steps for very good public health reasons to encourage Canadians not to be travelling, particularly internationally. There will come a time when we have a reopened economy, where we will want to encourage people from around the world to choose Canada as a destination.
    I understand the aviation sector is facing serious challenges. That is is why we are negotiating with the airlines to find a long-term solution to the problems it is facing, including the cash crunch, and that is why we are insisting that if we are going to support the sector, those airlines will make good to compensate passengers for tickets booked and they will restore regional access to different airports, including in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

  (1105)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his speech.
    When I hear the Liberals talk about their record before the pandemic is even over, and about the millions of dollars they have put directly into the pockets of Canadians and Quebeckers, I feel like they just do not get it. That really drives home the importance of the opposition's role in the House because, without the work of the Bloc Québécois in particular, programs would not have been improved to the extent they have been. I shudder to think what the outcome would have been otherwise.
    Targeted programs are needed for different industries. My colleague talked about tourism. The programs currently in place are not specifically designed to save the tourism industry. Specific programs are needed, and it took quite a while for the government to introduce measures for the tourism industry, for example.
    Another example is the corporate sector, including franchises, for instance. Before the pandemic, in times of full employment, they had to bring in foreign workers to fill low-wage jobs. The criteria have changed because of the pandemic, and these foreign workers are no longer eligible. Meanwhile, no employment incentives have been created to encourage Quebeckers and Canadians to take on these low-wage jobs.
    Does my colleague not think it is time to create serious incentives so that, if we cannot bring in workers from abroad to fill these positions and save these companies, we can at least fill the positions with available workers from here?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, my colleague's question was bifurcated. It covered two specific areas: the role of the opposition and the tourism sector.
    First, let me put on the record my appreciation for my opposition colleagues, who I have worked with recently, including the Bloc Québécois, on the issue facing sugar shacks in his province and for raising issues to educate me and my colleagues on our side of the House about some of the unique regional needs that have come up in their communities to ensure the government is aware of the challenges. I have spoken with members of every party represented in the House of Commons. Each of them has provided value to the government's process of deliberation in developing the emergency responses. I am very grateful for that kind of cross-party co-operation.
    Second, on the tourism sector, the member is absolutely right. The sector is facing serious challenges. Let me be clear that those challenges come from COVID-19 which have prevented people from travelling, but the government's strategy has been to support businesses to get them through this pandemic. In a lot of ways, at the outset of this pandemic, everyone's revenue was lost and certain programs that may have been more blunt in nature were able to provide support to those sectors. As we look to the transition of a reopened economy, we will have to look at strategies that will encourage people to visit communities where it is safe to do so, perhaps near where they live, and in the long term to encourage international travellers to choose Canadian destinations and destinations in Quebec as well.
    I would be happy to continue to work with members of the Bloc or other parties to understand the regional nuances of the supports that will be required in their jurisdictions to ensure that tourism plays a meaningful role to help the Canadian economy not just get back on track but thrive for the long term.
    Madam Speaker, it is important for us all to remember that when the programs the parliamentary secretary went over were first put on offer, it was only through significant and sustained interventions by the opposition that we got to see improvements that were sorely needed. I am very proud of the role of the New Democrats in improving things like the emergency response benefit, the wage subsidy, ensuring there were increases to the CEBA and that the much-maligned commercial rental assistance program was changed into a subsidy. We have to remember that this was a collaborative effort.
    I want to talk about the wage subsidy. Like the parliamentary secretary referred to in his remarks, I have spoken to a lot of small business owners who were struggling through some of the rules put in place to access the wage subsidy. Those small business owners were absolutely flabbergasted when they saw large corporations like Imperial Oil and Bell pay dividends to their shareholders while posting multi-million dollar profits, but still receiving things like the wage subsidy.
    My question for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance is this. Does he think it is wrong at least that those companies were violating the spirit of the program and what will his government do to fix that? That subsidy was in place to help struggling businesses, not to give payouts to shareholders.

  (1110)  

    Madam Speaker, again, I have a two-part answer to a two-part question.
    I will be the first person to acknowledge the value provided by parties from all corners of Canada and different partisan persuasions to the development of the emergency programs. I have spoken with a number of the member's NDP colleagues, who certainly were adding their voices to calls from different parties, and to those within our own caucus as well, to ensure that the benefits targeted people and businesses in need.
    I will remind the member that at the outset of this pandemic the goal was speed of delivery as much as the generosity of benefit, because we knew that if we did not get money to people quickly the consequences would be serious and long term. I appreciate his and his colleagues' feedback and the feedback of many of my colleagues within my own party who have helped us tinker with some of the parameters of these programs to improve the quality of the benefits we have delivered.
    On the wage subsidy, the member raises an important point. He suggested that the wage subsidy was a program to support vulnerable businesses. One of the things I will point out is that it was actually a program to support workers. Every penny of the wage subsidy delivered to a company has to go to the wages of the workers on the payroll. We have put certain parameters around that to ensure that the wage subsidy goes where it is needed.
    On the issue of dividends, that is a serious issue that we need to look at to make sure that the supports provided by the federal government have been used exclusively for what the rules allow. I also want to point out that the issuance of dividends, in and of itself, is not necessarily a problem, but I do think there are cases the member has pointed to that raise serious concern that the federal government needs to continue to look at to ensure that Canadians have faith that the emergency programs—
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.
    Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary always does such a great job in delivering his points. I certainly look forward to seeing him back in the House.
    He talked about some of the games he saw the Conservatives playing in holding up various pieces of legislation. In particular, I note he referenced Bill C-14, a very important piece of legislation for small businesses in Canada. As a matter of fact, Dan Kelly, the head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said that “Bill C-14 has some important measures.... CFIB urges all parties to ensure this support is passed quickly”, and yet the Conservatives voted against it.
    Does the member have any thoughts on why the Conservatives would allow it move as slowly as possible and then, when push came to shove yesterday, voted against it?
    Madam Speaker, I will do my best to avoid impugning the motives of my political opponents, whom I view as friends and colleagues. However, I will register my disappointment with their approach of insisting on multiple hours of debate to affirm a unanimously supported report that dealt with the competence of the Canadian Tourism Commission's president; to extend debate on a unanimously supported motion on human trafficking; and to delay a vote on the passage of Bill C-14.
     Let me remind the House that Bill C-14 would provide direct cash support to families and parents of young kids, and provide direct support, through the regional relief and recovery fund, to small businesses and—
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
    Today in the House, we are debating the motion moved by the Conservative Party, which is calling on the government to do a number of things, including introducing in the next federal budget a number of measures to support workers in the highly impacted hospitality, tourism and charitable sectors; providing repayable loans to airlines with certain conditions; and improving support programs for small and medium businesses to prevent bankruptcies.
    The Bloc Québécois has looked at the motion and, generally speaking, finds that what is being proposed is rather interesting and positive. However, we did not find it particularly ambitious, but it is difficult to be against apple pie. We might even say that the Conservatives are working with and helping the Liberals.
    The Conservatives are asking for certain measures to be included in the next budget. We have heard that the government is not in a hurry to table a budget. They have not tabled one in two years and the Liberals do not seem to be in a hurry, which is something we have not seen in 50 years.
    Canada is the only G7 country that has yet to table a budget. The Liberals think that they can do whatever they want. They seem to think that they are accountable to no one and that they do not need to share their plans. They prefer to have carte blanche and announce flawed programs at the last minute that need to be adopted quickly every time, which we find problematic. We are pushed to ram through flawed programs and then come back to Parliament to vote on something else. It never ends.
    Why not propose real programs, a real budget and a real process for analyzing things and asking questions? The Liberals always do things willy-nilly. We would do things differently, but the Liberals seem to like this approach since they keep using it.
    The Liberals have also forgotten that they are a minority government. Quebeckers should beware because if the Liberals are acting this way when they have a minority, imagine what they would be like with a majority. It would be unbelievable.
    Let us come back to the Conservatives' motion. One of the things that interests me in particular as transport critic is support for the airline industry. I think it is good that the official opposition party's motion calls for such support.
     I repeat: The Liberals have forgotten that they are a minority government and act as though they have a majority. Today the Conservatives moved a motion that I am sure will have full support from everyone. The Conservatives are becoming increasingly less ambitious here in Ottawa, especially with respect to the airline industry. The Conservatives are calling for this industry to receive assistance, and we agree, as, I believe, do all of the parties.
    Parliament has shown a willingness to provide similar assistance to the airline industry, but the problem is that the government twiddles its thumbs and does not follow through. This pandemic has been going on for almost a year, and the government has yet to do anything for this sector. We are one of the only G7 countries that has not helped its airline industry because our government is twiddling its thumbs.
    We also agree with the conditions set out in the motion. However, the Conservatives do not seem to have tried very hard, as it once again looks as though they just copied what the Liberals said.

  (1115)  

    In November, the government finally announced more or less the same thing as what the Conservatives are asking for. In other words, it said that it might, in fact, provide support for the aerospace industry, but such support would be conditional on ticket refunds and the potential return of Air Canada or at least some other airlines to the regions. What we are seeing in the Conservative motion is basically the same thing. I will have an opportunity to talk more about the return of national airlines, such as Air Canada, to the regions later.
    For now, let us talk about the announcement the government made last November. In November, we had been in the midst of the pandemic for eight months. We had been badgering the Liberals in committee and in the House of Commons for eight months. We tabled a petition signed by 33,000 people. We also introduced Bill C-249 to refund cancelled air service. Eight months had gone by, but Ottawa still had not done anything. The transport minister at the time, who has since been transferred because I think the Liberals had had enough of having him there, finally conceded and announced that he might do something, that it had come to that.
    Here we are, March 9, and nothing has happened yet. We were already at wit's end in November. We thought they had finally gotten the message and that the whole issue would be resolved in a week or two, especially since they had already given some indication of where they were headed and what they wanted to do.
    However, nothing happened in December. In January, they said it was in the pipeline, but still nothing happened. Nothing happened in February either. Now it is March, and we were treated to a big reveal last week. The Liberals set up a leak to let us know that Air Canada has finally agreed to refund tickets in exchange for government assistance. It is not a done deal yet, though. Today is March 9, and the pandemic has been with us for a year, but all we are entitled to is leaks. That is unbelievable.
    This government does not appear to have any backbone whatsoever. Over the past year, it could have brought in the rules, conditions, programs and proposed assistance and insisted on refunds as quickly as possible. Instead, we are dealing with a government that is paralyzed and incapable of doing what needs to be done. The government should not have to beg Air Canada to do the right thing and obey the law. Refunding passengers is neither a favour nor optional; it is an obligation.

  (1120)  

    Instead of taking action, the government decided to leak information. Consumers are fed up; they have been waiting for a year. Airlines have been getting an interest-free loan for the past year on the backs of consumers, who paid money for services that were never delivered. Meanwhile, consumers have had to pay the balance on the credit cards used to purchase those trips. Anyone who decided not to pay their balance in full will pay dearly for it, a lot more than the airlines, because balances climb quickly when the interest rate is 20% per month, and that is tough on budgets. Meanwhile, the government remains paralyzed and is basically doing nothing.
    Beyond air fare refunds, we have our own set of conditions for helping the airlines, including some that are in the Conservatives' motion, namely, introducing restrictions on executive compensation, imposing a ban on paying dividends or share buybacks, prohibiting outsourcing and layoffs, and maintaining contracts with local businesses and workers. We have to stop laying off people here at home and sending our jobs offshore. We must also stop the recall of travel agent commissions. We believe these are basic conditions.
    We do, however, have a problem with the last item. It does not make sense for Air Canada to abandon the regional connections. Air Canada has eliminated 30 destinations across the country, completely abandoning our regional carriers who had continued doing their job. When Air Canada was there, we know that it regularly did incredible things, temporarily dropping its prices before—

  (1125)  

    I must interrupt the hon. member because it is time for questions and comments.

[English]

    The hon. member for Langley—Aldergrove.
    Madam Speaker, that was a very heartfelt speech by my colleague.
    He talked a lot about the airline industry and said the government has not been there to support it and the people who do business with airlines. My question is about the related industry of aerospace and aeronautics, which is important in my colleague's province and in my province of British Columbia as well. I am thinking of Abbotsford airport, which is right next door to my riding, and the Langley Regional Airport, which is in my riding. Thousands of people work in the aeronautics industry and support the airline industry.
    How does the government's lack of interest in helping the airline industry also affect the aerospace industry and other related industries?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very pertinent question.
    One element that I was unable to address in my speech was assistance for the aerospace sector. If planes are no longer flying, airlines are not going to buy planes. That is the bottom line. There is also the fact that the federal government has completely abandoned Quebec's aerospace sector.
    I note that there is aerospace infrastructure in my colleague's riding. We stand united on this issue.
    I will also add that the aerospace industry consists of more than just airline companies. It also includes airports, suppliers, airplane maintenance staff and all those working in this sector. The repercussions are serious and permanent. These are good jobs for the future.
    It is disappointing to see a government abandon a sector with such good jobs.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, one thing I think we will probably witness is the spreading of misinformation, as we see the Bloc work so closely with the Conservatives at times, which I often refer to as an unholy alliance.
    Members are trying to give the impression that the Government of Canada has not been there for the airline industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have invested hundreds of millions of tax dollars to support the airline industry in a couple of different tangible ways. I have referenced the wage subsidy, with over a billion dollars going to that area, and the fall statement allocated hundreds of millions of dollars.
    Does the member not feel that the Bloc has a responsibility to be more forthright with what is actually happening? The member says the government has not been there for the airline industry, but he knows that factually this is just not true. We have been.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's question.
    The government often claims that it has supported the airline industry. That is true, but the problem is that the airline industry, like many of the industries hit hardest by the crisis, did not receive more assistance than the others. Why would the government provide the same level of support to an industry that is desperately struggling as it does to an industry that is not?
    To use an example, the Liberals dipped into the wage subsidy to line their pockets and pad their election fund. The aeronautics industry was eligible for the same assistance program as the Liberal Party, which was not struggling. I do not think that is right.
    Furthermore, the government gave money to these companies without requiring them to obey the law. People have still not been reimbursed for their plane tickets. Unbelievable.
    This government talks out of both sides of its mouth but does not follow through.
    Madam Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not mention a story that made headlines today.
    Apparently the Privy Council Office tried to submit thousands of pages of documents in English only to the Standing Committee on Health and thus to the House of Commons. Despite all their promises and talk, clearly the Liberals still could not care less about French and consider it a second-class language.
    I think my colleague's expression applies here too. When it comes to respecting French and our official languages, does he feel that the Liberals are talking out of both sides of their collective mouth?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for that great question.
    I would take it one step further. I would say it is not just the Liberals. It seems to be consistent across all Canadian institutions.
    That is one of the reasons we think Quebec would be better off governing itself, being a country. Unfortunately, Canada is an English country with French in Quebec and in small francophone pockets in other provinces.
    The fact is that the country operates in English, while in Quebec—

  (1130)  

    Order. Resuming debate. The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
    Madam Speaker, the pandemic has changed people's habits and left many workers and their families in uncertainty. In order to maintain many jobs and promote recovery for various sectors, such as tourism, the federal government should make workers the focus of the recovery.
    The next federal budget should provide for better, more flexible support programs that will help maintain good-quality jobs. The federal government should implement sector-specific measures to support workers in highly impacted sectors, such as charities and businesses in the tourism, hospitality, accommodation, arts, entertainment and major events sectors, which experienced major financial losses as a result of the lockdown and public health measures.
    For example, the lockdown took a major toll on the tourism industry. International tourists stayed at home, and domestic tourists chose to be cautious. Revenues for seasonal businesses and organizations in the tourism industry are at an all-time low.
    With regard to the hotel industry, the lack of international tourists means that hotels throughout Quebec, including those in Quebec City and Montreal, are sitting practically vacant. This was a very challenging season for thousands of inns in welcoming villages across Quebec, such as those along the St. Lawrence River.
    The socio-economic impacts on workers in Quebec's major economic sectors have been numerous, including job losses for many young people and students, jobs at small- and large-scale events, bars, restaurants and summer camps. Losing a job is tough. People and families sometimes have to relocate or change careers entirely. This causes stress, especially financial stress. It can even lead to depression. Companies can also lose expertise as a result, putting stress on managers and owners. The topic of bankruptcy is also unavoidable. The health crisis has not affected everyone equally. Some sectors have literally been wiped out, while others will take many months to recover. COVID-19 must not result in a bankruptcy pandemic. Individuals and small and medium-sized businesses that owe the government money because of the assistance they have received must be given time. They must be offered an interest-free deferral. It is also important to support all the local businesses being crushed by multinational e-commerce companies. Improved support programs are therefore needed.
    For the past year, the government has been generous. However, its one-size-fits-all programs are costly and ill suited for those hit the hardest. Today, the programs are still plagued by problems with their design, accessibility and processing times.
    Job losses and insecurity impact people and their families, our workers and business owners. To minimize job losses and eliminate inadequate programs as much as possible, we need support measures that are effective, targeted and flexible. They are essential for providing support to workers. We must act quickly, because many polls have shown a deterioration in quality of life since March 2020, which is cause for concern.
    The future of our small businesses, which are increasingly burdened by debt and must face stiff competition from major chains and multinationals, is also cause for concern. We must support our businesses and organizations better, particularly by reviewing the terms of the assistance measures. For the sectors that have been hit hardest by the crisis and that will be among the last to reopen, the Bloc Québécois is demanding improved support programs, including lending supports for small and medium-sized businesses. The lending supports must be accessible within 30 days of the passage of the motion, to prevent a wave of bankruptcies and layoffs on the horizon.
    We also have to consider subsidies and tax credits, without putting businesses further in debt. As they say, an elastic will only stretch so far. If we want to help companies hang onto their jobs and expertise, then subsidies and tax credits are essential. We need skilled employees for the recovery, and we will need intelligence, innovation and experience. Companies should not have to recruit new people, new talent. I am thinking of the tourism and cultural industries, which are currently losing talent, from managers to guides, because they are temporarily closed. The Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency rent subsidy, especially for the sectors that will take some time to recover, are necessary to enable tourism and cultural businesses to recover. These programs must be extended until at least the next tourist season to give the industry time to recover. That is an example of the kind of flexibility I am talking about.

  (1135)  

    This ecosystem has been gutted over the past year, and we will have to invest in human resources to help it rebuild. Tourism companies, festivals and other large-scale events will have to reinvent themselves and rethink the services they provide in the regions of Quebec.
    To help Quebec's tourism and cultural businesses get back on their feet, the federal government should gradually move away from its one-size-fits-all programs and focus on programs that are better targeted and more flexible. These types of programs are more effective and promote innovation. For example, for this year only, the federal government should allow for a special $200 tax credit, 80% of which would be refundable, to support cultural and community organizations with their recovery and help them get back on track as soon as possible. Another example would be implementing a generous tax credit to encourage experienced workers to keep working if they want to, instead of retiring.
    Speaking of tourism, to go a bit further, what about the allure of the regions? Why not use tourism as a way to spur personal and regional development by and for young people who are looking to settle in the regions for the healthy lifestyle and great quality of life?
    We need to ensure that young people, and those who are not so young, feel proud to live in the regions and contribute to the development of not only the land and its natural beauty, but also its expertise and innovative cultural and tourism projects. Let us allow the next generation to show us the regions of Quebec and Canada at their best.
    In order for the next generation to be able to settle in the regions, we need to promote the development of certain sectors. I am thinking in particular of the next generation of farmers. Right now, farmers are better off selling their farms to strangers than passing them on to a family member. The Government of Quebec has once again led the way by changing its own tax rules to encourage the transfer of family farms. Let us put an immediate stop to this injustice. The federal government needs to amend the tax rules so that the intergenerational transfer of farms is at least as profitable as selling to strangers. Obviously, I am thinking about Bill C-208, which is currently being examined by the Standing Committee on Finance.
    When it comes to agri-food, Quebec has known for a long time, since Confederation, that the federal government is hindering the development of Quebec's agricultural model, particularly today, when it is favouring other export sectors at the expense of Quebec agriculture.
    In the agri-food sector, we have seen how fragile the globalized supply chains are. To ensure food security for our people, we must support our farmers and enable them to produce in a fair market that supports healthy products from local businesses that can again be handed down from one generation to the next.
    Then there are processors and temporary foreign workers. The federal government must help farmers, processors and businesses continue to bring in temporary foreign workers. We must improve the temporary foreign worker programs to make them more flexible and more tailored to business conditions, without overlooking regional businesses. It takes over eight hours to drive to Abitibi—Témiscamingue, which makes things complicated for a farmer who wants to personally pick up the foreign worker from the airport.
    I will conclude with a few words about support for land use and local development. Obviously, the major issue is access to high-speed Internet and the cell network. To support regional economic development, we want the federal government to transfer the necessary funds to Quebec immediately so all Quebeckers can connect to high-speed Internet. The delays are never-ending, and Canada has proven itself incapable of breaking down the biggest barriers to the competition that Quebec telecom companies large and small face to ensure accessible, affordable telecom service in Quebec. There are nine federal programs, each with its own idiosyncrasies. Doing business with the federal government is very complicated.
    Quebec also needs the means to create a system that will help restore services to the regions. I am talking about airline service. However, Ottawa must not get in the way of financial support and regional connections Quebec has set up. I will come back to that. Air Canada cannot be subsidized forever. There are companies such as Propair in Abitibi—Témiscamingue that want to serve the regions.
    In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the motion. The federal government has now gone nearly two years without presenting a proper budget. The last budget was presented in the spring of 2019, before the election and, of course, before the pandemic. We need action, and we need it now. A great many businesses, their workers and their families are watching. This has been a long wait. Support is needed quickly, so we must act quickly by adopting this motion.

  (1140)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, my colleague talked about tourism and the negative impact COVID-19 is having on cities, villages and towns along the St. Lawrence River. My question is about the impact of the shutdown by the federal government on the cruise line industry, which is so important to my home province of British Columbia and also to Quebec I am sure.
    Does he have any comments about that?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the tourism industry was clearly the proverbial canary in the coal mine, as tourism companies were among the first to be hit by the pandemic.
    Going back to the example of the cruise line industry, I helped countless constituents who were trapped on cruise ships, with all of the strict public health requirements. I am also thinking of the companies we have met with over the last year, like Croisières AML in Quebec City, which have some significant cash flow needs and will require flexible, tailored support. This past year was definitely not the most profitable year, and this tourism company is in serious need, but I am sure that tourists will come back quickly after the pandemic. This company will need to be set up for success.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, there is a special nuance for the north regarding airlines, and I cannot support this motion unless something is put in it related to interline agreements. I hope the member will support me.
    The northern airlines are the only ones that cover the various northern communities, but they get their revenue from flights to the south, such as Whitehorse to Vancouver. While the major airlines fly on that and refuse to do meaningful interline agreements, they are hurting both airlines. Although there has been significant support for the airlines already, unless they agree to stop hurting themselves and the northern airlines by not having meaningful interline agreements, this motion cannot be supported. This is happening around the world with Azul and Latam airlines in South America, in the U.S. with American Airlines and JetBlue, in Europe with Air Serbia and Turkish Airlines, in Asia with Malaysia Airlines and Japan Airlines, and with Finnair and Juneyao. They are all co-operating in this pandemic. We need the airlines to co-operate to reduce their expenses to help the northern and smaller airlines so we can support everybody.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Yukon for his question.
    I have never been to Yukon, but I did go to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, in the summer of 2006, so I did have a chance to travel with these airlines. I myself live in a northern region of Quebec that cares deeply about these connections.
    We have a problem right now, namely Air Canada's entitlements, which will have to be addressed in the context of this motion. Ottawa always puts all its eggs in this one company basket, at the expense of others.
    Targeted support is needed for these businesses, which are willing to serve the regions and even provide service in French. I am referring specifically to Propair and Air Creebec, which provide a link with northern Quebec for the mining industry, Hydro-Québec and so on. They are willing to provide service links, and the federal government must offer relevant and appropriate assistance to ensure the sustainability of those airlines.
    Air Canada practices dumping. The company goes into a region, lowers prices when it has competition, and then once the competition is eliminated, it raises prices. It used to cost about $1,000 for a return trip between Montreal and Rouyn-Noranda before the pandemic. I cannot imagine what it costs today.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
    He spoke about sectors that have been abandoned by the Liberals, in particular the airlines and tourism. I would like to talk to him about culture, because I know that the cultural sector is flourishing in his riding, and the people of Abitibi take great pride in it. I recently met with the Conseil québécois du théâtre, which told me that Revenue Canada agents are not trained to provide good service and verify information for the self-employed workers and freelancers in theatre and the cultural sector in general.
    Would he support an initiative that would have the government give training to provide service that is tailored to these workers?

  (1145)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. His question has many elements.
    There is one aspect that I find fascinating in the context of the pandemic. On the one hand, the cultural industry needs workers and, on the other hand, it has lost many jobs. This requires specialized support. If we implement measures that can quickly target and meet the specific needs of those in the cultural industry, it would be worthwhile studying and delving further into the issue.
    There are significant gaps—
    Order. Resuming debate. The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time this morning with the member for Courtenay Alberni.
    I am pleased to speak today to this opposition motion which calls, in part, on the government to provide assistance for the hard-hit airline sector in our country.
    This is a timely topic. If media reports are to be believed, we could hear any day now about the outcome of negotiations that have been going on for months between the government and the airlines. We have seen those negotiations stall in past months and we may again, so who knows how long it will take to hear about support for this hard-hit sector.
    I would like to begin by acknowledging the tens of thousands of men and women who work in Canada's air sector and who have lost their jobs over the past year due to the pandemic's disproportionate impact on the air-travel sector: pilots and flight attendants, mechanics, ground crews, baggage handlers, air traffic controllers and all of those working in the many diverse aspects of air travel. I hope that if any of these folks are watching and listening to the debate today, they take heart in the fact that there seems to be broad agreement in this place that government help is needed.
    The motion before us is from the Conservatives. While I agree with its substance, I find it interesting that on one hand, the Conservatives are hand-wringing over the magnitude of pandemic relief that this country has put forward, while on the other they are calling for billions of dollars in government help for the air sector. I will leave the Conservatives to sort that out among themselves.
    The fact is that the air sector does need help. Prior to the pandemic, the aviation sector directly employed 241,000 people in Canada and supported close to another 150,000 indirect jobs in the supply chain. Very few of those jobs still remain. Month after month, we have seen new rounds of layoffs at the big airlines and, sadly, no action from the government.
    It is good to see the Conservatives echoing very closely the points we in the NDP have been putting forward since the beginning of the pandemic. First, any assistance to the air sector must focus on maintaining employment, not on executive bonuses or dividends for shareholders. Second, assistance must come with a commitment to restore and maintain Canada's very important regional routes. Third, airlines must refund passengers the money they are owed for cancelled flights.
    Many Canadians are rightly skeptical about government bailouts, which is why it is so important that strong conditions are put in place to ensure that public funds are spent in the public interest. Unfortunately, in the case of the wage subsidy, we saw a program that was not structured strongly enough to prevent layoffs. Air Canada, for example, received over $500 million in the wage subsidy, making it one of the biggest beneficiaries of the program in our country, but it laid off over 20,000 workers with no financial assistance whatsoever. The company could have chosen to furlough those workers, utilizing the wage subsidy and allowing them to retain their benefits, their seniority and their pensions as many other companies did. Unfortunately, Air Canada chose otherwise.
    Nor was the wage subsidy structured strongly enough to ensure it went only to those corporations that truly needed it. An analysis by the Financial Post, which I know my colleagues will be familiar with, showed that at least 68 publicly traded Canadian companies continued to pay out billions of dollars in dividends to their shareholders while receiving the wage subsidy. To ordinary Canadians, those facts just do not seem right. Thus, in the case of the deal being negotiated between the government and the airlines as we speak, it is essential that strong conditions are agreed upon that put employees first and prevent corporations from using public dollars to fund executive bonuses or dividends for shareholders.
    The second set of conditions relates to regional routes. As the pandemic took its financial toll on airlines, smaller regional routes were the first to fall. Though often less profitable, these routes are nonetheless vital lifelines for communities, especially smaller communities. Even during the pandemic, people still need to travel, whether for work as essential workers or for medical appointments. We also know that these regional routes often support mail services and carry freight.

  (1150)  

    With Canada’s regional bus service much diminished in recent decades, cuts to regional air routes leave people with few options.
     In Atlantic Canada, routes have been cut from 140 to just 29, with only nine of those connecting the region to the rest of Canada. The riding I represent in northwest B.C. experienced first-hand how the commercial decisions of the big airlines could leave communities high and dry. For months, my home community of Smithers was without scheduled air passenger service. It has since been restored, but scheduled flights remain suspended in Prince Rupert and Sandspit, as well as in other communities across the country.
    Given the severe impact of the pandemic on passenger numbers, it was not surprising that these regional routes were suspended and reduced. However, airlines provide an essential service for small communities, and if the government is going to provide financial support to the sector, restoring these essential transportation links should be an integral part of the arrangement.
     Supporting regional routes will not only mean people can get to their medical appointments in the city or commute as essential workers. It will also give tourism operators some certainty that their clientele will be able to return once it is safe to do so. It will give small municipally owned airports, which rely on the revenue from scheduled flights to maintain their infrastructure, some financial certainty. It will give rural regions some comfort in knowing the pandemic will not be allowed to further deepen existing geographic inequities and that, as the recovery takes hold, every part of the country will have a fighting chance.
    In a country the size of Canada, maintaining a basic level of service to all corners of the country is not a luxury. It is a basic need. The restoration of regional routes must be a central component of any sectoral relief for the airlines.
    Last, on passenger refunds, since the beginning of the pandemic New Democrats have been calling on the government to act and make passengers whole again when it comes to the money owed to them by the airlines. My colleague, the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski first called for this in a letter to the minister on April 13, yet while we in the NDP spent months going to bat for passengers, the Conservatives were nowhere to be found until months later.
     This motion today shows us that the Conservatives have finally located their boarding pass and made it to the gate in one piece on this issue, which is good news because the more voices in this place calling for refunds, the better.
    It is frankly unacceptable that the government has left Canadian passengers waiting for over a year to receive money that is rightly theirs. From the standpoint of basic consumer rights, this simply should never have happened. If people pay for a service and then do not receive the service purchased, they expect a refund. This applies to things we buy online as much as it should apply to a $1,000 airline ticket.
     The people affected are Canadian families, and I have heard from lots of these folks. In the midst of a global health emergency and the worst economic recession in Canadian history, these ordinary people have been saddled with unnecessary financial anxiety.
    When he was pressed on this issue, the minister’s response was totally unsatisfactory. On June 16, he said:
     In the best of all worlds, we would like to make sure that all passengers are happy, but as you know, the airlines have been hammered by this pandemic.
     In other words, corporations come first and the government will get to the people when it can. It does not have to be this way.
     Other countries took very different approaches. In the U.S., the EU and the U.K., governments mandated refunds from the airlines. As a result, American passengers had the ability to claim refunds from Canadian airlines while Canada’s own citizens were denied that right.
    The hard-earned money of Canadian passengers has now become a bargaining chip in a high-stakes negotiation between the government and the airlines. With the issue of refunds so closely tied to the negotiations around financial relief, Canadians are going to rightly wonder whether it is the airlines or the government that is refunding passengers.
    To conclude, when the public health directive is to stay home, the hardest hit sectors are the ones that move people around. In the air sector, the pandemic has cost tens of thousands of jobs and threatened services that are central to the functioning of our country.
     Few question that the government has a role to play, but based on the history of bailouts, many are skeptical of the government’s ability to structure support in a way that truly protects the public interest.
     The motion we are debating today speaks to some of the conditions that could ensure public dollars are invested in the public good and not simply converted to private profits.

  (1155)  

    Madam Speaker, I am so happy to hear that at least some air transportation links to northern communities like Smithers and Prince George have been restored.
    How important are transportation links into northern Canada, though Smithers is not really that far north, to Canada exercising its northern sovereignty?
    Madam Speaker, of course, northernness is a bit of a state of mind and with the population so concentrated in the southern part of the country, we do not have to go many kilometres north before one is considered northern.
    The member raises a decent point about sovereignty. I would say the issue is more about the rural fabric of our country and supporting rural communities. These regional routes play such an integral role in that aspect of Canadian life. We have seen Canada become more urbanized over time and I am very concerned for the long-term sustainability and vitality of northern and rural communities. We need to keep that in mind as we look to support the air sector through the pandemic.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
    He talked a lot about the importance of transportation in the regions. I will refer to my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue who spoke just before him and also talked about the importance of transportation in the regions. The Bloc Québécois has raised concerns about the sale of Air Transat to Air Canada. These concerns have been echoed by several groups.
    I would like to hear what the hon. member has to say about this and the danger of monopolies when it comes to the regionalization of transportation.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious issue that we in the NDP have spoken out about. The Commissioner of Competition was clear that the sale of Air Transat would result in a less competitive environment and higher prices for Canadian air travellers. We have seen the impacts of lack of competition in the air sector on smaller communities in Canada. When we have only one large carrier, the price of flights is demonstrably higher, which has a real impact on affordability and people's ability to travel to the places they need to get to. I agree very much with the member on this issue and was disappointed to see so little explanation from the minister as to why that sale was approved.
    Mr. Speaker, this is my first opportunity to take the floor to express appreciation to the hon. member for Abbotsford for his very good motion that is positive in its focus and one that I will personally support.
    To my friend from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, I share his concern about regional air routes and also about affordable ground transportation, particularly in light of the findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which found that the proximate cause of their vulnerability and exposure to violence and risk as indigenous women and girls in remote areas of Canada had to do with the lack of affordable ground transportation.
    Would he like to comment on that?

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is something I touched on in my speech. In my former role as a mayor, we worked very hard with the province to put in place inter-community transit service, and we did so at a time when Greyhound still existed. While we gained a small step forward for northern communities along the Highway of Tears, we were left with a huge gap when Greyhound pulled out entirely.
    Today I would say that things have never been worse when it comes to the affordability of and access to inter-city regional ground transport. It is something we need to improve upon if we are going to resolve these grave issues of murdered and missing indigenous women.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has been an extremely articulate spokesperson in making sure that Canadians get the refunds they deserve for travel cancellations and that our travel and tourism industry gets through this pandemic.
    I am wondering what he believes the government should be doing in particular to help smaller airlines that serve a network in northern Canada and the territories. What should the government be doing that it is not doing now?
    Mr. Speaker, the concerns of smaller airlines is something that I wish I had time in my speech to address more fully, because in many ways they have been left out of this entire debate, which has been dominated by the big carriers. We heard at committee from airlines like Air North, which have very specific concerns about the environment they operate in. We need some assurance from the minister that airlines like Air North and other smaller carriers across the country are not being left out of the ongoing negotiations and will be treated fairly in any package put forward by the government. They deserve support as much as the large carriers in this country.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a huge honour and privilege to rise to speak on today's motion. I want to thank my colleague from Abbotsford for tabling this very important motion today because we know that so many main street businesses have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Truly, we do not talk enough about small business owners being the unsung heroes of this pandemic. They closed their doors to protect public health. These small businesses and their workers are not just the engine of job creation in Canada in the important role they play in every community across our country, but these mom and pop shops also keep our communities running and need our support now more than ever.
    Small businesses need a government that helps them access the services and infrastructure they need to recover and thrive and expand while investing in a healthy, intelligent workforce. We know how COVID-19 has dramatically altered the environment in which our small businesses operate. Various provinces are going through different stages of lockdown. Experts are predicting that 181,000 businesses are at risk of closing over the next year. This would result in the loss of approximately 2.4 million jobs.
    While many of the federal relief programs have provided much-needed support to both employers and employees, many small business owners continue to fall through the cracks. In fact, 76% of businesses have said that 2020 was the most difficult year they have ever had in business. CFIB data shows that only 51% of businesses are fully open and only 39% fully staffed.
    I am really glad that are talking about tourism and hospitality because tourism was responsible for over $105 billion in GDP and one in 10 Canadian jobs before the pandemic. Right now the tourism economy is in such crisis that there are 531,000 fewer Canadians employed in that sector than a year ago.
    When we think about what the government has been doing, we know that the Prime Minister and the Liberals have been going to great lengths since the beginning of the pandemic to protect big corporations. I talked earlier about the big banks. The government offered only very little to workers at the beginning, only wanting to pay 10% of the wage subsidy initially. It was the NDP, working alongside labour and small business, that pushed back and forced the government to go to 75%. The government did not want to help with rent initially. It brought forward a proposal that excluded many tenants in a botched program, and we continued to apply pressure. The government did fix that program, but still has not backdated it for all of those small business owners who were not able to access it.
    We see many small businesses struggling, but we still see big corporations getting access to these programs, like Bell and Imperial Oil, which have been taking millions of dollars in public COVID relief and paying millions in dividends to their rich stakeholders. The Prime Minister still has not fixed these gaps in the programs and has refused to do it.
    The sense of urgency could not be greater. The government rolled out an extension and expansion of the CEBA given the extent of the lockdowns and the uncertainty impacting small businesses. We were glad to see the extension, but many businesses cannot get access to it. MPs' phones are ringing off the hook because small businesses cannot get answers on why they are now being excluded from the expansion of the loan program. These are businesses that received the CEBA loan program initially, and they need help.
    I do not think the government understands the emergency part of its emergency programs. We hear now that it is not going to table a budget until possibly April or later. I am thinking about the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, which was just informed that it is going to get 83% less than it was expecting to operate on. This is an organization that delivered supports to over 800 businesses. It was a vehicle to get $15 million out the door in the fastest growing, and most-at-risk sector in the tourism industry. They cannot wait until April or May. They are going to be laying off departments that are critical to our recovery. I call on the government to get support to those organizations while it is dragging its feet on getting a budget out the door.

  (1205)  

    My colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley mentioned that the NDP has been calling on the government to make sure that we get refunds to passengers. We also have to make sure that we protect the travel agents who collected commissions. We want both to happen. We want the refunds to happen. We want to make sure that people get money, not just some promise down the road. As well, travel agents tend to be women, and we know that women have been disproportionally affected by COVID. They should not be hit with having to repay the large amounts of commissions.
    I am glad to see that the motion included the aviation industry. We have been hearing Unifor call for a national aerospace industrial strategy to protect the air transportation industry, which has been absolutely decimated throughout this crisis. We want to hear what supports are coming forward there.
     I am also glad that we are talking about bus transportation. We need to ensure that we have strong support for the bus industry. For example, Tofino Bus in my riding is critical to the transportation needs of our communities and for access to health care and other needs. The Coast to Coast Bus Coalition is calling for a national highway transportation board so that it can create an essential bus network in partnership with the motor coach industry. This really needs to happen. The government cannot continue to download this onto the provinces.
    We are not hearing enough about start-ups. They cannot access the CEBA loans, the wage subsidy or the commercial rent assistance program. They have been completely forgotten. This is a generation of businesses that have been abandoned by the government. They can demonstrate they are genuine, through their leases and the wages they have been paying, and it is absolutely unfair that they have been forgotten. We need to provide support. The government needs to come to their aid and ensure that it expands these programs to help them out. Giving out more loans is not going to do it. They need access to the same programs that their neighbouring competitors are getting.
    We also believe that big corporations that have profited from the pandemic should pay their fair share, so that we can support the backbone of our communities: our small businesses. I am not talking about the bike shop that might be doing well during the pandemic. I am talking about the Amazons, those big corporations that are making excess profits from the pandemic.
    We want the government to ensure that it is providing support into the future and that the wage subsidy is extended not just to June but to the end of the pandemic, which is what the tourism industry has been asking for. We were glad to see that the pressure we applied last week made the government extend this to June, but it needs to go further. As well, the government needs a hotline for small businesses to call to get assistance in applying for government supports, as I said earlier. This has to happen.
    One thing we are not talking enough about is the critical importance of child care for small business owners and for our recovery. We know that women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Child care is absolutely critical. We are not talking about a child care program that starts in 2028. We need the government to act now. The New Democrats understand how important child care and affordable housing are for supporting economic growth.
    We also need a hard cap on credit card merchant fees. Australia, the U.K. and Europe pay less than one-third of the rates we are paying in Canada. Members heard me ask a question of the Conservatives earlier. They believe that government should get out of the way and that the free market will take care of things. Well, this is how it is playing out for Canadian merchants: They are paying exorbitant rates. The government needs to intervene, like governments have in the EU, Australia and the U.K.
    Many employees have lost their pharmacare and dental care plans, as they have been disconnected from their employers. We need a pharmacare and dental care plan. It would save small business owners approximately $600 per employee. It is absolutely critical that we provide this important social infrastructure to support these businesses.
    To get back to the sense of urgency, we need the government to act with urgency to cover the gaps for start-ups. We should get the CEBA loans out the door for those who have not been able to access the programs. Huge economic leakages will be created if we do not save small businesses in our communities. They are critical to the survival of our communities and critical for our future and getting through the pandemic with a strong economic recovery.

  (1210)  

    Before we go to questions and comments, I see the hon. Minister of Transport rising on a point of order.
    The hon. minister.

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, I would like inform the House that Thursday, March 11, will be designated an allotted day.

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Measures to Support Canadian Workers  

[Business of Supply]
    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from my friend from Courtenay—Alberni. In his speech he talked a lot about many aspects of small business and tourism. I am sure he is well aware of the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors. Some women's dependence on their career has been depleted by the demise of the tourism industry. It has had a big impact on them. What a lot of people do not understand is that these independent business people depend on their commission fees to cover their income. There has been a huge impact on them, and they are obviously suffering a great deal.
    The member mentioned a couple of things in this regard, but I would appreciate hearing some comments about this particular area.
    Mr. Speaker, as my colleague outlined, the travel agent industry is predominantly composed of women, who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Any bailout of the transport sector and the air sector has to be contingent on refunds to consumers who have bought tickets and have not been reimbursed. However, we must also ensure that the commissions collected initially by travel agents are not going to be taken from them, because that would be completely unfair. They are already feeling the brunt of the huge impacts of COVID-19, and the government absolutely needs to make sure changes are contingent on protecting travel agents, who, again, have been disproportionately impacted.

  (1215)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Courtenay—Alberni for his speech. I often find myself nodding along when my colleague talks about the situation with salmon in his region, as well as when he talks about small businesses.
    I broached the subject earlier with the parliamentary secretary. I may have asked too many questions at once, and maybe that is why I did not get an answer. I would like to ask my colleague from Courtenay—Alberni about back-to-work incentives, which are somewhat absent from the Liberal government's management of the pandemic.
    I spoke earlier about restaurant franchise owners in my region and how, in times of full employment, they hire foreign workers who agree to settle here and take low-wage jobs that are very difficult to fill with Canadian and Quebec workers.
    I would like to hear my colleague's opinion about this. Does he also believe that employment incentives are needed to help small businesses, especially franchise owners, survive the pandemic?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am glad my colleague brought up wild salmon, because where I live, if we do not invest in wild salmon we will not have a healthy economic recovery on Vancouver Island.
    He talked about the importance of incentives for hiring people, and I think about the many people who have been disproportionately impacted, especially youth. They have been left out, and we need to make sure that we continue to work together to apply pressure on the government to create programs for youth, whether they are for relief regarding EI and the CPP or for hiring youth. We should expand the Canada summer jobs program, especially targeting groups that have been disproportionately impacted, such as indigenous and Black Canadians. We need to provide supports and training programs for them as well. Many businesses will not be able to rebuild themselves for years to come, so we need to ensure they get the training and support they need to feed their families and move forward as they transition to another career.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Courtenay—Alberni for all the great work he has done on this file. It has been tremendous.
    A previous speaker mentioned the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors and the importance of including travel advisors in the transportation recovery plan. Not only do they work completely on commission, but they are being told now that if the airlines have to pay back consumers, their commissions will have to be paid back. This work was done about a year and a half ago and the money has been spent. If they are not included in the recovery plan, it will create huge hardships on their families and will possibly result in thousands of personal bankruptcy cases.
    Does the member agree with me that it is imperative for them to be included?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his service, as I know he is not running again, and for the important work he has done for seniors and protecting workers' pensions. All Canadians and every member of the House are grateful for the work he has done.
    As for travel agents who have been disproportionately impacted, I cannot believe we would support any agreement without protecting travel agents. That sector is primarily dominated by women and, as we stated earlier, women have been disproportionately impacted throughout this pandemic. We need to make sure that any support for the transport sector, especially for consumer refunds, which we support, also protects travel agents and ensures that they do not have to pay that money back. That is absolutely critical, and our support would be contingent on it.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, I normally start my speeches by saying that I am pleased to be joining in the debate, which I normally am. However, although I support this motion 100%, I am not pleased that we are one full year into the pandemic and we require a motion such as this to get the Liberal government to act to support small businesses in tour and travel business. A year ago this week, we suspended Parliament because of the pandemic, and we are still begging for support from the government.
    This motion includes three main parts: introducing sector-specific measures to support workers in tourism and charitable sectors; providing repayable loans to airlines, not subsidies, not a handout, to ensure they continue to function, but also so refunds to customers who have not been able to take their flights are made; resuming flights to rural areas and areas affected by airline slowdowns; and improving support programs, including lending supports for small and medium-sized businesses.
    The Liberals' approach to the whole pandemic and their support for small business reminds me a lot of a Seinfeld episode called “The Engagement”, when Newman and Kramer steal a dog to shut it up. Eventually the police come and arrest Newman and Kramer. Newman says, à la David Berkowitz, “What took you so long?”
    What is taking the government so long to act? Of course, we had the CERB rollout very fast, supported by ourselves, the NDP, Bloc and independent members, but then we had the wage subsidy, originally starting out as a paltry 10%. It was months and months before it was rolled out to help small businesses. By that point, layoffs had happened. There were closures because of no revenue. They could not afford to sit and wait, As a result, we have lost jobs. The Liberals finally agreed with the opposition and moved up the wage support to 75%, but it was such a long wait.
    It is the same with the rent subsidy. Why did it take so long? It was a flawed subsidy to begin with, one that put money in the pockets of landlords Landlords applied for the subsidy, not the tenants. We heard about a lot of cases with landlords putting their foot on the necks of small businesses, retailers and restaurants, demanding money up front. The retailers, restaurants and small businesses, because they were not getting the direct support, were left basically helpless.
    There is a wonderful business in Edmonton called Axe Monkeys. The owner, Dave, is a wonderful guy. They have axe throwing events. Even with a massive turndown and loss of revenues, he still has charity nights every week to help out local charities. He had a landlord who refused to go through the process of applying for the rent subsidy and told Axe Monkeys to cough up the full rent or all its supplies and goods would be seized. The rent subsidy was a complete failure. The Liberals eventually changed it, but, again, why did they wait so long?
    Who did not have to wait very long for the wage subsidy was Katie Telford's husband. As we know. Katie Telford is the chief of staff to the Prime Minister. Her husband's company got $84 million pretty darn fast when the Liberals needed it to run this flawed program.
    Who else did not have to wait for help from the Liberal government? WE Charity managed to get $900 million pretty darn fast when they needed it. That is the same WE Charity, of course, that paid the Prime Minister's wife, brother and mother almost half a million dollars in fees; the same WE Charity that was employing then finance minister Morneau's daughter; the same WE Charity that paid then finance minister Morneau's $50,000 luxury getaway. It did not have to wait. Did it have to wait for it to go through Treasury Board's rules? No. The Treasury Board president told us at committee that the WE grant did not even go through the Treasury Board process. The Treasury Board's rules are rules. They are not suggestions. For WE Charity, there was no problem. Money went out the door. Small businesses, sit and wait. Rent subsidies, sit and wait. Everyone else not connected to the Liberal Party, sit and wait.

  (1225)  

    Further, the Liberals violated the Official Languages Act, because the grants that were given to WE Charity had to go through an official languages assessment before they were approved. The Treasury Board president, who is from Quebec City, stated that the official languages analysis was not done. A couple of weeks ago in Parliament, the Liberals told us how the French language was under attack across the country. We heard about attacks on Premier Kenney and Premier Ford about not doing enough to protect the French Language. However, the senior Liberal minister from Quebec City purposely ignored the rules to give a grant to a Liberal-friendly group—
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would remind my colleague that he may want to split his time.
    I do not recall the member for Edmonton West indicating he wished to share his time, but he can do so at this time.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague from Saskatoon West reminding me that I am splitting my time with the member for Cloverdale—Langley City.
    Guess who also did not have to wait for handouts from the Liberal government. Former Liberal member of Parliament Frank Baylis received about a third of a billion dollars for ventilators not even approved anywhere in the country. We have small businesses, restaurants and airlines all waiting for action by the government, but there is nothing. However, for those connected to the Liberal Party, the ATM is open and they can go on in.
    I grew up in the hospitality industry. I worked from Victoria to Newfoundland, in northern Alberta and northern Ontario. The hotel and restaurant tourism industry is an incredible industry. It is larger than farming, mining, fishing and forestry. It is also the very first job for many newcomers to our country and many young people. Decades and decades ago it was an industry in which women had broken the glass ceiling, long before banking, government or any other industry. It was also a warm and welcoming industry for those in the LGBTQ community, where they could be accepted without worry. It is an incredible industry. More important than just the finances this industry creates, there is also the social aspect as a first job. We need action from the government to support this industry.
    A lot of things could be done right now, such as returning the HST-GST to hotels, supporting cities so they can grant property tax referrals to small businesses in the hotels and setting up tax credits for future conferences, when we come out of the pandemic, to help large employers and hotels. We could open up the parks for free stays and reduce fees at airports. A quarter of a billion dollars are collected in security fees, more than is paid out for security at airports. I heard the transport minister chime in earlier, and I hope this is something at which he will look. NavCan increased its fees. Airlines are getting wiped out. Their loads are down 90% and NavCan is increasing fees and security fees are going up. We could do a lot of things.
    We hear numbers like 60% of restaurants could be shut down by the end of the pandemic. This is a perfect time for the Liberal government to eliminate the escalator fees for taxes. People may not know that these taxes go up every year and they are not approved by Parliament. They and happen automatically. Now is the perfect time to eliminate them. We could get rid of the added carbon tax that is hurting small businesses.
    The government should be doing a lot of things to help small businesses, hotels, restaurants, travel agents and the airlines. It is time for the government to stop leaving Canadians behind and to start looking after them, not just Liberal insiders such as at WE or other well-connected insiders. It is time to put Canadians first, which is why I support this motion 100%.

  (1230)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague two questions about the benefits of the Canada emergency wage subsidy.
    First, how can my colleague boast that the improvements were proposed by the Conservative Party, when they were actually proposed by the Bloc Québécois at the Standing Committee on Finance? I should know, seeing as I was there.
    Second, how can my colleague talk about how we need to pay the wage subsidy to struggling organizations while knowing full well that the Conservative Party, which, as far as I know, is not in especially dire financial straits, received almost $716,000 from the program? Can my colleague tell me if his party is going to pay that money back and, if so, when?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, if my colleague looked back at press releases and other things, she would see that the Conservative Party from day one was advocating for a faster and higher wage subsidy, well before the Bloc Québécois did.
    As for the wage subsidy for the parties, we made it clear that when the other parties step up to return theirs, we will return ours as well.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague, for whom I have a lot of respect. His history of WE Charity is something I have been living very closely. He mentioned Frank Baylis.
     Our committee studied the issue with respect to Frank Baylis and he was not found to have used his Liberal Party connections. It is important to be accurate on the record, because there is enough skulduggery going on with the Liberals that one could spend days and weeks working in the Liberal fields of corruption, but I do not think we need to go to areas where those deals were not made.
    I would like to ask my hon. colleague this. The Conservatives say that they are concerned about small business, but I have people calling me every day because their EI is running out. We know the Conservatives are blocking moving this legislation through the House. We need to get emergency measures out to people now.
     Therefore, in a sign of good faith, would the Conservatives be willing to pass the motion to get the emergency benefits to people who are going to lose their EI now? Then we can talk about continuing help for other sectors as well.
    Mr. Speaker, I am sorry for bringing up WE. I am sure it sends shivers through his spine, like early PTSD.
    If he wants to talk about Mr. Baylis, I will bring up another issue. When he was on the industry committee, that same Liberal MP lobbied a bit on a government contract. He lobbied the committee for more money for research. He ended up getting that contract about two months after he left. Sure the member can pass off one Liberal insider issue regarding ventilators, but others have to be looked at.
    As for the subsidies, the Conservative Party has been there from day one supporting the government to get subsidies out fast. With Bill C-14, we have asked that the bill be split so we can get that part approved quickly, but that other issues, such as the $1.83 trillion debt limit, be debated separately.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to hand it to my NDP colleague. Moments ago we heard him say that we should put the bickering and individual personal attacks aside and focus on a real question. What did the member for Edmonton West say in response? He diverted it right back to personal attacks on the individual, which the member from the NDP asked that he not do.
    I will ask the member a very pointed question. If he is so interested in small businesses and getting them the supports they need, I will read to him a quote from Dan Kelly of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business regarding Bill C-14. He said, “Bill C-14 has some important measures...CFIB urges all parties to ensure this support is passed quickly.”
    His party held that up in here and then yesterday voted against it. What does he have to say to Dan Kelly and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business?
    Mr. Speaker, the height of irony is the member for Kingston and the Islands criticizing someone for a personal attack. I do not think that gentleman has once stepped into the House without spewing personal attacks on other members of the House.
    Getting back to his question, Bill C-14 passed. However, where his government has been for two years without a budget? It could have put this support through at any time, perhaps in the summer, when it was not proroguing to avoid an investigation into a scandal. I suggest this gentleman look in the mirror and ask the question of himself and his party as to why it has taken so long, an entire year after the pandemic started, to get some of this support out.

  (1235)  

    Mr. Speaker, for more than a year now, I have been talking with women across my riding and across the country, many of whom are the main breadwinner of the family and have been faced with juggling the responsibilities of child care during imposed school closures with keeping their small businesses afloat. They have not been able to access income support because their industry does not qualify.
    Particularly impacted are the many independent travel agents across the country, who worked tirelessly to assist travellers with repatriation flights at the beginning of the pandemic and later with attempts to get refunds for trips that would no longer be taken.
    There are over 24,000 travel agents in Canada, over 75% of whom are women. Around 90% of travel agents are currently laid off. Many earn their income entirely by commission and are faced with commission clawbacks. These ladies worked long hours with no pay to ensure that they fulfilled what they considered was their responsibility towards their clients. They received no compensation for the hundreds of hours they spent working to re-book flights and attempting to get refunds for as many of them as possible. These travel agents did it because they are passionate about providing quality service from start to finish.
     I have heard many on the government side reminiscing today about how we are now at the one-year anniversary of the pandemic. This serves to highlight the fact that they were not paying attention when this catastrophe actually started and why Canada has been consistently late from the very beginning.
    As a matter of fact, it was clear that there was already trouble last year in January, not March, when my local Chinese dance association cancelled its New Year's celebration in Langley to protect our community—yet, following that clear warning cry, our health officials told us not to worry, that there was no need for masks and no need for travel restrictions.
    The next clear sign that all was not well happened on the Diamond Princess at the end of January, not March. While the Liberals were busy twiddling their thumbs, independent travel advisers were getting frantic calls from their customers who were being quarantined on the ship. These courageous women worked hard to calm fears and get answers from wherever they could. We only need to look to them to understand how little the government was doing back when it could have made a huge impact on ensuring it was protecting our borders and our airports much earlier.
    My sister is an independent travel agent with CruiseShipCenters. We have been struggling together with the impact of COVID since January, not March. She and her colleagues have moved heaven and earth to get their customers home safe. What did they get in return? Nothing. There was no support and no recognition, just dead air.
    Just recently she was in the office celebrating her 20th year in the travel business. Her colleagues brought balloons and games to try to put a brave and cheerful face on what has been a horrendous year of incredible stress and no financial help. As they were about to cut the cake, the Liberal government announced that there would be no cruises into Vancouver until March 2022. Everyone burst into tears.
    This was completely out of the blue and absolutely avoidable, had the Liberal government not been asleep at the wheel from the start.
    There is another example: the many women entrepreneurs who run our local dance studios. They face the decimation of their industry despite their incredible efforts to pivot under the new COVID protocols, which changed without warning from day to day. They tried to encourage their thousands of students with the hope that their dance dreams would not be dashed. In the end, many of them have had to close their doors under the pressure of a year-long lockdown. Bills piled up, festivals and competitions were cancelled, student enrolment declined, staff moved on, and hope dwindled.
     This week we are honouring these women in our communities who have fought to keep their small businesses open during a once-in-a-lifetime disaster. Their dedication to the health and wellness of our neighbourhoods is something more valuable than we can truly appreciate. However, they are reaching their breaking point. Help cannot be delayed any longer.
    Today we have an opportunity to do more than just post something on social media in support of women. Today we can work towards providing solutions for those job creators who find themselves most impacted by lockdowns.
    Lauren van den Berg, from Restaurants Canada, recently told the finance committee that thousands of restaurants are staring down the barrel of a gun. She said:
     Two decades of growth were erased in two months at this time last year. Essentially, our industry fell off a cliff and then broke both legs. The truth is, we're still struggling. Prior to the pandemic, the food service sector was Canada's fourth-largest employer. We directly employed 1.2 million people. However, our industry lost more jobs in the first six weeks of the pandemic than the entire Canadian economy lost during the 2008-09 recession. No other industry has come close to facing this level of shortfall. There are still more than 380,000 fewer jobs in the Canadian food service sector than there were in February 2020.
    For restaurant owners and so many other small businesses, this motion for immediate sector-specific measures to help the hospitality industry cannot come soon enough. People are at the end of their rope, and it is starting to fray.

  (1240)  

     I cannot say how frustrated I was yesterday to learn that our Prime Minister had the gall to virtue-signal yet again with an announcement that his government's recovery plans will be crafted to help women bounce back from the shutdown. Here we are, more than a year into the pandemic, and only just yesterday we finally heard the government admit that in fact we are not all in this together. No, as a matter of fact: Women, and women entrepreneurs especially, have been hardest hit from the very beginning. How is it possible that only just now is it dawning on the Liberals that they need to focus their support programs on those who have been falling through the cracks from day one?
    The report published Monday by the Labour Market Information Council states that women were more severely impacted in this recession than any other income group, and to this day they are the furthest away from recovery. I have been shouting this from the rooftop for months.
    Another thing we were recently told at the finance committee is that the average small business owner has taken on $170,000 in debt that is not even bank debt. Many of these businesses are small family-run operations. The owners have been struggling day by day to keep the doors open. Family members are called on to pitch in with busing tables, serving customers and washing dishes while caring for children and aging parents. They have been stretched to the maximum. They are losing sleep and they are losing hope. Now, on top of all that, they bear a heavy debt load as well. Through no fault of their own, this pandemic will stretch on much longer in Canada than in our other G7 partners. Slow vaccine procurement and a refusal to ensure a robust system of tracking and tracing have ensured that people will have to endure far longer than necessary. The government has failed miserably.
    The Canadian Federation of Independent Business stated that one in six independent businesses across Canada is at a significant risk of closing. That means there could be 181,000 fewer small, independently owned and operated businesses across the country, businesses that go bankrupt or wind down permanently, directly as a result of COVID and the damage sustained due to lockdown. That would represent 2.4 million Canadian private sector jobs being taken out at the same time.
    We need to stop the bleeding now. Businesses need certainty. They need to know what they can expect. They need to be able to plan.
    Then, without warning, the Liberals announced that they do not even plan to table a budget. Budgets are the most basic of planning devices that every entrepreneur knows they need to have. Without a plan, they are simply planning to fail. The current government has failed to produce a budget since 2019. That is two full years of spending chaos. We have been told by the PBO that the Liberals are spending so much so fast that they cannot even track it, yet they made sure to set aside extra funds for CRA audits of small businesses in the midst of this disaster.
    I am begging the government to put itself in the shoes of small business owners, hard-working families who have sacrificed everything to keep their dreams alive. These desperate Canadians are looking to the government for real support, not another expert panel headed by a journalist turned finance minister who has no idea what it is like to build a business from scratch.
    From the very beginning, the opposition has had to clean up these messes that the Liberals keep making. It blows my mind that more than a year into this pandemic, it takes another opposition motion to compel the government to do what industry leaders and small business owners have been calling for all along. I am assuming that the government has had the same stakeholder meetings with airlines, the tourism and hospitality industries, and organizations that represent small businesses that we on this side of the House have also had, and all they got from government was a complete lack of urgency.
     It is this lack of urgency, the current government's catalogue of mistargeted programs, and its failure to give the provinces any options but lockdown that led to the prolongation of this pandemic for Canadians. We are going to be locked down for months longer than the rest of the world, and we need answers. Canadians deserve better.

  (1245)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am so glad that this member touched on cruise ships. My parents were on the Grand Princess, which was the cruise ship that was stuck off the coast of California for a number of days. They were quarantined in their cabin for five days before being led out of that ship by Canadian personnel, boarded onto a cargo flight that had been converted to have seats, and brought back to Trenton, where they they went into quarantine.
    Do you know what my father said about that flight, Mr. Speaker? He said that as that flight was taking off the ground on its way back to Canada, the entire cabin of 150 passengers broke out into singing O Canada.
     This government has been there from day one to support Canadians and has been there every step of the way, giving Canadians the supports they need to get through this pandemic. If this member is so interested in helping small businesses, why did she vote against Bill C-14 last night?
    Mr. Speaker, I also had a constituent and her husband who were on the Diamond Princess. She and her parents were stuck in quarantine for a long time. They had to stay in Japan because her parents both caught COVID, and in the end her father passed away. This was their anniversary gift to their parents. The incredible sadness they had to go through was enormous.
    These travel advisers worked to help people get home and be repatriated, along with my own staff. Getting out of some of these countries was an absolute nightmare. We spent many nights working overnight, trying to get people onto planes. It was an absolute nightmare, and many people will say what a disaster it was just trying to get onto those planes.
    Mr. Speaker, I was very touched just a moment ago by the member for Kingston and the Islands when he was speaking of everyone on that repatriation flight back to Canada.
    My experience as an MP, like the experience of my friend from Cloverdale—Langley City, was working around the clock to try to get people home from places around the world. If there was anyone working harder than all of us as individual MPs, it was the staff of the minister for global affairs and his hon. parliamentary secretary, who were all working very hard and diligently to get Canadians home.
    I hate the partisanship that has entered into our debate on these issues. Everyone worked as hard as they possibly could. There were failings and shortcomings, but where we will agree is that there is a need for filling the gaps fast for small businesses that are still at risk. The highly affected sector program, with its cap on $1 million for loans, will not meet the needs of a lot of our tourism sector.
    Would the Conservative motion we are debating today cap the amount of help that would be going out? The motion suggests taking the same approach as the highly affected sector loan program.
    Mr. Speaker, it is very important to recognize that we need to pull out the stops for small business. The numbers that I mentioned that we got from the CFIB as to how many small business are going to fail if we do not start helping right now and do it well is absolutely astronomical. We know that we will not be able to return from this disastrous situation of a lengthy lockdown without the maximum help possible for small businesses.
    Mr. Speaker, I was very moved by the member's comments about small businesses and the struggles they have faced during this pandemic. As we see the government struggle with the procurement and distribution of vaccines, we are all very much concerned about the economy. If the Liberals have failed so badly in procuring and distributing these vaccines, how can we possibly rely on them to restore our economy and get Canadians working again?
    What confidence does the member have in the current government to get this country returning to anywhere near its pre-pandemic status in terms of jobs for Canadians, the Canadian life we once knew and the quality of life we hope to achieve again as a nation?

  (1250)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have to say I do not have confidence in the Liberals. When I saw they shut down the cruises into Vancouver until March 2022, I recognized they did not have Vancouver and British Columbia in mind. They are just not thinking ahead. They are constantly putting out fires and they are really harming our economy more and more by the day.

[Translation]

    I would like to thank my colleagues for their thoughts and contributions to this debate on the impact of the pandemic on Canadians, small businesses and various sectors of our economy.
    This has definitely been a very difficult year for so many Canadians across the country. In recent months, and particularly in recent weeks, with the acceleration of vaccine deliveries to the provinces, we have reason to hope that better days are coming. I know they are coming, but until then, the federal government is committed to doing whatever it takes to help Canadians weather the crisis. That is what we have been doing since the beginning of the pandemic.

[English]

    I am always pleased to discuss federal programs to support Canadian workers and small businesses. However, I am a little surprised that now, one year later, this is a new focus for my colleagues from the Conservative Party. After all, it was the member for Carleton, the then Conservative finance critic, who proudly proclaimed he and all Conservative members did not believe in “big, fat government programs” and that the COVID-19 pandemic's economic impacts could be addressed with just a few tax cuts.
    In this light, let us then take a moment to appreciate just how far we have come and take stock of the Conservative motion before us today, which aims to broaden existing programs, increase government expenditures and even create new programs. In short, it sounds like now they are asking us to make our existing government programs even bigger and fatter.
    Have no doubt, when it comes to our position and the position of the entire government, we knew from the very beginning, one year ago, that we had to intervene to ensure Canadians and Canadian small businesses had the supports they needed, and intervene we did. We quickly put into place Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan. This plan continues to keep our economy stable, protect jobs and give Canadians the means to support their families.
    One of the first measures we implemented was the Canada emergency response benefit, or CERB, so folks could continue to pay their rent and mortgages, and feed their children, while doing their part to defeat the virus by staying home. Between March and October, as the House knows, the CERB alone supported nearly nine million Canadians.
    As the situation continued to evolve, we put in place other critical benefits for Canadian workers. I am pleased to report to this House that, as of February 28, the Canada recovery benefit has supported 1.8 million Canadian workers. In addition, the Canada recovery caregiving benefit has supported close to 350,000 Canadian workers, and the Canada recovery sickness benefit has supported over 400,000 Canadian workers.

[Translation]

    We recently introduced Bill C-24 to increase the number of weeks of benefits offered under those programs, but the Conservatives do not want to debate it. I will talk more about that later.

[English]

    Of course I cannot mention our support to Canadian workers without mentioning the emergency wage subsidy. We are subsidizing the paycheques of over five million Canadian workers across the country through this subsidy. Every single day I speak to entrepreneurs who tell me that, without this program, they would have been forced to lay off employees. Their team, the essence of their business, would have been gone, and it is nearly impossible to recover from that.
    In early April of last year we launched the Canada emergency business account, which is an interest-free loan that provides up to $60,000 to small businesses, 33% of which is a grant. Close to 850,000 small businesses have already benefited from this critical funding. When businesses told us they needed additional help with their fixed costs, we introduced the rent subsidy program and the associated lockdown support, which is covering up to 90% of rent expenses for small businesses. There are 130,000 businesses across the country using this subsidy.
    I am going to stray a bit from my remarks, but yesterday the Conservatives voted against Bill C-14, which would allow small businesses to claim the rent subsidy before their rent is due. Essentially, this measure would help businesses keep a greater cash flow and entrepreneurs weather difficult times, at no real extra cost to the federal government.
    The Conservatives voted against something that would support small businesses with cash flow without allocating additional government funding. I cannot think of a more fiscally prudent way of supporting our business community, and Conservatives voted against it.

  (1255)  

[Translation]

    The motion before us calls upon the government to provide new support for the hardest-hit businesses. We have already done just that. In January, we launched the highly affected sectors credit, which provides low-interest loans of up to $1 million that are fully guaranteed by the federal government.
    The motion also talks about providing specific support for the airline industry. My colleagues are well aware that we are currently in negotiations to provide support for this industry and that we are asking the industry to provide refunds for consumers and make certain commitments regarding regional transportation.
    It is interesting that the Conservatives are proposing this motion now. Now that we are making progress on the negotiations and getting close to an agreement, the Conservatives have suddenly decided to make this their pet issue.
    Our government recognizes the importance of our airline industry and will do what it takes to support it.

[English]

    I am not going to sugar-coat it; all of these support programs cost money, and this government did spend a lot of money. It was money well spent. Personally, I consider myself to be somewhat fiscally conservative. We are the trustees of taxpayer dollars. We have a duty, in my view, to be prudent and wise in how we spend, but who in this House is willing to make the argument that families, workers and businesses should have gone deep into debt so that the government did not have to? Canada has a AAA credit rating, and we borrow at about a 0% interest rate. Small businesses cannot say the same.
    As the parliamentary secretary responsible for small business and international trade, I am always willing to discuss with my colleagues opposite the ways we can support our entrepreneurs and business community, but there is simply no clear position being taken by the Conservative party on how to do that. For example, the Conservative member for Steveston—Richmond East complained that we are spending like there is no tomorrow. The member for Souris—Moose Mountain said government spending was leading him to be disappointed in the current state of Canada, yet here we are today debating a Conservative motion asking for more spending. While I am aware that the Conservative finance portfolio recently changed hands, and some policy changes are normal, this is close to a complete U-turn.
    It is hard these days to figure out what the Conservatives actually stand for. Is it more spending, or is it less? Do they agree that Canada should run a deficit to support Canadians, or do they not? Are they asking us to spend today so that they can attack us on the deficit later? Are they refusing to sit for extended hours in the evening to delay supports for Canadians?
    Bill C-24 would substantially expand support for our workers. Unfortunately, our Conservative colleagues have refused to work through the evening to debate and pass Bill C-24. The member for Kildonan—St. Paul, the critic for future workforce development and disability inclusion herself, stated that Bill C-24 was straightforward and that time is of the essence to get this bill through, but that message does not seem to have made its way to the leadership of the Conservative party.
    It is a good thing Canadians know where we stand and where this government stands. They also know that we will continue to ensure Canadians and Canadian businesses are supported right through to the end of this pandemic, because protecting and supporting Canadians is, and will always be, our top priority.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like the parliamentary secretary to address a point, because she touched on it when she talked about the government spending money so that families and individuals did not have to. Of course, one of the talking points I heard from the member for Barrie—Innisfil this morning was that it is not the government's money, but the people's money, which is obviously the case. I think most people are fully aware of that.
     However, when the government chooses to do it, it is taking on that responsibility as a burden for society as a whole, as opposed to individual people, so that as the society can collectively get through struggles such as those we are facing right now. I am wondering if she would like to expand on that, particularly how important it is that society take on this burden, as opposed to individuals.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, not only for his question, but for holding down the House.
    I would also agree with him that, yes, the government and all of the members in the House of Commons are trustees of taxpayer dollars. This money, I truly believe, belongs to Canadians, but I also think we are responsible for supporting Canadians with this money. If it were not for our government's many programs, and if it were not for the actions taken by our government, we would see families with credit card debt increasing at exponential rates. We would see families on the street, in some cases, because they could not pay their rent or their mortgages.
    I am thinking also of the five million Canadians who we are supporting through the wage subsidy and how important it is, not only to their bottom line, that they are able to keep their job and their paycheques, but that they continue to be affiliated with their business, because when the pandemic ends we want businesses to be able to open their doors quickly, and they need to keep their staff on payroll. They need to keep—
    We will go on to the next question.
    The hon. member for Thérèse-De Blainville.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we often hear them talk about helping Canadians. Nobody is against that. We all know there is a crisis.
    All these speeches about their record suggest the Liberals are frozen in time. They seem to be stuck back in March 2020, whereas we are in the second wave of the pandemic and need to get out of it.
    The really sad thing is their lack of vision. We would like to know their plans for recovery. They have not tabled a budget in two years. Maybe they will do so in April. That is the point of the motion. Certain sectors need more targeted assistance.
    They keep talking about the past, but what is their vision for the future?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent question.
    I completely agree that we need to be able to respond, and that is what we did in January. Just a couple of months ago we launched a new program for highly affected sectors. We saw how much this program was needed, for example, for our restaurants, the tourism industry and the hospitality industry.
    Today we obviously want to debate Bill C-24, which gives the workers in Canada and Quebec who need it a few additional weeks of benefits.
    We are constantly responding and adjusting our plan to meet the needs on the ground.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to touch on what the parliamentary secretary said about the wage subsidy and the way that is happening. Public reporting suggest that between the start of the pandemic and, I believe, September 30, Air Canada has received about $492 million. That would make it one of the largest recipients of the wage subsidy in Canada. Despite this, workers who have been laid off have not been offered the wage subsidy.
    This is happening not only at Air Canada but also at WestJet. Does the member know why this is happening, when the money was supposed to be going to protecting workers' jobs?

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, we received approximately 430,000 distinct applications for the wage subsidy. We did not discriminate on size because a worker who works for Air Canada is just as deserving of support from this federal government as a worker working for a small business. As much as I am obviously a huge proponent for small businesses right across the country, I believe that all Canadian workers, regardless of where they work, deserve the support of this federal government.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute honour for me to participate in today's debate on behalf of the residents of my riding of Davenport. Today's opposition day motion calls on our federal government to introduce new supports in the upcoming budget to help workers, families and small businesses struggling the most in this economic downturn and, in particular, those in industries most highly impacted, like arts and culture, hospitality and aviation, and to take some additional measures to prevent bankruptcies and layoffs as much as possible.
    As we know, COVID-19 has had wide-ranging impacts in Canada. It has cost lives, jobs and the financial security of millions. This winter, we know, has been particularly tough on many business owners and their employees across the country, but Canadian businesses have shown tremendous resilience in adapting to these challenges by adjusting their operations to keep Canadians safe, pivoting to new business models and scaling down their costs during times of weaker demand. I have seen that resilience right across my own riding of Davenport.
    At the beginning of the pandemic, our government moved quickly and urgently to introduce comprehensive supports for Canadian workers and businesses impacted by COVID-19. As the pandemic has evolved, the government has monitored economic conditions closely and listened to feedback and made sure to continually bring forward more help and adjust our programs to address the issues that businesses and constituents have raised.
    Let me run through some of the supports. Shortly after the pandemic started, the government introduced the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program, known as CECRA, for small businesses, in partnership with the provinces and territories. This initiative was to lower rent by 75% for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. In the end, all told, CECRA provided over $2 billion to more than 140,000 Canadian businesses across the country to help with their rent payments, supporting over 1.2 million workers. However, because the application proved to be challenging and many landlords were not persuaded to apply, in late 2020, the federal government transitioned to a new program that allowed small businesses to apply directly without their landlords.
    The current rent subsidy provides a maximum base rate of 65% for businesses that have experienced a a revenue drop of 70% or more. There is also an additional lockdown support, which provides an additional top-up of 25% for those forced to close under any mandatory local public health-ordered lockdowns. That adds up to a 90% rent subsidy for those under lockdown orders, such as in Toronto, although that lockdown was lifted earlier this week. To date, more than 134,000 small businesses have been approved for the rent subsidy and more than 54,000 have benefited from the 90% lockdown support benefit.
    This government has also provided liquidity support to businesses and non-profits to help them with their operating costs. Last year, the federal government launched the Canada emergency business account, known as CEBA. This program provides zero-interest, partially forgivable loans to small businesses and other organizations that have experienced diminished revenues due to COVID-19, but who face ongoing costs that just cannot be avoided or delayed. By providing assistance and covering costs, CEBA is intended as a bridge until normal operations can resume after COVID-19.
    Initially, CEBA provided loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, with loan forgiveness of up to $10,000. Then we expanded the program to make an additional $20,000 of interest-free loans available, with up to half of it being forgivable. This expansion effectively increased CEBA loans to a total of $60,000 for eligible organizations, and if it is repaid by the end of 2022, up to $20,000 becomes a grant. As of last week, CEBA loans have been disbursed to more than 843,000 Canadians businesses, totalling more than $44 billion.
    I travel across Davenport as much as possible outside of the lockdown periods, and small business owner Robin from Three Fates told me that “CEBA gave me the opportunity to keep my business open for customers, plain and simple, but providing me that influx of cash flow to cover my expenses when things got tough, I've been able to keep things moving for now and keep my store stocked for the neighbourhood traffic.” Our government has helped hundreds of thousands of businesses and their workers through programs like the wage subsidy and the rent subsidy, among many other programs that I do not have time to mention, but I always know there is more that we can do.
    I also agree that there is always more we could do to support our small and medium-sized businesses because although the sad reality is that many of these businesses have closed during COVID-19, many are still in a precarious position and are not quite sure whether they will be able to survive. I have seen these impacts on the main streets in my riding of Davenport. I believe that our federal government must continue to do everything we can to prevent bankruptcies and layoffs, and to help Canadian businesses pivot to success as we come out of this pandemic.

  (1310)  

    The motion before us also talks about supports for the hardest-hit sectors, and I would like to talk about some of the additional supports that we have already put into place.
    We know that the sectors that have been hardest hit are arts and culture, tourism and hospitality, which is why, last year, and actually more recently, we introduced the highly affected sectors credit availability program, or HASCAP. It provides access to guaranteed low-interest loans from participating financial institutions of anywhere between $25,000 and $1 million. This program is available to businesses that operate in those hard-hit sectors, such as tourism, hospitality, hotels, restaurants, arts and entertainment, and any that rely on in-person services.
    The regional relief and recovery fund is another fund we have created for businesses in these highly impacted sectors that have not been able to access other supports. We actually have two tranches in that fund. The first time we introduced the fund, it was for $1.5 billion. Then, in our fall economic statement, we proposed to top it up by $500 million, because we know there are many businesses that for some reason or other have not been able to apply to some of the other programs, and/or they have needed additional supports they have not been able to get anywhere else.
    Also, particularly impactful for my riding of Davenport, is the additional support that has been provided to the arts and culture sector. There is the $500 million in emergency support that was distributed through Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts late last spring, and then, more recently, we announced $181 million for arts, live music and live events, all of which have been absolutely devastated by COVID-19. This funding is going to provide support in many areas, including digital innovation. It will help with short-term contracts for new projects, and it will extend many of the existing programs in a safe way. I can tell members that this fund is particularly helpful to many of the businesses and groups within my riding of Davenport and right across the city of Toronto.
    Finally, with the time I have left, I will address supports for the aviation sector.
    My riding is home to many pilots, flight attendants and airline employees, many of whom have worked in the aviation sector for many years and who want to go back to work as soon as they can. I particularly care that we continue to have Canadian-owned airlines and continue to be able to support regional routes. Our federal government is working really hard to try to provide support for the industry, and I know that those negotiations and conversations are under way at the moment.
    It is important to articulate that there has already been $1.8 billion in wage subsidy support provided to the industry, on top of the additional $1 billion given in support of airports and smaller airlines. However, any package that we are looking at must also keep Canadian customers whole. I know that many Canadians have had their flights cancelled without a refund, and I think that needs to be addressed. I also think that we need to be providing some support to independent travel agents and operators who have also been devastated by COVID-19.
    In conclusion, the support programs I have discussed are just some of the programs the federal government has offered to those hard-hit businesses to try to minimize the impact on our economy and to set the stage for the creation of more than one million jobs. We know that financial challenges will persist for many organizations for at least the next few months, and that is why the programs I have outlined today are so critical.
    If small businesses and non-profits are able to make ends meet with these additional supports, I know that they will be better able to pivot to a strong restart as more Canadians receive their vaccines and the Canadian economy fully reopens. We, the federal government, will not stop adapting and responding to the needs of Canadian businesses. Our message to them is that we have their back.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge that the member for Davenport seems to be aware of the challenges facing small businesses. However, from listening to Liberal members, they do not seem to understand that this is an urgent matter. In my riding, we have travel agents who worked 24-7 to get people home during the pandemic, but some of them have not had commissions for over a year.
    From the day after International Women's Day, what we need to see from this government henceforth is certainty, but none of the Liberal members have come forward and said that they are going to be supporting this motion today, and that they will be delivering a budget on a certain date to give the small business community certainty in this country.
    I am asking the member: Will she deliver for the tourism sector, and what date can we expect the budget to be tabled so that they have certainty to move forward? We do not want to see any more businesses lost.
    Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of things I want to respond to in the member's excellent question.
    First, I want to thank all of those travel operators, many of whom are independent and the vast majority of whom, by the way, are women who worked really hard to bring home Canadians from around the world just after the pandemic lockdowns started. I want to say a huge thanks to them.
    As I mentioned in my speech, I do think that part of our support for the airline sector moving forward needs to be considered in terms of ongoing support. We appreciate that they have been disproportionately impacted. I fully support that as well.
    As to whether or not our government is going to be presenting a budget, I am very privileged to be part of the finance committee. We have been holding pre-budget consultations. I am very assured that we will be presenting a budget sometime soon. I think it is just a matter of time. I think it is going to be in the coming—
    We are going to try to get two more questions in.
    The hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be brief.
    Earlier I asked my colleague opposite about the wage subsidies for struggling organizations and businesses. All of the political parties, with the exception of the Bloc Québécois, received wage subsidies. My colleague opposite said that they would pay that money back when the government does it. I realize they are worried, because every dollar counts in the economic recovery.
    The following question is for my colleague opposite: Will you pay back the $850,000 or so in wage subsidies? If so, when?
    I remind the member that she must address her questions and comments through the Chair.
    The member for Davenport.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to finish responding to the previous question, and then answer this at the same time.
    I want to assure Canadians who might be watching that our federal government has urgently introduced programs to support small businesses, workers and all Canadians throughout this whole pandemic. I am very proud of all of the actions we have taken.
    As for the last question on the Canada emergency wage subsidy, as of February 28, I know that our wage subsidy has helped protect over 5.1 million jobs, providing over $68 billion in support in total.
    Again, we are going to continue to support Canadians, to support our businesses and to support workers as we come out of this pandemic.

  (1320)  

    Mr. Speaker, in the last year during the COVID pandemic, the government has added debt equivalent to our entire nation's debt over the past 150 years, including two world wars and a financial crisis.
    We have not seen anything from the government by way of a plan to deal with our economic future. How is the government going to deal with rising bond yields? How is the government going to deal with inflation that is above the 2% target? How is the government going to deal with business investment drying up in this country? How are we going to create the economic growth in the future needed to ensure that we can pay back this debt and provide a better future for future generations?
    Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question, a top-of-mind question for many people.
    I do want to remind the hon. member that at the onset of this pandemic we started with a very good financial situation, so we were able to put out very aggressive, very generous programs to support our economy, our workers and our businesses moving forward.
    If members listen to any of the economists or thought leaders on whether we have spent too much or taken on too much debt, the vast majority of them say that if we had not spent the money we did, the costs would have been much greater to us.
    We have put out a fall economic statement, and we have given an idea about how we intend to proceed. There will be more details and a much clearer game plan in the budget that is anticipated to be introduced this spring.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mégantic—L'Érable.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, here we are a year later and I wish I had a different story to tell. I am starting to feel very much like a broken record, but the fact is we are having this opposition motion today because many Canadians feel left behind.
     Despite all of the comments and the facts and the quotes given by my colleagues across the aisle in the government, we in the official opposition felt it was absolutely necessary to have this opposition day motion to recognize the hundreds of thousands of Canadians and workers who have been left behind. People who are listening to me know who they are. That is why we are having this opposition motion today.
    To use the words of one of my favourite pop songs of 2005, from the artist JoJo, it is, unfortunately, Too Little, Too Late.
    I recall, in December, being plucked from the House by my whip because it was announced on Reuters that a plan for the airline sector was coming. I was very nervous about this plan, but very excited. I led question period the next day, but the result was no plan.
    Most recently, a couple of weeks ago, we saw in The Globe and Mail excitement that a plan for the airline sector was on the horizon and imminent. The word imminent has been used a lot. In fact, I am on my second transport minister, if I may say so, and still there is no plan. All of this conversation actually began back in November, but still there is no plan.
    I could go on and on about the devastation, and I have before. We have seen jobs lost, routes lost, market share lost and leakage. These are a result of the government's inaction.
    We have the gross domestic product for the tourism industry down almost 50% to 70% since 2020. Travel restrictions could also lead to significant losses in other industries, with the overall impact resulting in a 1.2% to 1.7% reduction in GDP.
    The U.S. government, on the other hand, has provided $7 billion in support already for its industry. As a result, it will have a significant advantage.
    In October 2020, the main carriers for the United States, including Delta, United and American Airlines, were operating at approximately 50% of their typical capacity. In comparison, Canadian carriers were operating at 25% of capacity, so there is no comparison.
    It is the same in Europe. In October 2019, Canadian carriers operated at approximately 64% of capacity, trans-Atlantic share, while European carriers held 36% only by Canadians. In October 2020, Canadian and European each held 50%, so it has changed significantly.
    In addition, we have seen a significant loss of regional routes. In Canada alone, we have lost service to Charlottetown, P.E.I.; Fredericton, New Brunswick; Deer Lake, Newfoundland and Labrador; Sydney, Nova Scotia; Saint John, New Brunswick; Bathurst, New Brunswick; Wabush, Newfoundland; Gaspé, Quebec; Baie-Comeau, Quebec; Mont-Joli, Quebec; Val-d'Or, Quebec; Kingston, Ontario; and North Bay, Ontario. Air Canada is currently losing an average of $15 million per day and it has had to lay off approximately 20,000 employees as a result of COVID-19.
    As well, international carriers are able to indirectly access several Canadian markets through nearby U.S. airports. This is known as leakage. We see this at the three Bs, as I refer to Bellingham, Burlington and Buffalo.
    We have asked the government on several occasions to take action. We have asked for rapid testing, testing on arrival and testing on departure. The industry took the initiative through many pilot projects. In my hometown of YYC, we saw the Calgary border testing pilot program, where there was a test on arrival, a second test on day six or seven and, if necessary, there was a third test. We saw the possibility to reduce the quarantine time by up to an entire week, and the government did not act upon this.
    We also saw the McMaster project out of Toronto Pearson Airport, where there was testing upon arrival, a second test and then a third test, with 0.7% detected upon arrival, 0.3% on day seven and less than 0.1% on day 14.

  (1325)  

    YVR also had its own pilot project but unfortunately, with the implementation of the three-day hotel quarantine, we saw the dismissal of all of these projects. Looking ahead to what the future looks like for the Canadian aviation sector, it is grim with no routes, expensive fares and stopovers. As I mentioned, many regional routes have had service suspended. It will be several years before we see these routes reinstated.
     Airlines are very concerned about the loss of market share if they are unable to connect to smaller regions. I am very concerned about pilots, and the tens of thousands of workers who are leaving Canada to work in other jurisdictions. We need to prevent their jobs from moving to countries with established aviation sectors, and keep them here in Canada where they should be.
    I have mentioned before the conversation about sun destinations. Just two weeks ago I was able to go to the Expedia website and book a ticket from Vancouver, with a 31-minute stop in Seattle, that carried on to Puerto Vallarta. American carriers are, in fact, still able to take Canadians to sun destinations when our own airlines have been told that they cannot travel to sun destinations. It is not right and it is not fair. It is failing Canadians and Canadian businesses.
     The future looks very grim for aviation, and I worry about the family in Sherbrooke, Quebec, who wants to go to Disney World. They will not be able to as a result of the cost, and because of the demand that supply will not be able to meet. I am very concerned about that as well.
    The government has failed from the very beginning of the pandemic. It failed in many regards, including telling Canadians that there was no person-to-person spread of COVID-19, and that border control measures and masks did not work. It sent critical supplies of personal protective equipment to China when we had a shortage here in Canada. It failed to ensure that Canadians had access to rapid-testing at-home options. It shut down the federal pandemic early warning system just months before COVID-19. Those are all major failures.
    We have known since November that Canada is well behind other countries when it comes to vaccine procurement. Justin Trudeau said this was because Canada no longer has any—

  (1330)  

    I think the hon. member may have caught that already, but please refer to other hon. members by their title or their riding name.
    Mr. Speaker, I apologize.
    The Prime Minister said that this was because Canada no longer had any domestic production capacity for vaccines. Seven months prior, in May, the government announced tens of millions of dollars to increase domestic production capacity and said that two Canadian production facilities would have the capacity to produce 70,000 to 100,000 doses per month by summer 2020, with an even greater production capacity in the months to follow. In August, the government said that Canada would be able to make 250,000 vaccine doses by November. We know now that this did not happen.
    The reality now is that Canada is behind the U.S., the U.K., the European Union, Mexico, Brazil, India and Indonesia for vaccine procurement. There are over 2.7 billion people, or one-third of the population of the planet, ahead of Canada for a vaccine. Where is the Prime Minister's plan?
    What we have learned from the Liberal government is that it is entirely possible to spend billions of dollars and still leave millions of Canadians behind. Canada's unemployment rate is currently at 8.5%. This is among the highest in the G7, despite Canada spending more than any other country in the OECD. As of January 21, according to Statistics Canada, Canada now has 858,000 fewer jobs than it did in February of last year, before COVID-19 began.
     Canada has now gone 460 days without a federal budget, and the Prime Minister has indicated struggling Canadians should not expect one any time soon. If the government has failed the airline sector, if the government has failed Canadian workers and if the government has failed during the pandemic, how can we possibly count on it to lead us out of the pandemic and save our economy?
    Mr. Speaker, there was a ton of information there I could get into. I would love to address all of it, but I know you will cut me off, so I will ask a quick question.
    This motion is about spending more money, on top of what we have already spent, to support Canadians. I am in favour of supporting Canadians as much as we can. I asked a question of the member for Abbotsford who introduced this earlier today and he said, “Debt is not a bad thing.” That is great. I am glad to hear the member for Abbotsford say that. However, then the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland just moments ago was criticizing the government for how much debt it has.
    Is the member in camp Abbotsford, that debt is okay, or is she in camp Sturgeon River, that debt is a bad thing?
    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, we have seen the Liberals repeatedly putting the entire opposition in a very difficult position. Because of their lack of capacity and competence, they come up with last-minute legislation to try to help Canadians, but the result is that, first, there are many gaps for the opposition to address and second, the opposition is forced to support legislation because we really do not want to leave Canadians in a difficult position. If the Liberals had any foresight, any true consideration for Canadians or for the government working together in a team Canada approach, they would be more thoughtful in their consideration of the necessary policies and they would allow the opposition members time to consider and to respond, instead of having to continuously go along with whatever the Liberals cook up in a half-effort attempt to help Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see that the Conservative motion today makes specific references to supporting workers and supporting small businesses, because that is very important in ridings right across this country.
    I have heard from constituents who have had to pay massive dental care costs and pharmacare costs. Often these unexpected costs can throw a family's monthly budget completely out of whack and put massive pressure on their ability to pay other family bills.
    I am wondering this: Will the member support efforts to broaden the Canada Health Act, and use the existing federal model to make sure that we can cover things like pharmacare and dental care? This would end up saving money for small businesses and individuals, and would help families recover from this pandemic in much better shape than they are in currently.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member and I both agree that the government is keeping Canadians in perpetual poverty. It is literally taxing them to death and then throwing out breadcrumbs while not creating jobs, not creating prosperity and not creating a future. Do Canadians ever look in the mirror and wonder what they are going to do when the CERB runs out? What jobs will there be for them when the CEWS is no longer there for them? They are catching on. They are recognizing that the government wants them to be under its control, under its finger, rather than allowing Canadians to create prosperous lives for themselves.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for Calgary Midnapore for her comments and for her great work raising issues pertaining to the airline sector. In northwestern Ontario, obviously this is a very important sector not just for tourism, but to service many remote communities and the vast majority of the 42 first nations that I represent. I am wondering if the member could speak more to the frustration we have with the fact that Liberal inaction has continued to leave our airline sector in limbo.
    Mr. Speaker, the airline sector feels completely left behind. There is not a day that goes by that I do not get a message from an airline worker who says, “I have supported the Liberals my entire life, but I am never voting Liberal again after their tossing aside of the airline sector.” I get messages from mothers who are worried about their sons and daughters who have lost their jobs in the airline sector. I get the saddest pictures of pilots in uniform with their children hugging them, and that is the reason why we are having this motion here today. It is because all of these Canadians feel abandoned and left behind by the government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak to this motion, which is so important for the regions of Quebec and for the entire country. I would like to thank my colleague for her impressive speech on the importance of supporting airline industry workers and, especially, of making sure that travellers can finally get their money back.
    The question we need to ask, and the question that all Canadians are asking, is the following: What are the government and companies doing for us?
    This is our first pandemic. Most of us had never lived through something like this before. Our main concern, first and foremost, is our health and that of of our loved ones. Then, our priority is to ensure the safety of our loved ones and our ability to live our lives safely.
    We are also concerned about how our families will be able to survive and keep bread on the table. We need a paycheque. It is very important that all Canadians be sure that they have the means to support their family.
    It is also important that we be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel when we ask the government for help. We hope that the government will make the right decisions so that, after all this, we do not end up in a worse position than the one we are in now. What people are asking for is transparency on the part of the government and informed decisions to help protect as many people as possible with what we have, without going to extremes.
    What Canadians are hoping, once we have dealt with the health and safety issues, is that we can focus on the economic recovery. After living in a difficult situation for so long, Canadians are wondering how they will get by in circumstances where, for many of us, the government has replaced income normally generated by entrepreneurship, work, self-employment, community assistance and fundraising. In short, what Canadians want is to get their lives back and not depend on the Canadian government for every decision.
    Although the government set up numerous assistance programs, with the support of the opposition parties, because we could not let Canadians down at such a difficult time, some people still fell through the cracks. Perhaps it did not happen at the beginning of the pandemic, because they had some savings or because companies with more cash and fewer expenses managed to get by, but now we are entering an extremely trying period.
    I have heard from hundreds of businesses in my riding that have managed to get this far but are now wondering how they will get through the next few months. Many businesses, sectors and Canadians are going to have a hard time weathering the coming months.
    The Conservatives introduced a motion today to show that it is important to think about these workers and to include measures in the next federal budget to help the workers and families who will have the hardest time in the coming months. Some are already in trouble.
    Incidentally, we learned this week that the Liberal government has unfortunately decided to postpone its budget. According to media reports, it will not be tabled in March or at the beginning of April. We will have been without a budget for two years.
    That means that the measures we are asking to be implemented as soon as possible will be delayed, and unfortunately, there will be more victims. More businesses will suffer. Workers will lose their jobs because the government did not act in time to help them.
    This is a huge problem, and it reflects how this government managed vaccine procurement for Canadians. As the Prime Minister keeps repeating, we have a massive portfolio of vaccines. However, we are at the back of the pack when it comes to vaccine administration and vaccination rates.

  (1340)  

    If the government had planned ahead, if it had anticipated what was coming, as many people did, and if it had not dismantled Canada's small pandemic alert unit, which was the envy of all other countries, it would have seen the pandemic coming and could have planned for vaccines.
    Unfortunately, the government was not on the ball in terms of vaccine procurement.
    Few contracts have been made public, but we know that the government failed to ensure an early supply of vaccines. That would have allowed Canadians to keep their jobs and Canadian businesses to reopen as soon as possible, so that Canadians who need a paycheque could get one.
    Instead, the government decided to postpone the budget for purely political reasons, and to “open windows”, as we say in politics, in order to make Canadians as happy as possible and keep buying votes by handing out money. It is not by scattering cash willy-nilly that we will succeed, but by investing money in the right places, where it is needed. That is what the official opposition has been saying since the beginning of the pandemic.
    Our motion focuses in particular on tourism, hospitality and charitable organizations. As I mentioned, in regions like mine, tourism involves hotels and tourist attractions, but also events such as festivals, celebrations, public markets and activities in every town. The entire sector has been overlooked by the various assistance programs.
    Unfortunately, if these events do not survive the pandemic, the tourism industry in our regions will suffer for years to come. These organizations are holding on by their fingernails thanks to volunteers. It is important to keep the charitable organizations that organize dinners, activities and brunches to fund their activities in operation. These are not recreational activities, but activities that help other Canadians who are in even more dire straits.
    Unfortunately, these organizations are having to close their doors because they simply do not have enough money to pay their employees and are no longer able to hold activities because of the health measures in place. It is a tragedy for Canadian society when charitable organizations can no longer operate because there are no assistance programs to help them get through difficult times.
    I would now like to talk about paragraph b) of the opposition's motion concerning repayable loans for airlines. I received several letters from people in my riding who bought airline tickets before the pandemic and who were offered travel credits. Unfortunately, they cannot travel, and they should not be travelling, but they would like to see their money back. Their money is still in the hands of the airlines, because the government is unable to reach an agreement with them about how it can help. What we are saying is that the next budget must include repayable loans for airlines provided they reimburse Canadians who bought travel tickets and were unfortunately unable to travel. Today, the airline is still holding vast amounts of money which, for most Canadians, represent a year's worth of savings.
    Lastly, it is important to have a rapid response solution. Small and medium-sized businesses need access to quick loans. We cannot let all of the small businesses that suffered all year and were excluded from the various assistance programs close their doors. Most workers in these companies are women. They work in restaurants, stores, small local retail businesses and other small businesses. It is important that we think about them. We must put in place simple and quick means of providing assistance.
    For all of these reasons, I invite all members of parliament who care about the economic development of our regions to support the Conservative Party's motion.

  (1345)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I noticed that the member departed from the motion and talked quite a bit about vaccines and other things. I hope he will do me the same courtesy and allow me to depart from the motion as well.
    Why was the Conservative Party against the unanimous consent motion yesterday to continue debating into the evening so we could get Bill C-24 passed? This bill is about unemployment insurance for people who will have no unemployment insurance as of March 27, and it requires royal assent by March 21. These are people in need right now.
    Why will the Conservatives not sit later into the evening to allow us to discuss this very important measure and get supports to people who need it through the employment insurance system?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is pathetic to see the Liberal members trying to blame the opposition for their inability to manage the legislative agenda.
    This bill could have been introduced and debated well before yesterday, and Canadians would have been entitled to assistance. Not only is this government unable to manage its legislative agenda, but it is also incapable of tabling a budget. We have been waiting for a budget for two years. We thought the government might table one in March, but now it looks like we might have to wait until April.
    This government's only interest is to call an election in the midst of a pandemic. We will not take any lessons from the Liberals about legislative agendas.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I, too, am angry about the Liberal government's inability to help the airline and aerospace industries, which provide a lot of jobs.
    I want to come back to what my colleague said about our inability to produce vaccines in Canada. Because of previous Liberal and Conservative governments, Canada has lost its ability to manufacture vaccines. Over the past year, we have seen how important this is because we have become dependent on other countries and on the goodwill of private companies that do not hesitate to move their operations elsewhere if they fail to make a profit.
    What does my colleague think about the NDP's proposal to have a national public vaccine production capacity, perhaps even under the authority of a Crown corporation, so that, when the next pandemic hits, Canada will no longer have to depend on foreign countries or private companies?

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.
    The Liberal government's management of vaccine procurement has been pathetic. It staked Canadians' fate and health on a deal with a company that provided no assurances that it would deliver on its promises to our people.
    It rejected proposals from Canadian companies that were willing to do whatever it took to produce vaccines here. When it comes time to take stock of this pandemic, the vaccine procurement strategy will be the biggest thorn in the Liberal government's side. The reality is that the government completely missed the boat and is 100% to blame for the vaccination delays prolonging the crisis.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech.
    I would like him to tell us about the real, undeniable, public evidence that Canada has spent the most money per capita but has the highest unemployment rate and the worst-performing economy. Moreover, according to that evidence, Canada is one of the few countries in the world that does not yet have an economic recovery plan.
    In his speech, my colleague stressed that it has now been more than two years since the government last tabled a budget for Canadians and gave opposition MPs an opportunity to question the government and see what is what.
    We now rank 56th in terms of vaccine deployment. Vaccines are what will get us out of this crisis, restart the economy and prevent deaths. We have to tell it like it is. Also, the aviation and aerospace sectors have been left to fend for themselves. I am sure my colleague, too, has been hearing from constituents about that, never mind the skyrocketing debt.
    What does my colleague think about this government's performance in the accountability department?
    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska really put his finger on the problem: Liberal incompetence in managing the pandemic.
    This was a problem even before the crisis began. While we were in an exceptional financial situation and the economy was doing well everywhere, the Liberal government was taking us deeper and deeper into debt, to levels we never thought possible at the time. The Conservatives repeatedly warned the government that Canada would be in dire straits once the crisis arrived. However, the Liberals continued to govern in the same way, even during the crisis. They act as though there is no problem, because it is not their money. My colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska just listed all the consequences this will have.
    We did not achieve the results we expected considering the amount of money invested. When we supported the government in its plans to help Canadians, we hoped that the money would go to the right people. Unfortunately, Canadians saw their incomes increase by 17% in the midst of a pandemic because the government distributed its assistance too broadly, rather than specifically helping those who really needed it.

[English]

    The government is and has been working on the issue. Negotiations are currently under way. Even some of my NDP friends have acknowledged that up front. I suspect that is the reason we are having this discussion now. The Conservatives see what the government has been working on and quite possibly are trying to get a little ahead of what we are doing.
    When we listen to either the Prime Minister or the minister responsible, there is no doubt what we are talking about with respect to further support for taxpayers. We have made three things a priority: refunding Canadians for cancelled flights; retaining and reinstating regional routes in Canada; and, the most important one for me personally, protecting jobs across the air sector. All of these are in negotiations right now. We know what the priority of the Government of Canada is. Therefore, I am not surprised the Conservatives chose to bring the motion forward today, recognizing, at least in part, some of the things we are doing.
     I cannot support the motion for a number of different reasons.
    We have recognized from day one how important this industry is to our country. Those regional airports and our airlines are absolutely critical to our future economic prosperity. That is one of the reasons why we have invested so much energy and resources.
    I listened to the mover of the motion, the Conservative finance critic. The Conservatives are very good at spin. They like to give false information. For example, the Conservative finance critic said, and this is a direct quote from him earlier today when he moved the motion, “The Liberal government has been promising support for Canada's airline industry for over a year and still nothing. Today Canada is the only G7 country that has not supported its airlines.”
     We know the critic for finance is wrong. It is wrong for him to make that sort of a statement. The reality is that we have invested about $1.8 billion toward the Canada emergency wage subsidy for the airline industry, not to mention the over $1 billion in support for airports and smaller airlines in the fall economic statement.
    The Conservative finance critic then went on to say that the charitable sector had been all but abandoned “unless one's name is Kielburger”, who leads the WE Charity, because Liberal insiders and friends of the Prime Minister had a direct line to the Prime Minister's Office. What a bunch of crap. That is not true. Once again, the Conservatives are trying to give misinformation to Canadians. Two things I have noticed over the last while with the Conservatives are that they are a destructive force on the floor of the House of Commons by continuously filibustering and not letting important legislation pass. They continue to give misinformation on the charitable sector.
    Members should think about this. Canadian charities and non-profits have been playing a critical role during the pandemic and have done a phenomenal job. They should be applauded for their efforts. Canadian charities have been listened to, with $350 million available through the emergency community support program; $7.5 million for Kids Help Phone to help provide young people support for mental health; $9 million through United Way Canada, which assisted seniors and others with the 211 phone line; $100 million to food banks to improve access to food for Canadians who are facing social, economic and health impacts. Actions speak louder than words.
    The member for Kildonan—St. Paul, who is the workforce development critic, tweeted that time was running out for Canadians with expiring EI benefits. Yesterday was a good opportunity to pass Bill C-24, to send it to the committee stage at least.

  (1355)  

    We know the Conservatives, as they did yesterday, will want to continue to filibuster as much as possible. In the last number of months, the Conservative Party consistently has played partisan party politics over what most, if not all, Canadians want us to be focused on, and that is the pandemic. We have seen tangible examples of that.
     I am challenging my Conservatives friends to reflect on some of the things they are preventing from happening. They should think about the debates and the filibusters that take place. The Conservatives say that they support actions to combat the pandemic, but that is just not true. I will expand on how they are filibustering and denying Canadians the types of benefits we are trying to—

  (1400)  

    I am going to interrupt the parliamentary secretary there. We are going to get on with Statements by Members. The hon. parliamentary secretary will have four minutes remaining in his time when the House next gets back to debate on the question and the usual five minutes for questions and comments.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Long-term Care

    Mr. Speaker, COVID-19 has shone a light on how we as a society treat our seniors. We saw and heard horror stories of seniors left alone with no food or water and not being able to see their families.
     My constituents of Don Valley East are demanding that the federal government take a leadership role in developing national standards for long-term care. Seniors have contributed tremendously to building our great country and it is important that we as a society look after them.
     I ask all members to work together to develop national standards for long-term care facilities. This can be done in consultation with seniors organizations and adopting best practices from those provinces that have avoided such crises as well as ensuring front-line workers get paid a decent wage.

David Schindler

    Mr. Speaker, Canada has lost a passionate and tireless advocate for our most vital resource, fresh water.
     Dr. David Schindler was not only a world-renowned limnologist who, in 1991, won the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize, he was responsible for fundamental shifts in North American environmental policy through his pioneering field work, most famously at the Experimental Lakes Area, which he co-founded.
    Dr. Schindler was in many ways a public intellectual. He made ecology accessible in the manner of Rachel Carson. His research sounded the alarm on acid rain and led to the banning of high-phospohrous laundry detergent. Dr. Schindler's work on the impacts of the oil sands on the Athabasca River watershed inspired a study by the House of Commons environment committee on the issue and led to changes in the way water quality is monitored in the watershed.
    I ask members to join me in offering our deepest condolences to Dr. Schindler's wife Suzanne, daughters Eva and Rachel, and son Daniel.

Alfie Fromager

    Mr. Speaker, today I pay tribute to a country music icon, the great Alfie Fromager.
     Alfie started his music career at the age of 12 on 560 CFOS. It was at the Owen Sound centennial in 1957 with his late brother Neil when his music career really took off and by 1967 Fromager took over as the host on TV's CKVR Make Mine Country that featured artists like Stompin' Tom Connors and Carroll Baker. In fact, Alfie was the first person to put Stompin' Tom on television.
     Alfie opened for many famous country music entertainers over his career, including Hank Snow and Johnny Cash. Local musician Arnie Clark describes Alfie as a big, lovable music pioneer who was everyone's friend. He loved to joke, was down to earth and cared about people more than being famous.
     Fromager was one of the first inductees into the Bruce Grey Music Hall of Fame in 2015. Former MPP Bill Murdoch told me this morning that “Alfie was a generous easygoing guy to get along with who just loved to entertain. In fact, during one show after his induction it was a challenge to get him off of the stage.”
     Though a music icon, Alfie was first and foremost a family man who loved his wife Gladys. To Gladys and the family, I give the deepest condolences.
    Alfie will be missed by many. May he rest in peace.

Panino Cappuccino

    Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate Panino Cappuccino, a Humber River—Black Creek institution, for being awarded Top Choice for the best Italian restaurant in Toronto in 2021. Anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting Panino Cappuccino for lunch or dinner knows that this prestigious award is thoroughly deserved.
     This family business has been a staple in the community for over a decade and it brings me so much joy to see their hard work and dedication be rewarded with this tremendous award. At a time when small businesses, especially restaurants, are hurting, I want to encourage all of us to patronize small businesses, such as Panino Cappuccino, so they can continue to serve our communities long after this pandemic has gone away.
    I congratulate the team at Panino Cappuccino. I cannot wait to be back.

  (1405)  

[Translation]

Luc Cordeau

    Mr. Speaker, today I would like to pay tribute to Luc Cordeau, who was devoted to preserving and enhancing the heritage and traditions of Saint-Hyacinthe. He passed away on February 23.
    Born in Saint-Pie in 1959, Luc Cordeau was involved with the regional historical society for 36 years and served as archivist and executive director of the Centre d'histoire de Sainte-Hyacinthe.
    His family describe him as a living library and meticulous perfectionist who never overlooked the slightest detail and valued hard evidence over gossip. Once he got going on the subject of history, it was hard to stop him.
    Shortly before his death, Luc Cordeau said, “I am extremely passionate about researching our local and regional history. I love it when my research turns up people whose names have been forgotten but who did a lot for their communities.”
    The people of Sainte-Hyacinthe will never forget his name.
    Thank you, Luc Cordeau.

[English]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, the dream of home ownership, once achievable for most Canadians, is drifting out of reach for our middle class, especially young parents. House prices are simply quite divorced from reality. This should not be a surprise. Millennials have known this for years, but it was a shock to CMHC, which last June was warning of a 9% to 18% decline in house prices. Instead, prices jumped more than 17% nationwide.
    Why are prices so high during the worst economic crisis in a decade? There are a number of factors, but chief among them is the Bank of Canada's use of quantitative easing with the Government of Canada. Printing money to buy debt has reduced mortgage rates and drastically inflated home prices in the interim.
    When will the government get a handle on our nation's finances, publish a budget and make some sort of meaningful effort to support the ability of millennials to purchase a home? What are we doing to secure their futures? Do we want an entire generation of Canadians living in basement suites?

[Translation]

Francophonie Month

    Mr. Speaker, March is Francophonie month, and I encourage all francophones and francophiles to celebrate our language, our culture and our heritage.
    We cannot forget the sacrifices our parents and grandparents made to protect our language, so we need to keep our traditions alive and pass them on to our children.
    My aunt Florence Serré has written a new book called Mon terroir à nous, which is a tribute to the history of the francophone families and her childhood between 1940 and 1960 in the village of Desaulniers, near Sturgeon Falls, Ontario.
    On March 27, Collège Boréal is hosting the 48th La Nuit sur l'étang via Zoom, bringing together participants and artists from all over. We must never forget our good old stories and folk songs.
    Visit the Franco Ontariens du Nord de l'Ontario and the West Nipissing Facebook groups to help protect the French language.
    Let us all be proud of our heritage.

[English]

Trucking Industry

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to recognize the important contributions that truck drivers across Canada have made to our pandemic recovery efforts.
    Over the past year, truckers have ensured that our nation’s supply chain continues to deliver the essentials we all rely on. Last week I met virtually with the United Truckers Association, an organization that represents over 1,100 independent operators in B.C. Hearing about the precautions their members are taking to maintain safe working conditions and the various pandemic challenges they have had to face was truly inspiring.
    I encourage all members to join me in showing appreciation for truck drivers from coast to coast to coast.

[Translation]

Lawrence Cotton

    Mr. Speaker, today, I want to pay tribute to Lawrence Cotton, a pillar of my community of Brome—Missisquoi.

[English]

    After a long and distinguished career in the Canadian Armed Forces, Lawrence became a volunteer for his local chapter of the Knights of Columbus. He later became its grand knight through his tireless work in the community.

[Translation]

    Lawrence's colleagues greatly admire him. They describe him as a man with an indomitable spirit who is not afraid to roll up his sleeves to help the people in our community.
    For example, every year, Lawrence recruits volunteers and distributes Christmas hampers to those in need. Lawrence is also involved in politics in my region and campaigns tirelessly for the rights of our veterans.
    I sincerely thank this man who makes a real difference in the lives of residents of Brome—Missisquoi, particularly during the pandemic.

  (1410)  

[English]

    From everybody in our community and from the bottom of my heart, we thank Lawrence for his hard work and sacrifice.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, Liberals claim to care about public safety, but they do not. With the PM gunning for an election, he is desperate to cover up his many failures on COVID and everything else, so he returns to the old Liberal playbook and flips to the page on targeting law-abiding firearms owners. Voila: Bill C-21 was born.
    Canadians are not fools, though, and Liberal hypocrisy shone through when they introduced only a few days later Bill C-22, which lessens penalties for the real criminals who commit crimes with the real problem: illegal guns. Liberals are playing politics, and Canadians are paying the price. With last year's OIC and Bill C-21 and Bill C-22, Liberals have shown that they do not actually care about public safety, nor are they willing to get tough on crime.
    Canadians deserve better, and Conservatives are ready to respect responsible firearms owners' rights and deal with the real problem: smuggled guns and gangs.

Awards to Women and Girls in Orleans

    Mr. Speaker, this past Friday, I had the privilege to present the 2021 Orleans leading women and girls recognition awards to honour the exceptional contributions of 35 women leaders and community volunteers in Orleans.
    Their hard work, passion and dedication have had a tremendous impact on our community, and they have been outstanding role models for women and girls in Orleans and beyond. As part of an annual tradition to mark International Women’s Day, we held a virtual breakfast with more than 80 participants to present these awards and exchange experiences of service and leadership.

[Translation]

    I was inspired by their story, their strength and their enthusiasm for making a difference in our community. I want to thank all of these women and girls, these leaders in Orléans, for their hard work and perseverance, as well as all women who are trying to make the world a more equal and inclusive place.

[English]

Airline Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government has completely ignored the aviation sector, allowing for tens of thousands of jobs to be lost with still no end in sight. With the lack of service to over a dozen airports and the loss of countless regional routes, our vast country is no longer as connected as it once was. Travelling to see loved ones or even for essential business now requires multiple layovers in addition to a lengthy drive.
    Recovery will not be instant, and any supposed support from the government is coming far too late. Canada's airlines will not be able to compete internationally with the many carriers that received assistance back in May or June of last year, and the result will be a further loss of market share and unaffordable fares for Canadians.
    For a year now, the government has failed in its response to the pandemic, neglecting support to vital sectors and turning its back on Canadian workers. With its record of failure, neglect and incompetence, why should Canadians trust—
    The hon. member for Brantford—Brant.

Walter Gretzky

    Mr. Speaker, Walter Gretzky, a national treasure, left us last Thursday to be with his beloved wife Phyllis in heaven. His life was pure authenticity. Gratefulness and humility were his strengths. He touched the lives of millions, cheering on everyone equally. He was the world's greatest hockey dad and one of the greatest patriots of our time. Born of European immigrants in Canning, Ontario, his life was not easy and was full of adversity.
    To Wayne, Kim, Keith, Brent, Glen and his grandchildren, the nation mourns with them and celebrates his life with them.
    He would often say Brantford is the centre of the universe. If someone was in his company, he would lean over and quietly say in the person's ear, “You are the best.” We can debate the centre of the universe, but there is no debate about who was the best: Walter Gretzky was and will remain the best of the best of the best.
    Rest in peace, my friend.

  (1415)  

Conversion Therapy

    Mr. Speaker, the government is dragging its feet on banning conversion therapy. The justice committee completed its study of Bill C-6 last December, yet we still have not seen it come back to the House for a final debate and vote.
    While I am confident a ban on conversion therapy will eventually pass, this will be only the first step. We heard clearly that there needs to be systematic support for survivors of conversion therapy and support for those who are still faced with misguided and harmful attempts to get them to change their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
    One tool the federal government should use to combat these homophobic and transphobic attitudes is to set public health standards for comprehensive sex education, sex education which, at its core, affirms and celebrates the sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression of all Canadians.
    If we adopt standards for sex education that are affirming, comprehensive and in accord with our international human rights obligations, then we have a chance to stamp out not only conversion therapy but also the attitudes that cause it.

[Translation]

Taiga Motors

    Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate Taiga Motors on their success. This Quebec company is bringing out the first ever electric snowmobiles and personal watercraft this year. Taiga Motors is aiming to be the Tesla of off-road vehicles and is projected to sell no less than 76,000 vehicles by 2025.
    Congratulations to the three founders, Samuel Bruneau, Gabriel Bernatchez and Paul Achard, whose company will be going public next month with products designed, developed and built in Quebec.
    What could be more quintessentially Quebec than using electric recreational vehicles to explore our massive territory and countless lakes? Taiga Motors perfectly captures the vision of economic development that the Bloc Québécois is working hard to advance in Ottawa. Focusing on green technologies to invent innovative and environmentally friendly products is our future. It is high time Ottawa realized that green initiatives are happening in Quebec and that we need to invest in ambitious new companies like Taiga Motors.

[English]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, firearms owners in my riding and across the country are deeply concerned about the Liberals' misguided gun confiscation scheme. This latest attack on lawful gun owners is just another way the Liberals are proving to be out of touch with rural and northern Canada. This plan will be costly to the Canadian government, it will create more hoops for hunters and sports shooters to jump through and it will do nothing to combat illegal activity. What is worse is that the Liberals also teamed up with the New Democrats to defeat a common sense Conservative proposal aiming to impose tougher penalties on those found in possession of smuggled firearms.
    It is clear that only Canada's Conservatives will stand up for law-abiding firearms owners, and we will continue to be a voice for the rural and northern regions of the country that have been left behind by this government.

Laadliyan

    Mr. Speaker, in honour of International Women's Day, I would like to highlight the incredible work of Laadliyan, a not-for-profit organization in Brampton.
    Since 2013, founder and executive director Manvir Bhangu and her team have created a space dedicated to empowering and celebrating women and young girls through education, mentorship and awareness. The mentorship helps provide young female students to connect with professionals in their desired field. Laadliyan also creates feminine care packages for women in need while helping to eliminate the stigma surrounding women's health. Laadliyan challenges the negative impacts surrounding son preference and helps to educate communities on how they can eliminate the boundaries of inequality against women.
    This is the kind of selfless, behind-the-scenes work that shapes our society into a more compassionate, equitable and opportune place for everyone. As a proud father of two strong daughters, I am grateful for the work that Laadliyan has done and continues to do.
    Congratulations to everyone at Laadliyan for their positive and inspirational work.

Oral Questions

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, we are two months from Michigan's May 12 deadline for Line 5. Government officials said it was their preference to have Enbridge fight for Line 5 before they had to get involved. The minister even said the government did not have a formal analysis of how many jobs were at risk.
    What is it going to take for the government to stand up for Line 5?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, our government is standing up for Line 5. We know that it is a vital source of fuel for homes and businesses on both sides of the border. We support its continued safe operation and we are advocating for that. We are explaining, as we did during the NAFTA negotiations, that Canada is a safe and reliable supplier of energy to the United States.
    Mr. Speaker, it is more than just fuel; it is thousands of jobs in Ontario. The Deputy Prime Minister forgets about jobs in southwestern Ontario. Canada's ambassador to the U.S. said that discussions have broken down between Enbridge and the Government of Michigan, but the government's plan still seems to be to let Enbridge stand up for the jobs of Canadians while it sits on the sidelines.
    How much longer will the thousands of Canadian workers the Deputy Prime Minister just forgot about have to wait before they have someone standing up for their jobs?
    Mr. Speaker, as our government demonstrated during the NAFTA negotiations, and as we demonstrate every day during the COVID pandemic with our support for Canadian workers and Canadian jobs, we will never forget about Canadian workers. We will never forget about Canadian jobs, whether they are in southwestern Ontario or anywhere else in the country.
    Line 5 continues to operate and supply refineries in Canada and the United States, and we are going to continue to fight for Line 5.

Small Business

    Mr. Speaker, speaking of thousands more forgotten by the government, 58,000 small businesses have closed due to COVID-19. Only half of the small businesses in the entire country are fully open and less than 40% have full staffing levels. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the Liberals have no real plan for their futures.
    As main streets across Canada go dark, when are Canadians going to get a real plan to save small business?
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives need to pick a lane. Last spring, when asked about what support the government should offer Canadians, the member for Carleton said: “You might want to address [COVID-19] with big, fat government programs. We're Conservatives, so we don't believe in that.” However, today the Conservatives are calling for support measures that our government actually created last year.
    The Conservative leader cannot seem to decide what he believes in and seems ready to say anything to score cheap political points. We believe in supporting Canadian workers and Canadian businesses, and we are going to keep on doing that.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the last time the Liberal government tabled a budget was in March 2019, meaning it has gone two years without a budget and has continued to spend money with no plan and no oversight.
    When will the Prime Minister come up with a plan for our spending and for an economic recovery in every sector and every region?
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives need to pick a lane.
    Last spring, when asked what type of support the government should be providing to Canadians, the hon. member for Carleton said: “You might want to address [COVID-19] with big, fat government programs. We're Conservatives, so we don't believe in that.”
    Our government understands that we must support businesses and workers. It is time for the Conservatives to explain what they believe in.
     Mr. Speaker, nearly 60,000 small and medium-sized businesses have closed because of COVID-19. Only half of our small businesses are fully open, and more than 60% have let employees go. Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our economy. They are in crisis, and they need a plan for the future.
    Where is that plan?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the leader of the official opposition for that question because it gives me an opportunity to point out the Conservatives' cynicism and hypocrisy.
    Yesterday, they voted against a bill that would support urgent financial assistance for small businesses. Today, however, they claim they support small businesses. Their actions belie that claim.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, since the mandatory hotel quarantine went into effect, there has been a drop in the number of travellers returning by air. Oddly, at the same time, there has been a rise in people arriving at land borders.
    That is because everyone has realized that it is possible to get around the rules. People fly to Burlington, take a bus or their car, cross the border, save $2,000 and return home without being subject to the mandatory quarantine. That is outrageous.
    Why not apply the same rules to all non-essential travellers?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.
    Canada has one of the strictest border control systems in the world. It is necessary. It is the right thing to do because we understand that we must protect Canadians against COVID-19. Furthermore, we have also protected essential trade between Canada and the United States. That is also important. We should all be proud of these two essential steps we have taken.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister did not answer my question, but that is okay, I will try again.
    By creating two sets of rules, one for air travellers and another for land travellers, the government is only taking business away from airports. The fact that hotel quarantines can be avoided by crossing land borders is so widely known that some companies are even openly offering this particular service to non-essential travellers. Circumventing the rules has literally become a commercialized service.
    Does the government at least realize what a laughingstock it has become?
     Mr. Speaker, Canada's travel and border measures are among the strictest in the world.
    With the new variants, we know that we need to take additional measures to protect Canadians against COVID-19. That is what we did.
    Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have made it quite clear that no one should be travelling because that could endanger the traveller and those close to them.

Small Business

    Mr. Speaker, small businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic. They worry that they will have to close their doors.
    The Liberal government gave $750 billion to help and support the big banks, but there is no plan to help small businesses. Limiting credit card fees could help small businesses. Will the Prime Minister limit credit card fees to help small businesses?
    Mr. Speaker, I must say that I agree with the hon. member and leader of the NDP that it is very important to help small and medium-sized businesses. That is what our government is doing.
    That is why we urgently need to adopt Bill C-14. I want to thank all hon. members who joined us and supported this urgent and important bill.
    Credit card fees are also an important issue and we are looking into it.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, last week I spent time with small businesses in B.C. They are worried and afraid that they will have to shut down their businesses and never open again.
    We saw the Liberal government move very quickly early in the pandemic to give nearly $750 billion of support to big banks, but there is no clear plan specifically for small business. A limit on credit card fees would help small businesses. They have said so.
    Will the Prime Minister cap credit card fees at 1% to help small businesses in this difficult time?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, let me start by saying that our government agrees with the leader of the NDP that it is absolutely essential to support small businesses. That is why I would like to call on all members of the House to join us in supporting Bill C-14. Small businesses need it.
    Let me say that we are here for small businesses, and let me point to just one program, the CEBA. Over 842,000 small businesses across the country have received CEBA loans as of March 4. Credit card fees are another important issue that we are looking at closely.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, Dr. Richard Audas, a health statistician and economist at Memorial University, has published a COVID misery index, and the results for Canada are, well, miserable. In fact, Canada ranks 11th because of the government's poor performance on the health and economic side.
    With the worst deficit, the worst unemployment and the worst vaccination rates in the G7, why is the government so miserable?
    Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak for the misery on the other side of the House, but let me just say that on our side of the House, we are so grateful to Canadians for their hard work and resilience. Thanks to that hard work and the strong support from our government, let me share the great news with the House that in the fourth quarter of last year, our GDP grew by nearly 10%. That is higher than that of the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany or Italy. Well done team Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, there are excellent grades for Canadians but terrible grades for the government. In the last quarter of the year, the Liberals had far more ground to make up because our economic downfall was far greater. In fact, after all the quarters are done, Canada still has the highest unemployment in the G7, which the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister have long said is the best measurement to determine the job market.
    Now an independent scientific study shows that Canada has the highest COVID misery index out of 11 countries. We rank 11th out of 15, even worse than the United States. Why such miserable results?
    Mr. Speaker, let me urge the member opposite to take a closer look at the international data. Canada has a higher labour force participation rate, at 64.3%, which is a higher rate than Germany, the U.S. and Japan. Canada has recovered 71% of the jobs lost in the wake of the pandemic. That compares with just 56% in the U.S.
    Again, let me thank hard-working Canadian small businesses and hard-working Canadians. They are so resilient, and our government will be here to support them for as long as it takes.
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, it was reported that the minister will not be tabling a federal budget this month. For over 700 days Canadians have been left without a plan for our economy. Canada is suffering from the worst unemployment in the G7 after spending the most among the major advanced economies.
    Tourism, hospitality, charities and thousands of other small businesses are calling out for help. Is the minister listening? When will she finally table a budget for all to see?
    Mr. Speaker, our government is definitely listening to Canadians, and I would like to thank the Canadians who submitted 58,000 written submissions in our pre-budget consultations. I would like to take this opportunity to ask the Conservatives whether they are listening to small business and whether they heard Dan Kelly, who said, “Bill C-14 has some important measures for small business.... CFIB urges all parties to ensure this support is passed quickly”.
    Let me echo Mr. Kelly and urge the Conservatives to stop playing partisan games and support small business with a vote.
    Mr. Speaker, that is really cute because I have met with Mr. Kelly three times in the last month. It is utterly irresponsible for the Liberal government to go two full years without tabling a budget for Canadians to see. That is the longest period in Canadian history without an economic plan. Without a plan, we cannot reopen our economy, cannot get Canadians back to work and cannot help the hardest hit businesses to survive.
    It has been two years. What is the date for the budget, or is the minister even listening?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, we are definitely listening. I am so grateful to the Canadians who have participated with such enthusiasm in our pre-budget consultations. We have received more than 58,000 written submissions. We are working hard with Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
    Let me just say that our priority today is to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to support Canadian workers and Canadian businesses, so let us get Bill C-14 passed so that we can do that.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the president of Pfizer said that the company does not support the Liberals' decision to move the time between the doses of their COVID-19 vaccine from three weeks to four months, and Canada's chief science officer essentially said that the Liberals' decision to do so was unethical. Today, Global News is reporting that numerous Canadian medical experts have penned an open letter to the Liberals with grave concerns about the decision to delay the dose.
    Why are the Liberals advising a four-month interval between Pfizer vaccine doses when no one else is?
    Mr. Speaker, now that we have safe and effective vaccines in Canada, we need to vaccinate as many Canadians as possible. In order to maximize the number of people gaining some resistance to COVID-19, NACI, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, has recommended that second doses can safely be delayed by up to four months.
    We will continue working with the provinces and territories to ensure that communities are protected, and we will still follow science and evidence.
    Mr. Speaker, the problem is that there is actually no science or evidence to support this decision.
    The parliamentary secretary's response gets to the heart of the matter. If we had more vaccine doses and if the Liberals had been on top of getting these vaccines delivered to Canadians, they would not be recommending this extreme measure that no other country in the world is taking.
    Is he basically admitting that at this point, the Liberals are making vaccine decisions based on politics to cover for the fact they have put Canada in the worst position in the G7 for vaccine distribution?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to start by mentioning that NACI is an independent organization, and I also want to go on to say that we are receiving eight million doses of vaccine this quarter alone, 36.5 million in the next quarter and prior to the end of September, 118 million vaccines, so that all Canadians will have access to a vaccine before the end of the summer.
    We have a plan. It is called a diversified portfolio vaccine plan and it is working for Canadians.

[Translation]

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, it costs a lot of money to exclude Quebec from shipbuilding. The cost overruns on the federal contract for surface combatants exclusively awarded to Irving, in Nova Scotia, now total $51 billion. The shipyard will not deliver a single vessel before 2030.
    At the same time, the Auditor General of Canada confirms, in her most recent report, that the same is happening in British Columbia, where Seaspan is years behind in all its contracts. No one is delivering, except Davie.
    Why not just award Davie its fair share of the building contracts?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I also thank the Parliamentary Budget Officer for his report.
    As part of our defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, our government undertook to build 15 surface combatants that are fully funded. We are contributing $1.54 billion a year to the economy. We will be prudent and adapt to the strategy. Davie is a fantastic partner. We are working with companies across the country, in Quebec and everywhere.

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, the government left one partner out of shipbuilding but not out of the refurbishing.
    The shipbuilding strategy is a disaster because the federal government is doing everything it can to exclude Quebec. Ottawa is set to award a contract for a polar icebreaker and it refuses to award the contract to Davie, even though Irving is decades behind and $51 billion over budget, and even though Seaspan's contract was withdrawn because the shipyard was unable to move forward. The Liberals are doing everything they can to exclude Quebec, even when it is the only remaining option.
    When will the polar icebreaker contract be—
    The hon. minister.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
    All Canadian shipyards responded to the request for information that concluded on May 13, 2020. The responses received and the information gathered in the process will enable the Government of Canada to determine how best to proceed. No decisions have been made.
    We are still working with all of the shipyards, including Davie.

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and his department, the Privy Council, could not care less about French. To date, the PMO has received nearly 8,000 pages of documents related to the urgent situation caused by the pandemic, including contracts between the government and pharmaceutical companies, but it is refusing to disclose them on the pretext that they are not available in both official languages. The Prime Minister is hiding important information from Canadians.
    What is he waiting for? When will he provide us these documents in French?
    Mr. Speaker, as requested in the motion, we sent the documents to the law clerk in the language in which they were written. We also gave the law clerk all of the necessary support through the Board of Internal Economy. We all knew that this would take time. The committee requested a huge amount of information. The government is responding as quickly as possible and the documents will be sent as quickly as possible.
    My colleague is well aware that the two official languages are a top priority for the government.
    Mr. Speaker, when I order a piece of furniture from the Swedish company IKEA, I get the box and an instruction manual written in, as one might guess, French. However, official government documents about the management of the pandemic are not available in French. The Prime Minister prides himself on saying he defends francophones' rights, but he cannot even fix problems in his own department.
    When will he stop talking, take action, and do what needs to be done to ensure that all documents are available in both official languages, French and English?
    Mr. Speaker, if they cared so much about respect for official languages, they would have called for that in their motion, which the government opposed. In their motion, they asked for all documents to be sent directly to the law clerk. They made the law clerk responsible for translation. Nowhere in the motion does it say anything about official languages. That was what they asked for, thus proving that, unlike the government, respect for official languages does not matter to them.

[English]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, when speaking last week at the defence committee on the 2018 allegations of sexual misconduct by General Vance, former ombudsman Gary Walbourne said, “The only thing I ever wanted the minister to do was his job”. However, rather than doing his job, the minister hid from the evidence.
    It is clear that the minister misled the defence committee since he knew about this three years ago, and now official government memos confirm Mr. Walbourne's story. How can the brave women and men in uniform trust a minister who turned his back on them?
    Mr. Speaker, I completely disagree with the member's assertions, and I disagree with the testimony that Mr. Walbourne provided at committee. I look forward to testifying at committee again. In fact, I welcome it.

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence refused the evidence of sexual misconduct offered by the former military ombudsman. Then he hid behind the non-existent investigation by PCO. Instead of doing his duty and convening a board of inquiry into General Vance, he did absolutely nothing. Yesterday, the minister said he used his police skills to tackle the problem. What kind of police officer and what kind of defence minister runs and hides from evidence of sexual misconduct?
    Mr. Speaker, maybe the member himself, as a politician, wants to conduct an investigation, but I want to make a really big assertion here. No politician should ever be part of conducting any type of investigation. The immediate allegations were reported to the appropriate authorities. In this case, it was the Privy Council Office, which was in charge of Governor in Council appointments, and it followed up with Mr. Walbourne immediately.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, the throne speech said that one of the greatest tragedies of this pandemic is the lives lost in long-term care homes, lives like the brother of my constituent, Louise.
    Last May, he died alone in a facility owned by Revera. Before his death, his meals were served in styrofoam containers and he was denied contact with Revera caregivers. This terrible treatment of a dying man cost $5,000 a month, and if that were not outrageous enough, Revera demanded rent for the two months after his death.
    Revera is part of a Crown corporation. When will the Liberals take the profit out of long-term care?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the very important question. It is so important that we protect those living and working in long-term care. We provided $740 million to provinces and territories to bring in measures to control and prevent infections, including in long-term care. On November 30, we announced an additional $1 billion in the fall economic statement to create the safe long-term care fund.
    We are working closely, and will continue to work closely, with the provinces and territories to protect those in care by providing guidance to prevent and address outbreaks, and work with them to set new national standards.

Correctional Service Canada

    Mr. Speaker, this past month, two men from Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba died while in custody at Stony Mountain federal penitentiary.
    My condolences go out to the loved ones of Dwayne Simard and William Ahmo. We need immediate action to ensure that no more lives will be taken at the hands of this colonial justice system.
    With the support of Chief Henderson, the families and the community are demanding answers. When will the minister provide answers for the families of Dwayne Simard and William Ahmo who died at the hands of this system?
    Mr. Speaker, the care and health and safety of all persons who are in the custody of Correctional Service Canada is a top priority for us. We share in the concern of the community with respect to all who have lost their life in a custodial setting.
    I want to assure the member that Correctional Service Canada works very closely with the local health authorities, and we take every step to keep inmates in correctional facilities safe. Particularly during the pandemic, extraordinary efforts have been successfully made to limit and control outbreaks in our prisons. We have prioritized, on the recommendations of NACI, inmates and corrections workers for priority—
    The hon. member for Newmarket—Aurora.

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, we have had an exciting few weeks in terms of vaccines being authorized for use and those arriving in Canada.
    Could the Minister of Public Services and Procurement please update the House and Canadians on the total number of doses we can expect by the end of this month and the overall success of our vaccine procurement program?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Newmarket—Aurora for his hard work over the past year.
    For nearly a year, our government's top priority has been to assemble the most comprehensive and diverse vaccine portfolio possible, with a goal of 6 million doses of vaccine to be delivered to Canadians by the end of this month.
    Canadians will be pleased to know that we are going to beat that target. By the end of this month, Canadians can expect to see 8 million doses of vaccine delivered throughout Canada, 36.5 million by the end of June and 117 million by the end of September.
    We have a plan. We are following our plan. It is delivering for Canadians.

  (1450)  

[Translation]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, on March 1, 2018, the former ombudsman of the Canadian Forces, Gary Walbourne, met with the Minister of National Defence to inform him of allegations of sexual misconduct involving General Vance. Mr. Walbourne wanted to share evidence with the minister, but the minister refused.
    In response, the minister said that he disagrees with parts of Mr. Walbourne's testimony, without specifying which parts. What is more, he said that he looked forward to providing his version of the facts in committee. Why wait to testify in committee? Why not speak up now?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I stated, I disagree with the testimony by Mr. Walbourne. I look forward to testifying at committee.
     No politician should be in charge of any type of investigation. What needs to be done here, as always, is that information be passed on to the appropriate authorities, as should have been done by Mr. Walbourne. By Mr. Walbourne's own testimony, the PCO followed up with him immediately.
    I look forward to testifying at committee as soon as possible.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals like saying that they are always there for the advancement and protection of women. We have a flagrant case that was brought to the attention of the Minister of National Defence. The defence minister says that some of the former ombudsman's assertions are erroneous.
    Why is the minister unable to tell us here in the House what statements he disagrees with?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I look forward to testifying at committee, but one thing we can agree on is that we do need to do more to make sure that we create an inclusive environment for all in the Canadian Armed Forces, especially when it comes to sexual misconduct.
    We have passed Bill C-77, the declaration of victims rights. We have an independent justice review that is ongoing. We also have an independent panel looking at systemic racism and gender bias. We have a lot more work to do, and we are going to continue with that progress.

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, last spring the federal government faced a PPE shortage and desperately needed to respond to Canada’s demand due to COVID-19. Last month, the Liberal member for Cumberland—Colchester stated on social media that her government had invested $27.9 million to enable Stanfield’s in Truro, Nova Scotia, to manufacture PPE for front-line workers. The fact is that no such investment exists.
    Can the minister elaborate on what the member for Cumberland—Colchester falsely conveyed to Stanfield's and her constituents?
    Mr. Speaker, as a person born and bred in Nova Scotia, I believe in Nova Scotia industry and its hard-working people. I want to also thank the member for Cumberland—Colchester for her hard work and advocacy on behalf of her constituents and all Nova Scotians throughout the pandemic.
    Since day one, our government has focused on efforts on expanding domestic manufacturing of PPE, including investing over $27.9 million in Stanfield's Truro plant. On this side of the House, our government remains focused on helping small businesses that seek to retool to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Mr. Speaker, not a cent went to Stanfield's, but it stepped up and made sure there was domestic production of PPE. It invested in itself and upgraded its facility to participate in making sure Canadians were not caught off guard again. It was assured by the local MP and others that procurement was interested in a more collaborative approach to domestic production of PPE. This also turned out to be false, as no contract was awarded to an Atlantic Canadian company.
    Could the minister tell us why Atlantic Canada was left out of the most recent procurement of PPE?
    Mr. Speaker, domestic manufacturing capacity has been a core element of our government's plan throughout the pandemic, with PPE produced locally being used to protect front-line workers throughout Canada. I find it interesting that the opposition raises this now simply because the facts are that our government has invested over $27.9 million in Stanfield's Truro plant.
    Again, on this side of the House, we are supporting small business. We are supporting Canadians across the country and, indeed, 40% of our PPE contracts by dollar value are with Canadian businesses.

  (1455)  

[Translation]

Pensions

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Bloc Québécois convinced all opposition parties that seniors' pensions must be increased.
    For the first time, the House of Commons voted to demand that the government increase pensions by $110 a month for seniors aged 65 and up. The House recognized that seniors are hit the hardest by the pandemic and that we are indebted to those who built Quebec and Canada.
    Will the government undertake to comply with the demand by the House and increase pensions of those 65 years of age and up starting with the next budget?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to remind my hon. colleague, as I said yesterday, that the Bloc motion failed to recognize the full range of challenges that seniors face and that we have been supporting seniors with direct financial support and enhanced programs. Our government recognizes the pressures on older seniors. As seniors age, their financial security often decreases and their needs increase. That is why our government recognizes this need and will help address it by increasing old age security by 10% for seniors aged 75 and up.
     We have taken significant actions to support seniors, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will always stand with seniors.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the government must stop mixing up one-time support provided during the pandemic and ongoing assistance that seniors have been waiting for since the last election campaign.
    Old age pensions must be increased at age 65, not 75, because we do not have two classes of seniors. People aged 65 and up are just as affected by the pandemic as people aged 75. They are experiencing the same isolation, the same price increases, the same deterioration of mental health. They are also affected by the virus.
    Every opposition party understands what seniors are going through at this time. Will the Liberals finally understand and increase pensions for all seniors 65 and up in the next budget?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I just want to address my hon. colleague's premise. She is also mixing up pandemic relief with future pensions for seniors. I want to identify that older seniors have different needs. They are more likely to outlive their savings. They have disabilities. They are unable to work and may be widowed, and all the while their health care costs are rising.
    Of seniors, 57% are women, four in 10 are widows and 59% have incomes below $30,000. Our plan will help address these pressures by increasing old age security by 10% for seniors age 75 and up. This will be the first permanent increase to the OAS pension since—
    The hon. member for Parry Sound—Muskoka.

COVID-19 Emergency Response

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government took two months to rollout the badly needed HASCAP to businesses in the hardest-hit sectors. As if this long delay was not bad enough, businesses such as Deerhurst Resort in my riding are being denied emergency support funds now that applications are finally open. The government's job is to help those who need help most, those like Deerhurst, their 600 employees and so many other tourism businesses that need help now.
    Will the government actually make HASCAP accessible for the hardest-hit businesses?
    Mr. Speaker, I must be honest, it is hard to take my Conservative colleagues at face value on the importance of helping small businesses considering their weeks' long blockade and vote against Bill C-14, which would provide additional relief for our small business owners. It is hard to take them at face value when they refuse to work through the evening to debate and pass important legislation.
    The member, for example, for Kildonan—St. Paul, the critic for future workforce development, said herself that it was of the essence to pass Bill C-24 very quickly and yet that message has not gotten to the Leader of the Opposition.

Airline Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the aviation sector employs hundreds of my constituents and is a key economic driver. This sector is hemorrhaging, and B.C. residents are concerned that remote communities will lose the airports they rely on to transport people and critical supplies. Canadian airlines need a consistent and transparent recovery framework from the government. They need clarity to plan their offerings and seat sales.
    When will the government scrap its failed mandatory hotel quarantines and implement an evidence-based post-arrival testing regime?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, a strong airline sector is vital for Canada's economy and the well-being of Canadians. I know the hon. member agrees with me that now is not the time for Canadians to travel. However, we know that the airline sector has been hit hard by the pandemic, and we must do whatever we can to help key players remain resilient and strong for the recovery phase.
    This is why our government will invest more than $1 billion to support those key players, such as airports and regional airlines, and we are currently in the midst of discussions with major airlines for a customized aid package.

Women and Gender Equality

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has presided over the largest decline of female workforce employment and has set us back 30 years. There are 500,000 women who remain out of work. In fact, 10 times as many men than women have re-entered the workforce during the pandemic and 100,000 women have stopped looking for work all together because there are no opportunities available to them.
    It has been a year since the pandemic began, yet the Liberal government has failed to provide a plan to Canadian women. Where is the plan for jobs, and where is the plan for economic recovery?
    Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to hear the Conservatives focusing on a central preoccupation of our government, which is the uneven impact of this pandemic on women. That is why I was so delighted to announce yesterday with my colleague, the Associate Minister of Finance, the creation of a task force on women and the economy that will focus on precisely this issue.
    Let me say to the member opposite, if she is sincerely concerned, as I hope and believe she must be, about Canadian women in this pandemic, I hope she will join us in voting for Bill C-14, which provides essential support to small businesses, workers and families.

[Translation]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, for months, the Conservatives have been trying to score political points by claiming that Canada has no vaccination plan and that we are at the back of an imaginary line.
    Our priority on this side of the House is to serve and protect Canadians, not to scare them. That is what real leadership is all about. My constituents in Vimy want the facts, not Conservative talking points.
    Could the minister set the record straight on our plan and on how many vaccines we expect to get in the coming months?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vimy for her question and for her hard work.
    Thanks to our government's aggressive procurement strategy, we have enough vaccines to vaccinate every Canadian who wants to be by the end of September, if not earlier.
    We will be getting a total of eight million vaccines by the end of March, which is two million more than expected.
    Since our agreements came into force, we have managed to move up delivery of about 14 million doses of the approved vaccines during the second quarter.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, “Canada is back” under the Liberals. Yes, Canada is back with deficits, a debt of over $1 trillion and the highest rate of unemployment.
    We just saw it. The Liberals are bragging about what they have done, but they are lagging behind because they dragged their feet on vaccines.
    We, the Conservatives, are proposing a recovery plan to support workers who have been affected by the pandemic and to help businesses.
    When will the Liberals present a real economic recovery plan to get Canada back on track?
    Mr. Speaker, we are talking here about masters of obstruction.
    My colleague said quite seriously that he wants to help Canadians. To help Canadians, we need to pass bills. However, day after day, the Conservatives are filibustering. All they do is obstruct.
    They need to stop playing this game. We need to support Canadians. I am reaching out to the Conservatives and all the parties in the House so that we can pass these bills as quickly as possible. Let us do it for Canadians.

  (1505)  

[English]

COVID-19 Emergency Response

    Mr. Speaker, $1 million is what gets pumped into Vancouver's or Victoria's economy every time a cruise ship stops by on its way up to Alaska, but the government’s outright, year-long ban will kill all of that. Right now Americans, who are miles ahead of us in vaccinating their citizens, are planning a workaround to avoid Canadian ports all together.
    Does the minister recognize the government’s botched vaccine plan could do permanent and serious damage to British Columbia's tourism sector?
    Mr. Speaker, as we have stated before, we remain focused on the health and safety of Canadians. Our government has announced a prohibition of cruise vessels in Canadian waters until February of 2022. With these prohibitions in place, public health authorities will be able to continue focusing on the most pressing issues, including the containment of COVID-19 and its variants.
    We understand the impact this has on the sector. Our top priority is to continue to make decisions that are based on science and data.

Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, our largest ally and trading partner, the United States, is now fully vaccinating its citizens at a rate 10 times faster than that of Canada. Many of those vaccinated are essential workers such as truck drivers.
    During the Prime Minister’s bilateral visit with President Biden, was Canada given any assurances that our unvaccinated truck drivers would continue to be granted entry into the United States?
    Mr. Speaker, it is vitally important for our economy and for Canadians' well-being that we maintain the movement of essential workers between the U.S. and Canada. We have had these discussions with stakeholders, with truck associations and in our bilateral meeting with our partners in the U.S. as well.
    We will continue to be guided by public health advice, and we will continue to have these discussions with truck drivers and other essential workers who are crossing the border.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, this past year we have seen institutions across Canada, including our criminal courts, face new and unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada tabled an important piece of legislation to address many of those issues to help ensure the efficiency of our criminal justice system as we navigate our way through this crisis.
    Could the minister please update the House on this legislation?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore for his tireless advocacy and his profound legal knowledge and wisdom.
    This past year, our government heard from our provincial and territorial partners, who have had to work in creative and innovative ways to better serve our communities. To that effect, we have introduced a package of targeted reforms that will improve the effectiveness and efficiencies of the criminal justice system to ensure its ability to operate in a way that respects public health guidelines. These changes will help to modernize our justice system and better protect the health and safety of its participants far beyond the pandemic.

Marine Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, on April 1, fees and charges for Marine Atlantic ferries to Newfoundland and Labrador will go up yet again. High fees discourage travellers and visitors, increase food prices and the cost of living, and hurt struggling businesses. Tourism and transportation have been hard hit by the pandemic. People and municipalities are deeply concerned.
    In 2015, the Prime Minister called the cost recovery formula used to set Marine Atlantic ferry rates “unreasonable”. This government has done nothing about it, and fees have been going up ever since.
    Will the Prime Minister put an end to this and reverse these unfair increases?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. I want to assure him and all Canadians that my colleagues in our Atlantic caucus have discussed this issue on many occasions. I have been listening to them. I have been hearing about the concerns they are raising with me and I have been reassuring them that we are listening to Canadians. We will examine their concerns and we will do what is best for Canadians.

  (1510)  

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, Mi’kmaq chiefs, the national chief and senators, among others, have strongly condemned the fishery minister's so-called “new path” that unilaterally sets out conditions for a moderate livelihood commercial lobster fishery.
    Why has the minister chosen to diverge from the true path of reconciliation based on rights recognition and co-operation that this government promised and as set out in the 10 principles and UNDRIP?
    Will the minister please respect the preferred means of the Mi’kmaq to exercise their treaty rights, uphold the honour of the Crown and get off this paternalistic path that risks a return to unrest?
    Mr. Speaker, first nations have the Supreme Court-affirmed treaty right to fish, and we have never stopped working to implement that right. This is a new path for first nations to realize their right and will allow them to fish this season.
    Seasons ensure that stocks are harvested sustainably. They are necessary for a predictable and well-managed fishery, and this approach respects the Marshall decision. Marshall II states that moderate livelihood fisheries may be regulated if those regulations can be justified on conservation grounds.
    We will continue to work with first nations to make sure that this treaty right is implemented this year.

[Translation]

Canada-United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement Implementation Act

    Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
    That, notwithstanding any standing or special order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-18, An Act to implement the Agreement on Trade Continuity between Canada and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, be deemed concurred in at the report stage; that the House continue to sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment for the purpose of considering Bill C-18 at third reading; that, when no further member rises to speak or at 12 a.m., whichever is earlier, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith and successively every question necessary to dispose of the said stage of the said bill; that, if a recorded division is requested, it shall stand deferred until the conclusion of Oral Questions tomorrow, Wednesday, March 10, 2021; and that the House shall adjourn to the next sitting day.
    All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.
     I hear none. The House has heard the terms of the motion. Any members opposed to the motion will please say nay.
    Hearing no voices, I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion agreed to)

[English]

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order arising out of question period. The Deputy Prime Minister was responding to a question from the member for Abbotsford and was talking about the need to talk to people like Dan Kelly, who is the head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
    An hon. member: Debate.
    Mr. Mark Gerretsen: This is not debate, and if members want to hear the point of order, perhaps they will respect it.
    The member for Abbotsford said “that is really cute” when responding to her question. I would like to think that he did not mean that comment to be sexist, although I am sure he could appreciate how some people would consider it to be that way, especially given that the issue is whether or not he would have said that to a man. Therefore, through you, I would ask the member if he could please retract that statement.
    Did the hon. member for Abbotsford want to respond?
    Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would be glad to respond. Certainly I did not intend for it to be a slight against the minister in any way. In fact, what I intended to say was “too cute by half”, because I have also met with Dan Kelly on more than one occasion, who made it very clear that some 240,000 small businesses will likely be gone by the time this COVID pandemic is done unless the Liberal government steps up and provides them with the support they need.
     That was the whole point of the response. It is very unfortunate my colleague across the way would actually play with that word and suggest that something was intended that was never intended.

  (1515)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations among the parties, and I believe that if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
     That the House recognizes that there are approximately 136,000 recipients of UK state pensions in Canada;
     That it recognizes the UK government does not provide annual indexed increases to UK pensioners residing in Canada, effectively freezing their pensions at the levels they were at when they first claimed their pensions in Canada;
     That it recognizes Canada provides annual indexed increases to Canadian pensioners who live in the UK;
     That it recognizes UK pensioners living in the USA, Germany, Italy, Barbados, Bermuda, Israel, Jamaica and other countries receive annual indexed increases;
     That it recognizes frozen pensions represent a combined loss of over $500 million per year to the Canadian economy and to Canadian taxpayers, due to three factors: frozen pensions force thousands of UK pensioners in Canada to rely on Canada's social assistance programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the significant loss of CRA tax revenues due to the lower income of 136,000 pensioners, and the loss of sales tax revenues due to the loss of discretionary income;
     That it recognizes frozen UK pensions represent an injustice to both UK pensioners in Canada and to Canadian taxpayers;
     That it recognizes the UK government is currently negotiating new pension indexing agreements with EU countries due to Brexit, and that now is the appropriate time for the UK government to negotiate a pension indexing agreement with Canada;
     That the House believes the government should press the UK government to open negotiations with Canada to remedy this situation as soon as possible and provide annual indexed pension increases to UK pensioners residing in Canada.
    All those opposed to the hon. member's moving of the motion will please say nay.
    It is agreed.
    The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.
    The motion is carried.

    (Motion agreed to)

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to raise a point of order. The member for West Nova seemed to be saying that I was lying to my constituents and has sent out an email or a message to people in Nova Scotia saying so. I would like him to apologize for that, please.
    I want to point out to all the members that the Chair is not in a position to intervene in interactions that happen outside the chamber. I will just leave it at that for now.
    The hon. Minister of Justice is rising on a point of order.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like clarification regarding our dress code. During Oral Questions, the hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis asked a question, although he was not wearing a jacket.
    That is a good point.
    I would like to remind all hon. members that when they are participating in the debate, whether in person or virtually, they must respect the dress code. Male members who wish to speak must be wearing a tie. Male members present in the House must be wearing a jacket.
    I did not notice that the member was not wearing one, and I apologize.
    The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent is also rising on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very proud and delighted to know that the Minister of Justice is paying attention to the debate. I would invite him to join us in the House to advocate even more than from where he is right now.
    I wish to remind hon. members of another thing they cannot do in the House. Members must not make reference to the presence or absence of another member.

[English]

Privilege

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Contents of Bill C-22—Speaker's Ruling  

[Speaker's Ruling]
    I am now ready to rule on the question of privilege raised on February 19 by the member for Fundy Royal concerning the alleged premature disclosure of the contents of Bill C-22, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
    During his intervention, the member said that a CBC article posted online at 8:47 a.m. on February 18 described the details of Bill C-22 although it had not yet been submitted to the House. The member referred to the contents of the article, which he said discussed a number of the measures contained in the bill and boasted about the reliability of its sources. The Chair notes that the article had already been updated by the time the issue was raised. To be clear, with regard to this ruling, the Speaker considered the initial version of the article, which was published at the time of introduction and first reading of the bill.

  (1520)  

[Translation]

     After reviewing a series of precedents on the issue, the member said he also believed that the Minister of Justice's actions were contemptuous and that he had ignored the will of the House.

[English]

    In response, the member for Kingston and the Islands informed the House that the office of the Minister of Justice had not shared the contents of the bill with the CBC journalist before its introduction. The member explained that he believed that the ministers' mandate letters sometimes allowed journalists to deduce the contents of bills on notice. After reviewing the contents of the article in question and comparing it with Bill C-22, the member argued that the article was sometimes inaccurate and even incomplete. In his opinion, the article was written by using a government source who was not familiar with the contents of the bill or by making conjectures based on previous policy statements. Finally, the member for Kingston and the Islands, basing himself on a ruling made on June 8, 2017, said that it is a prima facie case of privilege in such cases when the government admits that the leak occurred, but not when the government does not acknowledge a leak. In this case, the member stated that if the contents of the bill were disclosed prematurely, the government was not responsible.

[Translation]

    As the member for Fundy Royal pointed out during his intervention, it is a recognized principle that the House must be the first to learn the details of new legislative measures. That is why both government bills and private members' bills are confidential from the moment they are put on notice until they are tabled in the House. Speaker Milliken's ruling of March 19, 2001, which the member for Fundy Royal mentioned, provides a good summary of the importance of respecting this rule:
    The convention of the confidentiality of bills on notice is necessary, not only so that members themselves may be well informed, but also because of the pre-eminent rule which the House plays and must play in the legislative affairs of the nation.

[English]

    That being said, when the Chair is called on to determine whether there is a prima facie case of privilege, it must take into consideration the extent to which a member was hampered in performing their parliamentary functions and whether the alleged facts are an offence against the dignity of Parliament.
    In the case before us, an exhaustive review of the intervention by the member for Fundy Royal does not reveal exactly which aspects of Bill C-22 were supposedly shared with CBC for the article in question, nor did the member point out any similarities in language between the article and the bill to demonstrate that precise details of the bill were apparently disclosed to the media in a deliberate and premature fashion. The member for Kingston and the Islands pointed out inaccuracies in the article and differences from the bill.
    When it is determined that there is a prima facie case of privilege, the usual work of the House is immediately set aside in order to debate the question of privilege and decide on the response. Given the serious consequences for proceedings, it is not enough to say that the breach of privilege or contempt may have occurred, nor to cite precedence in the matter while implying that the government is presumably in the habit of acting in this way. The allegations must be clear and convincing for the Chair.

  (1525)  

[Translation]

    As well, I believe it is important to mention that the distinction that the member for Kingston and the Islands wishes to make between questions of privilege that are a prima facie case of privilege and those that are not—simply because the government admits or does not admit that a leak has occurred—is not that clear. While there is indeed a well-established practice that a member must be taken at their word, the fact remains that the government's stating that it is not responsible for the premature disclosure of a bill is not in itself sufficient to convince the Chair. I would add that the source of the information is one factor among others and that it is important first and foremost to determine whether precise details were provided before the House was made aware of them. The Chair must thus take into consideration all the information before it and reach a conclusion based on the facts presented by the members.

[English]

    The two precedents most like the current situation to which the two members referred are those that my immediate predecessor and I rendered with respect to Bill C-14 and Bill C-7 on medical assistance in dying. In these two cases, in light of the facts presented, it was clear that the information had been shared with the media before the bills were tabled in the House. In the case of Bill C-14, the Government offered no competing explanation. In the case of Bill C-7, it was clear that the anonymous source had spoken with the media despite the fact they were well acquainted with our customs and practices in the matter. That is not the case this time with Bill C-22.
    Thus, in this case, in light of what has been presented, the Chair is not convinced that the question of privilege raised by the member for Fundy Royal is a prima facie case of privilege.
    I thank the members for their attention.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Measures to Support Canadian Workers  

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, in the first part of my speech, I talked about how the Conservatives continuously try to spread misinformation. I cited a couple of examples of the airline industry and of charitable groups using specific quotes from the critic for finance. He, and through him the Conservative Party, tries to give Canadians the impression that the government is not there to support small businesses in Canada. Once again, nothing could be further from the truth.
    When we look at the initiatives we have put in place, whether the Canada emergency wage subsidy program, the Canada emergency rent subsidy program, the Emergency Business Account, the credit availability program or relief and recovery funds, the government has been there for small businesses and will continue to be there for small businesses.
    The second problem I have with the Conservatives is frustration with how the Conservative Party continues to play a destructive role inside the House of Commons, on the floor of the chamber, by not allowing things to be done. Talk is cheap. Action is what we want to see.
    I was encouraged when the opposition House leader indicated moments ago that the Conservatives were prepared to pass Bill C-18, which is a trade agreement. That means they support the legislation with no issues and they are going to pass it through. I suspect, as I indicated previously, that the only way to get things passed through the House of Commons is to shame the Conservatives so that they feel so uncomfortable that they feel there is more than an obligation to allow legislation to go through.
    A good example would be the member for Kildonan—St. Paul. She is the critic for workforce development and she tweeted that time was running out for Canadians with expiring EI benefits. That is Bill C-24. It is one of the pieces of legislation that we want to see pass through the House of Commons. If the leader of the Conservative Party would actually listen to some of the members of the Conservative caucus, we might even see that bill pass.
    I would encourage the opposition House leader to take the initiative and look at what that bill is actually saying and proposing to do. Maybe he could consult with his Conservative caucus colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, and recognize how that bill is going to help Canadians. As I indicated, actions speak louder than words when it comes to the Conservative Party.
    On Bill C-14, another bill that ultimately helps small businesses, they have been filibustering, yet today there is a motion on why we are not doing enough to support small businesses. Do we see some irony there? I see a great deal of irony there. From the destructive force better known as the Conservative Party, we have seen that many issues are not being dealt with on the floor of the House of Commons because of the role that they have decided to play. It is politically charged, instead of serving Canadians by fighting the pandemic.

  (1530)  

    Madam Speaker, what struck me about the comments of my friend from Winnipeg North was that after speaking about what he calls misinformation, he proceeded to say that the government has supposedly done such a great job supporting small businesses throughout the course of the pandemic. I know many small business owners, particularly in the tourism and hospitality sectors, who would very much disagree with the member's way of framing the government's response. We know that many people have fallen through the cracks and have not been able to apply for many of these programs.
    I am wondering if the member would agree that many people have been left behind by the government's programs and that he should be working with the opposition to help create a more beneficial COVID response and more business support going forward.
    Madam Speaker, unlike the Conservative Party, since day one this government has been there for small businesses, medium-sized businesses and individual Canadians. Our program development and spending clearly demonstrate this, contrary to the misinformation that we witnessed even today. The Conservative finance critic, for example, said today, “The Liberal government has been promising support for Canada's airline industry for over a year and still nothing.” That is a direct quote from the finance critic of the Conservative Party. That is just not right and it is just not true.
    I would be using unparliamentary words if I were to explain exactly what the critic was saying. That is the reality. There is misinformation coming from the Conservative Party, and it is a destructive force on the floor of the House of Commons day after day.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments.
    Clearly, the Liberals think they have done enough to help small regional businesses. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Many of them do not meet the various program criteria. We know that large-scale programs do not always work. Targeted help is needed. I am thinking about the sugar shacks in my region, because maple syrup season is approaching. These businesses were unable to open their doors.
    What does the Liberal government have to say to them?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, whether it is the Prime Minister, the government as a whole or members of Parliament, no one is saying that programs have been absolutely perfect. We brought in a suite of programs to support small businesses, and from the beginning we have made some modifications. It is one of the reasons follow-up legislation has been brought forward.
    We continue to look at ways to improve and strengthen legislation and put Canada in a good position so that we will be able to build back better. That has always been a priority for this government. First and foremost, we will support Canadians from coast to coast to coast and, second, we will ensure that we are in a position to build back better. Because of the work with the different stakeholders, the government and the civil service, we have been very successful, I would argue, in putting Canada in a great position going forward.

  (1535)  

    Madam Speaker, small businesses are the engine of job creation in Canada. I think we all agree on that. They are an important part of every community across the country. However, while local businesses are struggling, the Liberals are letting big companies like Bell and Imperial Oil take millions in public COVID relief and pay millions in dividends to their shareholders.
    Does the member believe that the big corporations profiting from the pandemic, and profiting in a big way, should be asked to pay their fair share so that we can support the backbone of our communities, which is small businesses?
    Madam Speaker, it is absolutely critical for the Government of Canada to support people, real people, in all regions of our country. We did just that by introducing programs, such as the CERB program. Almost nine million Canadians in every region of our country were recipients of an increase in disposable income because of programming that was put in place by this government, which worked in co-operation with the civil service and other stakeholders. That, to me, is results. The member—
     Resuming debate, the hon. member for Surrey—Newton.
    Madam Speaker, I speak today to oppose this motion, which is yet another display of political grandstanding on the part of opposition members across the way. It is another example of the Conservative Party being completely out of touch with the realities that Canadian citizens and businesses are encountering during the pandemic.
    I would like to begin my remarks by saying that I understand the importance of opposition days in the House of Commons. I recognize that, at the end of the day, every member of the House works on behalf of their constituents to the best of their capabilities. Regardless of what party represents a particular riding, it is important that all constituents have the ability to have their voices, concerns, issues and ideas discussed and debated in the House.
    While I find myself in disagreement with many opposition motions that come forward, I still have great respect for their importance within our democratic system. I recognize the urgency with which this motion was written, and it demonstrate the importance of offering workers, families and business sectors the supports they need during this pandemic. However, I am a little confused because it is such a rare occasion when the opposition endorses the measures the government is undertaking.
     In the case of this motion, the call for such supports looks like little more than an opportunity to remind my colleagues across the way that their call is already being answered by our government. In fact, it has been progressively addressed by the Prime Minister every single day for almost a year now, making me wonder if the opposition has any idea what is going on right now with regard to our country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    As an example, the highly affected sectors credit availability program is open to all sectors mentioned in this motion and offers 100% government-granted financing and low-interest loans of up to $1 million over 10 years. Some of the business owners I have spoken to since the program was introduced are very happy to have this level of financing available in times such as these, when cash flow and available capital are stalled. This comes from the conversations I had consulting with my constituents, a practice I have always considered a fundamental aspect of being a member of Parliament. I can assure my opposition colleagues that if they did something similar with businesses in their own ridings, they would find entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of this program and, in many cases, have credited it with allowing their businesses to continue during the difficult economic climate of the pandemic.
    The same thing applies to a program like the Canada emergency rent subsidy. For reference, as of February 28, over 134,000 organizations have received support totalling $1.81 billion. There is also the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which to date has helped protect more than 5.1 million Canadian jobs.
    The opposition is also undoubtedly aware, or should be if it reads the news, that our government is currently negotiating with Canadian airlines to see what additional supports can be offered to a sector that has been particularly hard hit by this pandemic. This is of course in addition to the over $1.8 billion the airline sector has received through the wage subsidy program, which has directly gone to workers, and the $1 billion that airports and smaller airlines received through last year's fall economic statement.

  (1540)  

    Finally, with regard to the opposition's ill-informed concern for bankruptcies and layoffs, there is the Canada emergency business account. It has provided over 832,000 businesses across Canada with over $34 billion in support, reducing the expenses and freeing up liquidity for small and medium-sized businesses.
     As I mentioned, at best, this is an innocent mistake from an opposition party that did not do its homework before presenting such a motion. However, at worst, which I fear is really the situation here, we have an opposition that is more concerned with playing political games and grandstanding than working collectively to support Canadians and Canadian businesses during the pandemic. This is the crux of why I must vote against the motion.
    Misinformation is always harmful in a functioning democracy like Canada, but this is particularly the case during a global pandemic that we continue to battle our way through. The motion is nothing more than an attempt to deflect from what this government is already doing and, as a result, leads to confusion about what Canadians and businesses can access right now. Instead of doing their jobs and giving accurate information to their constituents to address whatever situations are arising, opposition members are more focused on electoral politics. That is the real story of today's motion, and it is one more reason why the Conservative Party should really do a deep dive into what it is trying to accomplish.
    Every week, we read articles about the disarray in the Conservative Party. We hear about the factions that are still fighting about issues like abortion, which was settled decades ago. We hear about a leader who is confused about which MP he wants to trot out to the media on a particular day. We hear about opposition members who are dissatisfied with the direction of their party and are avowing to take it back. Today's confused and baffling motion is just a by-product of this chaos.
    In closing, I encourage all members of the House to vote against this frivolous, ridiculous stunt and to move forward on more pressing actions that will continue to assist Canadians and Canadian businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    In the beginning of my speech, I forgot to thank my hon. friend from Winnipeg North. I thank him for sharing his time with me and for his great work not only for the constituents of Winnipeg North but for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

  (1545)  

    Madam Speaker, the member seems to be saying that workers for Canadian airlines have never had it so good, that the government has already given all the support they need during this pandemic. I have talked to workers from the airline sector who, lacking 17 or 18 years of seniority, have been laid off and this member has the audacity to ask why they are not happy with the wage subsidy.
    I went through Pearson airport on Sunday evening and there were six flights on the board. The idea that the airline sector has received all of the support it needs from the government and that tens of thousands of workers should just be glad they have been given the wage subsidy, or they should be glad to have been given the CERB or EI when they were laid off, is insulting.
    When will this member realize that they have not given the airline sector and its workers the support they need to continue to serve Canadians during this pandemic?
    Madam Speaker, I did not say that we are trying to ignore members of the airline industry. In fact, for every Canadian, including the people who work in the airline industry, this government has tried to help those affected. We are not perfect.
     Every day, the Prime Minister has received input from members and organizations on the ground. He has come out every day with different efforts to help workers and businesses from coast to coast to coast.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech. At the beginning, he gave the impression that everything was perfect, but he just qualified his remarks. My question picks up on that.
    The government was quick to provide support for the oil industry, which had already received billions of dollars by April 2020. In contrast, nine months later, there are still sectors, such as the tourism, hospitality, arts and major events sectors, that need an assistance plan.
    Does my colleague not agree that some industries need a targeted assistance plan?

  (1550)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, nowhere in my speech did I say we were perfect and have done everything perfectly.
    Every step of the way, when I walk through my riding, I meet people who say that the Canada emergency response benefit has helped them or the Canada emergency business account has helped them. Other people will say that the business account benefited them, or the Canada emergency wage subsidy has helped them, or the Canada emergency rent subsidy has helped them, or the expanded business benefits have helped them.
    The Prime Minister and this government have done everything they can to work with the grassroots, the opposition parties and organizations across Canada to help workers and Canadian companies to make sure that we are able to get through this pandemic.
     That is what I have said. That is what we will continue to do.
     Madam Speaker, while it is interesting to hear the hon. member say that the government has done everything it can do for small businesses, the small business owners in my riding are certainly waiting to hear if the government can do more because many of them are going to have to close their doors permanently.
    One of the things I want to ask very specifically for, and that small business owners have been asking for for a very long time, is a cap on the fees that credit card companies charge them. Today in the House, the NDP leader was calling for a 1% cap on those fees. Why have the Liberals not moved to cap those credit card fees, which are so hard on small business owners during this pandemic?
    Madam Speaker, first of all, I want to thank the hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for all the great work he does for his constituents. The issue that he raised is a genuine one. However, now during the pandemic, when it comes to businesses, whether it is the wage subsidy, the emergency rent subsidy or the Canada business account, all of these have tried to help business owners to make sure—
    The hon. member for Chilliwack—Hope.
    Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place to speak on behalf of the people of Chilliwack—Hope and on behalf of Canadians. We are here today debating a motion put forward by the Conservative party. We are talking about things that we would like to see included in the next federal budget.
    Of course, it has been over two years since the government has deigned to present its financial plan through a budget to Canadians. It is the longest time in Canadian history that we have gone between the presentation of budgets in the House, and that is quite shocking. Yes, we are in a pandemic, but this is a country that has gone through two world wars. We have managed to have budgets presented in the House where the government laid out its plans, priorities and the fiscal situation in the country. We now have a situation where we are over two years, the longest time in Canadian history, where no budget has been presented.
    I would submit to the House, and we heard today from the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, that it is because the Liberal party holds this place in contempt. The way that it has operated over the last year has shown that it does not view what we do here as important, that it views the work of Parliament as a nuisance and that, when we are debating and trying to improve government legislation, we are filibustering, we are standing in the way and not doing what Canadians want us to do. If we look at the record of the government, from day one of this pandemic, it has treated this place with contempt.
    The first bill the Liberals brought forward to deal with a crisis like we had not seen in generations gave Bill Morneau and the Liberal Party power over spending, taxing and all the rest of it. They wanted to strip Parliament of its power for 21 months. That was the initial foray of the government in this pandemic, to strip away the rights of members of Parliament to hold the government to account and to improve legislation that our constituents needed to see pass, but the Liberals knew best. They have known best this entire time. Any time we have raised any concerns, we have been condemned as standing in the way, because they view Parliament as a rubber stamp for the Prime Minister's Office.
    We heard this from the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader when he accused the Conservative Party of filibustering a bill. The bill was introduced yesterday at about 3:15 p.m., debated for about three hours and that was enough time. That is too much time for the Liberal government to have scrutiny placed on its legislation. We are clearly not in it for Canadians, if we are not passing that bill. Why did that bill have to come forward? Because the government messed up the bill that created a loophole that allowed travellers who went to Hawaii to come back and collect $1,000 from the government because they had to quarantine.
     I got so excited at the beginning, Madam Speaker, I forgot to say I will be splitting my time with the member for Oshawa, and I know he has some excellent things that he too would like to say.
    The Liberals brought in Bill C-2 late in September, after they had shut down the House. Members will recall that they shut down Parliament rather than face an ethics and finance committee review of their WE charity scandal. We have learned quite a few things about WE charity as a result of the studies that have happened at committee. The Liberals tried to shut that down. They truly did filibuster that. When they could not shut it down, they padlocked Parliament. They shut this place down for weeks and weeks on end as the deadline came for