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43rd PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • No. 098

CONTENTS

Monday, May 10, 2021




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 150
No. 098
2nd SESSION
43rd PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, May 10, 2021

Speaker: The Honourable Anthony Rota

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayer



Private Members' Business

[Private Members' Business]

  (1100)  

[English]

Fisheries Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to introduce my third private member's bill as the member of Parliament for Regina—Qu'Appelle.
    The environment, like so many issues, is a subject on which the Liberals are all talk and no real substance. This Prime Minister has become world famous for this. In 2015, he ran on a very thin environmental platform. It was just a few paragraphs long with very few details and no modelling or costing, and was, of course, centred around a carbon tax. We now know that the carbon tax is not revenue neutral and is not actually working. Emissions pre-pandemic went up every year the government was in office.
    It is not just on greenhouse gas emissions that the government has failed. The environment goes far beyond climate change. That is why in the last election, the Conservatives ran on a platform that included real action on a whole host of issues, including a very important plank that focused on cleaning up our lakes and rivers.
    What do I mean by that? When it comes to the environment, the very first thing the Prime Minister did after taking office was to grant permission to the City of Montreal to dump billions of litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. The hypocrisy was astounding. The Prime Minister was very successful at portraying himself as someone who was serious about the environment. However, at the very first opportunity, he literally flushed that down the toilet by allowing Montreal, instead of treating that waste water and protecting our precious natural environment, to dump it, untreated and full of all the dangerous substances that were contained within it, into a vital water artery. The current infrastructure minister was the environment minister at the time, and she was directly involved in granting that permission as well. While she was trying to create the illusion that she was some kind of real-life captain planet, she was signing off on one of the biggest dumps of raw sewage in Canadian history.
     That is a bit of background on why I have brought forward this bill today. This is a very simple bill, and I probably do not even need my full 15 minutes today to explain it and to talk about the details of it.
    Under current legislation, there are various regulatory frameworks and laws that protect our water systems and fish habitat. My bill would amend the Fisheries Act to define raw sewage as what is called, under the act, a deleterious substance. Basically, any kind of substance that would harm fish habitats is prohibited from being emitted into our waterways. Given the background I have just gone over, that legislation also empowers the government to grant exemptions to authorize or issue permits, so to speak, to municipalities that need to emit those types of substances into our rivers, lakes and oceans.
    My bill does things. First, it defines raw sewage as a certain type of deleterious substance. Second, it would amend the section that authorizes the government to issue these kinds of permissions and would exclude raw sewage from the list of exemptions. In essence, that means future governments would not be allowed to grant that permission. The bill is basically saying that of all the substances that one municipality or another may seek approval for, untreated waste water would not be allowed to be emitted.
     It is a very simple fix. It is a very short bill, and it is very straightforward. I am hoping I can get all parties to support it, especially members of the Liberal Party in the back benches, who are probably frustrated at their own party's record on the environment.
    We just have to look at a few examples where the Prime Minister has been all talk and no action. Do they remember the famous billion trees promise in the last election? Here we are, over a year and a half from the 2019 election, and not a single tree has been planted. I know that members of Parliament who come from municipalities where towns and cities have been forced, or feel like they have no choice, to emit these types of substances into the waterways are frustrated not only that municipalities are being allowed to do it but that the federal government has not been responding to the infrastructure needs of those communities. That is something else I would like to talk about for a few moments here.

  (1105)  

    I recognize that many towns and cities are dealing with an incredible challenge when it comes to their existing infrastructure needs. This new bill would obviously impose a requirement that municipalities have the capacity to deal with unexpected events, whether it is a weather event that adds a tremendous amount of unexpected water flowing through the system or aging and decaying infrastructure that needs to be replaced. This bill, by preventing future dumps of untreated waste water into our water systems, would impose a burden on municipalities.
    We have done two things with the bill: One thing is in the bill and one is a future commitment. I have written in a five-year coming-into-force date. That means once the bill receives royal assent, towns and cities across the country would have five years to plan, invest and upgrade their water systems. This timeline is long enough that they would have time to do the necessary work, and is short enough that we can take real action on protecting the environment in the here and now, not just punt the ball years and years down the field.
    There is a recent media report indicating that the current environment minister has given a 20-year timeline to municipalities before they even start talking about ending this practice. Of course, a lot of damage can be done to our natural environment in 20 years. That is why the five-year timeline that I have suggested in this bill is much more realistic and effective.
    I probably do not need to go into a tremendous amount of detail as to why this bill is necessary and why it is necessary that we stop the practice of dumping untreated water into our water systems. I could cite numerous studies in which scientists and researchers have studied the impact on fish habitat, the depletion of stocks and the types of dangerous trace elements that have been discovered in fish whose habitat is near where the water is emitted.
    This happens all across Canada; it is not just unique to the city of Montreal. There was a study done in Toronto in 2018 by an advocacy group called Swim Drink Fish. It had this to say about the state of Toronto waste water back in 2018: Regardless of rainfall, “there isn’t a day that we’ve gone to the harbour that we haven’t been able to find some evidence of sewage contamination.” Also, there were instances in Vancouver in 2016 where over 45 million cubic metres of raw sewage was leaked or otherwise dumped into nearby waterways.
    We can all appreciate the importance of protecting our fish habitat. Canadians love our natural environment. It is part of our culture, part of our history and part of our social fabric. Taking all my kids fishing whenever I get the chance is something we really enjoy as a family. My daughters are probably better than I am and my two boys are asking for fishing gear for Christmas and birthdays.
    I am very fortunate to represent the Qu'Appelle lakes in my riding, a wonderful area in the Qu'Appelle Valley, but unfortunately in recent years, incidents in Regina have led to the emission of waste water into the Qu'Appelle system. That has had a negative effect on the water quality in the Qu'Appelle Valley. Some of the best moments I have had with my family have been from taking the them to the Qu'Appelle lakes and going out for the day fishing.
    I do not need to tell members who represent coastal communities how important the fishing industry is economically and culturally for indigenous populations as well. I missed out on having the benefits of being taken salmon fishing in British Columbia. The timing just did not work out, but of course my British Columbia colleagues in the Conservative caucus are passionate advocates for doing more to protect fish habitat and helping the stocks throughout British Columbia grow again. We all know the importance that the salmon fishing industry has recreationally, for tourism and of course commercially.

  (1110)  

    The same is true in literally every corner of the country. The ability to fish for fun, for sport, for food or for our livelihoods is incredibly important for all Canadians in every single province and every single community. It is something the government promised to take action on, but like so many promises during the last election, it has completely failed to do it. That is why this private member's bill is necessary.
    I am proud to have the support of my Conservative colleagues. This is one more concrete example of where Conservatives take real, tangible and achievable action on the environment. If members look back throughout the history of our party, they will see John Diefenbaker's work on establishing parks and the amount of work the previous Conservative government put into the Clean Air Act, which is legislation that put in meaningful reduction targets. We can also look at the Conservative government in the 1980s, under former prime minister Mulroney, and its work on the acid rain issues. In all the work that Conservative governments have done, we take real, practical action on the environment.
    The Liberals say a lot of things during elections, but when they have the opportunity to act, they never seem to do so. That is why this bill is necessary, and I am hoping that all parties will give it quick passage so that it can get to committee and we can take real action on protecting our rivers, lakes and oceans.
    Madam Speaker, I am wondering if the former leader of the Conservative Party has any regrets over Stephen Harper's investments in infrastructure for cleaning up the waterways. This government has done more in five years to invest in infrastructure for cleaner water than Harper did in twice that period of time. Maybe the member could provide some thoughts on that.
    Also, as the member criticizes the Liberals on the environment, maybe the former leader of the Conservative Party can explain why he campaigned, literally and adamantly, against the price on pollution when today we see the new leader with a new position. Can he provide his thoughts on the new leader of the Conservative Party's position on the price on pollution?
    Mr. Speaker, on the first point, the parliamentary secretary could not be more wrong. We have had testimony on this at committee, with the Auditor General just slamming the government's record on infrastructure. The infrastructure department under the Prime Minister has absolutely no ability to track the effectiveness of its own programs. We have heard from mayors across this country that they are being told their projects are not eligible for funding because they do not fit into the narrow boxes that the government has defined. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has been extremely critical as well.
    The most important thing, perhaps, is the fact that the government has lapsed more than $8 billion in infrastructure programs. This means there are municipalities out there that have put in applications and are being told no, or their applications have been sitting on a desk and the money does not get spent.
    A Conservative government would deliver real action on infrastructure and take the important step to ban the—

  (1115)  

    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Repentigny.

[Translation]

     Madam Speaker, everyone knows that water is important, that water is life. However, the bill does not prohibit the dumping of pesticides, petroleum products, chemicals or insecticides.
    How can my colleague tell me that, in order to improve the health of our waterways, we should continue to allow the dumping of these products but prevent the dumping of untreated waste water?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
    Obviously, there are other things in the law that the government could do something about. I decided to focus on one specific issue in this bill.

[English]

    It makes sense to focus on one specific issue, and the government can do things hand in hand. We can ban the practice of dumping untreated waste water, but at the same time, a Conservative government would commit to making the necessary upgrades for municipalities, focusing on the important infrastructure.
    The current government categorizes many things as infrastructure that have never been categorized that way before. Money is not flowing to the much-needed improvements in these types of water systems, and that is why I focused on one particular issue.
    Madam Speaker, I think we can all agree that every community across the country wants to have state-of-the-art waste-water treatment systems. However, they desperately need a federal partner to help them get there.
    The bill has a lot of implications for municipalities, commercial fishers and boaters. What would the member say to the small, rural and remote communities, from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland, that simply cannot afford new waste-water systems, or the commercial fishers who could be punished under the terms of the bill? Can the member commit that the Conservative Party would support filling all the gaps for communities that cannot afford to implement waste-water treatment systems and would support the timing of that?
    Madam Speaker, that is a very important question. Obviously, this will require partnership, but it is important to do. We cannot use the different excuses of the lack of coordination between different governments as an excuse to continue this harmful environmental practice. I would say that absolutely a Conservative government will commit to being that partner at the table.
    We can look at where this government has lapsed money: $8 billion lapsed in the first year of the government's infrastructure program alone; $35 billion to an infrastructure bank that has completed nothing; $250 million to the Asian Infrastructure Bank. The government has put a lot of money out there into infrastructure that is not going to address the needs of Canadians and Canadian municipalities.
    That is what a Conservative government will do. We will be that partner.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to begin with a few questions, especially about Conservatives taking real, practical actions.
    First of all, why now? Why did the Conservatives not propose this in, say, 2012, when they were drafting and gazetting the waste-water systems effluent regulations? Were they guilty of an oversight at that time? Second, why did the member not introduce his private member's bill in 2015, after he was no longer the Speaker? Third, why four years later, when the member was the leader of his party, did he not include this proposal in the 2019—

[Translation]

    Order. The member for Trois-Rivières on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, there is no French interpretation.

  (1120)  

[English]

    Just a moment, I have another point of order.
    The hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston.
    Madam Speaker, I am just very worried that the way this is working out, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis will have his list of enumerated questions and there will be no time for the member to respond. That would be unfair, so I ask you to exercise a bit of discretion.
    This is just a speech, with no responses.
    The hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to begin with a few questions, especially about Conservatives taking real, practical actions.
    First of all, why now? Why did the Conservatives not propose this in, say, 2012, when they were drafting and gazetting the waste-water systems effluent regulations? Were they guilty of an oversight at that time? Second, why did the member not introduce his private member's bill in 2015, after he was no longer Speaker. Third, why, four years later, when the member was leader of his party, did he not include this proposal in the 2019 Conservative election platform?
    The Fisheries Act already prohibits the deposit of deleterious substances, including sewage, into fish-bearing waters, unless expressly allowed by regulation. The fact is that the Harper government's waste-water regulations gave a de facto exemption to municipalities under the Fisheries Act to deposit a deleterious substance, namely waste water, into fish-bearing waters. This exemption was not carte blanche, however. It came with limits on how much of a regulated substance can be released into the environment. The waste-water regulations also impose deadlines on municipalities for building and upgrading their systems to meet the standards of secondary treatment, a biological process that can remove up to 95% of contaminants.
    By way of background, six billion cubic metres of waste water are discharged into marine and freshwater ecosystems in Canada every year. Of this amount, approximately 72% is treated to the level of at least secondary treatment, 25% is under-treated and the remaining 3% is untreated, coming from continuous discharges in communities without a waste-water plant, from releases from combined sewer systems where waste water and storm water flow together in the same pipe and can overflow during heavy rainfalls, from spills due to equipment failure and negligence, and finally, from occasional planned releases deemed necessary to allow for system construction or maintenance.
    I would be remiss if I did not point out the Harper government's bungling of the 2015 waste-water release in Montreal, which caught the government off guard in the middle of an election campaign. The planned release was needed to allow maintenance on a key interceptor in the city's waste-water system. It should be noted that Montreal has a single massive waste-water plant, the largest in North America and the third largest in the world, providing primary and secondary waste-water treatment. The city is introducing ozonation, which will allow it to achieve tertiary treatment by 2023, at which time the city will have the largest ozone waste-water plant in the world.
    A belt of sewers runs around the island. The whole system is on a slope from west to east, with the treatment plant located at the eastern tip of the island. Gravity draws sewage from all around the island to the plant, reducing the need for energy-consuming pumping stations along the route. There are no alternative waste-water plants on the island, no safety valves, as it were. If the plant gets damaged, that's a huge problem for the city and communities downstream.
    In 2015, the city applied to the province for a permit for a planned release and obtained Quebec's authorization to do so. The city also contacted Environment Canada twice, in September 2014 and September 2015, but, as I understand it, was met with radio silence. The Conservative government only realized there was an issue when the story hit the headlines, in Canada and internationally, at which point it cleverly punted the matter until after the election.
    On November 9, 2015, the new Liberal government issued a ministerial order under section 37 of the Fisheries Act to require Montreal to make adjustments to its initial release plan. These adjustments were based on the recommendations of an expert panel. It should be noted that the Liberal government did not authorize the release, even though the province had. Section 37 of the act, while not giving the federal government the power to authorize a release like Montreal's, allows the minister to “require any modifications or additions to the work, undertaking or activity or any modifications to any plans, specifications, procedures or schedules relating to it that the Minister considers necessary in the circumstances”. That is what the new minister, the member for Ottawa Centre, did. She ordered changes to the plan to minimize impacts based on the recommendations of an expert panel.
    Environment and Climate Change Canada is holding consultations with a view to making improvements to the temporary bypass provisions in sections 43 to 49 of the waste-water systems effluent regulations. Currently under the regulations, a bypass authorization for a release of untreated waste water can only be given for maintenance work that is being done at a waste-water plant, that is, at a final point of discharge, not at other points along the system.

  (1125)  

    The objective of upcoming amendments to the regulations is to allow the government to provide bypass authorizations for work being done beyond the plant itself, thereby creating a regulatory framework that would encourage better planning of emergency releases such as the one that occurred in Montreal.
    Enter Bill C-269, which seeks to make it an offence to proceed with any releases of raw sewage into fish-bearing waters. It sounds great, but as is often the case with private members' bills, they are not drafted with the benefit of appropriate expertise and are often designed more for political effect than to achieve a constructive objective.
    If passed, Bill C-269 could have serious unintended consequences for the environment.
    First, the proposed prohibition would apply to waste water that is already treated to a high standard. This is because even effluents that are subject to advanced levels of treatment still contain contaminants from raw sewage that have not been separated and removed, as required by the bill. Therefore, all communities across Canada would be in potential violation of the proposed law, notwithstanding their high degree of waste-water treatment in most cases. In effect, they would have to shut down their waste-water plants.
    Second, the definition of raw sewage in Bill C-269 is ambiguous and likely to include more than just effluent from human or domestic sources. The bill's definition could include industrial, commercial and institutional effluents that contain low or manageable levels of such sewage. The bill could therefore interfere with the development and implementation of regulations to control industrial effluents. For example, the bill could impede the ongoing process of updating the pulp and paper regulations, a process aimed at, among other things, capturing facilities producing non-traditional products from wood and other plant material, and also aimed at lowering current effluent limits as well as adding limits for additional substances.
    Third, the bill would exempt the north, where, to all intents and purposes, the Fisheries Act prohibition against depositing deleterious substances into fish-bearing waters applies wholesale, absent the existence of a bilateral agreement with the federal government for creating an equivalent regulatory framework to the waste-water systems effluent regulations. This means that whatever pollution safeguards and monitoring mechanisms exist today in the north by virtue of a bilateral agreement with the federal government would be thrown into question if this bill passes.
    There are many examples of how proposed measures like those in Bill C-269 that are intuitively appealing at first glance are, upon deeper reflection, clearly not the best way forward for either the environment or human health. As a case in point, I would like to refer to the late Dr. David Schindler's work at the Experimental Lakes Area, a real-life freshwater laboratory that garnered a great deal of national attention a few years back when the Harper government tried to close it down.
    The conventional wisdom at one point was that nitrogen from waste water was likely causing algal blooms in lakes, suggesting the need for multi-billion dollar investments to alter waste-water treatment plants. However, a 37-year real-time, real-life experiment at the Experimental Lakes Area found that this was not the case and that the culprit was rather phosphorous. This subsequently led to the elimination of phosphates in detergents and avoided massively expensive yet futile investments to upgrade waste-water treatment plants across the country to deal with nitrogen.
    In the end, I regret to say that, in reality, this bill may well be more a public relations exercise on a subject that deserves much more serious and well-informed attention.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I wish everyone a happy Monday.
    I think that we all agree that water is life. Although we commend the member for his attempt to initiate a debate on water quality and the pollution of our rivers, which is an important subject, the Bloc Québécois cannot support the principle of Bill C-269 because it does not offer any real solutions to sewage dumping.
    Yes, effective regulations may be part of the solution to this problem, but what is really needed is major investments in waste water infrastructure.
    What is more, the bill is inconsistent. It would allow the regulated dumping of hazardous materials and prohibit the dumping of fetid waste water from urban areas. I will come back to that. Also, clause 2 of the bill, which would add two new subsections, would make it so that the prohibition would not apply in Nunavut, Newfoundland and north of the 54th parallel in Quebec. I am wondering what the rationale for that is, because it does not make any sense.
    Basically, Bill C-269 is a bad idea masquerading as a good one. In 2012, the Conservative government established the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations, Canada's first waste water treatment standard. At the time, the federal government estimated that 75% of existing waste water treatment facilities complied with the new standard, and it committed to providing funding to help the remaining 25% achieve compliance.
    It created three categories of facilities. The first included the highest-risk facilities, which had to comply with the new standard before 2020. The second and third categories included lower-risk facilities, which had until 2030 and 2040 to comply with the new standard.
    The infrastructure minister at the time provided no details about the funding formula that would be introduced to support the new regulations. The Union des municipalités du Québec estimated that it would take $9 billion to upgrade existing municipal facilities and bring them into compliance with the new regulations.
    Around that time, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and McGill University conducted a study. According to estimates, the municipal infrastructure deficit, which is what it would cost to upgrade existing infrastructure to meet current standards, was about $31 billion. That was 10 years ago.
    Let us fast-forward to today.
     According to an article published in the daily Le Devoir in March, 80 Quebec municipalities still do not have waste water treatment plants. According to a Réseau Environnement report cited in the same article, at least $17 billion is needed just to upgrade the existing treatment facilities that are suffering the effects of aging. That amount does not include the investments required to ensure that waste water treatment plants comply with the 2012 regulations and to build treatment plants where they are needed. That being the case, what should the government do? If regulations exist, we must comply, but no one should be expected to do the impossible.
    Waste water spills happen frequently in Quebec, so much so that Fondation Rivières has created a rather impressive interactive map using a data set. Furthermore, it identified 60,660 spills in 2019, which lasted a total of 471,300 hours. While the Conservatives brought up Montreal's “flushgate”—when eight billion litres of sewage were dumped into the St. Lawrence River—every chance they got during the 2019 election campaign, people should not assume that the issue of dumping is any less serious anywhere else.
    The 2019 campaign also highlighted the fact that Canadian municipalities had dumped 218 billion litres of sewage into waterways without any political party proposing solutions to the problem. Toronto confirmed that, in 2018, more than 7.1 billion litres of waste water leaked into Lake Ontario and other waterways because the combined sewer and stormwater system could not handle the volume of rainstorms.

  (1130)  

    Furthermore, last year, Canada's National Observer presented Environment Canada data indicating that 900 billion litres of waste water and runoff were discharged in 2018. That figure was for the rest of Canada and did not include Quebec. The 900 billion litres most likely was a conservative figure given the inconsistent monitoring among different municipalities.
    In short, this is a significant problem for which we must find real solutions and it has been a concern for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for many years now. I will say from the outset that the $1.5 billion allocated for the waste water file by the government between 2015 and 2019 is peanuts compared to the real need. It is just a drop in the bucket.
     I do not wish to downplay the fact that human waste and runoff are a significant problem, but I must also speak about other worrisome substances. The most recent research has brought to light the health problems caused by endocrine disruptors and the constantly rising presence of microplastics in our waterways. I have mentioned the worrisome presence of these two substances to make the contradiction in Bill C-269 very clear to everyone. In fact, it would continue to allow the discharge into our waterways of all manner of substances as long as it is done in accordance with the 2012 Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations.
    I will read a short but incomplete list of the deleterious substances that could still be discharged into our waterways even if Bill C-269 is passed: petroleum products, including oil, gas, diesel and grease; chemical products. pesticides, heavy metals; industrial effluents; cleaning products, such as bleach and detergents; wood preservative products; paint; chlorinated water.
     All of the substances I just mentioned could be discharged, but not urban waste water. I have a hard time believing that continuing to allow these substances to be discharged is less harmful to the environment and less detrimental to the health of our waterways than discharging urban waste water.
    Any proposed regulations to bring infrastructure in compliance and to deploy 21st-century technology in existing facilities will require a rigorous and integrated approach. Bill C-269 does not meet these criteria, however.
    Money is the lifeblood of all infrastructure projects. Nothing happens without money. Just take a close look at the tax system to see how much each level of government collects and how much their fair share should be. The federal government takes 50%, Quebec gets 42% and the municipalities get 8%. Municipalities' share of responsibility for infrastructure went from 30.9% in 1961 to 52.4% in 2002, while the federal government's went from 23.9% down to 6.8% for that same period. This is why I am saying it is impossible for municipalities to keep up.
    Now, 20 years later, there is a good chance that the figures are even more telling. There is no doubt that infrastructure spending is required and that making arbitrary and unenforceable prohibitions is not the solution. This is the real way to help municipalities fulfill their waste water treatment responsibilities.
    I do want to say that there is some potential for progress on this issue. However, every level of government will have to do its share. We must not only prevent overlapping jurisdictions and confusion, but we must also provide stability for municipalities so that they are in a position to build the best infrastructure to comply with sanitation standards.
    No municipality derives pleasure from waste water spills. They want to comply with the standards but simply do not have the means to do so.

  (1135)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I wish you and all the mothers right across Canada a belated happy Mother's Day. It is an honour today to rise on Bill C-269, tabled by the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle and I am joining you today from the home of the Nuu-chah-nulth people on the unceded traditional territory of the Hupacasath and Tseshaht people, who have a long history as protectors of coastal communities in my riding, which guides my decisions as a member of Parliament every day while I sit in the House of Commons.
    We in the New Democratic Party strongly support stopping the flow of raw sewage into our oceans and waterways. We all want to see an end to the dumping of raw sewage and as I stated, we are strong supporters of initiatives that would stop this practice.
    However, the bill penalizes those communities that cannot afford to upgrade their systems. We absolutely support the intent of the bill, but it is deeply flawed in its approach. We cannot abandon communities like the Harper government did for a decade and the Liberal government is falling far short.
    We know, according to the FCM, that it would cost over $18 billion for communities right across Canada to improve their waste-water systems to stop raw sewage dumping, but the bill does not do anything positive to help get them there. It is in this spirit that I rise to speak to Bill C-269 and express my deep reservations about supporting this legislation. It is not simply a matter of banning raw sewage dumping, but rather how we as communities and as a country support one another in keeping our oceans clean for this generation and for generations to come.
     I think about the implications in my riding, because people across my riding are rightfully concerned about our coastal waters and want to take measures to support them. It goes without saying that whether they are environmentalists or people who care about the health of fish or the health of coastal ecosystems, they want to make sure that there are no dangers to the water that surrounds their communities and our communities.
    The water in Courtenay—Alberni is not just a source of food, whether it be wild salmon or other fish, but also a refuge for swimmers, boaters and recreation. Ensuring it is clean is critical and crucial to our local economy, our way of life and our food security. It attracts recreation fishers and boaters who invest their money into our restaurants and shops, so it is part of tourism. It draws tourists to stay in our hotels and bed and breakfasts. It grounds us every day and reminds us as residents that we are part of an ecosystem that depends on us to make the decisions that we need to to protect our families, the species and the biodiversity where we live and that surround us.
     I think about the bill's impacts not only on the cleanliness of the water, but also on the communities that will be affected. I think about the municipalities that need to have clean water systems, but do not have the resources to build them as well. I think about the boaters and their families who would be impacted by its sweeping generalizations. I think about the decision-making processes we have in place when enforcing environmental regulations and some of the better options we have to make real impacts on the health and safety of our waterways.
    I sat in local government in Tofino, British Columbia, so I am very familiar with the challenges in dealing with waste water. The bill literally pits the federal government against these small communities and it shows again that the Conservatives are out of touch with municipalities. I wonder how much consultation the member and the Conservatives have done with these communities that are lacking support to get their waste-water infrastructure in place. Everyone wants that.
    We know costs are soaring. We need mechanics, electronics and specialized crews to build waste-water treatment. Obviously we have to pay for work camps in rural or remote communities and inflation is skyrocketing. We know that there is new risk in pricing due to COVID. Again, modern waste-water treatment depends on very modern producers and these producers are highly specialized and they are very expensive.
    I talked to the former mayor of Tofino, who is now the minister of municipal affairs in British Columbia. She sat as the mayor for seven years and her number one priority each year in council was getting waste-water treatment in place. They still have not broken ground. It was a deep commitment by their local government.

  (1140)  

    In fact, in the early 2000s, it was projected that it would be a $12-million cost to build waste-water treatment. When I sat on council in 2008, it was $18 million. When the City applied for funding, it was for $40 million. It rejigged that plan and the figure came back at $57 million. The City put it out for tender and the bids came back at $82 million. It would take a tax increase of $1,000 a household every year for literally over a decade to pay for that.
    I think about a small community of 500 people in Newfoundland that has really good staff but is very unlikely to have the capacity to develop an $18-million or $20-million waste-water treatment centre. I know the member who just spoke said the lack of coordination cannot be the problem, but it actually is the problem. We need the government and all parties, not just the Conservative Party because it has tabled this bill, to coordinate and commit to filling the gaps so these communities can get there.
    We have heard that people are considering not even running for office in Newfoundland and small communities because they are concerned about the liability around the legislation that is in place currently. We know that in big cities such as Toronto and Montreal, a lot of the infrastructure is old. They would literally need to rip up a lot of their infrastructure to meet the goal of this bill, because the sewer and stormwater systems are integrated. Without understanding the costs and obstacles to meet the goals set out in this bill and the way they are going to meet them, it is actually a big gap and a big problem.
    We talked about municipalities. This legislation would immediately punish those communities that have no choice but to dump raw sewage right now. Instead of helping to build the water treatment systems they need, this bill directs sparse municipal resources away from water treatment toward paying the inevitable fines it would create.
    We know that between 2013 and 2017, approximately 96% of municipal waste water underwent some form of treatment before it was discharged. This means that around 4% of municipal waste water was discharged untreated, which is still significant, but it is worth examining the reasons this amount of money is dumped into our water waste, such as leaks or dumps of water, which occur for a number of reasons.
    For example, in Toronto, more than 7.1 billion litres of raw sewage leaked into Lake Ontario because of the capacity of the city's waste-water system. Much of this occurred because of rainwater amounts, something that even big cities like Toronto are not capable of controlling right now. The systems need serious investments. It would be almost impossible, the cities have cited, even if funding came from the federal and provincial governments, to get facilities up and running by 2030 and to complete those upgrades.
    This bill comes into effect within five years of its passing. It is unreasonable to expect communities such as these, which have said they cannot meet its targets, to get there. Small communities that do not have the same resources as bigger cities would incur fines that would be absolutely devastating, and would seriously hamper the work they are doing.
    I think about the concerns we have talked about around recreational boaters and commercial boaters. There is a huge concern with this bill's impact on these vessels and the economy. My colleague, the member for St. John's East, is a lawyer. He looked over this legislation and pointed out that every single commercial and recreational vessel that has a waste-disposal system built in would be impacted by this bill. The way it is written, this bill leaves open the possibility of imposing fines on commercial and recreational vessels that dump waste while they are on the water doing any form of business.
    At best, this bill conflicts with regulations under the Canada Shipping Act. At worst, it would severely hurt these vessels and the economy. This really has not been looked at closely. We have serious reservations about this regarding the hundreds of thousands of commercial and recreational fishers who would all have to update their vessels, buy new boats or significantly change their operations in order to comply with this bill.
    I will touch again on what we want. My friend and former colleague, Tracey Ramsey, introduced a private member's bill to develop a national freshwater strategy. Her bill would have ensured that the federal government consulted and worked with the provinces, municipalities, indigenous peoples and stakeholders. This is what we are asking for. I hope the member takes into consideration what we are offering today. Again, the member missed out on banning toxic substances, which are going into waste-water stream catchment areas, capturing plastics as I have talked about in the past, and ensuring that these systems are upgraded.

  (1145)  

    Madam Speaker, it is a real honour to speak to this private member's bill, Bill C-269, which was presented by the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle. I think it is a fantastic bill and I am going to tell the House why.
    Nine hundred billion litres of raw sewage were dumped into Canada's waterways over a five-year period. It is a number that is nearly impossible to wrap one's head around, but a CTV article helpfully described this amount in more visual terms: It is “enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool more than 355,000 times”. That is a lot of raw sewage. That particular figure is actually a couple of years old, so we know that it has probably climbed even higher than that. We also know that this data does not necessarily capture the full picture, and that the amount of raw sewage being vented increases each year. Regardless of what that final figure looks like, we clearly have a problem on our hands.
    This represents one of the largest sources of pollution in Canada's rivers and oceans. Dumping raw sewage into waterways is putting the biodiversity value of our land, waterways and marine environments at risk. Raw sewage from Canada's largest city ends up in Lake Ontario so often that Toronto city officials advise people to stay away from the city's beaches for at least two days after it rains. In my province of Manitoba, folks who go out on the Assiniboine River regularly see more debris and smell an odour after rainstorms. These are realities that have too often been ignored. It is something we cannot afford to do any longer.
    Canada is a big country, and with our sizable land mass come a great number of water resources. We have around 20% of the world's freshwater here within our borders, flowing through some two million lakes and rivers. For some Canadians, the Great Lakes will come to mind, while others will think of the 1,200-kilometre St. Lawrence River. Many folks in my province of Manitoba will think of Lake Winnipeg, which holds some 284 cubic kilometres of water. That is a lot of water.
    Whatever body of water or waterway comes to mind, each one is invaluable for the well-being of the communities that rely on it. Each one represents a remarkable natural inheritance and is worth protecting. This is where Bill C-269 comes in. This bill, which proposes to prohibit the dumping of raw sewage in Canadian waterways, will help all Canadians preserve and protect the rich natural heritage that we enjoy. It is a meaningful, common-sense way to protect the environment and waterways that are such big parts of our lives.
    As with most of the matters we consider in the House, protecting Canada's waterways is a complex, multi-faceted matter, so much so that it could perhaps be overwhelming for the average person wanting to make a difference by protecting our oceans, lakes and rivers. I really appreciate the simplicity of Bill C-269. It is not flashy. It is not showy. It offers us a tangible, achievable solution. It is a good first step, but let us step back for a moment and talk about the problem. Why is Canada dumping so much raw sewage into our waterways?
     Much of the problem can be attributed to Canada's antiquated city and municipal sewer systems. In some communities, older water systems carry both household water and stormwater through the same pipes. When rain or melting snow overwhelms these systems, they tend to be designed to vent the diluted sewage into the nearest waterway. Some cities dump raw sewage into our waterways just to undertake repairs.
    Whatever the reason, billions of litres of raw sewage end up in Canadian waterways because municipalities do not have adequate infrastructure or the support to deal with it. No one likes to talk about it. It is sewage that we are discussing, after all, but we need to recognize that the water and waste water produced by residential and commercial establishments, including both human and industrial waste, will continue to find their way into our waterways untreated unless we push for a change to the status quo.
    Bill C-269 changes the status quo. Some have argued this morning that it is not comprehensive enough and that it does not include everything it should. It is a great first step. Our previous Conservative government was an early challenger of the status quo. In 2012, Conservatives set new standards for treating waste water. We introduced the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations to address the largest point source of pollution in Canadian waters. The goal was to reduce the threats to fish and fish habitats, and also to protect human health by making sure the fish we eat had not been exposed to toxins.

  (1150)  

    By decreasing the levels of potentially harmful substances vented into Canada's waterways, we were able to move in the right direction to improve water quality, protect fish ecosystems and ensure Canadians could enjoy freshly caught fish without concern for their health.
    While this remains an important policy adjustment, with the passage of time it has become clear that more needs to be done. The Liberals' 2015 platform told Canadians their party would “treat our freshwater as a precious resource that deserves protection and careful stewardship,” yet when the Liberals formed government in 2015, one of their first decisions was to authorize the City of Montreal to dump eight billion litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence. An online petition at the time saw more than 95,000 people express their objections to this plan, but the Liberal environment minister gave the City the green light. The Liberals abandoned that platform commitment in record time, but it would be the start of a pattern of the government talking big while refusing to do the hard thing and fix the problem.
    By choosing to support this bill, the Liberals could demonstrate to Canadians that they would honour their commitments respecting Canada's water. With the Montreal sewage dump top of mind, maybe it is time we removed the power of federal ministers to give permits to municipalities to dump raw sewage into Canada's waterways. Bill C-269 would have this effect. This would go a long way toward restoring Canadians' confidence in how this and any future government would manage our waterways.
    I want to take a moment to advocate for our municipalities. Municipalities have rightly noted that sewer systems need to be updated to ensure they can better protect Canadian waterways. As we discussed in Bill C-269 today, we recognize that partnerships with municipalities would be vital to achieving lasting change: one that would see the end of raw sewage being dumped into waterways. Federal support for local infrastructure priorities is paramount to that end. Unfortunately, we have seen the current government struggle to get the critical infrastructure support that municipalities need out the door.
    Just recently, the Auditor General said that the Liberal infrastructure plan has been beset by setbacks, leaving billions unspent or delayed until later this decade. I find it frustrating, and I think many Canadians would agree, that although once again the Liberals are so quick to talk about the importance of caring for our environment, they are so focused on talk that they fail to do the work.
    Of course, we know that not every infrastructure dollar will end up constructing water and wastewater infrastructure: Roads, bridges and other projects must be built too, but when the Liberals fail to properly manage billions in infrastructure spending, there will be valuable projects that simply are not built, including those helping to protect Canada's water and waterways. Recognizing the Liberal government's failures in this area, Bill C-269 takes into consideration that municipalities need time to upgrade their wastewater systems. The coming-into-force component of this bill would give municipalities that may not have the capacity to fully treat the water they expel the time to do so. Passing this bill is part of the equation, but Canadians also need the Liberals to get their act together on infrastructure to support the improvements needed to make this happen.
    Sometimes, other parties accuse the Conservatives of being stuck in the past, but there is nothing wrong with looking to the past to better understand who we are and how we should move forward. When we look at Canada's past, we see the enormous role of our waterways in the development of our nation. For indigenous peoples they were highways connecting their communities. They brought people together for religious, cultural and economic events. The waterways guided the paths of early European explorers, and helped them out of a vast territory. For fur traders, waterways were trade routes, fostering economic activity. All of our forebears recognized and respected our waterways, and we have benefited from the healthy waterways they left for us.
    As we look back, we see that Canadians have relied on our waterways over generations for many things, including transportation, commerce, food, resources and recreation. The past reminds us of the ways in which our waterways have served us, and is a reminder that we must serve as stewards of them as well. I want to encourage all my colleagues to support Bill C-269, so that we too can leave a rich natural inheritance to future generations.
    I have heard previous members discuss at length how the previous Harper government did not do something, or how the municipalities do not have enough money. This is a partnership that looks forward to protecting—

  (1155)  

    Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

  (1200)  

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-269. Ultimately, the government opposes the bill for multiple reasons, including because it would actually reduce environmental protection. The bill would negatively impact current federal, provincial and territorial collaborations on waste water, it would impose significant financial and practical challenges on all levels of government and it would be redundant and could actually weaken existing federal pollution prevention powers.
    Our government is committed to protecting and managing water quality in our rivers, lakes and oceans. We recognize the critical importance of removing raw sewage from our waterways to keep our environment clean and healthy. That is why our government is already implementing a robust and effective approach for addressing waste-water pollution, an approach that is achieving results.
    This approach implements the national waste-water strategy that was developed after 10 years of extensive negotiation, co-operation and agreement with provincial and territorial partners. Under this strategy, municipalities and indigenous communities are working hard to build and upgrade important public infrastructure that can safely address significant sources of pollution and protect the environment using predictable and achievable timelines.
    In contrast, the bill would impose an arbitrary and unachievable five-year timeline for communities to conduct additional work, while incurring significant new costs, only to address the least significant source of pollution, such as maintenance or storm-water releases. The bill would jeopardize the current national strategy by unilaterally imposing unanticipated requirements upon our provincial and territorial partners, risking a decade of close collaboration and negotiation.
     At a time when we are focused on critical national issues such as dealing with COVID, economic recovery, charting a path forward toward a net-zero future, this bill would put significant pressures on federal-provincial—
    The hon. parliamentary secretary will have eight minutes to conclude his speech when this private member's bill comes up again.
    The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Canada Elections Act

Bill C-19—Time Allocation Motion 

    That, in relation to Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response), not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and
    That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

[Translation]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 67(1) there will now be a 30-minute question period.
    I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places or to use the raise hand function so the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in the question period.
    The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.

  (1205)  

    Madam Speaker, what a sad day for parliamentary democracy. A time allocation motion is unpleasant at any time, even if sometimes it is a necessary evil, but a time allocation motion on a bill dealing with Canadians' right to vote is rubbing salt in the wound.
    What we are debating today is the way Canadians will vote in the next election if it is held during the current pandemic, which could very well be the case. In moving this time allocation motion to restrict parliamentarians' right to speak, the government is launching a direct attack on the heart of democracy. That is completely unacceptable.
    We are hearing the government say that the opposition parties are doing everything they can to delay the work of Parliament, but that is completely false. The best way to delay the work of Parliament is to prorogue Parliament, like the Liberals did last August. Why is the government not assuming its responsibilities? Why is it not allowing proper and thorough debate on a bill that directly relates to Canadian democracy?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent for his intervention and his question.
    I understand that he is fully playing his role of leader of the official opposition in the House. However, when I was in the opposition and his party was in power during the Harper years, his government did not hesitate to use time allocation motions regularly, even daily on some occasions. I understand that my colleague has a role to play by expressing a certain degree of indignation, which I freely accept.
    However, on the substance of the issue, we believe the time has come for the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study Bill C-19 and make amendments if necessary. For the hours of debate that have been held so far, the members of the opposition have already made several suggestions for improving this bill, which, let us be clear, will only be in effect for the next election. I think therefore it is time for the House to refer the bill to the committee to be studied.
    Madam Speaker, my colleague must be joking when he says it is time to send the bill to committee.
    This act demands consensus. This is about the Canada Elections Act and the right to vote, as my colleague astutely pointed out earlier. There has to be consensus. Over four months of debate, only one Bloc Québécois member has spoken to this bill.
    The Liberals introduced Bill C-19 on December 10, 2020, while the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was already looking into the issue. Instead of waiting for the committee to finish its work, the Liberals decided to introduce a bill, utterly disregarding democratic institutions, such as the committee. Now they are forcing closure with help from the NDP, their usual accomplice for this kind of tactic. They say there has been enough debate and this bill must go to committee. I am not making this up.
    The Liberals have trouble managing a legislative calendar. They are a bunch of amateurs. Here is my question. Are they not ashamed to invoke closure on a bill that requires consensus?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from La Prairie.
    No, we are not at all ashamed to give Parliament the opportunity to pass a bill that will temporarily amend the Canada Elections Act for the next election only in response to an official request submitted to the House by the Chief Electoral Officer.
    My hon. colleague from La Prairie spends his time expressing his lack of confidence in the government by voting against it. It is therefore clear that he wants an election because, otherwise, why would he spend his time doing that?
    We think it is a good idea to give Elections Canada a lot more flexibility to protect residents of Quebec's long-term care facilities, for example. The proposed amendments to the Canada Elections Act were introduced in Parliament a few months ago. I would invite my colleague to recognize that, last Friday, when Bill C-19 was debated in the House of Commons, the four Conservative members who spoke about it once again insisted on delaying the vote to send this bill to committee.

  (1210)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I want to start by recognizing what a frustrating situation we find ourselves in as a Parliament. The election in Newfoundland and Labrador showed very clearly that even if an election during the pandemic did not precipitate a public health crisis on its own, it could have really damaging effects for democracy and for the outcomes of an election.
    The government has proposed some temporary changes to the Elections Act. It has not called the bill very often, which has been a point of frustration for New Democrats, but when it has, the official opposition has often found ways to delay and stall.
    We have an important bill that really needs to be passed, given that the Prime Minister repeatedly refuses to put everybody at ease and say that he will not unilaterally call an election during the pandemic. Our view is that the responsible response to that is to try to get rules in place exactly because we do not trust the Prime Minister to do the right thing.
    Perhaps the government today could allay those concerns and let us know when the Prime Minister intends to commit that he will not call an election during the pandemic. When is that announcement coming?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, for his constructive conversation with respect to this legislation. We have taken note, obviously, of his comments in the House during the debate at second reading.
     The New Democratic Party has constructively and thoughtfully suggested, for example, some improvements around ensuring that campus voting can take place and potentially using Canada Post locations in small rural communities like those in my riding. The Canada Post office may offer an additional place where people, for example, could apply to receive a special ballot.
     Those are precisely the kinds of discussions that we are hoping the procedure and House affairs committee can have around Bill C-19.
    We would welcome working with all colleagues around amendments that would improve the legislation. However, we think the time has come for Parliament to take its responsibilities, study the bill in committee and offer Elections Canada the tools necessary should there be an election during the pandemic, and to do so safely and prudently in the interest of protecting everybody who works in elections.
    Madam Speaker, I have heard some comments today from members of the official opposition and the Bloc that seem to suggest that they are not too familiar with the bill or the parliamentary process.
    First, the leader in the House for the official opposition said that this would change the way Canadians would vote in the next election, which is not true. It would only change if an election happened during a pandemic; there are sunset clauses on this. Could the minister confirm that these are only temporary measures during the pandemic?
    Second, the Bloc suggests that this is a done deal after today, but there is still a lot of parliamentary work to go on from this point. Indeed, the bill would go to committee for rounds of discussion there and then it would come back to the House for another debate.
    Could the minister comment on those two points?
    Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague friend, the member for Kingston and the Islands, is absolutely right. He is an experienced parliamentarian and understands the parliamentary process.
     A vote today would simply allow the procedure and House affairs committee to study the legislation and to look at it clause-by-clause. We would hope that the committee would want to hear from important witnesses, such as the Chief Electoral Officer. At the root of this conversation is a report sent to the House of Commons in October of last year from the Chief Electoral Officer, asking Parliament to make, as my hon. colleague noted, temporary changes to the Elections Act that would apply only to the next general election and would sunset once the pandemic circumstance was over.
    We think it is time for Parliament to have a look at this legislation in committee and ensure that the people who work delivering safe and fair elections for all Canadians, and there are hundreds of thousands of these people, can do so safely.
    Madam Speaker, the minister is probably one of the smoothest speakers I have ever heard in Parliament. Let us be honest. We have been speaking about the bill for about four and a half hours. On Friday, yes, there were Conservative speakers, because at 12:06 p.m., we found out that no Liberals would be speaking.
     I recognize all these things. However, we talk about a sunset clause, but it is mentioned only the preamble of the bill. Therefore, a lot of work needs to be done.
    Most of all, why did the minister put forward legislation before he got the excellent report that came out of the Standing Committee on Procedures and House Affairs? Why did he go forward with this legislation before taking any of the information that we had provided to him?

  (1215)  

    Madam Speaker, I suppose I should thank my hon. colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London for what was surely intended as a compliment.
    I share her view that the procedure and House affairs committee did excellent work in studying the report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. We obviously followed the work of the committee very closely. I would note that the legislation largely follows the recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer. We just disagreed and thought we should have more potential voting days than simply those on the weekend before what had traditionally been a polling day on Monday.
    We introduced this legislation before Christmas because we thought it was important for Parliament to have a chance to consider it over the Christmas break. I talked to a number of colleagues in the House of Commons during that period. When it came back, we called it for debate.
    My hon. colleague said that last Friday at 12:06 p.m. she found out there would be no Liberals speaking. That was precisely because we wanted the debate to conclude so Parliament could vote and the committee could begin studying the bill. The Conservatives obviously used that as a chance to filibuster it.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to reassure our colleagues opposite. The Bloc Québécois carefully examined the bill and we are starting to become very familiar with parliamentary procedure, so there is no need to worry. We have experience. However, that is not the issue here. What we are talking about here is respect for the work of parliamentarians.
    There has been very little debate on this very important issue, and many things are still up in the air, including the number of days. As the previous speaker mentioned, the government wants to ram through this legislation without any respect for the work of committees.
    My question is critically important. Why will the government not give us the time to hold a proper debate? Is it because the government members are worried that the window of time in which they think they can win a majority is closing too quickly and they want to ram this through so they can be ready just in case?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé for his comment and, especially, for his belief that if there were an election right away, the government would win a majority of seats in the House of Commons. I never doubted it myself, but I am really pleased to hear my colleague share this belief.
    However, as he knows very well, we are not trying to call an election. It is not the Liberal Party that has a lack of confidence in the government. On the other hand, the Bloc Québécois and the Conservatives cannot deny they have never had confidence in the government. I acknowledge my colleague, but he should know very well from the parliamentary experience he cited that a vote of non-confidence in the government increases the likelihood of an election.
    We believe it would be appropriate for the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study the bill in detail to amend and improve it. We want to work with our parliamentary colleagues, especially in committee. That is why we are pleased to hold a vote today to send the bill to committee.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I am very disappointed to find that we are having time allocation on a bill as essential as this one. Clearly, all parties in this place have said publicly that they do not want a federal election in a pandemic, but we want the best possible legislation in case that happens by accident. Pushing this through with such limited time for debate does not meet the standards that I expect of the government. As the hon. member and the hon. minister said, back in the day we saw practically daily use of time allocation by the Harper administration. We are seeing it far too often under this administration.
    I ask the hon. President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada to please reconsider and give us adequate time for debate.

  (1220)  

    Madam Speaker, I salute my friend, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, for her work in Canada's Parliament.
    I do not think we disagree in the sense that amendments to the Canada Elections Act properly require parliamentary scrutiny, as they would with any piece of legislation. However, these are modest amendments that would apply only, as my friend from Kingston and the Islands noted, to the next general election.
     We are in a minority Parliament, so the idea that the government, on its own, is in a position to ram legislation through is simply not the case. When the legislation gets to the procedure and House affairs committee, and we hope it gets there soon, members from all parties will have an opportunity to debate and discuss it, and amend it as they see fit. Then, we look forward to another discussion at third reading and report stage in the House of Commons.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to commend the speech given by my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona. He raised some important points. We need Bill C-19, there is no doubt about it. We are in the midst of a pandemic, and there is always the possibility of an election.
    Last Friday, the NDP offered all parties a way to discuss Bill C-19 every night this week. Unfortunately, the other opposition parties rejected our proposal. Once again, as the only helpful party in the House of Commons, the NDP is proposing a solution to break this impasse and put the debate where it belongs, which is in committee.
    Meanwhile, the government has not been responsible. The Prime Minister and the Liberals seem like they are on a pre-election tour, bragging about having an election before the third wave came to Canada.
    My question is simple. Can the Liberals say clearly here today that they will not call an early election?
    Madam Speaker, I salute and thank my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby, the NDP House leader. I had the privilege of working with him in previous Parliaments, and I appreciate his constructive contributions to these debates very much.
    I agree with him that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is where all our colleagues from every party would be able to discuss Bill C-19 and improve it. I presume they could hear from witnesses as important as the Chief Electoral Officer.
    As far as an early election is concerned, I can assure my hon. colleague that the government is focusing on providing Canadians with the essential help they need during a pandemic.
    There is an important budget implementation bill before Parliament. We understand the importance of these measures for Canadians, and we will remain focused on this issue. I can assure my colleague of that.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, this bill has only been up for debate three times and has only been debated for about three hours and 45 minutes. The minister saying the government is looking forward to getting it to committee does not leave the opposition with a lot of hope, because quite a few bills have gone to committee and come back worse. I think about Bill C-10 and the MAID bill. There are a few bills like this, and we do not have confidence that after they go to committee, they will be better bills. That is why we are in favour of having more debate on the floor for this piece of legislation, so that we can get our comments on the record and ensure that it moves forward.
    The minister says the government does not want a pandemic election, so what is the big desire to rush this bill through now and call for a concurrence motion?
    Madam Speaker, if my colleague from Regina—Lewvan is worried about people rushing an election, he should ask himself the same question, as he and the Conservatives constantly stand in the House of Commons and vote no confidence in the government over and over again.
    I remember the estimates votes some weeks ago. In one evening, the Conservatives voted no confidence in the government eight times. If anybody is rushing to an election, it would certainly appear the Conservatives are willing to play chicken, all the time hoping somebody else swerves. We do not think that is a very responsible way to proceed.
    My colleague is worried about the bill coming back from committee in worse shape, but I certainly do not share his view. It is a rather pessimistic view of democracy. In a minority Parliament, the government needs to achieve consensus at committees for legislation to come out. We look forward to working with all members, including members of the Conservative Party, to make sure the legislation is not worse but better.

  (1225)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, there are times in parliamentary life when we are offended.
    Personally, I take offence at this closure motion to limit important debates for democracy. It is the ultimate exercise in democracy for our constituents.
    Today we are being asked to shorten essential debates in the House to just three and a half hours.
    You cite the need to go the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, but it had already started to discuss the matter with the Chief Electoral Officer. You decided to rush things and introduce a bill that did not take into account—
    Need I remind the member that I personally made no decision?
    Madam Speaker, that is true and I apologize. I am supposed to address the Chair. You remind me quite often, and yet I still have difficulty with that.
    Why not give the House the time it needs? Why use time allocation yet again?
    Madam Speaker, I am reassured that you were not the one who decided to expedite the bill before Christmas. I am pleased that our colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville clearly explained that.
    I have had the privilege of sitting in the House of Commons for 20 years, and I can state that the members of the Bloc Québécois are experts at taking offence. We are not surprised that our colleague is taking offence this morning at closure. The members of the opposition and the Bloc Québécois are always opposed to government bills and never want to move them forward.
    However, this bill was introduced in December, following the tabling of a report by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the measures required to protect Canadians who vote in a possible election held during a pandemic. We must realize that the average age of the people who work for Elections Canada during a general election is 65-plus. We believe it would be helpful to provide temporary tools to the Chief Electoral Officer to keep those people safe.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, it is a total surprise and unbelievable that after four hours of debate the government would be rushing this legislation, which is about our tried and true democratic process. We have heard others say that the Liberals tabled the legislation before waiting for their own recommendations from the PROC committee, and now, after four hours, they are shutting down debate so they can get the bill to committee, the same committee that has been filibustered by the Liberals for 40 hours or more to hide the fact that the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament to cover up his involvement in the WE Charity scandal. It is unbelievable that they are doing this.
    I wonder if the minister could explain why they are in such a rush when Canadians have been clear that they do not want an election in a pandemic.
    Madam Speaker, I would hardly call this a rush. The Chief Electoral Officer presented a report to Parliament on October 5. The government thought it would be important for parliamentarians to consider the legislation over the Christmas recess. That is why we introduced Bill C-19. We have called it for debate, and once again, as is always the case, the Conservatives show no desire to allow the debate to conclude, allow a vote to happen and allow the committee to begin its work on studying the bill.
    Our colleague from Sarnia—Lambton seems to think that there is a rush to an election. Once again, it is her party that continually votes no confidence in the House of Commons. I think the Conservatives are the ones rushing to an election.

  (1230)  

    Madam Speaker, I cannot believe that the member for Regina—Lewvan actually said in the House that he does not want the bill to go to committee because he is afraid of the result. Unfortunately for him, the democratic process is not decided based on the preferences the opposition has before a bill goes to committee or when it comes back. Democracy does not work like that.
    More importantly, it does not seem to matter how long this bill has been on the table. The member for Elgin—Middlesex—London apparently has not even read the bill, even though it has been on the table since December. The sunset clause is not just in the preamble. It is also mentioned in the coming-into-force clause.
    Can the minister confirm that the sunset clause is in the bill?
    Madam Speaker, my friend from Kingston and the Islands is absolutely right. In fact, it is in clause 11 of the legislation.
    I too was surprised at the pessimism of our Conservative colleague from Regina—Lewvan, who imagines that committees make legislation worse. We have more faith in the work of committees of the House. That is why we are very anxious to work with the committee to ensure that the legislation reflects the will of Parliament before it comes back for a third reading debate.
    We think it is time for the House of Commons to take up its responsibilities and look at what temporary measures can be put in place, should an election happen during the pandemic, to ensure the safety of all Canadians who participate.
    Madam Speaker, it is extremely disappointing that a government could mismanage the parliamentary calendar so poorly. Of course, everybody has their role in this and I certainly do not put it past the hon. opposition to acknowledge the role it is also playing.
    The New Democrats believe that, while all this gamesmanship is difficult at best, ultimately the Prime Minister is the only one responsible or able to call an election at any time. That role and responsibility sits with him.
     I do not understand. I would like the hon. minister to explain, because despite the many questions he has not explained yet, why the Prime Minister and his government refuse to take that responsibility and say outright that they will not call an election during a pandemic.
    Madam Speaker, I thank our colleague from London—Fanshawe. The government and I share her view that Canadians expect the government, and I would argue all parliamentarians, at a time of a pandemic when there is a difficult third wave wreaking very difficult consequences on a number of regions of our country, to remain solely focused on what we as a parliament and certainly what we as a government can do to protect Canadians and support them during COVID. That has been the focus of our government.
     As I said earlier, we do not vote no confidence in our own government. I appreciate there is a double negative there, but I think Parliament can understand. Some NDP members voted no confidence when they supported a Bloc subamendment on a budget vote. I think there has to be some consequential thinking and Parliament needs to accept its responsibility to improve the election—
    One last question, the hon. member for Regina—Lewvan.
    Madam Speaker, I enjoyed the clever wordplay by my colleagues from the Liberal Party. What I said was this. When bills go to committee, sometimes, like with Bill C-10, they come back in worse shape because of terrible amendments put forward by the government. I would hate for that to happen to something as critical as this democratic bill, Bill C-19. When I say we should have more debate in the House of Commons, that means this bill deserves more than three hours and 45 minutes of debate.

  (1235)  

    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the hypocrisy of the Conservatives objecting to time allocation. I sat in the House of Commons many times and watch them vote the exact opposite of what they are now claiming.
    It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.
    The question is on the motion.
    If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request a recorded division or that the motion be adopted on division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.
    The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.
     Madam Speaker, I request a recorded division.

  (1320)  

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 109)

YEAS

Members

Alghabra
Amos
Anand
Anandasangaree
Angus
Arseneault
Arya
Ashton
Bachrach
Badawey
Bagnell
Bains
Baker
Battiste
Beech
Bendayan
Bennett
Bessette
Bibeau
Bittle
Blaikie
Blair
Blaney (North Island—Powell River)
Blois
Boulerice
Bratina
Brière
Cannings
Carr
Casey
Chagger
Champagne
Chen
Cormier
Dabrusin
Damoff
Davies
Dhaliwal
Dhillon
Dong
Drouin
Dubourg
Duclos
Duguid
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duvall
Dzerowicz
Easter
Ehsassi
El-Khoury
Ellis
Erskine-Smith
Fergus
Fillmore
Finnigan
Fisher
Fonseca
Fortier
Fragiskatos
Fraser
Freeland
Fry
Garneau
Garrison
Gazan
Gerretsen
Gould
Green
Guilbeault
Hajdu
Hardie
Harris
Holland
Housefather
Hughes
Hussen
Hutchings
Iacono
Ien
Jaczek
Johns
Joly
Jones
Jordan
Jowhari
Julian
Kelloway
Khalid
Khera
Koutrakis
Kusmierczyk
Kwan
Lalonde
Lambropoulos
Lametti
Lamoureux
Lattanzio
Lauzon
LeBlanc
Lebouthillier
Lefebvre
Lightbound
Long
Longfield
Louis (Kitchener—Conestoga)
MacAulay (Cardigan)
MacGregor
MacKinnon (Gatineau)
Maloney
Martinez Ferrada
Masse
Mathyssen
May (Cambridge)
McCrimmon
McDonald
McGuinty
McKay
McKenna
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
McLeod (Northwest Territories)
McPherson
Mendès
Mendicino
Miller
Monsef
Morrissey
Murray
Ng
O'Connell
Oliphant
O'Regan
Petitpas Taylor
Powlowski
Qaqqaq
Qualtrough
Ratansi
Regan
Robillard
Rodriguez
Rogers
Romanado
Sahota (Brampton North)
Saini
Sajjan
Saks
Samson
Sarai
Scarpaleggia
Schiefke
Schulte
Serré
Sgro
Shanahan
Sheehan
Sidhu (Brampton East)
Sidhu (Brampton South)
Simms
Singh
Sorbara
Spengemann
Tabbara
Tassi
Trudeau
Turnbull
Van Bynen
van Koeverden
Vandal
Vandenbeld
Vaughan
Virani
Weiler
Wilkinson
Wilson-Raybould
Yip
Young
Zahid
Zuberi

Total: -- 177


NAYS

Members

Aboultaif
Aitchison
Albas
Alleslev
Allison
Arnold
Atwin
Baldinelli
Barlow
Barrett
Barsalou-Duval
Beaulieu
Benzen
Bergen
Bergeron
Berthold
Bérubé
Bezan
Blanchet
Blanchette-Joncas
Blaney (Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis)
Block
Boudrias
Bragdon
Brassard
Brunelle-Duceppe
Calkins
Carrie
Chabot
Champoux
Charbonneau
Chiu
Chong
Cooper
Cumming
Dalton
Dancho
Davidson
DeBellefeuille
Deltell
d'Entremont
Desbiens
Desilets
Diotte
Doherty
Dowdall
Dreeshen
Duncan (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
Epp
Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster)
Falk (Provencher)
Fast
Findlay (South Surrey—White Rock)
Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Fortin
Gallant
Gaudreau
Généreux
Genuis
Gill
Gladu
Godin
Gourde
Gray
Hallan
Harder
Hoback
Jansen
Jeneroux
Kelly
Kent
Kitchen
Kmiec
Kram
Kurek
Kusie
Lake
Larouche
Lawrence
Lehoux
Lemire
Lewis (Essex)
Liepert
Lloyd
Lobb
Lukiwski
MacKenzie
Maguire
Manly
Marcil
Martel
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
Mazier
McCauley (Edmonton West)
McColeman
McLean
McLeod (Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo)
Melillo
Michaud
Moore
Morantz
Morrison
Motz
Nater
Normandin
O'Toole
Patzer
Paul-Hus
Pauzé
Perron
Plamondon
Poilievre
Rayes
Redekopp
Reid
Rempel Garner
Richards
Rood
Ruff
Sahota (Calgary Skyview)
Sangha
Saroya
Savard-Tremblay
Scheer
Schmale
Seeback
Shields
Shin
Shipley
Simard
Sloan
Soroka
Stanton
Steinley
Ste-Marie
Strahl
Stubbs
Sweet
Thériault
Therrien
Tochor
Trudel
Uppal
Van Popta
Vecchio
Vidal
Viersen
Vignola
Wagantall
Warkentin
Waugh
Williamson
Wong
Yurdiga
Zimmer

Total: -- 155


PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.
    I wish to inform the House that because of the proceedings on the time allocation motion, Government Orders will be extended by 30 minutes.

Canada Elections Act

    The House resumed from May 7, 2021 consideration of the motion that Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Lethbridge has one minute remaining in her debate time.
    Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the member for Thornhill.
    As I was saying during my last opportunity to speak to this bill, the pandemic has really exposed the true colours of the current government and where its focus lies. What I am talking about, of course, is the crafting of this legislation, Bill C-19. The Liberals have done this at a rapid pace and have done it without clear consultation, or I should say attention given to consultation.
    It is undeniable that this bill was unilaterally constructed on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and that it is being pushed forward to the Liberals' benefit and not at all to the benefit of Canadians, which is very concerning to me. Our focus as parliamentarians should be on the Canadian people, on their health, their safety and their well-being. This bill does not take those things into account.
    We need to see an economic recovery plan, not a Liberal election plan, which again is exactly what—
    We have to go to questions and comments.
    The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.
    Madam Speaker, what we are really debating here is a piece of legislation that will be used in the event that an election happens during this global pandemic. Despite the fact that all parties have said that they are not interested in having an election happen any time soon, we have to respect the fact that this is a minority Parliament and one could happen at any time.
    I am very perplexed when trying to understand why the Conservatives do not just want to be prepared. Can the member comment on what she has against being prepared in the event that an election might happen?
    Madam Speaker, I have no problem with our being prepared. To be prepared for an election during the pandemic would mean that the Liberals put a sunset clause in place. After all, if this legislation is truly just for the time being during a pandemic, then there is no reason why that should not be the case, and that this actually would expire once the pandemic is over. That seems like a reasonable amendment, does it not?
    The other thing is that at the end of the day this legislation should take into account what experts have said. Experts are certainly not encouraging that we would go into long-term care facilities and run the election for 13 days.

  (1325)  

    Madam Speaker, it is good to enter the discussion on this important subject. We are seeing a debacle of epic proportions on Bill C-10, a bill that the minister obviously does not even understand. There are a lot of questions that Canadians have around Bill C-19 and its effect on what is one of the key things that the House is required to do, and that is to be the custodian of Canada's democracy.
    Are there any parallels between the debacle that is currently unfolding with Bill C-10 and what is possible with Bill C-19, especially if the bill goes to committee, and now that the Liberals have limited debate and discussion on Bill C-19?
    Madam Speaker, the hon. member points out something really important, and that is, first, that we need to acknowledge the fact that the Liberals just moved time allocation, which means they are trying to rush this legislation through without fulsome debate. That is very problematic because it is chipping away at democracy.
    The second point the member raises is with regard to Bill C-10, which has to do with government censorship of the information that we post on our social media platforms. This is a huge overreach on behalf of the government and something that is not properly researched.
    Interestingly enough, Bill C-19 is one and the same, where, again, I believe it goes too far and ignores the voices of witnesses and those who have expertise in this area. It is shameful.
    Madam Speaker, I want to acknowledge my colleague from Lethbridge's comments a few minutes ago. She thought that it would be a good amendment at committee to have a sunset clause. The good news is that we do not need to amend it at committee to include a sunset clause, because I would draw her attention to clause 11, which provides exactly what she was suggesting the committee look at.
    I am wondering if the member for Lethbridge could tell us how many times in the last two months she has stood in her place and voted no confidence in the government, obviously seeking an election during the pandemic. How many times did she stand and vote no confidence looking for an election?
    Madam Speaker, I fail to see the relevance.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, my question is for my Conservative colleague.
    We just started debating Bill C-19, and the government has allocated just three hours and 38 minutes for debate. We can only assume that the government's poor management of its legislative agenda is at fault here.
    What does my colleague think is the true reason we are debating time allocation on Bill C-19 today, with the connivance of the NDP?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I am sorry, but I do not know that I fully understand the member's question.
    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to finally have the opportunity to rise to speak to Bill C-19, if in the shadow of time allocation. I will get to aspects of the bill that I consider worthy and a number of provisions that I believe should be amended in committee, in a moment, but first I will address a number of the underlying issues that have affected the way this bill was mismanaged in its creation, as so many other pieces of legislation have been similarly in this Parliament.
    The crux of the problem is not the COVID pandemic. The crux of the problem is the arrogance of the current government to approach virtually every practice and procedure as though it won a majority in 2019. The Liberals refuse to recognize the range of realities, most importantly the pragmatic humility a minority government must practise to govern effectively. The current Liberal government, as in the last Parliament, has ignored committee studies, reports and recommendations in the creation of legislation dealing with critically important issues, such as privacy, foreign affairs, the digital charter, regulating the Internet, medical assistance in dying, and now Bill C-19, an amendment to the Canada Elections Act, provisionally, for a possible general election in this pandemic, a pandemic that will last much longer because of the government's inability to properly procure vaccines and to accept Conservative advice when the pandemic first struck and at every stage since.
    The Liberals, with selfish impatience, introduced Bill C-19 last December, not waiting for the completion of a long and thorough study on essential amendments to the Canada Elections Act to protect public health and democracy during a possible pandemic election. An interim report by the committee was, at the time, within days of being presented to the government. That report was pre-empted by Bill C-19, ignoring the suggestions of the exhaustive study and disrespecting not only opposition members on the committee and the many expert witnesses who testified during the study, but the Liberal chair and Liberal committee members, who had worked collegially with the opposition to develop comprehensive recommendations for such an important study.
    The Liberals clearly intended then to rush the legislation through Parliament, as they have done with so many other flawed pieces of legislation from the beginning of the pandemic, but in this case the rush was not to help Canadians still in the grips of the pandemic, and it was not to prepare a plan for economic recovery to get Canadians back to work; it was in the political self-interest of preparing for the snap election they were thinking they might get away with. In doing so, they not only disregarded the work of parliamentarians, but wasted the valuable time of health officials and elections experts who appeared during the thorough procedure and House affairs committee study.
    In doing so, they ignored the reality that an overwhelming majority of Canadians did not want then, and do not want now, a general election in a deepening pandemic crisis. If the Liberals had any doubts, that was surely driven home in the subsequent cycle of spiking infections and death across the country and the provincial elections conducted under pandemic conditions, most notably the profoundly disrupted Newfoundland and Labrador election.
    The interim report of the committee contained extensive, reasoned advice based on the testimony of expert witnesses that would have improved Bill C-19 before it was tabled, but the final report of our committee, submitted to the government in February of this year, provided even more important advice. Most important, the committee advised the government and recommended unanimously, every Liberal member on the committee as well, that the federal government commit to not calling a federal election during the pandemic, unless defeated on a vote of confidence.
    Further, Conservative members of the committee wrote a supplementary report, which reiterated the recommendation against holding a pandemic election and elaborated, noting that Bill C-19 was uninformed by the extensive content of the committee report and stating very clearly that the government has a moral obligation to refrain from triggering an election or orchestrating its own downfall, as the Prime Minister has already tried to do a number of times.

  (1330)  

     Because of the government's inability to manage its own legislative agenda, the bill before us has had precious few hours of debate.
    A key element of Bill C-19 involves the change of the usual designation of an election day to be an election period of Saturday, Sunday and Monday, rather than just Monday, to provide more time for voting, social distancing and the precautions necessary to provide safe voting places. The bill also provides for the extension of voting hours of polls, if necessary to midnight, on any polling day, but not to exceed 28 hours for the three-day election period.
    The bill also changes the maximum writ period to 53 days because of the many challenges anticipated for in-person voting or involving mail-in ballots. With regard to mail-in ballots, the bill allows electronic applications to be made with proper security protocols, of course, for mail-in ballots. They are very detailed provisions, which I believe would secure the safety of those ballots. There are also provisions for the safe casting of votes in institutions, in facilities where seniors and persons with disabilities reside.
     I will support all of those provisions in the bill, on the condition that they expire automatically, completely and absolutely six months after the pandemic period is considered to have ended.
    However, there are a number of elements in this legislation that I strongly oppose and believe should be amended. I believe they must be amended at committee, our procedure and House affairs committee, which was so ignored and so disrespected by the original tabling of this legislation in December.
    First and foremost, there is a provision for counting mail-in ballots after the end of the official three-day election period. Given the new powers granted the Chief Electoral Officer for early mail-in ballots and extended poll hours, there is absolutely no reason, no excuse, for any ballots received after polls close on election day to be counted. Election day must be decision day.
    As well, while I accept the extension of pandemic powers to the Chief Electoral Officer, I oppose the provision that would expand his determination of “satisfactory proof of the elector's identity and residence”. Pandemic protocols should not enable greater voter fraud than already exists in non-pandemic elections.
    In conclusion, I want to remind all members of this House of the unanimous recommendation of the procedure and House affairs committee, each and every Liberal member included, that the federal government must commit to not calling a federal election during this continuing pandemic, unless it is defeated on a vote of confidence.

  (1335)  

    Madam Speaker, I do not think it would matter if this had been tabled three years ago. The reality is that the Conservatives do not even appear to have read the bill. The member for Lethbridge was just talking about wishing that there would be a sunset clause in this, which is mentioned in the preamble, and then again later in clause 11 of the bill. The member for Elgin—Middlesex—London, who is a member of the PROC committee, did not even know that there was a sunset clause in this bill, and this bill falls under the committee that she sits on. I do not think this narrative of “We haven't had enough time” is warranted. We have had the bill for six months and clearly they have not even read it.
    This member is also a member of the PROC committee, which I have a ton of respect for. I thank him for mentioning the fact that there is a sunset clause in the bill, acknowledging that and, to his credit, advocating so vehemently to make sure that this sunset clause is honoured.
    Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his somewhat disingenuous questions. I would like to address the matter of timing.
    The bill was rushed to introduction in December, again, pre-empting the interim report of the PROC committee. This committee has been filibustered by the Liberal minority on the committee for more than two months, because the Liberals do not want to recognize the will of all the opposition parties to call a relevant witness to appear for one meeting. For the last month, the Liberals have filibustered their own amendment.
    I am wondering if the rush now, as the bill is eventually forwarded to the PROC committee, is to allow—

  (1340)  

    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, on top of all the partisan speeches, the government members are showing disrespect towards the opposition members by repeatedly asking whether they have read the bill. It would be nice if they stopped doing that. Members have a duty to do their jobs well, and they have read the bill. I would appreciate some real answers on the actual substance.
    My colleague raised some very interesting points in his speech. He—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Yves Perron: Madam Speaker, ironically enough, the people I am talking about right now are not listening.
    My colleague raised some very interesting points in his speech. He spoke about voter identification and the lengthy writ period for seniors' homes. We are all very concerned about safety.
    I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on this.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the provision for a particularly lengthy writ period is tremendously important both for the safe conduct of polling residents in long-term care and seniors residences, but also to prepare Elections Canada officials and the polling stations for those Canadians who choose to vote in place. I attended and observed the two by-elections last year, and it is very complicated and difficult, and safety must prevail.
    It will also take that period of time to distribute the mail-in ballots and to get them—
    Time for one last question, the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston.
    Madam Speaker, the member for Kingston and the Islands has said, somewhat disingenuously, that there is a sunset clause in the bill, in section 11.
    What section 11(2) actually says is that when the Chief Electoral Officer consults with the Chief Public Health Officer, currently Dr. Tam, and the Chief Electoral Officer as a result “Is of the opinion that the temporary rules in Part 22 of the Canada Elections Act are no longer required to ensure the safe administration of an election in the context of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.” At that point, six months after that, the bill expires. That is not a sunset clause. In my opinion, that is a way of transferring the responsibility for going back to a series of bureaucrats.
    Does the hon. member agree with me?
    Madam Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague.
    Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saint-Laurent.
    It is an absolute honour for me to rise today on behalf of my residents of the riding of Davenport to speak in favour of Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, COVID-19 response. It would provide a temporary new part to the Canada Elections Act that would ensure the safe administration of an election should one happen during the COVID-19 pandemic. It would also provide for the repeal of this temporary new part, the six months, as was just mentioned, as determined by the Chief Electoral Officer once it is indicated the measures are no longer necessary in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The notice would be issued only following consultation with the Chief Public Health Officer.
    As my colleagues know, in a minority Parliament, an election could actually happen at any time. We have seen elections at the provincial level take place during the COVID pandemic. We have also seen elections take place in other countries, including the United States. We have seen the major challenges that these types of elections bring.
     In the United States we saw that huge numbers of voters chose to send in a mail-in ballot, which made counting ballots slower in a number of states.
    In British Columbia and in Newfoundland and Labrador, we saw historic numbers of voters going to advance polls or using mail-in ballots. We also saw, in these provinces, historic low voter turnout. It was probably because many people decided it was much safer to stay at home and were not quite sure about whether it was safe enough to go out and vote. We could expect that—

  (1345)  

    I will interrupt the member to ask her to slightly move the microphone toward her mouth.
    Madam Speaker, as I was saying, we could expect if we were to hold a federal election in Canada, especially without passing Bill C-19, voters would face many of the similar challenges we have seen across our country over the last year and a bit since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some Canadians would probably choose not to vote rather than go to a public place to cast their ballot.
    During this devastating third wave, the last thing our government wants is an election. I, for one, always say that the only election date I want to talk about is the one in October 2023, which is four years after the last one. I know many would see an election during a COVID pandemic as a public health risk and would limit Canadians' access to their democratic right to cast a vote. As such, in my opinion, it is really important for us to advance this bill swiftly so that in the unlikely event of an election, we can improve the conditions and opportunities for Canadians to safely vote as well as protect our democratic process.
    Why have we introduced the legislation? Elections Canada realized there could be an election during this pandemic, as we did as the national government, and after much consultation has proposed some temporary rules in the unlikely event an election should occur.
     Elections Canada has been following the provincial elections in our country and the various different elections that have taken place around the world. It has monitored contingency planning that has been developed both by international and various electoral management bodies. It has engaged with Canadian public officials, heard about best practices from various bodies and learned from recent elections held during COVID. Elections Canada has also established an internal working group to determine how it can be as prepared as possible for an election held during COVID-19.
     Out of this work, on October 5, the Chief Electoral Officer suggested the study and adoption of a new temporary law.
     Some of the key changes the Chief Electoral Officer proposed was making Saturday and Sunday voting days, increasing voting hours from 12 hours on one day to 16 hours over two days; granting authorization for the Chief Electoral Officer to determine how and when voting could occur in long-term care facilities and other similar settings; and adding more flexibility to adapt the act to emergency situations to make it easier to respond to the pandemic. Bill C-19 builds on these recommendations and adds other special measures to ensure Canadians can vote safely.
     What are some of the additional measures we have proposed in the bill?
     First, we would give the Chief Electoral Officer more flexibility to adapt the act to ensure the safety of election officers and voters. It would also give the Chief Electoral Officer the power to set days and hours for polling divisions established in long-term care homes.
    Our government recognizes that vulnerable populations like seniors have very specific needs in this pandemic. We also know we need to protect their right to participate in the Canadian democracy and ensure Elections Canada has a way to safely collect votes from them. This bill would provide a 13-day window to safely deliver the vote to long-term care facilities and similar institutions. This period would give election staff enough time to engage with those facilities and to determine a safe time for them to deliver the vote.
    Bill C-19 would also extend voting hours, giving Canadians more opportunity to vote in a safe way that works for them. It would create a three-day polling period which, to me, is awesome. People could vote Saturday, Sunday or Monday. It would help spread the voters out, reducing crowds in voting places, and would give people who might not be able to vote on the weekend, maybe because of a religious observance on Saturday or Sunday, the option to vote on Monday. It would also add more advanced polling days, four days of 12 hours each, for voting since we would anticipate more Canadians to vote early in a pandemic election.
    Bill C-19 would grant the Chief Electoral Officer the authority to respond to emergency situations like local unexpected outbreaks of COVID-19. It would allow the Chief Electoral Officer to modify the day on which certain things would be authorized or required to be done before the polling period. The Chief Electoral Officer would also be able to move a deadline a day backward or a day forward by up to two days, or the Chief Electoral Officer could also move the starting date or the ending date of a period in which certain things would be authorized or required to be done by up to two days.

  (1350)  

    Finally, the bill would make mail-in voting even more accessible. If Canadians did go to the polls in the pandemic, we anticipate that many more would want to vote by mail. Of course, we know that this would be a whole new way of voting in Canada, other than in the provinces that have already seen such elections. We know this is an option that many Canadians would want to see.
    With Bill C-19 passed, Canadians will also be able to apply online to register to vote by mail and cast a ballot from the comfort and safety of their home. It will also allow for secure drop boxes at polling stations so that those who do not have time to send their ballots through the mail can instead drop them off. It makes voting more accessible by allowing voters to register to vote by mail using an ID number, like a driver's licence number, rather than a full copy of their identification. Finally, it gives voters the flexibility to choose to vote in person instead if they have already registered to vote by mail. If they do, they would have to return their mail-in kit or sign a declaration at the in-person voting location that they have not yet voted.
    There is a clear need for the bill as indicated by the Chief Electoral Officer, but it is important to note that there are some limitations of the bill. The primary one is the need for a preparation period for Elections Canada. This means that Parliament needs to move swiftly to get the bill to committee. I have heard a number of amendments and recommendations that my colleagues would like to propose, and they should be genuinely considered. Then it still needs to come back to the House for a third reading. Elections Canada then needs 90 days to implement the bill after royal assent. The longer we wait, the greater the risk of a possible election during a pandemic with no safety measures for Canadians.
     I want to reiterate that the special legislative measures that are being proposed would cease to be in effect six months, or at an earlier date determined by the CEO, after a notice is given by the Chief Electoral Officer that indicates the measures are no longer necessary in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This notice would only be issued following the consultation with the Chief Public Health Officer.
     With such a limited scope, I see no reason for disagreement or delay on the bill. All parties should be able to unite to quickly get these common-sense protections for voters into place.
    I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to the importance of Bill C-19 and why it should be passed quickly.
    Madam Speaker, certainly we want to do everything we can to protect workers and voters in this election should it occur during a pandemic.
    One thing we know is that we would likely see more mail-in ballots, and the members correctly have pointed out there are some provisions in the bill. Having ballot boxes at the polling stations to collect mail-in ballots will be a very good thing in case the capacity is higher. One thing I have heard concerns about is that if the Monday is a holiday, they would consider counting ballots after election day. We have never done that federally, and I think Canadians have confidence in our tried and true process.
    Would the member agree that with the provision to allow mail-in ballots to be dropped off at polling stations if they were left too late that we really do not need that other provision?
    Madam Speaker, I am not quite sure I understood the question. I believe the member is saying that the provision of us being able to count the ballots after the election date and that the bill would allow for that to happen is not necessarily needed.
    I really trust that the Chief Electoral Officer has done some consultations and that he has talked to a number of groups, both nationally and internationally, about some of the best practices and provisions that should be contained in this bill. I have a lot of confidence in the recommendations that have been made and are now included in Bill C-19.
    This is why I am anxious to get this bill to committee. If there are some things that we might want to modify, they should be considered at committee. I know I would be open to any provisions that might make this bill clearer and ensure the safety of any—

  (1355)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, my understanding is that my colleague supports this bill as written and is in a hurry. I am not saying anyone is dismissing the safety issues that we all agree on, but it feels like haste is becoming the norm. We cannot help but wonder why she seems so keen for the government to use time allocation.
    I have a question for my colleague. Bill C-19 is your government's initiative. It did not come about because of the findings in a committee report or the Chief Electoral Officer's initial recommendations. How do you plan to deal with the committee members' opinion?
    I would remind the hon. member that I am not part of this discussion, so I will pass the question on to the hon. member for Davenport.
    The hon. member for Davenport.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I will respond this way. There is a lot of very important business that Parliament needs to consider between now and when we rise for the summer, at the end of June. It is absolutely important for us to pass legislation that has had some careful consideration by the Chief Electoral Officer and our government. I have a lot of confidence in the bill and in the measures we have in place. It would be responsible for us to move the bill as quickly as possible to committee to ensure that if there is anything we need to add to it, we do so there. If not, we should pass this bill as swiftly as possible.
    Madam Speaker, I appreciate working with my colleague for Davenport on the finance committee. We certainly agree that there are provisions that absolutely need to be put in place given the pandemic we are all living through. She made some good points in her speech, but she left out the key part that has made this bill much more controversial than it normally would be. That is the fact that when the Liberals brought the bill forward, they also started their pre-election campaign. The Prime Minister and Liberals were campaigning openly. The third wave has pushed that back, but Liberals have not come clean with the Canadian public.
    Can my colleague for Davenport now say very clearly, in a way that all Canadians will understand, that the Prime Minister will not call an election during this pandemic?
    Madam Speaker, I will say what I said during my speech. The only election date that is in my mind is an election date four years after the last election, which is October 2023. Canadians want us to govern and that is what we are trying to do. This bill is the responsible thing to do in the unlikely event that an election is called during a pandemic.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Mother's Day

    Madam Speaker, yesterday was Mother's Day. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected women of all ages, be it our front-line workers, PSWs, caregivers and, in particular, those who have young children. Brave women, mothers and grandmothers, have not stopped working throughout this pandemic. Here is a sincere, heartfelt thanks on our collective behalf.
    My mother has played an important role in my life. Immigrating to Canada, our family saw first-hand how my mother had to juggle work and home, taking care of two young children: my sister and myself. When my twins were born, I witnessed the same with my loving wife, who is a working mother.
    This past year has been a challenging one. The least we can do for our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers is to be supportive of them, to appreciate them for everything they do, to tell them that it is okay not to be okay, and to be there when they need us most, in person or virtually. We will get through this together.
    I thank every mom who is watching this today.

  (1400)  

Agriculture and Agri-Food

    Madam Speaker, our farmers are the backbone of our community and the engine of our economy. They are the hard-working men and women who go out in the searing heat and bitter cold to put food on our tables and clothes on our backs.
     Canadians have not had to worry about their food supply during the pandemic, or at any time in recent history. Canadians benefit from some of the highest quality, least expensive and safest food in the world, because of our wonderful, hard-working farmers. While we were all battling the pandemic, our farmers did not pause their work and they did not take a break. They kept planting their fields, feeding their livestock and getting their products to market.
    Today, I would like to recognize the tremendous and continuous efforts of our agricultural workers.

Basheer Nasir Ahmed

    Madam Speaker, I wish to recognize the life of Basheer Nasir Ahmed, a caring husband, father and son.
    Nasir immigrated to Canada from India with his family in 2002. Upon arriving, he continued a long and successful professional career in telecommunications, most recently serving as the head of Business Development and Cybersecurity at Nokia.
    A founding member and secretary general of the Islamic Centre of Markham, Masjid Darul Iman, Nasir had a passion for serving the community. He was dedicated to educating and empowering youth in Markham and was a leader who mobilized the community during times of humanitarian concern. One of the kindest people I have met, Nasir was always a gracious host when I visited the mosque.
    I, along with so many, was saddened to hear of his recent passing. Nasir was just 49. I send my sincere condolences to Nasir's family and loved ones during this extremely difficult time.

[Translation]

Roberval Courthouse

    Mr. Speaker, this weekend, my community was shaken by the loss of one of its most precious heritage buildings, the Roberval courthouse.
    Built on the shores of our majestic Lac Saint-Jean in a style inspired in part by the National Assembly of Quebec, the courthouse was a source of pride to the people of Roberval for over 110 years. The blaze was so fierce that dozens of firefighters from the Roberval, Saint-Félicien, Chambord, Sainte-Hedwidge and Mashteuiatsh stations responded. These men and women worked bravely to quell the flames and protect all the neighbouring buildings.
    I want to thank them for being true heroes. Their sense of duty and their efforts should inspire us all.
    I also welcome the Government of Quebec's intention to rebuild the courthouse as soon as possible. I want the citizens of Roberval and everyone working in the justice system to know that I stand with them through this difficult time.

Mother's Day

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, on Mother's Day, I surprised some of the mothers in my riding of Bourassa.
    We ordered cakes, candies and flowers to be delivered to over 1,000 seniors in retirement homes and golden age clubs.
    These cakes were created by students at the École hôtelière de Montréal Calixa-Lavallée, in my riding. They recently won an international prize at the Academy of Chocolate Awards 2020, in London.
    The special get-togethers for wonderful mothers were organized in strict adherence to public health measures. They allowed seniors to break their isolation and gave us a chance to celebrate all the ladies who raised us.
    Happy Mother's Day to all mothers.

Donald Brochu

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to remember a builder of Beauce who recently passed away. Donald Brochu, founder of Agri-Marché, passed away on April 29 at the age of 83.
    He joined the Brochu group with his brothers in the 1960s and grew the business into one of the biggest players in the Canadian agri-food sector. The company is now being run by the third generation of Brochus, Jean-Pierre, Guylaine and Patrice.
    Having known him since 1981, I remember him as a man who was very approachable and who was always concerned about others. He always took the time to see how everyone around him was doing. Throughout his career, he was also involved in social, sports and educational activities with various organizations.
    I also remember that in 1982, when the Bassin de la Chaudière agricultural expo was created, it gave him an idea: bringing Canadians closer to the agri-food sector.
    I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to his family and friends. We will miss this extraordinary philanthropist, leader and businessman very much.
    Rest in peace, Mr. Brochu. Thank you for everything.

  (1405)  

[English]

Belarus

    Mr. Speaker, Polish Canadians across the country are watching with alarm the mistreatment of the Polish minority in Belarus by the authoritarian regime of President Alexander Lukashenko. The arbitrary detention of Angelika Borys, chairwoman of the Union of Poles in Belarus, is but one example of the widespread human rights violations being perpetrated.
    In response to mass protests after the fraudulent presidential elections last August, thousands of demonstrators, human rights activists and journalists have been arrested. Canada was the first country to impose sanctions against Belarus and provide over $3 million in support to pro-democratic organizations.
     Canada stands in solidarity with the Belarusian people. We reaffirm our unequivocal condemnation of the gross human rights violations in Belarus. We will continue to hold Belarusian authorities to account, call for an end to the systematic persecution of minorities and peaceful democratic movements, and call for an immediate cessation of all violence, including the use of torture.

National Nursing Week

    Mr. Speaker, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an extremely challenging time for everyone, but arguably no one has experienced more challenges and been more personally impacted than those on the front lines of our health care system. The tireless efforts of health care workers to keep our community members safe, cared for and healthy is what has given many Canadians hope as we navigate through this pandemic. Without their service and being there for us each and every day, we would not be where we are or be able to finish the fight against COVID-19.
     This week is National Nursing Week. I want to send a big thanks to our nurses in Whitby, throughout Durham region and all across Canada for the incredible work they do. We know they must be physically and emotionally exhausted at this point, and hope that as they dig deeper to continue to care for our loved ones they know how much we believe in and appreciate them for their truly courageous efforts.
    I hope all members of the House will join me in thanking our nurses.

Abbotsford

    Lights. Camera. Abbotsford. Mr. Speaker, let me set the scene.
     I am blessed to live in beautiful Abbotsford, British Columbia. Now it appears the film industry has taken notice of our city. Nestled between majestic Mount Baker and the mighty Fraser River, our city in the country has become one of the premier film destinations in Canada. Hallmark and Netflix have taken notice and profiled our community on movie screens around the world. Last year, 63 productions were safely filmed in venues such as Clayburn Village, Mount Lehman, Matsqui Village, Mill Lake and historic downtown Abbotsford. The economic impact has been in the millions. These spinoffs are thanks to a community effort to expand our economic base beyond agriculture and manufacturing.
    The people of Abbotsford are resilient, and in the midst of a pandemic we have adapted. Our future looks bright, including our place in the movies.
    That is a wrap.

[Translation]

National Nursing Week

    Mr. Speaker, today marks the beginning of National Nursing Week, which recognizes the outstanding contributions and hard work of nursing staff.
    Hôpital de la Cité-de-la-Santé in Laval is full of superstars who work tirelessly to provide care to members of our community who need it.
    Staff members were already performing daily miracles before the pandemic, but they have ramped up their efforts since the crisis began, often to the detriment of their own health. They were on the front lines in responding to the emergency, and they continue to be guardian angels as vaccination continues in Laval.
    I thank all the nursing staff in Laval for their daily dedication to our community and the essential work they do every day. I thank them for continuing to care for those who are ill.

  (1410)  

U18 World Championship

     Mr. Speaker, on Thursday night, Canada won its first gold medal since 2013 at the under-18 world hockey championship in the United States, in Texas to be precise. I want to highlight the Canadian team's strong performance, as it did not lose any of the seven games it played throughout the tournament. This is a testament to both its strong offence and its seasoned defence.
    This team included only one Quebecker, a young hockey player from Cap-Santé, a village in my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. I would like to congratulate Guillaume Richard on his outstanding contribution. This young defenceman's remarkable talent and potential were showcased throughout the tournament. Finishing the tournament with a plus-14, Guillaume was a defensive pillar for his team.
    Guillaume is a role model for young athletes in our region and is doing a great job of representing Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier and Quebec as a whole on our national team. I hope he is as proud of himself as we all are. Congratulations, Guillaume.

[English]

Jewish Heritage Month

    Mr. Speaker, this month of May marks Jewish Heritage Month. Jews throughout Canada's history have made extraordinary contributions to the fabric of our nation and have helped make it the greatest country in the world.
    Whether it be the Bronfman family and their contributions in business and philanthropy; in politics and government with former minister of finance Joe Oliver; in the entertainment world with the likes of none other than Captain James T. Kirk, captain of the Starship Enterprise, William Shatner; or, for the younger crowd out there, Canada's own superstar, Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Drake, the Canadian Jewish community has made significant contributions to the growth and prosperity of Canada while overcoming tremendous obstacles.
    This month, let us remember to celebrate and educate future generations about the inspirational role that Jewish Canadians have played and continue to play in communities across the country. On behalf of our entire Conservative team, I want to wish a happy Jewish Heritage Month to my fellow Jewish Canadians across the country.

Hospitality Industry

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to bring to Parliament's attention an unconscionable attack on workers, occurring in British Columbia.
    Two weeks ago, an employer group representing the hospitality industry served lockout notice on some 1,200 workers in 14 communities around the province. This has been accompanied by mass firings of hundreds of workers at the Hilton Metrotown and Pacific Gateway Hotel, two-thirds of whom are women. These employers are cynically using the pandemic to eliminate loyal employees with decades of service and to roll back wages and workplace conditions. This despicable tactic also constitutes an assault on racialized Canadians, as many of these workers are people of colour.
    The Prime Minister promised Canadians a feminist recovery, but his government continues to operate quarantine services at a hotel, behind picket lines, which is attacking women. I call on the government to cease operations immediately at facilities affected by job action and suspend all federal funds to these employers until they reverse their disgraceful behaviour.

[Translation]

Scotland's Election Result

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I am pleased to congratulate the Scottish National Party and the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, for their resounding victory in Thursday's election.
    The majority of the people of Scotland voted very clearly in favour of holding another referendum on their future with the United Kingdom. Considering that the Scots voted strongly against Brexit in 2016, a referendum on Scottish independence seems most appropriate and could end in victory.
    It is my sincere wish that the will of the people of Scotland is heard and that democracy is not impeded by the government of Boris Johnson, who is refusing to let their nation simply express itself.
    I want to reiterate that a people's right to self-determination is a fundamental principle to which any democracy worthy of the name must adhere. I therefore invite every party in the House of Commons to reiterate their unconditional support for this principle to assure Scotland that its friend Canada will stand behind its values and support Scotland's choice either way.

  (1415)  

[English]

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, in a riding that has been decided by fewer than 50 votes in recent years, the member for Winnipeg North was found guilty of breaking elections law for running illegal ads on election day, influencing the vote of some 35,000 people on their way to the polls. It is completely inappropriate for this same member to be the parliamentary secretary in charge of changing Canada's election laws for all candidates in 338 ridings across the country, when he cannot be bothered to follow our existing laws.
    Canadians expect our elections to be the global standard for unquestionable integrity. How can the government be trusted to ensure the integrity of our elections and have the best interests for Canadians at the front of mind when they will recklessly break current laws for their own benefit?
    Canadians deserve better. The Liberals break the law whenever they think they can get away with it because they believe they are above the rules that the rest of us follow. A Conservative government would bring back ethics and good governance to Parliament Hill and restore Canadians' confidence in their public institutions.

2020 Joshua Glover Public Art Competition

    Mr. Speaker, today I recognize Quentin VerCetty, an award-winning Black artist, storyteller and educator who was born and raised in Etobicoke North. His work addresses issues of decolonization, immigration and representation and has been featured in countries including Australia, Germany, Haiti, Mexico and Peru.
    Quentin recently won the 2020 Joshua Glover Public Art Competition. His sculpture commemorates Joshua Glover who arrived in Canada via the Underground Railway and who helped propel the abolitionist movement.
    In Quentin's words, his memorial “marks a moment of allyship, advocacy and activism to improve the treatment of human beings that we can all continue to strive for”.
    I ask members of the House to join me in recognizing Quentin VerCetty, who works hard to inspire hearts and minds and pave the way for up-and-coming Black artists.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, “I think it's going too far to say we didn't know it was a MeToo complaint. Between PMO and PCO, we knew it was of a sexual nature.” That is what a Liberal senior government official told the Toronto Star this weekend. The Prime Minister's Office is telling Parliament something very different from what this person told the Toronto Star.
    Why did Katie Telford mislead the committee about knowing whether she was dealing with a sexual misconduct complaint against General Vance?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very clear that we did not know the nature of the specifics of the case when the information was brought forward, but we are absolutely committed to making sure that we create the culture change that is needed in the Canadian Armed Forces and making sure we have an absolutely inclusive work environment that is harassment free for all women in the Canadian Armed Forces. That is a goal we will continue to work toward.
    Mr. Speaker, that is just not believable. For weeks, the Minister of National Defence has refused to answer about whether he knew the complaint was sexual misconduct. The former ombudsman has said repeatedly that he told the minister it was. The committee has correspondence from the minister's chief of staff saying it was sexual harassment and correspondence on which the minister is copied saying it was sexual harassment.
    Can the minister stop this shameful denial and just admit that he knowingly sat on sexual misconduct complaints against General Vance for three years?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very clear that the nature of the specific details were not provided, but we acted immediately on this information. In fact, the very next day public officials, who are non-partisan, contacted Mr. Walbourne to take the appropriate action. We know that we have a lot more work to do, but we will get it done.
    Mr. Speaker, no one trusts that minister, and no one is trusting the government or believing a word it says. Telford told committee that the Prime Minister signed off on extending Vance's term and giving him a pay raise, yet she said she did not tell him about the allegations all that time. The defence minister knew, the chief of staff knew and the Clerk of the Privy Council knew, yet somehow Vance spent three more years as Canada's top soldier.
    My question is actually for the Deputy Prime Minister. How did this so-called “feminist government” allow that to happen?
    Mr. Speaker, as we said, we have a lot more work to do, when it comes to supporting the women in the Canadian Armed Forces. There is work that we have done, when it comes to passing Bill C-77, and with the sexual misconduct response centre. We have been taking important steps, but clearly we have a lot more work to do to make sure we have an absolutely harassment-free workplace in the Canadian Armed Forces. That is the work Madam Arbour is doing. The work, when it comes to military justice reforms, will also be presented. We have a lot more work to do. We are going to get this done.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, on Friday, the Prime Minister's chief of staff testified in committee. We expected her to provide compelling evidence. She did not. No one believes Katie Telford.
    A source close to the government told the Toronto Star that it was going too far to say that they did not know that it was a #MeToo complaint. Someone close to the government told the Toronto Star this. In addition, I remind members that an email received on March 2, 2018, proves without a doubt that the chief of staff knew that the complaint was about sexual harassment.
    How can the Deputy Prime Minister defend the indefensible?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, no specific details were provided, but we acted immediately on this information, and non-partisan public officials contacted Mr. Walbourne to take the appropriate action. We know that we have a lot more work to do in making sure we create the confidence for women to be able to come forward, and that is the work that is currently ongoing to get this done.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, how can we believe the government? It changed its story three times.
    On Friday, the chief of staff had a golden opportunity to tell Canadians the truth and provide tangible evidence. She was not able to do so. I will repeat my question to the Deputy Prime Minister of this self-proclaimed feminist government.
    How can the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada defend the indefensible?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as we stated before, no specific details were provided on this case, but action was immediately taken. A process was followed, the exact same process the former government had followed when information was brought to it. We know there is a lot more work to do. This is the reason we have appointed Madam Arbour to give us recommendations on the way forward, when it comes to the independence of the complaints process, so that women can feel confident to come forward. Harassment-free workplaces that have zero tolerance for any type of misconduct is our goal and something that we are committed to.

[Translation]

Elections Canada

    Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned that the government is imposing a gag order to amend election rules in the middle of a pandemic.
    The government introduced Bill C-19 four months ago. We have had four months to debate it, but the bill has suddenly become important today. The government is waking up. All of a sudden, there is no time to debate or even reflect. The government quite simply wants to use a gag order so that it can impose its election rules.
    This bill sat around for four months, so why is it suddenly so urgent to use a gag order now? Is it because the government wants to call an election in the middle of a pandemic?

  (1425)  

    We have a problem with the interpretation.
    The problem now seems to be fixed. I would ask the hon. member to repeat his question.
    The hon. member for La Prairie.
    Mr. Speaker, it is very worrisome to see the government impose closure to change election rules in the middle of a pandemic.
    The government introduced Bill C-19 four months ago. We could have been debating it these past four months. It was only today that it became important to the government. Suddenly, the government has no more time to debate or, frankly, to even think about it. It wants to use closure, of all things, to impose its election rules.
    If it was not an urgent matter for four months, why are they suddenly imposing closure? Do the Liberals want to call an election in the midst of the pandemic?
     My Bloc Québécois colleague is well aware that the government is fully focused on providing the assistance required to protect Canadians during the pandemic. That is why, throughout this pandemic, we have taken the time in the House of Commons to implement measures that provide direct support to Canadians. We also believe that when the Chief Electoral Officer asked Parliament in October—
    Order. I must interrupt the hon. minister because it seems that the members who are attending virtually cannot hear the interpretation.
    We will try again. I would ask the minister to repeat his answer.
    The hon. minister.
    Mr. Speaker, I promise that this answer will be just as good as the first one, just like it was a good question.
     My Bloc Québécois colleague is well aware that the government is fully focused on providing the assistance required to protect Canadians during the pandemic. However, we also thought it was a good idea to respond to the report of the Chief Electoral Officer, who asked Parliament in October to introduce temporary amendments to the Canada Elections Act to ensure that an election could be held during the pandemic. That is what we are doing.
    Mr. Speaker, the best way to manage an election during a pandemic is to not hold an election.
    By imposing a gag order on Bill C-19, the government is announcing that it not only wants an election but that it wants one as soon as possible. No one, except the government, thinks it is a good idea to have an election during a pandemic. More importantly, no one wants the rules of a pandemic election to be imposed by a government without any discussion. The Liberals are attacking the very heart of our democracy.
    Does the government realize that voters' health is at risk?
    Mr. Speaker, we do realize that. That is why we are asking parliamentarians to consider Bill C-19 in committee. With regard to the idea that a minority government could impose legislation on Parliament, I think that my colleague, who has quite a bit of experience, knows that we would need the consent of the other parties to move forward with such a bill.
    My colleague is the one who is about to trigger an election by continually voting no confidence in the government. That is something we have not done until now.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, on Friday, the Prime Minister's chief of staff asked what more she could have done to help the victims of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. What more could the Liberals have done? Is she serious?
    The Deschamps report, which describes the unhealthy, toxic culture in the military, has been available since 2015. What have the Liberals done since 2015? They have done nothing. In fact, they just ordered another study.
    Why did the Liberals choose to shelve the Deschamps report and abandon the victims in the military?

  (1430)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our government takes the allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously. No one should feel unsafe at work. That is why we passed Bill C-77, the declaration of victims rights. It puts victims at the core of the military justice system, which reviews unfounded cases. We created the sexual misconduct response centre, which provides confidential 24-7 support to CAF members anywhere in the world.
    We know that we have a lot more work to do, and that is the work that we are going to get done. We are going to listen to survivors, and we are going to make sure that a zero-tolerance policy is enforced and that we give confidence to women in the Canadian Armed Forces.
    Mr. Speaker, women are still waiting for the Liberals to take action to address the devastating issue of the sexualized culture within the armed forces. The government sat on the Deschamps report for six years. It could have implemented the recommendations and enforced meaningful actions, improving the ability of women and men to serve equally. However, it continues to take no responsibility on this issue, and now has proposed another report because it is forced to do so by public and political pressure.
    Will the government finally take real action and immediate action to help service women and men rather than announcing yet another report?
    Mr. Speaker, we have been taking action since we formed government. As I stated, we passed Bill C-77, the declaration of victims rights, which puts victims first, at the core of the military justice system. We created the sexual misconduct response centre and “The Path to Dignity and Respect”. We also put in place a response and support coordination program for CAF members who experience sexual misconduct.
    A lot of work has been done, but at the end of day, more work needs to move forward to make sure that women in the Canadian Armed Forces have the confidence to come forward when misconduct is done. Our goal at the end of the day is to prevent this from happening in the first place, and we will get this done.

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, when the heritage minister first started coming under fire for Bill C-10, he insisted that YouTube content would not be censored. However, just yesterday the truth slipped out. Uh-oh. In an interview he said, “at some point the CRTC will be asked to put a threshold.” Wait a minute. With one breath the minister says YouTube users have nothing to worry about, but in his next breath he says that at some point they will be censored.
    Why does the minister want to dictate to individual YouTubers what they can and cannot post?
    Mr. Speaker, it was clear from the beginning that we wanted to focus on two things: one, for social media platforms to financially contribute to our cultural industry; and two, making our Canadian artists discoverable on platforms such as YouTube. Today I was relieved to see that the Conservatives are finally listening to the cultural sector and have stopped their unnecessary two-week-long filibuster.
    We continue to stand with our artists and creators. We look forward to the resumption of the committee's work very soon. The cultural sector is behind us and in support of this bill.
    Mr. Speaker, it is good that the minister is sticking to his talking points instead of trying to go on his own. That results in blunders.
    Yesterday the minister admitted that if successful YouTubers with a lot of viewers make revenue from their content—oh my gosh, heaven forbid—the eye of the government will be on them. There are so many incredible entrepreneurs, artists and creators who have found a way to connect with other individuals and generate a bit of income from it. Why is the minister launching an attack on them?
    Mr. Speaker, let me be clear. The bill is not about what Canadians can or cannot post online. It is very explicit in this regard. Helping Canadian artists and creators is at the heart of what Bill C-10 does. It actually gives them more opportunities to meet their own artists and creators. It does so by making sure that big streaming companies pay their fair share to our culture. It also ensures that Canadian artists are discoverable on these platforms. Our creators cannot afford to wait any longer.
    Mr. Speaker, let me interpret that. What he is saying is that information will be censored, that certain videos will be moved to the top and others to the bottom, and that the government will dictate which is which.
    Over the weekend, the minister had yet another blunder. Every time he goes out to “clarify” the intent of Bill C-10, he makes things worse. Within 24 hours, he had to issue two clarifications and an apology. It is obvious the minister does not know what is in his very own bill. It is so bad that just moments ago, the parliamentary secretary had to do the press conference instead of the minister.
    Why does the government continue to try to defend the indefensible?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, if the Conservative members truly care about freedom of speech, they will let our democracy continue its work freely. This bill would not regulate the Internet, or what people choose to post online or even view online, not at all. Individual activities are explicitly exempt from all three requirements above.
    Freedom of speech is not negotiable for our government. It is explicitly protected under this act and in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We will continue to abide by it. We will let the committee pursue its work, and if that means a charter review needs to go on, we will be happy to do it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is crazy. In an interview on the weekend, the Minister of Canadian Heritage cited the wrong provision of his own bill and confirmed that the government's regulations could apply to social media accounts with a large following.
    He said that the CRTC, not the government, would be in charge of the regulation. The minister confirmed that the Liberals want to attack freedom of expression and every time he opens his mouth he makes his bill more confusing and incomprehensible. Canadians are not buying it.
    How does the minister explain the comments he made this weekend?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for giving me the opportunity to remind him of all the people and organizations across the country who support Bill C-10.
    Among others, there is Pierre Trudel, professor at Université de Montréal's Faculty of Law and first chair holder of the L.R. Wilson chair in information technology and e-commerce law. There is also the Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the National Alliance of the Music Industry, the Association des distributeurs exclusifs de livres en langue française, the Société civile des auteurs multimédia, the Société des auteurs et compositeurs dramatiques, Copibec, the Association—
    Order. The member for Richmond—Arthabaska.
    Mr. Speaker, we are all fed up with hearing the minister say that because we want to protect freedom of expression, we Conservatives are against culture.
    The minister has been playing petty politics since the beginning. If we are in this mess, he is the one solely responsible, since he did a complete about-face on the protection of social media users.
    Can the minister show a modicum of honesty and admit to cultural stakeholders that were it not for his failure to protect freedom of expression, we would not be where we are today?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to paraphrase Jérôme Payette, the executive director of the Professional Music Publishers' Association. According to him, Conservatives are using misinformation, fear and filibustering to prevent the passage of a bill at the expense of our cultural future. He considers that to be loathsome. He says that the Conservative Party of Canada is against culture and he feels that we need Bill C-10. I would remind my hon. colleague that this does not come from me, but from people in the cultural sector.
     Mr. Speaker, the minister keeps quoting all kinds of people, but I would like to quote him. He said that this law should apply to people who are broadcasters or who act like broadcasters. He said that, if someone has a YouTube channel that garners millions of views and earns them money, the government will ask the CRTC to put a threshold. The next day, the minister said the opposite.
    The fact is that, under this bill, which the minister and the Liberals themselves amended, any influencer, artist, politician or social media user can be regulated by the CRTC. The minister is attacking freedom of expression, period. Why?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to share another quote from Jérôme Payette, who wrote the following to the member for Richmond—Arthabaska: “It is very disappointing that you and the [Conservative Party] have opted for partisanship at the expense of Quebec and Canadian culture. The C-10 study isn't even over yet. Yours is the only party threatening freedom of expression.”
    It is purely political.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's Office has known since 2018 that allegations were circulating about the former chief of the defence staff, General Vance. As we know, these were allegations of sexual misconduct, but the Prime Minister's chief of staff claims that she did not know the nature of the accusations. With respect, I do not believe her.
    Let us pretend for a moment that we do believe her. Assuming the Prime Minister's top advisor has known since 2018 that a major complaint of an unknown nature was circulating against the general, what did the Prime Minister do in those three years to shed light on this complaint?

  (1440)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I stated earlier, we did not know the nature of the specifics or the details of the information that was brought forward, but action was taken immediately and given to non-partisan public officials to take the appropriate action. No politician should ever be involved in an investigation.
    We take incidents like this very seriously, and this is why we are working extremely hard to make culture changes not only inside the Canadian Armed Forces, but widely throughout government as well.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's chief of staff said she treated the complaint with the utmost seriousness even though she did not know the nature of it.
    Basically, she knew that there were serious allegations against General Vance, but she did not tell the Prime Minister and she did not tell the Minister of National Defence, even though this was not the first time there had been allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Vance and even in the midst of Operation Honour, meant to address misconduct of this nature.
    In short, the chief of staff did nothing to protect the victims. She basically protected the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence. Is that it?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to any type of allegations that are brought forward, no politician or political staff should ever be involved in any investigation. The information was sent forward immediately to the Privy Council officials, who are non-partisan, to look at the complaint.
    We know that we have a lot more work to do, and we are going to get it done.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's Office was aware of serious allegations against the highest-ranking military officer and it ignored them.
    What is worse, the Minister of National Defence knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the allegations involved sexual misconduct. He also ignored these allegations, which is inexcusable.
    Since the Prime Minister did not take the allegations seriously, claiming he was unaware of the nature of these allegations, will he take them seriously now and fire the Minister of National Defence?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I stated, the nature of the specifics and the details was not provided, but action was taken immediately. Advice was given to make sure that Mr. Walbourne was contacted by the Privy Council Office. In this case, the very next day we made sure that non-partisan public officials from the Privy Council Office contacted Mr. Walbourne. Action was taken immediately. Politicians, or political staff, should never be involved in any type of investigation.
    We know we have a lot more work to do to rebuild the confidence with the survivors who are coming forward, and we will get it done.
    Mr. Speaker, to be clear, we know that there was never an investigation even started. Katie Telford was complicit in the Vance cover-up when she decided not to tell the Prime Minister about the serious allegations against the former chief of the defence staff. She confirmed at the defence committee that she allowed the Prime Minister to personally sign off on General Vance's pay bonuses and extended his contract without properly briefing him on the sexual misconduct allegations against the very man entrusted with Operation Honour. Katie Telford wilfully withheld critical information and by doing so, she failed to protect the women and men of the armed forces from sexual misconduct.
    It is clear the Prime Minister can no longer trust her. Why has he not fired her?
    Mr. Speaker, when information was brought forward, it was immediately acted upon. It was given to non-partisan public officials at the Privy Council to take appropriate action. No political staff or politician should ever be involved with an investigation. It is the exact same process that the member opposite's government also followed when allegations were brought forward.
    We know that we have a lot more work to do. I ask the member opposite for us to be able to work together to find the right solutions so we can rebuild the confidence for our survivors. We have a lot more work to do. We know that by working together we can get this done.
    Mr. Speaker, the fact is that we investigated, and they turned a blind eye.
    On Friday, Katie Telford claimed she knew the Vance allegations did not pose a safety risk, while at the same time denying that she knew anything about the nature of the allegations. If she did not know the nature of the allegations, there is no way she could have been confident that there were no safety concerns. In fact, Gary Walbourne, the former military ombudsman, only told the Minister of National Defence that he had a complaint of inappropriate sexual behaviour against Vance.
    Who assured Katie Telford not to worry about the safety of the complainant? Was it Michael Wernick, Janine Sherman or was it the Minister of National Defence himself?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite stated that they investigated, but they also still appointed General Vance at that time for chief of the defence staff.
    When it came to the specifics of the case, we did not receive the details. We immediately forwarded it to non-partisan, public officials at the Privy Council Office to take the appropriate action. Action was taken, but clearly more work needs to happen.
    We are currently working to regain the confidence of the survivors. We have been listening to the survivors. The work that Lieutenant-General Carignan will be doing will be absolutely instrumental in this case.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, calling oneself a feminist has to mean something.
    The Prime Minister told everyone that he is the greatest feminist in the world, but that is clearly not true. A feminist would take action when a woman in the Canadian Armed Forces files a complaint with the ombudsman.
    The ombudsman went to the Minister of National Defence, who covered his eyes and plugged his ears so that he did not hear anything. The following day, an email from the Privy Council Office dated March 2, 2018, at 5:09 p.m. confirmed that the allegations in question involved sexual harassment.
    What other details did the Prime Minister need to take action and be a true feminist?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, any time, if ever, information is brought forward, immediate action is taken.
    As I stated before a number of times, when the information was brought forward, immediate action was taken. It was provided to the non-partisan, public officials at the Privy Council Office to take the appropriate action. No politician or political staff should ever be involved in any type of investigation. The previous government also followed the same process.
    Nonetheless, we know that we have a lot more work to do. We can get this done. I look forward to hearing the recommendations from the NDDN committee on this matter. As parliamentarians, by working together, we can rebuild the confidence for the women in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Labour

    Mr. Speaker, workers at the Pacific Gateway Hotel in British Columbia are on strike after management fired 100 long-service employees. Most of these union members are women, many people of colour. This hotel and others are cynically using the pandemic to gain economic advantage.
     Instead of standing up for workers, the federal government is using this hotel for quarantine while its management is assaulting its staff. This is not the action of a government that is truly feminist, committed to working people or fighting discrimination.
    Will the Liberals stop giving money to an employer who is attacking workers, women and marginalized communities?
    Mr. Speaker, I agree that workers everywhere need to be protected, especially as they face the front lines with such determination and courage.
    Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is our top priority. Keeping travellers and staff at designated quarantine facilities safe requires training in infection prevention and control practices. I understand that the employer is having conversations with the workers. As this process is under way in a provincial workplace, I cannot comment further.

Canada Revenue Agency

    Mr. Speaker, that was no answer at all.
    Here is yet another case of the Liberal free ride for the ultrarich. We learned last weekend that billions of dollars in public funds through the wage subsidy that should have gone to protecting jobs and workers, instead went to dividend payments, stock buybacks and big executive bonuses.
    The Liberals have gone after regular Canadians, the victims of CERB fraud, demanding the victims pay for the criminals. It is shameful. Will the Liberals make the ultrarich, those companies and CEOs who misused these funds, pay the money back?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his concern for working Canadians.
    Let me take this opportunity to point out to him that the wage subsidy has protected the jobs of 621,000 workers in his province of British Columbia. Across Canada, more than 5.3 million jobs have been supported by the wage subsidy.
    The CRA website makes clear that the wage subsidy can only be claimed for employee remuneration. It cannot be used for other purposes.

  (1450)  

Small Business

    Mr. Speaker, we recently tabled the most small business-friendly budget in Canadian history.
    Last Friday, our government made an announcement to significantly increase rapid testing for businesses and their workers across Canada. Could the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade please tell us how this would both protect the health and safety of Canadians, and benefit our small businesses?
    Mr. Speaker, that is an important question. As we continue to fight COVID-19, rapid screening is an important tool to protect Canadians' health and safety and to help our businesses of all sizes operate safely and reopen quickly.
    Last Friday, we announced that we are making rapid screening even more accessible, building on the stay safe initiative, working collaboratively with local chambers and SMEs in order to protect Canadians and support workers and businesses to operate safely and to recover strongly from this pandemic.

[Translation]

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, the Lévis and Montreal refineries depend on Line 5 to supply Canadians with 50% of their oil and gas. Thousands of jobs depend on Line 5 continuing to operate. However, the Governor of Michigan has said she wants to shut it down in two days, and the government has done nothing to protect it.
    What will the government do in the next 48 hours to protect these jobs?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Line 5 is a critical piece of energy infrastructure, vital to North American energy security. We are working on the diplomatic level, we are working on the political level and we are working on the legal level to defend it.
    Last week, the House had an emergency debate; there was no daylight between parties. The members for Banff—Airdrie and Sarnia—Lambton suggested that the Leader of the Opposition actually spoke with the Governor of Michigan on this issue. In the spirit of a team Canada approach to this, and this is important, will the hon. member perhaps share with this House what the governor said?
    Mr. Speaker, it is no surprise that the minister and the Prime Minister cannot get the governor on the phone themselves, because, of course, they have done nothing but fail in Canada-U.S. relations for the last five years.
    They failed to get a buy America exemption, as Harper did under Obama. They failed to resolve the softwood lumber dispute, as Harper did under George W. Bush. They have had three presidents to work with, and yet no concessions whatsoever. The U.S. President will not even intervene right now to help save this vital energy link on which thousands of jobs and our entire energy system in central Canada depend.
    Why should we have any confidence that they will do better this time, after their failures the last times?
    Mr. Speaker, I will take that as a non-answer.
    At a time when producers and workers in western Canada are concerned about getting their products to market, when consumers are worried about the price of gas and how that will affect the heat in their homes, what have the Conservatives been doing? They have been fundraising off threats to shut down Line 5, fundraising for their election campaign. It is insulting to oil and gas workers and insulting to Canadians who just want to heat their homes.
    While Conservatives are focused on improving their bank account, we are standing up for Line 5 with a full team Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, today is May 10. In two days, on May 12, the government will fail if the Governor of Michigan closes down Line 5. When is the government going to actually recognize that this is something serious it has to deal with? When is the government going to talk to the Governor of Michigan, and also with the President of the United States, and get this problem solved?
    Mr. Speaker, Line 5 is not just an issue for producers in Alberta or consumers in Ontario. It supports the entire country. Thousands of jobs depend on it, and thousands of homes depend on it for heating.
    We are working closely with Minister Savage in Alberta, with whom I was just on the phone, and with Minister Eyre in Saskatchewan as well. We have been talking with Minister Rickford in Ontario, with Sarnia mayor Mike Bradley, and I have been speaking with Minister Julien in Quebec. This is a full-court press by team Canada.
    While the Conservatives are more focused on using this to fundraise, we are standing up for oil and gas workers and defending Line 5.

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural Resources is leaving no stone unturned, he says, and he is looking at all options. That is what he tells us. However, there are 48 hours left before 30,000 jobs and millions of people who depend on them are affected. Fuel shortages, food distribution impacts, essential goods and personal protective equipment not being manufactured are what awaits us if the government does not have a contingency plan in place.
    Where is the Prime Minister while his minister is turning over stones and not getting it done?
    Mr. Speaker, I can assure the House that we are looking at all our options. We will leave no stone unturned in defending Canada's energy security. We will work at the political level, at the diplomatic level and at the legal level. We are ready to intervene at precisely the right moment.
    We are standing up for energy workers, we are standing up for energy consumers and we are standing up for energy security. People will not left be left out in the cold.

[Translation]

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, ever since we began our study of Bill C-10, the government has insisted that only social media platforms would be affected by the government's amendments, not their users.
    On the weekend, the minister stated that users with lots of followers could be affected. No matter how many followers a user has, a user is a user. There is no reason the government should subject people to regulations based on how many likes they have on their page.
    Can the minister be clear for once? Does he intend to subject people to regulations or to protect social media users' freedom of expression no matter the cost? I would appreciate it if he did not quote someone else this time.
    Mr. Speaker, it is clear that what we want to do is focus on two things.
    First, we want social media platforms to contribute financially to our cultural industry. Second, we want to make our Canadian artists discoverable on platforms such as YouTube.
    Today I was relieved to see that the Conservative Party is finally listening to the cultural sector. I would be very disappointed if the Bloc Québécois were to stop listening to Quebec's cultural sector. I hope the committee responsible for studying Bill C-10 will resume its work so that this bill, which is very important to all our artists and creators, can be passed as soon as possible.
    Mr. Speaker, I would not be afraid to compare my record on the study of Bill C-10 and the defence of the Quebec cultural industry with that of the minister at any time.
    This bill is vital to Quebec culture and to our artists and artisans. The work on Bill C-10 will be able to continue as soon as the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Canadian Heritage have testified to reassure Quebeckers who are concerned about freedom of expression.
    Will the minister commit to doing his part to unblock Bill C-10 once and for all by ensuring that he and his colleague, the Minister of Justice, accept the request of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to appear as early as Friday to reassure Quebeckers about the critical issue of freedom of expression on social media?
    Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to respond to the requests of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I have appeared before that committee every time it has asked me to do so.
    As my hon. colleague is well aware, clause 2(3) of the bill specifies that Bill C-10 must be consistent with freedom of expression and journalistic and creative independence. Since my colleague examined the bill so closely, I would be surprised if he forgot about that.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

    Mr. Speaker, Les Viandes du Breton, a business in my riding with more than 600 employees, is in danger of having to cut back its operations or even having to move to the United States if Canada cannot bring in enough temporary foreign workers.
    There are over 8,000 job vacancies in the food processing industry in Quebec. Under paragraph 205(a) of the regulations, the Minister of Immigration could temporarily exempt these essential businesses from the 10% maximum threshold or labour market impact assessments if it were in the national interest.
    Will he do that?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that very constructive question.
     Temporary foreign workers are critical to our businesses, which is why we have facilitated the arrival of essential temporary foreign workers throughout the pandemic. Last year, we welcomed more than 85% of the agricultural workers we were expecting, and even more will arrive this year.
    I will continue to work with my colleague.

  (1500)  

[English]

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, two days, that is all the time that is left before the Line 5 pipeline is set to shut down. My constituents in Lambton—Kent—Middlesex and farmers across southwestern Ontario are worried. Farmers depend upon propane supplied by Line 5. Where and how will they get their propane to heat their barns and greenhouses, and dry their grain?
    Will the Prime Minister get on the phone with President Biden and stress the urgency and importance of keeping Line 5 open? There is less than 48 hours left.
    Mr. Speaker, I can assure the House and the hon. member we are looking at all our options. We will leave no stone unturned in defending Canada's energy security. We are working at the political level, we are working at the diplomatic level, we are working at the legal level and we will be ready to intervene at precisely the right moment. We will stand up for energy workers and for energy consumers in the country. We are standing up for Canada's energy security. People will not be left out in the cold.

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, for weeks, the Liberals have continued their attack on freedom of speech online. As it currently stands, Bill C-10 would grant the CRTC the ability to regulate content that is posted online by individuals who are not even considered broadcasters. This is not disinformation; these are serious concerns that have been raised by former CRTC chairs and highly respected academics.
     Will the minister agree to stringent and in-depth protections for user-generated content in Bill C-10?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote members of the Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, who state, “Bill C-10 in no way infringes on the freedom of expression, nor does it represent censorship of the Internet.”
    The cultural sector is very clear. It wants this bill. Hundreds of millions of dollars for art creators, artists and art musicians are at stake. We are asking the committee to accelerate the completion of its work on Bill C-10 so it can be brought back to the House.

[Translation]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, the vaccine rollout is in full swing, with millions of vaccines arriving in Canada every week.
    Starting Friday, residents of Quebec aged 18 and up can receive their first dose. As more and more Canadians become eligible to receive a vaccine, it is important that we continue to encourage them to get vaccinated when it is their turn.
    Would the hon. Minister of Health tell the House what the government is doing—
    Order. I must interrupt the hon. member as we have a problem with interpretation again. It only seems to be working in the House.
    The interpretation now seems to be working for everyone. I would ask the hon. member to repeat her question.
    The hon. member for Vimy.
    Mr. Speaker, the vaccine rollout is in full swing, with millions of vaccines arriving in Canada every week.
    Starting Friday, residents of Quebec aged 18 and up can receive their first dose. As more and more Canadians become eligible to receive a vaccine, it is important that we continue to encourage them to get vaccinated when it is their turn.
    Would the hon. Minister of Health tell the House what the government is doing to combat vaccine hesitancy?

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague. The vaccines are an important tool in the fight against COVID-19.
    In February, we announced $64 million to help Canadians get reliable information about vaccines. All of the vaccines are approved by Health Canada as safe and effective against COVID-19.
    I encourage all Canadians to get vaccinated because the vaccine protects them and their loved ones.

[English]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, today, media reports state that Canadian Armed Forces members saw video evidence of war crimes committed by the very Iraqi soldiers they were ordered to train in Operation Impact. Our troops, my constituents, immediately reported seeing videos of prisoners being tortured, raped and murdered to their superiors. They first reported what they saw in September of 2018, yet there is no proof these reports were ever acted upon despite follow-ups as recently as last year.
     Did the minister know about this video evidence of war crimes?
    Mr. Speaker, Canada is contributing to the greater peace and security in the world and remains a strong partner in the fight against Daesh. We are committed to meeting our obligations under international and domestic law.
     Our government takes allegations of this nature extremely seriously, and we are actively looking into this troubling allegation, which we just heard of now.

Tourism Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the government announced the highly affected sectors credit availability program in late November and waited two months to open applications. According to the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, only 4% of its members have taken up HASCAP. Businesses have told us increased debt loads, higher interest rates and continued issues with the criteria are the reasons for the program's failure.
    With an unemployment rate of 13% in the tourism sector in March, why is the government failing those hardest-hit businesses and workers who desperately need support to survive through this pandemic?
    Mr. Speaker, of course, we understand that the tourism sector is undergoing great difficulties, and that is exactly why we have been there. We have been there to support people through the wage subsidy, the rent relief program, the CEBA, all the different support we got through the regional development agencies and also through the HASCAP.
    At the same time, we know that we have to do more, and that is exactly why we are doing more. In the budget that the Minister of Finance tabled a couple of weeks ago, we have $1 billion more to support our tourism operators, hoteliers and the great workers who make sure that this sector will be able to be relaunched in the couple—
    The hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, the vaccine injury support program was first announced in December, yet it is still not up and running. In fact, a simple search shows a call for applications for a third-party administrator remains open. The minister's own office has confirmed the program is not ready. They know the support would eventually be needed, which is why it was announced back in December.
     I already have constituents contacting my office about the program who need help. Why is it not up and running?
    Mr. Speaker, every step of the way we have provided for Canadians, including with the launch of a vaccine injury support program. I would encourage the member opposite, if he does have constituents who are looking for answers about the program, to ensure he communicates with my office and we will make sure that they get the information they need. Also, any claims will be retroactive to the beginning of our immunization program.
    We will continue to be there for Canadians in the extremely rare event of a serious side effect.
    Mr. Speaker, while the pandemic has affected all Canadians, many Black, indigenous and racialized groups have been at the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, filling roles in health care, personal support work and other essential services. These groups have disproportionately faced the impacts of COVID-19 and may be facing worsening mental health outcomes as a result.
    As last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, could the Minister of Health update us on how the government is working to improve access to mental health services, particularly for racialized and vulnerable Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his ongoing and consistent advocacy for people who struggle with mental health issues and for excellent care no matter where people live.
    Budget 2021 proposes to provide $100 million to support projects for innovative mental health interventions for populations that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including health care workers, front-line workers, youth, seniors, indigenous, racialized and Black Canadians.
    In the conversations I had with stakeholders from coast to coast to coast last week, they expressed great gratitude to our finance minister and our government for including mental health so profoundly in the budget. We look forward to working with them all to ensure every Canadian gets—

  (1510)  

    The hon. member for Windsor West.
    Mr. Speaker, cross-border vaccination deals have been made by Manitoba with North Dakota, Alberta with Montana and Ontario is negotiating with Michigan. The federal government has completely failed to help on this, like it did with delivering vaccines in time to avoid a third wave.
     For months, I have been requesting the establishment of a border task force to ensure businesses and families are part of developing a safe border plan. Now the U.S. Senate majority leader has engaged Congress in demanding a border plan.
     When will the Prime Minister finally do his job and establish a safe border task force instead of him and a select few making it up on the fly?
    Mr. Speaker, every step of the way we have worked very closely with our United States counterparts to protect the health and safety of Canadians and indeed of our American cousins and neighbours.
    I want to speak a little about vaccines though. It is a great day. Over 18.4 million vaccines have been shipped to provinces and territories to date. As of May 7, 16 million had been administered across the country. We can see the finish line, and I want to thank all Canadians for stepping up to get vaccinated when their turn arrives. This is great news for Canada, and this is great news for the United States. We will continue to work closely with our American cousins and neighbours.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, when we use GDP as the measure of our economy, the emergency response to an oil tanker spill or a major car accident counts as economic growth. When we use GDP as the measure of our economy, an old-growth forest sequestering carbon and supporting biodiversity has no value until it is converted to lumber.
    Instead of measuring the accumulation of wealth, a well-being economy measures success through the health of people and the planet.
    Will the government stop using GDP and measure our success by well-being?
    Mr. Speaker, since the beginning, we have been focusing on Canadians' quality of life because we know it is the right thing to do for Canadians. Going beyond GDP is also an approach adopted by other major economies including Scotland and New Zealand.
    As a recent OECD survey on Canada observed, policy-makers should consider how policy development and implementation can be improved to help Canada achieve a resilient and healthy post-COVID economy and society. Specifically, the approach should more explicitly incorporate aspects such as work-life balance, job quality, social capital, trust and resources for future well-being as well as for distributional considerations.
    That is great advice from the OECD. We are putting, and will continue to put, Canadians' quality of life at the centre of our decisions.

Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(a) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 31 petitions. These returns will be tabled in an electronic format.

Books of Remembrance

    Mr. Speaker, more than 118,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders have given their lives in service to Canada. We have lost them in the muddy trenches of Flanders, on the shores of the Normandy coast, along the streets of Kandahar and while training right here in Canada. Some were senior officers and others were kids who never even shaved. They are more than 118,000 fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.
    With numbers like that, the fallen can become a mere statistic as time moves on. The Books of Remembrance are one of the ways we prevent that from happening. With the turning of a page each morning, we see the names of those lost to history. With the turning of the page, we can remember them.
    There are eight Books of Remembrance. These commemorate those who fell during the War of 1812 and the South African War/Nile Expedition. There are four books to commemorate Canadians and Newfoundlanders who gave their lives during the First World War and the Second World War, and to remember the members of the Merchant Navy who served and died alongside them. There is a book for the 516 Canadians killed in Korea. Finally, there is the In the Service of Canada book, which contains the names of members of the Canadian Armed Forces lost at home and abroad since October 1947.
    Volume II of that book was recently returned to the House, and this morning it turned to a new page that bears the names of nine Canadians we lost last year: Leading Seaman Eric Keen, Master Corporal Matthew Cousins, Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, Captain Kevin Hagen, Captain Brenden MacDonald, Captain Maxime Miron-Morin, Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Pyke, Captain Jennifer Casey and Master Sailor James McCourt.
    These nine names are a reminder of the risk those in uniform take every day, even in times of peace. They step forward to wear our flag on their shoulders with the understanding that the cost of doing so might be the ultimate one. They represent the very best of us. We mourn with their families and friends and we remember them today. On the morning when the page turns to the one that bears their names, we know we will remember them for generations to come.

  (1515)  

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all Canadians and all Conservatives, I would offer the following additional details about the Books of Remembrance. There are a total of 512 names on display today, May 10, and 16 specific entries for those Canadian heroes who are known to have passed away on May 10. They are Private Francis George William Floyd, Flying Officer Reginald James Dew, Private Joseph Clough, Corporal Patrick Duffy, Private Clayton Morningstar, Lieutenant Charles Casimir Von Straubenzee, Private Duncan McKinnon, Private Arthur Murphy, Private Stephen Payne, Private William Roberts, Private John Vaughan, Master Warrant Officer Loran Stuart Bessey, Gunner Rex Elms, Captain Paul Rackham, Carpenter Erich Karo and Second Lieutenant Ivan Arthur Thomas.
    I would like to share some personal connections I have to the Books of Remembrance. On September 18, 2006, I was in Afghanistan for the very first time on a tactical reconnaissance in preparation for my subsequent deployment to Afghanistan in 2007. Unfortunately, on that sad day I was there when we lost Corporal Glenn Harold Arnold, Private David Robert James Byers, Corporal Shane Patrick Keating and Corporal Keith Ian Morley to a bicycle improvised explosive device. I then witnessed the absolute resolve and resolution within that combat team that they were members of, and the phenomenal leadership from then major Mike Wright. I had the honour to participate in three ramp ceremonies for those four fallen heroes in Afghanistan, in the U.A.E. and then back in Trenton.
    Needless to say, I was really well prepared to understand what I was getting into, in order to prepare my own soldiers for the subsequent mission when we deployed four months later. Unfortunately, even before then on October 3, 2006, in my own riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, we lost Corporal Robert Thomas James Mitchell. I have the honour of knowing the Mitchell family now quite well. To say the least, the pain is palpable every day with them, because I know they will never forget their fallen son.
    Unfortunately, in 2007, a couple of months after I was deployed in the Maiwand desert on April 8, 2007, Easter Sunday, I lost six of my own soldiers: Private David Robert Greenslade, Private Kevin Vincent Kennedy, Sergeant Donald Jason Lucas, Corporal Brent Donald Poland, Master Corporal Christopher Paul Stannix and Corporal Aaron Edward Williams. This was the worst day of my life. There are no other words for it. The only day that was harder for me personally was when I got back to Canada a number of months later and I had the honour and privilege of meeting a number of the family members and close friends of those fallen heroes. There is nothing one can say to them. That pain is there. Those families will never forget and that is why these Books of Remembrance are so important.
    I still wear my dog tags from my service in the Canadian Armed Forces, but on those dog tags I have a washer. It is the washer I found on the ground when we cleaned up the site where those six soldiers were killed. I wear that every day, because I will never forget those six fallen heroes.
    Now the Books of Remembrance have seen the addition of nine more names from this past year, and a new page has been turned. As the minister stated, we now have Leading Seaman Eric Keen, Master Corporal Matthew Cousins, Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, Captain Kevin Hagen, Captain Brenden MacDonald, Captain Maxime Miron-Morin, Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Pyke, Captain Jennifer Casey and Master Sailor James McCourt.
    On a bit more of a positive note, I just found out this past week during a conversation with some constituents that back in my riding, at the Owen Sound Billy Bishop Regional Airport, the Price family, which knew Captain Casey personally, are now in the process of opening the new and future Captain Jenn Casey's Cafe and Grill in tribute to Jenn and the other fallen heroes. I am sure all members of the House, and for the most part all Canadians, have their own personal connections to family members or friends who have made this supreme sacrifice.
    The Books of Remembrance are of vital importance to ensure that these Canadian heroes are never forgotten. We owe this to them and to their families. Lest we forget. We will remember them.

  (1520)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we are here today to pay tribute to nine members of the Canadian Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice last year in the line of duty. Today, Monday, May 10, 2021, their names were officially recorded in the In the Service of Canada Book of Remembrance. This noble publication commemorates all the Quebec and Canadian soldiers who have died in service since 1947, with the exception of the Korean War, where my uncle Georges Desilets lost his life.
    This and seven other Books of Remembrance lie in the West Block or in the Peace Tower. Together, they commemorate the heavy toll paid during the most important moments of our military history. It is fitting that these Books of Remembrance are displayed here on Parliament Hill because it was us, as parliamentarians, who sanctioned the deployment of the vast majority of the soldiers whose names are inscribed in them. We therefore have a double duty to pay tribute to them, as citizens and as legislators.
    I salute the memory of Leading Seaman Eric Anthony Keen, who died on January 19, 2020, and of Master Sailor James Richard McCourt, who died on October 9, 2020.
    I salute the memory of Captain Jennifer Rose Casey of the Royal Canadian Air Force, who died tragically on May 17, 2020, in an accident involving one of the Snowbird jets in British Columbia.
    I salute the memory of the six members of the Royal Canadian Navy who died tragically on April 29, 2020, in a Cyclone helicopter crash off the coast of Greece: Master Corporal Matthew Alexander Cousins, Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Pyke, Captain Kevin Hagen, Captain Brenden Ian MacDonald, and Captain Maxime Miron-Morin.
    Today their names will be added to the names of 118,000 Quebec and Canadian soldiers, whose memory I also salute.
    They all gave their lives to defend our lives and the lives of their fellow soldiers. No matter the circumstances of their deaths, the oath of allegiance they swore alone deserves the utmost respect.
    Rest in peace, soldiers. Your sacrifices will never be forgotten.

  (1525)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I also rise today in the House to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The Books of Remembrance contain more than 118,000 names of Canadians who paid the ultimate price.

[Translation]

    We remember those we have lost in the line of duty. We must remember the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who served our country in peacetime and in war.

[English]

    That is what the eight Books of Remembrance are really about. We must never forget.
    Today, nine Canadian Armed Forces personnel killed in 2020 will be added for the first time to the Book of Remembrance for service. I want to state the names because I think it is important for us all to continue to remember them: Leading Seaman Eric Anthony Keen, Master Corporal Matthew Alexander Cousins, Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Lillian Cowbrough, Captain Kevin Matthew Hagen, Captain Brenden Ian MacDonald, Captain Maxime Miron-Morin, Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Kendall Pyke, Captain Jennifer Rose Casey and Master Sailor James Richard McCourt.
    I pay my respects and offer my condolences to their families and friends. I assure them that they will never be forgotten.

[Translation]

    Canadian Armed Forces members have always been there to help Canadians.

[English]

    The most recent example of service was during the COVID-19 pandemic under Operation Laser, when the armed forces rushed to help our loved ones in long-term care. They were there to support northern and remote communities, including first nations. They were there to help with contact tracing efforts in Ontario and on first nations reserves during the COVID-19 pandemic.

[Translation]

    They were there to ensure that the teams of nurses, medical technicians and long-term care staff in Ontario and Quebec had access to personal protective equipment in order to stay safe.

[English]

    We honour those who served us and continue to do so. Canadian veterans have made untold sacrifices for our country.
    Today we recognize those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us. We must offer them the best care and services possible when they come home. Veterans tell us that they appreciate commemorative events, but they need supports that reflect that recognition from their government. We must listen and we must deliver, as they did for our country and as they did for us.
    Veterans need reliable services that meet their needs. Veterans need one person they can call who knows them, their history and their story. Instead, they are forced to repeat themselves every time they seek support from the government. This can be traumatic, as it triggers veterans to retell stories about their injuries. It is wrong to make them relive their pain and suffering. We must be better equipped to support them.
    All members of the House receive calls from veterans for help navigating Veterans Affairs Canada. We must do better for our veterans. They deserve what they are entitled to.
    The New Democrats will keep fighting to ensure that the government offers the best services possible to our veterans. We will keep fighting for their rights, as we have done for a long time, since the CSC fought for pensions for veterans. They deserve no less.

[Translation]

    On behalf of all New Democrats, we want to express our gratitude to those who have served and continue to serve our country and people all around the world during tough times.

  (1530)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am seeking the consent of the House to deliver a reply on behalf of the Green Party of Canada.
    All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay. Hearing none, it is agreed.
    The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay. It is carried.
    The hon. member for Fredericton.
    Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart and the greatest humility that I stand today in honour of the bravest among us. Today we add nine names to the Book of Remembrance, where they will be honoured and remembered alongside the 118,000 other Canadians who have given their lives in service to this country.
    I have the privilege to be the member of Parliament for Fredericton, home of CFB Gagetown. I live alongside citizens who are serving this country as members of the armed forces, many who have retired from service and many more who are the spouses, parents and children supporting loved ones who serve. They are all a critical part of the fabric of my community.
    Military service is not glamourous. Those who have made the decision to serve have done so selflessly and acknowledge that they are putting their lives on the line to defend our nation. Today we think of these nine service members, some of them in the spring of their lives, others nearing the end of a long career. In various positions and serving in various ranks, they are united in their love for this country and for their bravery. We will never forget them.
    We must also never forget that beyond their uniform, they lived rich, full lives. They were loved by parents, spouses, children, neighbours and friends. Their family members have also made an unthinkable sacrifice for our country, and with one foot in front of the other, they will learn to continue living without a piece of their heart. The motto of Base Gagetown is “diligence”. Those we have lost have demonstrated diligence in their service.
    Today we demonstrate diligence in our memory of the nine Canadian Armed Forces members we lost last year: Leading Seaman Eric Keen, Master Corporal Matthew Cousins, Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, Captain Kevin Hagen, Captain Brenden MacDonald, Captain Maxime Miron-Morin, Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Pyke, Captain Jennifer Casey and Master Sailor James McCourt. Pro patria. Lest we forget.

[Translation]

     When Centre Block closed for renovations in February 2019, members escorted the Books of Remembrance from the Memorial Chamber to their temporary home in West Block.

[English]

    There, parliamentarians and visitors can continue to see them and read the names of those who died in the service of Canada. Every day, in a simple but solemn ceremony, the pages of the books are turned, displaying the names of the fallen so that all may recognize and honour them for their specific sacrifice on our behalf.
    While the Room of Remembrance remains closed to visitors during the pandemic, I encourage all parliamentarians to visit this solemn space created so that we might acknowledge and honour our past while building our future.
    I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement, Government Orders will be extended by 19 minutes, for a total of 49 minutes.

Criminal Code

     He said: Mr. Speaker, Bill S-204 would make it a criminal offence for a person to go abroad to receive an organ taken without consent. The bill would fight organ harvesting and trafficking by reducing demand, and it would save lives.
    I want to salute the work of Senator Salma Ataullahjan, as well as former MPs Borys Wrzesnewskyj and Irwin Cotler, who have put forward versions of this bill in the past. It has been close to 15 years since Mr. Wrzesnewskyj first put this concept on the table. This bill passed in both Houses unanimously in the last Parliament, although we ran out of time to complete the reconciliation process. As of this point, the Senate has unanimously adopted the same version of the bill that was adopted in the last Parliament, so an identical version of the bill has been adopted unanimously by both chambers, though in different Parliaments.
    Clearly, everyone agrees that this is important and that lives hang in the balance. Let us do all we can to clear the barriers and get this done this Parliament.

    (Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

  (1535)  

Committees of the House

Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States  

    Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States, presented on Thursday, April 15, be concurred in.
    I will be splitting my time today with the member for Chilliwack—Hope.
    Today is May 10. In two days, on May 12, the Governor of the State of Michigan has stated that she will shut down Enbridge Line 5, which provides 540,000 barrels of oil per day to Canadian refineries in Sarnia in southern Ontario, and further feeds facilities in Quebec. It is estimated that 30,000 jobs depend on this important international infrastructure in southern Ontario alone. Today, we are debating concurrence of the report of the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States, which was presented to this House on April 15. That was 25 days ago and still there are no signs that the Prime Minister is engaged on this file.
    How much of Canada's petroleum needs will be disrupted? In fact, 540,000 barrels per day equates to about 25% of Canada's daily consumption of oil. That shortage will fall on the backs of two provinces, Ontario and Quebec, as it will represent approximately half of the supply of this vital energy feedstock to its economic output as the products refine into inputs for petrochemicals, plastics and textiles, and much more that is at the heart of Canada's manufacturing sector, to heating homes, driving cars and getting goods like food and supplies to markets efficiently and quickly.
    In short, cutting off this infrastructure will result in a disastrous outcome for Canada. Tens of thousands of jobs in the supply chain that feeds our economy and a manufacturing sector that has been built on and depends on this critical infrastructure, all waiting, with their fingers crossed, for the outcome. It is safe to say that the closure of this energy infrastructure represents a national energy security emergency. Two days away, yet Line 5 has been threatened with closure since November 13, 2020. Six months have passed. I spoke about this matter needing resolution quickly at that time, but the government frittered its time away.
    Enbridge, one of Canada's great companies, has actively engaged with the governor's office, and moved the matter to the U.S. federal court where it seems to belong, yet the governor wants the matter heard in a state court. Nevertheless, the federal court did instruct the parties to enter into mediation discussions, which have been ongoing. It should be noted that the governor would not even return calls from Enbridge on the matter prior to the federal court judge's instructions. Although seemingly a productive exercise, the governor has insisted during mediation talks that she would be shutting down Line 5 on May 12, whatever the process, timing or outcome of mediation discussions. This is hardly a productive or a mediatory stance.
    Why is the Governor of Michigan taking on this posture, as unreasonable as it seems to a friendly trading partner, international security partner, energy security partner and environmental progress partner for a line that is an energy lifeblood for her state and other neighbouring states, as well as Canada? Ostensibly, for the safety of water in the Great Lakes Basin, they will shut down a pipeline that has never leaked, in which the company operating it is actively going through state regulatory processes to make it even more secure with an underground concrete tunnel.
    The outcome of this misguided approach will move that product to trucks, railcars and barges on the Great Lakes. All of those outcomes have larger environmental footprints and greater environmental risks, even to the Great Lakes, than the intrinsically safe pipeline option. By clear analysis, there are other reasons. The governor is a politician, so it must be politics. For whose benefit, we can speculate, but at whose cost it is clear: Those parties dependent upon this energy infrastructure for their livelihood, their jobs, their farms, the goods they produce, and the heat for homes and barns, so that our food supply is safe; and an international trade relationship between two of the world's most friendly trading nations. This is the fallout of what is really at stake.
    The economies of our two countries, Canada and the U.S., have prospered over decades, better than economies elsewhere in the developed world because of our strong trade links and the rule of law that governs our institutions, including our trading relationships. The backbone of this mutually beneficial trade relationship is our infrastructure and the fundamentally most important part of that infrastructure is our energy infrastructure. Previous governments, of all stripes in Canada and the U.S., have recognized this importance.

  (1540)  

    In 1977, our two governments signed the Transit Pipelines Treaty to ensure that the energy transportation and trade between our two nations did not suffer because of political whims or short-term self-interest at the expense of our joint long-term prosperity and security and, yet, here we are. A state government is acting unilaterally, seemingly in direct contravention of our international treaty. It begs the question as to whether there is any meaning behind the words in that treaty or we have a trade partner that recognizes a Canadian government that either does not want to stand up for Canada's energy security or perhaps does not know how. Surely it cannot be because the Government of Canada does not recognize the importance of the infrastructure and the associated energy security.
    It follows on our country's disastrous showing in renegotiating the new NAFTA, CUSMA, and a negotiating strategy where Canada did not show up with the real issues to be discussed for our benefit until too late. At one point, we were excluded from the trade discussions because the other parties did not take us seriously. No one was there to solve the emerging issues between our countries. In the end, we ended up with far less in the trade agreement than we had in the previous agreement, and our elected officials were relieved to sign it because it could have been so much worse. A victory is now defined by the current government as doing worse, but not losing completely. The bar is being lowered.
    Since then, the U.S. has continued to ignore the trade treaty's terms on steel and aluminum and now is pursuing a buy America policy in which Canada is an outsider. So much for preferential access to our markets. So much for free trade. So much for trade treaties. So much for Canada's standing up for the terms it negotiates in these agreements. The current government will roll over on any trade issue. We need to get serious.
    Canada's standing in the world, economically and diplomatically, has declined precipitously in the past six years. We are viewed as a non-serious world player more concerned with virtuous statements than fulfilling any objectives or standing for any principles. The ranking of our competitiveness has fallen from fifth in the world to 13th, between 2015 and 2019. In foreign affairs, we have moved to a status where trade disputes are handled by our trade partners with hostage diplomacy.
     It is as if we can foresee the headlines for 2030: When did Canada lose its relevance in the world? The world will point to this period, a period when an aimless, disinterested, non-serious government spoke virtuous words of all it stood for and then delivered no tangible results. It failed to recognize Canada's strengths, its role in the world and its ability to add value to world events. It lost sight of getting things done. It could not build domestic pipelines after cancelling some of its most promising ones, delaying others and making the process for approving infrastructure opaque, adding years to regulatory process. Accountability and oversight disappeared and Canadians were not paying attention to the incompetence. Canada was, is, led by a government intent on staying in power at all costs, including the future of the country itself. Then a foreign government, our most important trading partner and ally, ignored a treaty between our two countries and allowed the shutdown of a key piece of infrastructure on which Canada's energy security depends. Why did the Government of Canada not engage adequately with the U.S. government? Perhaps it was because the interest groups that supported the Governor of Michigan were the same ones on which the Government of Canada relied for its own virtue signalling; or, perhaps it was just an incompetent Prime Minister who did not know that international engagement meant getting involved in personal diplomacy with his U.S. counterpart when Canada's interests were at grave risk.
    Line 5 is recognized as a critical piece of international infrastructure, and its regulation is overseen by PHMSA in the United States. The Canadian equivalent would be the Department of Transport. Other critical departments that should be actively involved in this file include foreign affairs, international trade and energy. This issue requires a whole-of-government approach and the leader of that effort should be the Prime Minister. Delegating this matter to the Minister of Natural Resources does not accord it the importance it requires. We need to do better. The Prime Minister needs—

  (1545)  

    Unfortunately, the hon. member's time is up. He will have time to add, during questions and comments.
    Questions and comments, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.
    Madam Speaker, the Conservative opposition party continues its shameful, destructive force on the floor of the House of Commons. It is simply amazing. Canadians are concerned about the pandemic, among other things, and the Conservatives still want to play political partisan games in the House. There was an emergency debate on the issue, yet the Conservatives have not seen fit to put it as one of the opposition days. When will the Conservatives start recognizing what Canadians want, get serious and allow government legislation to move forward. Why the constructive moves coming from the Conservative Party day in and day out?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague on the other side of the House for that Freudian slip.
    This is very constructive. This is about Canadian jobs. This is about one of the most important issues for the future of Canada and a pattern we see happening. We are speaking up loudly at this point in time for the interests of Canadians and asking the Prime Minister to meet with the U.S. President and get this matter resolved along the terms of the transit pipelines treaty today or tomorrow. The deadline set by the Governor of Michigan is at our door. When will the Prime Minister act?
    Madam Speaker, listening to the member for Calgary Centre and his speech when opening this debate, I think pretty much everybody in this House wants this dispute settled and settled quickly. It is undoubtedly going before the courts, and part of that is based on the transit pipelines treaty, which he mentioned a couple of times. The treaty also states that it is “subject to regulations by the appropriate governmental authorities”. I am not a lawyer, but I would assume that might include state authorities, so this could go on and on.
    I wondered, beyond what we did in the emergency debate last Thursday, what the member thinks we could be doing here to move this forward. We all care about those thousands of jobs in Ontario and Quebec and I just do not see the point of this debate here today.
    Madam Speaker, we are talking about accepting a parliamentary report, the Enbridge Line 5 interim report, from a parliamentary committee. This is a concurrence motion today to get this on the table two days before this line shuts down. We have been calling on the Prime Minister to get actively engaged in this file for several months now. It is not happening without his engagement. I appreciate that the member on the other side does not understand the difference between federal primacy and international treaties versus state regulation, but it is a transit pipeline treaty for the security of two nations, which was designed that way and is meant to overrule all the other regulations, except for of course safety. We are looking at a very important international treaty here that is at risk.

  (1550)  

    Madam Speaker, very quickly I would add that we did canvass the issue in an emergency debate. It is a legitimate concern of the State of Michigan to protect the waters of the Great Lakes, but we all agree a solution must be found. This is an existing route and it should be maintained by one means or another.
    I would say this very quickly to the hon. member. He mentioned in debate the other night that losing the energy chapter of NAFTA in the new CUSMA somehow hurt Canada's energy security. I actually believe it is the opposite since that section only served to ensure that whatever quantity of fossil fuels or any product Canada was exporting to the U.S. would have to be maintained in perpetuity for those energy products. For instance, even if we were running out of our supplies of natural gas we would be required to continue to sell whatever share the U.S. got at its highest level. Would he not agree this is an improvement to have autonomy?
    Madam Speaker, that is a good question. The actual terms of the energy agreement in the former NAFTA was a proportional sharing agreement. It was not an absolute sharing agreement to the highest levels that we provide to the U.S.; it was a proportional sharing agreement so that if in some emergency or international incident we had to cut back one-quarter to the U.S. we would be incumbent to cut back one-quarter of our own supplies, as would the U.S. if we think about the way this product goes across the borders in both its raw and finished states. It is called a treaty for a reason, so that we can get some solidity on our energy security as an economy going forward.
    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to share time with the member for Calgary Centre, who did an excellent of job laying out the Conservative Party's frustration with this situation.
     The potential shutdown of Line 5 has been on our radar since November of 2020 and, once again, the government has ignored a deadline or failed to manage to a deadline. We are now two days away from that deadline and we have not heard much from the government.
    I find it quite interesting that the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader has declared a discussion on Line 5 and the tens of thousands of jobs that will be lost in Sarnia and other places, where workers are anxious, quite frankly, as to what is going to happen with Line 5, a waste of time. For him to declare that as a waste of time and for him to declare that the House should not consider this issue at every possible opportunity just shows the entire government's approach on this issue. The Liberals do not want to talk about it and they have not talked about it. As a result of their ignoring the issue and not pursuing it as a priority, we have a situation where we are two days away from a deadline imposed by the Governor of Michigan and we still do not have a resolution to this matter.
    I am the vice-chair of the special committee, the committee that was created because of an initiative by the Conservative opposition. We saw Line 5 as a priority, we saw buy America as a potential threat to our country, so we took action and proposed that this committee be created to specifically hear from witnesses on this issue. We did, and every witness we heard from agreed that the pipeline should continue to operate and that the only way this would be resolved outside of a lengthy and drawn out court process was for the Prime Minister of Canada to get directly involved and elevate this to the level of President Biden. We have not seen that happen. We have not seen the Prime Minister take this up directly with the President. We have not seen this become a priority. We have not seen him making any noise on it, so we will make noise on it.
    As the official opposition, we will continue to draw attention to the fact that the government is failing the workers in Sarnia and elsewhere along this route. This is an unacceptable dereliction of duty for the Prime Minister to have simply allowed this to go on. This is exactly the same approach we saw with the Keystone XL pipeline. The Prime Minister made some token efforts and said some token words about support for the Keystone XL pipeline, but when President Biden cancelled it and cancelled the tens of thousands of high-paying union jobs, the Prime Minister simply said that President made campaign promise so what could they do about it.
    If only the Prime Minister of Canada placed the same weight on his own campaign promises, but he does not seem to care much for those. However, when President Biden says he will shut down a pipeline and kill thousands of jobs, the Prime Minister of Canada just simply walks away from the fight and the tens and thousands of jobs that have been lost.
    That is, quite frankly, what our concern is. The Prime Minister has some token words. He said that he would like it to keep running, but no one believes that if he were in the position of the Governor of Michigan, that he would not have the same approach. The Prime Minister has shut down and cancelled approved pipeline projects on the flimsiest of evidence. He cancelled the northern gateway pipeline, which had gone through a massive approvals process, had met all the environmental reviews, had buy-in, a $2 billion stake for indigenous communities along the way. They would all be a key part of that pipeline and he killed it because he said, “the Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline.”
    That is the level of engagement, that is the level of scientific rigour that the Prime Minister will put on cancelling a pipeline. It is no wonder that he sits idly by while the Governor of Michigan threatens the pipeline. It supposedly threatens the Great Lakes even though, as my colleague from Calgary Centre has said, this thing has operated for decades without threatening the Great Lakes. The biggest threat to the Great Lakes would be additional rail, truck and barge traffic carrying that same 550,000 barrels a day from a safe pipeline onto those less safe, more emission intensive modes of transportation
    I want to take a moment to thank the member for Sarnia—Lambton for standing up for her constituents. Today, the NDP have declared this debate to be a waste of time. The Liberals have declared this debate is a waste of time. The member for Sarnia—Lambton has been standing up for her community and the tens of thousands of jobs that are at risk.

  (1555)  

    We have heard from union leaders for whom supposedly the Prime Minister stands up. I guess he does not care too much for their jobs, but he likes their votes. They were very upset that the Keystone XL pipeline had been cancelled along with the jobs. They issued a direct request to the Prime Minister, a challenge.
     Scott Archer from UA Local 663 in Sarnia said, “I'd like to issue a challenge to...[the Prime Minister] and the federal government. This is a call to action. [As Canadians, this] is non-negotiable. You need to take a stand to protect Canadian families, businesses and industry.”
    I would submit that the Prime Minister has absolutely failed to take up that challenge. He has failed to make this issue a priority. He likes to go to the summits. He likes to give speeches with Selena Gomez. He likes to do all the high-profile stuff that brings him positive headlines. However, when it comes to actually getting down to business and standing up for Canadian workers who will be impacted not only in Sarnia but also in Alberta, we know exactly what the Prime Minister thinks about that industry.
    He has said before that he wants to phase out the oil sands. He has said before that he is opposed to these types of pipelines. Albertans and Western Canadians know exactly what kind of advocate they have in the Prime Minister for their jobs, which is none. He has shown before that for political gain he is willing to sacrifice them and the industry they represent.
    One would hope that the Prime Minister would take this up more effectively and more publicly, quite frankly, with President Biden instead of simply saying now that the bad man President Trump is gone everything is back to normal. There are still immediate threats on the horizon.
    However, we hear nothing from the Prime Minister on those. He seems content to let President Biden do whatever he wants when it comes to the relationship with Canada. It does not matter how many well-paying union jobs will be killed. It does not matter how our energy sovereignty is threatened. It does not matter that tens of thousands of jobs in Sarnia alone will be impacted or that tens of thousands more trucks will come across places like Windsor and Essex, jamming up those crucial crossings and bringing petrochemicals onto our highways. It does not matter. The Prime Minister cannot be bothered to pick up the phone and make this into a matter that President Biden will take seriously.
    We know Governor Whitmer was on the short list for vice-president. She has a strong relationship with President Biden and it is time for the Prime Minister to take advantage of that. It is time he take advantage of the supposed new-found friendship and relationship with President Biden and escalate this matter. All we have heard so far are pretty words and good intentions, but we have seen no action and no results.
    The people who depend on this pipeline for their family supporting jobs cannot rely on the Prime Minister saying he has it under control when he has shown time and time again that he will fail to stand up for energy sector workers, that he will fail to stand up for Canadian pipelines, the safest way to transport petroleum products in the world. He will not stand up for those jobs. He will not stand up for that industry. He has failed them time and time before, and he is failing them right now.
    The official opposition does not think that talking about Line 5 and the jobs it supports is a waste of time. We say shame on those in the other parties who have said this is a waste of time and shame on the Prime Minister for his failure to get this matter resolved diplomatically.

  (1600)  

    Madam Speaker, could my colleague comment on why the Conservatives, in the emergency debate last Thursday, did not come up with any tangible ideas outside of criticizing the government by saying we needed to talk more to U.S. officials?
    Could the member indicate what the Conservative Party would do differently? Could the member also tell the House why the Conservatives have not used an opposition day, but rather choose to do a concurrence motion? On an opposition day, they would be able to ensure there is a vote on the issue.
    Madam Speaker, we did bring forward an opposition day motion on Line 5. It created the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States, which was specifically tasked with hearing from witnesses and delivering the report we are discussing today.
    I am sorry the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader has not been able to follow the parliamentary process along to see that exactly what we are talking about today is a direct result of an opposition motion to discuss Line 5.
    We heard witness after witness say that this needed to be a priority for the Prime Minister himself. This cannot be delegated to bureaucrats or ministers. It cannot be delegated down the line. The Prime Minister has to raise this with President Biden and so far, the Prime Minister has absolutely failed to meet that challenge. He has failed the workers not only in the oil sands, but he has failed them in the refineries in Sarnia as well.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I do not know whether I should thank my colleague, since no one asked for the debate we are having today. I remind members that we held an emergency debate last week on the same topic. We do not have any choice in the matter, though, so here we are.
    I have a simple question for my hon. colleague. Is he worried about the safety of Line 5? I ask this because a problem with this pipeline could compromise the drinking water supply of millions of people.
    When someone says that Line 5 has never had a problem, I cannot help but think of the people of Pompeii. They would have said that Vesuvius had never been a problem, but we know what unfortunately happened next with that volcano.
    Does my colleague not think there are safety issues with Enbridge's Line 5?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the proof is in the pudding. Line 5 has operated safely without major incident for 68 years. Enbridge has proposed additional safety measures to improve the safety of an already safe pipeline. Yes, there are constant measures, world-leading measures. Any time there is a Canadian pipeline, we know it will be the safest in the world, built to the highest standard and have the highest levels of monitoring.
    However, I have a question for my colleague. This pipeline provides 50% of the propane that goes to Quebec. Is he really saying that we should not be concerned about this pipeline continuing and providing the energy and materials on which his province relies?
    Of course, we want to see it done safely. Line 5 is proven to be safe and it should continue to operate. The Prime Minister should get on the phone and demand President Biden intervene to ensure it continues to operate, as it has, safely, for the last 68 years.

  (1605)  

    Madam Speaker, I would like to reiterate that we are having a different pipeline debate than the Trans Mountain Keystone XL debates, which were about expansion projects. This is about a business-as-usual project, not expanding the oil sands in Alberta. In the NDP, we do care about those thousands of jobs, and I hope the member for Windsor West, my colleague, will have an opportunity to speak about that later in the debate.
    The member says that this is a safe pipeline. It reminds me of its sister pipeline, Line 6B, that spilled into the Kalamazoo River and destroyed 50 kilometres of river. Does he see why Michigan might be interested in the environmental aspects?
    Madam Speaker, everyone is interested in the safety of pipelines. Everyone is interested in the environmental protection of waters. It is why pipelines undergo the most rigorous environmental testing and constant monitoring. Everyone wants to see the environment protected and the safest way, the most environmentally friendly way, to transport petroleum products is through pipelines. It always has been; it always will be. That is why we will support Line 5 and the tens of thousands of jobs this pipeline supports in Sarnia and the tens of thousands more it supports in Alberta.
    Madam Speaker, to say whether I am surprised or disappointed, the short answer would be no. I am not surprised that the Conservatives would move a motion of concurrence on a particular report. They have demonstrated in the recent months that they have really lost focus on the pandemic. I am trying to be nice in my criticism here, but I do believe at times that I need to be bold and to say what I believe the Conservatives are actually doing, which is not focusing at all or giving the attention that should be there from the official opposition in dealing with what is a very important issue to all Canadians.
    The Conservatives continue to want to play partisan politics, and that is why I am not surprised, because they have been doing this for a while now. I am disappointed. I am disappointed again, and ongoing, because as the Conservatives insist on playing games on the floor of the House of Commons, they are filibustering whenever they can in an attempt to encourage a dysfunctional House of Commons and discourage important legislation from being debated so they can ultimately say that the government cannot even get its legislation through. If we look at the behaviour of the Conservative Party, it does not take a genius in a group of 12 to cause a lot of frustration on the floor of the House of Commons, and we get the official opposition choosing to do that.
    Today is an excellent example. Earlier today, I was on a Zoom call with the Prime Minister, my Manitoba colleagues and a hundred nurses in the province of Manitoba. We were listening to what nurses in Manitoba had to say. That is the priority, and has been the priority, of this government from day one. I contrast that to what we have witnessed day in and day out over the last number of months coming from the Conservative Party of Canada. They should be ashamed of themselves.
    The member for Chilliwack—Hope tries to give the impression that I do not care about Line 5 or the jobs and the other indirect and direct things related to Line 5 and that is why I do not support having us debate this motion we are debating today, the concurrence on the report. That is balderdash. It is just not true. Like all Liberals in the House of Commons, I am very much concerned about Line 5 and the impact it is having, not only on Canada, but also on the U.S. We understand and appreciate the importance of the issue. The Minister of Natural Resources, whether in question period or other debates, including the emergency debate, has been very clear on the issue.
    The Conservative Party, surely to goodness, would recognize that we just had an emergency debate on the issue, just last Thursday. Members should listen and read in terms of what was actually said then. It started off with Conservatives just bashing Ottawa and saying how bad we are in regard to Alberta, to try to perpetuate more misinformation, as if this Prime Minister and this government do not care about the province of Alberta. Members can look and see what kind of ideas came from the Conservative Party in the emergency debate. There was not one Liberal who said “no” to having an emergency debate.

  (1610)  

    I had a chance to speak during that debate, and I am going to share some of the comments I made on Thursday night, but even with the emergency debate that took place, the Conservatives came up with this concurrence motion on a report that has absolutely nothing to do with Line 5 or a relationship between Canada and the U.S. For those who are listening or participating, or who care about what is taking place in the House, that is not the real motivation here. The Conservatives can say whatever they want and try to come across as meaningful as they want, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with frustrating the government's legislative agenda, the things we want to accomplish in the House of Commons.
    They continue to push, saying that the House of Commons is dysfunctional. The Conservatives try to do two things. The first is character assassinations, and I understand I was one of them earlier today in an S.O. 31. The second is the ongoing filibustering taking place in the House of Commons so that important legislation cannot get through.
    We should look at some of the debates and frustrations that have been sensed on the floor of the House of Commons because of the irresponsible official opposition. Those who might be sympathetic to their terrible behaviour should look at Bill C-3, as an example, and the hours and hours of debate on the education and training of judges in the future on sexual assault and so forth. It was a Conservative bill. It passed everything and is coming back. We introduced it as a government bill so we could put it in place. Everyone agreed to it, even in the Senate. It got royal assent very recently. The Conservatives debated that for hours and hours on the floor of the House of Commons. Was that really necessary? No.
    What about Bill C-14? The economic statement was released in November, and the legislation was brought forward in December. No matter when we called it up, the Conservatives attempted to filibuster that through concurrence motions, too. In that legislation, there were important things to subsidize and support Canadians, individuals, families and small businesses. One would think the Conservative Party would have cared, but it had no problem filibustering that one, too.
    We just had to bring in time allocation on Bill C-19. It is a minority government. We have to ensure, as much as possible, that Elections Canada is best prepared, enabling it to do a little more on a temporary basis. However, the political spinners within the Conservative Party do not want to go that way. They say they want to remain focused. Being focused to them is to push for a dysfunctional chamber and character assassination. That is what they are all about. It is—

  (1615)  

    The hon. member for Abbotsford has a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, I want to speak to relevance. The member has been going off on a tangent that is nowhere near the concurrence report we are debating. He is talking about Bill C-3, Bill C-14, Bill C-19, all except the matter before the House right now. This is a concurrence report. We are supposed to be debating about Line 5. This is important.
    I appreciate the hon. member raising the point of order. I would remind the hon. member that whenever there is a debate in the House, there is some latitude, but hon. members have to keep the relevance to that debate in their speeches. I am sure the hon. member will come back to that if he has been wavering from that debate.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, of course, these are just my preliminary remarks to try to explain the behaviour. If I were a Conservative MP, I would be embarrassed, too, and would want to get right to the motion on Line 5.
    We debated Line 5 extensively in an emergency debate. If the member had listened to his colleague who introduced this report, he would have heard his colleague also make reference to the trade agreement. I fully understand the embarrassment of the Conservatives when the truth of the reality, in terms of their destructive force, is being pointed out. Maybe they disagree with the House leadership of the Conservative caucus, and I would encourage them to have that discussion.
    However, when it comes to Line 5, let me provide some specific quotes. This is how the minister has responded. The Conservative Party of Canada is saying that the government is not doing anything on Line 5 and that it does not appreciate the importance of Line 5. Nothing could be further from the truth. From day one, the government has been following the issue and, more importantly, taking action on the issue.
    On the day the emergency debate was introduced, a question was put to the minister. I specifically quoted it during the emergency debate. Let me quote the answer that the Minister of Natural Resources gave last Thursday:
    Mr. Speaker, people will not be left out in the cold. The heating of Canadian homes or the flying of Canadian jets or the operation of Canadian refineries are non-negotiable.
     Line 5 is not just vital to Canada, it is also vital to the United States. Therefore, it is vital to all of North America. Shutting it down would have profound consequences. There are 5,000 direct jobs in Sarnia, 23,000 indirect jobs in the region, thousands of jobs at refineries in Montreal and Lévis, but also in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, and that is the case we are making. Line 5 is essential for North American energy security.
    The minister has provided answers on many different occasions, all providing assurances that the government understands the importance of it. The other day, when I was talking about the issue of longevity, at one time I pointed out that it was oil tankers that actually shipped the oil products, and then it went to pipelines. Ever since then, and I believe it was in the 1950s, it has been delivered through the pipeline. I believe it has met the expectations of people on both sides of the border.
    I understand the economics of it. It is not just about the gasoline that is being shipped, or the final product. It is about all forms of commodities, including gasoline, propane, clothes and all sorts of things. Is there any wonder why the Government of Canada is seized with the issue?
    We saw the Conservatives throughout that emergency debate and during question period. I do not believe there is going to be anything that comes out of today other than the Conservatives saying, “We did some more filibustering during Government Business.” We will not see anything further come out of this than what we heard last Thursday night. The Conservatives will continue to say that the government is not doing enough and that it should be talking to so and so.
    Let me give another quote from the Minister of Natural Resources that I quoted last Thursday night. This is in response to my Conservative friends who continue to try to spread misinformation to Canadians and try to give a false impression that the Government of Canada is not active on this file.

  (1620)  

    During the emergency debate last Thursday night, he said:
    We have been clear from the start. We would leave no stone unturned in defending Canada's energy security. We have been looking at all of our options. We are working at the political level. We are working at the diplomatic level. We are working at the legal level. It is a full-court press.
    We raised Line 5 directly with the President of the United States and members of his cabinet during the virtual Canada-U.S. summit in February. The Prime Minister also raised the critical importance of North American energy security in conversation with Vice President Harris.
    I raised the issue with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in our very first call. I was frank and unequivocal in expressing how significant this issue was for Canada. The Minister of Transport raised Line 5 with his counterpart, Transport Secretary Buttigieg, whose department oversees the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the U.S. federal regulator for pipelines, which has consistently stated that Line 5 is safe. The Minister of Foreign Affairs raised this issue with his counterpart, Secretary of State Blinken. Ambassador Hillman has been making the case directly to Governor Whitmer. Meanwhile, in Detroit and in Lansing, Consul General Joe Comartin has been making the case to state lawmakers and members of the Whitmer administration.
    Let me take this opportunity to thank Governor Whitmer, Consul General Joe Comartin in Detroit, the team at the Canadian embassy in Washington and all of our diplomats who have been engaging on this issue in Washington, Detroit and Lansing who defend Canada's interests there every day.
    It begs the question: What is the Conservative Party talking about? Do the Conservatives just believe they can click their heels and voila, or they can pull something out of a hat and the issue is resolved overnight? Do they believe that three days from now there will not be any gas coming through the pipeline? That is the impression they are trying to give when they portray this issue.
    It is a very serious issue, and I do not want to do anything to marginalize the importance of it. However, I will criticize the Conservative Party for its attitude and its ongoing desire to give misinformation on what is such an important issue. Some provinces that are likely more affected than other provinces include Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. However, this affects all of us in Canada, if not directly then indirectly.
    As the minister, the Prime Minister and the government as a whole have recognized the importance of this issue, there have been many discussions taking place. I wonder if the Conservatives' national caucus can share with the House specifically what it has done. Better yet, why do the Conservatives not provide a real, tangible idea, as opposed to being concentrated on trying to promote western alienation or giving misinformation to people of Ontario and outside of that area?

  (1625)  

    The Government of Canada understands the issue. We continue to have dialogue on all fronts at the political and diplomatic levels and are using many other mechanisms to make Canada's case as strong as it is. We all know that is the case.
    We all know that the emergency debate would have sufficed, and that the real reason the Conservative Party is bringing the report forward on a concurrence motion has nothing to do with the report. It has everything to do with wanting to be a destructive force on the floor of the House of Commons.
    Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary wanted to know what the Conservatives have done. I have done an email and letter-writing campaign to Governor Whitmer with all the stakeholders; brought petitions to the House; and participated in the lobby. However, despite all the government's words about how it will do everything politically, legally and diplomatically possible, here is the crux of the matter: Within less than 24 hours, the legal brief of support for the court case on Line 5 will be due. Enbridge has requested that the government do the amicus curiae brief. The Canada-U.S. committee unanimously said that the government should do the brief.
    The government has waited until the eleventh hour. Where is the brief of support for Line 5?
    Madam Speaker, the government, its ministries, the diplomats and our professional civil servants all know what their responsibility is. They understand the importance of this issue to Canadians and North America, and will, in fact, ultimately be prepared to defend Canada's interests, as they have been doing for the last number of months and beyond.

  (1630)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I was appalled when my hon. colleague said during his speech that the Conservatives are blocking the work of the House. The Liberals are the ones who walked away and shut Parliament down. It is unbelievable. The Liberals shut Parliament down, yet they dare to accuse others of blocking the work of the House. That takes a lot of nerve.
    The Liberals shut the House down for a month and a half under the pretext of preparing a new throne speech, when they could have shut it down for only 24 hours. We all know that they did it to try to cover up scandals. My family is all too familiar with hairnets, so my question for my hon. colleague is this: would he not agree that there is not a hair's breadth between the Liberals and the Conservatives?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, it is true that the government prorogued and we lost two days, but for the first time in 30-plus years, the House of Commons sat during the summer, albeit as a committee. However, for all intents and purposes it was like question period, and literally hundreds if not thousands of questions were asked. This provided opposition parties a great opportunity to hold the government accountable on a wide variety of issues.
    I make no apologies in this area, as we provided more transparency and accountability than the previous administration. The member can take a look at the number of questions that were put forward. I would have loved, as an opposition member, a five-minute time slot to ask three-second or three-minute questions or to give a five-minute speech. We did that last summer.
    Madam Speaker, in his speech, the hon. member talked about the 23,000 indirect jobs in the region that are impacted by the loss of Line 5. Those are jobs in my region. Those are jobs in the regions of many of my colleagues. He said that no stone would be unturned, yet as the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton said, we are in the final moments, in the final stretch. People are desperately worried about feeding their children and paying for rent and mortgages. It is the government's responsibility to ensure that they are taken care of.
    What is the government's plan to ensure that these workers will have jobs or some security if Line 5 is lost?
    Madam Speaker, the member raises the importance of this from a human side. It does not matter whether people are directly employed or indirectly employed, there will be a tremendous human cost if Line 5 is not allowed to continue. I choose to believe it will continue and that we have the necessary people in the background. Line 5 has a history of being there for many decades and providing. I am very much concerned, as I know the government is, about the human cost, but I am confident that Line 5 will continue into the future.

  (1635)  

    Madam Speaker, I want to ask a question of my hon. colleague about how focused our government has been on the issue of Line 5, because it is close to London and there are jobs at stake.
    Like my hon. colleague, I was listening to the emergency debate on Thursday and I was very happy to hear our Minister of Natural Resources underscore very passionately how much we are seized with this issue. He has spoken to me about it over the last couple of months, and I know he has done so much work.
    Would my hon. colleague not agree that the Conservatives are taking advantage of this? Instead of agreeing to a team Canada approach, they are using this as an opportunity to try to make it seem as if the government is ignoring the issue when we are doing quite the opposite.
    Madam Speaker, the member has been a very strong and convincing advocate for her community for years now. I respect the question she poses because she understands how critically important Line 5 is to her community and beyond it.
    She is right that we should listen to what the minister has been saying. We can read about this for ourselves from last Thursday's emergency debate. We can hear it through the answers that are being provided. Members can rest assured that whether they are politicians in Ottawa and Washington or diplomats, there are a lot of people at play here to ensure that Line 5 continues to serve Canadians and, I would suggest, Americans too.
    Madam Speaker, a lot of speakers have outlined the importance of this pipeline to our economy. Enbridge has proven itself to be grossly incompetent in a number of areas, and Michigan's governor has serious reasons to be concerned. In a 15-year period, Enbridge has had more than a thousand spills, with 7.4 million gallons of oil spilled into the environment, including the 843,000 gallons that were dumped into the Kalamazoo River. People have a reason to be concerned.
    Should we not be holding this company to more account when our economy is so dependent on this one pipeline?
    Madam Speaker, I would like to address this in two ways.
    One, there is the accountability of Enbridge itself. There is no doubt that, whether it is on this side or the U.S. side of the border, there is an obligation for governments to work with private companies at times. This could be a very good example of that.
    Then there is the other very important issue and the reason we are debating this motion today: Line 5 itself. We should not be playing any games with Line 5 given its importance to North America. I encourage our American counterparts to set their targets on Enbridge if the case suggested by my colleague from the Green Party is true.
    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to join in on this debate. What we just heard was basically a 20-minute, anti-Conservative diatribe from the member for Winnipeg North. What would he bring forward for concrete answers? We heard today in question period from the Minister of Natural Resources that the Liberals are going to wait. They have a plan and they are going to be there at the last second to jump in. Maybe the Prime Minister will don his Superman cape and try to save Line 5.
    Why have they not been working hard on this for the past year instead of the past two days?

  (1640)  

    Madam Speaker, I would put it this way: Why would the Conservatives not bring forward an opposition day in which they could highlight a few examples of what the Government of Canada could be doing? Ultimately, that resolution would have been voted on. They could have played a more proactive, constructive role on the issue, as opposed to continuing to play a disruptive role on the floor of the House of Commons by filibustering the government on important legislation and important agenda issues.

[Translation]

    Order. It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, National Defence; the hon. member for Fredericton, Health; the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, Persons with Disabilities.
    Madam Speaker, I am participating in today's debate as the Bloc Québécois's representative on the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States, where I am one of the vice-chairs.
    Just a few weeks ago, the committee spent a few meetings studying concerns about Line 5 and the potential impact if it were to close. I would venture to say that unanimity ruled. Every single one of the witnesses said the same thing: closure would be catastrophic. However, none of the witnesses were able to put any figures on anything related to jobs at risk in Quebec.
    I asked every witness the same question. Have any studies shown that we have reason to fear? None of them had any such studies handy, nor could any of them clarify anything about Michigan's claims. The witnesses' verdict was clear: The governor of the U.S. state was simply wrong. Nobody even suggested or raised the merest hint of even the slightest possibility that everything was perhaps not entirely unfounded.
    I want to inform the House that the Bloc Québécois is well aware that a shutdown of Line 5 would have consequences for jobs in Quebec. There is a chance that Line 5, an Enbridge pipeline that supplies a good number of the refineries in Quebec, could be shut down, which raises legitimate concerns that require informed responses.
    I want to stress that our position may sound ideological, but it is not. We recognize that Line 5 is not as bad as tanker trucks, for example, which come with their own dangers. We recognize that it is not as bad as shipping oil by rail, and we experienced the hazards of this mode of transportation with the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, caused by deregulation in the sector by successive federal governments.
    I remind members that in 2013, a train filled with oil exploded in the middle of a small town called Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people and destroying some 40 buildings in a massive fire. Inadequate regulation of the transportation of oil by rail is part and parcel of Canada's economic vision. Ottawa has cut the number of inspectors for rail cars and the railways themselves.
    This issue speaks to my constituents because a few years ago, members of an activist group in my riding known as Convoi citoyen, ventured onto the tracks not far from the Saint-Hyacinthe station and took several photos of uncovered wires and tracks that were sitting on wet earth instead of cement. We are not stupid. We know that Line 5 is better and less dangerous than rail transportation.
    It is also clear that Line 5 is better than using tanker ships to transport oil. Quebec, and specifically the St. Lawrence, has become a key part of the geopolitics of Canadian oil. Quebec unfortunately has no jurisdiction over the waterways, seaways, railways or airways that cross our territory, other than the ones that exist exclusively in Quebec. Canada is entitled to act as it sees fit, in spite of protests from local communities.
    In 2014, the riverside municipalities of Sorel-Tracy and L'Isle-aux-Coudres complained about the fact that the width of the supertankers had increased from 32 to 44 metres, but the municipalities that received them had not been consulted, nor had the emergency plans been adapted. We know that just 5% to 20% of oil spilled in the river can be recovered.
    The case of Lac Saint-Pierre, designated an UNESCO world biosphere reserve in 2000, is striking. Pressure to ban the transportation of bitumen on that part of the river has been totally ineffective despite the publication of a study showing that an oil spill would traverse the entire lake in just eight hours.
    Again, we are no fools. If we look a little more closely—on paper, to be sure—line 5 is a lesser evil in comparison to trucks, trains and ships.
    Unfortunately, we would have liked to hear a more critical point of view on pipelines. The witnesses at committee were unanimous, as were our colleagues. All the federal parties kept referring to “team Canada”. Today I am talking on behalf of “team Quebec”.

  (1645)  

    The Bloc Québécois is focused on the 21st century economy, or the energy transition.
    We applauded the U.S. President's intention to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, whose only objective is to create new markets for oil from the oil sands.
    Citizens are sharing their concerns with us about the environmental safety of pipelines, particularly with regard to waterways, but also about the potential economic impact of shutting down those pipelines. We are not stupid. We want to keep jobs but not at any price, because we do not want to put our waterways at risk. We also understand the concerns many people have about the gas prices at the pump because the cost of energy and transportation is taking a toll on the wallets of Quebec families, who are already struggling because of everything that has been going on this past year.
    It is important to make the distinction between the Keystone XL pipeline and Enbridge Line 5. While Keystone XL seeks to further develop the oil sands, Line 5 was built in 1953 and essentially carries light crude oil and natural gas liquids to refineries in Quebec. It passes through the United States, mainly the much-talked-about State of Michigan.
    Line 5 was approved under U.S. State Department regulations and not by presidential permit as was Keystone XL. Line 5 is protected by the 1977 Agreement between the Government Of Canada and the Government of the United States Of America Concerning Transit Pipelines. Therefore, there are still legal avenues to be explored.
    We should also ask ourselves whether the repercussions of a potential shutdown would be as catastrophic as we are hearing for the price of gas at the pumps for Quebeckers. We know that Quebec refineries also have other possible market supply sources and that the shutdown would be problematic primarily for Ontario. We are aware of that.
    However, we should remember that Newfoundland and Labrador is Canada's third-largest producer. If Enbridge's Line 5 is shut down, it would still be possible to consider Canadian supply from that region. For example, if people wanted a nearby source, one inside Canada's border, Newfoundland and Labrador could be a source of supply.
    Let us move on to environmental safety. As I mentioned earlier, during our study, each and every witness we heard told us that the State of Michigan was way off base every step of the way. No one was willing to consider that the concerns were legitimate, and yet, we know there was a leak in 2010 that resulted in an oil spill in the Kalamazoo River, in southern Michigan. It seems to me that we can also understand that Michigan is worried about the risk pipelines pose to waterways. At the time, the people from Enbridge said not to worry, that they would really strengthen their safety measures. That is fine. In that case, the burden of proof lies with them to show that real measures were taken.
    I think everyone agrees that every accident is one too many, and each is a collective failure to protect ecosystems. Because Line 5 has had leaks, perhaps the idea of retrofitting it should not be excluded. Perhaps the status quo is untenable. Unfortunately, we are not hearing anyone in this place speak about this possibility.
    We must now come at the oil issue another way because Canada, as we know, has the third-biggest oil reserve in the world. According to official statistics, it has 172 billion barrels of extractable oil, of which 166 billion are in the Alberta oil sands. Canada is ranked fourth in global production and fourth in global oil exports.

  (1650)  

    I certainly recognize that, when we talk about transition, it does not mean that we should celebrate and hope to wake up tomorrow morning with no more oil. It is not that simple. That is the very definition of transition. However, we need to have a plan.
    Let us agree, however, as scientists do, that 80% of oil must stay in the ground if we want to take an environmentally responsible approach. Furthermore, 96% of Canada's oil comes from the oil sands, which means that only a very small amount does not come from that source. Oil from the oil sands is among the most polluting in the world. The Natural Resources Canada website touts the technological advances that are leading to less greenhouse gases per barrel. That is also the argument put forward by the Montreal Economic Institute.
    It is true that the oil industry has been rapidly evolving. Just 50 years ago, offshore drilling was done by humans. Today, robots are doing the job. Nevertheless, from an environmental standpoint, between 1990 and 2018, greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands development have increased by 456%.
    Exclusive dependence on this one source of energy is also a major economic problem. Historically, this phenomenon has been referred to as Dutch disease, which is the structural dismantling of the manufacturing sector and possible ensuing deindustrialization resulting from a strong commodities export sector. The development of natural resources is therefore closely related to the decline in the manufacturing industry of the country in question. Does that remind my colleagues of anything? It makes me think about the loss of over 100,000 jobs related to the increase in the Canadian dollar as a result of the increase in oil exports.
    The term “Dutch disease” was coined in the 1960s when the Netherlands had a major increase in revenue following the discovery of natural gas deposits. The country's currency appreciated, which made the export of non-gas products less competitive. Dutch disease serves as a necessary reminder that a country must not depend solely on its commodities sector.
    Canada's economic development centres on the extraction of raw materials. That is a paradigm that has existed since the beginning of the Canadian experience, when the Canadian colony specialized in bulk commodities, agricultural products and extractible materials for export. These products do not require a lot of processing and their market is mainly centred around international trade.
    Canada's history has been shaped by the search for products that already have a market, by the state, and by capital to extract those products. Basically, it was the easy way to pay Canadian workers and import the goods consumers needed. Canada's economic growth was therefore closely linked to demand in the industrialized countries with which it did business.
    Political life in Canada has been heavily influenced by our reliance on exports because political power and wealth are concentrated in the hands of the elite who, historically, combined the two. Geographical realities also explain all this, of course. The state has had to supply capital that the business world did not have the means to provide.
    However, focusing on exporting raw materials has a significant influence on public policy. To keep the country competitive, politicians have had to provide infrastructure and adjust their environmental and health regulations.
    Exploiting these resources did not require particularly sophisticated technological expertise if they were not being processed in any significant way, though. Essentially, Canada was just an outpost used to supply raw materials for use in processing industries in ways that supported the economic development of the industrialized nations and Canadian companies involved.
    The expectation was that the supply of resources dedicated to supporting these exports would continue expanding forever. It was an infinite growth model. The railway, which is what led to the creation of Canada in the first place, had to be paid for by transporting resources, and that helped stall the exploration of new technological opportunities. Ultimately, the system ended up reinforcing our reliance on unprocessed materials. It was a vicious cycle. Increased reliance on raw material exports created a need for greater investment in transportation infrastructure, and that meant less money available for other economic sectors.

  (1655)  

    This system underpinned colonial history, but the Canadian economy has diversified and become more complex since then. It cannot be summed up as Quebec's forests, Saskatchewan's farms, Ontario's mines or Alberta's oil, of course. Markets have changed, new opportunities have been found, and people have flocked to the cities. However, it is clear that Canada is staying true to that spirit by consistently opting to specialize in natural resources in order to compete worldwide.
    Western Canada has focused all its efforts on oil extraction, neglecting the necessary diversification of its economy. To get back to Dutch disease, the consequences could be even greater if the oil sector also goes through some difficulties, like the depletion of its reserves or fluctuations in the price per barrel.
    The impact on Canada's economic future is considerable. We are paying for it today with the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the oil crisis, the price of the unwavering support that Ottawa, the banks and the pension funds provide to the oil sector. Pension funds like the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec have increased their investments in the sector. Canadians' and Quebeckers' pensions have therefore been jeopardized by being dependent on oil fluctuations. However, oil investments by foreign companies have declined steadily over the last four years, meaning there are very few royalties to be had.
    Shale oil, for example, is a very bad development opportunity, and yet Canada cannot seem to escape it. One of Canada's biggest disappointments is that in the global marketplace, in the midst of this great geopolitical struggle, Canada is ultimately a minor player with basically no influence. It is easy to see the problems that could arise from stubbornly putting all the eggs in one basket, especially when that basket refers to a deregulated and fluctuating energy sector.
    It is really tough to get out of oil, though. When the price is high, investments pour in. The renewable energy sector is looking to grow, but the money is just not going there because investments continue to pour in for oil. Conversely, when the price is low, investments will be minimal, almost non-existent, but consumers, whether individuals or companies, will rush to the pump, so there is no money left for renewable energy. I could say it is a lose-lose situation for anyone thinking about a real transition. This is where political will is needed. It is imperative and urgent that we make the transition. Crises come with serious repercussions, but they can also bring great opportunity.
    The energy transition that many have been calling for and talking about for quite some time needs to begin with decisive action. We must put an end to Canada's oil dependency. In the meantime, demanding a safe supply of oil can no longer be a luxury. In other words, Line 5 is the lesser evil compared to other modes of transportation that are more dangerous. However, we must not depend on it. We also need to look very closely at the real environmental considerations that can be linked to safety and that are entirely legitimate. They must not be dismissed out of hand, as Canada's federal politicians seem to be doing.

  (1700)  

    Madam Speaker, I would like to hear what my colleague from the Bloc Québécois thinks about what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said. He said that my party is taking time away from the House, when his party or the government wants to continue having a House that sits as little as possible, since it prorogued Parliament.
    Does he think that the government is making an effort and working with the other parties in Parliament as part of a true team Canada approach, not just in words, as they are doing, but in actions?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.
    This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. To hear the Liberal government accuse the opposition parties of stalling when it prorogued Parliament is laughable. On that I completely agree with my colleague, although we do not share the same fundamental positions on this issue. Nonetheless, we live in a democracy and that is just part of it.
    I would say that we must not engage in such childish games. They are not productive.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot for his speech.
    Unfortunately, I will be speaking in English because these are technical issues.

[English]

    I may be the only member of Parliament who read the entire report of the United States transport safety inquiry into the Kalamazoo spill of 2010 in which it detailed gross negligence. Yes, modern pipeline companies have all sorts of alarms, bells and whistles, which we keep hearing about, that will alert control room staff when there is any possibility of a leak. One alarm from that spill rang for five full minutes, while Enbridge employees went around the control room shutting off the noise. The next shift came in and it was not warned there had been signs of a leak. That is when they pumped over 800,000 gallons of bitumen and diluent into the Kalamazoo River, which could never be cleaned up.
    I wonder if my colleague has any further points to add on how this reputation of negligence has undermined Canada's case.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, apparently that incident has not changed Canada's official position. Still today, we see that Michigan has concerns. It was traumatized by this event, there are no two ways about it. All we are doing is unanimously dismissing the fears expressed by Michigan.
    Again, it is highly likely that these fears are not entirely justified, but they are legitimate and deserve some consideration, some thought and some close attention. That is my response to my hon. colleague.
    Madam Speaker, I congratulate and thank my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for his excellent speech. He raised some great points and shared several interesting perspectives, including the idea of rethinking our dependence on fossil fuels.
    I want to point out that an increasing number of studies have confirmed that places with regulations for zero-emission vehicles see a significant increase in sales of these types of vehicles. Meanwhile, places that do not have regulations or programs to promote buying zero-emission vehicles, which includes the majority of Canadian provinces, are seeing a resurgence in purchases of larger, higher-emitting vehicles, thanks to the billions spent on advertising by auto manufacturers.
    Could my colleague share his thoughts on this?

  (1705)  

    Madam Speaker, of course we want zero-emission legislation to be passed that would force automakers to sell a larger proportion of electric vehicles. I am talking about automakers and not dealers, which is a very important distinction to make.
    It is the right thing to do. Quebec implemented this kind of legislation a few years ago, and California has had such a law for a very long time. Such legislation should be passed here too.
    Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's speech.
    At its last convention, the Conservative Party put in place a national commission on energy security, with a component on energy transportation of all kinds. What does my colleague think of that initiative?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
    It is unfortunate that the delegates rejected a proposal recognizing climate change at this same convention. The idea of establishing commissions to study all these issues is a good one, even though scientists have already examined the energy issue many times and from many perspectives.
    That said, I salute the interest of all political parties in the energy issue, which is crucial and probably the geopolitical issue of the 21st century.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, last year, we saw what happened with rail blockades. There was a shortage of propane in Quebec because of it. If this pipeline is shut down, there is an obvious risk of that happening, once again, where there will be a massive shortage.
    If this pipeline shuts down, what is going to happen in the short term and medium term to the supplies and critical needs of people in Quebec?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I asked almost all the witnesses and experts we heard from during this study about the impact on Quebec.
    Unfortunately, no one seemed to have studied or researched the issue. Obviously, there could be shortages, even though we know that there are sources of supply.
    In the short term, as we wait for the energy transition, the Bloc Québécois hopes that the line will remain open, but not just under any condition. We must ensure that the line is safe. If it is not, we must ensure that the necessary upgrades are made. The right to safety is not a luxury.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay.
    I am pleased to respond to this report. It is important to recognize the good work done on it, but there is no doubt we are here not by accident but by design. The design has been to ignore the environment, to ignore the concerns of the people of the state of Michigan, to ignore the realities of aging infrastructure and to not be up front about the true cost of it in our economic business model.
    I represent Windsor West. I was a member of council starting in 1997, representing the Detroit River, and have been a member federally since 2002. I can say that our relationship with the United States is one that is always complex and always involved. What is clear is that it is moving faster—

[Translation]

    Order. The hon. member for Lévis—Lotbinière on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, could you please ask my colleague to turn down his microphone? There is no interpretation.

[English]

    There seems to be an issue with the hon. member's microphone, if he could lower his boom a bit more.
    The hon. member for Windsor West can continue.
    Madam Speaker, I will repeat that we are here for a reason. It is by design. It is designed for us not to take our aging infrastructure, in the oil and gas industry in particular, for granted while we focus on the new economy and sustainable energy.
    As the vice-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary association, and as the NDP critic for industry and the Great Lakes, I have seen that the United States has decided to move farther than Canada has on the environment. Often through the Democratic movement, but even under the Republicans, the U.S. has certainly had more strenuous environmental practices than our side has had over here.
    We are faced now with a crisis that has come about over the last number of months not by accident, but by ignoring what has been taking place. We have not even learned anything during this process. Regarding Line 5 and its connection to the Great Lakes, Governor Whitmer has been clear on this for a long time, as she has on her concern about the Great Lakes and the environmental effects. There is no doubt that Enbridge, with its previous indiscretion at Kalamazoo, has broken trust in many respects. It was not just that one incident. There were many other places.
    The pinnacle of the debate happening at the moment is that the budget that was just tabled and discussed did not even include the words “Great Lakes”. The United States are putting billions of dollars into protecting the Great Lakes, with a governor expressing concerns about a refurbished pipeline. The pipeline is something we believe is important and needs to be refurbished because of our connection to it and our dependency on it, as well as because of our lack of a commitment to develop alternatives to it. However, the government did not even mention the Great Lakes in the budget once. How is that possible, when members of Congress and the Senate have specifically written to the government asking about putting money together to work on the Great Lakes' environmental sustainability? The U.S. is putting billions of dollars into it.
    The International Joint Commission of the Great Lakes binational treaty is one of the best in the world. It deals with water and the environment. It needs stronger legislation to allow it to do even better work. It is a part of the international agreements that we have and is something to be proud of, regarding our sharing some of the most important freshwater in the world, yet there is no mention of it in the budget. No one cared enough to throw a bone, so to speak, to the Governor of Michigan or to the other environmental concerns being expressed here. With all those billions of dollars being spent, there was no specific commitment to, or even a mention of, the Great Lakes.
    Given that I am on the front lines of the Detroit River here, I can tell colleagues that there is incredible interest and opportunity to improve the environment, the ecosystem and energy alternatives. Detroit, Michigan, has spent over $10 billion on electric vehicles, other types of energy efficiencies and a new age of automotive production. Meanwhile, throughout Canada over the last four or five years, we have seen a paltry $6 billion spent not on greenfield sites, but on the refurbishment of plants. These refurbishments have come about because of collective bargaining opportunities from Unifor. We can thank Jerry Dias and the rest of the bargaining committee for opening the door for those types of investments. At the same time, in Detroit, Ohio and Indiana they have been receiving billions of dollars for their electrification and manufacturing industries.
    The Prime Minister famously said in London, Ontario, that we had to transition out of manufacturing. We did that, and have seen how that served us through COVID in vaccine production, innovation and a response for alternatives. We are behind, and we are behind for a reason. We have decided to basically skate for many, many years. I have seen this in the House of Commons. In terms of signed agreements, whether the Kyoto agreement or others, Canada continually misses its targets. However, right in our lap, across the lake, a series of environmental movements are taking place for the citizens of Michigan. All we had to do was to engage our councils and trade offices. We have the connections and the people on the ground here who understand what is taking place. They understand that the governor and the commitment to shut down Line 5 have been front and centre, in many respects, for a long time. What did we do in response? We are just going to try to lobby what we can. We did not even offer something back in return.

  (1710)  

    We are now going to have to rely upon using tactics like invoking an international treaty on pipelines versus being a co-operative partner to improve the environment we share. We always talk about offsets. Why would the government not, at the very least, do an offset for the state of Michigan to show some support for, and the importance of, the Great Lakes system that we share, whether it be its fisheries or ecosystems? I am still fighting for a national urban park on a piece of property the Windsor port owns. The port is staffed by the citizens of our country. It wants millions of taxpayer dollars or it is going to bulldoze it.
    I had an event in Windsor before COVID on building a national urban park. Members of the Michigan Department of Environment came in full regalia to be part of it. Representatives of the federal department came to a public meeting in the city of Windsor. They crossed the border because our ecosystems are tied together: the wildlife, the fish, the fauna and 110 different endangered species. For eight years, I have been fighting for the protection of that property. For the last number of years, I have been fighting the federal government to transfer this piece of property to the Ministry of the Environment instead of it having bulldozed, and there has still been no commitment for that.
    In all of this, we do not even throw a bone to Michigan's concerns. We do not give the State any recognition that its concerns are valid, and they are. Let us look at Kalamazoo. How can we have a serious debate about this issue but not look at the consequences of what took place in Kalamazoo and at least give a nod that this has some serious issues?
    Having said that, the government is back on the particular position that we are going to have to rely upon an international agreement or some arm-twisting from Washington on the State of Michigan, with us offering it nothing. It is a terrible proposition. There is no offset from us. There is nothing other than us trying to put ourselves in a strong position because of international agreements and obligations. As opposed to this, we could have gotten in front of this with some improvements and suggestions. Who is going to pay for this at the end of the day, if Line 5 closes? It will be the working people: The people doing the heavy lifting and hard work that is necessary every day to run our economy as we try to transition. We should transition, but we still need Line 5 for farms, the auto sector, manufacturing, gas for our cars, airports and all of those things.
    One of the first things I did when I came to Parliament was table a motion for a petroleum monitoring agency to ensure consumer accountability. It was something that was put in place once before, but was never funded. What is the backup plan right now to protect consumers from being hosed by the industry if there is speculation or a potential reduction of service products such as oil, gas, propane and so forth? There will be no protection for them because the Competition Bureau does not have the capability to provide it.
    Individuals across Ontario, and in other places eventually as well, will be completely vulnerable to the oil and gas industry and some of the pricing issues we have seen in the past. They have had to be dragged front and centre, but it has taken a long time. It has been expensive for a lot of people, and we still do not even have the basic supports or decency to provide reporting mechanisms that will protect consumers. We have no plan for that either.
    Our plan going forward is not going to be anything significant or anything that will grant faith or some type of good gesture to the State of Michigan about this. That is what is backwards about this debate we have been having. It has been total neglect from the government. Let us look at infrastructure in the Windsor-Detroit region. I started working on a new border crossing and my first public meeting was in 1998. The Gordie Howe International Bridge is finally being built, but the infrastructure that supports this, and 38% of the Canadian economy, is about 100 years old. There is a tunnel for cars and trucks, a bridge and another tunnel for trains.
    We are here for a reason. We have been on borrowed time, and if we do not do anything about it and address the issues from the State of Michigan, then all we can do is rely on arm-twisting. That is not being a good neighbour.

  (1715)  

    Madam Speaker, the member is on point about the realities of the economic and environmental perspectives of this particular project, but I cannot help but be slightly cynical to think that the reason we are having this discussion right now is because the Conservatives are adamant about not talking about Bill C-19.
    Can the member comment on how important he thinks it would be to have a discussion about a piece of legislation that is required to be in place in the event there is an election during a pandemic?

  (1720)  

    Madam Speaker, we are here to speak about Line 5. Of course, preparation for an election and a debate about it is important, but where is the member and his government with regard to recognizing and providing some supports to Michigan.
    I spent a lot of my time talking about it. Why are the Great Lakes not mentioned in the budget? How atrocious is that. How disrespectful is it to the state of Michigan and to the environmental movement there. Where are some of the extra supports against the political leverage taking place by respecting some of their concerns and partnering where they have asked for that?
    Why has the government not even responded to the senators and Congress. They have asked the Canadian government for support, to at least put in our percentage of rehabilitation of the Great Lakes. This is a missed opportunity. We still do not see the government doing that. The government could do it tomorrow. It could come forward and say it made mistake by leaving the Great Lakes out of some of its economic formula. Maybe that would alleviate some of the tension.
    Madam Speaker, first, I want to tell the member very clearly that I agree with him 100% that what has happened here is total neglect of the file by the government, which is why we are raising it in the House of Commons today, two days before the deadline is going to be imposed by the Governor of Michigan. She stated that publicly. I am straight on point with the hon. member.
    I do want to ask about some of things he raised, including ignoring aging infrastructure. This is a pipeline company that has committed over $600 million to build a tunnel under this very strait, yet it has been thwarted. It cannot even get a phone call returned from the Governor of Michigan about how to mitigate it. As well, all kinds of processes are being added into it to build that pipeline.
    Is this really recognized? It seems to me that it is actually doing something to mitigate the environmental concerns of the state of Michigan, but they are getting no ears on the other side.
    Madam Speaker, quite simply, it is so late in the day. I have seen the program and what has been offered, and its abysmal record with Kalamazoo flies in the face of everything.
    It should have been on bended knee to the State of Michigan about Kalamazoo, and it was not. All we have to do is talk to the NGOs of different organizations about the irreparable harm it did to the environment. It has zero credibility. It needed partners to actually bolster its credibility with guarantees that go beyond just the immediacy.
    That is the problem. The pattern of behaviour has just been atrocious. It is no wonder we are in the situation we are right now.
    Madam Speaker, earlier today, I asked the hon. member for Winnipeg North about jobs, job losses and about the preparations the Liberals were making for people if Line 5 was lost. He said that, on faith, it would all work out.
     Could the hon. member comment on that as well as on the NDP's plans in regard to a national manufacturing strategy and what that could do for southwestern Ontario and the jobs impacted by the loss of Line 5?
    Madam Speaker, I worry, because right now we have the Province of Ontario finally negotiating with Michigan. That was after I had been asking for months for the federal government to step in and do similar programs as were done for COVID assistance for our travellers. The federal government is absent from that. It could have played a central role. We have seen Manitoba, North Dakota, Alberta and Montana. I asked the government a question in the House of Commons today and it was totally ignored. There was nothing near an answer to what I asked. I am concerned.
    We do need a manufacturing strategy. We never should have abandoned manufacturing. It is a point of national security. It is a point of pride. With the innovation taking place, it is a missed opportunity.
    I am a little worried right now because Ontario is negotiating with Michigan to get people vaccinated. Every vaccine we get over there means somebody over here gets a vaccine sooner. At the same time, our federal government is doing this, and it will not even throw them a bone.
    Madam Speaker, I would really like to thank the member for Windsor West for sharing his time with me. He is such a strong voice for the people of southwestern Ontario and he knows the effects that shutting down Line 5 will have on the thousands of workers in that part of Canada. He knows how serious this is for the environment of the Great Lakes. He knows Michigan because it is just across the river from his home.
    Today, we are talking about Enbridge Line 5 again, this time through a concurrence debate on a report from the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States. While almost everyone in the House is concerned about Michigan's threat to shut down the pipeline, and I am happy to talk about why the NDP is concerned about the Line 5 situation, we did just have an emergency debate on Line 5 only four days ago, on Thursday night. I will reiterate today a lot of the points I made on Thursday.
    I will start by saying, again, that this is a very different debate to the ones around expansion pipelines such as Keystone XL and the Trans Mountain expansion. These pipelines are expansion projects designed solely to increase the amount of raw bitumen exported from Canada at a time when world demand has flatlined and the climate crisis requires that it decline steeply in the future. Even the Canada Energy Regulator, the former National Energy Board, has reported that Keystone XL and the Trans Mountain expansion are not needed and that the Alberta oil sector will never be producing enough oil to need them.
    Line 5 is a different story. This is a debate about the impending closure of a pipeline that brings western Canadian oil to eastern Canada, creating Canadian jobs. This is about maintaining the status quo and maintaining those jobs in the industrial heartland of Canada. The one similarity between this and the other pipeline debates is that at the heart of it, there is credible environmental concern.
    Line 5 is an Enbridge pipeline that transports crude oil and natural gas liquids from Alberta through Michigan to refineries and other facilities in Ontario and Quebec. It is capable of carrying 540,000 barrels of oil per day. A similar pipeline, a sort of sister pipeline in the Enbridge system, Line 6B, also serves these markets with 667,000 barrels of oil per day.
    Line 5 was built 68 years ago, and the Michigan section operates under an easement granted by that state. In November, the Governor of Michigan announced that she was revoking the easement for the pipeline through Michigan effective May 12, this Wednesday, two days from now. The governor cited permit violations and environmental concerns, especially regarding the section that travels through the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. For its part, Enbridge has proposed to enclose the underwater section in a tunnel to protect it from future accidents and has obtained some of the permits necessary to carry out that work.
    What will the impact be if the pipeline is shut down? About 4,900 jobs in Sarnia directly rely on the supply of crude oil that Line 5 now supplies. One of the products those plants in Sarnia produces is jet fuel that supplies large airports such as Toronto Pearson Airport. The oil not diverted in Sarnia is carried onto refineries in Quebec. Therefore, the impact could be huge.
    There is some debate on how alternate supplies could mitigate these impacts. Pearson airport has stated in a recent article in the National Post that it is not too worried about a shutdown of Line 5 as it has diversified its sources of jet fuel. The Suncor refinery in Quebec said it made arrangements to get its crude oil from another pipeline. Industries in Sarnia may be able to get some crude oil from increased flow in Line 6B, since it managed that way when Line 6B was ruptured in 2010. Then it got alternate supplies through Line 5.
    It is clear that the petrochemical sector in Sarnia could be facing significant shortages that would have to be made up through transport by rail and truck. That is not an ideal situation and one that could result in direct loss of jobs in the Sarnia industrial complex and indirect job losses throughout the region. Therefore, we need to have a strategy to keep Line 5 going and protect those jobs. That strategy goes through convincing Michigan that it is in all our interests to keep Line 5 operating.
    What are the environmental risks that Michigan is citing in its decision to cancel this easement? One of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history happened with the other Enbridge pipeline in Michigan, Line 6B, which also goes to Sarnia via Michigan, but goes around the south end of Lake Michigan instead of crossing under the Straits of Mackinac.

  (1725)  

    In 2010, Line 6B ruptured and sent about 20,000 barrels of bitumen into the Kalamazoo River just east of Battle Creek, Michigan. The spill contaminated over 50 kilometres of the river, took five years to clean up, and admittedly it probably never will be fully cleaned up. Line 5 itself has suffered a number of leaks over the years. Therefore, the people of Michigan are very well aware of what could happen.
    The minister has always said that this is a demonstrably safe pipeline. I think the people of Michigan would tend to disagree. They have pointed out numerous violations of the original easement agreement, including the design of the support systems and the pipeline at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. Recent assessments show that the underwater part of the pipeline is suffering from thinning walls and other stressors. A 2017 risk assessment found that a leak of Line 5 in the straits would contaminate about 1,000 kilometres of shoreline of the Great Lakes.
    We need to protect the Great Lakes ecosystem and the thousands of jobs in Ontario and Quebec. The federal government needs to have a plan that would do both.
    The Governor of Michigan made an election promise to shut down Line 5, so it should be no surprise that she is doubling down on this threat. If we are to solve the problem through diplomatic means, and everyone agrees this would be best, we will have to prove to the State of Michigan and everyone else who cares about the environment that Line 5 will not have a history similar to Line 6B.
    We must point out the economic impacts this closure would have on Michigan itself. Michigan and the neighbouring states of Ohio and Pennsylvania also receive some of the fuels carried through Line 5, including over half of Michigan's propane supplies. Enbridge is counting on the 1977 transit pipelines treaty if talks fail, and right now it does seem that both sides are very far apart. We may see this stuck in the courts for a long time.
    This pipeline dispute is very different from the others we have debated in Canada over the past decade or more. It is an existing pipeline that supplies oil to Canadian industry and maintains good jobs. It is an integral part of the economies of Ontario and Quebec.
     We will be using oil and gas over the next three decades, albeit in declining amounts, as we transition to zero emissions by 2050. We will be using crude oil as a feedstock in our manufacturing sectors for years to come. Line 5 is an important delivery mechanism for those purposes.
    This dispute has been a wake-up call. The public, both in Canada and the United States, is increasingly unwilling to accept the environmental risks associated with pipelines and the climate impacts of burning fossil fuels.
     We in the NDP, and I think everyone in the House, are concerned about workers in the oil and gas sector, whether they work in Alberta or the industrial cities of Ontario and Quebec. We need a plan, not just empty promises, to provide good jobs for these workers over the coming decades. We need programs that will allow these workers to move on to jobs in building retrofits, electrification, electric vehicle manufacture, renewable electricity, batter technology and the myriad of other sectors that will provide good employment for decades to come. We need government programs to provide those jobs to prove to workers we are serious about helping them.
    Getting this done will require strong public sector leadership that the Liberals and Conservatives have so far been unwilling to even discuss. While this transition takes place, we need to protect the thousands of jobs that Line 5 provides and we need to protect the ecosystem of the Great Lakes. The federal government must have a clear and effective plan to do both.

  (1730)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to ask a question of the hon. member. I listened intently to his speech and I would note one thing he said, which is that Line 5 is different because it sends western oil to eastern refineries to make fuel and help heat homes. However, he does not agree with building capacity or the expansion of pipelines in western Canada to export oil.
     Does he not think those two could exist in the same reality? The more prosperous western Canada is the more clean and environmentally friendly oil we can produce to ship to our allies and export around the world with lower emissions. Canada has the most environmentally friendly oil in the world. I would like to have the member's comments on this. I enjoyed listening to his speech when he said that Line 5 was important, but is it not equally as important to create prosperity in western Canada?

  (1735)  

    Mr. Speaker, I agree. The oil and gas sector has created prosperity over the past decades, and I think all Canadians appreciate that. The fact is that there are more than 20 oil sands projects on the books now that have all the permits ready to go but are not moving ahead. They are not moving ahead because they do not have the investment behind them. The world investment banks are moving away from the oil sector. They do not want to get involved in new projects that will take decades to amortize. They are interested in other opportunities in the energy sector, but not in new oil projects. That is why it would be difficult to—
     We will go to the next question.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to turn to reflections, since we have been talking about this for some time now. We are, as a society, incredibly negligent when it comes to fossil fuel products and understanding what is in a pipeline or what is on a train. I will ask my colleague this, because I know he is rigorous.
     The Kalamazoo, Michigan spill was the first time that anyone realized that diluted bitumen would separate at a spill, that the diluent would float. That was what alerted people that there was a spill: people in the neighbourhoods began to get sick from the smell of the diluent, while the bitumen sank. In the case of Lac-Mégantic, we did not know that Bakken shale would blow up and should never be on a train, and yet simplistically minded folks say that oil is safer in the pipeline because a train once blew up.
     I would just ask my hon. colleague for any comments on understanding the products we are talking about.
    Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands that people do not talk about the difference between these products and how they react in an accident, whether it is a train wreck or an oil spill, and whether the oil spill is on land versus water. I remember that when I first got to Parliament, we were still debating in Parliament whether bitumen sank or not. It obviously sank in Kalamazoo, and that is why it took so long to even get the basic cleanup that it got.
    A colleague of mine has recently completed some studies in the experimental lakes program in northwestern Ontario, which actually took bitumen and saw what it did. Yes, these things do different things. Again, I hear constantly the Liberals and the Conservatives—
    We will try to get one more quick question in there.
    The hon. member for Windsor West.
    Mr. Speaker, was it not odd, in terms of negotiating, that Canada did not deal anything to the State of Michigan during the budget? We did not even mention the Great Lakes. If we were really concerned about the political position the governor was in and the concerns and priorities she had, how could we not have followed through by the request of Congress and the Senate to actually do something for the Great Lakes?
    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have been saying for the past six years that the environment and the economy go hand in hand, yet, time and again, I have seen quite the opposite. The economy always comes first with them, and the environment has always taken a back seat. People have to realize very quickly that we cannot have a strong economy without a clean environment and without a real plan for that, and that means making those investments into environmental protection and environmental cleanup.